Woody Wolfe of Wallowa is one of 12 members appointed to the new Oregon Agricultural Heritage Commission, a program approved by the legislature in 2017 to help ensure well-managed working lands can be passed down to the next generation and kept in production.
Wolfe, a farmer from Wallowa, was recommended by the Oregon Board of Agriculture and will serve a three-year initial term. The Oregon Agricultural Heritage Commission held its first meeting in Prineville, Ore., Feb. 1.
Wolfe is a sixth-generation Wallowa County native and farmer and entrepreneur. Over the years, he has found ways to maintain and expand his operation in a period when farm ground is increasingly sold for development and converted to nonproductive uses.
He has worked land conservation into his business plan, completing two conservation easements with Wallowa Land Trust in 2011 and 2017, protecting 463 acres. These easements will ensure the family farm remains in production while conserving key wildlife habitat.
In addition to serving on the Wallowa County Grain Growers Board for nine years, he currently serves on the Wallowa School Board. Woody lives with his wife of 15 years, Megan, and their sons, Liam and Weston, on their family farm.
“This commission is a shining example of Oregonians coming together around a common goal -- to protect Oregon’s rich natural resources and agricultural heritage,” said Kelley Beamer, executive director of the Coalition of Oregon Land Trusts. “We are conservationists. We are ranchers. We are farmers. We are fishermen. We are hunters. And we are Oregonians. And we all have the same goal: to see Oregon’s resources sustained for future generations,”
The new program will help Oregon farmers and ranchers access federal funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture specifically for agricultural easements on working lands. A working land easement pays farmers in exchange for development rights, keeping the land in production while preventing development and fragmentation of the land.
“With the average age of Oregon farmers and ranchers at 60 -- higher than it’s ever been -- and a massive transfer of agricultural lands looming over the next two decades, we found it imperative to get ahead of the issue,” said Mary Anne Cooper of the Oregon Farm Bureau. “Without assistance in passing on that farmland, we might lose it from agriculture forever.”
The Oregon legislature approved the Oregon Agricultural Heritage Program bill during its 2017 session, and Governor Kate Brown signed it into law on Sept. 19.