The Mid-Columbia Ag Hall of Fame has put together a deserving lineup for its induction ceremony Thursday evening.
The keynote speaker at the banquet will be Dan Newhouse, director of the state Department of Agriculture, but the stars are the inductees.
In recent years, the Ag Hall of Fame has expanded its awards to include additional categories and broadened its reach to a 150-mile radius of its roots in Franklin County. But it just so happens that all of this year's honorees are from Franklin County.
New to the roster this year:
Benjamin and Alma Grant
The Grants were early settlers in Block 1 north of Pasco and will receive the Pioneer Award. They moved here in 1951 and began a custom harvesting operation, where Benjamin Grant became skilled at adapting machinery to fit challenging situations.
The couple was generous with both time and money, contributing to several community projects and creating a scholarship at their alma mater, Oklahoma State University.
Cline, a long-time volunteer in the 4-H program, will receive the Agriculture Mentor Leadership Award. She helped start and mentor 4-H clubs in Basin City, Connell and Mesa. Cline also helped bring back 4-H summer camp, held each year at the Camp Wooten Environmental Learning Center on the Tucannon River.
She assisted in the formation of the Columbia Basin Junior Livestock Show in Connell and the Sage & Stirrups 4-H Horse Club.
Balcom is the Agribusiness Person of the Year. He is a potato farmer and president of Balcom & Moe in Pasco. Though Balcom grew up on a farm, he had his future set on a career in biology. But his farming roots called and he took the helm of the family business, stretching the legacy into its fourth generation. He is a leader in the industry at a young age, holding positions with the U.S. Potato Board, the Potato Leadership Institute and the Washington Onion and Potato Association.
Cummins is the president of Columbia Basin College and in 2004 helped revive the once disbanded agriculture program there. For that, and many other reasons, he will receive this year's Visionary Award.
Through creative means, Cummins brought leaders from the ag community together as stakeholders in CBC's ag program, listening to their needs and recruiting them to assist with scholarships and internships. By working with Washington State University Tri-Cities and ag teachers at Mid-Columbia high schools, a degree-focused curriculum debuted after three years of planning.
Cummins' leadership at CBC is commendable on many levels, especially in these challenging economic times for higher education. That he continues to champion agriculture shows his true understanding of what is important to this community. He helped resurrect the school's research farm and has pushed for innovations in the crops grown there.
The Mid-Columbia Ag Hall of Fame was founded in 2000 through the Pasco Chamber of Commerce but has struggled to find a proper home to honor its inductees year-round. That's still a challenge we hope to see addressed in the near future.
But with some vision, organizers have greatly increased the scope of the event, increasing attendance along the way.
Procuring Newhouse as the speaker has upped the profile of the awards ceremony even further, and the Port of Pasco continues to offer its support as the main sponsor of the event.
Tickets are $65 per person or $480 for a table of eight. The event starts at 6 p.m. Thursday. For more information, contact the Pasco Chamber of Commerce at 547-9755.