The man who first introduced dry beans to Alberta has been recognized as an industry innovator by the very organization he helped form 25 years ago.
Idaho farmer Lud Prudek received the inaugural Alberta Pulse Industry Innovator Award at the Alberta Pulse Growers’ recent annual general meeting.
“We invited nominations for individuals and organizations that have strengthened our growing industry with their progressive thinking and tireless efforts,” said outgoing commission president Richard Krikke.
“We know that there are many early adopters who have taken a chance on a crop that was new to Alberta not that long ago and helped grow interest in it to the degree that there were 1.5 million acres seeded to it in this province last year.”
Will Van Roessel, chair of the zone that nominated Prudek for the award, said that only “one person stood out as meeting all the requirements.”
“He will be remembered as a visionary who saw the need to introduce and promote value-added crops to Alberta and Western Canada as the key to the future of sustainable farming,” said Van Roessel.
After moving to Alberta “shortly after irrigation arrived in the Bow Island area” in the 1950s, Prudek became one of the first growers of edible beans in the province before forming the Alberta Bean Growers Ltd., a processing plant for dry edible beans. In 1979, Prudek helped form the Alberta Pulse Growers Association, which became the Alberta Pulse Growers Commission in 1989.
Research was “always one of Lud’s passions,” said Van Roessel.
“In the ’80s, when most of us were concerned about survival, Lud was interested in some other ‘S’ words — namely, sustainability and crop sequencing.”
But Prudek, who travelled from his home in Idaho to receive the award, is quick to credit others.
“When you have an industry begin from essentially nothing, it requires leadership, but it also requires a lot of co-operation and the involvement of many, many people,” he said.
Hugh Horner — Alberta’s minister of agriculture between 1971 and 1975 — “sticks out” in his mind in that regard, he said.
“It was perhaps he who had the vision to see what an industry like this could do not only for the region but for the nation and the world.”
Prudek recalled a conversation with Horner about research gaps in Alberta.
“He listened carefully to what I said, and he thought for a while, and then he said, ‘I don’t know how I’ll do it, but it will be done,’” said Prudek.
The result was the Farming for the Future program, which was launched in 1979, funded hundreds of research projects, and was estimated to have generated nearly $1 billion in economic benefits for the province over the next 25 years.
It was the provincial researchers involved in the program who made it such a success, said Prudek.
“It was their spirit that mattered. They cared not just about themselves, but about their community, about the country, and about humanity.”
And it will be that same spirit that’s needed as the demand for food grows across the globe, he said.
“We’re not talking about simply making money. We’re talking about the human experience. That’s why what you people do is so important,” said Prudek.
“There’s nothing greater to teach leadership and common sense than what you’re at, because every day, you experience new challenges. You are natural leaders, and leadership is critical as we go into the future.”