“You need to find an organization and volunteer some of your time,” said Suess, a retired Colfax, Wash., wheat farmer, former chairman of U.S. Wheat Associates and a former member of the Washington Grain Commission.
Farmers represent less than 1 percent of the U.S. population, he said.
“Who’s going to tell those other 99 percent what we do in our industry, how we produce the safest, cheapest and most abundant supply of food in the world?” he asked. “It doesn’t matter what organization you join up with, there’s lots of good organizations out there. If you could do that, that would greatly help all of us out in our industry.”
Twenty wheat farmers went to Olympia this year to talk with legislators, Suess said.
“Can you imagine if we took 200 farmers over to Olympia, the impact we could have?” he said. “I know a lot of young farmers say, ‘My kids are involved in school and we don’t have the time to do all this,’ but I’ve been there, done that, and I never missed any of my kids’ stuff. There are just so few of us any more, somebody’s going to have to do this work.”
Suess retired in 2015 after 30 years of farming.
It was the first time Greater Spokane Inc. gave out the Legacy Award as part of the Excellence in Agriculture Award ceremony. Suess was honored for his “lifetime commitment” to educating the public about the Washington wheat industry and agriculture in general, said Dick Hatterman, chairman of the award committee.
Kara Kaelber, education director for Franklin Conservation District in Pasco, Wash., received the Individual Award for her work running Wheat Week, a weeklong agricultural educational program for fourth- and fifth-graders statewide. Wheat Week, now in its 10th year, involves 16 educators around the state.
The program reaches 20,000 students each year and explains why farmers and agriculture are important, Kaelber said.
“I guess it validates a program I’ve always thought was wonderful and the (Washington Grain Commission) has put their money behind,” she said of the award.
Luke Moore, of Colton, Wash., received the Agricultural Youth Award. Moore graduated last spring and is state sentinel for Washington FFA.
“This young man has and is involved in a long list of FFA and career development events,” Hatterman said.
Moore recently returned from South Africa as a member of the International Leadership Seminar for state officers, Hatterman said.
Moore said the award was a highlight of his school career, as an FFA member and advocate for agriculture.
He plans to become an agricultural education teacher, attending either Washington State University or Oklahoma State University.
His father teaches agricultural education in Colton and his mother teaches agricultural education in Pullman.