Pork Association Honors Producers, Industry Members During Expo

The Wisconsin Pork Association recently recognized producers and industry members for their dedicated service at the 2016 Pork and Corn/Soy Expo, held on February 4-5 in Wisconsin Dells.

Producer Honoree Award

Each year, the Wisconsin Pork Association presents a Distinguished Service Award to a fellow individual whose contributions to the Wisconsin swine industry merit special recognition.  The 2014 WPA Producer Distinguished Service award was presented to Tom Knauer, Avalon.  Tom, along with his wife Marge, started their swine operation in 1977.  They own 75 acres, produce corn, and they have Angus beef cows and purebred Landrace and Hampshire hogs.  Tom takes great pride in raising quality livestock, and focuses on sound genetics.

Tom has served on the WPA Board since 2010, following his retirement from the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, where he worked in the animal health division for 33 years.  Tom has been active on the WPA Youth and Swine Health Committees, has attended the National Pork Industry Forum as a delegate, and has made several trips to Washington, D.C. to meet with legislators on behalf of the pork industry.  He has also served as the association treasurer for four years.

Tom has been an active member of the Rock County Pork and Beef Producers, and has served on the Rock County Fair Board.  He also is involved in the Wisconsin Livestock Breeders Association, having served on their board and been presented their swine honoree award.  He enjoys helping with shows at the Wisconsin State Fair, and working with youth and their livestock projects.  He and his family also enjoy showing their purebred hogs, through which they received several awards, including multiple Wisconsin State Fair Champion Landrace boars and sows, National Barrow Show Hog College Gilt and Boar recognition, and high indexing individual in the Wisconsin Hampshire Boar Test.

Tom and Marge have three children: Gary (wife Crystal,) Rockford, IL; Mark (fiancé Nikki,) Raleigh, NC; and Sarah (husband Chris,) Tampa, FL.

Industry Honoree Award

The pork industry is fortunate in having many industry representatives who are dedicated to promoting and serving the industry.  The Wisconsin Pork Association honors these individuals and companies by presenting them with the Distinguished Service Industry Honoree Award.  The recipient of the award for 2015 is Dr. Gary Onan.

Dr. Onan is a professor and serves as Chair of the Animal and Food Science Department at the University of Wisconsin River Falls.  He is currently in Romania, after being awarded a Fulbright Scholars grant to Banat University of Agricultural Science and Veterinary Medicine. He will be spending the 2016 spring semester at Banat teaching two courses in animal production, collaborating with their faculty on redesigning courses and curriculum to make more effective use of hands-on laboratory exercises, and conducting a series of seminars for graduate students that focus on how to develop effective extension and outreach programming.

Gary has taught Swine Production at UW-River Falls, serves on the WPA Youth Committee, and has been involved in other youth focused activities such as swine project meetings, judging county fair swine shows, judging county fair pork carcass shows, and in recent years scanning hogs at county fairs for virtual carcass shows.  He has also done some swine housing research at UWRF with a focus on the use of hoop structures for grow-finish and how growth, feed efficiency and carcass merit compare in hoop structures vs. typical finishers.

Gary and his wife, Linda, have three children and three grandchildren – Karen McAdams (husband John Nelson McAdams and two sons, Ian and Christopher), Dallas, TX; Peter Onan, Oneida, NY; and Bridget Heltne (husband Adam Heltne and one son, Isaac), Houlton, WI.


WPA acknowledges the efforts of individuals in the agriculture industry to communicate with others by presenting them with the Agri-Communicator award. The award was presented to Zen Miller, Outagamie County UW-Extension Dairy and Livestock Agent, and swine team leader.

Miller joined UW-Extension in 1996 in Outagamie County.   He received his B.S. and M.S. degrees in ag education from Iowa State University.  Miller is an insightful listener and educator.  In 2009, he joined the newly formed UW-Extension swine team to assist Wisconsin’s pork producers.  In 2012, he took over the role as Swine Team leader.  As team leader, Zen has been engaged in a number of projects, including a swine team booth at Farm Technology Days, coordinating meetings with Wisconsin processors and producers, hosting an annual Badger Pork Day, and organizing a Bacon contest for 4-H youth in his county.

He has also served for a number of years as a Pork Quality Assurance Plus and Transport Quality Assurance trainer and advisor to farmers.  He’s attended World Pork Expo and the National Pork Board’s Swine Educators Conference, bringing back valuable knowledge and resources to our state.  As swine team leader, he also attends several of the WPA board meetings throughout the year.

Zen and his wife Denni have three children – Bart, Brett and Sadie.

The Wisconsin Pork Association’s mission is to insure the future success of the Wisconsin pork industry.  WPA represents the interests of the pork industry members with a strong emphasis on social issues, public and government policies, environment, animal welfare and safety.