For The Herald Bulletin
---- — WEST LAFAYETTE -- The couple behind Howell Farms in Middletown were among nine agricultural leaders who received the Purdue University Agricultural Alumni Association’s Certificate of Distinction during the group’s annual Fish Fry in Indianapolis.
David Howell, who graduated from Purdue in 1971, and Mary Howell built Howell Farms, an operation that now includes more than 4,000 acres of corn, soybeans, processing tomatoes and jack-o’-lantern pumpkins in Indiana, and international farm operations in Brazil.
They diversified with fruits and vegetables and planted and managed a 3,000-tree apple orchard. To continue their growth, the Howells purchased a farm in Bahia, Brazil. Each fall for two decades, Howell Farms hosted several thousand children, parents and teachers, teaching them the importance of agriculture. Their innovations and management practices also were showcased on many other tours, such as the U.S. deputy of secretary of agriculture’s Midwest Farm Tour and the Royal Netherlands Agriculture Minister’s Midwestern Tour.
The Certificate of Distinction, the association’s top award, recognizes contributions to agriculture - and society in general - that go far beyond the requirements of a job or profession, said Donya Lester, executive director of the alumni association.
Certificate of Distinction honorees, who all received degrees from Purdue, at Saturday’s event include:
◆ John B. Swisher of Indianapolis. Swisher is the founder, chairman and CEO of JBS United of Sheridan, Ind. Swisher built the company into one of the world’s largest swine research organizations, producing more than 10 million swine at seven locations throughout the Midwest.
◆ William Biddle (B.S. ‘64) of West Lafayette, Ind. Biddle founded Biddle Seeds Inc. in 1970 and expanded the family’s business interests in 1986 with the founding of Biddle Insurance Services Inc.
◆ Robert D. Burke of Martinsville. Burke co-founded the Purdue Hardwood Tree Improvement and Regeneration Center and serves on its advisory committee.
◆ John D. Diehl of Dansville, Mich. A third-generation family farmer, Diehl began his “Best of the Best” soybean variety trial in 1976 to compare public varieties.
◆ W. David Heller of Racine, Wis. Founder of Heller & Associates of Racine, Heller’s expertise has led him to create master landscape plans for residences, senior living facilities, corporate headquarters and college campuses.
◆ William E. Kuhn of Urbandale, Iowa. Kuhn worked as a corn breeder for 32 years at Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc., where he developed early generation top-cross evaluation methods
◆ Beth A. Theobald of Brookston. Theobald has been the vocational agriculture teacher and FFA adviser for Delphi Community School Corp. for more than 32 years.