Convention: Award Winners Accept Well-Deserved Honors

Award Winners Accept Well-Deserved Honors

Sitting in the crowd at the annual ASI Awards Lunch, John Baucus wondered where his wife, Nina, might be. After all, he knew she was somewhere inside the New Orleans Marriott.

Turns out, he was saving a seat for her at a table in the back of the room, while she was saving a seat for him at a table in the front. The two were reunited on stage when ASI officers presented the Montana couple with the 2019 Distinguished Producer Award.

“What an honor this is,” John said. “Sometimes Nina is going one direction and I’m going another, but we always find our way back to each other.”

As the fifth generation has taken over the family ranch near Helena, Mont., in recent years, John and Nina have had more time to venture off site.

“Our son told us to take some extra time off this winter, but he said we needed to be sure and show back up at lambing time,” John added.

There’s no doubt they’ll be there, just as they have for the sheep industry through the years. John and Nina both have served on various committees at the local, state and national level in support of the industry.

The Industry Innovation Award was presented for just the second time in 2019 and went to John Helle and the entire Helle family for their vision in starting the Duckworth clothing line. The longtime sheep producers decided the new company was the best way to put their fine wool to use.

“We haven’t done this on our own,” John Helle admitted. “We’ve had support from the Montana Wool Growers, Montana State University and ASI. All of that was helpful in our ability to innovate. We’re a result of all of that coming together.”

ASI Past President Mike Corn created the honor and recognized Mountain States Rosen with the inaugural award in 2018. As a wool company owner, he was happy to recognize another wool company with the award in 2019.

North Dakota’s Burdell Johnson was surprised with the McClure Silver Ram Award for years of service to the industry. In addition to the insurance expertise that he brings to LRP-Lamb and other facets of the industry, Burdell is a past ASI president, routinely donates his time to conduct fundraising auctions – including the RAMS PAC and ASI Women auctions at the Annual Convention – and was the one who first saw the need to create the Young Entrepreneur group. He’s continued to mentor that group since it was formed.

“I’m humbled to be a part of those being honored today,” Burdell said. “I really don’t think I deserve an award because all I’ve done all these years is come here and have fun. Thank you one and all, and let’s have some more fun.”

Montana broadcaster Russell Nemetz of Nemetz Communications took home the Shepherd’s Voice Award for media.

“Many of you know that ASI has a special place in my heart,” Nemetz said. “It was one of the first conventions I came to when I started my farm broadcasting career 25 years ago. I look forward to being one of your biggest advocates for years to come.”

The final ASI award wasn’t presented until a few hours later when retired staffer Paul Rodgers joined the full board meeting via Skype from West Virginia, and was surprised with the Camptender Award.

Paul dedicated his career to fighting for the American sheep industry for some 35 years before retiring in 2018. He led the charge on sheep research, mandatory price reporting, LRP-Lamb and countless other issues. He also led efforts to produce the Sheep Production Handbook, which is now in its eighth edition.

He was nominated for the award by a handful of people from all facets of the industry, which goes to show just how valuable a role he played for ASI through the years.

Other awards handed out during the lunch included the National Sheep Industry Improvement Center and American Lamb Board honoring retiring board members.

The National Lamb Feeders Association handed out their annual honor to former Idaho Wool Growers Association executive Stan Boyd, who also served six years on the NLFA board.

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