SALEM — After going virtual in 2020, Oregon Aglink is bringing its annual Denim and Diamonds award dinner and fundraiser back to the Salem Convention Center on Nov. 19.
This year’s award winners include Alec Oliver, of Oliver Ranch in Seneca, as Agriculturist of the Year, and Derrick Josi, of Wilsonview Dairy in Tillamook, who will receive the 2021 Ag Connection Award.
Mallory Phelan, Oregon Aglink executive director, said it is the first time the event has recognized two honorees from outside the Willamette Valley.
“It’s exciting for me to see folks being honored from different parts of the state,” Phelan said. “I’ve always loved that part of my job, getting to meet these influential and inspirational people in our industry.”
Oliver is a fifth-generation cattle rancher and works in membership services for Country Natural Beef. Despite being paralyzed from the sternum down following a motor vehicle accident in 2012, he continues to ride and rope from the saddle and now manages his family’s Eastern Oregon ranch, with 13,000 deeded acres and forest allotment along Bear Creek.
Across the state, Josi can be found at his family’s dairy on the north Oregon coast where he milks 500 Jersey cows for the Tillamook County Creamery Association. He started a blog called “TDF Honest Farming” to show what daily life looks like on the farm, while dispelling misinformation about agriculture.
Since then, TDF has amassed 633,233 followers on Facebook, 52,900 followers on Instagram, 17,800 followers on Twitter and 10,200 subscribers on YouTube. Josi also recently published his first book, “An Industry Worth Fighting For,” bringing his online message to print.
Phelan said both men “have significantly contributed to the betterment of Oregon agriculture in their own unique ways.”
While Phelan said she is excited to welcome guests back for an in-person Denim and Diamonds, one aspect of last year’s virtual gathering will remain, with bidding for a virtual auction being kept online.
The 2020 silent auction actually brought in more money than 2019, since more bidders could participate online than would normally attend in-person, Phelan said.
“We just were really pleased with how much participation we had,” she said. “It was fun to see new names and folks from different parts of the state who have never been before.”
Oregon Aglink will also live-stream the event online, as it did last year, though Phelan said only in-person attendees will be able to participate in the live auction. As of Oct. 26, the event has sold 450 seats.
Proceeds from Denim and Diamonds goes to support Oregon Aglink’s educational programs — including Adopt-A-Farmer, in which middle school classes can “adopt” a local farmer or rancher who teaches them about agriculture and where their food comes from.
Fred Geschwill, of F&B Farms in Woodburn and Oregon Aglink board president, said he is looking forward to seeing old friends and colleagues together again.
“For a lot us that spend the day on farms and ranches, we can end up with a relatively small circle of people we see on a daily basis,” Geschwill said. “While those people are great and we love all of them, part of the beauty of Oregon agriculture is the diversity of people we get to interact with in normal times.”
For more information about Denim and Diamonds or to purchase tickets, visit www.aglink.org.