Dale Pomeroy Gives Back to the Community

Posted on Dec 22, 2015

Dale PomeroyDale Pomeroy likes to tell stories. One he tells is when he was working harvest with his father and, at 6 o'clock, the older man parked the truck. Dale asked why. "We're in harvest" one of the busiest times of the year. His father said he had to go to a meeting. "You give back to the community," he father said. "You leave the community better than you found it."

Pomeroy, now a retired farmer, has taken that advice to heart. Pomeroy is a current commissioner at the Port of Warden, on the board of directors of the Warden Development League, the Columbia Basin Development League, and is in his fifth year on the board of the Grant County Economic Development Council where he is a past president. He's served in numerous alfalfa organizations and is a past supervisor of the Warden Conservation District.

"I believe in them," he says about all the organizations he has helped. Because he was a small farmer, he says he couldn't leave the farm to his kids. So he wants to grow the local economy so the "kids can come back to Moses Lake and make a living here."

Pomeroy, now 68, moved from Nebraska to the Othello/Warden area in 1959 when he was in sixth grade. He attended Othello schools and also studied agriculture at Yakima Valley College and Big Bend Community College. In 1970 he started farming on his own. He always grew specialty crops, he explains, such as seed corn and wheat seed. He started with sugar beets, supplying the sugar plant in Moses Lake. Because his father did cattle, he wouldn't, and became a row crop farmer. "Couldn't do what Dad did, that's against the rules," he says with his usual humor. But, he points out, the sugar beet tops were great cattle feed. When the plant closed in 1978 that "almost put me out of business," he says. Another bad year was 1981 when Mt. St. Helens erupted, dumping fine ash all over the county. "There was a lot of money lost on that deal," he explains.

The independence of farming was what Pomeroy enjoyed. Then he adds, smiling, "the poverty." "It's a miracle of God," he says of his crops growing. And, he adds, he learned a lot. Being part of organizations, he went to Washington D.C. and learned how things work there, for example.

The challenges he faced were "prices" and having no control over the weather. He says it's better than in Nebraska, though. His father would have a beautiful crop, and then a hailstorm, or a drought, or a flood would wipe it out.

Pomeroy got involved in the Grant County EDC because he got mad. The EDC put out an advertisement about the economy in the county and Pomeroy noticed there was no agriculture mentioned. So he went to a meeting and brought that up. Then EDC Executive Director Terry Brewer asked him to join the board as a representative of agriculture. Later, he was asked to represent the agriculture industry on the executive committee.

"They now support agriculture," Pomeroy says of the EDC. He says the EDC "put together" the canola oil plant in Warden which took many years. "They really help in small communities. That was my emphasis: reach out to rural." Pomeroy wants everyone to know that it's not just a "Moses Lake EDC" but for the whole county. And, "they create jobs my kids would come home to." Then he smiles and adds: "And now grandkids and great-grandkids."

Pomeroy's father told him "If you can't pay a living wage, get out of business." So Pomeroy always did, he says. He tells the story of a man who got hurt on his farm and workers' compensation wasn't adequate to support his family, so Dale helped him out for two years until he got a good job outside of agriculture.

One of the biggest changes Pomeroy has seen is the growth of Grant County. He talks about driving on empty stretches of road that are now surrounded by farms or orchards. When he was younger, he says that people would say if the Air Force base ever closed, Moses Lake would go away. And then it closed. And people would say if the sugar plant closes, Moses Lake would, too. And the sugar plant went away. "Moses Lake survived," Pomeroy says.

"The little farmer is going away," Pomeroy adds. "I went away." He says that family farms now are huge by his standards, up to 4,000 acres. Seven-hundred acres, like he had at his peak, isn't enough to buy a new tractor, he explains. And "water issues are going to be huge," he says. "We need to keep water to these [processing] plants."

Pomeroy would like to see more fiber optic distribution around the county so maybe Warden or Moses Lake could have data centers like Quincy. He'd like to see more non-agricultural industry come to the county, especially Warden.

"We have maybe fifteen days that are miserable," Pomeroy says of the weather in Grant County. So he enjoys living here because of the climate. He likes the recreation opportunities, with the county having the most shoreline of any county in the state. He and his wife, Lanita, just bought a boat and enjoy walleye fishing. He likes that Moses Lake and Warden are centrally located between Spokane, Tri-Cities, Wenatchee, and Seattle. Having the time now to do it, he enjoys travel. When he and Lanita went to Denver to visit his daughter, they drove instead of flying, sight-seeing along the way. He hopes next year to visit Washington D.C., this time as a tourist, and spend maybe a month there.