ECHO — With the sound of shoes crunching through rocks and sagebrush, a line of runners disappeared on Saturday, Sept. 25, into the rolling hills of the Sno Road Vineyards in Echo at the Echo Sage Trail Run to raise money for women in agriculture and to beat a challenging, rugged course.
The fun run, 5K and 10K were open to anyone from runners to walkers and was organized by the Eastern Oregon Women for Agriculture — an organization dedicated to uplifting and supporting the role of women in agriculture. Proceeds from the event went to their annual scholarship for women pursuing agriculture degrees.
Two courses split out from the bottom of the hills: a 10K winding its way south along a ridge before meeting up with the 5k course, which looped north past the winery and through rows of grape vines.
“It was brutal,” said Adelaide Zumwalt, who took first place in the 5K with a time of 32:54. Her father, Tom Baker, took second place with a time of 33:20.
Despite the difficulty of the course, many of the runners, such as Dan Stein or Gena Cook, who placed third and fourth, felt good about their race, even with slower times than a normal road 5K.
“It’s amazing what people can do,” Stein said. The Echo Sage Trail Run marked his second 5K.
The winners of the 5k and 10k received medals, while second and third place received certificates. Everyone who participated received a green T-shirt emblazoned with the Oregon Women for Agriculture slogan: “Almost everything starts on a farm or ranch.”
This was the second time the Eastern Oregon Women for Agriculture hosted the race. Previously, the run was organized by Greg Spike and included a 5k, 10k, 25k and 50k for those brave enough to venture into the realm of ultra marathons.
When the race started to fizzle out, Bethany Woodall, Gina Tyhuis and Gina Gray asked to take over to help support women in agriculture. According to Tyhuis, women own 39% of all farms and ranches in Oregon.
Nicola Feik, whose family farm started in 1847 and whose grandmother was a founding member of the western chapter of Oregon Women for Agriculture, has been involved since she was 4 years old and said they worked to acknowledge the role women have played in agriculture throughout the state’s history.
“We’re carrying on their legacies,” she said.
Additionally, she said the organization works hard to get people more familiar with their food, where it comes from and to make sure agriculture is legislators recognize the importance of agriculture.
To do this, the organization partnered with Oregon Agriculture in the Classroom to help bring farming and ranching into more clear focus. EOWA also spreads “farm facts” and are collaborating to put up informational signs along farms to explain the crops local farms are growing.
The money raised from the run went straight into the local organization’s annual scholarship fund, which will provide scholarships to three women pursuing agriculture degrees in the Baker, Malheur, Morrow, Umatilla, Union or Wallowa counties.
Each applicant has to fill out an application and write a 500- to 1,000-word essay focused on the biggest problems facing agriculture and how they plan to be a part of the solution. Decided by a scholarship committee that ranks the essays on points, the top applicant receives $1,000, second place receives $750 while third receives $500.
Woodall, Tyhuis and Gray hope to continue expanding the race and would like to get cross-country teams more involved.
“It’s a challenging course,” Tyhuis said, “they would be huffing and puffing.”
Plus, the more participants who run, the better they can continue to fund agriculture education and spread the knowledge of how food is made.
“There is a lot of people that just don’t understand what we do, and or how or why we do it,” Woodall said. “There are too many people in this world that don’t know where their food comes from. We are trying to help correct that.”