Programs & People Summer 2004 Issue

Weaving Excellence
the Nick Purdy legacy

CURVING THROUGH THE COUNTRYSIDE OUTSIDE PICABO, IDAHO, SILVER CREEK IS A DESTINATION FOR MANY WHO LONG FOR THE BIG CATCH.

Nick PurdyThe angler’s hope with every cast is to find a trout—rainbow or brown—at the end of the line . . . before the end of the day.

“I work with my father every day on the Picabo Ranch and the Double R Ranch that has one of the finest fly fishing streams in the world running through it,” says Nick Purdy '62.

The Purdy family sells trespass permits for fishing on this silver oasis. “Last fall, I presented a permit and a handmade fishing pole to Vice President Dick Cheney. I hope to see him on Silver Creek when he gets time.”

Photo © Pam Benham. All rights reserved. Nick Purdy.

Nick and his father, Bud, an honorary UI alum, use their time wisely on the two ranches. The land they tend on a daily basis has strong family ties dating back 121 years when Nick’s great-grandfather established it in 1883. In all, 5,000 acres of deeded land, 12,000 acres of leased land, and 25,000 acres of BLM rangeland includes 3,000 acres of diverse crops (hay, grain, potatoes, pasture) and about 3,000 head of livestock. “It is probably one of the few land holdings that was taken up by desert entry, and still remains in the original family. My grandchildren are the sixth generation to be on the land.”

In 1996, the Purdy family donated development rights of 3,400 acres to the Idaho Nature Conservancy to prevent the land from ever being subdivided. “This was a $4 million gift with no financial gain to us,” Nick notes. “If our family is remembered for anything it will be for this gift. The property is so special it would not be right for it to be developed.”

Purdy wins top award for service
“I am a farm boy from Picabo, Idaho, who designs irrigation systems, feed lots, subdivisions, a convenience store, and other things—mostly on the backs of envelopes,” Purdy began one recent talk at the UI.

Known for his hard work, quiet leadership, strong dedication, and for being a powerful force in Idaho agriculture, Purdy’s contributions were recognized by leaders of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) who on March 11, 2004, gave Leonard Nicholas “Nick” Purdy Jr. the prestigious Jim Lyle Award for “long term dedication and service to the UI.”

For years he served on the CALS Consulting Council, and was its president in 1989-90. A founding member of the CALS Alumni and Friends Association Board of Directors, he served as board vice president in 2001. He continues on the advisory board of the CALS Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering and has made numerous trips to campus to speak about ethics in ag business, to mentor students, and to share his experiences as a businessperson and engineer.

The Nick & Sharon Purdy Biological and Agricultural Engineering Scholarship Endowment established in 2000 supports a $1,000 student scholarship annually. Purdy has also been honored with these awards: the Idaho Grassman of the Year, Southern Idaho Livestock Hall of Fame, Gem State Award, U.S. Department of Commerce John Campanius Holm Award, National Environmental Stewardship Award, and the Department of Interior Stewardship Award.

Picabo—tiny laboratory, big entrepreneurship
Nick PurdyWhen visitors consider the tenacity of Picabo’s residents, the tiny burg really blossoms, surpassing many other specks on the map.

For Nick Purdy, it’s a laboratory of entrepreneurship. He has started nearly 20 business ventures from this “blink-andyou’ll- miss-it” spot. Perhaps that’s what makes his successes even more amazing.

Very few people could tackle as many tasks as Purdy has during his days since UI, and there are even fewer folks who could be as successful and altogether humble.

“With the extremely successful people who visit the Sun Valley and Silver Creek area where I live, I have trouble thinking of myself as successful,” Purdy says.

Photo © Pam Benham. All rights reserved. Purdy savors a moment by his corral.

Although he easily sheds the label of a practicing professional engineer, Purdy has designed irrigation systems, feedlot systems, buildings, corrals, machinery, subdivisions, and roads. He oversees the family owned Rancher’s Supply, Precision Pumping Systems, Feedlot Environmental Systems, Silver Creek Convenience Store, and Silver Creek Irrigation and Irrigation Pivot Supply Co. that sold pivots manufactured by Valmont Industries.

CALS agricultural engineering background helped
Purdy was the first to help farmers with sprinkler irrigation systems in the Wood River Valley. With Silver Creek Irrigation, he sold $75,000 worth of equipment the first year and $1 million the next.

“Without my training in agricultural engineering at UI,” he says. “I would not have attempted it.”

In the early to mid-80s, Valmont made a deal with IBM to train its own dealers to sell computers to farmers. He became one of the first IBM dealers in the U.S. “The first computers had 9K and sold for $4,200,” he recalls.

In the mid-1990s, Purdy managed a subdivision development in Sun Valley valued at more than $20 million.

All of these accomplishments are amidst the full-time jobs of farming and ranching. It is hard to stay ‘in the game’ of the cowboy cultivator, Purdy admits. “The particular environment of the Wood River Valley makes it even more of a challenge with shorter growing seasons.”

It’s all about hard work
Nick PurdyIt all boils down to hard work, diligence, and self-reliance at the very core.

His recipe for academic success is much the same. “It was hard work,” says Purdy, who took close to 19 credits a year at UI while holding down two full-time jobs. “I did my best to maintain a grade point.”

Affinity for the land is as much a part of Purdy as his diligent work ethic. Without sagebrush and Silver Creek, the Purdy family members would lose their identity, their livelihood. For this UI alumnus, the land is what spurs him on.

At Purdy’s hardware store, locals can buy seed, fertilizer, twine, wood pellets, and lumber—”just about everything you need in rural Idaho,” Nick says.

Photo © Pam Benham. All rights reserved. Riding on Rocky to tend sick cattle is part of the day's work for Nick Purdy..

The very fabric of rural Idaho—its progressions and successes—is tightly embroidered with the Purdy name. An embroidery with a wondrous array of colors, textures, and tightly-sewn seams.

--by Leslie Einhaus

© 2004 University of Idaho, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.

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