Skip to main content

Marla Spivak, U of M Extension entomologist, recognized for pollinator knowledge

Marla Spivak holding frame of honeybees
University of Minnesota Extension bee expert Marla Spivak has been awarded the prestigious Siehl Prize in Agriculture.

The award was announced March 16 by the University's College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS). CFANS bestows the award yearly to recipients from three categories: knowledge (teaching, research and outreach); agribusiness; and production agriculture. Spivak was awarded the prize in the knowledge category.

The award notes that Spivak’s tireless advocacy for bees and what they do for the world’s food supply has made her a well-known speaker. At its core her work is about understanding how bees behave, breeding new lines of disease resistant bees and finding the causes behind Colony Collapse Disorder and other threats to bees. She’s been a U of M faculty member since 1992; thanks to her leadership a new bee and pollinator research center will open on the U’s St. Paul campus later this year.

Spivak’s Extension work with Minnesota beekeepers is integral to her research as a faculty member. Her research also informs related Extension work in areas that can help pollinators: Gardening horticulture to promote more bee-friendly flowers, turf care adapted to allow more clover and other plants in the mix, and cover crops that flower and feed bees. Extension Master Gardener volunteers take courses based on her research and then share practical information with over 205,000 Minnesotans.

Mark Davis was awarded the Siehl Prize in agribusiness. The former chairman and CEO of Davisco Foods International started as a milk truck driver for his family’s creamery and eventually led the company’s expansion into a multinational agribusiness. Davisco is known for its innovations in the dairy industry, including new products and markets as well as a state-of-the-art dairy educational partnership with the U of M’s College of Veterinary Medicine at its farms near New Sweden.

Don Buhl was awarded the Siehl Prize in agribusiness. The Tyler pork producer has been a leader in state and national pork organizations over the past three decades, helping to develop programs for people new to the industry and to expand U.S. pork exports. He began farming in 1976 and has grown operations significantly since then. He was a founding member of the “Pipestone System,” a production model aimed at allowing independent family farms to remain competitive through shared ownership and increased efficiencies.

The 2016 Siehl Prize laureates will be honored at a ceremony in McNamara Alumni Center on the university campus on Thursday, May 26.

The Siehl Prize was created in the early 1990s by a generous gift from New Ulm-area livestock breeder and businessman Eldon Siehl, a dedicated philanthropist who had a lifelong interest in agricultural systems. Siehl was concerned that people were losing touch with their agrarian roots and wanted his gift to ensure that achievements in agriculture would be recognized and celebrated. Recipients receive a $50,000 award as well as a sculpture and lapel pin designed by Minnesota artist Thomas Rose especially for the Siehl Prize.

Read more about Siehl prize

Media note: Photos of this year’s laureates are available at

Print Friendly and PDF