If you’re in central Oregon Hill Country this winter and happen upon someone on a snowmobile scouting ranch property, it could very well be Marlo Dill. The rural appraiser is doing what she loves best—working close with the land and agriculture.
Marlo knew early on in life that agriculture was her passion. Today, she feels fortunate to be enjoying a successful career as a rural appraiser of agricultural properties.
“My career path is my way of being involved in farming,” says Dill, co-owner of AGCO-Dill & Associates in Prineville, Oregon. “I’ve always had an appreciation for the farmers and ranchers who work hard every day to provide the food and fiber that we enjoy. It’s also a way of life for our family and a path to fulfilling a dream that I had as a child to work in agriculture.”
Marlo’s roots in agriculture were formed growing up on an irrigated row crop farm in the high-production ag areas of Salinas Valley, California, where the family raised a variety of row crops, including lettuce, broccoli, sugar beets and beans. Marlo has fond memories of working side-by-side as a kid with her father, Don Silva.
“As a farm kid, I drove the water truck in order to keep the dust down in the lettuce fields. I moved irrigation pipes, drove the tractors and helped with just about everything that needed to get done around the farm,” she says. “In particular, I remember being really interested in seeing where food comes from. I think that is just something that has stuck with me.”
A defining point for Marlo came in 1995 when she was an ag business major at California State University at Fresno. At the encouragement of her appraisal professor and mentor, Tony Correia, she joined the Association of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers’ (ASFMRA) as a student member. Marlo earned her Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Business degree and went to work at Tony’s company, Correia-Xavier.
“My interest in working with ag properties really took off from that point,” Marlo recalls.
When she and her husband, John, later moved to central Oregon, she earned her ARA accreditation. She also met Greg Moore, MAI, and the two worked at the same company for a few years until they would open their own firm in 2004, Appraisal Group of Central Oregon.
Twelve years later, they’re continuing the successful business with Greg specializing in commercial and industrial appraisals and Marlo handling the rural properties. Husband John, an agent for Ag Insurance Co., also has a strong background in agriculture and finance/business and regularly helps Marlo.
Today, Marlo’s rural appraisal projects involve large-acreage farms and ranches throughout Oregon and northern California. Her work includes appraisals ranging from real estate sales, family estates and litigation cases to conservation easements and federal land exchanges. Documenting soil types, water rights, irrigation equipment and building improvements are just a few factor that go into an appraisal.
“My favorite part of the job is getting out on the ranches and farms and meeting the land owners,” Marlo says. “The knowledge that a farmer or rancher has about his property over 20 or 30 years—or even over the generations—is extremely valuable, and also really interesting. So while the physical features of the property are important, the information that we get from past ownership helps paint the entire picture of the property.”
When asked about some of the more memorable aspects of her job, Marlo chuckles. “Well, it’s a lot of fun when you show up on a property when the owner is not expecting a woman appraiser. We don’t have many female appraisers in agriculture, but that is something that is changing with younger professionals and it is great to see.”
Giving back to agriculture
She adds, “We’re working very hard in ASFMRA to get our members to replace themselves, to get the students more involved and interested in our industry. One of my goals is to host some trainees so they can see what our business is all about.”
Marlo encourages fellow rural appraisers to get involved with their local ASFMRA chapter; education and training are key to getting a good start. She says the association has provided her with the learning tools and networking that have guided her to a career that she enjoys today. She served as president of the Oregon chapter in 2013 and is currently District VII vice president of the ASFMRA executive council.
“It’s my way of giving back to the industry,” she says. “My career would look a lot different if I wasn’t involved in ASFMRA. There is no way that I would be involved to this level.”
When Marlo and her husband aren’t running their businesses, they’re running the household. Family time with their children —Cassidy, Natalie and Clayton—is precious, and they get out to enjoy their own farm property as much as they can. On their farm the Dill’s grow hay and raise cattle, the kids participate in 4-H raising sheep and pigs for market. The Dill family also enjoys sports, traveling, fishing and hunting.
“We enjoy the simple things,” Marlo says. “We’ve even had great times as a family just driving around the area looking at comparable ranch sales, with a picnic and lots of snacks of course. We stop along the way to see the wild horses, take a picture on a loading chute or feed the fish at a hatchery.”
For Marlo and John, passing on their passion for agriculture and the rural lifestyle is a priority.
“Our society is getting so removed from knowing where our food comes from,” Marlo says. “Agriculture has been such a big part of our lives, and we hope we can pass that on to our kids.”