As the okPORK board and staff approached selecting awards winners for 2018, they found themselves in an interesting situation. For many years, okPORK has recognized a Hall of Fame and Distinguished Service Award winner annually. In 2017, we only recognized a Distinguished Service Award winner because no one could identify an appropriate Hall of Fame Award winner.
Our foundational pillars, those men and women who built the Oklahoma swine industry, have been recognized already. And the next wave of pork producers that worked for and learned from those industry leaders are still actively involved in production and have many years of service to the industry ahead of them. So, the okPORK board has decided to push pause on the Hall of Fame and Distinguished Service awards for a short time.
And this year we are establishing a new award that we hope will continue for many years. The okPORK Excellence Award is designed to recognize those pork producers who have made the daily work of hog farming more than just a job – it is their profession and they go above and beyond every day to do their best work. We want this award to cover any sector of hog production and we will recognize individuals working at any level of management. It is our plan to recognize one to four individuals each year, depending on the number of applications submitted.
So, it is with great pride and excitement that we present the first okPORK Excellence Award winners.
Robert Teel | Prestage Farms
Robert Teel, a lifelong Texhoma resident, began his journey in the swine industry back in 1996. He began his role as a technician with Vall, Inc. and now works for Prestage Farms of Oklahoma, LLC. Today, Teel works as a sow production manager and is responsible for more than 20,000 sows, a gilt development unit and a boar stud.
“I believe I started at the very bottom,” Teel said. “But with hard work and dedication I worked my way up in the ranks and am proud of where I stand in my position today.”
Being responsible for a large operation, Teel has his hands full 24/7. He makes sure everything is running smoothly, makes sure employees are doing their jobs correctly and of course takes care of the health and well-being of the pigs.
“The swine industry has been a part of my life for many years,” he said. “Agriculture in general has its ups and downs, but in the end, you are helping feed a growing population and that is what really matters.”
Greg Stephens, general manager at Prestage Farms of Oklahoma, LLC., believes Teel goes above and beyond in every aspect of his job.
“Robert’s production numbers indicate his effectiveness and knowledge of the pork industry,” Stephens said. “His leadership is also evidenced by the respect and performance he gets from those he supervises. I believe he is very deserving of the okPORK Excellence Award.”
Since Prestage Farms acquired the Texhoma operation back in 2011, Teel has proven himself dedicated and innovative in his role as sow production manager. His efforts have contributed a 25 percent improvement in sow production, Stephens said.
Teel is not one to rank himself as “excellent” but is excited to be receiving such an award for his dedication to the swine industry.
“I am humbled to be nominated and honored to actually be receiving the award,” he said. “I don’t see myself as one who stands out in a crowd, but apparently someone did.”
Besides working for Prestage Farms, Teel and his wife, Rina, have two sons, Xavier and Kage. He and his family are active members of the St. Peters Catholic Church in Guymon. Teel also dedicates his time to Texhoma High School where he serves as a booster member and participates in youth sports events with his sons.
okPORK is pleased to present Robert Teel with the 2018 Excellence Award in honor of his dedication and contribution to the swine industry.
“The agricultural industry isn’t always going to be good, there is always a turn in the road but that is what makes it so much fun,” he said. •
Juan Ovalle, Sr. | Smithfield Foods
Juan Ovalle, Sr., was born in a small village in the highlands of Guatemala. He began working at the young age of 10 where he sold potatoes at the local market. On January 12, 1993, Ovalle left Guatemala and he and his family ventured to the United States of America.
“It was hard to leave our native country, but I knew it was best for my family because of the 30 year Guatemalan Civil War,” Ovalle said.
He began his journey in the swine industry in 1996 at Murphy Brown Farms and was hired as a breeding herd technician where his job duties included installing feeding bins and different systems. After almost 12 years, Ovalle and his family packed up again and moved to Laverne, Okla., where he accepted the job as production trainee for Murphy Brown Farms, now known as Smithfield.
Today Ovalle is the production technical trainer with a specialization in swine breeding. His responsibilities include certifying all six-month employees and breeding employees.
“I really love working with both people and pigs,” Ovalle said. “It is always fun to see the positive results of something you worked so hard for and that is what I love so much about this industry.”
David Sauceda, production support service manager at Smithfield, said Ovalle is a prime candidate for such a distinguishable award.
“Juan plays an influential role in our business, both from sow/piglet and employee standpoints,” Sauceda said. “Smithfield couldn’t have a more experienced and welcoming trainer than Juan. Today, all certified breeders in our Oklahoma system have been trained by him.”
Ovalle was honored and blessed to hear about his peers nominating him for the okPORK Excellence Award.
“I was in shock and disbelief when I heard the news,” he said. “Coming from a third-world country and still being nominated really put a cherry on top of my career in this life changing industry.”
Ovalle is also involved in the community of Laverne. Besides being an active board member at Trinity Faith Fellowship, he and his wife, Lucrecia, own a small grocery store where they provide groceries and services to the growing Hispanic population such as translating, assisting at doctors’ appointments and to help bridge the cultural gap for their community. Ovalle also emjoys spending quality time with his four grandchildren.
He also works alongside two of his three sons, Juan Jr., and Jeff, at Smithfield. His oldest son, Alex, works for Energy Transfer in Beaver County.
“We didn’t have much when we first came here, but I wouldn’t trade my journey or my family for the world,” Ovalle said. “I thank God every day for giving me the opportunity to work in something I enjoy and love to do.”•
Sam DeHaas | The Maschhoffs
Sam DeHaas, an Oklahoma native and Oklahoma State University alumni has been a part of the swine industry for more than 20 years. He started off as a production technician for PIC back in 1995 when PIC and HANOR were a joint company. Today DeHaas works for The Maschhoffs and has been the general manager- great south region for the last two years. His past roles for The Maschhoffs include farm manager, service manager and production director over all commercial sows.
As general manager, DeHaas is responsible for one of the The Maschhoffs’ four commercial regions. He manages a 50,000 sow farrow-to-finish business unit which encompasses pigs in Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois and Georgia.
Ian Brooke, director of production at The Maschhoffs, describes DeHaas as contributor to the company and believes he is very deserving of the okPORK Excellence Award.
“Sam has the unique ability to run a 50,000 sow business as a servant leader,” Brooke said. “He makes everyone around him a better leader. He has gone above and beyond his entire career and this has led him to currently manage an entire business unit at The Maschhoffs.”
DeHaas also feels honored to be receiving such an award.
“I feel nothing but blessed to have my name put in the hat,” DeHaas said. “I don’t normally consider myself a person who normally stands out in a crowd, but it is very exciting to win something like this.”
Feeding the world is what really matters and that is what I love most about my job, he said.
When DeHaas first got into the pig business he wanted to make a difference and that is exactly what he did.
“This industry gives you the ability to learn and the opportunity to grow,” he said. “I started as a technician and am now a manager. If you want to help feed people and provide them with protein they need then this industry is right for you.”
Besides working with pigs, DeHaas and his wife are actively involved in their local church in Hinton, Okla., and he also coaches his children’s sports teams.
okPORK is honored to present Sam DeHaas with the 2018 Excellence Award thanks to his love and passion for not only the swine industry, but the people who help make it one of the best.
“This job might not always smell great, but it is worth in the end,” DeHaas said. •