HEPPNER — Eric Orem said he hopes his experiences and personal story will prove to be a boon as he joins the State Board of Agriculture.

“I felt that with the board experience that I have," the Heppner resident said, "having served on co-op and commodity group boards, that I can bring something, maybe a different perspective to the board of ag.”

Orem owns and operates a diversified dryland wheat, hay and cattle farming operation in Heppner. Gov. Kate Brown recently appointed him to the board. His four-year term began immediately.

The state ag board advises the Oregon Department of Agriculture on policy issues, develops recommendations on key agricultural issues and provides advocacy of the state's agriculture industry in general. Orem, who grew up in Morrow County, said he is excited for these challenges and enthusiastic about joining this 12-member board.

He is a past president of the Oregon Wheat Growers League and said people from the league encouraged him to “throw his name into the hat" for the agriculture board appointment. He applied for the position, and he said he was a little surprised to be selected. He also expressed feeling humbled as a result.

Born in Oregon City but raised in Ione, Orem was no stranger to agricultural work. His grandfather had a small farm and his father worked for a wheat and cattle ranch. As he got older, he graduated high school, having worked for farmers all through high school.

“From a young age, I had a passion for agriculture, but I never thought I would get to be a part of it or own my own operation,” he said. “It just wasn’t in the cards.”

He was told that farmer owners had to either inherit their farms or marry into them, he said.

“I don’t know if that is true, but it is tough,” Orem said.

After his high school graduation, he attended and graduated from Blue Mountain Community College in Pendleton. Then he started working for Les Schwab Tire Center, and “moved around in management,” he said.

After being away from the area for nine years, an old employer contacted him. One of his old bosses, who had no children of his own, told Orem he was getting ready to retire, he said, and he offered Orem the chance to lease his farm.

It was 2001, and Orem said he was thrilled for the opportunity to become the farmer he had always dreamed of being. He took the offer and he relocated his young family.

“From there, we’ve grown,” Orem said.

He picked up other leases, started doing custom seeding and spraying for neighboring farms.

Orem grows hay to feed his cows and sells hay to others. He farms 7,000 acres of dryland wheat in the Lexington area and has 100 head of cattle.

“Oregon agriculture has been good to me,” he said.

He said he thinks by sharing his personal success story and networking he was able to gain the attention of the state board. In becoming a part of the board, he said he hopes he can do good work. He said he wanted to give back to the industry that has given much to him during the past 20 years.

“I am not going into it with a set agenda,” he said. “I’m hoping to help guide agriculture, not significantly change it.”

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