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Farm Bureau gives retiring NCTA its highest honor

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

LINCOLN, Nebraska -- Nebraska Farm Bureau has selected Weldon Sleight of Curtis as the 2012 recipient of its highest honor, the Silver Eagle Award. The award will be presented to Sleight on Dec. 4 at the 2012 Nebraska Farm Bureau Convention in Kearney.

Weldon Sleight is widely respected for his commitment to the students who attend the University of Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture (NCTA) at Curtis and the agriculture industry and has been a good friend to Farm Bureau, Nebraska Farm Bureau President Steve Nelson said Nov. 8. Sleight is retiring in December.

"When Weldon Sleight arrived in Curtis in 2006, he saw a struggling rural Nebraska with many youth leaving hometowns and never returning. He set out to help reverse that trend by transforming NCTA into a vehicle that drives rural entrepreneurship," Nelson said.

Sleight has been a member of the Frontier County Farm Bureau since 2008. During much of his tenure at Utah State University (1998-2006), he was a member of the Utah Farm Bureau. In Nebraska he is known for being instrumental in the infusion of entrepreneurship across the entire NCTA curriculum. This theme has been the catalyst in the development of the 100 Beef Cow Ownership Advantage Program, 100 Acre Farm Program and the NCTA Business Builder Program. Each of the programs is designed to provide NCTA students with an early entry into an agriculture or business enterprise as a partner/owner that will lead to eventual ranch, farm or rural business ownership.

To the casual observer, NCTA's most obvious success is a construction boom that produced a new Education Center, an addition to the Veterinary Teaching Hospital, a new residence hall and a biomass project to use wood chips from red cedar trees rather than natural gas for the school's heating system.

Most recently under Sleight's leadership, the college began a year-long outreach program called "Own the Farm or Ranch," aimed at producers and farm and ranch employees who want to one day own their own agricultural enterprise. The 100 Beef Cow program currently has 25 students enrolled, with more interested.

Support from Nebraska's agricultural industry, including major commodity groups, has been key to NCTA's progress. The school's enrollment has grown from 262 the year before Sleight arrived to 333 in 2011-12.

"NCTA is stronger than it has ever been. It's better positioned than it ever has been. And a lot of that is due to his vision and his persistence in getting it done," Nelson added. "We're extremely fortunate to have had him and congratulate Weldon on winning the Silver Eagle Award."

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