Arkansas Farmer to Judge Farmer of the Year Awards

Moultrie, Ga.—Arkansas farmer Brian Kirksey has been selected to help judge the overall winner of the 2012 Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year award. Kirksey, who lives in Amity, Ark., received the award as the state and overall winner in 2008.

A fourth generation farmer, Kirksey operates a nursery where he raises ornamental and landscape plants. He grows these plants outside and in greenhouses for sale to his wholesale customers. In addition, he raises horses, beef cattle, hay and pine trees on his family’s 305-acre farm.

Kirksey joins Charles Snipes, a retired Mississippi Extension weed scientist who is president and research scientist with Stoneville R&D, Inc., from Greenville, Miss., and John McKissick, a longtime University of Georgia Extension ag economist from Athens, Ga., as judges for the Swisher/Sunbelt award this year. Each judge serves for a three-year period before rotating off the judging panel. Snipes is serving in his third year as a judge and is the group’s senior judge this year. This year, the three judges will be visiting the farms of all ten state winners during early August.

“It is indeed an honor to be asked to judge this award,” says Kirksey. “I commend Swisher International and the Sunbelt Expo for their sponsorship. I also commend the state Farm Bureau and Extension Service organizations in the Southeast for their participation in nominating and selecting the state winners. Because of this strong support, this award has grown in prestige each year since it was first presented in 1990.”

The award recognizes excellence in farming. “As judges for the award, we will be looking for individuals who contribute to their states, their communities and to the overall agricultural industry,” he adds.  “I’ve seen how these state winners volunteer countless hours of their time to serve as leaders in their own farm and community organizations. I know we will be meeting ten farmers who are innovative producers and sound business managers. These are individuals who are role models for the farming industry. They represent the best of agriculture in this country. And they are supported in their farming enterprises by strong and loving families.”

Family is important to Kirksey. He and his wife Nan have a daughter, Kathryn, and a son, John Brian.

Chip Blalock, director of the Sunbelt Expo, welcomes Kirksey as a new judge. “Brian is a strong leader in our industry and I know he will be fair in evaluating the farming skills of our state winners,” says Blalock. “Over the past four years, he has become a good friend and a key supporter of the Sunbelt Expo. He has earned the respect of all of us who are involved with the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year awards.”

Farmers in the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia are eligible for the award. The state winners this year will be announced during early July. The overall winner will be announced at the Willie B. Withers Luncheon to be held in Moultrie, Ga., on Tuesday, Oct. 16 during the opening day of the 2012 Sunbelt Ag Expo farm show.

“I have enjoyed meeting all of the state winners when I was selected in 2008 and in each of the years since then that I have attended the Expo farm show,” says Kirksey. “Now, as a judge, I’m really looking forward to meeting and getting to know a new slate of outstanding state winners and their families.”