By Julia Baratta, Freelance Writer
The Michigan Farm Bureau annual meetings held a surprise for one Michigan man as Dale Norton was named the co-recipient of the 2016 Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award along with Fred Poston, the former dean of Michigan State University’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
Norton farms with his son, nephew and brother at Kendale Farms of Bronson, MI where they are currently expanding their operation to a farrow to wean set up with 6,000 sows. Their previous number was 1500 sows and they crop farmed along with the caring of the animals. The increase of livestock is due to the Clemens Food Group pork processing plant moving into the Coldwater, MI area. Kendale Farms has contracted with the company and will provide piglets for the farms who will finish them out for the plant.
Norton comes from a strong agricultural heritage as his great grandfather purchased the property the farm is located on in 1880. One hundred years later, Norton, along with his father and brother, built their first hog barn which housed 175 head. Back then, they were involved in a farrow to finish operation. The family has also tried their hand at grain farming and specialty vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers and green beans. That is one of the hardest changes they are facing with the new normal they are getting ready for.
But Norton and his family are known for their willingness to try new things. He has been an active member of the Michigan Pork Producers and served as the president. Norton served on the National Pork Board, being selected as the president for the 2014-15 year. He was appointed to the Michigan Ag Commission in 2005 and chaired the Michigan Swine Health Committee. Obviously, his degree work in political science from Kalamazoo College has served him well since his graduation on 1973.
Beyond those accomplishments, he is pleased to have worked on the Pork Quality Assurance + program and enhanced it for future hog farmers. Norton has a deep concern for animal welfare and quality care and it is reflected in his philosophies, work and at Kendale Farms. This quality along with his determination were identified at the Branch County Farm Bureau when it was decided to nominate him for the award.
“I was surprised when I was selected at the local level,” Norton said. “It was pretty cool to win it at the state level.”