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Pork producers choose air ventilation expert for high honor
 
By Stan Maddux
Indiana Correspondent

JENISON, Mich. – He switched from being a carpenter to providing farmers with custom made air ventilation systems for their livestock. Nearly 40 years later, Larry Reed has been given the Michigan Pork Producers Association’s highest honor.
Reed, 66, was presented with the annual Distinguished Service Award, which recognizes individuals who have made a significant lifetime contribution to the pork industry at the state and national levels.
Reed said the honor came as a major surprise and he choked up with emotion a bit when informed he was this year’s recipient.
“It’s just really nice to know what you’ve done over the years has been appreciated,” he said.
Reed, born and raised in Billings, Mont., was a carpenter working for his father building new homes prior to becoming a union carpenter on commercial projects like new hospitals and offices.
“I started picking up nails after him on jobs sites when I could walk,” he said.
Gradually, working construction took a toll on his back. In 1986, he accepted an offer from his wife’s uncle in Michigan to work with him for an air ventilation company. He briefly relocated to Niles then later Jenison, near Grand Rapids, where he still resides.
Reed built a solid reputation as an expert in the often-complicated task of providing the right ventilation systems in barns housing pigs, chickens and cows. He said ventilation systems relying largely on fans can vary depending on the size and shape of the barn along with the number of animals inside.
Farm animals not properly ventilated can become sick or die from the stress of overheating.
“What you have to do is put speed on the air and then mist to help cool it. The speed of the air and the mist is what helps keep them cool,” he said.
He also became known for his passion about agriculture helped by what he enjoyed most about the job, interacting with farmers and others involved in food production.
“The ag people in this world I think are some of the nicest people that you’ll ever meet. They’re down to earth. You just don’t find many bad ones,” Reed said.
At one point, Reed provided air ventilation systems primarily for pork producers in Michigan, but also Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and Wisconsin. In 2013, he started his own company, Maximum Ag Technologies.
“I worked with pork producers for a long time. I think I know every pork producer in the state,” he said.
Two years ago, Reed sold the company to Ingersoll Rand, which still employs him to manage the operation from the same office he occupied when he was the owner.
Reed said one of the highlights of his career was coming up with air ventilation systems for old school buses, semi-trailers and other makeshift shelters farmers used to house more pigs when demand for pork skyrocketed in the 1990s.
“Farmers were finding whatever they could find to store pigs. It was a lot of fun,” he said.
Michigan Pork Producers Association Chief Executive Officer Mary Kelpinski said Reed was also a big help to pork producers in deciding how to modernize their barns and providing them with the correct air ventilation systems to comply with changing requirements.
“He was a good sounding board and person they could talk to and run ideas by,” she said.
Specifically, she said Reed was an excellent resource for farmers mandated under a new law in 2020 to switch from individual pens to group-style housing to give more space for pregnant sows.
He suggested how existing barns should be redesigned not just to comply with the new law but to make sure their sows were as comfortable and safe as possible.
She said the Distinguished Service Award each year is decided by the association’s board of directors after reviewing a list of people who merit consideration for the honor.
“They are pork industry leaders in Michigan that kind of look at the qualifications and really kind of discuss how they’ve been impacted by the different individuals.  Larry was definitely one,” Kelpinski said.
4/19/2024