the family of a neighbor who was injured in a tree stand accident.
And he has hosted FFA fundraisers and farm safety programs. He
sponsors four scholarships each year for local students, and his
farm has been the site of weddings, wedding receptions, and a
public farm bill hearing.
He is active in a number of organizations, including serving
as a local Farm Bureau board member for over 20 years. He’s on
the Graves County Economic Development Board; and he has
served on the local soil conservation district board, serving as
the chairman for 10 years. He is also active in FFA alumni, and
has been a Little League team sponsor and a mentor for Graves
On the state level, Lowry has been a Special Olympics sponsor
and a member of state grower associations for corn, wheat, and
soybeans. He has also hosted a University of Kentucky winter
workshop, National Wild Turkey Federation banquets, and has
sponsored Wounded Warrior turkey hunts and banquets.
FAMILY AC TIVITIES
His wife, Rita, grew up on a small farm and now works for Heritage
Bank in Fulton, Ky. She and Keith were married after his first wife,
the mother of his children, died in 1993. Keith and Rita are active
members of the Cuba Church of Christ.
Together, they have four adult sons, Brian and Jarrod McMillin,
and Vincent and Patrick Lowry. Brian is a social worker and Jarrod
teaches math at the local high school. Both Vincent and Patrick
work full time on the farm and are involved in all of the day-to-day farming operations.
Keith and Rita have two daughters-in-law who work on the
farm. Brooke is married to Vincent and she works in the farm’s
office. Stefanie is married to Patrick, and she helps to make sure
that all of the equipment is kept clean. Stefanie and Patrick
also raise money to help fund research on controlling Type 1
diabetes. Vincent served as a Marine in Iraq and has taken the
lead in inviting military veterans to the farm every year for a
turkey hunting weekend, which includes a banquet to honor the
veterans who came to hunt and the veterans in the community.
Keith and Rita have five grandchildren, and were looking
‘GREAT COMMUNITY SPIRIT’
forward to the birth of a new grandson in September. “We hope
that a few of them, if not all, will decide to stay on the farm when
they are older,” says Keith, who has a great appreciation for his
farming heritage. “I remember my great-granddaddy,” he says.
“I know that if he and my granddaddy hadn’t farmed, then I
wouldn’t be farming today.”
L. Joe Cain with Kentucky Farm Bureau is coordinator of the
Farmer of the Year award in the state. Lowry was nominated for
the honor by fellow farmer Randall Heath of Hickory, Ky., who
serves as Farm Bureau president in Graves County, Ky.
Heath, who has also been on the board of River Valley AgCredit,
a cooperative Farm Credit bank that serves customers in Western
Kentucky, explains the bank has been a lender to Lowry for
40 years, and that he has been one of the bank’s most reliable
“I’ve known Keith since he started farming,” says Heath.
“Through the years, he has shown great community spirit. He
is very concerned about the community around him. I thought
Keith would be an outstanding candidate for the Farmer of
the Year award. He does an extremely good job of farming,
marketing, and in managing borrowed money.”
Noting Lowry’s long career, he says, “Keith didn’t start the farm
from nothing — but it was pretty close to that. He has been able
to grow and expand his farm without ever taking advantage of
anyone in the community. He is just a generous person, a giver.”
As the Kentucky state winner of the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt
Expo award, Lowry will receive a $2,500 cash award and an
expense paid trip to the Sunbelt Expo from Swisher International
of Jacksonville, Fla., a $500 gift certificate from the Southern
States cooperative, and a Columbia vest from Ivey’s Outdoor and
He is now eligible for the $15,000 cash prize that goes to the
overall winner. Other prizes for the overall winner include the use
of a Massey Ferguson tractor for a year from Massey Ferguson
North America, another $500 gift certificate from the Southern
States cooperative, a Columbia jacket from Ivey’s Outdoor and
Farm Supply, and a smoker-grill from Hays LTI.
Swisher International, through its Swisher Sweets cigar brand,
and the Sunbelt Expo are sponsoring the Southeastern Farmer
of the Year awards for the 27th consecutive year. Swisher has
contributed some $1.04 million in cash awards and other honors
to southeastern farmers since the award was initiated in 1990.
Kentucky farmers became eligible to compete for the Farmer
of the Year award in 2006. Previous state winners from Kentucky
include Sam Moore of Morgantown in 2006; Scott Travis of Cox’s
Creek in 2007; Loretta Lyons of Tompkinsville in 2008; Doug
Langley of Shelbyville in 2009; Joe Nichols of Cadiz in 2010; Jim
Sidebottom of Greensburg in 2012; Scott Travis of Cox’s Creek
in 2013; Ray Allan Mackey of Elizabethtown in 2014; and Jack
Trumbo of Simpsonville in 2015.
Scenes from the Farmer of the Year Judging Tour