Friday, March 31, 2006

Pass the baton to promote agriculture

Mary Stewart, at the Oregon Department of Agriculture Ag Progress Dinner, displayed a baton to encourage others to carry on the positive message of agriculture after she leaves her position of executive director for the Oregon Agri-Business Council on March 31. Director of Agriculture Katy Coba, background, gave Stewart an award for the Keeping Ag Viable campaign.

By Elaine Shein

When organizations change the head of the organization, such as a president, often a gavel is ceremoniously passed on to recognize the role of the next leader. However, what would be appropriate when there is a change in the executive director position at an agricultural organization?

Mary Stewart, who officially steps down today as executive director of the OregonAgri-Business Council , provided an appropriate prop at the Oregon Department of Agriculture Ag Progress Awards a week earlier ago in Silverton, Ore.

At the podium, she held up a baton — and said that it represents the teamwork done by different people on the Agri-Business Council’s Keeping Ag Viable committee who have served as volunteers to help spread a positive message of agriculture. The baton also represents what everyone needs to continue to do: pass on that positive image of agriculture beyond the ag community and also to the next generation.

Baton appropriate

Why was a baton so appropriate? Because the race continues, slow and steady. This is a team effort, and while it may seem like an endless race with a few tough hurdles along the way, ultimately there will be rewards for those who have worked so hard to continue to support agriculture.

Perhaps it’s time for the team to thank Stewart for the work she has done with ABC for more than 10 years. Often executive directors receive little credit for their accomplishments and little notice for when things go right with an organization. Everyone expects a flawless performance, whether to create a strong financial position, increase membership, educate the public, put out fires in the media, arrange promotion of agricultural products, influence buying habits of customers and plan large fundraising events.

Changes at the top

Executive directors serve many bosses: the Agri-Business Council has a large board of directors, for example, which has just undergone a change in leadership as Mac McCarter took over the presidency from Dick Severson. ABC is currently going through long-term strategic planning which will influence greatly what happens to the organization celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.

ABC represents more than 900 members, organizations that range from the Oregon Farm Bureau Federation to NORPAC to small farm businesses that have recognized the benefits of belonging to a larger umbrella organization.

Keeping Ag Viable a success

During Stewart’s tenure at ABC, one of the most significant accomplishments was the formation of the Keeping Ag Viable program. On ABC’s website, it’s described as “an industry-wide, state-wide effort initiated in 1996 and housed at the Agri-Business Council of Oregon (ABC), seeks to unite agriculture’s diverse voices and leverage its combined resources to effect statewide awareness. Taking this a step farther, the goal is to motivate Oregonians — rural and urban, consumer and legislator, student and business leader —to actively support Oregon agriculture by buying local products and considering the industry's needs at the ballot box and in the policy arena.”

Ask three questions

How successful has this program been? Just ask yourself three questions.
Have you ever heard the phrase “Oregon Agriculture. Everywhere. Everyday”, perhaps mentioned by someone in the agricultural industry, or used on packaging, or become part of in media campaigns?

And if you have driven on some of Oregon’s roads, have you come across some bright yellow signs that promote Agriculture? There are some on the I-5 between Portland and Salem, for example, and follow the old Burma Shave advertising campaigns. Cute rhymes with a touch of humor are used to help catch people’s attention. Tens of thousands of vehicles each day passing by these signs, and surveys have shown that people do remember these signs later.

On these same roads people can often see signs identifying what crops are in the fields. In a place like Oregon, where crops are so diversified, few people could identify what is being grown, and they appreciate the opportunity to learn along the way.

All these three things came from the Keeping Ag Viable program, and Mary Stewart played an important role in helping ensure these ideas came to fruition.

Excellence in Education award

It was definitely appropriate that Stewart accepted the award from ODA on March 23, about a week before she ended her job. She accepted the ODA’s award for Excellence in Education for the work that KAV has done, tearfully acknowledging that her job as executive director was almost over although the need for ag promotion will never end.

In the video announcing the award, Bruce Pokarney from ODA explained “One of the biggest challenges for Oregon agriculture has been bridging the urban-rural gap….making sure that all Oregonians understand and appreciate all that is done by farmers and ranchers.”

He added: “The Keeping Agriculture Viable in Oregon Committee, with the support of the Agri-Business Council of Oregon, has an impressive track record of accomplishment the past five plus years in making the connection between agriculture and the daily lives of all Oregonians.” In regards to the ‘Oregon Agriculture. Everywhere. Everyday’ campaign he said “Those messages have connected with the target audience more than 110 million times. Well over half of those surveyed actually recall seeing the ads and messages. Surveys show the percentage of those seeking Oregon products has grown because of the campaign…”

Pokarney, who serves on the KAV committee himself, put into perspective what KAV has done but what remains the challenge ahead for everyone.

More than quick fix

“Keeping Agriculture Viable has been more than a quick-fix media blitz,” said Pokarney. “It has maintained its momentum, recognizing that there are many people out there who still need to be reached. Strong, positive, consistent, and effective messages about all the good things represented by Oregon agriculture will always find a way of reaching the target audience thanks to the efforts of those involved with the campaign.”

Stewart has handed to everyone in agriculture, not just her successor, the baton now to carry. Success will come only as long as everyone continues to recognize as a team they need to work together and continue moving forward.


OregonAgri-Business Council

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Dairy Herd Improvement Assoc celebrates 50 years — modestly

(Left to right) Lee Day, George Marsh and Ann Marsh at the Willamette Dairy Herd Improvement Association’s 50th annual meeting, held in McMinnville March 29. Marsh was re-elected to another term on the organization’s Board of Directors.

By Elaine Shein

McMinnville, Oregon — The 50th annual meeting of an organization is usually seen as a big event and held in a flashy way.
There is usually a lot of fanfare, long speeches, special guests and perhaps even some audio/visual presentation to highlight what an organization has done to reach this milestone successfully.
However, it was a modest gathering of mainly dairy producers at the Michelbook Country Club in McMinnville on March 29.
The Willamette Dairy Herd Improvement Association meeting had around 100 people in attendance, counting dairy producers as well as sponsors and others there.
According to the annual report, WDHIA serves a client base of 131 members and nonmembers, and tested 36,000 samples of milk last year.

Lots of cows, fewer members

One of the challenges facing the organization has been that the number of dairy producers has gone down, even though the number of dairy cows has stayed constant in the state.
A glance around the room showed that this will continue to be the challenge for the organization. How to continue attracting members to meetings such as this, but even more important, how to keep dairy producers even more involved, such as being on the board of directors?

Marsh Re-elected

George Marsh of Cornelius was re-elected to be a director of the Board of Directors, with no one else running against him.
The other five board members were kept busy, often being the ones to make motions, second them, and being the ones who led the verbal response to voting on motions.
Butch Bloomer of Gaston, Fred Faber of Salem, and George Marsh were those who led the pack, for the most part.
Unfortunately, it was only a half-hearted vote by others in the room that led to motions being passed.

Wanted: Future Directors

As Steve Piersen of St. Paul, the secretary of the organization, noted, “we have to get people on boards — boards work.” He continued to encourage people to be involved or get other people involved to help the organization for the future.
In the business part of the meeting, there were some changes that reflect not only what this organization faces but also challenges probably a lot of other agricultural organizations.
What rules need to be in place about how many directors there should be?
Can outside directors be on the board?
What to do about people who can’t make it to meetings in person?
And finally, what do you do about people who miss more than two consecutive meetings?

New Rules

In their by-laws changes, this DHIA decided to define what is the minimum amount of directors than can be on the board. That number is now five, with no more than nine. Cathy Gesch joined the board this week as the new director representing the permanent seat on the board for someone from the Northwest Dairy Goat Herd Improvement Association.
Another bylaw change was to add “a director at large from an allied industry” and remarkably this was adopted with very little discussion.
This amazed some people, such as Bill Vanderboort, the general manager of California Dairy Herd Improvement Association who has attended a lot of agricultural meetings in the past. He said it was remarkable because often organizations do not accept outside directors easily or quickly.
Unfortunately, sometimes outside directors are allowed on farm organization boards when it is too late and they are in desperate need of expertise from outside of its own board.
However, this was a wise decision made by the Willamette DHIA as it prepares for the future. It’s always good to get expertise from others: in this case, Garey Fritz, from West Coast Bank, was chosen to serve as the director.

Banker Welcomed

People at the meeting laughed when it was noted that any director from large chosen from an “allied industry” should be someone that has a strong interest in agriculture, and who else would be more interested in dairy producers succeeding than a banker?
Kidding aside, Fritz is an excellent choice.
He is someone who definitely is aware of and interested in agriculture. He currently serves as the first vice-president on the board of directors for Oregon’s Agri-Business Council and chairs the Keeping Ag Viable Committee. Not only is he good with numbers, always an asset for any organization, but he also is someone who has worked hard as a volunteer towards helping agriculture.
Maybe the group welcomed Fritz so readily as an outside board member because he is well-known, a familiar face to the agricultural community and he was at the meeting also as a sponsor — but hopefully it was also because the organization was ready to move forward with getting new insight at the board level from people outside the industry.

Calling for Quorum

As for other changes in the by-laws, quorum for a meeting no longer has to be people just meeting in person but can also be met by board members participating by teleconference calls. This reflects the reality that a lot of organizations face in these busy times — it’s tough to get farmers together at times to meet, even if it is only quarterly.
Not everyone can take the time needed to travel to the meeting, but they might be able to participate and serve a valuable role using their phones.
While 50 years ago it might have been tough to imagine meetings not being in person, today’s technology means a farmer with a cell phone can still participate in a meeting even when out working in the field.

Two Strikes…

Finally there was a question of at what point should a board member be removed after missing too many meetings.
Again, a lot of boards face this same question. They don’t want to lose good people, but it hurts when people can’t participate in meetings where they expertise is needed.
“Any board member who misses two or more consecutive board meetings without presenting a valid excuse to the board chair shall be removed from his/her position on the board by a majority vote of the other members of the board,” is the new change in the by-laws that was adopted.
This helps define when does that absence become too much to catch up on the business of the organization, but still allows the board to give people a chance to explain why they couldn’t make it … and perhaps be given another chance by the board.
So what will attract the next board members to the Dairy Herd Improvement Association?

Quietly celebrating

There were no inspirational speeches on what a new board member will get by being part of an established, well-respected organization, but the Oregon Dairy Princess Anna Monroe did share a well-memorized speech about how important milk is to a healthy diet.
There was no explanation of what the herd improvement programs means and how much it has contributed to the success of dairies in Oregon, although the nice glossy annual reports shared a lot of valuable statistics on annual production in the dairy herds.
There were no flashy presentations to celebrate the anniversary of this DHIA, just an informative presentation on the new technology out there for better ear tags that can be scanned quickly to source information for milking herds.
The 50th anniversary might have been a quiet understated affair, but then again, that really reflects the dairy industry. They receive little credit for what they do as they continue to improve their herds.
Dairy producers work hard, put in a lot of long hours, and usually are modest about the contributions they make to help produce safe, high-quality, readily accessible, nutritional milk that costs so little, often much cheaper per glass than bottled water.
Time to raise a glass — of milk, of course — to the dairy producers in this association and others for what they have accomplished and for all those who continue to work hard to make sure their organizations survive.

Oregon’s Agri-Business Council
California Dairy Herd Improvement Association
Northwest Dairy Goat Herd Improvement Association


Thursday, March 23, 2006

Oregon Department of Agriculture honors industry leaders

The Oregon Department of Agriculture is celebrating its 75th birthday, but it was people in the state's agriculture industry that got the presents tonight.

The event, held in conjuction with National Agriculture Week, was the Oregon Department of Agriculture's Ag Progress Awards Dinner. Even Gov. Ted Kulongoski made an appearance long enough to present opening remarks at the event.

Kulongoski, who is facing a slate of challengers, even from his own Democratic Party, in his re-election bid this year, praised the agriculture industry for its contributions to the state. Kulongoski spoke about agriculture's economic impact to the overall state economy, but also how Oregon farm and ranch families contribute to the social fabric of the state with their committment to hard work and community.

Kulongoski did not bring up his re-election bid in his public remarks at the Oregon Garden in Silverton, Ore., but he did make note of several achievement in the ag sector during his administration and made a pitch asking for the support of the industry leaders in attendance to keep working with him to build the state's infrastructure and economy.

The department and its director, Katy Coba, also received a gift from one of the honorees. Tomio Ao of Japan, who the department credits with being the key figure in establishing Oregon's seafood export industry with Japan, was one of the award recipients for individual contribution to agriculture in the state. After Coba presented Ao with his plaque, Ao gave Coba an ornate banner honoring the Department of Agriculture's 75th anniversary.

Others honored for individual contribution to agriculture were Dalton Strauss, a Central Point, Ore., cattle rancher, and Dave and Rita Doerfler of Silverton, Ore., for their work with various ag committees, organizations and events in the state.

Bob's Red Mill Natural Foods of Milwaukie, Ore., which produces whole grain foods distributed in the U.S. and Canada, was honored as high-valued products producer.

Sabroso Inc. of Medford, a fruit processor that makes fruit purees, concentrates and other ingredients for national and international food companies, was honored as processor of the year.

Yule Tree Farms of Aurora was honored for leadership in conservation for its work to control erosion and improve water quality.

The Agribusiness Council of Oregon was honored for excellence in education for its Keeping Ag Viable campaign.

Check out the Capital Press website for photos from the event.

I also realized that if I ever decide to get serious about this whole blogging thing, I may have to invest in some sort of wireless device so I can post whenever, and wherever, I go. There really is no escaping the wonders of technology for distribution of information, as Oregon State University President Ed Ray demonstrated at the event. Ray kept some in the audience up to date on the scores from the NCAA basketball tournament, which were delivered to his BlackBerry wireless device.

And here I had to drive all the way home to make a post.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Staying wired in an increasingly wireless world

We're entering the testing phase of a new feature at We are hoping to soon add the option of allowing Capital Press readers with e-mail access the option of receiving news alerts from Capital Press.

Right now I'm trying to test that feature to see how it works and what those alerts will look like once they go out. So far, I haven't got it to work, so all tests have been failures. But stay tuned for an update on when we are up and running with that feature.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Mr. Kempthorne goes (back) to Washington

Idaho's governor is trading in the statehouse in Boise for the cabinet room in Washington, D.C.

President George W. Bush today named Dirk Kempthorne as his next Interior secretary (click here for more details).

With so much of the West's lands falling under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Interior, it makes sense to have a Westerner at the helm. Frankly, we need all the Westerners we can get in positions of influence, people who understand the importance of the wide open spaces and public lands to so many often conflicting interests like grazing cattle, hunting, fishing, habitat preservation and just flat-out scenic beauty.

We'll see what happens when Kempthorne gets thrown into the political gristmill of the Senate confirmation process. But at least he's been a senator before so he should have some idea what he's in for.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

A trial transplanting of Blogriculture

This is a bit of an experiment. I've been writing a "blog," so to speak, over on our Capital Press website, but as blogs go, it was pretty clunky. Our site was built to handle news stories, not blogs, comments, multiple blog links and all that stuff. Consequently, I wasn't happy with interface and I also wasn't posting very often.

So, I've decided to use an actual blog program to see if we can't get a little more interactivity going. My theory is people looking for a blog, even if it is an agriculture related blog, would search blog indexes to find it. Spring is only a few days away, so it seemed a good time to do some planting.

So, we'll see how this test goes.

I have started moving, or more precisely copying, some of my previous blog posts from the Capital Press site here. I haven't decided if I'll move them all or not, but it does provide a little seed bed to get this particular site rolling. Here you can also read some of the previous posts I've written about why I started that blog in the first place.

My search for agriculture related blogs continues, but thanks to Capital Press readers, we have several blog and ag sites here in our links.

I'm also on the lookout for other agriculture and agribusiness sites that utilize new media resources. My new obsession is looking for ag-related podcasts. There are a few out there, but some appear to be inactive and most are based in the Midwest or somewhere else, which I'm thinking may not be of much use to West Coast farmers, ranchers and agribusinesses as the seasons and commodities won't overlap too much.

But then again, trying to address agriculture topics in four-plus Western states from the Mexico to Canadian borders covers a lot of climates, growing seasons and commodities as well.

So, if you've stumbled across this site, welcome. If you have found some ag-related resources you'd like to share, leave a comment or send me an e-mail.

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