Mid-Columbia farmers to be recognized Jan. 17 at 2013 Ag Hall of Fame in Pasco

By Loretto J. Hulse, Herald food writerDecember 11, 2012 

Four farmers and an agricultural businessman will be honored next month at the Mid-Columbia 2013 Ag Hall of Fame gala in Pasco.

The awards, announced Monday at the Pasco Chamber of Commerce monthly luncheon, will be presented Jan. 17 to a couple and to individuals who have been outstanding leaders for agribusiness in Franklin County.

This year's honorees are Alex McGregor, CEO of McGregor Co.; the late Donald Cresswell, a longtime Franklin County farmer; Lori and Scott Hayles, owners of Circle H Farms; and Ramona Rommereim, longtime 4-H leader.

"Agriculture is the cornerstone to our state's economy and is the endeavor of remarkable people," said McGregor, the speaker at Monday's lunch.

In January, McGregor, whose family has deep roots in Washington's agriculture community, will receive the Visionary Award. The honor goes to individuals who have had an extraordinary impact on agriculture in the region.

McGregor's family started as sheep farmers in the Colfax region and expanded into wheat. Some early Washington state college research work with commercial fertilizers on the McGregor Ranch led the family into what is now its primary business -- a fertilizer and farm supply firm with 42 outlets in Washington, Idaho and Oregon.

McGregor has been a businessman, an educator and writer. He has served on the boards of Whitman College and Washington State University and has been active in the Washington Association of Wheat Growers and served as its president.

Others joining the Ag Hall of Fame are:

-- Cresswell will be honored with the Mid-Columbia Ag Hall of Fame Pioneer Award. The award honors individuals who have had a significant influence on the development of agriculture and have unselfishly served their communities.

He was a founding member and vice president of the National Grape Cooperative Association, the grower organization that has been the sole owner of Welch's since 1956, and served as the Department of Agriculture manager in Franklin County for two decades.

"He gave a lifetime of service to Franklin County, the Pasco community and to local agriculture and especially to the grape juice industry in this area," said McGregor.

-- The Hayles, owners of Circle H Farms and operators of a custom hay-squeezing operation -- will receive the Young Agribusiness Couple of the Year title. Winners of that award have displayed exemplary community involvement and have enhanced farming through their leadership and technology development. Scott Hayles is a longtime volunteer firefighter with Franklin Fire District 5 and Lori Hayles has been the emergency medical technician at Merrill's Corner for years.

"They have a passion for agriculture and community and are great ambassadors for agriculture in our state," said McGregor. "Both have worked tirelessly to promote agriculture in the Pasco School District and other advisory committees."

They have worked on the annual Farm Fair, with the Franklin County Farm Bureau and the Washington State Hay Growers Association.

-- Rommereim, longtime 4-H leader and volunteer in other youth mentoring roles, is receiving the Agriculture Mentor Leadership Award. The award recognizes individuals in ag-related youth programs who have influenced young people through their leadership, guidance and community involvement.

Rommereim grew up on a hay farm near Hermiston. She was the first female FFA member at Hermiston High School and went on to raise and show livestock in FFA and 4-H.

She also has served in the Franklin County Farm Bureau for years, serving as chairwoman and secretary/treasurer and on the education and scholarship committees. She was named the 2011 Franklin County Farm Bureau person of the year. She's also served as chairwoman of the Farm Fair committee.

The inductees will be honored at a gala dinner Jan. 17 at the Pasco Red Lion. McGregor will be the speaker discussing the importance of agriculture to the state.

Tickets are $65 and may be purchased through the Pasco Chamber by calling 547-9755 or at 2525 N. 20th Ave., Pasco. The chamber's website is www.pascochamber.org.

The Pasco Chamber of Commerce and Port of Pasco are sponsors of the Ag Hall of Fame event.

-- Loretto J. Hulse: 582-1513; lhulse@tricityherald.com

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