Deidre Schreiber, Oregon FFA secretary, speaks at the SAIF Agri-Business Banquet on Saturday, Jan. 18, in Salem. (Mary Louise VanNatta/Special to Salem Reporter)

According to the Oregon Farm Bureau, nearly 12% of all jobs in Oregon are connected to farming and ranching, and about 97% of those farms and ranches are family-owned and operated. Many have been in the same family for at least 100 years.

SAIF’s Agri-Business Banquet, held Saturday, Jan. 18, in the Salem Convention Center, celebrated the agricultural community and its impact on the mid-Willamette Valley. Presented by the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce, the event is one of Salem’s most well attended events with nearly 500 on Saturday.

Chamber ambassadors, in their signature black jackets, Bob and Ann Sticha, welcomed guests. Ticketholders were treated to wine samples from Willamette Valley Vineyards. Krystal de Ramos offered various reds to Randy Franke, who attended with wife Jackie Franke. Mary Shepherd helped distribute a “wine quiz” to guests via text message.

Representing Oregon State FFA were Mena Drakeley, Lauren McAleer, and Shanela Ibarra networked with attendees. Scholarship recipient Deidre Schreiber, the Oregon FFA secretary, inspired the attendees with her presentation on agricultural innovations. She noted the average age of a farmer is 58. She felt the greatest world challenge of our time is how to feed the nine billion people who will occupy the planet by 2050.

Tammy Dennee from the Oregon Dairy Farmers Association and Barrigan “Barry” Nelson from Capital Financial Planners served as the emcees. Mary Ann Zielinski flawlessly sang the national anthem.

Jim Bernau, the founder of Willamette Valley Vineyards, provided the keynote address. He entertained the crowd with a video of “tasting room etiquette” courtesy of Paul Giamatti from the movie Sideways.

 Bernau told of his start in 1983 when he cleared away an old pioneer plum orchard in the Salem Hills and hand watered the grape plants in their first year. He also provided a fascinating history of the Oregon wine industry. 

He mentioned the contribution of Morley Safer’s 1991 60 Minutes segment: “The French Paradox.” This drew attention to the wine industry by suggesting red wine may be why the French have such a low level of heart disease. Resveratrol, a natural chemical compound found in the skin of grapes, has been found to be an anti-aging component and good for the heart.

The enjoyable evening ended at a reasonable hour and Chamber CEO Tom Hoffert encouraged guests to stay and visit some of Salem’s downtown establishments.

Plan to attend the Ag Banquet next year. Learn more at SalemChamber.org and visit Willamette Valley Vineyards at wvv.com.

Barrigan Nelson and Tammy Dennee were emcees at the SAIF Agri-Business Banquet on Saturday, Jan. 18, in Salem. (Mary Louise VanNatta/Special to Salem Reporter)

Mena Drakeley, Lauren McAleer and Shanela Ibarra, representing Oregon FFA, attend the SAIF Agri-Business Banquet on Saturday, Jan. 18, in Salem. (Mary Louise VanNatta/Special to Salem Reporter)

Johanna Allen and Shawn Lapof attend the SAIF Agri-Business Banquet.on Saturday, Jan. 18, in Salem. (Mary Louise VanNatta/Special to Salem Reporter)

Kathryn Davidson from Photos By Orion gets a shot at the SAIF Agri-Business Banquet. (Mary Louise VanNatta/Special to Salem Reporter)

Jim and state Rep. Raquel Moore-Green attend the SAIF Agri-Business Banquet on Saturday, Jan. 18, in Salem. (Mary Louise VanNatta/Special to Salem Reporter)

Tammy Dennee, Jim Bernau, Cindy Peck and Lyn Zielinski-Mills attend the SAIF Agri-Business Banquet on Saturday, Jan. 18, in Salem. (Mary Louise VanNatta/Special to Salem Reporter)

Bob and Ann Sticha greet guests at the SAIF Agri-Business Banquet. (Mary Louise VanNatta/Special to Salem Reporter)

Mary Louise VanNatta is a Salem public relations professional writing a regular column for Salem Reporter. Tell her about your upcoming event at [email protected] or follow her on Facebook.