For 31 years, the Swisher Sweets Sunbelt Ag Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year award program has celebrated excellence in agriculture by showcasing the best of the best. These ten leaders, each representing a state in the Southeast region, are true examples of the American farmers, serving as community leaders, innovators, and problem solvers.
For over three decades, the Sunbelt Ag Expo has recognized those who have exemplified “excellence in agriculture” through this prestigious honor.
Chip Blalock, Executive Director of the Sunbelt Ag Expo, explains, “We are proud to coordinate this amazing awards program and provide an opportunity to recognize the hard work, leadership, and innovation of each of the annual state winners. Though much has changed since the start of this award, there has always been a shared commitment to the continued betterment of the agriculture industry.”
Out of the ten state winners, an overall winner is selected each year. Each state winner and nominator receive a paid trip to the Sunbelt Ag Expo from Swisher Sweets, $2,500 cash, and a $500 gift certificate from Southern States Cooperative. They are also provided a gift package from Massey Ferguson North American and a Columbia vest courtesy of Ivey’s Outdoor and Farm Supply. Additionally, Syngenta sponsors a donation of $500 to each state winner’s chosen charity. The overall southeastern winner is awarded $15,000 from Swisher Sweets, another $500 gift certificate from the Southern States Cooperative, a Hays LTI Smoker/Grill, a Columbia jacket from Ivey’s Outdoor and Farm Supply and, from Reinke Irrigation, a Henry Repeating Arms American Farmer Tribute Edition .22 rifle. They are also given the use of a Massey Ferguson tractor for up to a year or the equivalent of 250 hours. Over the years, the gift packages have expanded thanks to Swisher Sweets, the Sunbelt Ag Expo, and the generous sponsors.
What started as a way to recognize agribusiness leaders for their “excellence in agriculture” has turned into a prestigious honor for those dedicated to serving their communities and feeding America. Farmers from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia compete from one of the most esteemed awards in the Southeast and nation. In the past 30 years of the award, Swisher Sweets has awarded over $1,204,000 to the state and overall winners. Since the award’s inception, 265 outstanding agribusiness leaders have been honored, with many having gone on to be recognized at the national level for their work. Through this award, the Sunbelt Ag Expo acknowledges the hard work and sacrifice American farmers make and helps the public become more aware of the importance of agriculture in their own lives. The Sunbelt Ag Expo looks forward to continuing to honor excellence among agribusiness leaders across the Southeast.