Virginia Livestock Hall of Fame grows
BLACKSBURG, Va. — The induction ceremony for the 2019 Virginia Livestock Hall of Fame had the air of a family or class reunion as folks reconnected and honored some of their most revered mentors, friends and colleagues.
Industry leaders, their families and friends gathered in Virginia Tech’s Alphine-Stuart Arena to recognize those whose portraits had earlier been hung on the walls of the room where 67 leaders had already been honored since the inception of the hall of fame.
On Sept. 28 five new members were added to the list of industry leaders during the 10th annual induction event.
The new inductees are J. Burton Eller, Jr. from the beef industry; father and daughter Daniel J. Myers and Teresa Callender, dairy farmers; and Randall S. Updike from the beef industry. Aaron Oliver Gunn, a horseman, and Floyd W. Lofton, a swine producer, were honored posthumously.
“We need to have folks like you,” Dr. Alan Grant, dean of Virginia Tech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, said to the group. “We need role models. Thank you all for that you for do. For being here for our students.”
Grant thanked Dr. A. I. “Ike” Eller, retired Extension beef and sheep specialist, for his work in organizing the day and the hall of fame 10 years ago.
Ike Eller in turn traced the history of the organization, noting how the state’s five commodity organizations came together to find a way to honor leaders.
He said the hall of fame was first meant to be hung at the state fairgrounds in Doswell. When the fair site moved to The Meadows, the group decided Virginia Tech was an appropriate place to house the portraits.
Those who presented the inductees recalled memories of their shared time as students at Virginia Tech and members of its livestock judging team in the mid-1960s
Two long-time leaders in advocating for and marketing Virginia beef cattle were among the inductees. Burton Eller, a Smythe County, Va., native, was recognized for his skill as a coalition builder.
Emmit Rawls, who introduced him, credited him with being one of three people who put together the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.
He worked for the beef checkoff as well, a program that has passed more than $10 million to Virginia’s cattle industry, he added.
“He’s worked very hard to keep government out of farming, to protect rural America from regulation,” Rawls said of Burton Eller.
“He served the beef industry as advocate and as lobbyist and administrator of the National Cattlemen’s Association,” Ike Eller added. “He developed as an expert at coalescing desperate factions in the food, agriculture, and natural resources sectors around the legislative and regulatory issues of mutual benefit.”
Updike was presented to the estimated 150 people crowding the conference room at the arena by Mike Carpenter representing the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and two former coworkers, Reggie Reynolds, past executive secretary of the Virginia Cattlemen’s Association, and Frank Graves, a career employee of VDACS.
“Randall was one of the best livestock evaluators of that era,” Reynolds said. Graves said he was on the leading edge of educating producers and youth.
Updike is credited with developing buyer relations which increased competition for Virginia livestock, guiding the growth of the Virginia Cattle Feeders Association and promoting feeder cattle to out-of-state buyers.
He is a noted livestock judge and coached the 1965 national winning livestock team.
Chuck Miller, representing the dairy industry, introduced Myers and Callender of Walkup Farms, of Harrisonburg, Va., a well-known Holstein breeding operation. He traced the history of the farm and the internationally-known brood cows it has produced over the years.
This father-daughter team is known for their passion for the dairy industry and its contributions to the community, Miller said.
“I’m who I am because of my family, the mentorship my family and the dairy industry,” Callender told the group. She said the family strives to mentor young people in the dairy industry.
Her father said they were accepting the honor for the maternal line of their family.
Lynda McGarry, representing the Virginia Horse Council, outlined the legacy of the late Aaron Gunn to the equine industry in Virginia. A tobacco farmer, Gunn left a legacy through his love of the American Saddle Horse and his breeding program at Spring Groves Stables in Lunenburg County.
“He also made an impact on subsequent generations as they continue their equine ventures with honesty, sportsmanship and integrity. Two of his sons are professional horse trainers.
McGarry said he and his wife had over 100 foster sons during their lifetime.
Floyd Lofton, who died in 2005, was known as an outstanding breeder of Hampshire and Yorkshire hogs.
Gary Hornbaker who spoke for the Virginia Pork Council outlined Lofton’s contributions to the swine industry. He Lofton is known for contributing to the improvement of commercial swine in the regions as well as for his honesty and integrity.
“A man never heard him boast,” Hornbaker said. When being congratulated for winning a big competition, Hornbarker reported Lofton merely said “there were some really good hogs here.”
Lance Kauf, a retired Extension agent, praised Lofton for is work with 4-H and FFA in Clarke County.
“He was such a good man,” Kauf said. “I don’t know if I ever met a kinder man.”
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