Our Valley Our Future Awards
Our Valley Our Future celebrates those who have kept this valley farming: farmers who have passed land down from generation to generation, legislators, who decades ago, passed landmark legislation to protect farmland, and all the researchers, innovators and creative farmers who have worked hard to produce the best food and fiber in the world. We also honor the up-and-coming farmers- the youngest generation whose passion for agriculture is our future.
Community Legacy in Agriculture Award
In recognition of outstanding work and support of Skagit agriculture
This award is designed to honor our PAST and the incredible dedication and commitment of an individual whose leadership has helped to advance, protect and promote the agricultural industry in Skagit Valley.
Past Award Recipients
2019: Richard Smith
Richard Smith has lived in the Skagit Valley since 1936 and was introduced to farming by his step-father Henry Burkland. After graduating from WSU with a degree in horticulture, and then serving in Korea, he came home and got to the business of farming. Soon after he was joined by brother Bob Burkland, forming Smith & Burkland (presently S & B Farms).
In the early days, Richard and Bob farmed from Darrington to Stanwood growing cauliflower, peas, cucumbers, broccoli, carrots and several seed crops. In the 90’s, when farming in the Valley began to change (with the departure of canneries), S&B Farms knew they needed to pivot. Richard is described by many as a meticulous planner with an incredible mind for both farming and business. At an age when most would be pondering slowing down, Richard teamed up with Morrison Farms to build the potato shed we are all familiar with along I-5. That shift to potatoes as his primary crop showcases what so many Skagit Valley farmers know: creativity and risk are just part of the job.
Richard’s revered place in Skagit County agriculture is well-deserved as evidenced by his peers lining up to share stories of how Richard offered his time or loaned equipment to help a fellow farmer get his crop harvested.
2018: Allan Osberg
Allan Osberg’s family roots run deep in the Skagit Valley. Born in Seattle in 1924 to Swedish immigrants, Allan developed an interest in engineering at an early age. He went on to earn his Bachelor’s Degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Washington and his Master’s Degree at Harvard, specializing in soil mechanics.
But it was family history that drew him to the Skagit Valley: Allan’s grandfather, Olof Olson, brought his family from Sweden to the Pacific Northwest in 1905 after learning of the region’s fertile soil. In 1912, the family settled in the Skagit Valley and purchased 22 acres of prime farmland for $6,000 and built a house one year later.
That same house, known as the Olson House, was purchased and renovated nearly 100 years later through a partnership between SPF, WSU Research Station, Skagit County Farm Bureau and Allan and Inger Osberg. The Olson House is now graduate student housing for WSU-NWREC, while the adjacent farmland is used for research—demonstrating a partnership between higher education and agriculture that protects farmland and the future of agricultural research.
2017: Senator Mary Margaret Haugen
Senator Mary Margaret Haugen has dedicated her life in service to others. Fortunately for us, some of her most far-reaching accomplishments have been to the substantial benefit of Skagit agriculture. During her 10 years as a State Representative and 20 years as a State Senator, Senator Haugen served on the Agriculture & Rural Economic Development Committee, created the Office of Farmland Preservation, sponsored significant legislation for the Skagit County methane digester, and was a leader in tide-gate legislation. She was a sponsor of the Growth Management Act, a keystone piece of legislation that directed 80% of future growth into municipal boundaries, and created legal requirements to protect farmland of long-term commercial significance. Senator Haugen authored legislation that created Washington State’s only Agricultural Scenic Corridor, alongside Interstate 5, from Bow Hill to Conway Hill.
2016: Bud Egbers
Bud Egbers spent a lifetime involved in agriculture, beginning on the family farm in westside Mount Vernon. Bud graduated high school in 1942 and by 1947, he and his brother Dode, at the urging of local farmers, began hauling grain and hay. Skagit Valley Trucking was born. Under the Egbers brother’s leadership, Skagit Valley Trucking (Now Skagit Transportation) gained national recognition with major companies like Ocean Spray. Bud’s leadership and service extended to many community causes important to him including Skagitonians to Preserve Farmland and Skagit Habitat for Humanity. Bud’s legacy to the growth of Skagit agriculture is unmatched and he has left an indelible mark on the landscape and the industry that he loved.
2015: Dr. Gene Sargent
Dr. Gene Sargent was instrumental in establishing the 40-acre minimum lot size for farmland in the mid-1970’s. This visionary policy proved the key to protecting farming and farmland and why the Skagit Valley is one of the last remaining fully functioning agricultural economies remaining in Puget Sound.
Innovation in Agriculture Award
In recognition of outstanding innovation and support of Skagit agriculture
This award recognizes accomplishments of the PRESENT and an individual who is currently making a significant contribution to the advancement of Skagit agriculture. People often think that innovation has to be high-tech, or an engineering marvel, or the invention of something life-changing. But some of the best innovation can come from good old ingenuity and doing what’s smart.
Past Award Recipients
Innovation in Agriculture Award
2019: Rhonda Gothberg
What do a registered nurse and a dairy farmer have in common? Surprisingly, a lot. In 2001 Rhonda Gothberg was feeling a little cramped living in Anacortes. She was rounding out a thirty-year nursing career and doing a bit of real estate on the side. It was love at first sight when she set eyes on the 40-acre dairy farm now known as Gothberg Farms. As the story goes, her husband inquired “what” all this space “was” and Rhonda, a Texan by birth replied, “a start”. The plan was to have a big garden, a couple fruit trees and one family goat to learn how to milk and make goat cheese for the family. Milking parlors were rehabbed and a 4-day intensive cheese-making class was completed at WSU (Pullman). Rhonda will tell you that she walked into her cheese-making room one day and noticed, with its organization and sterile technique, a striking resemblance to the operating rooms she’d spent time in over her nursing career. Friends raved about her cheese and encouraged her to share it with the world and Gothberg Farms was born.
2018: Ray de Vries
Born in the Netherlands, Ray’s family immigrated to the U.S, settling in Mount Vernon when Ray was seven. His father Ralph was a dairy farmer, but as a young man, he didn’t share his father’s love of farming, so he became a high school shop teacher and moved to Iowa. It wasn’t until 1988 that Ray got involved in the family farm, to help his dad with his “out of control” retirement vegetable garden—now known as Ralph’s Greenhouse. Ralph’s Greenhouse became certified organic in 1988, the first year Washington began the program. What began as three acres of leeks is now a couple hundred acres of leeks, carrots, beets, fennel, parsnips, spinach, chard, potatoes and kale—produce that grows well in our climate and can be harvested all year long. All year long —it’s a term of great importance to Ray. The most important aspect of his farm are the people who work there. Ray strives for year-round work which provides year-round jobs for workers, which means their children don’t have to change schools and are more likely to graduate. The farm has stability, but more importantly, the families have stability. Ray has also developed methods to stretch growing seasons to provide more work and has added about 100 goats to the farm to create jobs during the slow season. There’s very little on the farm that hasn’t been touched by innovation—whether it’s something mechanical, something growing, or simply prioritizing what’s important.
2017: Dr. Debra Ann Ing
Dr. Debra Ann Inglis has been a quiet champion for Skagit agriculture for decades. As a Professor of Plant Pathology at WSU’s Northwestern Washington Research and Extension Center in Mount Vernon, she is one of our country’s leaders in plant pathology and disease research. For nearly 30 years, Debbie’s research has focused on the biology and management of diseases that affect western Washington’s fresh market and processing vegetable industries—which is critical for the 80+ specialty crops grown here in the Skagit Valley. Her pioneering disease research has made a significant impact on our local potato industry, helping to ensure its economic viability.
Between 2004 and 2008, Dr. Inglis served as Interim Director at WSU- NWREC in Mount Vernon and oversaw the major revitalization of the Center. This included the renovation of the Olson House for grad student housing, building the new facility with offices, labs, auditorium and demonstration kitchen, as well as bringing the Agricultural Research & Technology Building online. Along with many scientific publications to her credit, she is the project director and principal investigator on national research projects, leading the country on the use of bio-degradable plastic mulch films for agriculture and high tunnels to help deal with blight. This work earned her research team an award from the USDA’s National Institute of Food & Agriculture.
2016: Dr. Stephen Jones
Dr. Stephen Jones is a wheat breeder at the Washington State University Bread Lab, a combination thinktank/baking laboratory where student and faculty experiment with improved flavor, nutrition and functionality of regional and obscure wheats.
Together with his graduate students, he breeds wheat and other grains to be grown on diverse farms in the coastal west and the upper Northeast. Steve has had a long-time relationship with agriculture. He remembers growing up in Cupertino, California and seeing farmland vanish to make room for what we know now as the Silicon Valley tech hub. He attended Chico State University, where he grew his first wheat crop in 1977. And so, began his love of wheat.
Steve is driven by a desire to help local farmers increase yields, and create value-added products, yielding higher profits. Dr. Jones’s work has been highlighted in Seattle Met Magazine, New York Times, Smithsonian Magazine, and the book “The Third Plate” by Dan Barber.
2015: Wayne Carpenter
Wayne Carpenter is a founding partner of Salish Coast Enterprises/Skagit Valley Malting. Skagit Valley Malting works closely with the farming community, the Port of Skagit, and the WSU Research Center to develop value-added malt products from the unique grains grown in the Skagit Valley and Salish Coast region. The company is developing process-controlled equipment for custom malting of varietal grains and establishing a food grain supply chain in the Skagit Valley in cooperation with local farmers, local government and the WSU Research Center.
Our Future Achievement in Agriculture Award
In recognition of outstanding achievement and support in the pursuit of agriculture.
This award is exciting for the SPF Board of Directors because as an organization, we are always looking to the FUTURE. We often ask ourselves: who will be our NEXT farmers and our NEXT agricultural leaders? Here, we recognize and award a student who has been nominated by their school and who is planning to pursue a career in an agricultural-related field with a scholarship.
Past Award Recipients
Future Achievement Award
2019: Caleb Boon, Mount Vernon Christian School.
2018: Emily Hurlbutt, Sedro-Woolley High School
2017: Juliana LeClair, Mount Vernon Christian School
2016: Thomas LeClair, Mount Vernon Christian School
2015: Hope Patrick, Mount Vernon High School