February 2005 -- It is time to say ?thank you? to an Ohio sheep producer who has spent his life representing the American sheep industry as a leader, educator and spokesperson. The 2005 American Sheep Industry Association (ASI)/National Lamb Feeders Association convention marked the end of Guy Flora?s term as president of ASI.
Elected into the position in January 2003, Flora has served the industry with dedication and enthusiasm.
Appreciative of Flora?s efforts over the years, Peter Orwick, executive director of ASI says, ?Guy has contributed greatly to the sheep industry in this country, not only as a steadfast and thoughtful leader of the industry?s trade association, but as editor of a leading sheep publication, and his pointblank editorials that hit at the heart of issues.?
Flora and his wife, Pat, make their home farm on 134 acres of land near Cardington, Ohio. There, they have raised their four children while tending sheep and both teaching school. Flora also coached track and cross-country during that time.
Their oldest son, Guy, started showing market lambs in 4-H when he was nine years old. Soon thereafter, the other three children, Maureen, Charles and Maggie, also became involved.
?It was like a snowball going downhill,? Flora says jokingly.
From there the Floras dabbled in cattle, horses, pigs, rabbits and everything in between, but Flora says that sheep were their livestock of choice.
?Sheep fit our lifestyle, they fit our schedule when we were teaching school and we made money with them,? he says.
In addition, Flora believes that a Midwestern farm doesn?t operate correctly without some sort of livestock on the land.
Currently, the Flora?s own a commercial operation in which they raise Suffolk, Dorset and crossbreeds of the two. This winter, they will lamb 65 head of sheep and plan to increase their flock in the future. In addition to raising sheep, Flora also grows corn and soybeans.
Knowing that he had a difficult time finding creditable information about sheep when he began his operation, Flora and his wife ventured into a magazine publishing company with a friend and business partner. In the early 1980s, the Floras and Ken and Kathy Kark became owners of The Sheep and Farm Life magazine. Later, the opportunity arose for the partnership to purchase another magazine from Massachusetts called The Shepherd.
In an attempt to make the publication more informational to its readers, Flora started attending National Wool Grower meetings.
Flora says that he started to pinpoint some of the problems in the industry and was asked to serve on a couple committees. Eventually, he was elected director of the Ohio sheep association.
While serving that term, Flora was selected as the Region One representative for the ASI Executive Board and then elected as an officer. He has served as secretary/treasurer, vice president and president for the past six years.
This past January marked the 20-year anniversary of publishing The Shepherd for the Floras and Karks. Both Guy and Pat continue their role as editors of the magazine.
Flora encourages all producers to become involved with their state associations.
?ASI gets its input from the state association,? he says. ?So if you aren?t a member of your state association, you have no input whatsoever into the national industry.?
It is also crucial for sheep producers to be informed of issues affecting their operations. Flora stresses that there are several publications, including ASI Weekly and Sheep Industry News that can help producers stay informed so that they aren?t blind-sided.
Flora lists some of those issues that have recently had a major impact on the sheep industry. First, he mentions that predators have a significant impact on livestock for producers in both the West and East. Second, he says that there needs to be an end to the volatility of the lamb market. Third, although he says that he isn?t too concerned with the amount of imported lamb because of the high market demand in the United States, he is concerned about mandatory country-of-origin labeling (COOL).
?We need mandatory COOL legislation so those consumers know where the product originated. We need to keep our distinction of American Lamb as opposed to generic lamb,? he says.
Fourth, Flora mentions that ?tradition? in the sheep industry also is an issue that needs to be addressed. He remembers once hearing a speech titled, ?Tradition, the Chief Predator of the Sheep Industry.?
?We can?t keep doing the same old thing, the same old way with the same old animal,? Flora says. ?We need to do more research in genetics. We need to look at our end product and make sure we are producing the type of product that people want.?
And fifth is animal identification. Flora says it is imperative to make sure that animal identification does not have a huge financial impact on the industry.
Both Guy and Pat say that they have enjoyed their time being involved with ASI and the people they have met along the way.
?I have enjoyed working with the ASI staff and being able to see ASI rebuild itself during the last few years.?
He is also proud of how ASI has benefited the industry over the past years.
?ASI has put in more than $168 million into the sheep industry over the past four or five years. We are the sheep industry?s voice in Washington D.C., and they do listen to us. And, we have gotten involved with the feeders, packers, importers and foreign suppliers in an attempt to take the volatility out of the market,? Flora says.
Now that Flora?s adventures as ASI President are over, he and Pat plan on expanding their sheep flock and are looking forward to working on their farm. They say that their first plan of action will be refurbishing two buildings that they plan to convert to lamb feeding.
?Guy and Pat have given unselfishly to the industry for many years, locally and nationally,? comments Orwick. ?The wealth of contacts he has in the industry provides a broad sense of industry attitude and direction which he brought to his leadership at ASI.?
Flora says of his time spent with ASI, ?The travels I have had and the people I have met have been a tremendously enjoyable experience.?