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Farmers, ranchers saluted at annual agriculture banquet
The best, brightest and most dedicated men and women on the Union County agricultural front were saluted at the 65th annual Farmer Merchant Awards banquet Tuesday night at the Blue Mountain Conference Center.
Eight individuals received awards, several of whom expressed great surprise at being honored.
Not Gene Hardy of Elgin, though.
Hardy had been tipped off in advance that he would receive the Conservation Farm of the Year Award. The Elgin farmer did not pretend to be surprised — not in the slightest.
The good-natured Hardy unfurled a 5-foot-long computer printout at the podium, jokingly implying that this was the length of the acceptance address he had written.
“I’ve been surprised many times in the past but this time I wasn’t,” he said. “I’ve got a big speech ready.”
Hardy actually had a short, but heartfelt address ready, crediting family and friends with helping him become a successful farmer.
“Five percent of it is me, and 95 percent of it is other people,” said Hardy, a grain and hay farmer who also raises cattle and manages timber on his land.
Sources of Hardy’s inspiration include his mother, who always told Hardy not to go into farming because of the lack of money and the hard work.
“The more she told me that, the more determined I was to do it,” Hardy said.
The banquet was sponsored by Union County Chamber of Commerce.
Those who were stunned to be honored included Elgin rancher Wes Fischer, who was named Cattleman of the Year.
“I never expected this. It is a complete shock,” Fischer said. “I can’t thank you enough for this great honor.”
Pam Glenn of Summerville, named Ag Woman of the Year, also expressed great surprise at her selection.
“I am also shocked. I came to watch a friend receive an award and that friend didn’t show up,” Glenn said.
Glenn and her husband, Randy, own a 300-acre farm and farm another 2,000 acres. The couple have been working the land for decades.
“Farming is one of the greatest things in life. It is hard work and there are lots of ups and downs, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” said Glenn, who is a member of the Imbler School Board.
The recipient of the Tree Farmer of the Year was Chuck Sarrett of La Grande. Sarrett, who previously worked for Boise Cascade for 35 years, is now a consultant for private landowners.
“His ability to demonstrate and explain forestry concepts is remarkable. His reputation and integrity speak for themselves,” said Jamie Knight of the Oregon Department of Forestry, who introduced Sarrett.
Knight said Sarrett’s knowledge of the land in this area is remarkable.
“It seems that no matter what parcel of land you talk with Chuck about, he knows a story about the property,” Knight said. “I’m not sure that I’ve found a piece of property yet that Chuck hasn’t made a footprint on.”
Two Distinguished Service to Union County Agriculture awards were presented to Lenard Porfily of Summerville and Creston Shaw of the Ruckman Road area near Cove.
Shaw, who has been farming at least six decades, has been instrumental in the development of the grass seed industry in the Grande Ronde Valley and has a variety of grass seed named after him, said his grandson, Brett Rudd, also a Union County farmer. Shaw said he felt deeply honored to be recognized.
“I can hardly say how grateful I am. It is real privilege to be here,” Shaw said upon accepting his award.
Porfily was recognized for many contributions to Union County agriculture, including his extensive community service. It includes 25 years of serving as a weighmaster at the Eastern Oregon Livestock Show.
The Good Steward Award went to Dallas Hibbert and the Young Farmer of the Year Award recipient was Rob Lane.