GLENEDEN BEACH, Ore. — Nearly 200 members of the Oregon Farm Bureau applauded as Sharon Waterman, the group’s first female president, handed the gavel to Barb Iverson, owner of the Wooden Shoe Tulip Co.
“I’m honored to lead this family,” Iverson said at the awards ceremony wrapping up the 87th anniversary of the Bureau’s annual meeting Dec. 12 at Salishan Resort near Lincoln City.
Before Waterman took the reins in 2018, Boring, Ore., farmer Barry Bushue had been president for 19 years. When Bushue quit to become the executive director of the USDA Farm Service Agency, Waterman, the first vice president, took the position as interim then was elected by the membership later that year.
Waterman declined to run again, saying she wanted to spend more time with her family. As a result, three candidates vied for the top position at the annual conference: Iverson, Angela Bailey, an ornamental tree and shrub farmer in Gresham, and Dylan Wells, the Marion County Farm Bureau president.
Before the election, Iverson was first vice president and Bailey was second vice president.
In a separate election, Bailey was chosen first vice president, and Bryan Glaser, owner of Sod Farms in Shedd, was chosen second vice president.
“We need someone who can step in today, and lead this organization,” said Harney County Farm Bureau president and rancher Rusty Inglis, as he seconded Iverson’s nomination. He said that she visited almost every chapter during her tenure as first vice president.
Iverson said it has been the greatest compliment to be called “a farm kid” by visitors to Wooden Shoe during its annual tulip festival.
“I’ve had a long history with the Farm Bureau, but I also have the scars of a long family farm career,” she said. Although best known for its tulips, Iverson’s 1,200-acre farm near Woodburn is diverse, employing 100 full-time people who grow hemp, seed crops, squash and table and wine grapes.
As part of her Farm Bureau and farm experience, she’s worked with local, state and national agencies, and said she understands how vulnerable farmers feel in the face of “issues beyond our control.” But her daily interaction with the public gives her hope.
“The majority wants to support and trust us,” she said. “Getting our message out is important.”
Getting the message out was also a top concern in the delegation meetings that took place over the two-day conference. Members debated the details of the OFB’s policies, updated each year to reflect Oregon agriculture’s changing landscape. Those policies establish the Farm Bureau’s political goals for the coming year. Among new policy changes approved:
• The Farm Bureau supported a “working wilderness” designation for federal lands that would allow agricultural activities in those areas.
• Members opposed a “one-size-fits all” rule applied to farms with tide gates and culverts. In addition to environmental concerns, the rules should take into consideration economic feasibility and whether the current structure is operating or failing.
The updated book of 2020 policies approved December 12 will be available at oregonfb.org in a few weeks.
The Farm Bureau has 6,587 members in 32 chapters statewide. The nonprofit “…gives voice to farm and ranch families at the Capitol,” according to its mission statement.