Five industry participants from across the state received annual Governor’s Excellence in Agriculture Awards Feb. 19 during the 25th annual Larry Branen Idaho Ag Summit in Boise.
Honorees are Dan Dixon of Greenleaf, education and advocacy; Bill Novinger of Gooding, environmental stewardship; Tim Dillin of Bonners Ferry, marketing innovation; Tom Gehring of Keuterville, technical innovation; and Philip Soulen of Weiser, lifetime achievement.
Dixon, who owns Greenleaf Farms, “is an innovator and is always looking for a better way to improve efficiency and preserve the land he farms,” a statement from summit executive director Rick Waitley said. His innovations include row spacing of hop plants and reusing runoff water, now standard agricultural best practices.
He and his son, David Dixon, now the farm’s corporate president and manager, work on challenges including sediment in wastewater runoff, air quality, transportation costs and pesticide-tolerance levels. The farm in 2002 shifted from predominantly hops to row crops. It produces peppermint, sugar beets, onions and various vegetable seed crops on just over 1,000 acres.
Novinger, who owns Dry Creek Farm, has been involved in the dairy, cattle and farming business for many years as a producer and consultant. His experience includes consulting on a large, collective dairy farm in Russia; co-managing and using conservation practices on a 350,000-acre cow-calf operation in the high desert around Battle Mountain, Nev.; and managing a 10,000-acre diversified timber, livestock, row and field crop operation near Pasadena, Calif.
A certified nutrient management planner, he has been recognized for conservation practices on his own 1,000-acre farm, where he “demonstrates that proactive conservation measures and having a productive farm growing alfalfa, grain, corn silage, wheat and native pasture can go hand-in-hand in today’s world,” the statement said.
Dillin, with his father and his wife, Julie, farms 1,500 acres of barley, wheat, canola, alfalfa and garbanzo beans. His family has been farming in the Kootenai Valley for 90-plus years and is known for progressive practices such as direct seeding. He has collaborated with the University of Idaho for a decade on variety trial research for spring and summer wheat, spring and winter barley — he has served on all four national barley boards — and those for canola and mustard crops. He provides land and manages crops for University of Idaho Extension during growing season, providing weed and pest control.
“The research results from these replicated plot trials for dozens of potential new varieties of each crop allow breeders to target their efforts to crop varieties that address our current challenges such as rust resistance and drought tolerance,” the statement said. The Dillins invested in an on-farm, artisan mill that produces wheat and barley flour sold at farmers' markets and bakeries.
Gehring, a field researcher and crop adviser, was instrumental in establishing canola as a substantial crop in north-central Idaho. On various types of crops, he has helped farmers improve crop yield and health. He invented the Little Big Rig ATV sprayer and a dry-fertilizer spreader, and is credited with the initial discovery of several noteworthy pests in the region’s Camas Prairie area.
“Working with growers in crop nutrition is key to growing better yields,” the statement said, “and through micro nutrients, liming and good agronomy, Tom is helping growers reach that goal.” Gehring also is involved in ranching, and helped start Keuterville Cowboy Wildland Firefighters.
Soulen operates his family’s longtime livestock business that operates across eight Idaho counties and 47,000 deeded acres as well as land leased from the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the state, and private parties. The business fields about 8,500 head of ewes, lambs, yearling sheep and bucks as well as 1,250 head of cows, calves, heifers and bulls.
He has been active on industry, municipal and other organizational boards. He has created numerous scholarships, and donated to many projects and programs, supporting academics and athletics at his alma mater, the University of Idaho. Earlier, he was instrumental in turning a mothballed flour mill into Weiser Feed & Storage Inc., a grain milling and trading operation that created local jobs as well as markets for wheat and feed-grain producers.