2005 Distinguished Service Award

Donald W. Nugent

Donald W. Nugent, a life member of the Michigan State Horticultural Society, is a resident of Frankfort, MI, and owns and operates Nugent Farms, producing cherries and apples in Benzie and Leelanau counties. He is the Chief Executive Officer of Graceland Fruit Cooperative, Inc. Don has made many contributions to the horticultural industry and has provided outstanding leadership to our industry and to related organizations and agencies. Don married Gail Smeltzer, the daughter of a Manistee County fruit grower. They have two children, Steve and Amy. Steve is married with four children and works at Graceland as Vice President, responsible for marketing. Amy is married with one child and lives in Ontario.

After graduation from Michigan State University in 1965, Don focused on growing cherries and apples and in working with a group of colleagues to improve marketing of these crops by establishing Graceland Fruit Cooperative, Inc. in 1973. Then following a large cherry crop in 1985 and with problems commonly associated with merchandising a large crop, he explored alternative ways of increasing the options of marketing sour cherries. With entrepreneurial energy and with considerable risk, they installed their first cherry fruit dryer. After several years of learning, researching, fine-tuning, and adding new facilities, Graceland emerged as a significant processor of dried cherries, blueberries, and other fruits. 

His vision in exploring and developing the practice of drying of fruits and vegetables has provided new market outlets at value-added prices. This practice is expanding and increasing marketing opportunities for our fruits and vegetables. His personal efforts and determination in this exciting development have been widely recognized.

Don is involved in several organizations, serving as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees at Michigan State University, Board of Directors of the Frankfort Chamber of Commerce, Chairman of the Board of Directors of West Michigan National Bank & Trust. He is a past member of the Michigan Farm Bureau Board of Directors, and was a member of the Michigan Commission of Agriculture and Chairman for two years, to mention a few.

Some other awards Don has received include Michigan Exporter of the Year 1998, Michigan Manufacturer of the Year 1999, and USDA Edward R. Madigan Excellence in Agriculture Award 2002. It is with great please that the Michigan State Horticultural Society present the 2005 Distinguished Service Award to Donald W. Nugent.

Keith Warren

Keith Warren was an active member of the industry throughout his life. Prior to his death, he farmed apples and cherries on the family farm on the Old mission Peninsula in Traverse City. He left behind a legacy of growing high-quality fruit and a deep love for Michigan’s fruit industry and its members.

As a strong supporter of the state’s fruit industry, Keith was involved in many of Michigan’s industry organizations and was a life member of the Michigan State Horticultural Society. He was a founding member of the Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Station, and served on the Research Station Board of Directors for 25 years. Keith also was a member of the Michigan Association of Cherry Producers, National Red Cherry Institute and the Grand Traverse Fruit Council. He was on the Board of Directors for Farmers Mutual Insurance and was a life-long member of the Farm Bureau.

Keith received numerous recognitions throughout his life, including an award for outstanding service to the fruit industry of Michigan. He worked 30 years as an agricultural chemical representative, retiring in 2000 from Wilbur Ellis.

In addition to his dedication and involvement in industry organizations, Keith was an avid hunter and enjoyed many special times at his deer hunting camp in theUpper Peninsula.

Keith’s sense of humor will be greatly missed by all those who knew him. He was most proud of his children and grandchildren. Married for 57 years, Keith and his wife, Jean, raised four children on the family’s farm. They have 12 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.

It is with great pleasure that the Michigan State Horticultural Society extends the 2005 Distinguished Award to his family for Keith’s many years of dedication to our industry. He will be fondly remembered for his strong work ethic and love of the land, as well as his pride in growing quality fruit. Accepting the award for Keith will be his wife, Jean, and son, Gary.

Sandra Hill

Sandy Hill, until her death, was a leader in the agriculture and legislative communities and a former Michigan State Representative, serving as the commodity coordinator for the Michigan Department of Agriculture’s (MDA) Agriculture Development Division since January, 1999. “The agriculture industry has lost a true leader and friend”, says MDA Director Dan Wyant. “Sandy was a life-long advocate for agriculture and rural communities in our state.”

Sandy served two terms as a Michigan State Representative from January 1993 to December 1996, representing the citizens of the 47th State House District inGenesee County. During her time as a State Representative, Sandy chaired the Housing and Urban Affairs House Committee and was Majority Vice-chair of the Conversation and Natural Resources House Committee. She authored the Tourist Oriented Directional Signage (TODS) legislation and the bill directing six percent of tobacco tax increase monies to the Healthy Michigan Fund.

Mrs. Hill joined MDA in January 1997 and served as commodity coordinator, representing the MDA Director with program and fiscal oversight for Michigan’s legislatively established commodity organizations. She also served as liaison for various agriculture and agri-tourism industry groups.

Before entering public service, Sandy was co-owner of Montrose Orchards with her husband, Donald M. Hill, from 1960 to 1995. The family farm is still in operation under the direction of Sandy and Don’s son, Dan, with over 200 acres of diversified fruit production. Sandy’s influence and dedication to agri-tourism is evident at the farm’s large year-round farm market and bakery.

Sandy was active in many local, district, and conference boards, a 50-year member of the Montrose United Methodist Church, former member of the Michigan Agriculture Marketing & Bargaining Board, past-president of the Genesee County Farm Bureau, and former State vice-chair of the women for the Survival of Agriculture in Michigan. 

The Michigan State Horticultural Society is pleased to present the Distinguished Service Award to her husband, Don, and son, Dan. Her tireless dedication in promoting Michigan’s agriculture industry, especially in the areas of agricultural tourism and value-added agriculture products will be missed.