Award Recipients 2014

Oregon Aglink honored two leaders in agriculture who accepted awards for their achievements at the 17th Annual Denim & Diamonds Dinner and Auction on November 7th, 2014 at the Portland Marriott Downtown Waterfront.

Honorees are nominated by the Oregon Aglink’s Board of Directors to recognize Oregon’s agricultural leaders.

agriculturist of the year

Barry Bushue, President of the Oregon Farm Bureau, was honored with the Agriculturist of the Year award presented to him by Oregon Aglink President Anissa Branch.

Passion is often defined as a strong desire or love for what you do that drives you to go above and beyond. Within Oregon agriculture, Barry Bushue is one who has this quality in spades.

As president of the Oregon Farm Bureau Federation and vice president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, Bushue is a tireless agvocate for issues facing agriculture. He also sits on the Board of Directors for Oregonians for Food and Shelter and the Gresham Farmers Market, runs Bushue Family Farms, and dedicates the rest of his time to his wife, Helen, and their three children, Riley, Kyle and Lara. In everything, his passion and dedication gives Oregon producers a voice and unites the larger agricultural community to work together and be successful.

For Bushue, growing up on his family’s farm in Boring, Ore., the seeds of these traits were planted at an early age. From picking berries to driving bus and tractor and the “hustle and bustle of harvest,” farming was “a good way of life and a good way to grow up.” Eventually, an interest in teaching led Bushue to Australia for 15 years, and it was here that he met his wife Helen. When he left teaching to return to the farm, she followed and the two settled into family life and running the farm together. Simply farming was never an option for Bushue. Coming from a Farm Bureau family, farming meant being involved. “There’s no one out there who’s going to advocate for farmers better than farmers can. If you’re going to farm smart, you’ve got to farm involved,” says Bushue. With that sentiment in mind, Bushue became president of the Oregon Farm Bureau Federation in 2000 and vice president of the American Farm Bureau Federation in 2008.

Within these roles, Bushue’s understanding of the issues and approach have made him an effective voice for agriculture. Dave Dillon, executive vice president of the Oregon Farm Bureau Federation, notes that part of this understanding comes from Bushue’s unique vantage point. “Because he farms in Multnomah County, and their farm has a lot of public interaction, it gives him a front row seat to the misperceptions urban people have about agriculture and a chance to do something about it,” says Dillon. Yet, Bushue’s understanding goes far beyond the issues his own farm faces. Congressman Greg Walden adds that “it spans more than just the crops he raises” and that Bushue also stands out for “his ability to articulate the challenges and opportunities facing ag, and his ability to pull together disparate ag industries to speak with a common voice.”

Key to this is his tactic of reaching beyond immediate groups to the broader agricultural community. “Barry’s biggest contribution is reaching out beyond individual groups and trying to make sure the whole agricultural community can work together and be successful together,” says Dillon. In doing so, the focus is always on finding the best solution for everyone. Bushue is “really selfless when he approaches an issue, and he’s really dedicated to finding a solution that’s best for the agricultural community as a whole,” adds Dillon. With reaching any solution, a core value for Bushue is involving those whom the issue directly affects. Dillon notes that “his focus is on making sure the producers themselves have a voice…he works very hard to make sure he’s connecting with those that the decisions affect.”

This also involves putting himself out there to speak and act on their behalf. When three blueberry farms became undue targets of hot goods orders served by the Department of Labor, Bushue went to work to see that justice was served. “He has been a huge leader standing up for Oregon growers about the overreach by the Department of Labor with Oregon berry growers,” says Walden. According to Dillon, another area where Bushue has excelled has been biotechnology. The U.S. Secretary of Agriculture selected Bushue to serve on AC21, Agricultural Biotechnology in the 21st Century, for two years. This caught the attention of Governor Kitzhaber, who recently asked him to serve on a similar task force.

Whether Bushue’s bringing groups together, or acting on their behalf, it does not go unnoticed. “He makes sure that our farmers and ranchers have a face and a voice for the public. He has, really, when you look around, become the face of Oregon agriculture,” says Walden. For Bushue it’s not so much about what he’s contributed as what he’s learned, so receiving this award comes as quite a shock. “I think my greatest joy has been the incredible number of people I’ve met and dealt with that share the same passion for agriculture that I do,” says Bushue, “It’s an honor and humbling to be put in the same category as those who’ve received this in the past.”

ag connection of the year

Dan and Jeanne Carver were honored with the Ag Connection of the Year award presented by Oregon Aglink President Anissa Branch.

Food, clothing and shelter are timeless necessities that have been central and vital to mankind’s survival for thousands of years. Their roots? Sunlight, water and soil. At Imperial Stock Ranch, plants convert sunlight energy into protein that’s grazed by sheep and cattle. These sheep and cattle harvest that protein and convert it into products useful to people: food, clothing and shelter.

Thanks to Dan and Jeanne Carver, most people know this cycle simply as the “sunlight story.” It’s a story that’s at the root of the Carver’s connection to the land, and it’s helped spread that connection around the world.

On November 7, the Carvers will be recognized by the Agri-Business Council of Oregon as the 2014 Ag Connection of the Year recipients. It’s an award that highlights their achievements and how far they’ve come.

Long before Dan and Jeanne, Imperial Stock Ranch began with a man and a dream. Richard Hinton was born in an ox cart along the Oregon Trail. With dreams of being a stockman, he filed claim in 1871 on a 160 acre homestead near Shaniko, establishing production of four commodities: sheep, cattle, hay and grain. “He was a visionary in that diversity, this was tough country to farm in,” says Jeanne, “That diversity helped him succeed when many homesteaders failed.” His story is not unlike that of Dan and Jeanne, who are visionaries in their own right.

The year was 1999. Many ranchers were moving away from raising sheep. Lamb prices were low and coyotes were at large, but another threat loomed. When the Carvers called their wool buyer, they learned they wouldn’t be buying because they were going offshore. At that point, Dan recounts saying to Jeanne “That’s it, if we can’t find our own markets for what sheep provide, they’ll be gone off this ranch.” Yet that was out of the question, as Dan had promised the prior owner to keep the ranch as it had always been. That meant keeping the sheep; there was no other alternative. “In 1999, we had to change our thinking,” says Jeanne.

The two began doing what their longtime friend and County Agent Sandy Macnab refers to as “selling the sizzle.” Emphasizing the history of the ranch, the fact that the sheep were grass fed, a trend they were well ahead of, and their sustainable practices. They began selling their lamb directly to chefs in high-end restaurants, and looking for processors in the U.S. to work with on yarn and wool. Additionally they launched Imperial Yarn, selling their yarns to local yarn shops, and partnering with local weavers, knitters and other artists to produce garments. Then, in 2004, Norm Thompson agreed to sell these garments and the business took off.

A collaboration with Portland fashion designer Anna Cohen developed in 2008, blossoming into an apparel line, the Imperial Collection by Anna Cohen, which headlined Portland Fashion Week twice. Sustainability connected them initially, but a visit to the ranch ultimately sealed the deal. “I saw huge potential and passion for doing the right thing, and I thought I could absolutely contribute to this,” says Cohen. Their rare partnership has connected consumers to the source, traditional skills and story behind their clothing. The ranch’s Imperial Collection fashion line launched at Portland’s Mercantile in September.

As Imperial Yarn grew, its visibility caught the attention of Ralph Lauren. Fifteen months after a cold call in 2012, Ralph Lauren revealed that Imperial Yarn would be used for sweaters US athletes would wear at the Opening Ceremonies of the 2014 Winter Olympics. “When we found out what the special project was, well that’s just bigger than your dreams,” says Jeanne. She and Dan became the face of Ralph Lauren’s “Made in America” effort, the subject of an NBC special and the feature of countless articles. Since then, their work and story have rippled outward, as more companies source Imperial Yarns and work closer to the roots of fashion.

Yet, none of this could happen if Dan and Jeanne didn’t continue to be who they’ve always been. Stewards of the land. “At heart, they’re still Dan and Jeanne. They’re active conservationists and there’s no phony,” says Macnab. Jeanne credits Dan for the sustainable practices on the ranch. Annual cropping in the Buckhollow and Bakeoven Watersheds, high-impact short-term duration grazing, and a host of other practices, all work to preserve interconnected relationships that maintain the land and the animals who inhabit it. “It’s the idea of honoring what we’ve been given as agriculturists — observing, tending and honoring the land, and in doing that, helping to preserve life for everyone on the planet,” says Jeanne.

The same approach is present as they share their story at yarn shops, in restaurants, through the Imperial River Company Lodge, run by their daughter and son-in-law, and through tours of the ranch. At the center is the sunlight story, and their ability to relate that when it comes to caring for the earth, we’re all in this together. Those who see the qualities and connections they’ve built, know this award is no surprise. “They’re totally appropriate for it, they’re doing lots of work in this area, and it’s great for them to be recognized for it,” says Cohen. For Dan and Jeanne, it’s a different story. “We are grateful and extremely humbled…there are a lot of people carrying the torch and telling the story of agriculture in this state,” says Jeanne, “…we’re just fortunate to be recognized for that in this award.”