Fairfield First Awards Banquet – 2010

I attended the Fairfield First and Fairfield Entrepreneurs Association Banquet last night in Fairfield. The events co-sponsors are Hometown Harvest of Southeast Iowa and the Fairfield Volunteer Center. Revelations did the catering and all the food was locally sourced in Southeast Iowa. I was proud to induct Jack McMahon of the Barker Company into the Fairfield  Entrepreneur Hall of Fame and give the Fairfield First Award to Francis and Susan Thicke of Radiance Dairy.

The Barker Company started during the depression and their biggest customer was the Wallace Farmer magazine. The local barter currency at the time were chickens and the magazine salesmen would strap the Barker collapsible chicken coops to their cars and trucks to transport the chickens back to their office. Jack McMahon turned the company around in the late 70's and when the owners were going to sale the business, he took nine employees and ownership a small refrigeration unit division that no one else wanted. He and his sons Pat, Tim and Tom and Pat's wife, Barb, turned that small company into the premier manufacturer of refrigerated deli, pizza and flora cases for supermarkets. The company grew to over 600 employees and increased revenues over 100 times (1000%) over the last 39 years.

Radiance Dairy is a model of sustainability and an icon of the local living economy in Fairfield. Most farms and dairies are dependent on fossil fuels. Not Radiance Dairy. Francis and Susan Thicke have a dairy right on the farm. The cows mow and fertilize their own pastures and solar-energy is used to pump water on the farm. All of the dairy's customers are within Fairfield. Their customers, local grocery stores and restaurants, are within five miles of the farm. Francis is an advocate of using perennial crops likes grasses for ethanol production and keep erosion down. 

Monica Hadley accepted Entrepreneur of the Year award on behalf Aeron Lifestyle Technologies, a consumer products who is nearing annual revenues of $30 million. Mary Carter received the Hometown Harvest Award for her work on the Buy Fresh: Buy Local campaign. She asked that everyone in Fairfield send her the amount of holiday shopping they do locally.

For the last five years, Laura Simpson has been shuttling meals and donated items to the Women's Crisis and Counseling Center in Ottumwa. Mayor Ed Mayor saluted her for tireless passion by naming her Volunteer of the Year.

Erica Richards of the Fairfield Musicians Club presented Entertainer of the Year award to Arthur Lee Land for his one-man band enthusiasm in using music to teach, entertain,promote music education and advocacy for numerous non-profits including Noah's Ark and the Sustainable Living Center.

Artist and Carnegie Museum historian Mark Shafer unveiled the Hall of Fame portrait of A.K. Harper and provided historical anecdotes about A.K. while showing how he created the narrative portrait using acrylics and linen.

 This was one of the nicest awards ceremonies I have attended anywhere because of the great stories of entrepreneurship and volunteerism.  There was an incredible array of entertainment beginning with Truckstop Souvenir and Jefferson County Green Band's Steve McClain. World-class opera tenor David Mallis and star of Way Off Broadway's South Pacific, Margaret Clair, Emily Roth and Mike Rogna provided highlights of upcoming WOB shows J.C. Superstar and Kiss Me Kate.

Ventriloquist and co-MC Dennis Naughton had everyone rolling in laughs when he performed and sang with Benny and Grandma to close out the event.