Pendleton Ranch, Shoshone, Idaho
With degrees in engineering and nuclear science from Idaho State University, Carl Pendleton had no intention of returning to the family farm near Shoshone, Idaho. Instead, his career path pointed toward writing siting reports for nuclear power plants. Then the Three-Mile Island and Trojan Nuclear disasters struck in the late ‘70s, bringing construction of new plants to a standstill.
So after earning an MBA from Idaho State University, Carl redirected his passion and energy to the family farm, which was established in about 1906. Carl’s father bought it in 1942, ranching first with a flock of 3,500 sheep, then with cattle. Today, 575 acres are pivot irrigated, while the rest is sagebrush. Carl keeps a herd of 100 cattle, raises hay, grain and corn, which he sells to local dairies, and grows and sells oat seed.
When he came back to the farm, Carl reconnected with the community by volunteering to serve on the local soil and water conservation board, which he still chairs. He also reconnected to his local cooperative by running for, and being elected to, the board of Idaho Grange Cooperative in 1986. He helped put together the merger that led to the creation of Valley Co-op and chaired the new board; then chaired Valley Wide Cooperative’s board when it was formed.
“After the first year, once the culture of the new board and the management teams were in place, it was time for a younger person to lead the co-op,” Carl says. “After Adam Clark was elected, we talked. I was the same age when I took on my first board chair role. I said, ‘You’ll do fine, here’s my phone number.’”
Carl’s dedication to cooperatives runs strong and deep. “I believe in the co-op model, that money from the business comes back to members in the form of patronage,” he says. “Co-ops have always been the watchdog of our free-market system, making sure members have the products and services they need, often when no one else will provide them. And when the co-op can capture a profit, it’s used to reinvest in the co-op and returned to stockholders in the form of stock and patronage.”
He’s particularly proud of Valley Wide’s record and commitment to retiring stock. “We’re one of the few co-ops in the country within 10 years of retiring stock. That’s important because you want to ensure your stockholders are those currently doing business with the co-op.” Carl recognizes the challenges facing cooperatives. “Most started out as a small group formed to meet a local need. But in today’s world, you need to be big to stay in business. Our competitors are multinational companies. What I’ve found is that growth has also opened opportunities for the co-op, ones that wouldn’t have happened without our size and scale.”
While farming wasn’t his original career path, it’s been a good one. Carl and his wife, Terri, still live and work on the farm. Terri also runs an assisted-living business with four homes, including one dementia care unit. Their daughter, Julie, helps with the business, while daughter, Karen, is a teacher in Lewiston, and daughter, Krista, with a degree in manufacturing engineering, is a certified weld inspector.
When asked to speak to youth leadership classes, Carl says he always stresses to his audience that someone has to be mayor, someone has to serve on a board. “That someone could be you, if you keep an open mind and be active in the community. Amazing things can be done locally by dedicated citizens.”
While Carl currently serves as vice chair of the Valley Wide board, he’s decided to retire in December ’21, opening the opportunity for “someone” to take on a leadership role.