By Sean Ellis
Idaho Farm Bureau Federation
FORT HALL – Seven people, including Idaho’s current governor, were inducted into the Eastern Idaho Agriculture Hall of Fame March 13 during a banquet attended by about 400 people.
Inductees who have made significant contributions to Eastern Idaho agriculture are chosen for the honor.
Five people are typically inducted into the EIAHF each year but Gov. Brad Little and Idaho State Department of Agriculture Director Celia Gould, both ranchers, were also inducted this year during a banquet and induction ceremony.
Gould told banquet attendees that agriculture remains the cornerstone of the state’s economy and “shapes and defines who we are in Idaho.”
“Tonight’s award winners are the reason I have so much faith in the future of our industry,” she said. “Our state doesn’t run without agriculture and ag doesn’t thrive without all of you.”
Besides Gould and Little, this year’s inductees are Sylvan Seely, a leader in the irrigation industry from Rexburg; Carl Ellsworth, a rancher from Leadore; Kent Taylor, a potato grower and shipper from Idaho Falls; Jim Summers, an ag educator from Preston; and Clen and Emma Atchley, potato seed producers from Ashton.
Clen and Emma Atchley
The Atchleys are the first married couple to be inducted into the Eastern Idaho Agriculture Hall of Fame.
The Atchleys raise hay, wheat, barley, canola, cattle and more than 800 acres of seed potatoes on their farm east of Ashton.
“Clen and Emma share a commitment to ‘leave things better than they found it,’” said EIAHF board member Matt Gellings.
“This philosophy applies to thoughtful decisions about their property and their ag leadership through the years.”
Gellings said the Atchleys “have a well-deserved reputation for producing the cleanest, high-quality quality seed potatoes possible. To achieve this goal, they designed and built an early-generation greenhouse, with Emma the primary operator since 1990.”
Summers grew up on his family’s dairy farm in Tremonton, Utah, and taught vocational agriculture for 41 years at West Side High School in Dayton, Idaho.
“During his tenure at West Side, Summers restructured a failing agriculture program into a successful and powerful source for hands-on learning in agriculture,” said EIAHF board member Doug Eck. “Jim loved teaching and watching his students achieve and make career choices.”
Eck said Summers worked with numerous farmers and businesses owns to help prepare and train students for the agricultural workforce.
“One of the most significant contributions Jim has made to Eastern Idaho is the legacy of past students that he has influenced in selecting a career in agriculture,” Eck said. “Many of our local veterinarians, farmers, ranchers, diesel mechanics and a host of agribusiness professionals were inspired and encouraged during their time spent with Jim Summers.”
Ellsworth was raised on his family’s ranch in Leadore and competed on the livestock and meats judging teams at Fresno State University and graduated with a degree in animal science.
He then returned to the family ranch and became a general partner. He took over as general manager of Ellsworth Angus Ranch in 1989 and has made several improvements to the ranch and cattle, including pasture and pivot irrigation improvements, and the purchase of additional farm ground.
“His beef evaluation skills have served him well, as Carl has developed one of the reputation herds of commercial Angus cattle in central Idaho,” said EIAHF board member Jay Wiley. “His calves are big and usually top the market for their weight, whether sold privately or on the video market.”
Ellsworth has always been active in the Lemhi County Cattle & Horse Growers Association and the Idaho Cattle Association and has held almost all elected offices, including president, in both groups.
Taylor was raised on a small, gravity-irrigated farm near Idaho Falls where the family grew hay, grain and potatoes. According to EIAHF board member Justin Skaar, “Kent and his siblings grew up with shovels and spud sacks (and) Kent learned to cut seed potatoes by hand while still in grade school.”
Helping their father, the six Taylor kids learned to plant, weed, irrigate and harvest potatoes. Kent’s father, Howard, recognizing the advantage of controlling their crop through to market, began storing, selling and shipping his own potatoes and buying more from neighbors, becoming a pioneer grower/shipper.
“Kent learned the business from the ground up,” Skaar said.
Taylor Brothers merged with Rexburg Fresh in 2011 and the name was changed to Gold Emblem Produce. Kent Taylor sold his last interest in the shed and retired from the sales desk in 2014.
“He was one of the last true owner/shippers in our state,” Skaar said.
Seely was born and raised on his family’s farm north of St. Anthony, where they raised crops, pigs, chickens, sheep and dairy cows.
When he needed more hand lines for his 160-acre farm, he discovered the local dealer had sold out but found a company in Utah had what he needed at half the price he was quoted locally.
“This gave him the idea to buy extra hand lines to resell other farmers, which he knew he could do at a price that would be a good deal for both parties,” said EIAHF board member Richard Larsen.
In 1996, he began making sales and service calls in the family’s station wagon and the business took off. Three years later, Seely and his wife, Gail, established their own irrigation company in Rexburg.
He soon became the first dealer in the area to offer all brands of pumps, hand lines and wheel lines. He was also involved in developing most of the huge irrigation projects along the Teton River canyon after the Teton Dam broke in 1976.
“We’re told if all the pivots Sylvan has installed were put end to end, they would stretch 1,125 miles,” Larsen said. “Imagine a pivot span reaching from Rexburg to Kansas City.”
Gov. Brad Little
Little, a rancher from Emmett, planned to attend the hall of fame’s 48th annual banquet and induction ceremony but had to stay in Boise to hold a press conference announcing the state’s first case of coronavirus. But Little did address attendees through a video.
“Agriculture has been, still is and will continue to be important to me and all of Idaho,” the governor said.
Little was raised on his family’s sheep and cattle ranching operation and managed Little Land and Livestock for almost 30 years until 2009, when his son, David, took over management of the operation. The governor continues to work as head of Little Enterprises, a diversified farming and cattle operation.
“Despite the fact that our industry is the state’s leading economic driver, Idaho hasn’t always been blessed with governors who understand agriculture,” said EIAHF President Rick Phillips. “But when we elected Brad Little as our 33rd governor in 2018, we gained a person with an extensive dual career in agriculture and public service.”
Gould has served as ISDA director since 2007 and is the first woman to hold that position and also the longest-serving department director ever.
As director, she leads the department that both promotes and regulates agriculture, which is the single largest contributor to the state’s economy and accounts for more than 13 percent of Idaho’s gross state product each year.
Gould was born and raised on a farm and ranch and is the owner and operator of G+ Ranches in Buhl, which produces wheat, corn, hay and Black Angus and Angus-Wagyu cattle.
“For 13 years, we in Eastern Idaho and all across this state have been able to rely upon Celia to thoughtfully consider the needs of producers and agribusinesses when making decisions and taking positions that affect us,” her award bio states. “At the state and the national level, she is both a voice and a shield for producers and agribusinesses in our state.”