January is a month when we celebrate an industry that doesn’t get the attention it should: Agriculture.
Part of the reason for the oversight is that the folks who make a living from agriculture don’t like to tout their own accomplishments.
But January gives us a chance to change that. From ag shows to trade shows, to commodities groups and conventions, it is a busy month for farmers because it’s the off-season and they have something they don’t usually — time.
The first month of the year also brings the Mid-Columbia Ag Hall of Fame banquet. The Ag Hall of Fame was created to showcase the pioneers and innovators who helped build our region into the agricultural powerhouse it is now.
The awards have evolved to also include nods for young trailblazers, educators and others who have key roles in the Mid-Columbia’s ag industry.
This year’s inductees are Iris and Lawrence Hayes, Dick Muhlbeier, Kerrin Bleazard, Chep Gauntt and Bob Tippett.
The Hayeses were one of the brave couples who became pioneers when the Columbia Basin Project was installed. They moved their family to the blocks in the 1950s, and set out to raise kids, livestock and crops. Lawrence served on numerous boards, including the Mid-Columbia Libraries board and was active in the Franklin County Cattlemen’s Association. Iris helped found Basin City Homemakers and Women in Farm Economics. The late couple will be honored with the Pioneer Award, to be accepted by their children at the event later this month.
Muhlbeier is the manager of RDO Equipment in Pasco, the home of those familiar green and yellow tractors. He earned the Rising Star Award, which acknowledges a young person committed to agriculture and community service. Muhlbeier has received high praise at a young age as an agribusiness manager, and supports 4-H and FFA chapters, the Farm Fair, the Junior Livestock Show and other programs for youth. He also volunteers his time for Second Harvest and Habitat for Humanity.
Bleazard, an ag teacher at Columbia Basin College, receives the Agriculture Advisor Award. It is given to an individual in an ag-related program who has had a significant impact through mentoring of young people. Bleazard has worked since 2007 to help revitalize the ag program at CBC with a science-based curriculum, and has earned national honors for her work.
Gauntt, the winner of the Stewardship Award, is also being honored for his work to bring new life to the ag program at CBC. A family farmer with a history of giving back, his eagerness to share ag technology with others is also one of the reasons he is being honored. Sharing the award with his wife, Kay, the Gauntts are acknowledged for their extensive efforts to reduce the amount of seed, water, fertilizer, herbicides and insecticides at their 2,000-acre hay farm in Pasco.
The Visionary Award, for a person who has had an extraordinary impact on agriculture, honors Bob Tippett, who has helped many farmers through his involvement in ag lending, management and real estate. He helped develop the Pasco Food Industrial Center and the TRAC facility, and has served the community on the boards of the Pasco and Tri-Cities chambers, TRIDEC, the Wine Science Center, Young Life and other organizations.
You can participate in the recognizition of these stars of the ag industry by attending the Mid-Columbia Ag Hall of Fame banquet. The banquet will be at 5:30 p.m. Jan. 21 at the Red Lion in Pasco. Tickets are $65 and available by calling the Pasco Chamber of Commerce at 509-547-9755.