Faribault man inducted into breeders hall of fame
By Janet Kubat Willette
Date Modified: 05/14/2012 3:41 PM
FARIBAULT, Minn. — A Rice County farmer who celebrates 50 years of showing at the Minnesota State Fair this year is among the 2012 inductees into the Minnesota Livestock Breeders Hall of Fame.
Gene Sanford, who raises Dorset and Hampshire sheep north of Faribault, was inducted into the Hall of Fame along with cattle producer Frank Schiefelbein of Kimball and former University of Minnesota Waseca chancellor Ed Frederick of Waseca.
"It's pretty select company," Sanford said.
Generally, two breeders and one person who works in service to agriculture are honored each year. The first induction was in 1934. The list of inductees now numbers 163. Photos of inductees hang in Haecker Hall at the University of Minnesota.
Art Madsen of Faribault nominated Sanford for inclusion in the Hall of Fame.
"He was an obvious choice because when you think sheep in southern Minnesota, one of the first names that comes to your mind is Gene Sanford," said Madsen, an agricultural lender at Wells Fargo in Faribault.
Madsen met Sanford 35 years ago when they were both at the Rice County Fair. Madsen was a county Extension educator; Sanford sheep superintendent.
Sanford was and remains helpful to younger 4-H members, Madsen said. He provides them good sheep to show and gives them advice and assistance.
"He's kind of a sheep resource," said Madsen, who raises club lambs and registered Herefords. His wife, Judy, raises Katahdin sheep.
Sanford grew up in the sheep industry. His parents, Howard and Helen, established the registered Dorset breed in Minnesota in the 1950s. He remembers his parents traveling to the the eastern United States to acquire Dorset breeding stock. They'd often travel to Illinois and Ohio in a station wagon with a crate in the back for the sheep.
It took several years to get the breed into the state fair, Sanford recalls. His father had to guarantee that a minimum number in-state breeders and three out-of-state breeders would show at the fair before Dorsets were allowed in, he said.
A traveling trophy is now named in honor of his father and is awarded at the fair's sheep show. Sanford earned the trophy in 2010 when he had the first place Dorset flock in the open show. He was also the Premier Exhibitor.
Sanford's Dorsets and Hamps flock averages 250 registered ewes. Now, he has 150 Dorset ewes and 60 Hampshire brood ewes.
He markets about half his sheep through traditional auction markets and sells breeding stock direct in addition to selling animals to FFA and 4-H youth.
Sanford remains involved with the Rice County Fair. He has been sheep superintendent for 36 years and counting. He's been on the fair board for 25 years.
He and his wife, Marci, have hosted the exhibitor post-show lamb barbecue and social for 19 years.
Sanford was also president of the Minnesota Sheep Breeders Association, the precursor organization to Minnesota Lamb and Wool Producers, and served on the Continental Dorset Club National board of directors for six years. He served two years as vice president of the national organization.