Allen Blezek, professor emeritus in the Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communication, and Roger Mandigo, distinguished professor emeritus of animal science and food science and technology, have been named Nebraska Hall of Agricultural Achievement honorees.
The banquet honoring Blezek, Mandigo and nine new members of the Nebraska Hall of Agricultural Achievement will be March 23 in the Great Plains Room of the Nebraska East Union on UNL's East Campus.
Blezek is recognized as an educator, innovator and leader not only throughout Nebraska but at the national and international levels. His career focused on agricultural leadership development for youth and adults. He served as the Nebraska LEAD Program director for nearly 25 years.
He is a member of Agriculture Builders of Nebraska, the Nebraska Hall of Ag Achievement, the Nebraska AgriBusiness Club, the Nebraska AgRelations Council and other organizations. He serves as president-elect of the NU Emeriti Association and serves on several foundation boards, including the Nebraska Rural Radio Foundation.
Mandigo is recognized for his outstanding research, teaching and extension programs in the field of meat processing. He joined UNL as an assistant professor in 1966 and was promoted to professor in 1974.
Mandigo was a dedicated teacher and mentor for undergraduates as well, offering new courses in meat processing, merchandising, independent study and a Meat Industry Tour course.
He managed the federal inspected meat science facility and offered numerous practical workshops for meat processors in Nebraska and beyond.
Mandigo's creative research contributions opened new avenues for use of fresh meat and resulted in many value-added products. His pioneering work in restructured meat manufacturing demonstrated how whole muscle cuts with significant amounts of connective tissue and meat pieces could be flaked or ground, mixed and blended with salt and other curing ingredients to produce products that were similar in appearance and eating characteristics to whole muscle cuts such as steaks and roasts. That technology was adopted and used in the food service industry to produce the McRib and similar products.
The Nebraska Hall of Agricultural Achievement, formed in 1916, has just over 200 members statewide dedicated to preserving and improving Nebraska agriculture. Each year, the group recognizes at least one honoree and elects new members.
This year's new members are:
- William L. Booker is owner-operator of Booker Farms and retired extension educator of Box Butte County. A leader and innovator in conservation tillage, Booker has worked closely with farmers, youth and industry. He has been active in farm safety programs for youth.
- Chris R. Calkins is an internationally known scientist in the area of beef muscle profiling whose work has resulted in cuts such as the flat iron and ranch steaks. While providing highly palatable products for consumers, these and other newer cuts are estimated by an independent research entity (CattleFax) to increase the average value of a beef carcass by $50-$70.
- Larry F. Howard since 1985 has been a UNL Extension educator in Cuming County, Nebraska's top agricultural producing county. Cuming County is fifth nationally in cattle sales and 27th nationally in overall agricultural sales. Howard's education and vision have helped achieve these rankings, with his primary focus on environmental and general management for beef and pork producers.
- John W. Scharf is a fourth-generation producer of dryland and irrigated corn, soybeans, wheat and alfalfa. Along with being a Nebraska Certified Seed Grower, Scharf owns a commercial Angus cow-calf herd, and is a research cooperator on groundwater recharge for UNL scientist Derrel Martin.
- Gerald A. Schmidt is a diversified agricultural producer whose resourcefulness has added value to business ventures especially for hogs and poultry. Schmidt was instrumental in forming the Allied Producers Cooperative. Through this co-op, approximately 40 pork producers in five states have ownership participation in Triumph Foods LLC, a Missouri-based processor that exports its member pork throughout the world. Schmidt is past vice chair of the Triumph board of directors. Currently he is a member of the Nebraska Pork Producers.
- James Specht is a t UNL soybean physiologist/geneticist whose efforts and accomplishments since 1975 have greatly impacted Nebraska's soybean industry. Specht spearheaded development of SoyWater, a Web-based irrigation tool to optimize soybean irrigation. A pioneer of growth stage based irrigation in soybeans, Specht has documented the importance of early soybean planting, and currently is involved with soybean DNA genome sequencing.
- Dave Stenberg is a retired UNL Extension educator, having served in Dawson County from 1968-2008. His leadership with youth yielded 34 Dawson County state champion meat teams and five national championships. Stenberg organized the Dawson County Corn Growers; helped grow the county's soybean production from 500 acres to 40,000 acres; and conducted 15 irrigation tours and dozens of agricultural workshops
- Cheryl Stubbendieck is vice president of public relations for the Nebraska Farm Bureau Federation. From 1982, as editor of Farm Bureau's Nebraska Agriculture newspaper, to today as the organization's key resource person for social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), Stubbendieck is committed to communicating the story of agriculture. Highlights of her career include educating children about agriculture, such as providing leadership for Nebraska's Ag in the Classroom program.
- Susan N. Williams is director of UNL's Southeast Research and Extension District, which encompasses 25 counties that serve 70% of Nebraska's population. Williams interacts with stakeholders in leading faculty in program development and leads efforts to describe to stakeholders how research and extension education improves lives in their communities.