January 28, 2011
For More Information Contact:
Peter Orwick (303) 771-3500, ext. 33, or porwick@sheepusa.org
Judy Malone (303) 771-3500, ext. 35, or judym@sheepusa.org
(Electronic Photos Available Upon Request)

DENVER, Colo. - Outstanding U.S. sheep industry members were honored for their contributions to the industry at an awards luncheon held Jan. 21, 2011, at the American Sheep Industry Association (ASI)/National Lamb Feeders Association Convention in Reno, Nev.

Harold Harper of Eaton, Colo., received a standing ovation as he accepted the McClure Silver Ram Award for his lifetime of achievement and dedication to supporting the supply chain of the American sheep industry. As owner of Harper Livestock Co., a lamb-feeding operation, Harper has had a significant impact on the national lamb market by being a key competitor for feeder lambs for decades and developing techniques to improve the quality of lamb carcasses. He has served the industry in numerous ways, which includes serving as a member of the ASI Executive Board and a national collegiate livestock judge at the National Western Stock Show and at many state-sheep association competitions. In addition to his leadership in the sheep business and service to the industry's organizations, he supports causes such as the ASI Guard Dog program, in which Harper Livestock hit the $50,000 contribution level this year.

Harper thanked his family and fellow sheep industry members for the years of support, saying, "I have enjoyed being a part of the sheep industry all my life. I love this industry and the people in it."

The Camptender Award was presented to Don Knowles, Ph.D., DVM, from Pullman, Wash., for his service as a key resource to the sheep industry concerning infectious diseases of economic importance. Knowles is the research leader at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Animal Disease Research Unit located at Washington State University and the University of Idaho. Knowles' scientific leadership has led to diagnostic and management solutions for a number of infectious diseases including scrapie and ovine progressive pneumonia. He is also working to bring the scientific community together to address issues raised by hypotheses concerning the role of domestic sheep in bighorn sheep pneumonia. Among his many awards, Knowles received the Secretary of Agriculture's Award for Professional Excellence for his work in the first practical live-animal test for scrapie and a 2010 USDA Unsung Hero Award. Recently, he completed a two-year appointment as the scientific quality review officer in which he worked with the Agricultural Research Service's (ARS) Office of Scientific Quality Review to oversee peer review of ARS research.

Expressing great honor for being recognized by both his professional and personal peers, Knowles said while accepting his award, "It is a joy to work with those who so deeply care about the people they feed and clothe in this country. I am blessed to have turned colleagues into friends."

True leaders and innovators of sheep management practices that have ultimately built a true sustainable operation, Max and Beverly Benne of Sturgis, Mich., were the recipients of the Environmental Stewardship Award. Partners in a southwest Michigan farm, the Bennes have 170 head of sheep in addition to hogs, corn, soybeans, snap beans, wheat and hay, and have put into place a wide range of environmental practices that enhance the soil, water, air and wildlife habitat that surrounds the farm operation. The Benne Farm has completed a Comprehensive Nutrient Management Program and is verified in the Michigan Agricultural Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP) in the livestock, farmstead and cropping phases. Beyond MAEAP, Benne Farms is actively involved in Farm Service Agency and National Resources Conservation Services programs that have helped the operation utilize conservation tillage methods, plant buffer strips and windbreaks to minimize soil erosion, develop wildlife refuge, refine irrigation systems for water use efficiency and implement many other conservation practices. In addition, the farm has been accepted into the federal Conservation Security Program (CSP) which assists farmers in implementing proactive conservation practices on working farmland. The CSP assistance has helped Benne Farms with rotational grazing and improvements to pasture and timberland.

As stated in his nomination letter, Wayne Wood, president of the Michigan Farm Bureau, said that Max and wife Beverly are leaders, teachers, protectors, environmentalists and farmers. "They lead by example, teach by experience and protect the future of agriculture through sound stewardship practices. For them, it's not a matter of do we protect the environment or the farm, it is a matter of how do we protect both of them for future generations."

Receiving the Shepherd's Voice for Media, Greg and Deb Deakin of Cuba, Ill., serve as publishers of The Banner Sheep Magazine, the nation's largest all-breeds sheep magazine. The Banner is a source of information for industry-wide sheep news, offers health nutrition and management tips and reports the major sheep show and sale results. In addition, the Deakins maintain a diversified farm operation that includes row crops, stock cattle and purebred sheep.

In addition to thanking their nominator, the Empire Sheep Producers, Greg said, "It is great to see all entities of the sheep industry working together. I believe we are a richer industry when we learn and share things with each other."

ASI is a national trade organization supported by 45 state sheep associations, benefiting the interests of more than 82,000 sheep producers.