POLK COUNTY — Near the conclusion of the agenda, Don Schellenberg, a longtime member of the Polk County Farm Bureau (PCFB), finally figured out why he was sent to Oregon Farm Bureau’s (OFB) annual meeting in December.
That’s when OFB Barry Bushue and Executive Vice President Dave Dillion announced the organization was inducting Schellenberg into its hall of fame. Schellenberg also had worked for OFB as a lobbyist for almost 30 years.
Schellenberg said the announcement was a surprise, but admits to being suspicious about being selected to attend on behalf of the Polk County branch’s board, of which he is a member.
He had to skip a meeting last year and found out afterward the board had voted to send him to the annual meeting.
“I figured out what happened,” he said. “You miss a meeting and you are selected for an award.”
In decades of service to local and state farm bureau organizations, Schellenberg did a lot more than miss a meeting. To be nominated, hall of fame candidates must have at least 35 years of active involvement.
“This year’s nominee comes with a record of service that far exceeds 35 years,” Bushue said. “Don joined Farm Bureau in the late 1960s and wasted no time making an impact, winning the Young Farmers & Ranchers Discussion Meet in 1968.”
Schellenberg has farmed his entire life, working his father’s land before purchasing his own outside Dallas in 1970. That 30-acre prune orchard grew into a 300-acre farm producing prunes, grain, sheep and wheat.
In 1980, Schellenberg decided to take on a different kind of challenge, becoming OFB’s first lobbyist.
During his career, Schellenberg was on a team that helped craft legislation to create Oregon’s farm property tax and land-use regulations.
His work on behalf of farmers extended beyond Oregon. He traveled to Kyrgyzstan after the breakup the Soviet Union to help farmers there organize a representative group. Schellenberg also served on the OFB’s century farm and ranch committee and served three terms as PCFB’s president.
When presented with honor last month, Schellenberg deflected praise to others.
“Farm Bureau’s members are the heart of the organization — and the democratic, grassroots policy development process is its soul,” he said. “Those two things make Farm Bureau the best agriculture organization in Oregon.”
That said, learning he would be inducted was an emotional experience.
“I worked for 28 years at the state level and my whole life at the local level,” Schellenberg said. “It’s been a privilege to be recognized for that work.”