My name is Mike Hiller, I work at Kraemer’s Nursery in Mt. Angel, Oregon, and I am proud to be your new OAN president.
But how did I find myself in this position?
Several years ago, Mike Coleman approached me to consider joining the Executive Committee of the OAN Board of Directors. I asked him to give me a couple of days for my response.
That night, I talked over this decision with my wife, Kirstin. I knew that she would be the most critical person in helping me make this commitment. After that, I went to my boss, Paul Kraemer. His blessing was key. I then went down the list with all of my co-workers, because I knew that I would need their support as well. We all have a responsibility at home and at work, and I wanted to be able to fully commit to the association I belong to.
Once I had everyone’s support, I called Mike up and agreed to be on the Executive Committee slate for 2014–15 as board secretary. That was followed by two years serving as treasurer and one year as president-elect.
With that hindsight and experience, I can say now that joining Executive Committee was one of the best decisions I have ever made.
I wanted to explain this because support is critical to success in any endeavor — especially ours. For the OAN, we need involvement from everyone. The more legs we can put on a chair, the better we are — as long as they are strong, even and equally spaced.
Being involved with the OAN at this level has given me a hands-on education. I have seen how many resources are put into everything to ensure businesses succeed in this industry. We face many issues in this industry. Many of us do not fully understand how much the association is actually helping us.
For example, when bureaucrats proposed a new property tax on hoop houses, the OAN helped them see how unfair that would have been. The proposal went nowhere. When legislators began talking about minimum wage increases, the OAN had a seat at the table and secured a longer phase-in for agricultural operations (all of us — not just nursery operations). The final outcome reflected the fact that businesses need time to adjust, and economic realities are different in rural Oregon than in the Portland metropolitan area.
These are just a few examples of issues that we have faced.
Looking to the future, there are key vitals that we deal with on a daily basis. The two biggest are labor and water. Of course, we have many others, but these are fundamental.
Recently, I was talking with a grower about the struggles they face. One of the many things that were brought up was how we need to help support research at the university level. We need improved genetics for our plants, and protocols for dealing with pests and diseases. We need to support the entities that eliminate barriers and help us maintain access to interstate markets. A major one is our Oregon Department of Agriculture.
This support is critical for Oregon nurseries. We must maintain our position as top tier producers, always reassuring our customers that we are doing everything right.
We will need everyone’s support on working on these issues, so please get involved! When you have a concern, please reach out. My goal for this upcoming year as President is to continue to build off all the hard work from everyone who has come before, up to and including my immediate predecessor, Josh Zielinski at Alpha Nursery. Josh is part of a family that has dedicated themselves to the association. He has been a tremendous leader, guiding us to be responsive to the needs of our diverse membership. He’s been a steady hand with a talented board of directors.
By supporting our industry in any number of ways throughout the coming year, you can help us keep Oregon in the top position amongst nursery states that we have earned.