Oregon Aglink honored two leaders in agriculture who accepted awards for their achievements at the 16th Annual Denim & Diamonds Dinner and Auction at the Portland Marriott Downtown Waterfront on Friday, November 22nd, 2013.
Honorees are nominated by the Oregon Aglink Board of Directors to recognize Oregon’s agricultural leaders.
Doug Hoffman, CEO of Wilco, was honored with the Agriculturist of the Year award presented to him by Oregon Aglink President Amy Doerfler.
The saying goes that actions speak louder than words, and that’s something that couldn’t be truer of Wilco CEO Doug Hoffman.
Hoffman is someone who always makes time for others, listens actively and lends his support in whatever way he can. As a CEO he’s certainly not your typical agriculturalist, yet Oregon’s agriculture industry is indebted to Hoffman for what he does bring to the table. An unwavering support for Oregon agriculture that knows no bounds. His character and principles, his support of members, employees and Oregon agriculture groups, and his universal vision of agriculture make him a prominent figure in Oregon’s agriculture industry.
For Hoffman, dedication and commitment are lessons strengthened by a background rooted in leadership and agriculture.
“I grew up in South Dakota. I was one of nine children, we had 100 head of cows and calves and what not, a bunch of hogs, it was a bunch of hard work, and it taught me if you want things in life, you have to work for it,” says Hoffman.
Although his roots remained in agriculture, Hoffman eventually left the farm to pursue other aspirations. He attended the University of South Dakota, receiving a business and accounting degree, married his wife Jan, with whom he now has three kids, and started with Cenex, a management training program in Wilmot, S.D.
After a year, he entered into his first management position as a general manager for local coop Farmers Union Oil. The coop was financially broke, and over seven years Hoffman managed two locations, enacting a huge turnaround. His next 11 years were spent managing Consumers Coop, in Weezer, Idaho, before stepping into his current role.
The role of Wilco CEO greatly benefits from Hoffman, a person who consistently places the needs of others above himself. “He cares about people and he wants families to succeed, whether it’s farming families or people who work under him. He has a deep concern for people and their well-being,” says friend and former Wilco employee Tim Aman. These same traits make Hoffman someone who’s regarded as a trusted friend and advisor by employees, Wilco members and all of Oregon agriculture.
He was one of the first people Wilco member Molly McCargar thought of when she formed an advisory committee for her farm, and now he joins in on quarterly meetings to discuss farm issues.
“We chat about everything and anything that happens and goes on. He has become a mentor, to a degree, for me,” says McCargar.
As a trusted friend and advisor, Hoffman is also sought after by several agricultural groups. He serves on the Agricultural Cooperative Council of Oregon and many cooperative boards ask him for advice and have him come speak. Hoffman also gives his time to numerous boards and volunteer associations, such as Oregon FFA Foundation and Oregonians for Food and Shelter. Wilco employees look up to Hoffman, and his dedication and commitment to supporting Oregon agriculture has become a large part of Wilco’s company culture. Known for giving back to the community, Wilco lends its support to FFA, the fair, events and through Wilco stores.
For Hoffman, this philosophy of giving back has quickly expanded to an international level. “Instead of having a very narrow view, he has a broad view of agriculture and how it’s universal,” says Aman. In 2003, while visiting a person from church in Mozambique, Hoffman realized he needed to take what he calls a “boots on the ground” approach and work with the African people around agriculture. He began working in Kenya with Empowering Lives International, a year-long program teaching adults about farming and its different techniques. In sharing agricultural successes abroad, Hoffman empowers participants to improve their communities and inspires many. “He thinks bigger than himself, he thinks outside to the world and that’s what I think is inspiring about him,” says McCargar, “It helps motivate and encourage me, and others, to think outside of their own world.”
Yet, none of these accomplishments are things he takes credit for, including this award.
“I’m truly humbled by the recognition because I never thought I’d done that much truthfully,” says Hoffman. Instead he prefers to let his actions speak for themselves, saving the credit for those who’ve believed in him every step of the way.
“I always say, and my dad always told me this, let your actions speak for you and don’t do anything for personal acclaim,” says Hoffman, “I’m honored that individuals see traits in me that they think are important.”
Oregon Ag Fest was honored with the Ag Connection of the Year award which was presented to Michele Ruby, Executive Director of the organization.
Oregon Ag Fest is an event that has always had a simple message, be informed, and know where your food and fiber come from. This important message is spread to thousands of urban Oregonians in an interactive and family-friendly way every year, during the last weekend in April, at the Oregon State Fairgrounds.
Boasting five areas of engaging Ag activities and over 1,000 volunteers, many of them farmers and ranchers, Oregon Ag Fest directly connects families to their agricultural roots. Especially in Ag Country, a hands-on area where children learn how livestock are raised, plant seedlings, watch chicks hatch, pet a rabbit, dig for potatoes and much more. Collectively, Oregon Ag Fest truly celebrates Oregon’s bounty and identifies its source.
On November 22, Oregon Ag Fest will be recognized by the Agri-Business Council of Oregon as the 2013 Ag Connection of the Year recipient. It’s an award that marks its achievements, as well as how far it has come.
The seed for Oregon Ag Fest was planted 26 years ago, when it began as a small event held in downtown Salem to recognize leaders in Oregon’s agriculture industry.
“Ag Fest originally started as a small event to present awards to leaders in Ag down on the waterfront, it was in a tent, and slowly it evolved into what it is today,” says ODA Assistant to the Director and volunteer chair Sherry Kudna.
With its growth came a mission built upon an important issue. “In the U.S. we have less than two percent of our population that is involved in production agriculture, 98 percent are removed, sometimes several generations, from where their food and fiber come from,” says Ag Fest board member Craig Anderson. Today Oregon Ag Fest focuses on closing that gap, reconnecting Oregon’s urban population with facts like milk doesn’t come from a carton and cereal isn’t grown in a box.
It’s a message that solidifies as important bonds are formed and memories are made, allowing Oregon’s diverse agriculture and importance to come alive. Whether it’s pony rides, Ag Country or the petting zoo known as Nosey’s Neighborhood, children are learning about Oregon agriculture through their participation, and their excitement is infectious.
Ag Country is a significant example of this and it’s something Michele Ruby, Oregon Ag Fest’s Executive Director, can attest to. “When you see kids watching a chick hatch or making Dirt Babies at the Oregon Farm Bureau booth, you see their eyes light up,” says Ruby. These kind of experiences stick with children and spread to their families.
At Nosey’s Neighborhood this year Ruby observed a three-year-old petting a goat with her mom and her grandma, she later learned they were three generations of Ag Fest goers. “That is so cool that Ag Fest has been around long enough to see that,” says Ruby, “It’s impactful to me as an organizer, because you can really see that this is a community event that people look forward to.”
Not only that, it’s an event that people keep coming back to year after year. Part of that is its accessibility, with free parking and children 12 and under gaining free admission, another part of that is the connections, and a huge part of that are the sponsors and volunteers. Each one has grown the event and plays a part in its continued success.
One of the additions that sponsors and volunteers have made possible has been Ag Education Service Awards, $2000 awarded between three nonprofit groups whose activity or project mirrors the Ag Fest mission and extends it beyond the two day event.
Another is the statewide “What We’re Made Of” essay contest for fourth graders. This contest gets students and teachers talking about what products are grown and produced in their area, and 12-15 winning student essays are selected every year. Winning students receive certificates and a portion of bus transportation costs to provide transportation for them and their classes to a mini Ag Fest day on Thursday, prior to the weekend event. Roughly 350 students participate and are rotated through 12-15 activity stations, manned by volunteers, with each station focusing on our food, fiber and flora. These same volunteers, and more, are also part of the main weekend event, and the months of planning that go into making it happen.
“Ag Fest has grown on me, it’s hard to let go of,” says Anderson, “The dedication of the board and volunteers throughout the year keeps me involved, they are all really wonderful to work with, be involved with and associate with.”
All of the volunteers, from board members to key volunteers and beyond, have some tie and passion for agriculture. Their willingness to share their time and information, along with their hard work and dedication, are part of why this award is so special.
“I think this is an award that goes to every sponsor, every volunteer, and every board member, this is an award for all of them and their dedication to this message, the importance of Oregon’s bountiful and diverse harvest,” says Ruby, “It wouldn’t happen without them.”