Frankie Iturriria has been in the sheep business his whole life. My father, Paco Iturriria, emigrated from the town of Lekaroz in the Navarra region of Spain in 1952. After accumulating enough money to begin his own sheep operation 8 years later, Paco and his 2 brothers (Andres and Miguel) started I & M Sheep Company in 1958. The operation continues today and at one time in the early 80ís held upwards of 18,000 sheep, 500 head of mother cows, and a farming operation. In 1972, after a brief courtship, Paco married my mother from the nearby town in Irurita, Spain and they moved to Bakersfield, CA.. Here they raised 3 children: Frankie, Louis, and Julia. We were raised in a Basque household that always adhered to the traditional Basque family values. We continue these traditions today!
I attended local schools in Bakersfield and moved on to begin my college career at Bakersfield College. Then I transferred to study my major of Agricultural Business at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. After graduation I began my career at Grimmway Farms in production agriculture where I continue to be employed today.
I first started buying my own sheep in 2001. They were usually 1-2 loads a year of ewe lambs and I would turn around and sell them a year later as bred ewes. In 2008, I purchased a sheep outfit from Pedro Mari Zalba. I have remained in the business full time and run around 2300 breeding ewes. My operation has 4 fulltime employees from Peru who are employed through the Western Range Association. Since 2008, I have taken great pride in producing quality American raised Lamb. I consider myself a forward thinking producer and always am looking to incorporate new ideas to make my lambs the best they can be. I also have started a relationship with the largest solar farm in California, Topaz Solar in the Carrizo Plains. There my sheep are helping to enhance the ecosystem on the array while at the same time mitigating fire danger for the project.
I married my beautiful wife, Renee, on December 31, 2007 in Bakersfield. Together we have 2 twin boys, Adrian and Marcos, who are 5 years old. One of the biggest reasons I remain in the sheep business is because I want to raise my boys the same way that I was raised!
Jeremy Geske - Minnesota -
Leo TammiĖ Virginia
Leo Tammi with his wife Judy and son Aaron operate a family farm in western Virginia. On Shamoka Run Farm, they currently keep several hundred Polypay ewes and grow hay and pasture on several hundred owned and rented acres concentrating on production efficiency with an emphasis on forage.
Leo has held positions of responsibility on state and national livestock and forage organizations. He has earned distinction for his innovative forage and conservation practices. In the 1970ís, he was utilizing intensive rotational grazing before he knew it had a name.
In 1990, Leo helped establish and led the innovative Virginia Lamb Cooperative, a producer owned enterprise that sold a branded lamb product to upscale restaurants and grocery stores. This business model was ahead of its time because buying local was not trendy then.
Growing up on a small diversified farm in Delaware, his job was to care for the sheep. That instilled a habit he couldnít quit. Except for a stint in the military, he canít remember a time without sheep.
Leo dreamt of mountain and valley pastures enhanced with sheep. The Shenandoah Valley became the landscape for that vision, if not the carefree state of mind the dream promised.
After earning a bachelor of science degree in agricultural economics from the University of Delaware, Leo acquired a post graduate education in endurance raising cattle, sheep and goats.
He taught animal science to vet tech students at Blue Ridge Community College for several years.
Judy keeps a few horses to add a touch of romance.
Steve Lewis - New Mexico - Steve Lewis, from a fifth generation New Mexico ranching family, was raised in the Guadalupe Mountains on a sheep ranch. Steve is the fourth generation of his family to be involved in the sheep industry. From 1977 - 1979 he attended New Mexico State University. After receiving a scholarship to Texas Christian University, Steve attended and graduated from Texas Christian University's Ranch Management Program in 1980. Continuing on with his education, Steve went back to New Mexico State University to receive a Bachelor of Science Degree in Agriculture Economics. Upon graduating, he moved back to the family ranch. In 1984 Steve moved to Artesia to begin his own business, Lewis Livestock, as a meat broker selling fresh lamb throughout New Mexico and Texas. Following meat sales, he expanded his business and became the largest sheep broker in the state of New Mexico. Buying lambs, ewes, bucks, goats, wool and mohair throughout the united States is only part of the brokering business. The other part of the business involves the exportation of sheep and goats into Mexico, and overseas into India as well as throughout the United States, including Hawaii . Lewis Livestock now does over 10 million dollars in livestock and meat sales per year..
Brenda Reau Ė Michigan - Brenda Reau has raised Suffolk sheep in partnership with her husband Mark since 1980 with a focus on performance and production. Breeding stock from their flock are in use across the country in both purebred and commercial operations. Brenda has served on the board of directors of the Michigan Sheep Producers Association, as president of Michigan Suffolk Breeders and is currently the Suffolk breed representative on the National Sheep Improvement Program Board of Directors. She was recognized with the Distinguished Service to the Michigan Sheep Industry Award in 2011. Brenda has been employed by Michigan State University for 37 years and currently serves as the Senior Associate Director of the Michigan State University Product Center that provides strategic research and business development services in the food, agriculture and natural resource sectors.
Burton Pfliger: North Dakota
Pfliger is a third-generation sheep rancher who was born into the business. He earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Animal Science from North Dakota State University in 1985. Currently, Pfliger and his wife Pattie run approximately 400 ewes, which make up a purebred Hampshire flock, a purebred Suffolk flock and a flock of Rambouillet/Dorset cross commercial ewes. The Hampshire and Suffolk flocks are used to produce range and terminal sires. Prior to election to secretary/treasurer, Pfliger served as the Region IV representative and is currently chairman of the ASI Wool Council. Pfliger previously served as the chairman of the Production, Education and Research Council, and additionally he served on the Legislative Action Council and the Predator Management Committee. He was elected to four terms as president of the North Dakota Lamb and Wool Producers. In addition, Pfliger served as vice chairman on the executive board of the Ag Coalition in North Dakota, and has served as the chairman of North Dakota State Universityís (NDSU) Board of Ag Research, Livestock Granting Committee. He currently serves as the chairman of the Missouri Slope Wool Pool in Bismarck, N.D. Pfliger was nominated to NDSUís Agriculturist of the Year and was presented the North Dakota Master Sheep Producer award in 2005.
Marsha Spykerman - Iowa, served as the Region IV representative on the American Sheep Industry Associationís Executive Board from 2011 through 2014. During this time, she held leadership roles on the Education and Research Council and the American Lamb Council.Spykerman and husband, Vernon, began raising sheep when they moved back to the family farm in 1980 and today have a commercial Midwest operation, running about 450 ewes in an intensive lambing setting. The couple shed lambs their ewes and moves the later lambing group out to farm ground that has been converted to pasture when the lambs are about one-week old. The Spykermans lamb approximately 100 ewes in late February and early March to produce replacement ewes for their flock. The remaining ewes lamb later in the season, producing commercial lambs that are finished on the farm and marketed by the couple.