With 53 years of local farming experience and 48 years in a leadership role as a Grange Co-op Board Member, Vernon Gebhard was inducted into the Agricultural Cooperative Council of Oregon (ACCO) Hall of Fame on Wednesday, November 14. The induction honored individuals for their contributions to Oregon cooperatives. Elected by the membership, ACCO Hall of Fame members personify agricultural, cooperative, and business leadership.
Gebhard, born and raised near Central Point, graduated from Crater High in 1952. In 1956, he graduated from Oregon State University with a degree in Fish and Wildlife. In 1959, after serving as a pilot in the U.S. Air Force, he returned to the Central Point area with his wife Lenore and started farming. Presently, the family farm operated by Gebhard, his son Brian, and grandson Kyle, includes beef cattle, alfalfa hay, and grain.
In 1965, Gebhard was elected to the Grange Cooperative Board of Directors. Grange Co-op was established in 1934 by 99 farmers and ranchers in Central Point. In Vernon’s first year as a board director, the company reached more than $2 million in sales. After five decades of Gebhard’s and his fellow directors’ leadership, Grange Co-op’s sales are $57 million. Grange Co-op has 215 employees, 2,400 members, 23,000 nonmember patrons, and thousands of other customers.
Gebhard served several years as Secretary/Treasurer before becoming chairman of the board, a role he served in for 16 years. In all, he has served on the Grange Co-op board of directors for 48 consecutive years.
“During his 48 years, Vernon has been resolute in building Grange Co-op into a solid, stable economic resource for the agricultural community as well as the urban communities it serves. His strong leadership, impeccable integrity, insightful vision, steadfast consistency and decency have been instrumental to the ongoing success and the strong reputation of Grange Co-op. Vernon is the epitome of what a cooperative director should be,” said Barry Robino, Grange Co-op Chief Executive Officer.
Past ACCO hall of fame honorees from Grange Co-op include Arnold Bohnert, a board member of both Grange Co-op and Josephine Growers Co-op, and Jim Hudson, Grange Co-op general manager for 23 years.
Founded in 1921, ACCO is the professional organization of farmer–owned businesses operating in Oregon. The Council advocates on behalf of agricultural cooperatives and provides education about cooperatives to high school and college students. In addition, ACCO funds scholarships for college students studying agriculture. For more information on the ACCO, please visit www.acco.coop.