Tag: Oregon (page 3 of 4)

Keeping Pace with a Changing World

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’m a BIG Chicago Cubs fan. For those who don’t know much about them, they are the loveable losers of Major League Baseball. The history of the Cubs rivals few others in professional sports. Wrigley Field celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2014, and I got to visit the iconic field for the first time that same year. Wrigley hasn’t changed much at all in the past 100 years, some minor upgrades, but the walls of the Friendly Confines have remained much the same. At the end of the season in 2014, they began remodeling those historic walls, much to the dismay of die-hard Cubs fans. The new owners had decided it was time for a facelift, they needed something to attract new players and fans with the hopes of finding the right formula for a winning team. Folks in Chicago’s North Side were NOT happy, resisting it in many ways. You just can’t mess with the nostalgia and history of Wrigley Field.

Yet, as fans entered the stadium this spring and as the season went on, die-hard fans, many of them generational season ticket holders, warmed up to the change and began to embrace it. It also helped that the team had a great season, making it to the October playoffs. The Cubs won their first EVER division pennant at home. It took over 100 years of baseball for this new historical event to occur, and it happened within the NEW walls of the Friendly Confines. The second phase of Wrigley’s upgrade began at the end of the 2015 season, and fans couldn’t be more excited. They realized the change isn’t drastic, the Cubs and its history will still remain, all while moving the team forward to the future. (It’s just too bad that Doc didn’t get his prediction right in “Back to the Future,” maybe he meant Cubs win in 2016!)

What’s my point you ask? How does this pertain to ABC? Well friends, in November I had the privilege of announcing a new change for our organization. After 50 years as The Agri-Business Council of Oregon, we will now be doing business as Oregon Aglink! Why the change? As the Agri-Business Council of Oregon has continued its mission – through Road Crop Signs, television and web campaigns, and our most popular Adopt a Farmer program – one thing has become clear. The term Agri-Business raises eyebrows, and creates confusion and misconceptions among many who are unfamiliar with the term and the industry. Agri-Business Council of Oregon is still who we are and, while our history as an organization is rich and full of nostalgia, it’s time for a facelift and a bit of an update. We need to keep pace with our ever-changing world. Our priorities and our mission will continue to be the same. The only change will be our new name and logo. It is our hope that these changes will help us continue our efforts to unite all of Oregon agriculture and positively connect with our urban neighbors.

Change is challenging, those with long history often have the hardest time adjusting, and that’s OK. While it may be difficult at first for the diehard fans, it’s what’s important and necessary to attract new players and grow our support across the state, in both our urban and rural communities. We appreciate all of our members, and we hope that you will continue to support us in the years to come. So join us, embrace the change and let’s all help keep Oregon Rooted, Green and Vital!!

Molly McCargar's Signature - Cropped

 

 

 

 

Molly McCarger, Pearmine Farms

A Golden Celebration

geoff horning1966.

The “8th Wonder of the World,” the Houston Astrodome was built.

The first episode of Star Trek airs.

Pampers created the first disposable diaper.

Ronald Reagan entered politics for the first time – eventually being elected Governor of California.

My parents started dating.

And, Marion T. Weatherford, an Eastern Oregon wheat farmer, led a small group of agricultural supporters to create the Agri-Business Council of Oregon.

Honestly, I have no idea if a specific event inspired Weatherford to create our association. I do know he understood a schism was forming between rural and urban Oregon and he wanted to create an organization that could have an open conversation with his neighbors in Portland, Salem, Eugene, etc.

Over the first 49 years the Agri-Business Council has pulled off some pretty revolutionary things. Did you know ABC was one of the first organizations to ever do grocery story food sampling? If we could get Costco to give us royalties for that concept we wouldn’t have to put so much effort into fundraising!

We were very political at one point. In fact, both Representative Stafford Hansell and Senator Mike Thorne served as president of the Agri-Business Council of Oregon WHILE they were in office. Today, we leave the politics in the very capable hands of the Oregon Farm Bureau and other agricultural associations.

ABC sponsored pig races have been held in the streets of downtown Portland, and a kissing booth was built to raise funds during the Northwest Ag Show. I have been trying to convince the current ABC Board of Directors to participate in a similar booth at Denim & Diamonds, but if I push too hard I fear they’ll make me kiss the pig.

As an organization, we’re about to turn 50. We’ve become more mature as an organization. If not, I’d win that debate with the board and a kissing booth would be at every event we attend. Like a fine Oregon Pinot Noir, we continue to evolve.

At Denim & Diamond next month we will start a year-long celebration highlighting the efforts we’ve made over the past 50 years, and we’ll talk about a barn dance we’re planning for next August to celebrate our golden anniversary.

With that said, our focus is not on the past but on the future. Big changes are ahead. Announcements will be made at Denim & Diamonds in November, but at our core we’ll still be doing what Weatherford set out to do in 1966. We’ll just skip the part where the executive director kisses the pig.

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Geoff Horning

An Original Pioneer: Founder Marion T. Weatherford

by Heather Burson

Photos courtesy of OSU Archives Library and Oregon Wheat Growers League

An Oregon pioneer usually brings to mind the image of someone who’s travelled the Oregon Trail. Itself, a 2,200 mile wagon journey from Missouri to Oregon that brought settlers westward. Marion T. Weatherford was a direct descendent of one, his grandfather William Washington Weatherford, but the term ‘pioneer’ means so much more. A pioneer is also someone who helps create or develop new methods, ideas, etc. This is what Marion T. Weatherford would go on to do, creating a rich legacy in Oregon agriculture.

With ties to Oregon State College’s extension program, Weatherford, pictured at left, joins one of its members to look at the wheat crop.

With ties to Oregon State College’s extension program, Weatherford, pictured at left, joins one of its members to look at the wheat crop.

Born to Marion Earl Weatherford and Minnie Clara Weatherford, on October 9, 1906, Marion T. Weatherford began his life near Arlington, Ore. on his family’s wheat and cattle farm. Marion T.’s grandfather was the first to plant wheat in Gilliam County, a practice his family continued. In an original publication “The Weatherford 16 Mule Team,” Marion T. describes how his father cut costs hauling wheat to the railroad in Arlington. A task that required a lot of help.

The farm used a 16 mule team to haul seven wagons both ways. A round trip The Oregonian’s “Pioneer Family to Mark Harvest” describes as being “26 miles each day, hauling 270 sacks of wheat.” Marion T. recounts his own duties in “The Weatherford 16 Mule Team” as a 16-year-old boy whose job was to “load, harness, feed and water, unharness, and act as general flunky on the job.” This lasted until 1924, when paved roads forced them to switch to hauling wheat in Model T Ford trucks.

Mule Wheat Team Photo

The Weatherford family’s mule team consisted of 16 matched mules, seen here hauling wheat in the summer of 1923 along the John Day Highway.

Marion T. would remain on the farm, except for two decades from 1922-1942. A time period best described in another of Marion T.’s publications, “Things I See,” where he recounts the following. “During those twenty years, I first rebelled against parental authority and the Establishment and gave the world a whirl ‘on my own.’” Until, he adds, he “came to his senses” and went to college to get an education. Oregon State University’s archives reveal that this journey began at Pasadena University, a small liberal arts school, where he began studying industrial arts before transferring to Oregon State College (later known as Oregon State University) to do the same.

Graduating in 1930, Marion’s own biographical sketch shows he went on to teach industrial arts at Marshfield Wisconsin High School, returning in 1937 to pursue his masters in industrial education at Oregon State College. Upon receiving this degree in 1938 he became an associate professor at San Jose State College, remaining there until his parents’ death in 1942. At this point he returned to take over the farm with his wife Leona. Something that went fairly smooth given his accounts in “Things I See,” where he states “…even during those twenty years ‘outside,’ I came home frequently and always kept in touch with current events in this community.” A practice that would serve him well.

Armed with this knowledge, Marion T. quickly found ways to get involved. In 1945 he became a board member of the Bank of Eastern Oregon, serving until 1962, and a Gilliam County Fair board member, serving until 1953. The following year, 1946, Marion T. became Eastern Oregon Wheat League’s vice president. From this, he became one of three wheat growers to found the Oregon Wheat Commission. The first wheat commission in the nation. This would become one of his most well-known accomplishments.

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The commission’s formation came about through a wheat surplus, with Marion T. selected to serve on a three-person committee. This committee was tasked with writing and passing a bill to assure a steady supply of money in the future, to deal with these and other problems that may arise. Ever the orator, Marion T. Weatherford’s written account of these events reveals the following. “In later years I have come to view this assignment as an incredible one,” he says, “…so far as I know, neither one of us had ever even read any part of the Oregon laws, and I’m sure we didn’t have the slightest idea of how to go about getting new legislation drawn up.” Despite these challenges, the committee worked connections throughout the Legislature, the House and the Senate to get the bill drawn up and passed, founding the Oregon Wheat Commission and assuring the wheat industry’s prosperity for years to come.

In addition to founding this commission, and serving as its founding chairman to boot, Marion T. went on to become president of the Pacific Northwest Grain and Grain Products Association from 1950-1957. A position, once again, served simultaneously along with various others. An OSU Foundation trustee since 1947, Marion T. became one of the founders of the Oregon 4-H Foundation in 1957. Serving as vice president and later its second president, in 1960, he was influential in the development of its business practices and its ability to accept gifts for 4-H. One of his accomplishments was finding a location for a 4-H center, something he would see come to fruition when he was president again in 1967 and 1968.

Marion T. Weatherford, pictured here at left, helped found the Oregon 4-H Foundation and was present at a special ceremony celebrating the program in 1962.

Marion T. Weatherford, pictured here at left, helped found the Oregon 4-H Foundation and was present at a special ceremony celebrating the program in 1962.

While all of this was going on, J.F. Short, state director of agriculture, had proposed the formation of an Oregon Agri-Council to be “one voice for agriculture.” A February 1965 edition of the Eugene Register Guard recounts that the decision was proposed in 1964, and that preliminary feasibility studies would continue during the next year. Another article, written in an October 1965 edition of the Heppner-Gazette Times, discusses a September meeting where four subcommittees were chosen as part of a larger steering committee headed by Marion T. Weatherford. He would become the council’s first president from 1966-1967, and this council would become known as the Agri-Business Council of Oregon.

A 1968 article in the Bend Bulletin would quote Marion T. as saying that the council’s purpose would be “to provide a medium of communication between the urban public and the farmer.” An aim that continues today, as it approaches its 50th anniversary next year. It would also quote him as saying the council’s challenge was “essentially one of communicating the significance and importance of this agriculture business and to do it in a business-like way.” Something Marion T. had always done and would continue to do through various pursuits the rest of his life. One might say that no one did this better than Marion T. Weatherford. An original pioneer who forever left his mark on Oregon agriculture.

 

Oregon Agriculture: The “WHY” Approach

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere I go again, my homework is due and I’ve procrastinated once again. As ABC’s president, I am only asked to write four simple stories and so far I am 0 for 3 on turning in my homework early or on time. Maybe the next time I’ll do better? Feels like the story of my life. I find it appropriate to mention my homework tardiness given the start of fall, a new school year, and my lack of motivation and inspiration after a very LONG, HOT and DRY summer. Yet, as I watch and listen to the excitement my kids have for school (it’ll wear off by Thanksgiving I’m sure) I’m slowly becoming inspired and motivated once again.

Their endless possibilities for life, the eagerness to learn and to then think they know everything, only to realize there’s more to be taught and people to be inspired by. Who will they look up to, and see inspiration from? I secretly, ok maybe not so secretly, hope to inspire my girls. They are potentially the next generation of family farmers. Memories of my own school days flood back, and honestly I just hope I can teach them why to turn in homework EARLY! Life is all connected through possibilities, leadership, learning and inspiration, and through ABC, I believe we are working hard to accomplish this each day.

There is a theory that great leaders have a different approach to inspiring. They allow us to see what lies within us, not behind us or before us. They don’t need to be rich, well-educated, or have all of the resources available to them. As a matter of fact, you can have none of these and be a great leader. It’s the WHAT and WHY which are important and the order of how we receive this information from them. Think about this too, what’s our purpose, our cause and belief? We get folks to join us because they believe in what we believe. Let’s test this theory out briefly.

I believe Oregon has the best agricultural community in the world. We produce the highest quality products in the most efficient, sustainable, safest and reliable way. Oregon agriculture is incomparable to anything around the world. Oregon producers are willing to step up and help fill the need to feed hungry communities by donating extra or additional acres of produce to the food bank networks. We love our lifestyle, what we do; who we help and take pride in producing the best that Oregon agriculture has to offer. This makes you feel pretty good about Oregon Ag, doesn’t it? This is WHY people want to buy into and believe in what we do.

The WHAT approach could look a little like this: Farmers and ranchers produce over 250 different commodities grossing nearly $7 billion annually in Oregon agricultural products. We have approximately 35,000 farms and ranches in Oregon and approximately 140,000 jobs are connected to agriculture. All of these facts are great. This is the WHAT of what we do. But how does that really make you feel about Oregon agriculture? Does the cause or belief stand out? How about pride, does it show through in these numbers? Do they inspire you to want to rush out and buy local fruits and vegetables and add to the cause? Probably not.

We need to start thinking a bit differently about our approach to connecting the urban and rural populations. We need to stop telling them WHAT and HOW we do it and instead start with WHY we do it. Inspire them to believe in what we believe in. Perhaps if we took the approach and started with WHY we are and love Oregon agriculture, followed by HOW we do it, then maybe folks will understand the WHAT of it all.

With this model, those who are driven by WHY now have a cause, purpose or a belief and will join for themselves and their beliefs. As they believe in us and our stories, we will continue to succeed as an industry. Are you confused yet? Just remember the why. Why you fell in love with farming, why you stay awake at nights worried about the animals, why you worry about the weather, why you’re at work before dawn and come home after dark, why you get up each and every day hoping to inspire the next generation with your love for what you do.

There are three quotes I have heard repeatedly over my educational career.  They are from well-known, very different, yet all very influential, inspiring leaders. I hope they inspire you a little.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. “ –Nelson Mandela

“Learning is not a product of schooling but the lifelong attempt to acquire it.” –Albert Einstein

“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” –John F. Kennedy

As students head back to school  for another year of learning, I would like to encourage you to also keep learning, to lead, to inspire, or be inspired.

For those participating in the Adopt a Farmer program or those who are sharing their farm in other ways, know you are all great leaders of our industry and are a key instrument to the success of keeping Oregon agriculture Rooted, Green and Vital.

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Molly McCargar

Farmers and Ranchers: The Eternal Optimists

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’m a glass is half full kind of person, the eternal optimist. I will look for the upside of life even at the worst of times. I’ll admit, there have been times where cynicism has snuck into my thinking, and most recently during our current legislative session. It always seems easier to be cynical; reasons are abundant for why one could become a bona fide pessimist. I mean really, why should one really care about finding the good in challenging times? Because the fact is, optimism can create opportunity.

Summer is here and life on the farm is even busier than normal. The spring has been filled with dry weather, early crops and the continued challenge of finding labor to get all the jobs done. While we are all gearing up to harvest, the legislative session is winding down. Many bills are being debated and some are being passed, several of which appear to make doing business, especially farming, an even bigger challenge in Oregon.

I could begin to ramble off the long list of bills making their way to the governor’s desk, but I’d rather not. What I’d rather do is share with you some of why I think our industry continues to survive. Farmers and ranchers, whether they believe it themselves or not, have always been optimists, even when they don’t sound like it. If we weren’t, we wouldn’t still be taking on the challenge each day, season and year. We go to bed each night, expecting good things to happen. We wake up and set our intentions for the day. Some of those intentions are little things, others are much larger. Some days my intention is just to make through the day and I’ll be honest, if I can get the day’s work done and get my kids fed and in bed before 10pm on a summer night, it’s a success. When you read stories about agriculture or press releases about new rules and regulations, ones that make it seem like our jobs just got harder or that what we do doesn’t matter, it’s easy to become cynical. To feel sorry for ourselves. Nobody wants farmers to succeed. Right? We’ve all had the occasional thought. But guess what? People want to be us.

Farmers and ranchers are like rock stars. You’re laughing, but it’s true. We carry ourselves in a different way, one that appears to others as strong and courageous. We stand up tall, smile and engage with people, which makes us appear as confident, optimistic people and others aspire to be like us. Everyone wants to be a farmer. Think about it for a minute. Think about the conversations you have with your urban friends. They probably like to talk about their gardens or chickens with you, wanting to relate, trying to be a farmer. Why do I mention this? Because these are the opportunities, to listen and engage, to share what you do and your love for doing it. These opportunities may seem small and meaningless, but they are far from it.

Like I mentioned earlier, farmers and ranchers set their intentions or expectations every day on the farm. Being intentional helps guide what we bring to the day and the jobs we set out to get done, it helps us focus our time and energy to accomplish the most. There are always setbacks and that’s often when farmers thrive. We are masters of reframing a problem into an opportunity. Problems aren’t solved by complaining about them, so we gather information and data, analyze, create plans A, B and C, and then put one of these new plans into action.

We take an approach from a new angle and get the job done. Even if it means stepping outside of our comfort zone, farmers get it done. Folks in our industry are capable of doing more than we realize, we just take for granted our innate ability to survive, all by just reframing the challenge in front of us. Where pessimists see problems, optimists find opportunities. If you change the way you look at your problems, your problems will change into opportunities to grow. Optimism is contagious, so too is pessimism, which would you rather see grow?

Albert Einstein said, “Problems cannot be solved at the same level of thinking they were created.” Farmers and ranchers are resilient, and I believe it is because we start out our days with the glass half full, the eternal optimists. Hey, and if all else fails, find the humor in any of the most unfunny situations and laugh. Humor can be the antidote to almost every ailment or adversity, it’s either that or exercise. And let’s be honest, I think we all get enough of that every day at work. As the season goes on don’t forget to lighten up and laugh a little, because our optimism will keep Oregon rooted, green and vital!

Molly McCargar's Signature - Cropped

Molly McCargar

From Revolution to Evolution

geoff horningLooking into the mirror and seeing your blemishes is usually an easy endeavor for most people. When you have a face for radio like I do, that’s an easy mission to accomplish. What’s more difficult is publicly admitting those blemishes.

Four years ago the ABC Board of Directors took a look into the mirror, saw its blemishes, and publicly declared that we were not doing a good enough job fulfilling our mission. Worse, there was no clear cut focus or direction.

A strategic planning session was scheduled. Frankly, the first one was a mitigated disaster. A facilitator was hired and, despite impeccable credentials and valued references, we walked away after two days feeling like the only thing we had accomplished was holding hands and singing kum-ba-yah.

It may have been the defining moment for the Agri-Business Council of Oregon, though, as a revolution was underway. Over the next several weeks some very difficult decisions were made:

Oregon’s Best Contests – a program that ABC had sponsored at the Oregon State Fair and county fairs throughout Oregon for two decades was cut.

An association health insurance program that was a significant revenue stream for the association was sold.

Several other projects that distracted from the mission were also cut.

When the revolution was complete, the only programs still standing were our safety and workers’ comp program, our road crop sign program and continued support of Ag Fest.

Rising from the ashes, though, was the birth of two programs that have invigorated the staff, the board and the industry support of the Agri-Business Council of Oregon. The Adopt a Farmer program is receiving recognition throughout the Northwest, and organizations from other states are inquiring about ways they can implement a similar program in their regions. And the “I am Oregon Agriculture” campaign, in conjunction with the development of the www.oregonfresh.net website, is putting the face of our industry in front of those who have questions for our farmers and ranchers.

Last month, the ABC Board of Directors and some key contributors to our efforts met for another strategic planning session. The conversation this time was not about lighting a torch, but about building upon the momentum we’ve made.

Over the past four years we’ve worked hard to lay a solid foundation, and perhaps we’ve even put up a beam or two. But, we’ve still got a lot of work ahead of us before we’re a completed unit. While the primary focus will remain on building upon the programs we’ve recently established, there are also some exciting new ideas in development which will be unveiled in the months ahead. None of this would be possible without your membership. You’re a part of ABC’s evolution.

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Geoff Horning

Member Q&A: Jeff Freeman of Wilco

Jeff Freeman

1) How did Wilco, and its name, come to be?

Wilco’s name originated from Willamette Consolidated. As agricultural supply cooperatives began to merge and consolidate 50 years ago, the roll up of many individual cooperatives became the core of Wilco.

2) What defines Wilco and sets it apart from other coops?

In a word…diversity. Fundamentally, cooperatives are owned by the growers we serve. Our core business is agronomy and agronomic inputs like fertilizer, seed, crop protection products and fuel. Wilco’s leadership in past years has made some key decisions to diversify our resources into retail farm stores. The diversity of our three business units, agronomy, petroleum and farm stores, help us manage our risk and create sustainable returns for our members.

3) How does Wilco serve its local communities?

All employees at Wilco strive to practice a set of core values; integrity, quality, respect, accountability, teamwork and community. Many of our employees live in or grew up in rural communities. We try to stay connected to the issues facing the communities we serve. The list of issues can be extensive, ranging from lack of youth program funding in FFA to regulatory issues that can handicap growers. Wilco fosters community involvement by enabling and supporting our employees to be involved in areas they are passionate about.

4) Where is Wilco looking to expand to next?

That depends if you are asking about Agronomy or Farm Stores. Geographic expansion of Wilco’s farm stores has been aggressive in recent years, adding locations in areas outside the Willamette Valley like Gig Harbor, Wash. and Bend. Expansion of our agronomy business is a key strategy, but it is much more difficult to find opportunities that are fits to our business model. The businesses are quite different, but the same principles apply in that expansion must be a profitable opportunity.

5) Wilco turns 50 in a couple of years, any big celebrations in the works?

We don’t have any formal plans at this time. Wilco is a pretty conservative company so I wouldn’t expect anything too extravagant. I’m sure we’ll take the time to recognize the fact that reaching that milestone was only accomplished because of the contribution of our employees, members, leadership and community support.

6) What do you do at Wilco?

I am the marketing and supply manager for our agronomy business. In practical terms, I get the pleasure of sitting between our vendor partners and our agronomists to supply our growers with the best solutions for the farm. My overriding charge is to provide products and services that deliver the best agronomy and return on investment to the grower and economic benefit to Wilco.

7) What are the biggest challenges and rewards of what you do?

Let’s start with the easy one. The biggest rewards come in the form of the relationships that I get to develop and how a conversation or idea can turn into value for Wilco and its customers. My biggest challenge is assessing what the next trend, hurdle or game changer is for our industry. Farming had a much more positive image associated with it 30 years ago. Society in general has lost sight of the fact that farming is a very noble profession. Helping growers do things the “right way” when it comes to their crop inputs is getting more difficult. Being part of the team at Wilco that assists growers in these practices, and in turn creates a positive image for agriculture, is rewarding.

8) What inspires you to keep doing what you do?

I just like learning. I have two small kids so I’ll be working till I’m old and grey!  This industry is full of really smart people which makes it a very rewarding place to be.

9) What are some interesting facts about you?

My favorite part of work is teamwork. I think it stems from playing every sport I could growing up. Not too many things give the same emotions as a team win!

10) Is there anything else people should know about Wilco?

Wilco’s agronomy business has a tremendous amount of collective experience and knowledge. Many growers have benefitted from the business relationships they have historically had with our staff. Our current staff spans three generational segments. The baby boomers on the verge of retirement are mentoring their budding millennial replacements. As an industry this trend is a current reality. I would encourage any young, professionally-minded person to get into agriculture. If you are willing to put in the time and take the appropriate calculated career risks, the rewards are here.

Building Connections at Wigrich Farms

By Heather Burson

In just four years, the Adopt a Farmer program has seen its numbers quickly grow and expand. Three farmer/teacher pairs the first year, nine pairs the second year, 18 pairs the third year and 37 pairs in its current year. These numbers are just part of the equation. There are many components to Adopt a Farmer’s success, the most important one being the connection between farmer, or rancher, and student. This connection unites math and science lessons with real-world ag applications, and an awareness of where their food and fiber comes from. Both are key reasons why Joe Fitts of Wigrich Farms and Mara Burke of Calapooia Middle School became participants this year.

For Fitts it’s about “being able to share farming with people who may not even know they have an interest in farming.” He looks forward to seeing the genuine curiosity that comes when kids or parents get interested and he’s the one who got them interested in it. A great match for Burke, who was excited for the opportunity to bring her kids into a new environment. “It’s really important to get my students outside, especially into environments where they can see how science relates to the real world,” says Burke. From the moment Burke first visited the farm last summer, it was easy to see these connections and how they’d make a good match.

The two began planning a field trip that would highlight the farm and connect it with the current class curriculum. Burke’s students were going to participate in a national contest called “ExploraVision,” where they would pick a piece of technology and predict what it would look like in the future and how they could improve it. This became the lens through which all of the farm’s field trip stations would be viewed. Oregon curriculum requirements also include an engineering design project, so it was decided that all of the farm’s field trip stations would feature some type of farm machinery as a tie-in. A few months later, on a bright and warm early October day, Burke and her 31 eighth graders arrived at Wigrich Farms for an exciting field trip.

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For the first station, students joined Fitts at the edge of the farm’s 120-acre hazelnut orchard. Each student received a bag of raw hazelnuts to snack on while he shared the farm’s history and some interesting hazelnut facts. Many questions followed, and from those came a discussion about hazelnut paste, what hazelnuts are made into, how they’re formed, how they’re harvested and more. “There were a lot of ‘What’s that?’ questions, and then from that there were a lot of follow-up questions and it was great to see them connect the dots,” says Fitts. Then the students were treated to a look at the harvest in action. The sweeper had swept several straight rows of debris mixed with hazelnuts, so the real draw was seeing the harvester sort out the hazelnuts from the debris. Students were most impressed by the amount of hazelnuts Wigrich Farms harvests per acre per year, approximately two tons or about 4,000 pounds.

After that it was on to a second station for a look at an irrigation machine with Leo Yakis of Valley Fab Corp. Yakis explained the different features of the irrigation machine, from its 1,500 foot hose to the pressure pump that allows it to shoot water 200 feet in each direction. For the students, the most impressive part was hearing about the technological advances that had been made.

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“Some of their questions showed a lot of insight. I think at Leo’s station they were immediately able to draw the connection, what it takes to irrigate and how current technology makes it easier for a farmer,” says Fitts.

Students learned that an irrigation machine’s computer is equipped with a cell phone that can text a farmer its status, can text them when it comes in for the day or can text them if it has a problem. The fact that the irrigation machine could also be started and stopped via cell phone was something students found fascinating. This led into a third station, completing the day with a look at some of the farm’s machinery, including a tractor that has the capability to drive itself and is equipped with newer GPS technology.

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Out of all the moments from the field trip, it’s easy for Fitts to pick his favorite. “I get a lot of satisfaction from sharing with them and seeing that interest reciprocated,” says Fitts. Lunch time conversations provided the perfect opportunity, focusing on farm technology and leading into what we might see in the future. Students thought that hazelnut trees would be genetically manipulated to produce bigger or smaller hazelnuts. They also predicted that irrigation machines would be bigger, wouldn’t have to move or would move themselves, and would know what crops needed water. All were concepts these students took back into the classroom. “This first field trip inspired students working on ExploraVision, it was some real good bonding for them, both on the field trip and after,” says Burke.

Connections like these are just the beginning, as the rest of the school year includes classroom visits from Fitts and perhaps another field trip to Wigrich Farms. Each interaction with students will help build the next generation’s experience with agriculture, something that isn’t lost on Fitts. “I hope that they’re a lot more informed about Oregon agriculture. Whether or not they join the industry, they’ll be community leaders and voters and to some extent they will shape the environment my kids are working in,” says Fitts. Burke shares his hope, and each of them are excited for what comes next in their Adopt a Farmer partnership. “It’s something that I look forward to. It’s not like one more job, it’s fun for me,” says Fitts of the experience. Adds Burke, ““I really appreciate the opportunity and look forward to planning the next steps.”

Executive Notes: Pop Culture’s Influence on Ag’s Future

geoff horningIn the 1940s and 50s, comic books were blamed for corrupting our children. In the 90s, rap music was blamed for everything from school shootings, to violence towards women, to the promotion of gang culture. And more recently, video games have been scapegoated as the source of America’s fascination with violence.

Often, members of these scapegoated communities will argue back with similarly misguided rhetoric. Many will say something like, “I’ve been playing video games since I was 3 and I didn’t turn into some violent ghoul.”

But this statement is only half correct. Of course an entire medium cannot be trivialized into being inherently good or bad, but the statement also seems to suggest that the things that define our culture (video games, movies, TV etc.) have no effect on how we behave as a culture.

And how can that be true? How can something people engage in so closely and passionately have no influence on people and how we think?

Recently I attended the Oregon Society of Association Management annual conference and Shelly Alcorn with Alcorn Associates Management Consulting made a very compelling presentation about pop culture’s impact in telling our message.

Pop culture isn’t just for entertainment anymore. The Internet has vastly increased our media consumption habits. A recent Business News Daily report indicates that the average American spends 23 hours a week emailing, texting, and using social media. That represents 14 percent of the total time in a week. And for the record, that’s not just kids. That’s all ages.

If you think this has no impact on agriculture, you’d be wildly mistaken. It’s common knowledge in politics that the person/issue with the biggest war chest is going to win the election. Thanks to a groundswell of support via pop culture channels that is no longer true in agriculture. And, you don’t even have to leave Oregon to see the results.

During the Jackson County initiative this past spring proponents of the ban on GMOs raised $411,739, while opponents of the ban raised $928,764. Such a discrepancy should indicate that the opponents of the ban would win in a landslide. A landslide did happen. Nearly 66 percent of the voters approved the ban.

Though Measure 92 failed, a similar phenomenon occurred.

I realize that GMOs are a hotly debated issue right now, but why? It’s not like one day everybody got up and decided that they no longer liked their chocolate chip cookies. It’s more than simple coincidence that the issue started coming to the forefront as social media started to explode.

When you spend 23 hours a week taking in our latest pop culture craze you are going to start following subjects that interest you. Food is something that interests everybody in one way or another, and it’s a subject that draws people in. We have an opportunity still to be at the forefront of that conversation, and the one thing we better have learned from Measure 92 is that it’s far less expensive to be proactive than reactive.

So, I implore you to get active on social media. Help tell our story. Don’t tell people what to think. Engage them. Talk to them. Learn about their concerns and have a conversation.

If we don’t, somebody else will. And, well, you know we can believe everything we read on the Internet.

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Geoff Horning

President’s Journal: WHAT A YEAR!

anissa branchHow fast time flies when you’re having fun! The year of my presidency with the Agri-Business Council has flown by and it was more than fun! This article is my last and an opportunity for me to say “Thank You.” I am truly humbled as I think back on this year and all the help and encouragement I received, as well as the enormous strides ABC has made in this short time. THANK YOU — Our members are who make all of our programs and efforts for the Oregon ag community possible!

SAFETY: Our new small farm safety program, in connection with OSHA, started with a bang and has been extremely successful. We started with just four farms and as we head into 2015, are tripling our efforts and expanding to three areas of the state with close to 12 farms! It is so exciting to see this program grow – I know it will drop farms’ workmen’s comp rates and create safer workplaces for all of Oregon agriculture.

ABC GOLF TOURNAMENT: We raised over $14,000 for all of our programs at this year’s tournament, which was our most successful and attended tournament ever! This tournament is continuing to grow and grow – and is so much fun for all while raising a lot of money!!

DENIM & DIAMONDS: Another amazing event that was also our most successful to date. Over 500 farmers, ranchers, friends and lovers of Oregon ag attended and opened their wallets to raise over $50,000 for all of our programs. An amazing night!

ADOPT A FARMER: The touchstone of our organization, Adopt a Farmer continues to grow and grow! Working with Oregon middle school students and changing their beliefs and attitudes about agriculture for life. Not only are we affecting a future generation, we are impacting their parents and families TODAY! With over 37 classrooms around the state involved, this program is on track to be in every Oregon county in just a few short years. WOW!

I would like to thank everyone who has had any part in ABC and my journey this year. Especially Kirk Lloyd of Risk Management Resources, who has stood by and been available all year to assist ABC in implementing our safety program – It would not have been possible without him!

Geoff, Mallory, Heather, Julie and all of the staff at the Agri-Business Council office who do all the day-to-day tasks that make all of us board members look good! And the ABC Board – 28 members who volunteer their time, experience, advice and money to help this organization grow to what it is and will become – what a wonderful, caring group of people: The best in Oregon ag!

As my final word, I encourage all of our members to share what ABC is doing with another farmer or Oregon ag lover and encourage them to become a part of ABC as a new member. Only by sharing what we are doing with others will we continue to affect Oregon ag for many years to come!

Happy Spring!

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Anissa Branch

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