Profile: Gwen Kitzan, lamb board chairman
Gwendolyn Kitzan has been a promoter and industry advocate as long as she can remember. This fourth generation sheep producer from Nisland, South Dakota, was elected chairman of the American Lamb Board (ALB) in January 2020. She was appointed to the board in 2016, and has served as vice chair.
Gwen, husband Dwight, son Joshua and daughter-in-law Heather, have a flock of about 600 registered ewes. They are longtime users of the National Sheep Improvement Program (NSIP) genetic system, and have seen significant improvements in their flock of SAMMS (meat type Merinos) and Suffolks by using production data. In addition to selling seedstock, the Kitzans are direct marketers of both lamb and wool, using a local retailer and farmers markets.
Kitzans are active members of sheep and ag organizations, including the American Sheep Industry Association, SD Sheep Growers, Suffolk and Merino associations, NSIP, past president of the local county extension service board, and SD Farm Service Agency. Gwen has a bachelor’s degree in business administration and finance, and a K-12 teaching certificate. For more than a decade, Gwen coached the Newell (SD) FFA team on agricultural issues. The team won 9 state titles, national reserve champion, and 8 national silver awards.
“While American Lamb isn’t a volume leader, our marketing has been some of the most innovative,” says Gwen. “During the upcoming year, more than 70% of ALB’s budget – your checkoff dollars – will be focused on promotion. Research on lamb quality and flavor are also priorities, along with collaborating with our industry partners to help growers, feeders and all other segments be as efficient and profitable as possible.”
“During 2019, we set the stage for a refreshed consumer-facing American Lamb branding, with a fresh, sophisticated look that’s perfectly in step with our product and adventurous eaters. Now, we’re starting to roll it out to consumers, and we’ll be keeping the industry in the loop on those efforts,” Gwen says.
What has Gwen most excited though, is the new people entering the lamb industry – some who have never before been in agriculture.
–American Lamb Board