March 14, 2016

Northwest FCS News


Eight from the Northwest Recognized Nationally as Top 100 Leaders Shaping Rural America and Agriculture

Spokane, Wash. - March 15, 2016 – Travis Choat of Terry, Riley Slivka of Winifred and Jay and Colleen Meyer of Stevensville, Mont.; Rick Waitley of Meridian, Idaho; Josh Steward of Harrington and Dave Specht of Benton City, Wash.; and Paulette L. Pyle of Albany, Ore., are among 100 visionaries recognized nationally by Farm Credit for helping define the future of rural communities and agriculture.

The Farm Credit 100 Fresh Perspectives search was launched in 2015 at the start of the 100th anniversary of the cooperatively owned network of financial service providers. The top-100 honorees from the Northwest were selected from more than 1,100 nominations.

Travis Choat: Beginning Farmer and Rancher Achievement
Choat has operated the Homestead Cattle Company, a custom backgrounding business, since 2011. In four years, he doubled the capacity to 3,500 head, built a strong repeat customer base, implemented new technology and grown considerable equity. To help feed the cattle, Homestead Farm and Feed includes 750 acres of irrigated corn and alfalfa, and procurement of feed from across the region.

In 2013 he and his wife opened Powder River Meat Company, which now processes 300 head of livestock annually plus wild game processing, employing four full-time staff in a town of 600 residents. Last year, Powder River processed the first cattle the couple had bred, raised and fattened, and they have ambitions to build on this value-added model with aggressive infrastructure investment.


Riley Slivka: Agriculture Education and Community Impact
At age 12, Slivka documented his family's wheat and barley harvest near Winifred through a video he shared on YouTube. He soon realized the impact he could have in teaching people how food is produced, and continued producing videos showing activities on his family’s farm. Thousands of people viewed his video about shipping cattle, and his harvest videos have been shared across the country.

At 17, Slivka filmed the harvest in the Missouri River Breaks, producing a dramatic video that spread across Facebook and Twitter. It captured the attention of Montana Senator Steve Daines, who named Riley "Montanan of the Week" for his efforts in Ag Advocacy.

Slivka was a finalist in the YouFarm International contest featuring family farms across the world. He has also advocated for agriculture through the FFA organization, winning a statewide video contest promoting his local FFA chapter and competing in the Ag Sales and Ag Communication contests at the state level. He also serves as president of his class, his local FFA and 4-H chapters, and as vice president of his school’s Business Professionals of America organization. He will graduate as class valedictorian this year with plans to pursue a degree in Ag Communications and Film. He plans to continue communicating a positive view of food production to people who are removed from agriculture.


Jay and Colleen Meyer: Agriculture Education and Community Impact
The Meyers provide direct hands-on education about agriculture to youth through the Ravalli County 4th Grade Farm Fair, which Jay launched in 1992 as an extension of the “Ag in Montana Schools” curriculum.

The Farm Fair provides 20 various educational sessions for area fourth-grade students. Sessions cover traditional agriculture commodities as well as natural resource management, interactive processes such as rope making and "cowboying" and local highlights including apple production and bee keeping.

In the 24 years since the program began, approximately 12,000 fourth graders have been impacted. Each student receives an illustrated Farm Fair workbook to share the lessons at home, further expanding the program’s reach.


Rick Waitley: Rural Policy Influence
Waitley is president of Association Management Group, a firm that handles association management, legislative lobbying and event planning for nearly 40 agriculture organizations in Idaho, the Northwest and across the United States.

Through the volume and variety of agriculture-affiliated clients Rick serves, he has been a tremendous advocate and innovator for Idaho agriculture. He worked with Food Producers of Idaho to create the Idaho Ag Pavilion, designed to educate the public about the importance of agriculture in Idaho and throughout the U.S. The Pavilion travels annually to state and regional fairs around Idaho with Waitley and his wife, Dorita, coordinating each event.

Waitley has also helped establish a number of agriculture organizations. For example, the National Agriculture in the Classroom organization hired him as their first part-time executive director, a position he held for six years while he helped coordinate, organize and build a quality organization in all 50 states.

For decades, he has been a staunch supporter of the Leadership Idaho Agriculture Program, playing a significant role in educating next-generation agricultural leaders in public policy, public speaking skills and a wide variety of issues that impact agriculture in Idaho and across the nation.


Josh Steward: Beginning Farmer and Rancher Achievement
Steward contacted a farmer while still in college and soon leased 2,300 acres of wheat land and purchased all the farm equipment he needed to operate his new farm. He nearly doubled his acreage in just four years. Most of this acreage was formally Conservation Reserve Program ground. By making this land productive again, he brings more money into his local, rural economy as he purchases inputs and hires local businesses for needed services.

He takes pride in using sustainable agricultural practices, adhering to the strict Conservation Stewardship Program guidelines promoted by the USDA. This includes reduced tillage practices and methods considering long-term benefits to the soil, ensuring it will be productive many years into the future.

Steward serves as president of the Harrington Public Development Authority, which, under his leadership, has recently received a grant to connect high-speed fiber optic internet to the entire downtown business district. This will make it attractive to businesses that are internet-based and support local economic development.


Dave Specht: Agriculture Education and Community Impact
Dave Specht is the founder of Advising Generations, a family business consulting firm and technology company. In addition to advising generational farm and ranch families around the country, he also speaks and writes extensively on the topic of transitioning farms to the next generation. His work is consistently featured in Successful Farming Magazine, Progressive Cattlemen, Drovers CattleNetwork and other major agriculture publications.

Specht developed the Family Business Management curriculum being taught in the University of Nebraska’s Ag Economics College and College of Business. He has lectured at places including Cornell University’s Dairy Executive Program and in community halls in rural towns to spread the message of farm continuity.

Specht recently created a mobile app called Inspired Questions For Farmers that helps families start the conversation about generational transitions. He is also the author of a new book, The Farm Whisperer-Secrets to Preserving Families and Perpetuating Farms.


Paulette L. Pyle: Rural Policy Influence
For more than 35 years, Pyle has provided passion and advocacy on behalf of farmers, ranchers, foresters and rural communities in Oregon.

Serving as director of grassroots efforts with Oregonians for Food and Shelter, Pyle was instrumental in defeating a local ballot initiative that would have banned aerial application of herbicides on some of Oregon's most productive forest land. Prior to her retirement, she engaged rural Oregonians in the struggle to protect their ability to profitably operate. She carried the message of the need for a strong rural economy to the Oregon Legislature and was instrumental in passing vital "right to farm and forest" laws.

In recognition of her efforts, Pyle has earned the gratitude of Oregon's natural resource family and the respect of those on the other side of the issues. Her list of honors includes the Ted Young Stewardship Award from Oregon Forest Industries Council, the Ag Connection Award from Oregon AgriBusiness Council, the Distinguished Service Award from the Northwest Food Processors Association and the Seedsman of the Year award from the Oregon Seed Council.


Northwest Farm Credit Services Salutes the Winners
“Travis, Riley, Jay and Colleen, Rick, Josh and Paulette are great examples of leaders shaping agriculture for tomorrow,” said Phil DiPofi, President and CEO of Northwest Farm Credit Services, which services Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon and Alaska. “It’s our honor to recognize each of them for their service to their communities and to the future of agriculture. Because of them – and of the day-to-day work of their peers in agriculture – we can be assured of a healthy, abundant food supply and a vibrant future for rural America.”

Northwest Farm Credit Services is one of the nearly 80 Farm Credit organizations that are celebrating National Ag Day and the dynamic future of rural communities and agriculture. Farm Credit has supported rural communities and agriculture for 100 years. Its mission is to help these areas grow and thrive by providing farmers with the capital they need to make their businesses successful, and financing vital infrastructure and communications services that serve rural America.

Selected by a panel of experts on rural matters, including Farm Credit leaders and others from around the agriculture industry, the honorees will receive a commemorative Farm Credit gift and $100. A complete list of the Farm Credit 100 Fresh Perspectives honorees can be found at

About Northwest Farm Credit Services
Northwest FCS is a $10.6 billion financial cooperative providing financing and related services to farmers, ranchers, agribusinesses, commercial fishermen, timber producers, rural homeowners and crop insurance customers in Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Alaska. Northwest FCS is a member of the Farm Credit System that supports agriculture and rural communities with reliable, consistent credit and financial services.

Debra Strohmaier
Communications Specialist or 509.340.5443