By SEAN ELLIS
BOISE -- Retired northern Idaho rancher and farmer Marvin Wittman was presented a lifetime achievement award by Gov. Butch Otter Feb. 19 for his contributions to the state's agricultural industry.
Idaho State Department of Agriculture Director Celia Gould called the award the most important one presented on behalf of Idaho agriculture and said it's one that "is not easily handed out."
The award was presented during the annual Larry Branen Idaho Ag Summit, which attracts farmers, ranchers and others involved in all aspects of Idaho's agricultural industry.
Wittman, 92, was one of five Idahoans who received a governor's award for excellence in agriculture.
Wittman took over management of the family's ranch, farm and timber business in Culdesac, Idaho, at the age of 17 following his father's death.
The Wittman Farm was named National Millennium Farm of the Year in 2000 for its long-time commitment to environmental stewardship. Following his retirement, Wittman created Camp Wittman, which provides outdoor education experiences for youth in his area.
He served 16 years on the governor's Agriculture Advisory Committee.
"It's important to be passionate and stand for what you believe in," Gould said about Wittman and his wife, Helen. "Nobody epitomizes that better than Marvin and Helen Wittman."
An Oregon man, Bob Komoto, was awarded the Pat Takasugi Leadership Award, which is awarded in the name of the late ISDA director to people who have shown strong leadership for Idaho agriculture.
Komoto, general manager of Ontario Produce, an onion shipper-packer in eastern Oregon, led the successful effort by farmers in Malheur County last year to convince voters to create a special taxing district that will raise $365,000 a year for the Oregon State University research station near Ontario.
Without local funding, OSU officials said, the future of the station was in jeopardy. Komoto was presented the award because of the strong link between the two states' onion industries.
"There could be a dozen names on this plaque," Komoto said in reference to the coalition of ag interests that supported the ballot measure.
Other governor's awards for excellence in agriculture recipients were:
* Gayle Anderson received the award for education and advocacy for her blog, "A Glorious Life of a Farmwife," which educates urban people about where their food is grown.
* Nick Purdy of Picabo Livestock Co., a cow-calf operation and farming operation with more than 4,000 acres of hay and barley, was presented the environmental stewardship award because of numerous water quality and conservation efforts he has overseen.
* Clark and Debbie Kauffman, who grow 950 acres of hay, barley, sweet corn, onion seed, sugar beets and vegetables, received the marketing innovation award for their involvement in a wide variety of programs and efforts to promote agriculture.
* Robert Blair, who runs a 1,500-acre farm in northern Idaho, received the award for technical innovation for his cutting-edge work with precision agriculture. Blair has been a leader in the use of unmanned aerial vehicles to improve farming operations.