For those of you whom I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting, my name is Kyle Fessler.
I am grateful to be able to serve the members of the Oregon Association of Nurseries (OAN) as president for 2021. My wife Mollie and I have been married for 11 years, and together we have five beautiful children: Elizabeth, Henry, Claire, Susannah and Frankie.
I consider myself one of the fortunate few that had the opportunity to be raised in a nursery family. Most of my early years were spent playing in a pile of dirt or gravel in our back yard, usually with a new greenhouse or can yard being built in the background.
Our family farm, Woodburn Nursery & Azaleas Inc., had humble beginnings, starting with a 25-by-96-foot greenhouse behind my grandparents’ house more than 50 years ago. It seemed like every year there were new structures going up all around the nursery, and my siblings and I had a front-row seat to all the action. We grew up right along with the operation, and it’s amazing to see how far we’ve come as adults and as a business.
As is true on many of your operations, none of the achievements we’ve had would be possible without the hard work and dedication of family members and loyal employees. I see the same attitude when it comes to the OAN and its members.
The OAN has been a big part of my life for a long time. My father, Tom, was president of the association 25 years ago. The two biggest weeks of the year for us kids were the Farwest Show and the OAN Convention (which also doubled as our annual family vacation). I often heard the tales of Clayton Hannon and all the good he and his staff were doing for us and our nursery friends.
I see the same dedication today from director Jeff Stone and his staff. I’ve seen first-hand the sacrifices they have made during these difficult times, and I am beyond grateful to have them working on our side.
In 2013, my father encouraged me to get involved with the OAN. I had the opportunity to join the Willamette Chapter board, where I met many members (most of whom were not even growers) that wanted to see the industry succeed. It was a fantastic way to get to know other growers and the associate members that support us.
2015 launched me into a new role within the association. I attended my first Government Relations Committee meeting, and soon became a regular attendee. It seemed like every meeting introduced another piece of harmful legislation aimed at our industry.
It was hard not to come home depressed. It took some time, but I came to realize that the fight was worth having, and that our nursery folks are the masters of battling adversity. Our members stepped up and empowered themselves to be their own best advocates. We have made a name for ourselves at the Capital, and have made significant progress for our industry because of these efforts.
Many of your families are just like mine, having poured their lives and resources into building their businesses for generational success. My mission in the coming year is to continue the push for active member engagement, and to do everything we can to protect and promote the success of our members and the generations of growers to come.
From my nursery family to yours, I wish you the best of success for 2021.