HE PIONEERED RAISING POULTRY CAGE-FREE, FREE RANGE, ORGANIC
Gil Dedrick's 55-year career earns him 2013 Outstanding Alumnus Status
- By Cheryl Dorschner
The story of Gilman Dedrick is not just a picture of the man himself; it is a window on how the poultry industry went from sustainable to industrial and back in one man’s lifetime. It’s the story of how Dedrick gained expertise over a long career and led that change with warmth and genuine caring.
This was the message that Tom Vogelmann, Dean of UVM’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) delivered to a crowd of more than 150 alumni, faculty, staff and friends at its annual dinner on May 11 at the Davis Center on campus. Gil Dedrick of Burnsville, Minnesota, stood beside Vogelmann to receive the College’s 2013 Outstanding Alumnus Award.
Dedrick graduated from UVM in 1956 with a degree in agricultural economics and the nickname "Chick Dedrick." He worked for decades in sales and marketing for chemical and feed companies nationwide. In the 1970s, he landed a job in Minnesota and has been headquartered there ever since. He has achieved considerable success and acclaim over his 55-year career in the poultry business. He served many professional organizations, including president of one of the country's largest poultry producer associations.
Second Retirement? Really?
Now in his “second retirement” from the poultry business, Dedrick is still consulting worldwide, serving on boards, working as building and grounds director for a residential development and managing a USDA grant to combat invasive plants in a Minnesota suburban woodland.
“The friendly generous way Gil Dedrick shares his limitless knowledge is the epitome of the land-grant ethic in practice,” said Vogelmann referring to the mission of land-grant institutions, such as UVM, to bring their teaching and research to the public for the benefit of the citizens of the state.
Organic farmer Nick Levendoski wrote a letter recommending Dedrick for this award. In it he said, “whether I run into Gillie at an Amish farm open house in Iowa or during the International Poultry Expo in Atlanta, he always has a few minutes to catch up. He has the good old-fashioned personal touch to business that is disappearing all too quickly.”
Dozens of Dedrick’s friends like Nick wrote with examples of how he solved their problems, organized workshops, shared new ideas and transformed the chicken and the egg industry. Interestingly, they prefaced their remarks with statements that their families have been in the poultry business for 30, 50, even 70 years. Their letters were a testimony not only to Gil Dedrick, but to a different era of American poultry – one not of a few international producers, rather of flocks and flocks of small- to mid-sized businesses run by poultrymen and women.
The Chicken and the Egg
Dedrick led the industry through this change and back again. And today he’s here as a resource during the incredible revival of the backyard flock.
About a decade ago, Dedrick led the shift in the poultry industry to more human treatment of birds when he began focusing on cage-free, free-range, organic and brown egg production. And, the practices he promotes are not only more sustainable and humane, they bring the price of eggs from somewhere around 89 cents a dozen to on average $4 a dozen.
A Wisconsin poultryman with the apt name of Tom Peck told how Dedrick helped him convert his 600,000-bird operation to 75,000 cage-free birds certified by American Humane and Humane Farm Animal programs. More importantly, he said, Dedrick “has a genuine care for the people he does business with,” and as a result, “the dinner place always available to him at tables in homes in Spring Green, Wisconsin or Colona, Iowa or countless other homes in other states.”
Gil Dedrick has also been generous to his alma mater for 30 years, participating in events and reunions and cheering on the men’s hockey team. In fact, he has advised former Coach Mike Gilligan about Minnesota-based player prospects. Dedrick donates to the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Center for Sustainable Agriculture, UVM Morgan Horse Farm, ROTC, men's hockey, animal science department and related funds. His good friend and a CALS award winner himself, Bob Willey, said of Dedrick, “While I'm impressed with his success in the agricultural field, I'm even more impressed with his effort over these many years to maintain contact with college friends and with UVM.”
Says CALS’ development director Howard Lincoln, “Our college and university are highly regarded for a number of reasons, and one of them is Gil Dedrick.
To even further mark the occasion, Dedrick's family and friends launched the Gilman T. Dedrick Award fund. Founding donors are Larry and Delayne Dedrick Gold with Tracey Dedrick and Alastair Merrick making the first donation. Longtime friend of the College Oletha "Lee" Bickford '41 stepped forward with a $20,000 challenge gift. Attending the event in celebration of Gil were his wife Pat Dedrick of Burnsville, Minnesota; son Gil Dedrick IV; daughter Tracey Dedrick; and college friends Bruce Hausser '56 and Olga Hausser; and Mark Schroeder '58 and Suzannah Schroeder.
Dedrick was one of two Outstanding Alumni this year. Bonnie Sogoloff ’66, of Charlotte, also received the honor. Also on the program, Emeriti Professor Lyndon Carew and the late Winston Way G ’51 a UVM Extension agronomist, received the Robert O. Sinclair Cup lifetime achievement awards. Danielle Leahy ’12 received the College’s Outstanding Senior Award and Emma Wall, ’01, G ’04, Ph.D. ’08, was named CALS New Achiever.