Farmers, chicken company employees, and allies of the Delmarva Peninsula’s chicken community gathered in Salisbury, Maryland Tuesday evening for the Delmarva Poultry Industry, Inc. (DPI) Booster Banquet, the 1,800-member trade association’s annual membership dinner. During its 61st banquet, DPI recognized 11 outstanding chicken growers and four individuals for their work on behalf of the chicken industry.

Paul and Pat Downes

The J. Frank Gordy, Sr. Delmarva Distinguished Citizen Award, DPI’s highest honor, was presented to Paul Downes of Sussex County, Delaware. Downes is the CEO and President of Mountaire Farms, where he has worked for 34 years. Under his leadership, Mountaire has grown to become the seventh largest chicken company in America, and the nation’s largest private label chicken company.

Downes, a Laurel, Delaware native, started his career in Delmarva’s poultry industry as a flock supervisor before working his way up to leadership positions. Downes currently serves on the National Chicken Council’s board of directors. Mountaire demonstrates its willingness to boost the community by feeding thousands of families at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter events, as well as year-round donations to food banks.

The Edward H. Ralph DPI Medal of Achievement was presented to Dave Lovell of Melfa, Virginia. The award goes to a non-elected person for outstanding service on behalf of Delmarva’s chicken industry. Lovell, who served on DPI’s board of directors, has been raising chickens since 1991, and he owns eight chicken houses. He has been an innovator in putting environmentally friendly features into practice on his farm and has been deeply involved in sustainability issues that affect the entire industry. He is an active member of the Eastern Shore Soil and Water Conservation District and has worked with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to promote understanding of the chicken industry. Lovell also participates in the Delmarva Land & Litter Challenge, a private-sector group working to find new ways to use chicken litter while preserving the chicken industry and improving water quality in the Chesapeake Bay.

The DPI Medal of Achievement for an elected official was awarded to Delaware State Senator Gerald Hocker of Sussex County. Senator Hocker has been a voice for the business community in the Delaware legislature since he was first elected in 2002. Last year, he was instrumental in stopping the state from enacting onerous and potentially industry-stopping stormwater management rules.  His southeastern Sussex County senate district is one of the most densely concentrated chicken farm areas in the state and the well-being of the chicken industry matters to him a great deal.

Additionally, DPI recognized 11 outstanding chicken growers. Selected by their companies from Delmarva’s more than 1,600 poultry growers, this year’s recipients are:

Choudry Asif, Salisbury, Maryland – Perdue Farms
Pat Cahall, Frankford, Delaware – Perdue Farms
Donald Howard, Crisfield, Maryland – Tyson Foods
Dave Lovell, Melfa, Virginia – Perdue Farms
Sherman & Patty Jones, Millsboro, Delaware – Mountaire Farms of Delmarva
Ryan Marshall, Pittsville, Maryland – Mountaire Farms of Delaware
Burton & Sue Ockels, Seaford, Delaware – Amick Farms
Dale Phillips, Georgetown, Delaware – Allen Harim
Chittle Saylor Jr., Preston, Maryland – Allen Harim
Ruby West, Delmar, Maryland – Mountaire Farms of Delmarva
Terry & Diana Woodward, Harrington, Delaware – Mountaire Farms

Learn more about each outstanding grower at