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APG’s First President Honoured as Recipient of Inaugural Pulse Industry Innovator Award (PCN Spring 2015) MAR 25 2015 | Consumers and Producers | Pulse Crop News

This article appeared in the Spring 2015 issue of Pulse Crop News.

The Alberta Pulse Growers Commission (APG) selected the organization’s founding president, Lud Prudek, as the recipient of the first Alberta Pulse Industry Innovator Award in celebration of APG’s 25 years as a crop commission.

“As APG marked a quarter of a century in 2014, we wanted to recognize a person whose progressive thinking and tireless efforts helped build Alberta’s pulse industry from the ground up,” outgoing APG Chair Richard Krikke said at the presentation in January. “I cannot think of a more deserving recipient for the inaugural award than APG’s first president, Lud Prudek. He is truly an industry innovator.”

Prudek grew up on an irrigated farm in southern Idaho. With the mobilization for the Korean War, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and was assigned to 1083rd special reporting squadron in New Mexico on the staff of Lt. Col. Russell R. Bessom in security intelligence. At the conclusion of the war, he was in inflight training and returned to the family farm where he learned of irrigation development in Southern Alberta. This began Prudek’s Canadian experience of raising beans in Bow Island in 1958.

He then became a partner in Alberta Bean Growers Ltd. He was involved in the formation of the Alberta Pulse Growers Association in 1979, and served as Zone 1 director while guiding the move to becoming a commission in 1989. Prudek served as APG’s first president. Prudek was known for his passion for research, particularly plant breeding. He also focused on sustainability and the importance of crop sequencing during his career. He was inducted into the Alberta Agriculture Hall of Fame in 2002.

Prudek travelled from his home in Idaho to attend the award presentation during APG’s Annual General Meeting at FarmTech 2015 in Edmonton. He said that he was very surprised to hear that he was chosen as the first recipient of the annual Industry Innovator Award sponsored by ATB Financial, and insisted that the great strides made by pulse growers in Alberta were a team effort.

“I’ve had an extraordinarily interesting experience all through my life,” Prudek said. “I’ve been so fortunate to know so many wonderful people and it has been a privilege to be a partner in the Alberta Pulse Growers. In any of these major accomplishments, you can give credit to one individual, but you always have to have an enormous team to make it work. If you don’t have that team and someone to inspire them, you’re not going to get anywhere.”

Prudek said that he and other farmers started to introduce pulses into the rotations on their farms to restore soil fertility for their grains and oilseeds. He raised beans and hauled them to a plant in Lethbridge until he and three other producers were approached around 1970 by the plant owners to take over the assets involved with the bean side of the plant.

“It was a matter of keeping the industry alive,” Prudek recalled. “Essentially, it was an industry on the verge of bankruptcy.”

The group received pressure to expand the Alberta Bean Growers Ltd. plant, and eventually took on six additional shareholders in order to carry out the expensive proposition. Prudek added that the company also became dealers in the plastic pipe for sprinkler systems.

“Irrigation was very critical,” he said. “We were a major influence in the development of the irrigation system in Southern Alberta into conduits and large pipes to transport the water so that we wouldn’t lose a lot of land to salinity.”

In the mid-1970s, Prudek recalled meeting with then-Alberta Agriculture Minister Dr. Hugh Horner. Prudek said he raised his concerns about the gaps in agricultural research, and received a commitment from Horner to work on the issue. Shortly thereafter, Farming for the Future was launched.

“It was a major change between the federal responsibility and the provincial responsibility as to who was to do what,” Prudek said. “This is when we started breeding barley in Alberta. What it also did was bring the processors and producers and the science group together as a team. Farming for the Future was one enormously effective organization.”

Prudek was appointed as Chair of the Special Crops Committee for Farming for the Future. He said that canola was also a major development around this time, and peas were increasing in acres across the Prairies.

Due to financial challenges, Prudek and his partners sold Alberta Bean Growers Ltd. to the Alberta Wheat Pool in 1978.

“People were very upset with us,” Prudek explained. “They said, ‘we trusted you and we need a growers organization because you aren’t there anymore.’”

Prudek said that it was suggested that a growers’ organization should include peas, lentils and chickpeas as well as beans and be called pulses, which wasn’t immediately accepted by the bean growers.

“There was such a debate as to what the organization should be called,” he said. “But eventually pulses won out that it should be the main body.”

Prudek went on to serve as the first Chair of the advisory committee to the Lethbridge Research Station, and was then appointed to the Research Branch Advisory Committee that advised the federal Agriculture Minister.

Prudek retired to Idaho in 2000 with his wife, Lois, but he keeps in touch with many of the other people who helped build the pulse industry in Alberta. The development that he has been most impressed by since the turn of the millennium involves advances in communication.

“Dissemination of information is a very critical factor,” he said. “It doesn’t do a bit of good to have a lot of research on the shelf if it isn’t disseminated. All of the public should be made well aware of what’s going on, and in the end they will be the major benefactor of what’s going on.”

Prudek said while he and the other early adopters who helped to launch Alberta’s pulse industry faced many challenges, he foresees much more work in the future.

“In the next 100 to 200 years, agriculture and medicine will have to merge together – what I call bio-agroscience,” Prudek said. “What we’re doing on the fields has a tremendous impact on medicine. We have been so heavily dependent on chemistry as the solution to our health problems that we are getting to the point now that we have to recognize that biology and the biological process is so powerful that even the best of chemistry will run out. You can see it now that the latest antibiotics are coming from the soil.”