Gene was raised on a family farm north of Faribault, Minn. with three siblings. He is the 3rd generation to farm and raise sheep at this site; Elmer & Elsie Sanford homesteaded the original 80 acres in 1905 with the house and barn (100 years old) still utilized today. Gene’s parents, Howard & Helen Sanford established the registered Dorset breed in Minnesota in the mid 1950’s. Dorsets are the primary breed on the farm; other breeds raised by the family include Oxfords, Southdowns, Shropshires and Hampshires.
Gene was active in 4-H and FFA in the sheep and dairy projects. In 1972, he received the Douglas K. Baldwin Award in FFA at the Minnesota State Fair. In 2010 he received the Rice County 4-H Alumni Award. He owned and exhibited his own Jersey herd as a youth; the cattle were dispersed in 1969. He attended the University of Minnesota and was a member of the Dairy, General Livestock, Meats and Livestock & Meat Evaluation judging teams. He earned a degree in Agriculture Education and taught 4 1/2 years at New Prague. He resigned in 1978 to purchase and operate the family farm.
- The flock averages 250 registered brood ewes. Current flock consists of 150 Dorset and 60 Hampshire brood ewes. He and his wife (Marci) formed a partnership with George Lorenz from 1988-2006, consisting of 10 ewes.
- Exhibited at county, state and national shows, including MO, MN, IA, SD, and WI State Fairs, and the NAILE at Louisville. Consigned to several regional and national sales. Exhibiting highlights include:
- 2 times (2002 and 2009) breeder of the Dorset National Futurity Program winning ewe lamb at NAILE
- 1999 exhibited the National Champion Ewe at NAILE, in partnership with Lorenz
- 2004 Outstanding Consignment (over all breeds) at National Corn Belt Sale in Des Moines, and Supreme Champion Ewe
- 2006 received MN Hampshire Sheep Association Breeder Award
- 2010 named Dorset First Place Flock at Minnesota State Fair Open Show, winner of H.F. Sanford traveling trophy and Premier Exhibitor
- Exhibited sheep at Minnesota State Fair from 1963 to present
Organizations and Leadership Roles:
- President and member of MN Sheep Breeders Association
- 4 year member of MN Livestock Breeders Association
- 5 year member of FFA Livestock Competition Committee
- 25 year Rice County Fair Board member
- 4 years as Overall Livestock Superintendent. 36 years as Sheep Superintendent
- 19 years Gene and Marci hosted the exhibitor post-show lamb BBQ and social
- North Central Regional Junior Show-handled the entries and show coordination
- Minnesota State Suffolk Show entry coordination
- Continental Dorset Club National Board of Directors
- Elected to two 3-year terms (1999-2005); 2 years as Vice President
- Chairman of special committee to establish and implement Dorset Breed Standard of Excellence
- 2001 received the CDC President’s Award
- Judges youth and open sheep shows on county, state and regional levels