Five honored for East Idaho ag contributions

John O'Connell/Capital Press Darwin Young, a new inductee into the Eastern Idaho Agricultural Hall of Fame, discusses his achievements in agriculture and community service from his farm in Blackfoot, Idaho, now operated by his son, Allen.

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho — As a state lawmaker, Darwin Young championed legislation that provided lasting property tax relief to Idaho farmers and other large land owners.

The 90-year-old retired Blackfoot farmer also served as an Idaho Potato commissioner and was a founding member of the Idaho Underground Water Users Association.

For his contributions to agriculture and his community, Young will be among five new inductees to the Eastern Idaho Agricultural Hall of Fame, along with Marcus Gibbs, of Grace; Janis Johnson Ritchie, of Burton; Jay Wiley, of Carmen; and Ronald Carlson, of Firth.

Gibbs is a state lawmaker who served on the Idaho Potato Seed Advisory Committee and the Last Chance Canal Co. board. Ritchey has spent 47 years as a 4-H leader and 22 years as a director on the United Dairymen of Idaho board. Wiley has served 30 years as a state brand inspector and livestock pollution investigator and is a past Idaho Cattle Association director. Carlson was water master for District 1 with the Idaho Department of Water Resources.

New inductees, selected by a 30-member board of directors representing many facets of agriculture, will be honored during a dinner beginning at 6 p.m. March 20 at the Idaho Falls Shilo Inn.

Blackfoot rancher and former state lawmaker Dennis Lake, who nominated Young, recalled his ingenuity in planting sod along irrigation ditch banks to prevent erosion, controlling the growth by grazing livestock confined within electric fencing.

But Lake has been most impressed by Young’s commitment to community service. Young was a Fifth District PTA president, a Bingham County commissioner, a Bingham Memorial Hospital board member, a school board member and a member of the Idaho State Tax Commission.

Young also volunteered to serve in World War II, manning the ball turret of a B-17 bomber. Young had close calls during his 35 missions, once losing his aircraft’s No. 2 engine and propeller function.

“We counted the (bullet) holes, and we had 270 holes in the plane,” Young said.

Lake describes Young as the last of the living pioneers who broke out the desert west of Blackfoot for farm land. Young, married to Pearl, started farming in Blackfoot on 400 acres with his father and brother in 1952, buying them out a few years later.

He built the farm to 1,600 acres, before his son, Allen, took over operations about 20 years ago.

“Farming was a good way of life,” Young said. “I never had a moment’s time when I didn’t like what I was doing.”

Allen now farms 3,000 acres and has stopped raising spuds in favor of alfalfa.

Young believes his most significant contribution to farming occurred in the mid-1970s, when he championed legislation that still caps annual growth by Idaho taxing entities at 3 percent, and seeks to limit property taxes to 1 percent of total valuation. Young was also instrumental in shifting how the state funds education from mostly property taxes, which was hard on farmers, to a greater emphasis on sales and income taxes.

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