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Echo Valley Ranch earns top ag award

Business puts focus on youth in agriculture
By: Krissi Khokhobashvili, Journal Features Editor
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Echo Valley Ranch will be honored May 11 with the Friend of Agriculture award at the State of the Community Dinner.

In Auburn since 1980, the feed store has become much more than a place to buy hay and chicken coops. Owner Greg Kimler and crew support 4-H Clubs, serve on the advisory committees for Placer and Del Oro high school Future Farmers of America, volunteer on Farm and Barn Tour committees and even give young people interested in agriculture the chance to learn by doing at the store.

“Right now we have the president of Placer’s FFA and the president of Del Oro’s FFA working for us,” said Office Manager Connie Watson.

Helping youth is a main focus for the store, which supports programs through fundraisers and helping students with their Gold Country Fair projects. Echo Valley has also become a hub for youth ag information in the Auburn community.

“A lot of these families move in here and want to get their kids involved in FFA and 4-H, and don’t know the steps,” Kimler explained. “We’re kind of the information center for that. We get them started, if it’s raising ducks or raising hogs or raising steers. Many of us know the answers about how to get started, so we’re a great resource not just for your feed supplies, but for information on those projects, and getting the animals and connecting them with the local growers.”

Echo Valley’s work with youth is what prompted Roger Ingram, University of California Cooperative Extension Placer Nevada county director and farm adviser, to nominate the business for the award. In addition to supporting FFA and 4-H, he said, Echo Valley has often rallied to help community members in need.

“There have been times when maybe somebody had had an accident, or a spouse has died or something like that, they’ve actually gone out and fed animals for people,” said Ingram, also an ex officio member of PlacerGROWN, which decides the Friend of Agriculture awardee. “When you walk in the door, you’re not just a customer to them. You’re somebody who they truly want to help and will go the extra mile for.”

Agriculture runs in the family – Greg Kimler’s father, Gene, started the Nevada County Ag Boosters in the early 1970s. Kimler, who now lives in Foresthill, is vice president of the Western States Trail Foundation and an avid horseman. He even brings his horse to the store so he can go for a ride when the work is done.

Pets at work are just fine, Watson said. In the ag community, it’s understood that sometimes owners can’t be apart from their animals for long.

“Sometimes people have bottle babies they have to feed,” she said. “We have bottle goats and bottle sheep … if somebody needs to bring a pet, that’s what we do.”

Watson has been with Echo Valley for nearly 20 years, and said she loves coming to work each day.

“I absolutely, 100 percent, love what I do, and I love my job and I love these guys,” she said.

Kimler said the business has seen tremendous growth since he took over ownership in 1998, thanks to his staff and Watson.

“She’s my partner in this business, really,” he said. “We’ve developed it together. She’s a very good asset.”

When asked why, as a business, Echo Valley Ranch volunteers so much time and effort to kids and the agriculture community, Kimler said that he feels it’s right to show his appreciation for the people who have helped his business thrive.

“The folks who are in the ag community have given to me, so it’s right to give back,” he said. “The community as a whole, not just ag, has been very good to us for 32 years in Auburn.”

Reach Krissi Khokhobashvili at krissik@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow her on Twitter, @AuburnJournalAE.

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State of the Community Dinner
When:
Friday, May 11 — cocktail hour at 6 p.m., dinner at 7 p.m.
Where: The Ridge Golf Course and Event Center, Auburn
Tickets: $50 per person
Tickets and sponsorship information: (530) 885-5616