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Local sheep rancher and agriculture advocate is the 35th inductee into Oregon Farm Bureau Hall of Fame.

DESIREE BERGSTROM/MADRAS PIONEER - Mickey Killingsworth, a longtime Madras resident, sheep rancher and agriculture advocate, was recently inducted into the Oregon Farm Bureau's Hall of Fame for decades of service and dedication to the bureau.
The Oregon Farm Bureau recently inducted three members into its hall of fame, and longtime Madras resident Mickey Killingsworth was on the list.

Sitting at her kitchen table, next to an old wood cooking stove that she said would have been used in a bunkhouse back in the day, Killingsworth told how she first got started with the Farm Bureau, somewhere around 1982 – with a batch or two of cookies.

"My husband and I were brand new to the area and (another farmer) called up and said, 'Will you bring a dozen cookies, or two dozen to Farm Fair?'" Killingsworth said. "In the old days, women in the farm community baked the cookies, and the women did the lunches for the guys and they had homemade desserts, cookies and brownies that they put out."

"Now it's totally different," she said. "Nothing like it used to be."

Killingsworth agreed to bring the cookies and said when she took them down to Farm Fair, she ended up helping out.

A draw to policy

That fall, she said, after she had helped out and spent a while getting to know people in the area, Killingsworth and her husband were invited to the annual Jefferson County Farm Bureau meeting – so they went.

"We were pretty impressed. They had one of the Farm Bureau lobbyists their speaking," she said. Killingsworth said that in the early days, however, she was far more active in the American Sheep Producers Association and Oregon Sheep Growers, serving as a national committee chair and as third vice president in Oregon.

"I believe in the structure of Farm Bureau and I believe in the policy because that is why I left Oregon Sheep Growers." — Mickey Killingsworth

"But they didn't have policy," she said. "So you never knew where you were at on anything."

That's one of the biggest reasons Killingsworth became more active in the Farm Bureau.

"Lo and behold, they are going to import these lambs. New Zealand lambs, live lambs, into Oregon," she said. "And it's going to destroy, basically, Oregon's industry."

"Oregon Sheep Growers wasn't fighting them like they should have been," she said. "That's when I got really involved with Oregon Farm Bureau."

"They got one load of lambs in, and the group of people I worked with, we got the feds to put in all these rules," she said. "Basically, we made it so expensive they could not bring them in."

"That was pretty much how I got really into the Farm Bureau, was they stepped up to the plate and I realized how they had policy and how you could get policy passed," Killingsworth said.

All or nothing

When Killingsworth gets involved, she really gets involved.

Aside from working to prevent importing of live lambs into Oregon, Killingsworth served as the county president for the bureau for 10 years, fought against a destination resort at Smith Rock that would have impacted local agricultural producers, and, more recently, has helped the bureau protect water access for local producers.

This year marked the 87th annual Oregon Farm Bureau Convention, where on Dec. 12, Killingsworth received her award and was inducted into the Farm Bureau's Hall of fame.

To qualify for the award, candidates must be nominated by their county Farm Bureau and have at least 35 years of active involvement in the organization. Killingsworth is the 35th member to be inducted into the OFB Hall of Fame. 

"We can think of few more deserving than Mickey Killingsworth for induction into the prestigious OFB Hall of Fame. She has tirelessly tackled many challenges on behalf of Oregon farmers and ranchers with unwavering determination, laser-like focus, and the ability to inspire other Farm Bureau members to get involved," said Sharon Waterman, outgoing OFB president and longtime friend of Killingsworth. "We thank Mickey for her decades of leadership, hard work, effectiveness, and passion for agriculture."

Killingsworth said that it was good to have her friend present the award and to receive the honor. "The other two guys who got the award are good friends of mine," she said.

When asked to say something upon receiving her award, Killingsworth said, "I am honored to be recognized for my years of service to Farm Bureau, when in reality it is Farm Bureau that I thank and appreciate for being here for Oregon agriculture."

"I believe in the structure of Farm Bureau and I believe in the policy because that is why I left Oregon Sheep Growers," she said while sitting in her kitchen.

"We can think of few more deserving than Mickey Killingsworth for induction into the prestigious OFB Hall of Fame. She has tirelessly tackled many challenges on behalf of Oregon farmers and ranchers with unwavering determination, laser-like focus, and the ability to inspire other Farm Bureau members to get involved." — Sharon Waterman

Beyond her county involvement, at the state level, Killingsworth has served on many OFB issue advisory committees, including Livestock, Aggregate, Land Use, Labor, Water, Governmental Affairs, Membership, Health and Safety, and the Ag Education Committee, for which she has served as chair the last 14 years. 

She has been on the OFB board of directors, including as chair and vice chair of the OFB Women's Advisory Council, and as a voting delegate at the annual Women's Leadership Meeting during the American Farm Bureau Convention; she continues to volunteer with the women's program at both the county and state levels.

In 1998, Killingsworth received the prestigious OFB Top Hand Award, and in 2013, she won the Outstanding Farm Bureau Woman of the Year Award. She has also received the award for Outstanding County Farm Bureau Secretary twice.  

Between 1991 and 1995, Killingsworth was appointed to the USDA Dubois Sheep Research Advisory Committee, serving as chair in 1993. Between 1992 and 1996, she served as chair of the American Sheep Industry Environmental Council. And between 1993 and 1997, she was appointed to the Natural Resources Conservation Service oversight committee while the grazing lands initiative was being developed. 

Killingsworth has also been a volunteer leader in 4-H, FFA, and Oregon Sheep Growers, among other organizations.

DESIREE BERGSTROM/MADRAS PIONEER - Mickey Killingsworth has been raising sheep ever since her grandfather allowed her to start a flock when she was young. She sold her original flock when she went away to college, to use the money toward tuition.

Counting sheep

If you ask her "Why sheep?" Killingsworth will take you back to her childhood, growing up in Northeastern Oregon in Halfway, on a cattle ranch.

"My husband, who I met in college, he grew up with cattle," she said, but in college her husband was able to participate in an exchange program to New Zealand, where he lived and worked on a sheep ranch.

"The joke was that before he could marry me, he had to learn to like sheep." — Mickey Killingsworth

"There was the big sheep operations, and they would come in and graze on my grandpa's and his brothers' hay fields."

She said then they would go over to Richland, which, unlike Halfway, doesn't have snow, and lamb there.

She said she would go over with her mom when they were lambing to help out, and Killingsworth said, "I liked baby lambs, but I was never allowed to have lambs because we were cattle ranchers."

But, she said, "Grandpa allowed me to have lambs."

"I had cattle, too, that we showed at fair and everything, but I had lambs."

"That helped pay for college," she said, adding that the year she sold them was the lowest the lamb market had been in 30 years.

"My husband, who I met in college, he grew up with cattle," she said, but in college her husband was able to participate in an exchange program to New Zealand, where he lived and worked on a sheep ranch.

"The joke was that before he could marry me, he had to learn to like sheep," she said.

"We used to run up to 500 head of sheep — he had an irrigation company — and I still have a few head of sheep," Killingsworth said. "I like sheep."

She said she can look out at her sheep and tell you which ones are going to eat where at the feeder.

"Most people don't understand that livestock have their whole own internal society," she said.

"I like cattle. I really do like cattle, but the practicality of it is cattle are very expensive," Killingsworth said. So the joke is with sheep, you need to have baling wire to hold everything together and you use it up or wear it out – that's sheep people.

"You don't have to have the expensive working corrals, the squeeze chutes, all that to run sheep," she said. "You just have to have some woven wire, pretty good fencing and a place to run them."


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