Swisher Sweets Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year logo2020 is the 31st Anniversary of Swisher International and the Sunbelt Agricultural Exposition to have the honor to salute the agricultural community and industry with the Swisher Sweets / Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year Award. In the previous 30 years, many of agriculture’s top business leaders, innovators, environmentalists, pioneers, family men, problem solvers and leaders have received national recognition. Swisher International and Sunbelt Ag Expo continue to provide recognition for a select group of true heroes – American Farmers and make the public more aware of the many ways agriculture touches their lives every day.

Since its inception in 1990, the Swisher Sweets / Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year Award has evolved into the most prestigious honor in the southeast and nation with 265 outstanding agribusiness leaders being honored for their “excellence in agriculture.” Ten states participate in the program: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. In the previous 30 years of the award, over $1,204,000 has been awarded to state and overall winners. Each state winner receives $2500 and an all expense paid trip to Expo along with various other prizes. The overall Southeastern winner receives $15,000 and various other prizes from the sponsors.

Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Ag Expo Southeastern 2019 Farmer of the Year

Michael H. McDowell of Vernon Hill, Virginia has been selected as the overall winner of the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year award for 2019. He is a fourth generation Halifax County farmer and cattleman who grows mixed grass hay, annual hay, and alfalfa and raises award-winning registered Angus cattle.

At the age of sixteen, McDowell began to farm three acres on his own under a sharecropper arrangement with his father. That formative experience taught him the value of responsibility and introduced him to the rewards and challenges of working the land in order to pay for his college tuition. He obtained a B.S. degree in animal science and agronomy from Virginia Tech.

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Farming With Spirit Featuring 2019 Farmer of the Year Michael McDowell

When the pastor takes the pulpit at County Line Baptist Church in Halifax County, Virginia, a 5-foot cattle prod leans at his side. It’s not a prop. It’s not what might be known in ministry circles as an “object lesson.”

For Pastor Michael McDowell, it’s an essential part of his story.

It’s also an essential part of the Apostle Paul’s story, a source of faithful inspiration for McDowell. “When Paul met Christ on the road to Damascus,” says McDowell, “Paul falls from his horse and Jesus speaks to him, and says, ‘Paul, it’s difficult for you to kick against the pricks.’”

And that’s where the stories of Pastor McDowell and Farmer McDowell intersect. “I was reared around mules and animal-drawn implements,” he says, recalling days on his four-generation farm, just down the road from the church, when there wasn’t a tractor to be found. “That ‘prick,’ or prod, directed an animal to go where they were supposed to go. It’s a constant reminder to me when I tend to want to go another way.”

Read the rest of the story.

2019 State Winners

Johnny Wishon

Johnny Wishon

North Carolina

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Ted Parker

Ted Parker

Mississippi

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Danny Cunningham

Danny Cunningham

Kentucky

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Robert L. Dickey

Robert L. Dickey

Georgia

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Charles W. Obern

Charles W. Obern

Florida

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Chris Isbell

Chris Isbell

Arkansas

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Hank Richardson

Hank Richardson

Alabama

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Michael H. McDowell

Michael H. McDowell

Virginia

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Jerry Ray

Jerry Ray

Tennessee

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Sidi Limehouse

Sidi Limehouse

South Carolina

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Click here to view an archive of all previous winners by state.

2018 Overall and State Winners

2017 Overall and State Winners

2016 Overall and State Winners

2015 Overall and State Winners

2014 Overall and State Winners

2013 Overall and State Winners