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Planting the Seed for Oregon’s Agricultural Leaders of Tomorrow

Words: Rob Goodman

Born with farming in her blood, Becky Heimerl grew up taking care of animals and working in the fields. Her mother served as the past president for Oregon Dairy Women (ODW) and is now chairperson of the Oregon Princess Ambassador program. This year ODW is celebrating its 60th anniversary. For Becky, the current president of ODW, the organization has a deeper meaning.

“I’m a lifelong supporter of ODW because we focus on educating people about how Oregon farmers care about the environment and the animals we raise,” says Heimerl. “When I moved back to Oregon, I became involved with ODW to help people understand what life is like as a farmer, how important our work is to the community, and that farmers are proud of the work we do.”

One activity Heimerl enjoys most is the Oregon Princess Ambassador program. While she enjoys the pageantry and crowning of the winner each year, Heimerl knows the broader benefits offered to young women involved in the growth of Oregon agriculture.

“The Oregon Princess Ambassador program works with young women between 17-23 years old,” says Heimerl. “We help women achieve personal growth by supporting them with their education, training them in public speaking, and even teaching them proper etiquette. While that might sound a little bit old fashioned, the point is that we want to help these young women become the future leaders in Oregon agriculture.”

Another piece of ODW’s focus is education. The slowly declining membership scales up the importance for educating people outside the industry about what farmers do and the impact of farming on local and state economies.

“There are fewer dairy farms in Oregon, but they still need to produce the same quantity of dairy products for our growing population,” says Heimerl. “There are many misconceptions about how farmers treat their animals and how we address environmental issues. One of the goals of ODW is to help educate the public on the importance of Oregon’s farming community.”

With her mother and sister actively involved in ODW (her sister currently serves as the secretary), Heimerl sees the benefits of having a multi-generational connection to the Oregon farming community.

“We’re celebrating our 60th anniversary and I couldn’t be prouder of what we’ve accomplished,” says Heimerl. “Our members range in age from 20-90 years old and it’s incredibly rewarding to see what we have accomplished over the past 60 years. Personally, I have learned a lot from our members who have been involved for many decades and I look forward to an exciting future for ODW and for the growth of Oregon agriculture.”