Tri-City Herald: Agriculture Hall of Fame has a great crop this year

It takes a lot of heart to be a farmer.

They get up ridiculously early, work in all kinds of weather and never get much of a thank you from the rest of us who eat the food they provide.

So it is a pleasure every year to honor a select few from the industry into the Mid-Columbia Agriculture Hall of Fame. These are the people who have gone beyond the demands of their jobs and have worked to better their community and the ag industry.

The gala, sponsored by the Greater Pasco Chamber of Commerce and the Port of Pasco, is at 6 p.m. Jan. 22 at the Pasco Red Lion. Here’s the cream of the crop:

Dorothy Fangman and her late husband Leo, Mid-Columbia Ag Hall of Fame Pioneer Award. The couple moved from Kansas in 1968 with their seven children to set roots down in the Columbia Basin. Leo passed away in 1997, but until then was dedicated to the ag industry. He served on the board for the South Columbia Basin Irrigation District and lobbied many times in Washington, D.C., on behalf of the irrigators. The couple volunteered at their church, and Dorothy sewed vestments, baby blankets, dresses for African women and pillows for the troops.

Nicole Berg, Young Agribusiness Person of the Year Award. She farms with her family in the Horse Heaven Hills and serves on several boards. They include the Benton County Conservation District, the South Central Resource Conservation and Development Council and the Benton County Noxious Weed Control Board. She is past president of the Benton County Association of Wheat Growers and, at the state level, past president of the Washington Association of Wheat Growers.

Jennifer Yochum, Agriculture Mentor Leadership Award. She is the agriculture teacher at River View High School in Finley and an adviser to students involved in the FFA program. She manages the round robin fitting and showing contests at the Benton-Franklin Fair and the Columbia Basin Junior Livestock Show. She also breeds market lambs for 4-H and FFA members. She also was named one of the National Honor Roll’s Outstanding American Teachers for the 2006-07 school year.

Gary Middleton, Visionary Award. He is a Franklin County organic farmer and was appointed to serve on the state Organic Advisory Board in 2011. He transitioned his farm to organic cherries and blueberries in 2000 and helped develop the Fields of Grace nonprofit, which trains volunteers on how to glean crops for food banks. He is on the boards of the Washington Growers Clearing House, the Washington State Horticultural Association and the Franklin County Farm Bureau.

All of this year’s inductees are worthy of the honor. It’s good to see their efforts to improve the agriculture industry and community be recognized.