(INDIANAPOLIS) — At the Indiana State Fair, Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch presented the Stan Poe family, of Poe Hamps, and Terry L. Tucker, of Maple Leaf Farms, with the state’s highest agricultural honor, the AgriVision Award.
Now in its 13th year, the award is presented to individuals who have made significant contributions to the agriculture industry and their communities.
“These families represent the very best of Indiana agriculture,” Crouch said. “They’ve dedicated their lives to improving the industry and the lives of those around them. Recognizing their legacy today is a small token of our gratitude for a lifetime of service.”
Poe’s passion for the sheep industry dates back to a 4-H project in 1945, when two Hampshire ewes and one ram arrived on the family farm in Franklin, Indiana. He continued to work on the farm while attending Purdue University and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Animal Science. He would later go on to earn his master’s from Purdue and a doctorate from the University of Kentucky in the same field.
After college, Poe worked on the farm part-time and for companies like Elanco Animal Health, Indiana Farm Bureau and as an Extension 4-H educator. His experiences at Elanco took him all over the world. However, it wasn’t until his son, Stanley II, returned to the farm in 1988 that the operation would really start to take off.
Today, the third-generation family farm has more than 500 Hampshire ewes. Along with his wife, Carol, and two sons and their families, the Poes sell breeding stock, 4-H club animals and also market lambs for meat, but this didn’t happen overnight. They were early adopters of some of the newest data analytics, direct consumer marketing techniques and livestock technologies available at the time, most significantly in artificial insemination and embryo transplant.
Working with a veterinarian, they developed an efficient and effective process for artificial insemination of sheep, a major benefit for the industry. To perform the procedures, Poe, alongside Stanley II, self-engineered a state-of-the-art facility on the farm, which allowed them to artificially inseminate 100 head of sheep in a day. This facility continues to be used by the family and other breeders today.
While working in the sheep industry kept Poe busy, he managed to find time to give back to his community. He served as past president of the Indiana State Fair Board, Indiana Sheep Association and Indiana 4-H Foundation, as well as a member of the Indiana FFA Foundation, Franklin Community School Board and American Sheep Industry. For his efforts, he’s earned the Governor’s Distinguished Hoosier Award, Master Farmer Award and made it in the Indiana Livestock Breeders Hall of Fame, to name a few.
Now retired, Poe continues to serve his community and pass on his knowledge to other sheep farmers and the youth. He can be found meeting with FFA chapters and 4-H clubs, or judging at some of the nation’s most prestigious sheep exhibitions and fairs.
“Stan, Terry, their families, are pillars in the agricultural community and world, for that matter,” said Bruce Kettler, Indiana State Department of Agriculture Director. “They’ve revolutionized and shaped entire sectors of the industry. Agriculture would not be where it is today without their contribution.”
Tucker grew up in Mentone, Indiana, where his family raised hogs and ran a local dairy. While he had a passion for agriculture, he did not envision working on his family’s dairy business, so he got a job at a local feed company and farm, owned by Donald Wentzel, founder of Maple Leaf Farms.
Tucker went on to study agricultural economics at Purdue University, and while at school, married Sandra Wentzel, Donald’s daughter. Upon graduation in 1963, he joined his father-in-law full time at Maple Leaf Farms, starting as a field service technician. Working his way up the ranks, he went on to manage the processing operations and was later promoted to controller.
With the passing of Donald in 1968, Tucker was named CEO of Maple Leaf Farms. Over the next 30 years, he would revolutionize the business overseeing changes towards vertical integration, the construction of Serenade Foods and the building of a specialized duck feed mill and diagnostic lab – all to improve the production processes and grow the business. He also prioritized animal health and food safety, and oversaw the construction of a biosecure hatchery and breeding farm in Indiana.
In 2001, Tucker announced that his sons, Scott and John, would begin leading the company as co-presidents. They formed MLF Biotech in 2004 to market the company’s natural animal health products and began selling duck breeding stock to international duck producers six years later.
Under their leadership, Maple Leaf Farms has continued to expand and recently introduced the INDUX® System, which is an integrated duck production system that offers nutrition, diagnostics, research, management and other services to international duck breeding stock customers. Maple Leaf Farms was also the first duck company in North America to implement a comprehensive animal well-being program and be certified through the global food safety initiative.
Along with providing jobs for over 1,000 employees, the Tuckers continue to give back to agriculture and their community. Each year, the company donates thousands of pounds of poultry products to hunger relief agencies and supports local agricultural, culinary, education and community development organizations. Most recently, the family was honored for its $1 million gift to the Purdue University’s College of Agriculture to establish the first-ever endowed chair in poultry science.
Stan Poe Family, recipient of the 2019 AgriVision Award.