After 40 years working as a third generation farm equipment dealer in Okanogan, first as Hamilton Farm Equipment Center (HFEC) and then since 2012 as Washington Tractor, Greg Hamilton is finding himself busier than ever in retirement. He credits both his experience in AgForestry and having been raised in a family run business with instilling a desire to pay-it-forward and give back to the community. Greg shared that “In general, small business people truly are the ‘salt of the earth.’ They go the extra mile for their employees and invest time, energy and often resources back into their communities.”
Greg and Mary, his wife of over 40 years, have set an exemplary model of this by starting the Hamilton Youth Foundation in 1991. The foundation has been funded by .25% of gross annual sales from the Okanogan Dealership, first as HFEC and then as Washington Tractor, Okanogan. The board is comprised of individuals from Manson to Oroville, Washington who are all involved in local agriculture. Since the foundations start they have donated over $400,000 back to school children in the form of scholarships and ‘no interest’ loans for FFA/4-H projects.
Greg recalled two lasting impressions from the AgForestry Program that really stuck with him. The first was on the D.C. trip when he and some members of his cohort headed into a meeting with the Environmental Protection Agency. He shared how he went in expecting to meet an adversary and to experience an unwelcoming environment, however, when he left he realized, “People with different perspectives are still good people. They aren’t trying to make life more difficult. They just have different priorities, and we’re all better off if we try to understand where each other is coming from.”
The second profound moment was during the international trip that AgForestry Class 8 took to India. Greg shared while in Calcutta, surrounded by immense poverty, they had the chance to meet with Mother Teresa, who reminded everyone, “You have a problem of poverty in your communities back home, what are you doing about it?” Greg said this has really stuck with him, “It’s easy to look beyond, not seeing the local hardships, easier to see what is bad about other places, but often, your help is needed right around the corner.”
Overall, Greg thinks of AgForestry as an MBA program, sharing that participants will meet new individuals, who will make you ‘up your game’ and help you to develop the self-confidence to be a strong leader. Greg says, “We’re all busy, but you don’t have the time not to be involved with AgForestry.”