Oregon Aglink honored two leaders in agriculture who accepted awards for their achievements during the 15th Annual Denim & Diamonds Dinner and Auction at the Portland Marriott Downtown Waterfront on Friday, November 30, 2012.
Honorees are nominated by the Oregon Aglink Board of Directors to recognize Oregon’s agricultural leaders.
Dale Buck was honored with the Agriculturist of the Year award presented to him by Oregon Aglink President Bill Levy.
Dale Buck is a retired dairy farmer, but one would never know it. He sits on at least a dozen boards and committees, so many that he has trouble naming them all, including the Oregon Farm Bureau, the Oregon Agricultural Education Foundation, the Summer Ag Institute, the Oregon Century Farm and Ranch Program, and several other agriculture groups. He even serves on the board for the Nestucca Anglers Association—and he’s not a fisherman.
Buck grew up on a farm in Scotts Mills, milking cows and feeding pigs and chickens. When he was in the sixth grade, his family moved to Amity to live and work at Broadmead Farm. Buck started out bucking hay bales on the farm until he earned an hourly job, working there until he graduated from high school. He left the farm to enlist in the Army for three years, spending 15 months in South Korea. When he came back he married his wife Jackie, who is still by his side today nearly 58 years later. He and Jackie moved back to the farm to work, but a back injury from playing football in high school forced him to look for an alternative way to make a living.
Buck always enjoyed building things, so he decided to attend Oregon Polytechnic Institute to learn structural drafting and surveying. After graduating he was hired to work as a draftsman for a consulting engineering firm in Portland. Buck worked for the firm for over 10 years, then realized that all he wanted to do was farm. He decided to leave his career to dairy farm, renting land in Tillamook until finally purchasing his own dairy farm three years later. Buck had the farm for 29 years, up until he had multiple operations on his back. “I would have never quit if it hadn’t been for that,” says Buck.
Although he had to give up farming, he never stopped caring about farmers’ issues. Buck sat on the Tillamook County Creamery’s Board of Directors for nine years, where his legislative involvement began. More rules and regulations were placed on farming practices that involved legislators. “Somebody needed to get to know these legislators,” says Buck, “Because you were dealing with them constantly and it was obvious we’d be dealing with them more.” During legislative sessions today, Buck can be found at the Capitol addressing agriculture, forestry, and natural resource issues—with cheese curds in tow for his legislators.
“When he talks, people listen,” says Tillamook County Commissioner Mark Labhart, “They pay attention to this guy because he really cares.”
He’s described as tenacious, but respected and trusted by people on both sides of the issues he addresses. “He’s my go-to guy on farm issues and farm matters. If there’s a major issue around the dairy industry, I go to Dale,” says Labhart.
“He is ferociously defending agriculture. I think that for him he’s defending a way of life, he’s defending individual farmers who have fallen victim to the bureaucracy—he is genuinely trying to leave the place better than he found it,” says Sen. Betsy Johnson.
For the past 12 years, Buck and his wife have taken the lead on organizing the Tillamook County booth at the Oregon State Fair. Every year they recruit volunteers to staff the booth, cut cheese into thousands of cubes for fair-goers to sample, collect and set up displays that represent Tillamook County, shop for supplies, and set up and tear down everything when the fair is over. This project takes a lot of time and work to organize, and the Bucks do it for free. “He’s the hardest working guy I’ve ever seen. His back is fused and yet you never hear him complain. He’s in pain all the time but he doesn’t complain about it,” says Labhart.
Buck volunteers his time for all the organizations he’s involved in, asking nothing in return. “At a time when a lot of people would have succumbed to the temptation to hang it up and retire, he’s busier than anyone I know. He’s constantly on the road,” says Sen. Johnson, “Whether that road is going to meetings in Salem, Dale is everywhere. He is on the farm talking to people. He has this incredibly extensive network of people he gathers information from.”
“He just believes so strongly in the family farm and farming issues, that not only is he willing to devote his life to this, but he’s willing to devote his spirit,” says Labhart.
But Buck just sees it as doing important work—because someone has to do it. “I’m not looking for awards,” says Buck, “I just get up every morning and do what I have to do that day, and I do the best I can.”
Marie Bowers of Bashaw Land and Seed was honored with the Ag Connection of the Year award but was unable to attend Denim & Diamonds due to her sister’s wedding. Paulette Pyle accepted the award from Oregon Aglink President Bill Levy on behalf of Marie. At just 27 years old, Marie is the youngest person to ever receive this award.
Marie Bowers started attending legislative hearings on field burning issues with her dad when she was in the second grade. He believed she would learn more in a legislative hearing than she would in the classroom. Throughout her youth, Bowers’ mom regularly brought her to Oregon Women for Agriculture meetings. Bowers proudly served as president of the organization in 2012. She is also a farmer, blogger and agvocate for Oregon agriculture.
Bowers is a fifth generation farmer, growing up on her family’s grass seed farm in Harrisburg—Bashaw Land & Seed, Inc. As a kid she always worked on the farm, enjoying field burning and driving a truck. Bowers attended Washington State University to study general agriculture, ag economics and management. While in college she worked for the Washington State University Creamery, learning all aspects of cheesemaking. After college Bowers worked for Farm Credit Services for three and a half years, but she began to miss the farm. She was passionate about production agriculture and what goes into making a farm work. At the end of 2011, Bowers left her office job to return to her family’s farm to work with her dad. “I’m the fifth generation; not many people have the option to go back to a family farm in the fifth generation,” says Bowers.
Bowers is not what you might consider an old-fashioned farm girl. When she’s not outside working, she’s online connecting rural with urban. Bowers got involved in the AgChat Foundation two years ago by participating in their weekly Twitter chat. Every Tuesday night she joins in a two-hour conversation with fellow farmers, ranchers and the general population about food and agriculture.
“I think she does a really good job of connecting with the public about ag issues,” says Oregon Women for Agriculture member Tiffany Marx, “She spends a lot of time talking about things that are important in ag.”
Her Twitter page has 1,200 followers listening to what she has to say. Last December, the AgChat Foundation approached Bowers about becoming a member of the board, opening new doors and expanding her involvement in telling the story of agriculture. “It’s easy to sit back and not do anything. But what are you going to have left if you just sit back and don’t do anything?” says Bowers, “If you’re not part of the conversation, then you’re left out of the conversation.”
In February 2011, Bowers read an article that said women weren’t involved in “big ag.” As a woman in “big ag,” she was disappointed by the article. Not one to sit quietly and say nothing, Bowers started a blog called Oregon Green to be an outlet for her thoughts, opinions and clarifying misconceptions about how conventional agriculture works. People were interested in what she had to say, and today she has an impressive 1,383 followers on her blog.
“She’s not intimidated, she loves to go into the urban communities and talk about agriculture and forestry, she loves the social media part that so many of us don’t understand very well and we’re intimidated by—she’s not, and she has made that a part of who she is in communicating with the “outer world” as we call it,” says Paulette Pyle, director of grassroots at Oregonians for Food and Shelter, Inc.
In March 2012 Bowers was elected president of Oregon Women for Ag. Being inaugurated as president of the organization was a special moment for Bowers because her great grandmother, one of the founding members, was there to support her. “They put my president pin on me and then my mom came up and surprised me and put my great grandma’s pin on me,” says Bowers. She will serve two years as president of the organization.
“Marie is going to be a dynamo in the world. She’s going to do great things, I know for sure,” says Marx.
“I think it’s kind of in my blood to be involved,” says Bowers, “I just wanted to thank the Agri-Business Council for awarding me this award. For me it’s kind of undeserving because I feel like I’m just doing what I’m supposed to be doing. But I appreciate it and it continues to be motivation for me to keep doing what I’m doing.”