Agriculture Hall of Fame Inductees Announced - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Agriculture Hall of Fame Inductees Announced

Posted: Updated: - The Greater Pasco Chamber of Commerce has announced the 2014 inductees to the Mid-Columbia Agriculture Hall of Fame.

The Chamber and  the Port of Pasco will honor the inductees at an installation gala at the Pasco Red Lion on Thursday, January 23rd. The guest speaker will be Don R. "Bud" Hover, director of the Washington State Department of Agriculture.

This is the 14th year that Hall of Fame honors have been awarded to Mid-Columbia farmers, families, and agribusiness leaders in Franklin County and neighboring Mid-Columbia counties. A portion of the money raised through the event and its sponsorships supports higher-education scholarship opportunities for local youth who want to study agricultural sciences.

The new inductees are being recognized for their outstanding contributions to agriculture and agribusiness in four categories. These are the categories and the inductees for 2014:

The Mid-Columbia Ag Hall of Fame Pioneer Award will honor Willetta Burns of Franklin County and her late husband, Robert Burns. Bob and Willetta grew mint, sugar beets and other crops on the family farm in west Pasco while raising eight children. They were active in the Grange at the local and state levels and in 4-H, Girl Scouts, the Benton-Franklin Fair, the Franklin County Park Board and Franklin County Fire District No. 3. Willetta was a volunteer firefighter and certified EMT. Bob Burns passed away in 1980, and Willetta is now retired. Willetta's father, Glenn Walkley, was inducted into the Hall of Fame posthumously in 2003.

The Agriculture Mentor Leadership Award will be bestowed on Lyle Holt, who retired in 1994 after 34 years of teaching vocational agriculture, including 20 years at Connell High School. He is a graduate of Washington State University. His hundreds of former students and FFA members can be found on successful farms and in agribusinesses throughout the Columbia Basin. He was instrumental in forming the Columbia Basin Junior Livestock Show and still volunteers his time for the show each year. He also serves on the board of directors of the Big Bend Electric Cooperative, and is an active member of the Washington Association of Agricultural Educators. He farms in the Columbia Basin and is a member of the Washington State Hay Growers Association.

The Young Agribusiness Man of the Year title will be conferred on Othello cattle rancher Larry Olberding. Larry learned about agriculture on his family's farm, at Connell High School and at Yakima Valley Community College.  He was orchard manager for Borton Fruit in Yakima for 15 years before returning to the family farm to raise cattle after his father died in 2008.  He has been in leadership positions in the Washington Cattlemen's Association since 2006, and served as WCA president in 2011 and 2012. He has testified in Olympia on behalf of farmers and ranchers. He has given of his time to supervise the cattle barn at the Benton-Franklin Fair and to teach fifth-graders about livestock at the annual Farm Fair at the Benton County Fairgrounds.

The Visionary Award is conferred by the Ag Hall of Fame Committee on a person who has had an extraordinary impact on agriculture in our region. This year the committee honors Dorothy Schoeppach, who served as executive director of the Pasco Chamber of Commerce for 18 years and was responsible for an increased chamber focus on agriculture. She was the catalyst for the establishment of the Agriculture Hall of Fame and other ag-related programs. She has also been executive director of the Miss Tri-Cities and Miss Washington Scholarship Organizations. She worked with the Pasco Downtown Development Association, co-chaired the Fiery Food Festival and worked for five years to establish and manage the Pasco Specialty Kitchen. She has been a selfless contributor of time, financial resources and expertise in supporting agriculture and the community.

The Agriculture Hall of Fame Gala will be held on Thursday, Jan. 23, at the Pasco Red Lion, starting with a social hour at 6 p.m. A full-course dinner will feature local produce and local wines. For reservations and information, call the Pasco Chamber at (509) 547-9755, drop by the office at 2525 N. 20th Ave. in Pasco or click here.