The Mt. Baker Rotary Club of Lynden won the Outstanding Cooperation Award for its district from the National Association of Agricultural Educators. Erik Vanerstrom, Mt. Baker representative, is pictured second from left. (Courtesy photo)

LAS VEGAS — The Mt. Baker Rotary Club based in Lynden received an Outstanding Cooperation award at the annual convention of the National Association of Agricultural Educators in Las Vegas on Dec. 2. The award recognizes organizations, agribusiness companies, administrators and others who have given notable support to agricultural education programs.

“We didn’t even know we were nominated. It came kind of as a surprise to us,” said Loren Vander Yacht, current Rotary club president.

It turned out that Rhonda Juergens, FFA program director at Nooksack Valley High School, had taken the initiative to make the nomination.

Since its founding, the local Rotary club has supported agriculture in Whatcom County, especially through youth programs including 4-H and FFA. It was instrumental in building vo-ag/FFA barn facilities at both Lynden and Meridian high schools where students can house their livestock projects. It also recently donated to support building a new barn facility for Mount Baker High School.

Mt. Baker Rotary has provided substantial funds to high school agriculture programs to purchase new equipment or to bid on items at local FFA auctions, and it provides $40,000 in scholarships to qualifying Whatcom County graduating high school seniors.

The schools with FFA programs served are Lynden, Lynden Christian, Meridian, Mount Baker and Nooksack Valley, Vander Yacht said.

Upon discovering that many students in FFA chapters around Whatcom County cannot afford FFA jackets or show animals, the club prepared a video to showcase the needs of local FFA programs. This video had substantial student and teacher input and highlighted student projects as well as the skills students learn in agriculture classes.

The video, while using specific examples from Whatcom County, is applicable to many FFA chapters and communities around the nation. It is available for promotional purposes for students, teachers and community members interested in being involved in agricultural education, an NAAE press release stated.

The somewhat hidden needs within FFA chapters became the cause that 2015-16 Rotary president Erik Vanerstrom boosted with his “paddle raise” at the auction to start his term, and it raised $35,000 to be divided up, Vander Yacht noted.

While praised in the community with many awards, Mt. Baker Rotary remains driven by a sense of duty to serve others.

The NAAE says that the club embodies its “service above self” motto by such dedication and passion on behalf of local agriculture programs, showing that agriculture is the root of the community and staying devoted to its future success.

Five regional Outstanding Cooperation awards were given out by NAAE. Forrest T. Jones & Company sponsors the plaques for the award. NAAE is the professional association for agricultural educators. The NAAE office is in Lexington, Kentucky.

Mt. Baker Rotary does go beyond youth, schools and agriculture with its help, however. It is international. Vander Yacht said a 50th well has been dug in Nigeria and there is a long history of supporting an orthopedic hospital in Nepal.

— Calvin Bratt