Hundreds of farmers, chicken company employees, representatives of allied businesses and friends of the Delmarva Peninsula's chicken community gathered in Salisbury, Md. for the Delmarva Poultry Industry Inc. Booster Banquet, the 1,800-member trade association's annual membership dinner. During its 62nd banquet, DPI honored two individuals for their work on behalf of the chicken industry and recognized 12 outstanding chicken growers for their excellent performance and stewardship.
The J. Frank Gordy Sr. Delmarva Distinguished Citizen Award, DPI's highest honor, was presented to Andrew McLean. An organic chicken rancher, as he cheerfully describes himself, McLean is deeply involved in industry and community activities. He is a board member of the Harry R. Hughes Center for Agro-Ecology Inc., and is chairman of the Delmarva Land & Litter Challenge, a group of industry, government, university and environmental people who are working on a consensus-building approach to develop solutions for poultry-related issues. A Maryland native, McLean worked for banks in agricultural lending for 28 years. He often hosts tours of his farm for groups and individuals seeking to learn how chickens are raised on Delmarva, and he was a trustee of the Maryland Family Farmers Legal Defense Fund when the community rallied to raise money for a Worcester County farm family threatened by a misguided lawsuit.
He is active in DPI leadership, serving on the executive, environmental, grower and government relations committees, and he is a past president of DPI as well. A graduate of the LEAD Maryland program, he has served on the Maryland Agricultural Commission, is a past president of the Queen Anne's County 4-H park board and is a past president of the Ruthsburg Community Center. He and his wife, Kellee, live in Ruthsburg, Md.
The Edward H. Ralph DPI Medal of Achievement was presented to Michelle Chesnik. A tireless watchdog and advocate for the chicken community, Chesnik worked in the banking industry in Baltimore before she and her husband, Paul, decided to move to Wicomico County and bought a chicken farm, seeking a calmer place to raise a family. With a large network of contacts throughout Maryland and being well versed in chicken industry issues, Chesnik has been engaged on the industry's behalf in recent years by sharing thoughts with and educating members of the Maryland General Assembly through emails, in-person contacts, and testimony at legislative hearings. She often attends other types of meetings to educate non-legislators about the chicken industry. She played a large role in discussions of Maryland's phosphorous management regulations, and she continues to be involved with legislative issues relating to animal antibiotics and air quality.
Chesnik offered her farm as a site for an alternative use of manure project demonstration, and she has taken a particular interest in conservation best management practices. Aided by DPI and the Wicomico Soil Conservation District, she has established extensive grass and forest buffers on her farm made up of 29 different plant species, most of which she selected. Her farm is part of the Farm Stewardship Certification and Assessment Program that recognizes farms for outstanding environmental practices. She has been a member of DPI's board of directors since 2014 and is very involved as a member of the grower, government relations and environmental committees.
DPI also recognized 12 outstanding chicken growers. Selected by the companies for which they contract to raise chickens from Delmarva's more than 1,500 poultry growers, this year's recipients are: Joe Calhoun Jr., Denise Calhoun and Bessie Calhoun, Dagsboro – Allen Harim; Eui Jin Choi, Mardela Springs, Md. – Mountaire Farms; Brian W. Derrickson and Brian B. Derrickson, Pocomoke City, Md. – Mountaire Farms; Harry El-Baf, Pittsville, Md. – Perdue Farms; Blaine Hitchens, Laurel – Amick Farms; Donnie Howard, Crisfield, Md. – Tyson Foods; Jack and Cathy Kohland, Frederica – Mountaire Farms; Walter and Arlene Littleton and Andrew Mitchell, Laurel – Perdue Farms; Ben Lim, East New Market, Md. – Amick Farms; Billy and Pat Thompson, Laurel – Mountaire Farms; Mark and Sue Whaley, Laurel – Perdue Farms; and Joel and Tina Wharton, Millsboro – Perdue Farms.