Don Wirth, an innovative Oregon farmer and promoter of cover crops and forage in the United States and internationally, has been named the Agricultural Communicators Network (ACN) Distinguished Service Award recipient for 2023.

The Distinguished Service Award is presented to individuals who give back to the agricultural community and have demonstrated outstanding leadership efforts in education, science, or public affairs relevant to agriculture. The ACN has named Distinguished Service Award recipients since 1947. Past recipients have included Dr. Norman Borlaug, the only person to receive a Nobel Peace Prize for work in agriculture, and Dr. Temple Grandin, a noted animal welfare scientist, as well as farmers, economists, and agri-business people.

Wirth’s agricultural contributions include his 55 years of innovation in cropping systems, testing and evaluating forage and cover crops in Oregon and the CornBelt, and founding and co-founding five agricultural companies. He frequently and enthusiastically partners with land-grant universities and USDA scientists nationwide.

“He lives his life with passion and enjoys helping others,” said Skip Gray, Gray Farms, Albany, Oregon, one of many Oregonians who supported Wirth’s nomination. “Don particularly enjoys seeing young and beginning farmers that exhibit industriousness and common sense get the help they need to become the best agriculturalist possible.”

Katy Coba, who served as Director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture from 2003 to 2016, says Wirth “stands tall” among the hundreds of people she worked with during 37 years of service in Oregon state government.

“Since graduating from Oregon State University in 1968, Don has been tireless in collaborating with state and federal scientists, in finding practical and profitable solutions to agronomic problems, and in his wide-ranging thirst for knowledge,” says Coba, a Port of Portland Commissioner.

Wirth has been part of many agricultural organizations. In 23 years, he served 15 years on the Oregon Tall Fescue Growers Seed Commission. Then he spent six years on the Oregon Ryegrass Growers Seed Commission (ORC). His work at these organizations led him and his wife, Maryanne, to launch Oregon’s first cover crop seed business. Today the family company, Saddle Butte Ag, continues to educate, support, and promote cover crops and forage nationally and internationally.

Wirth embodies life-long learning as he’s traveled nationally and internationally to listen, learn, and lead. His work has been recognized with awards, including the 2022 Oregon State University College of Agricultural Sciences’ Diamond Pioneer Agricultural Achievement Registry; the 2010 Northwest Farm Credit Services award for Distinguished Service as a Director; the 2007 Voice of the Grass Seed Industry, the 2000 Oregon Seed Council Seedsman of the Year and the Linn County Farm Bureau Family Farmers of the Year.

Outside of agriculture, Wirth has served as Chairman of the Central Linn School Board, volunteer firefighter, and an elder at Oakville Evangelical Presbyterian Church.

AgWest Farm Credit is sponsoring the ACN DSA this year. Wirth will be honored during the 2023 Ag Media Summit in Palm Springs, California, July 30-August 2.

Each year, ACN honors an individual with the Distinguished Service Award (DSA).

The ACN Distinguished Service Award is presented to non-members who are leaders, give back to the agricultural community, and have demonstrated outstanding efforts in education, science, or public affairs relevant to agriculture.

The nominee should be currently active in their field.

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