The Oregon Association of Nurseries recently honored several members for their outstanding achievements and service to the nursery industry. These awards were announced at the annual OAN Convention November 3–4, 2017 at Salishan Spa & Golf Resort in Gleneden Beach, Oregon.
The convention also featured the passing of the president’s gavel from retailer and grower Mark Bigej (Al’s Garden & Home, Woodburn) to wholesale grower Josh Zielinski (Alpha Nursery Inc., Salem).
Zielinski will lead a 22-member Board of Directors, which includes a seven-member Executive Committee, in overseeing the 784-member trade association for the next 12 months. The OAN represents a statewide nursery industry that achieved gross sales of more than $909 million in 2016.
Joining Zielinski and past president Bigej on the OAN Executive Committee for 2017–18 are president-elect Mike Hiller (Kraemer’s Nursery, Mt. Angel), vice president Jim Simnitt (Simnitt Nursery, Canby), treasurer Kyle Fessler (St. Christopher Nursery LLC, Gervais), secretary Josh Robinson (Robinson Nursery Inc., Amity) and member at large Denece Messenger (Decorative Bark Products, Tualatin).
The awards were as follows:
- Honorary Life Memberships went to Teri Dillard-Lund, Frank Schmidt III and Dan and Diane Wells. This award recognizes lifetime service to the nursery industry.
- Teri is co-owner of William Dillard Nursery Co., a wholesale nursery based in Damascus, along with her siblings Michael Dillard and Debra Dillard-Ward. She has worked in the nursery industry for 57 years and served as OAN president in 1989.
- Frank is co-owner of J. Frank Schmidt & Son Co., a wholesale nursery based in Boring, along with his siblings Jan Barkley and Jean Webster. His nursery has made leading contribution to tree breeding as well as production practices. He has served on the board of the Wholesale Nursery Growers of America and the American Nursery & Landscape Association. The award is also in recognition of the company’s philanthropic contributions through its own J. Frank Schmidt Family Foundation and through various industry organizations.
- Dan and Diane are the former owners of D. Wells Nursery, a wholesale nursery that was based in Hubbard. Dan served as OAN president in 2000. The couple was recognized for its longtime service to the industry.
- The OAN Outstanding Service Award went to Kristin VanHoose, co-owner with her husband, David, of Amethyst Hill Nursery, a wholesale grower, and Hydrangeas Plus®, a retail mail order nursery, both based in Aurora, Oregon. The award is given for outstanding long-term service to the industry and association. Kristin served as OAN president in 2011 during a difficult time in the industry, going to bat to help stave off harmful regulation of interstate shipments. Since concluding her presidency, she has continued her involvement in, and support of, the nursery industry.
- The Clayton W. Hannon Distinguished Service Award went to Ken McVicker, sales manager at Van Essen Nursery Co., a wholesale grower in Lebanon, Oregon. The award honors specific and notable service to the industry. It is named for Clayton W. Hannon, the former OAN executive director. Ken has made key contributions to the Farwest Show and the OAN Marketing Committee, and currently serves on the board of the Horticultural Research Institute.
- The Political Awareness Award was given to Leigh Geschwill, co-owner of F & B Farms and Nursery, a wholesale grower and retailer (Happy Bee Garden Center) in Woodburn, Oregon. The award honors an individual who has shown exceptional political awareness in dedicated support of the nursery industry. Leigh served as chair of the OAN Government Relations Committee in 2017 and as OAN president in 2016. She has been an effective voice for the OAN in legislative hearings and a strong fundraiser for the Oregon Nurseries’ Political Action Committee.
- The Chapter of the Year Award was given to the Sunset Chapter, which represents growers in Washington, Yamhill and Polk counties. The award is given to a committee or chapter that is particularly successful in service to the OAN membership. The award was accepted by Chris Robinson of Robinson Nursery Inc. and Matt Gold of Midas Nursery Solutions on behalf of the chapter. The award recognized recent efforts to revitalize the chapter, including the resurrection of the New Ideas Tour and a recent social event at Top Golf.
- The Distinguished Member of the Horticultural Allied Trades went to Randy Skinner of Leonard Adams Insurance Co. in Beaverton, Oregon. The award recognizes an allied trade member who has shown exemplary support for the OAN, the industry and our members. Randy oversees the OAN medical and dental benefit program which is available to member companies. In this role he has helped educate members about changes in the insurance industry and new programs and benefits.
- The New Nursery Professional of the Year Award, sponsored by Northwest Farm Credit Services, went to Chris Robinson, general manager and co-owner at Robinson Nursery Inc. in Amity, Oregon. The award honors a person relatively new to the nursery trade who demonstrates outstanding service to the OAN and the industry. Since becoming general manager of the company, Chris has spearheaded several improvements to company culture and process efficiency, and has also helped rejuvenate the Sunset Chapter.
- The Retailer of the Year Award went to Al’s Garden & Home, a grower and retailer based in Woodburn with additional locations in Sherwood, Wilsonville and Gresham. The award honors the company’s strength and innovation as a retailer, which was highlighted in 2017 with the company’s branding transition and the opening of its fourth and newest location, which is in Wilsonville.
And finally, the President’s Five Star Awards, chosen by outgoing president Mark Bigej, were given in recognition of outstanding or crucial service, assistance or support rendered during the president’s year. They were as follows:
- Kathy LeCompte, co-owner of seedling growers Brooks Tree Farm in Salem with her husband Dave, was recognized for her longtime support and leadership of the industry, particularly for her fund raising and support of the Oregon Nurseries’ Political Action Committee.
- Leigh Geschwill was recognized for her service as past president, going above and beyond what most past presidents do. She took on a key role as 2017 chair of the OAN Government Relations Committee and delivered effective testimony to the Oregon Legislature on several key matters.
- Hood Chapter was recognized for its initiatives in supporting the next generation of nursery industry leaders and in bringing the OAN Wholesale Nursery Map into the digital age with creation of the OAN Map app.
- OAN Staff was recognized for its outstanding hard work and service throughout the year.
- Amy Bigej, wife of Mark Bigej, was recognized for her support during Mark’s year of leadership.