Siehl Prize Laureates

Siehl Prize laureates represent true excellence in agriculture. The accomplishments highlighted below present the laureates at the time the Prize was awarded.

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2016 Laureates

Don Buhl — Production Agriculture

The Tyler, Minn., pork producer has been a leader in state and national pork organizations over the past three decades, helping to develop programs for people new to the industry and to expand U.S. pork exports. He began farming in 1976 and has grown operations significantly since then. He was a founding member of the "Pipestone System," a production model aimed at allowing independent family farms to remain competitive through shared ownership and increased efficiencies.

Mark Davis — Agribusiness

The former chairman and CEO of Davisco Foods International started as a milk truck driver for his family's creamery and eventually led the company's expansion into a multinational agribusiness. Davisco is known for its innovations in the dairy industry, including new products and markets as well as a state-of-the-art dairy educational partnership with the U of M's College of Veterinary Medicine at its farms near New Sweden, Minn.

Marla Spivak — Knowledge

Her tireless advocacy for bees and what they do for the world's food supply has made her a well-known speaker, but at its core her work is about understanding how bees behave, breeding new lines of disease resistant bees and finding the causes behind Colony Collapse Disorder and other threats to bees. She's been a U of M faculty member since 1992 and thanks to her leadership a new bee and pollinator research center will open on the U's St. Paul campus later this year.

2015 Laureates

Mike Yost — Production Agriculture

Mike Yost is a fourth-generation farmer. After graduating from the University of Minnesota in 1973 with a bachelor’s degree in agriculture, he went to work for Pillsbury as a grain merchant. Six years later, the lure of the land brought him back to the farm in Swift County that has been in the Yost Family since 1876. The Yost family farming operation has since grown to about 5,000 acres of corn, soybeans and alfalfa, as well as a partnership with Riverview LLP, a dairy operation with multiple sites near the Yost farm.

Gerhardt Fick — Agribusiness

Gary Fick graduated from the University of Minnesota with a bachelor’s degree in agronomy in 1964, followed by a master’s in plant genetics in 1966. After Fick earned his Ph.D. in genetics at the University of California-Davis, Fick returned to his midwest roots, where he began and finished a journey of more than 40 years in agribusiness. Not only has Fick made significant contributions to agriculture and agribusiness world-wide, he is also an ardent supporter of the University of Minnesota, and in 2002 established the Fick Graduate Student Award, which provides supplemental fellowship support for graduate students studying plant breeding.

Stanley Diesch — Knowledge

Stanley Diesch’s problem-solving ability in agriculture is due in part to growing up on a farm in Dodge County, Minn. Salutatorian of his class, Diesch graduated from Blooming Prairie High School in 1943, and went on, over the next 20 years, to receive three degrees from the University of Minnesota—a bachelor’s in agriculture, a DVM in Veterinary Medicine and a master’s degree in public health. Diesch’s work has been seen in more than 100 publications, including the New England Journal of Medicine. Today, he is known as the ultimate team player, collaborator and world expert on disease and environments.

2014 Laureates

Richard Magnusson — Production Agriculture

Magnusson and his family have been instrumental in the success of the Minnesota grass-seed industry, both as a premier producer of grass and by donating 40 acres of land to establish the Magnusson Research Farm near Roseau. The northern Minnesota turf grass and legume seed production and processing industry currently contributes more than $100 million annually to the region’s economy. In 2000, Magnusson and other interested producers organized the RL Growers Cooperative to produce and market grass-seed products across the United States and Europe. Today the 60-member co-op has exclusively licensed six perennial ryegrass varieties released by the University of Minnesota and produces 10,000 to 15,000 acres of ryegrass annually.

Tom Rosen — Agribusiness

Since 1986, when he took over the business started by his father and uncle with $200 million in sales and 200 employees, Rosen has quietly, prudently and successfully taken Rosen’s Diversified Inc. (RDI) to sales of $3.5 billion and 5,000 employees while creating a work environment that values collaboration, innovation and support of the communities where it is located. Tom Rosen’s success as a business leader is only surpassed by his success in advancing understanding of the importance of agriculture to the state and the nation. He is a longstanding member of the Minnesota Agri-Growth Council, the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and the Minnesota Business Partnership. In 2006 he was named to the Minnesota Business Hall of Fame.

Mark Seely — Knowledge

As a faculty member in the University of Minnesota’s Department of Soil, Water, and Climate since 1978, Seeley has participated in thousands of public speaking engagements, meetings, media interviews and person-to-person interactions where he has shared his considerable knowledge of the critical relationship between climate and agricultural production. Today, Seeley is one of the most widely recognized and respected University of Minnesota faculty members. He helped public television produce several documentaries on Minnesota’s most significant historical weather events and he has authored and co-authored two popular books, Minnesota Weather Almanac and Voyageur Skies: Weather and the Wilderness in Minnesota’s National Park.

2013 Laureates

Ted Huisinga and Ray Norling  — Production Agriculture

Ted Huisinga and Ray Norling have been at the forefront of the Minnesota turkey industry’s growth since the 1960s. Today they lead 12 affiliated companies that employ more than 1,500 people across the country and do business on six continents. Huisinga is a state and national leader on turkey health issues. His forty-plus-year involvement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Poultry Improvement Plan and the Minnesota Board of Animal Health has led to the implementation of model disease prevention, surveillance and response programs. Norling has provided leadership for the businesses, most recently handling organizational matters for various subsidiaries. Both are past presidents of the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association. In 2007 the National Turkey Federation recognized them with the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Phillip Minerich — Agribusiness

As vice president of research and development at Hormel Foods, Phil Minerich has led innovations in packaging, food technology and food safety during his 36-year career with this Minnesota Fortune 500 company. Two of Minerich's most important achievements are related to food safety and hunger relief. His work with high-pressure processing for packaged protein products dramatically increased the safety of sliced meat without using preservatives and resulted in the successful line of Hormel Foods "Natural Choice" brand. Also, his team developed a shelf-stable poultry spread called "Spammy," which is fortified with essential vitamins and can be easily mixed directly into any country's cultural diet.

Yue Jin — Knowledge

Yue Jin is one of five working scientists in the world who other scientists seek out globally to study wheat rust samples collected from at-risk countries. His U.S. Department of Agriculture Cereal Disease Lab on the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus is one of only three laboratories worldwide to determine the race of stem rust samples received from these international surveillance efforts. Over the course of his career Jin has made remarkable contributions to plant pathology, genetics and crop improvement that are helping to enhance food security throughout the world. Even as he continues to make major breakthroughs in understanding how cereal rust can so rapidly mutate and overcome genetic resistance in wheat, he remains a tireless mentor sharing his expertise with agricultural scientists around the world.

2012 Laureates

Bruce Hamnes  — Production Agriculture

Wheat farmer Bruce Hamnes is a true farmer-citizen of the world. As a producer, he is at home on the tractor in Stephen, Minn., and wherever he is talking to other producer leaders or politicians—be it Washington, D.C., Thailand or Spain.Concurrently with farming, Hamnes has demonstrated a lifelong commitment to public service and leadership. In the early 1980s, after serving on many local and county boards, Hamnes approached University of Minnesota Extension with an idea for a leadership program. It became the highly successful Red River Valley Emerging Leadership program. In addition, Hamnes has served in numerous capacities for state and national wheat organizations, the University of Minnesota, and the Northwest Minnesota Foundation, to name just a few.

Gene Hugoson — Agribusiness

For over 15 years and under three governors Gene Hugoson led the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) during a time of tremendous change and transition modernizing the agency for the 21st century and tirelessly advocating on behalf of the state’s agriculture and food sector. Hugoson understood that helping meet the food needs of a growing global population was important to the long-term profitability of Minnesota agriculture and made international market development a key priority during his tenure. With 96 percent of the world’s population living outside the United States it was and is crucial for Minnesota to develop relationships with key international customers. Hugoson participated in successful missions to China, Mexico, Cuba, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Brazil, Denmark, New Zealand and Vietnam.

Philip Pardey — Knowledge

Philip Pardey’s novel, multidisciplinary approach to some of agriculture’s most challenging questions bridges gaps in the fundamental knowledge that is needed for making informed decisions on strategic investments in agriculture research and development. His work affects national and international policies and investments in agriculture in a way few others have achieved. Pardey’s extraordinary successes are a testament to his collaborative nature and perseverance which—as one of his colleagues describes it—“requires not only outstanding intelligence but also a lot of work, rock-solid reliability as a colleague, and the persistence to see long-term projects through beyond completion to application. Pardey does this better than anyone else I know, and he has done it again and again.”

2011 Laureates

James Thompson — Production Agriculture

Fifth-generation farmer James Anthony (Tony) Thompson takes his role as an agricultural producer very seriously, adopting innovations and technologies that enhance his Windom-based farm’s productivity while reducing negative or unintended impacts on the natural ecosystems. Thompson is eager and adept at sharing the knowledge he has gained by using Willow Lake Farm to foster experiential learning. Over the past 30 years, thousands of students have visited the operation including entire college classes from the University of Minnesota and Iowa State University. Individual students come and stay to pursue independent projects and over the past 10 years, Thompson has hosted five international students from the University of Minnesota’s MAST program. He also hosts an annual summit where for two days farmers, conservationists, researchers, consumers and educators explore ideas and approaches at the nexus of agriculture and ecology.

Paul DeBriyn — Agribusiness

For more than 24 years as the president and CEO of AgStar Financial Services, Paul DeBriyn has directed the company to serve rural America by providing financing, counsel and other services to those who feed, service and fuel the world. DeBriyn is committed to strengthening connections between agriculture, the rural economy and the health of rural communities. The AgStar Fund for Rural America, created in 2001, has given more than $3 million to grants and scholarships supporting education, essential community facilities, county fairs, rural technology and environmental needs. In addition to his work at AgStar, DeBriyn volunteers in leadership positions at the Minnesota Agri-Growth Council and the University of Minnesota. In 2010, he concluded ten years of service as a Farmer Mac Board member and also served on various subcommittees on that board. He also has served on the Minnesota Agriculture and Rural Leadership Council.

Wallace Nelson — Knowledge

For more than 40 years Wally Nelson has influenced agriculture in southwest Minnesota and at the University of Minnesota by guiding the Southwest Research and Outreach Center while profoundly affecting the farmers, agribusinesses and people in the community and beyond. In addition to his leadership at Lamberton, Nelson was an accomplished ambassador who actively recruited students to attend the University of Minnesota by introducing students and their parents to faculty and staff, sometimes taking them to the St. Paul campus and even hiring them for summer employment. He also was involved in many community projects. His career honors include being named a Fellow of the American Society of Agronomy as well as professor emeritus, and distinguished alumni award from the University.

2010 Laureates

Sander Ludeman — Production Agriculture

Sander Ludeman’s contribution to production agriculture as a producer in the soybean industry is unparalleled and immeasurable. His work spans nearly 30 years and has resulted in a growing, prosperous soybean industry not only for Minnesota, but for the nation as a whole. In addition to his soybean work, Ludeman is a nationally recognized steward of the land and a leader in conservation practices. Because of their efforts at SanMarBo Farms, Ludeman and his family have received numerous awards for the implementation of waterways, contours, shelterbelts, living snow fences, and wildlife plantings.

Donald Helgeson — Agribusiness

With the majority of chicken companies headquartered in the southern and eastern U.S., Don Helgeson had the vision to take Gold’n Plump Poultry from a hatchery into the broiler chicken business—a concept that was almost unheard of in this part of the country with Minnesota’s harsh winters and hot, humid summers—making it the largest, most fully integrated chicken producer in the upper Midwest today. With almost 1,500 employees, 300 growers and local grain suppliers throughout rural Minnesota and Wisconsin who provide over 8 million bushels of corn and 75,000 tons of soybean meal annually, Helgeson’s leadership has clearly made a difference in the lives of many people.

Ronald Phillips — Knowledge

One of the most distinguished faculty members at the University of Minnesota, Ron Phillips is internationally recognized for his groundbreaking discoveries in genetics and genomics which have laid a foundation for improvements in crop breeding and for sparking important advances in plant sciences. In 2007 Phillips received the Wolf Prize in Agriculture, a prestigious international award based in Israel to promote science and art for the benefit of mankind. Over the course of his career he has advised 55 M.S. and Ph.D. students and 23 post-doctoral scientists. In addition, he has served on numerous editorial boards, edited six books and published over 150 refereed journal articles, 75 chapters, and 355 abstracts.

2009 Laureates

Bob Christensen — Production Agriculture

Bob Christensen began Christensen Farms in 1974 in Sleepy Eye, Minnesota, when a neighbor who wanted to encourage his entrepreneurial spirit in livestock gifted him and his brother Lynn two bred gilts. Today, Christensen Farms—the third largest pork producer in the nation—is still privately owned by the Christensen family and employs 1200 people across six states. It has contract production relationships with 450 independent family farmers and markets four million hogs each year, or enough pork to feed 14.5 million people. Christensen’s success can be attributed to an immense drive, commitment to excellence and sheer determination to be the best.

A. Forrest Troyer — Agribusiness

A. Forrest Troyer has devoted his life to developing improved corn hybrids for the farmer coupled with developing innovative and novel plant breeding methodologies for producing new corn hybrids. His impact on corn production is felt throughout Minnesota, the United States, and the world. To date Troyer has personally developed or co-developed 40 commercial corn hybrids that have sold over 60 million bags of seed—more than enough to plant all the corn in North America for two years. He is one of the world’s foremost authorities on genetic diversity and the genetic background of hybrid corn in the United States.

William Hueg — Academic

Throughout his career Bill Hueg has played a major role in bringing together producers, academics, agribusiness and elected officials for the common goal of growing the agricultural industry and erasing hunger through food and fiber production in the United States and the world. In 1974 Hueg was appointed Professor and Vice President for Agriculture and Dean of the University’s Institute of Agriculture, Forestry, and Home Economics. Over the next ten years, his remarkable leadership, enthusiasm, and determination brought in even more funding, as well as the best researchers, scholars, teachers, and students to the UMN. His innate sense of timing and his ability to bring together people from all aspects of food and agriculture to focus on solutions, positioned the University to play a leading role in addressing agricultural challenges at all levels that continues even to this day.

2004 Laureates

Noreen Jo Thomas — Production Agriculture

“Think globally, act locally” is a fitting adage for 2004 production agriculture laureate Noreen Thomas. A resident of Moorhead, Minnesota, Thomas is a volunteer educator and producer whose work in the community is based on the belief that knowledge shared with others can collectively aid in resolving world hunger. Thomas’ commitment to agricultural education is perhaps most evident in the countless volunteer hours she spends working with children and youth on projects throughout Missouri, Minnesota, and Montana. Whether it be teaching children the Junior Master Gardener program in Spanish, or working with youth and adults to plan, plant, tend and harvest organic vegetables for local buyers, or writing agricultural curriculum.

David E. Johnson — Agribusiness

For nearly forty years 2004 agribusiness laureate Dave Johnson has been working with and for farmers and ranchers devoting his professional life to ensure a strong future for U.S. agribusiness. As President and CEO of Cenex/Land O’Lakes Agronomy Company until 1998, Johnson’s leadership had a profound impact on creating crop efficiency to provide safe, high quality, low cost agricultural products for consumers throughout the world. In his retirement Johnson continues to lead initiatives to help agriculture and agribusiness succeed, such as volunteering as an advisor in Tanzania, Africa, to assist farmers in establishing successful milk marketing cooperatives.

C. Jerry Nelson — Academic

Dr. C. Jerry Nelson, 2004 academic laureate and Curators’ Professor of Agronomy at the University of Missouri, has been described by one of his colleagues as “an architect of new approaches, a provocateur of new ideas and concepts, and a servant to and steward of the global food and agricultural system.” His plant physiology research focuses on photosynthesis, carbohydrate metabolism and growth processes of forage grasses and legumes. He has mentored more than 50 graduate students and visiting scientists, published more than 200 research papers, co-authored five books, and received several awards for teaching and research.

2002 Laureates

Leonard Wulf (1926-2003) — Production Agriculture

The accomplishments of Leonard Wulf are a testimony to hard work and perseverance built on a foundation of family and faith. Having owned and operated a beef cattle farm in Morris, Minnesota, for over forty years, Wulf oversaw one of the best known registered Limousin breeding operations in the nation, producing quality beef for consumers and genetically superior cattle for customers. Much of Wulf’s success came from utilizing new technologies and using efficient and innovative farming practices. Wulf believed artificial insemination was key to helping him improve the herd over the years. Likewise, when it came to selection and culling, Wulf utilized a thirty-point rating system that evaluates a number of factors including structural correctness and family history. Feedlot and carcass performance was also evaluated.

Peter Poss — Agribusiness

Dr. Peter Poss’ work has been devoted to improving the health and expanding the availability of turkey year round. During his forty-plus year career as a veterinarian and agribusiness executive with Jennie-O Foods, Incorporated, and more recently as a poultry consultant and farmer in Willmar, Minnesota, Poss has faced some of the biggest challenges imaginable in producing turkeys in Minnesota and has overcome them. In addition to overcoming challenges to turkey health, Poss has had a great impact on the creation of standards for facilities construction and maintenance. Poss developed a third-party inspection procedure that addressed these problems and was adopted by insurance underwriters. With the help of engineers, he designed a new wiring system that has become the standard in the construction of turkey buildings throughout Minnesota.

Stanley Sahlstrom — Academic

It may say “retired” on Dr. Stanley Sahlstrom’s vitae under “present occupation” but it’s hard to believe. Beginning in 1942 with his first post-college job as a high school vo-ag instructor in Marietta, Minnesota, to his Fulbright assignment to Cyprus in the early 1960s to develop agricultural education curricula, to his twelve years of service on the University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents ending in 1997, Sahlstrom’s contributions and influence on agricultural education are recognized at the local, university and international level. Raised on a Minnesota dairy farm, Sahlstrom graduated from high school in Onamia and earned his bachelor, master and doctorate degrees from the University of Minnesota. His academic career was interrupted by World War II when he served his country in active duty from 1942 to 1946.

1999 Laureates

Willis E. Anthony — Production Agriculture

Few recipients have traveled a path more scenic en route to the Siehl Prize than Will Anthony. Over the course of equally impressive careers in economics, education, and farming, Anthony has skillfully blended public service with private enterprise to generate a lifetime of impressive achievements. Anthony’s list of accomplishments includes a unique assortment of experiences as a Ph.D. in agricultural economics, a professor and extension economist, and a family farmer. In and around his farm home near St. Peter, Anthony has gained a reputation as an accessible and readily available volunteer, a reliable community leader, and a steadfast farm issue champion.

Earl B. Olson — Agribusiness

Ask the people who have followed agriculture through the twentieth century: they will rightly insist that Earl B. Olson’s name belongs near the very top of the list of agriculture’s most noted contributors — in virtually any category, from production to marketing to distribution and more. Over the course of his impressive career, Olson’s entrepreneurial spirit, creative flair, innovative methods, and knack for business have combined to help transform an entire industry. Many believe that he redefined the way consumers regard turkey products through his Jennie-O Foods enterprise and has led Minnesota to a position of leadership in the poultry industry. There are few agricultural professionals who have graced Minnesota with so many gifts during their years as Earl B. Olson.

Benjamin S. Pomeroy (1911-2004) — Academic

Commercial poultry producers can attribute a great deal of their present-day success to the lifetime accomplishments of Dr. Benjamin S. Pomeroy. Thanks to his work at the University of Minnesota’s avian disease program, producers today speak of once devastating poultry diseases — salmonellosis, mycoplasmosis, fowl typhoid, and more — in the past tense. Pomeroy has always been accessible to those with questions, concerns, or crises. Though a unique and talented individual, he seldom acted alone. In fact, quite the contrary; Pomeroy loved to build teams. Over the years, his rare gifts of personality, poise, and persuasion have brought together government, regulatory agencies, producers, industry, communities, researchers, and others to produce outstanding results for all concerned.

1996 Laureates

Bob Bergland — Production Agriculture

Bob Bergland has left formidable footprints in the fertile soil of his native state. Bob’s farming roots are in northern Minnesota’s Roseau County. His studies took him to the University where he contributed to the University’s research and regional seed certification programs. He then went on to acclaim in county and state crop improvement associations, and further renown as a certified bluegrass seed producer. From his agricultural contributions to his position as Regent at the University of Minnesota, Bergland’s life and work are rightfully held in high regard by his peers and admirers. Bob Bergland is a shining example of the brilliance that fuels an industry intent on better feeding the world’s people while conserving its resources for future generations.

Bailey Nurseries, Inc. — Agribusiness

In 1905, John Vincent Bailey Jr., a member of the School of Agriculture’s class of 1896, eagerly launched a vegetable production business with $10 seed capital. From that humble beginning, Bailey Nurseries has grown to become one of the nation’s largest nurseries. Today, Bailey’s statistical accomplishments are impressive — more than 800 varieties of woody plants, as well as hundreds of annuals and perennials; annual production of two million shade trees, five million shrubs, one million hardy shrub roses, 400,000 fruit trees, and 200,000 flats of bedding plants. As early as the 1950s, Bailey Nurseries was taking the lead in soil and water conservation. In areas of technology and innovation, Bailey has long pioneered the development and fabrication of custom tree and shrub harvesting equipment.

Donald C. Rasmusson — Academic

Don Rasmusson's contributions to research and education in production agriculture are noteworthy. More than 500 students of advanced plant breeding have been nurtured at his hand, more than 70 students have been personally advised, and more than 200 manuscripts, abstracts, reports, and articles have been published. Rasmusson will long be remembered for his 22 years as director of the University of Minnesota's plant breeding graduate studies, his pioneering work with the National Barley Committee, and his contributions to countless other organizations. To a much lauded career marked by noteworthy accomplishments and numerous significant awards and national recognition by Plant Science and Agronomy Societies of America, the Siehl Prize is a worthy addition for a man whose career truly represents excellence in agriculture.

1994 Laureates

Bert G. Enestvedt — Production Agriculture

The farmers of Minnesota have a good friend in Bert Enestvedt, whose 1500-acre, Sacred Heart, Minnesota farm supplies them with certified high-quality seed, including hybrid seed corn, soybeans, wheat, and oats. The farm stands as the oldest family owned and operated seed corn company in the state. Founded in 1900 on the site his grandfather homesteaded in 1867, the Enestvedt farm led the way in new crop varieties, many produced by the University of Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station. Enestvedt’s honors include the Mr. Crop Improvement Award from the publishers of The Farmer magazine, an honorary life member award from the American Soybean Association, and the 50-Year Award from the Minnesota State Fair. In 1991, The University of Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station released a soybean variety named “BERT” in his honor.

Aldrich C. Bloomquist — Agribusiness

The sugar beet cooperative that saved the sugar beet industry in Minnesota’s Red River Valley is in part the work of Aldrich C. Bloomquist. His contributions to sugar beet farming began in 1955 when he became regional manager for the Western Beet Sugar Producers. When he was named executive secretary of the Red River Valley Sugar Beet Growers Association in 1961, the industry was thriving. By 1972, however, the American Crystal Sugar Company was reducing sugar beet acres in northwestern Minnesota and pulling away from its four regional processing factories. American Crystal Sugar would eventually have left the area had it not been for Bloomquist’s proposal to have the Valley growers purchase the company, which thereafter was run as a cooperative.  

William Larson — Academic

Born in 1921, William Larson was raised on a family farm in Nebraska. Today, he is known as a steadfast champion of conservation tillage, a technique that effectively reduces soil erosion by loosening soil without inverting it. By allowing crop residue to remain on the surface, erosion can sometimes be reduced by more than 50 percent. Larson has worked tirelessly with national databases to help develop the means to accurately assess soil quality. His work to develop measures for soil quality and degradation is aiding the fight to preserve soil around the world. His work has influenced national policies guiding the use of crop residue to enhance soil conservation. Many producers and leading soil scientists attribute a good portion of current conservation tillage systems to the early work of William Larson.