Oregon Aglink, a statewide organization dedicated to promoting a better public understanding of agriculture, will honor Tom Wimmer, chief operating officer of Marion Ag Service, and the Oregon Dairy Women for their decades of service to the industry at the Denim and Diamonds dinner auction next month in Salem.
Wimmer will receive Oregon Aglink’s 2018 Agriculturist of the Year award, and the Oregon Dairy Women will receive its 2018 Ag Connection award at the annual Denim and Diamonds dinner and fundraiser on Nov. 16 at the Salem Convention Center. The evening will start with a reception and silent auction at 5 p.m. It will be followed by dinner, the awards presentation and a live auction at 7 p.m.
When he was hired as Marion Ag Service’s bookkeeper nearly four decades ago, Tom Wimmer was only the seventh employee at the three-year-old company.
Today, Wimmer serves as the chief operating officer at the company, which has 120 employees at four locations.
“I learned from the ground up every facet of the business,” said Wimmer.
In its announcement, Oregon Aglink said it is recognizing Wimmer for his “knowledge, work ethic and generosity.”
Wimmer moved to Oregon from Iowa as a young boy when his parents bought a 30-acre beef cattle farm near Woodburn. The ninth of 11 children, he remembers devoting his free time to farm chores to help his mother after their father had passed away.
“We worked pretty hard,” he said. “I loved it. I was deeply embedded in it.”
After graduating from Oregon State University with a degree in agricultural engineering and business management, Wimmer accepted a job with Marion Ag Service in 1979 and has worked there ever since.
His position grew beyond bookkeeping to include dispatching employees and performing other management functions. Over the years, Wimmer has witnessed first-hand the company’s major transformations.
Marion Ag Service converted from the grain business to the fertilizer business because many farmers in the area stopped producing wheat due to low prices.
In 1994, the company took a “big step” in buying St. Paul Feed Supply, which added many new functions to the operation, such as selling liquid and dry fertilizers, returning to the grain business and broadening its base of chemistry sales.
Wimmer has also become familiar with many of the farmers in the region due to the company’s custom work of applying lime to their soil to correct the acidity.
“I know their fields and operations because we’ve had to work on getting people and product to those locations,” he said.
Last year, Marion Ag Service began operating a large new fertilizer facility near Aurora, including formulating and packaging product for national distributors that wanted to get away from manufacturing themselves.
“They don’t have to do a thing, they just have to go out and sell it,” Wimmer said.
“Each challenge is an opportunity if you have the ability to work through the situation,” Wimmer said. “It’s just adapting ourselves to where there’s a need.”
The Ag Connection award is in recognition of the Oregon Dairy Women’s “decades of far-reaching efforts to connect consumers with Oregon dairy production,” according to Oregon Aglink.
“They really have been the face of the Oregon dairy industry for many years,” said Tami Kerr, executive director of the Oregon Dairy Farmers Association, as well as a past president and current member of Oregon Dairy Women.
Many Oregonians encounter the organization’s “Red Barn,” an “icon of the state fair” where volunteers sell ice cream and milk shakes, she said.
“I always say it’s the best quality and the best value at the Oregon State Fair,” Kerr said.
The all-volunteer organization provides scholarships to community college students, the children of dairy families as well as people studying in dairy-related fields.
Financial assistance is also provided to 4-H, FFA, Ag in the Classroom, Ag Fest, the Summer Ag Institute and the Adopt-A-Farmer program.
Since 1959, the nonprofit has been crowning Dairy Princess Ambassadors to travel to classrooms, fairs and other events to educate children about the dairy industry. Last year, the program reached 14,000 people.