LIMA – At the awards luncheon held during the Ohio Pork Congress on Feb. 8, 2023, several volunteers were recognized for outstanding contributions to the Ohio pork industry. The Ohio Pork Industry Excellence, Service, Pork Promoter of the Year, Manager of the Year, and Friend of Pork Industry awards were presented.
Kicking off the program, Ohio Pork Council President Nick Seger, Shelby County, said, “Looking ahead to 2023, our industry faces challenges, however, the Ohio pork industry is filled with great leaders from top to bottom. The big wins we’ve had don’t mean the fight to protect our industry is over but I am confident we can use this momentum rise to occasion to overcome and adapt.”
Wendell Waters, West Lafayette, Ohio, received the Ohio Pork Industry Excellence Award. Given annually, this award recognizes a pork farmer, or farm family, for their willingness to go above-and-beyond to donate time, money, and talents on behalf of the industry at the state and national level.
Upon receiving the award during the luncheon, Waters said, “It’s a pleasure to be here today, definitely worth the trip. I see many fellows I have worked with for several years, going to Washington, and making other good memories. Thank you very much.”
Waters began his career as a vocational agriculture teacher and later formed WenMar Farms Inc. with his wife, Marcia. Today, WenMar Farms Inc. consists of 4,000 acres of corn and soybeans, and a 3,600-sow farrow-to-finish hog operation. Waters played a key role in the development of the PGI Group in 1994. Waters has been a true champion of Ohio agriculture and the Ohio pork industry for more than 50 years.
The Ohio Pork Industry Service Award goes to an individual who exemplifies outstanding service, exceeding volunteer expectations, and willing to support the pork industry in various ways. This year, the Ohio Pork Council recognized Rich Deaton, Darke County, Ohio, with the 2022 Ohio Pork Industry Service Award.
“Just as the way we communicate today has changed, so has the way we are raising pigs. One thing hasn’t changed and that’s you, pork producers. You get up regardless of polar vortexes or heat indexes above 105 degrees and take care of your pigs. You do this not because you want to but because you care about pigs and want to feed the world. It’s my honor to do this and represent you,” Deaton remarked.
A sales and technical service representative for PIC, Deaton serves on the Ohio Pork Council and board of directors of the National Pork Board. His tenure on the state board, including a term as president, has also led him to participation in countless committees and serving as a Pork Act Delegate. Deaton devotes countless hours to promotion, advancement, and research development.
The Pork Promoter of the Year Award is given to an individual or company that excels in promoting the pork industry. This year, the Ohio Pork Council honored Ken Garee, Delaware, Ohio, as the Pork Promoter of the Year.
“This is a wonderful award to receive,” Garee commented. “If you talk to my wife, she will tell you I hold her up 20 minutes in the grocery store every time we go, always talking to people at the meat counter. Last year, I got to work at the Ohio State Fair, cooking pork for the Ohio Pork Council. It was a wonderful experience with long hours. The best part was hanging out, talking with people walking by, telling our story to the community about how we raise our pork, letting them know we’re proud of how we do it.”
Garee has been an active member of the Ohio Pork Council’s Board of Directors and currently serves as the president-elect for the organization. He has been an integral part of the success of events such as the annual PAC Auction at the Ohio Pork Congress and the pork stand at the Ohio State Fair. Along with his efforts within the Ohio Pork Council, Garee works at Kalmbach Feeds as a swine logistics coordinator.
The success of the pork stand at the 2022 Ohio State Fair can be attributed, in part, to Garee’s service as the grill master. His dedication and willingness to learn the art of grilling, smoking, and preparing the pork served at the Taste of Ohio Café reflects his willingness to go above and beyond for the Council. Garee also wore a pig costume, becoming Mr. Pig, during the Ohio State Fair. The time Garee spent as Mr. Pig helped bring attention to the Ohio pork industry at the state fair and increase the presence of OPC on social media.
Todd Post, Fort Recovery, Ohio, was named the Ohio Pork Council Swine Manager of the Year. This award recognizes a leader of a swine operation who is highly knowledgeable of the pork industry and has demonstrated the ability to make key decisions on behalf of their operation.
“This award is a reflection of Cooper Family Farms – my fellow Cooper troopers, contract growers, and the entire swine service team,” Post stated. He went on to thank his family, specifically crediting his parents for their support. “They have instilled compassion, work ethic, and values in me I have displayed. Without their guidance I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
Post is a graduate of The Ohio State University, where he studied Animal Science. His passion for pork and working with pigs led him to a career with Cooper Farms as the lead service person, where he has been employed since 2012. Throughout Post’s 10 years with Cooper Farms, he has been instrumental in the growth of their hog division while working hand in hand with the contract families who grow with Cooper Farms.
Post’s commitment to the agricultural industry goes well beyond his normal job duties, and he can often be found working towards making improvements in sustainability, as well as helping those around him adapt to changes in the pork industry.
The work of the Ohio Pork Council is made possible by supporters who devote time to enhance the organization’s efforts on behalf of all producers. To acknowledge their efforts and express gratitude, OPC established the Friend of Ohio Pork Industry award. This award recognizes an individual, organization, or company making a substantial impact on the organization through monetary support, voluntary activities, or general support to the pork industry. The Ohio Pork Council honored Former Congressman Bob Gibbs with the Friend of the Pork Industry award this year.
Gibbs recalled being on both sides of the issue for pork production, lobbying when he was a producer and welcoming constituents while serving in the Ohio House and Senate then Congress. “I would tell people I might not have a master’s degree but I have a PhD in economics because I had a hog farm,” he shared. “It’s really important to make those lobbying trips. Farmers are a small number of the population so it’s hard to get Members of Congress to pay attention but they like seeing their constituents. You are the soul of the earth. If it weren’t for farmers producing food fiber, I consider it right up there with national security. We can’t be dependent on other countries to produce our food supply.”
Gibbs began promoting agriculture while attending The Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute, where he graduated in 1974. His passion for agriculture continued developing through his experiences in leadership within organizations such as the Ohio Farm Bureau. Gibbs moved in the legislative arena where he served three terms in the Ohio House of Representatives and was then elected to the Ohio Senate in 2008. The time he spent in both the House and the Senate allowed him to use his knowledge and passion for agriculture to advocate for Ohio pig farmers. In a time when agriculture needed someone to stand up for them on a national level, Gibbs did just that, serving in Congress from 2011 to 2023.