OSCEOLA COUNTY — An Osceola County couple instrumental in growing the number of children showing sheep locally were honored earlier this month for their work.

On Jan. 7, Dick and Betty Seeyle were awarded Club Lamb Producer of the Year by the Michigan Sheep Producers Association.

“The Seeyles were awarded this accomplishment for many reasons, but in particular for their efforts of producing and representing the sheep industry and for doing so for many years,” said Maury Kaercher, MSPA executive director. “In addition, the Seeyles have extended their knowledge to many, but especially to the many youth they have touched as 4-H leaders.”

The Seeyles have been in the sheep industry for nearly 40 years in Northern Michigan. They currently raise registered sheep, Columbia and Suffolk breeding stock, as well as freezer lambs and club lambs, which are shown by 4-Hers, Betty said.

“Sheep have been a love and a passion for us for many years,” she said. “We used to show registered sheep nationwide, but then we got more involved locally.”

When the Seeyles came to the area in 1980, there were six lambs being shown by one family at the Osceola County Fair. The Seeyles started a sheep club, serving as 4-H leaders for more than 20 years and increasing the interest in raising the animal as a project.

“More and more people started showing sheep and at one time, there were almost 60 lambs being shown,” Betty said.

Raising a sheep is less expensive and doesn’t take as much time as some other 4-H projects, and showing the animal has many benefits, she added.

“My favorite part of the lamb club wasn’t always watching the great winners,” Betty said. “It was watching kids develop character with the responsibility they had.”

Now, each spring, the Seeyles have a sale and sell about 50 club lambs to be shown at fairs around the state.

“It’s our passion to raise sheep and try to pass that on to our younger generation,” Betty said. “First it was through the club we started and now it’s our sale.”

Both Betty and Dick believe the sheep industry is a really important part of the agricultural industry. More people worldwide have eaten lamb and mutton than any other meat, Betty said.

Despite all their work in the industry, both Dick and Betty were surprised to be presented with the achievement.

“It was a real honor to receive the award,” Betty said. “We didn’t know it was coming at all. It was great and as part of the award we received a nice wool quilt from Frankemuth.”