JORDAN VALLEY — Generations of history cultivated in Jordan Valley. That’s the kind of rich heritage the Skinner family has built since they settled in the area in the 1860s. It’s also the reason Bob Skinner is this year’s honoree as the Ontario Area Chamber of Commerce’s Agriculturist of the Year.

Skinner started life at Holy Rosary in Ontario in May 1950. During his 62-and-a-half years, he has come to be regarded as something of a legend in Eastern Oregon farming and ranching. Part of the admiration stems from the fact that when he finds something good, he sticks with it. His commitment to his wife of 40 years, Karen, attests to that. That legacy of loyalty also passed down to his kids as well, all of whom have remained in the agriculture business in Jordan Valley. He lives and ranches on Skinner Road just west of town.

He certainly had the opportunity to venture elsewhere but found what he wanted right in Jordan Valley. He went to Caldwell and the College of Idaho for a business administration degree in 1972, two years after marrying Karen McKay of Vale, then came home. Today he is president of Skinner Ranches, but his sons also play a prominent role — oldest boy R. Silas Skinner, “Si,” is secretary/treasurer of Skinner Ranches. Youngest son Michael is vice president. Oldest daughter Robbin ranches west of Jordan Valley with husband, Mike Eiguren. Youngest daughter Kimberly and husband Morgan Johnsrud live in Jordan Valley, where Morgan is the area marketing manager for Genex Co-op.

In addition to ranching, Bob Skinner is chairman of the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association’s Public Lands Committee, is a charter board member of the Western Resource Legal Center with the Lewis & Clark School of Law, and is a founding board member of Northwest Rangeland Trust, which works to “keep working landscapes working,” Skinner said.

Over the years, he has served on the Jordan Valley School Board, the Malheur Education Services District Budget Board, the Jordan Valley Ambulance Board, Malheur County Board of Review, Malheur County Road Advisory Board, the Vale District BLM Advisory Council, Vale District Grazing Advisory Board, Malheur County Grazing Advisory Board, the Bureau of Reclamation’s Owyhee Reservoir Task Force, the Malheur County Cattlemen’s Association, and still serves as the Antelope Allotment Grazing Association chairman.

He was a livestock grader and judge for many years and earned lifetime achievement awards from the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association as ‘Top Hand’ and for a lifetime of devotion to issues near and dear to the heart of any rancher.

He wears many different hats during the course of the year but also comes back to the one that really defines him — rancher.

“It’s a real honor to be selected for this award,” Skinner said. “A lot of blood, sweat and tears go into the livestock industry. Special-interest groups represent a tremendous threat and challenge to our way of life. They have evolved into an industry in itself and are absolutely devoted to altering or possibly even terminating our ability to run cattle on both private and public lands.

“It’s very gratifying to know that people really do appreciate and acknowledge the time that is devoted to defense of all natural resource industries by ranchers and volunteers.”

Coming up

The Ontario Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual banquet begins at 6 p.m., Friday, Jan. 10 at Four Rivers Cultural Center, 676 S.W. 5th Ave., Ontario. Being honored are Agriculturalist of the Year, Educator of the Year, Man of the Year, Woman of the Year and Business of the Year.

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