East Idaho Ag Hall of Fame
Five people were inducted into the Eastern Idaho Agriculture Hall of Fame March 17.
Hall of Fame inductees are people who have made extraordinary contributions to agriculture and Eastern Idaho, according to the organization.
Since the EIAHF was formed in 1972, 246 people have been inducted.
Chosen for the Class of 2023 were Val Schwendiman of Newdale, Chris Wride of American Falls, Brock Driscoll of Aberdeen, Sara Henson Skaar of Hagerman, and Chester Adams of Firth.
During the hall of fame recognition dinner, Paige Nelson of Rigby was named the Ed Duren Memorial Young Producer Award winner.
A record 429 people turned out for this year’s induction ceremony in Fort Hall.
Idaho Farm Bureau Federation CEO Zak Miller, a member of the EIAHF board of directors, said hall of fame inductees represent the drivers of the most important industry in the state.
“These people represent the crème of the crop of Idaho’s agriculture industry,” he said. “By their actions over many years, they have shown they are committed not only to agriculture, but to East Idaho as well.”
One of the common themes of the inductees’ acceptance speeches this year was that they were humbled to have their name included among all of the stalwarts of Eastern Idaho agriculture who have received the honor since 1972.
“I feel very good about being in this class and this company,” Skaar said.
Wride said when he looks at the names in the hall of fame, he thinks, “Great people. Inspiring people. Innovators. Leaders. People that get things done.”
Adams spent many years in the classroom, as an educator and as a principal, before focusing fully on his ranching operation.
He received many awards during his years in education and in 1973, decided to have a dual career in education and ranching.
According to his induction bio, he purchased 52 acres along the Snake River and five registered Angus cows. Over 30 years, he added four additional properties and his herd grew to 125 registered mother cows.
Adams’ operation utilized a modified form of intensive grazing and he incorporated animal science research and new techniques to his feeding program to enhance the quality of his herd.
His operation implemented artificial insemination practices in 1975 and embryo transfers in 2001.
Adams received numerous agriculture awards, including recognition as a 50-year member of the American Angus Association. He has also served many years as a 4-H leader and volunteer for community events and is currently a director of the New Sweden Irrigation District.
Looking back at the last five decades, he said during his acceptance speech, “It’s really about the journey … I cherish the lifestyle that I chose and the many friends” I made along the way.
Sarah Henson Skaar
According to her award bio, “Sarah’s entire life has revolved around agriculture, livestock and ranching….”
That began with her farm experiences as a child and includes 4-H participation, university studies, employment and production agriculture partnerships with her father and husband.
While attending Washington State University, Skaar milked cows at the university dairy and conducted oilseed research in WSU’s department of agronomy.
She was a founding member of the WSU Cooperative of University Dairy Students organization.
After earning her master’s degree, Skaar accepted a job with University of Idaho as an Extension agent in Caribou County and was later promoted to associate professor of agriculture. She later transferred to Bonneville County Extension, where she continued working with livestock and youth.
Skaar has been involved in the equine industry and has organized and continues to teach youth horsemanship clinics throughout southern Idaho.
According to her award bio, “Whenever the Skaars owned ranches in Idaho, the sustainability of natural resources has been the cornerstone of their operation.”
Those production strategies focused on improved soil health, water quality, end-use quality and financial returns.
Skaar is also an award-winning ag journalist and author, an inductee into the Eastern Idaho Horseman’s Hall of Fame and was honored as Latah County Cattleman of the Year.
According to his award bio, Driscoll had an early love for agriculture while growing up on a diversified crop farm in Aberdeen.
After marrying in 1974, he began farming as a livelihood and formed a partnership with his brothers. He was involved in creating a potato packing facility and trucking company in 1983 and the business expanded to the Magic Valley area by 1997.
Driscoll Brothers Partnership later incorporated an international compressed alfalfa company located near the Pocatello Airport, where hay purchased from area growers is processed into tightly compressed balls and shipped overseas.
Driscoll Brothers has expanded its original 4,000-acre farming and potato operation into a 16,000-acre operation with 150 full-time and 300 seasonal employees.
In addition to its own crops, Driscoll Brothers also purchases alfalfa, potatoes and grain from other Eastern Idaho producers.
During his acceptance speech, Driscoll said equal credit for the business’ success should go to his brothers.
“The four of us should be partners in this award,” he said.
He also said he’s “grateful to work in agriculture. It’s a great, great blessing and it helps teach our families what’s real in life.”
According to his bio, “Chris began his farming career as a young boy when the rocks and sagebrush were being cleared on the Wride farm north of Pleasant Valley in Power County.”
After attending college, Wride and his brothers worked together to raise potatoes, small grains, alfalfa and sugar beets. He encouraged his brothers to convert the farm’s furrow irrigation to sprinkler irrigation and, according to is award bio, doing that improved the operation’s production and profitability.
He was elected to the Bingham County Farm Service Agency Committee and Bingham Soil Conservation District, where his knowledge of farm and conservation programs grew.
This led the Wride operation to begin implementing more systematic farm management plans and Wride and his brothers embraced the use of technology and other best management practices.
One of Wride’s noted projects has been experimentation with mustard green manure crops as a way to improve soil health.
According to his award bio, “Chris was nominated to the (EIAHF) for his dedication to Eastern Idaho’s agriculture industry and natural resource conservation. Chris’ leadership has had a lasting effect on the implementation of conservation practices while maintaining successful farming operations in Bingham and Power counties.”
Schwendiman’s first job on the family farm, according to his award bio, was scattering sacks in the fields so the workers could fill them with potatoes. During this time, plowing was done using a one-row digger pulled by horses.
Schwendiman earlier farmed with his brother and now farms with three of his sons and eight grandsons. He is also owner and operator of a seed and commercial potato business and runs a large operation of irrigated and dryland wheat and barley.
According to his award bio, Schwendiman is continually upgrading his equipment to increase productivity. To ensure wise decisions are made on the farm, the Schwendiman operation keeps good records of farm operations.
According to his bio, Schwendiman has made significant improvements to his irrigation system by using computerized panels on the pivots and radio telemetry and putting variable frequency drives on all wells to conserve water.
According to Schwendiman’s award bio, he is “noted for working cooperatively with neighboring farmers by being respectful of their land. He forms and maintains many good relationships with buyers, sellers and customers….”
“As a third-generation farmer, Val is noted for working hard to install a love and respect for the land to his posterity,” the bio states.
During his acceptance speech, Schwendiman said that over his lifetime, “I’ve had the opportunity to work with so many great people in the agriculture industry.”
He also said he is grateful for the opportunity “to be part of growing, harvesting and producing food for the world.”
Paige Miller Nelson
Nelson was presented the Ed Duren Memorial Young Producer Award, which recognizes “an agricultural producer under 40 years of age for product innovations, leadership and a positive impact on the agriculture industry of Eastern Idaho.”
Raised on the family farm in Fremont County, Nelson is a fifth-generation ag producer with experience raising potatoes, wheat, barley, corn and alfalfa, and with a cow-calf feedlot ranch.
While attending BYU-Idaho, Nelson double minored in journalism and natural resources to compliment her animal science major to allow her to pursue a career in agriculture journalism.
While attending college, she served in various leadership roles, including as an Idaho Cattle Association intern, chairwoman and organizer of the first-ever BYU-Idaho Ag Days in 2013 and the 2013 BYU-Idaho Beef Day, and as vice president of the BYU-Idaho Cattlemen’s Association.
Nelson and her husband live on their cattle ranch in Rigby and manage a cow-calf herd, breed heifers and lease corrals to a rodeo bull consigner.
They also manage the family’s direct-to-consumer beef business, ML Brand Beef.
Nelson is a field editor for Angus Journal and a freelance writer for several ag publications and serves as vice president of the Jefferson County Farm Bureau board of directors and as a member of the Jefferson County Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers program.
Duren, who passed away in 2017, was a University of Idaho Extension Livestock specialist based in Soda Springs.
According to the EIAHF, “Ed spent a 39-year career (and many more years as a professor emeritus) providing education, outreach and leadership to producers and organizations across Idaho and beyond. His impact on agriculture in Idaho is beyond measure.”