The Board of Tilth Producers honors individuals who have gone the extra mile to promote the mission of the organization. Two awards will be given at the annual conference, one to an outstanding farmer for their efforts in land stewardship (Farmer of the Year) and one to an individual for their contributions to the sustainability of organic farming (Advocate of the Year).
Farmers of the Year 2013
Kole and his wife Sonia live and work on Tonnemaker Hill Farm. Kole has worked on his family farm since it was started from sagebrush in 1962, and became manager in 1981, continuing a legacy of farming in the Yakima Valley that began with his great-grandparents in 1903.
A shift toward direct marketing in the 1980s led to the implementation of Integrated Pest Management practices, followed by organic farming practices and certification in 1997. Today the orchards and vegetable operations are 100% organic. Their operation is extremely well run, and produces apples, pears, cherries, peaches, nectarines, apricots and plums, along with a wide variety of vegetables and melons. Everything is direct-marketed at either their farm stands or farmers markets. Theirs is truly a family operation, as Kole and Sonia and sons run the farm operation in Royal City and brother Kurt Tonnemaker and his family manage the farmers markets and produce stand in greater Seattle. What doesn’t sell is processed into other value-added products like apple cider or fruit leather. Everything is used and nothing is wasted, both at the farm and processor level.
Kole and Sonia truly believe in all that organic stands for and want organics to be available to everyone. While many Grant County operations ship their produce to the west side because they don’t make any money keeping it ‘local’, the Tonnemakers believe that organic should be accessible at every price point. In addition to farmers markets in Moses Lake and Moscow, ID, Kole and Sonia manage an impressive retail store right in Royal City. Customers will drive out of their way to buy fresh produce because of the reputation the Tonnemakers have.
Thank You Kole & Sonia Tonnemaker!
Advocate of the Year 2013
Ellen Gray has lent her tremendous energy, intellect and skill to addressing critical food issues in the Northwest. She has crafted new partnerships to develop and empower the Good Food Coalition to focus on issues of food access, marketing, distribution, and the regulatory barriers that stand in the way of bringing Washington grown food to diverse communities and our region’s school systems.
Ellen’s accomplishments include passing legislation to improve access to local, fresh produce for low income families and retaining funding for the WIC program, which benefits our regional farms. Ellen has championed regulatory change to reduce barriers to selling value-added farm products at farmer’s markets. She has also been instrumental in creating Farm to School programs that benefit Washington farmers and students, increase regional farm sales and deliver high quality, health-promoting foods to Washington schools.
Ellen continues to work hard on food system issues as they arise: to inform, advocate and organize stakeholders. Washington State is a leader in sustainable agriculture and food systems, in no small part due to Ellen’s passion and talent for bringing people together to improve our food and farming systems.
Thank You Ellen Gray!
- Year | Farmer of the Year | Advocate of the Year
- 2004 | Nash Huber | Miles McEvoy
- 2005 | Michaele Blakely | Jerry Pipitone
- 2006 | Jim & Harlyn Meyer | Diane Dempster
- 2007 | Rick & Marilynn Lynn | Goldie Caughlan
- 2008 | None | Gus Hoover
- 2009 | Hilario Alvarez | Mary Embleton
- 2010 | Watershine Woods | Fred Berman & Patrice Barrentine
- 2011 | Eric & Sheryl Zakarison | Colleen Donovan
- 2012 | Juana Lopez Paramo & Clayton Burrows | Karen Kinney