Photographer captures state's many crops
Grange provides 'highest quality photos' for free
By SEAN ELLIS
BOISE --Bill Grange has taken tens of thousands of photos of Idaho's farms and ranches over the past 50 years and his work appears in virtually every Idaho State Department of Agriculture publication.
Grange, 93, has been the unofficial photographer for Idaho agriculture for the past half a century.
"His contributions to Idaho agriculture are greatly, greatly appreciated," said Laura Johnson, section manager of ISDA's market development division. "He says he's an amateur, but we would argue he's a professional."
The Boise resident's pictures have dominated every one of the department's annual Idaho Agricultural Statistics books, first printed in 1972. The ISDA recently presented Grange with a special award to recognize him for his contributions to Idaho agriculture.
Because he doesn't charge the ISDA for his photos, he has saved the department a lot of money over the years, ISDA Director Celia Gould said.
"We're getting the highest quality photos," she said. "If you put a dollar amount on that, it would bust our budget."
Gould considers Grange's contributions to Idaho agriculture to be so important she dedicated the department's main conference room in his name and his photos adorn the room's walls.
Grange was born and raised on a farm in Utah. He ordered his first camera from a Sears catalog in 1931. He moved to Twin Falls, Idaho, in 1953 and, as the director of industrial development for Idaho Power, was in charge of encouraging food processors to come to the state. That put him in direct contact with the agricultural community.
"It's been a serious hobby and I'm very happy you folks were able to use some of those pictures to agriculture's advantage," he said when presented the ISDA award during the recent Idaho Ag Summit in Boise. "It's been a tremendous honor being associated with agriculture in Idaho."
No one, even Grange, has a reliable estimate of how many photos he has taken, but several years ago, in an effort to clear out space, he donated about 17,000 photos to the ISDA and other state departments.
He has photographed virtually every crop or agricultural commodity the state produces.
"Idaho agriculture is so diversified -- you have the seed crops, hops, mint, potatoes, corn, the vegetable crops -- I don't know that I (can pick) a favorite," he said.
Grange is occasionally confronted by farmers who demand to know why he is photographing their crops. When that happens, he opens up one of the ISDA's ag statistics books and points out his name in the credits.
"No one's ever questioned beyond this," he said, pointing to the 2011 edition, which features Grange's photos on 14 of its 66 pages, including the cover.