The Michigan Pork Producers Association honored five outstanding professionals for their skill, leadership and service to the Michigan pork industry during the group's annual banquet, held in conjunction with the Professional Pork Producers Symposium at the Lansing Center, Feb. 19. Nearly 140 people were on hand for the event that also marked the 40th anniversary of the association.
"We have some outstanding people in this business - and we always have," says Dave Cheney, MPPA president. "It's an honor to recognize some of them for their dedication and hard work."
Pat Hunter, Vicksburg, received the Master Pork Producer Award for his demonstrated proficiency and his active leadership in the state's pork industry. Hunter has been a member of the MPPA board for several years and has represented Michigan as a member of the Pork Act Delegate Body at the National Pork Industry Forum. He farms in partnership with his son Ryan Hunter, who accepted the award on his father's behalf.
"My dad has been around a long time and I really have a lot of respect for him," Ryan Hunter says. "I'm glad that others do, too. He's really shown me the way in this business, and I'm happy to be following in his footsteps."
Natalie Rector, Marshall, took home the association's coveted Distinguished Service Award (DSA). The DSA, which honors those who have made a significant impact on the pork industry at both the state and national level, is MPPA's highest honor.
Rector began her career as a field crops agent for Michigan State University (MSU) Extension in the 1980s. Later, she called on her childhood experiences on her family's hog farm to expand her role to include research focused on managing manure nutrients. Today, as MSU Extension's only statewide manure nutrient management educator, she helps bridge the gap between livestock producers and crop growers to ensure they are making the best use of manure as a fertilizer.
"Our goal is to make sure farmers have the information they need to apply manure in an economical, agronomically beneficial and environmentally friendly manner," she says. "I couldn't have gotten here without the patience of all the livestock and crop farmers who helped us conduct on-farm research along the way."
Jerry and Dee Picket, Plainwell, received the MPPA Grower Award. Though the Pickets could not attend the award presentation due to illness, Cheney says, "their commitment and knowledge make them a clear choice for this award."
Mick Larimer, Caseville, was recognized with the Swine Herd Manager Award for his superior commitment and leadership. Larimer, a manager for Huron Pork, first caught the eye of Huron Pork owner Bob Bloomer when he was building a deck for the family pool.
"I know talent when I see it," Bloomer says. "We hired him shortly after that. Today he trains all our new employees."
MPPA is a Holt-based commodity organization that administers producer-funded pork promotion, consumer information and research programs, and monitors public-policy activities affecting Michigan's 2,000 pork producers.