Outstanding MSU ag leaders to be honored
BOZEMAN – The Montana State University College of Agriculture will present its annual Outstanding Agricultural Leader awards during the annual Celebrate Agriculture event scheduled for Nov. 7-8 at MSU.
Don Burnham of Helena and Sky Anderson and Monica Switzer of Shields Valley have been named the Outstanding Agricultural Leaders for 2014. The public is invited to congratulate the recipients at a noon luncheon to be held Friday, Nov. 7, in MSU’s Strand Union Building ballrooms.
The Outstanding Agricultural Leader Award is a statewide award given to individuals or couples who are well-respected in the agricultural community, have impacted many with their accomplishments, have a lifetime of achievement in agriculture, are industry leaders or innovative producers, and are actively involved in the agricultural community in Montana.
According to members of the selection committee, this year’s award recipients exhibited outstanding leadership in agricultural and public service to Montana and MSU, as well as leadership in farm safety and land stewardship. They also have a rich and lengthy history in leadership roles as agricultural producers, land stewards and conservationists, industry innovators, advocates and public service leaders.
Burnham and his family operate a multigenerational cattle operation on the Prickly Pear Simmental Ranch in the Helena Valley, which was homesteaded in 1864 and is one of the oldest private ranches in Montana. He is a national leader in Simmental breeding, and his expertise and innovation in Simmental breeding practices has taken him all over the globe. He is also a respected voice across the state regarding land stewardship and conservation, and he and his family have worked with and alongside a multitude of organizations to develop and improve sustainable practices in water use, open space and riparian protection.
Burnham grew up in Missoula, where he was involved in 4-H and FFA. In 1951, he was elected as a national delegate to the FFA National Convention. In 1952, Burnham enrolled at Montana State College, where he was an active member of the Sigma Nu Fraternity, MSU Ag Club and the livestock judging team. He graduated in 1956 with a degree in animal science. From 1956-1959, he served in the U.S. Navy in Hawaii and Guam as an officer, navigator and air controller. He then returned home to Montana and purchased his wife’s family ranch near Helena. Today, the 7,500-acre ranch has about 300 cows and 80 heifers.
Burnham is a charter member of the Montana and American Simmental Associations. He also has a 13-year history on the Montana Simmental Board of Directors and represented Montana on the National Simmental Board of Directors from 1992-1998. Burnham won the Golden Book Award from the World Simmental Federation in 1999. He was also a member of the “Ranchers Circle,” an instrumental group of Montana private producers who supported construction of the MSU Animal Bioscience Building.
Burnham and his wife, Nancy, have four children and 10 grandchildren. Sons Kurt, Kent and Gary all attended college on one of MSU’s campuses.
Sky Anderson and Monica Switzer operate the Hayhook Ranch in Shields Valley north of Livingston and are known as advocates for Montana agriculture and ranching and cattle production at national levels. Both are members of the Montana Stockgrowers Association and have been strong voices for issues impacting Montana’s farm and ranch community.
Anderson has served as president of the Park County Farm Bureau and on the Montana Farm Bureau Board of Directors. He has also been involved in issues involving bison and brucellosis. Switzer has served as chair of the Montana Farm Bureau State Health and Safety Committee and was instrumental in organizing and implementing a farm safety program in Montana, the ABCs of Farm Safety. She also served on the fundraising committee for the MSU Animal Bioscience Building and helped raise funds for the building’s technology transfer room.
Both Anderson and Switzer advocate for farm and ranch safety and all-terrain vehicle safety through a variety of volunteer and service organizations. Additional leadership roles include work with FFA, WorkSafeMT and the Shields Valley School District Board.
Anderson grew up on his parents’ ranch and attended Shields Valley High School, where he was an active leader in 4-H and FFA. He later enrolled at MSU, where he was president of the Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity. After graduating with a degree in animal science, Anderson worked as a commodities trader in Chicago. He later returned to Bozeman, where he traded commodities for a local firm before assuming operation of his family’s ranch with his parents and brother.
Switzer grew up in Sundance, Wyo., and was involved in operations on the LJ Switzer Ranch, Inc., for 20 years. A dedicated and passionate advocate for the agriculture industry, Switzer is heavily involved with the Montana Farm Bureau, National Cattleman’s Beef Association and Women in Farming Enterprises. Switzer is also well known among high school athletic programs and spent more than two decades coaching volleyball in Glendive, Circle and Richey. She received the Montana Volleyball Coach of the Year in 2000.
Anderson and Switzer have five grown children. Anderson’s sons, Stryker and Steel, are currently enrolled at MSU, with Stryker majoring in agribusiness management and Steel majoring in political science.
A selection committee comprised of three Montana agriculture representatives, a College of Agriculture faculty member and an MSU student reviewed the nominations for the Outstanding Agricultural Leader Award. MSU’s College of Agriculture has presented Outstanding Agricultural Leader awards since 1999.
–MSU News Service