On January 17, the SAIF Agri-Business Banquet, presented by KeyBank, opened to a full audience of four hundred people at the Salem Convention Center.


The SAIF Agri-Business Banquet is a celebration of the agricultural community, which allocates for 12% of jobs the mid-Willamette Valley. Guests enjoyed wine from Willamette Valley Vineyards before the dinner, and had an opportunity to connect with peers and other community members. Guests were also encouraged by Willamette Valley Vineyards to participate in a quiz for a stay at the Winery Suites.


The invocation was given by Terry Kuenzi, principle of Kuenzi & Company, and the National Anthem was performed by Mary Ann Zielinksi.

Guests mingle before the dinner.
Tammy Dennee of the Oregon Dairy Farmer’s Association, and Barrigan “Barry” Nelson of Capital Financial Planners, emceed the evening.
FFA Secretary Deidre Schreiber receiving the PGE scholarship from Vice President Brad Jenkins (right) with Tom Hoffert, Salem Area Chamber CEO (left).

The FFA Presentation was given by the Oregon State FFA Secretary, Deidre Schreiber. Schreiber has grown up on her family’s commercial cattle ranch, settled in Hell’s canyon. Schreiber started her own herd of registered polled Hereford cattle. In her high school FFA, she served as chapter and district president and had several different SAEs including her cattle herd, horses, working at the local radio station, and creating a mentorship program at her high school. 


In her presentation, she shared that after her tour of Oregon schools and spending over 3,000 hours teaching high school students, the future of agriculture is bright. Schools are creating robotics programs that teach machines how to nurture and grow plants. Some schools also have herds of cattle to teach students compassion and attention to detail. At the end of her speech, Schreiber received the PGE Scholarship from Vice President of Utility Operations, Brad Jenkins.


Guests also heard from SAIF’s Vice President of Marketing, Sales & Communication, Christy Witzke, and KeyBank’s Senior Vice President of Commercial Banking, Ernesto Toskovic.

Jim Bernau, winegrower and CEO of Willamette Valley Vineyards


Jim Bernau, winegrower and founder of Willamette Valley Vineyards, was the keynote speaker for the banquet. He shared the story of beginning his winery in 1983, inspired by California Winemaker Richard Sommer.


Bernau shared stories of the wine industry in Oregon, and the different legislation the state needed to pass to develop the wine industry here to be on par with the rest of the states. Due to those efforts, the wine industry is blossoming, and now creates around 29,000 jobs.


Throughout the evening’s presentation, Bernau answered the questions listed in the quiz, including showing a scene from the movie, “Sideways,” and playing a short clip from 60 Minutes.


Most importantly, Bernau reminded guests of the importance of fighting for Oregon’s unique geographic products. An example he used was the push to ensure Pinot noir’s were labeled correctly, and to introduce legislation; ‘Oregon’s’ most popular pinot noir is made in California.


The evening ended well, and guests were encouraged by Salem Chamber CEO Tom Hoffert to take time connecting with other guests and enjoying Salem’s downtown businesses.

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