A Franklin County farming couple, a former Connell High School teacher, an Othello cattle rancher and a former Pasco Chamber of Commerce executive director will become the newest members of the Mid-Columbia Agriculture Hall of Fame next month.
The Greater Pasco Chamber of Commerce announced the awards Monday.
The Hall of Fame's highest award -- the 2014 Visionary Award -- is going to Dorothy Schoeppach in recognition of her impact on Mid-Columbia agriculture.
Schoeppach, who was the Pasco Chamber of Commerce's executive director for 18 years, was responsible for an increased focus by the chamber on agriculture.
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She worked with the Port of Pasco to expand the Products Industrial Exposition, now sponsored by the Tri-City Development Council as the Smartmap Expo. She helped to start a farmers market in Pasco and helped create the Mid-Columbia Agriculture Hall of Fame.
Willetta Burns of Franklin County and her late husband, Robert Burns are being honored with the Mid-Columbia Ag Hall of Fame Pioneer Award.
The couple grew mint, sugar beets, soy beans, sweet corn and potatoes on their family farm in west Pasco until Robert Burns' death in 1980.
Both were active volunteers, especially when it came to youth, including 4-H and Junior Grange. Willetta Burns was active in the efforts to build a new grange hall at Road 64 and Court Street.
Her father, Glenn Walkley, was inducted into the Hall of Fame posthumously in 2003.
Lyle Holt, a retired vocational agriculture and Connell High School teacher, is being honored with the 2014 Agriculture Mentor Leadership Award.
Hundreds of former students and Future Farmers of America members he helped during his 34 years of teaching are now successful farmers and agribusinessmen and women throughout the Columbia Basin.
Holt, who also farms in the Columbia Basin, helped create the Columbia Basin Junior Livestock Show in 1998 and continues to volunteer his time for the show each year.
And Larry Olberding, an Othello cattle rancher, is being honored as the 2014 Young Agribusiness Man of the Year.
Olberding, who grew up on his family's farm, returned to the farm to raise cattle after his father died in 2008.
After graduating from Connell High and Yakima Valley Community College, he worked as an orchard manager for Borton Fruit in Yakima for 15 years.
He has served in leadership positions for the Washington Cattlemen's Association since 2006 and has testified in Olympia on behalf of farmers and ranchers on topics ranging from water rights to predatory wolves.
Olberding also mentors young people through the Benton Franklin Fair & Rodeo and other county fairs, the Columbia Basin Junior Livestock Show and the Farm Fair. He says the Fair Farm, which is for elementary students, is one of the more gratifying activities he has been involved in.
The Hall of Fame winners will be honored during the 14th annual gala Jan. 23 at the Pasco Red Lion. The event is sponsored by the chamber and the Port of Pasco. Washington State Department of Agriculture Director Bud Hover will be the guest speaker.
-- Kristi Pihl: 582-1512; email@example.com