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February 7, 2024
Six Purdue alumni were presented the Certificate of Distinction at the annual Purdue Ag Alumni Fish Fry on Feb. 3. Farm Progress’ very own Tom Bechman was among that group of greats.
These individuals are honored for their contributions to agriculture and society with one prerequisite: graduating from or having ties to the Purdue College of Agriculture. The rest is determined by the work they’ve accomplished and the hours they’ve spent making the agriculture industry better, simply by doing what they do best.
Here’s more information about this year’s honorees:
Tom Bechman. The award’s qualifications present themselves through the service that Bechman has paid to Indiana agriculture during his more than 40 years with Indiana Prairie Farmer. His reach spans the state and then some, earning him the unofficial title of the “dean” of Indiana ag journalism.
He joined the magazine in 1981 after graduating from Purdue and teaching vocational agriculture for a couple of years. Since then, Bechman has kept up with the ever-evolving agriculture industry and has helped farmers make sense of those changes. Folks of all walks of life — farmers, ag professionals, FFA leaders, 4-H members, consumers — benefit from his dedication to Indiana agriculture.
Freddie Barnard. Barnard arrived at Purdue in 1982 to step in as an assistant professor. He immediately took hold of the Indiana Bankers Association Midwest Agricultural Banking School, where he put an emphasis on practical agricultural finance and problem-solving research for 36 years.
Among other accomplishments, Barnard helped students better understand real-world situations faced by lenders, producers and business managers. He used the Purdue Agribusiness Management Simulation to bring financial and operational management decisions to life.
Ben Carter. With multiple roles across Indiana agriculture, Carter earned himself a reputation for knowing someone he has helped everywhere he goes. Carter graduated from Purdue in 1972 and went home to the family farm. He returned to campus in 1996 to take additional classes and eventually became assistant director of the Purdue Crop Diagnostic Training and Research Center, which is now the Agronomy Center for Research and Education, or ACRE.
Carter later moved to the Indiana departments of natural resources and agriculture, where he prioritized soil and water health. His network continued to grow as a district sales manager for a seed company and a certified crop adviser, in addition to his work with FFA and Pioneer Village at the Indiana State Fair.
Bud G. Harmon. Having published 90 research publications, Harmon is known for his curiosity and passion for teaching and learning. After spending four years in the U.S. Navy, Harmon earned degrees at Purdue and Michigan State, immediately going on to spend 13 years as a professor at the University of Illinois.
In 1975, Ralston Purina selected Harmon as director of swine nutrition research, where his contributions were key in developing High Octane 2.6 feed. He returned to Purdue in 1986, serving as the head of animal sciences until 1997. Harmon has lectured in 37 countries and earned six patents, in addition to serving as president of the American Society of Animal Science and acting as the only American on a task force that supported new democracies in Eastern Europe.
Don Lehe. After graduating from Purdue with degrees in agriculture education and animal sciences, Lehe taught agriculture at Frontier High School and later at South Newton High School. He also became state president of the Young Farmers Organization. Lehe then returned to the family farm in the mid-’70s to farm with his father and brothers, where he took control of the swine operation.
Other roles include leading the White County Pork Producers and the White County Ag Association, serving on the Indiana Pork Producers Association board of directors, and serving for 18 years on the Frontier School Board. Lehe went on to serve in the Indiana House of Representatives for about 20 years, where his background in agriculture gave him a unique perspective.
Steve Nichols. Upon earning animal sciences degrees from Purdue, Nichols served as a Purdue Extension agent in Clark County for two years and then in Carroll County from 1977 to 2006, when he retired. Nichols now works with a consulting firm, where he ensures livestock producers are meeting permitting, regulatory and environmental requirements.
With a reputation as one of the nation’s premier swine judges, Nichols retired from swine judging in 2006 after judging more than 650 shows across the country. His personality and teaching abilities made him respected by many.
The annual Purdue Ag Alumni Fish Fry is an opportunity for alumni and their families to catch up after time apart. This business meeting draws folks from across the country, and this year was just as memorable.
With the Boilermaker Special, kids of all ages, special guests, Purdue Pete and good fish, there was lots to see. Check out the accompanying slideshow to get a glimpse of the action.
Allison Lund is a staff writer for Indiana Prairie Farmer. She graduated from Purdue University with a major in agricultural communications and a minor in crop science. She served as president of Purdue’s Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow chapter. In 2022, she received the American FFA Degree.
Lund grew up on a cash grain farm in south-central Wisconsin, where the primary crops were corn, soybeans, wheat and alfalfa. Her family also raised chewing tobacco and Hereford cattle. She spent most of her time helping with the tobacco crop in the summer and raising Boer goats for FFA projects.
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