Advocating With Passion

Dedicated leader credits FFA for inspiring her multiple roles in the local community

Story and photos by Craig Reed

Bill and Elin Miller are part owners of a 60-acre wine grape vineyard in the Umpqua community of Lower Garden Valley.

Elin Miller is an advocate, working and promoting on behalf of agriculture, education, forestry and those in need of affordable housing.

Retired from corporate management positions she held during her professional career, Elin, 62, remains busy speaking up in support of those areas for which she has a passion.

To give her mind a break, Elin enjoys working in the 38-acre hazelnut orchard she and her husband, Bill, own, as well as the 60-acre wine grape vineyard the couple co-own with partners.

The orchard and vineyard are in the Umpqua community of Lower Garden Valley. At her nearby home, Elin enjoys digging in the dirt and growing vegetables and flowers in her large garden.

“I’m excited that I’ve had the opportunities to serve in different leadership positions,” Elin says.

She credits her time in FFA activities during high school for the leadership roles she has taken through the years.

Elin chairs three organizations: Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture, an international group with a $50 million annual budget to help farmers in challenging areas of the world; the Oregon FFA Foundation, which raises money to support FFA programs throughout the state; and the Oregon Wine Council, which represents owners of about 50% of Oregon grapes grown and sold.

2 years ago, Elin was appointed to the Oregon Board of Agriculture by Governor Kate Brown. She is a board member of Fall Creek Farm and Nursery, one of the largest blueberry breeders and growers of blueberry plant starts in the world; treasurer of the Forest Bridges board; and a member of the advisory board for the Southern Oregon Wine Institute at Umpqua Community College. She is a member of Oregonians for Food and Shelter, Douglas County Farm Bureau, Umpqua Valley Winegrowers Association and Communities for Healthy Forests.

Retired corporate manager Elin Miller continues to advocate for the agriculture industry. She will be transitioning out of official roles in 2023.

Previously, Elin served on NeighborWorks Umpqua, which focuses on affordable housing; the Umpqua Community College Board of Education; and Umpqua Bank’s divisional board.

She served on the UCC board to honor her uncle, Laverne Murphy, who was one of the founding fathers of the college.

“I was a city girl who grew up in Mesa, Arizona, started taking vocational agricultural classes and fell in love with agriculture,” Elin says.

She became an FFA member and was inspired by the leadership, speaking and motivational activities the program provided. She was elected to a national FFA office and served as the Western Region vice president early in her college career at the University of Arizona.

“That piqued my interest in serving the industry that I supported,” Elin says. “I wouldn’t have been successful in life had it not been for FFA.”

She says learning parliamentary procedure from her FFA activities has been key in her leadership roles.

While attending the University of Arizona, Elin was president of the College of Agriculture and student body vice president.

In her professional life, Elin was California’s chief deputy director for the Department of Pesticide Regulation and director of the state’s Department of Conservation, dealing with recycling, ag land conservation, and mining and oil regulations.

She was a presidential appointee to an Environmental Protection Agency regional administrator post, overseeing Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Alaska.

Elin maintains a large garden at her home and works in a hazelnut orchard she owns with her husband, Bill.

After going to work for Dow Chemical, Elin ran public affairs globally for the company and then was in charge of the company’s ag business in Asia. During that time, she served on the American Farmland Trust Board and was on the Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo President’s Cabinet as the representative for agriculture.

“We need to educate people about what agriculture needs in order to produce food for the world,” Elin says. “We need to spend time with people who have different opinions than we do. We need to provide them with some context on why we are approaching things the way we are in agriculture. It needs to come from us.”

While Elin and Bill spend time together on their properties, Bill is supportive of the time his wife spends on commissions, boards and committees representing her different passions.

“I am so glad and proud that she is doing what she is doing for the ag industry,” he says. “It’s something I wouldn’t have the capacity to do, so I’m so proud she can do it and will do it.”

Elin admits she has had a lot on her plate so she is in the succession process, working to transition the leadership to other qualified people. By March 2023, she will have left all three of her chair positions, but will remain on boards as past chair.

“I hope when I transition out of those roles, I’ll have more time to spend in the orchard and vineyard,” she says. “But I want to continue to make a difference, maybe with just fewer things on my plate. I’ll continue to look for places where I can serve.

“It’s been fun. There’s been a lot of wonderful people I’ve met and worked with.”