Top farmers, ranchers honored 2016

Sheri Rayburn, right, receives congratulations from Susan Bunch after being named Ag Woman of the Year at the 2016 Union County Farmer-Merchant Banquet. The Union County Chamber of Commerce canceled the popular annual event celebrating the ag community for 2021 due to the increase in COVID-19 cases and out of an abundance of caution.

LA GRANDE — For the second year in a row, the Union County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors has canceled the annual Farmer-Merchant Banquet.

The chamber in a press release stated the board made the difficult decision at its meeting in September.

“In light of the increased COVID-19 cases reported and out of an abundance of caution, which could make hosting a banquet highly infeasible, the board agreed it was the best decision to cancel — and hopefully return in 2022 with the best banquet and program to date,” the release said.

The board made a similar decision in 2020.

The board weighed many alternative options to recognize and honor the achievements of the agricultural community, including video interviews with the award presenters and recipients. However, according to the press release, the board decided other options would not “adequately highlight and do justice to the important sense of community the banquet affords.”

Caleb Sampson, vice chair of the board and Outreach/Events Committee co-chair, commented in the release that alternative formats and virtual options “do not adequately convey the sense of community and accomplishment the banquet, as a platform, creates and provides.”

The primary goal of the banquet is to honor the ag community, said Shawn Risteen, chair of the chamber board, in the release.

“Honoring and respecting the sense of community the banquet provides really resonates with us,” he said. “It has been and always will be our primary goal to honor the contributions of the ag community.”

The chamber board said it will explore creative ideas for hosting next year’s award banquet — in whatever shape or format it will be — and is planning new ways to express gratitude for the hardworking members of the agricultural community in the interim.

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