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Six Awarded Certificate of Distinction at 2024 Purdue Ag Alumni Fish Fry
Indiana Ag Connection - 02/12/2024

Purdue University’s Agricultural Alumni Association presented six agricultural leaders with its Certificate of Distinction at the association’s annual Fish Fry Feb. 3.

The Certificate of Distinction is the highest honor the Agricultural Alumni Association has. Recipients of the award have contributed significantly to agriculture, forestry or natural resources through professional accomplishments, activity in professional organizations, community service work and other activities that make the nominees a credit to their profession.

The 2024 awardees are Freddie Barnard, Tom Bechman, Ben Carter, Bud Harmon, Don Lehe and Steve Nichols.

Barnard, former agricultural economics professor

Barnard, of Calhoun, Kentucky, joined the Purdue faculty in 1982, and he used his 35 years at Purdue to bring education about agricultural finances and problem-solving research to many people in academia and in industry.

Shortly after Barnard was hired, a five-year agricultural financial crisis began. In response, the new professor took leadership of the Indiana Bankers Association Midwest Agricultural Banking School. Barnard directed the Midwest Agricultural Banking School for 36 years, and in 2005, Barnard began leading the Advanced Agricultural Credit Seminar for graduates of the school.

During his career, Barnard also coordinated the annual Indiana Bankers Agricultural Clinic and Advanced Agricultural Credit Workshop and was an original member of the Farm Financial Standards Council, founded in 1989. He helped establish the council’s task force, commissioned by the American Bankers Association, which produced guidelines utilized at all levels of the agriculture industry over the decades. In 1994, he led a three-member team that taught farm financial reporting and analysis to 227 students at three Russian agricultural institutes.

Barnard taught his students about real-world situations faced by lenders, producers and business managers through tools like the Purdue Agribusiness Management Simulation. His honors include three Agricultural Economics outstanding counselor awards, Purdue’s Book of Great Teachers (2013), the Frederick L. Hovde Award of Excellence in Education Service to the Rural People of Indiana (2015), the American Bankers Association’s Blanchfield Award (2018, for a nonbanker’s contributions to agricultural and rural banking), and the Farm Financial Standards Council’s Buel Lanpher Achievement Award (1993, to an academician for outstanding service) and Lifetime Emeritus Membership Award (2019).

Bechman, long-time agricultural communicator

Bechman, of Franklin, Indiana, has been a widely respected agricultural communicator for more than 40 years.

Bechman, who graduated from Purdue in 1981, is the editor of Indiana Prairie Farmer magazine, one of 18 state and regional magazines in the Farm Progress family of publications. His work benefits leaders within the National FFA Organization and 4-H, as well as participants among other Indiana agriculture organizations.

Bechman also directs the new products team at the annual Farm Progress Show, the nation’s largest outdoor farm event. More than 600 exhibitors spread over 90 acres to showcase the latest agricultural advancements, and Bechman’s team writes about the new technologies. “It’s a daunting task,” said one who wrote in support of Bechman’s nomination, “but Tom is a fearless leader who masters the details, encourages his team and gets it done.”

In 2023, Bechman was inducted into the Indiana Livestock Breeders Association Hall of Fame. The Purdue Agricultural Alumni Association named him a Distinguished Ag Alumnus in 2005. In 2017, the Indiana Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts bestowed on him its Friend of Conservation Award.

“Agriculture has changed a lot over the course of Tom’s career,” a Purdue professor said, “and he can take credit for helping stimulate some of that change with the spotlight he’s shone on new technology and management recommendations. Indiana agriculture is stronger and better because of the contributions Tom has made throughout his career.”

Carter, a passionate alumnus

Carter, of Salem, Indiana, has served the Purdue agriculture community in many ways large and small since he graduated from the university in 1972.

After graduation, Carter went home to the family farm before returning to Purdue to take classes. Although Carter never finished his master’s degree, he remained involved in the College of Agriculture, and he became assistant director of the Purdue University Crop Diagnostic Training and Research Center at what is now the Agronomy Center for Research and Education.

“I had much interaction with him coordinating field plots for forage-focused training to clientele,” Keith Johnson, Purdue professor of agronomy, recalled. “He was part of an effective planning and education-delivery team where his input was valued. Ben’s enthusiasm for agriculture is sincere and consistent. He’s remained upbeat about the present and future possibilities of agriculture.”



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