Nebraska Farm Bureau has selected Sallie Atkins as the 2021 recipient of its highest honor, the Silver Eagle Award. Atkins has spent a lifetime serving agriculture and promoting Nebraska as the “Beef State.”
“Nebraska agriculture is indebted to Sallie for her lifetime of devotion promoting Nebraska beef and beef products in Nebraska, the United States and abroad,” said Mark McHargue, NEFB president. “Sallie played an active role on the Halsey ranch, where she and her husband, Al, raised commercial Angus crossbred cattle. As Nebraska ranchers, she and Al were innovators and early adopters in areas such as rotational grazing to enhance land stewardship, synchronized breeding, optimized genetics and the Beef Quality Assurance Program.”
Atkins spent her early years on the Gudmundsen Ranch northeast of Whitman, which was managed by her father. She later moved to and grew up on her father’s family ranch near Mullen. Later, the Gudmundsen Ranch would be donated to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln as a research ranch and would become the University of Nebraska Gudmundsen Sandhills Laboratory.
After college, Sallie and Al came home to Al’s parents’ ranch near Halsey. This was the start of a lifelong commitment to serving her community and state in many leading roles in the agriculture industry.
Atkins has more than 50 years of experience in ranching and in Nebraska agriculture. She has served as the North-Central regional director of membership for NEFB, director of constituent services for U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns and agriculture director for U.S. Rep. Adrian Smith.
She has also served as executive director and chairwoman of the Nebraska Beef Council, vice president of Nebraska Cattlemen, Nebraska Cattlewomen, the Sandhills Cattle Association, and as board chairman of the Nebraska Agricultural Leadership Council.
Atkins was the first woman to be inducted to the UNL Block and Bridle Hall of Fame, and she serves as the vice president of the Nebraska Hall of Ag Achievement. Additionally, she has been active in Nebraska 4-H and FFA. Her work on the Nebraska State Fair board earned her the 2011 Nebraska Volunteer of the Year award.
“Sallie is a tremendous advocate for the beef industry and Nebraska agriculture. Her history of service over self is known to many,” McHargue said. “Yet that is only part of the legacy. Sallie has impacted and made a difference in the lives of countless farm and ranch families now and for the future. It is for these reasons I am honored to recognize her as the 2021 Silver Eagle Award recipient.”
The Silver Eagle Award will be presented during the NEFB annual banquet Dec. 7 in Kearney.
Atkins has been a Thomas County Farm Bureau member for nearly 20 years, and she and Al now live in North Platte. They have three daughters, Tracy, Tessa and Terra, whom they raised on their Sandhills ranch, and six grandchildren. The annual NEFB meeting and convention is taking place Dec. 5-7 in Kearney. Learn more at nefb.org.