DPI awards are highlight of its annual booster event

SALISBURY, Md. (April 25, 2017) — Hundreds of farmers, chicken company employees, and allies of the Delmarva Peninsula’s chicken community gathered at the Wicomico Civic Center last week for the annual Delmarva Poultry Industry, Inc. Booster Banquet.
During its 61st banquet, DPI recognized 11 outstanding chicken growers and four individuals for their work on behalf of the chicken industry.
In his remarks to the crowd, Dean Walston, DPI president and director of operations at Perdue Farms’ Milford, Del., facility, said much of DPI efforts in the past year went toward issues surrounding county zoning and the construction of new chicken houses and working to stop “bad regulations” from hampering the industry.
The year was also marked with a renewed effort in spreading good news about the chicken industry, with the hiring of DPI’s first communications’ director, James Fisher.
Walston said with the news that Bill Satterfield, DPI executive director, will retire at the end of 2018, a main goal of his term was develop a succession plan, working with DPI’s executive committee.
At the banquet, Walston announced, Holly Porter, currently the deputy principal assistant at the Delaware Department of Agriculture, would become DPI assistant executive director in June and transition to executive director in 2019.
Walston said increasing DPI membership and member involvement were also two priorities.
“We need to start a movement,” he told the crowd, to get more growers and members involved.
The J. Frank Gordy, Sr. Delmarva Distinguished Citizen Award, DPI’s highest honor, was presented to Paul Downes of Sussex County, Del. Downes is the CEO and President of Mountaire Farms, where he has worked for 34 years.
Under his leadership, Mountaire has grown to become the seventh largest chicken company in the United States and the nation’s largest private label chicken company.
Downes, a Laurel, Del., native, started his career in Delmarva’s poultry industry with Showell Farms as a flock supervisor before working his way up to leadership positions.
On a national level, he serves on the National Chicken Council’s board of directors.
With him at the helm, Mountaire feeds thousands of families at Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter events, as well as year-round donations to food banks.
When wildfires struck North Carolina in 2016, the state’s governor called on Mountaire seeking emergency food donations for firefighters and the company responded immediately with assistance. As an individual, Downes is a generous and quiet contributor to several community projects.
“His donations to individuals and organizations in need do generate publicity but they do make a difference in the lives of many,” said Watson said while presenting the award to Downes.
The Edward H. Ralph DPI Medal of Achievement was presented to poultry grower Dave Lovell of Melfa, Va.
The award goes to a non-elected person for outstanding service on behalf of Delmarva’s chicken industry.
Lovell, who served eight years on DPI’s board of directors, has been raising chickens since 1991 and owns eight chicken houses.
He has been an innovator in putting environmentally friendly features into practice on his farm including a manure to energy project and has been deeply involved in sustainability issues that affect the entire industry.
Lovell received an Outstanding Grower award from DPI in 2000 and again this year as one of 11 family farms recognized at the banquet.
He is an active member of the Eastern Shore Soil and Water Conservation District and has worked with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to promote understanding of the chicken industry.
Lovell also participates in the Delmarva Land & Litter Challenge, a private-sector group working to find new ways to use chicken litter while preserving the chicken industry and improving water quality in the Chesapeake Bay.
Lovell and his wife, Tracy, have been married for 25 years; they live on their farm, Old Mill Farms, near Melfa, Virginia with their two daughters.
Lovell said it was “an honor to be chosen” and he has enjoyed working with people in the environmental community to reach common goals of land stewardship.
“If you can sit down with someone and eat a sandwich with them and talk about their kids and your kids you can build a relationship and suddenly become people and not enemies,” he said.
I think that’s why our Delmarva Land & Litter Challenge committee is going to be so essential to iron out the problems that we’ve got here on Delmarva.”
The DPI Medal of Achievement for an elected official was awarded to Delaware State Senator Gerald Hocker of Sussex County.
Sen. Hocker has been a voice for the business community in the Delaware legislature since he was first elected in 2002.
He championed a 2014 bill that would have required state agencies to document regulatory effects and costs that new regulations would impose, and last year, he was instrumental in stopping the state from enacting potentially industry-stopping stormwater management rules.
Sen. Hocker is also a small business owner, with five businesses that employ more than 200 people. He may not directly participate in the chicken business, but as a grocer he sells a lot of chicken.
His southeastern Sussex County senate district is one of the most densely concentrated chicken farm areas in the state and the well-being of the chicken industry matters to him a great deal.
“I became a politician as a businessperson to see if I could go to Dover and make a difference,” Hocker said. “I knew what it was to deal with new regulations almost daily.”
A final special citation in recognition of accomplishments was awarded posthumously to Bill Brown, a longtime chicken grower and University of Delaware Extension poultry agent who died in an accident on his farm in April 2016.
“Brown was an exceptional educator who worked to improve all segments of the chicken industry and was always willing to share his knowledge with people unfamiliar with the industry,” said Satterfield. “After his death, his colleagues have carried on his work by reinforcing the importance of taking safety precautions on farms at all times.”
Accepting the citation with her children, Brown’s wife, MaryLou Brown, said the chicken industry “meant everything to my husband.”
She said Bill often couldn’t sleep out of worry over what chicken farmers he worked for were facing. “It was very near and dear to him,” she said. “We all miss him immensely. It was just everything to him.”