to the overall winner. Each state winner of the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt
Expo award receives 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 Southern States cooperative, and a Columbia
vest from Ivey’s Outdoor and Farm Supply.
The overall winner receives a $15,000 cash award from Swisher,
the use of a Massey Ferguson tractor for a year from Massey Ferguson
North America, another $500 gift certificate from Southern States, a
Columbia jacket from Ivey’s Outdoor and Farm Supply, a smoker-grill
from Hays LTI, and a Henry Golden Boy “American Farmer Tribute Edition” rifle from Reinke Irrigation.
Swisher International, through its Swisher Sweets cigar brand,
and Sunbelt Expo are sponsoring the Southeastern Farmer of the
Year awards for the 28th consecutive year. Swisher has contributed
$1,080,000 in cash awards and other honors to southeastern farmers
since the award was initiated in 1990. After this year’s Expo, Swisher’s
contributions will total about $1,120,000 in cash prizes and other
honors to the farmers in the award program.
These cash prizes do not include other substantial contributions
that Swisher makes toward the Farmer of the Year awards, including
expenses for the corporate jet that flies the judges, over a period of
five days, to the farms of each of the 10 state winners.
A distinguished panel of judges visited the farms of each of the state
winners during the week of Aug. 7-11. Judges this year include farmer
Thomas Porter, Jr., Concord, N. C., who was the overall winner in 2011;
Charles Snipes, retired Mississippi Extension weed scientist, Greenville, Miss.; and beef cattle rancher Cary Lightsey, Lake Wales, Fla., who
was the overall winner in 2009.
Porter, who served as senior judge this year, has been a successful
pork, poultry, and beef cattle producer. He raises pork and poultry on
contract and started his extensive beef herd with five head of cattle.
In addition to being the overall Farmer of the Year winner in 2011, he
was also North Carolina’s state winner of the award in 2006.
Snipes is serving his second three-year term as a Farmer of the
Year judge. He previously served from 2010 through 2012. He is a re-
tired Extension weed scientist who provides contract services in ag-
ricultural research in the Mid-South. In addition to his weed science
responsibilities, Snipes also worked at Mississippi State University as a
plant physiologist and Extension cotton specialist.
Lightsey, a new judge this year, is a beef cattle producer, and he
and his family also grow citrus and sod. He is known for his environ-
mental stewardship, and makes extensive use of conservation ease-
ments on his ranch property.
Accompanying the judges on their visits to the 10 state winner
farms were Ron Carroll with Swisher International, Expo Director
Chip Blalock, and Videographer Brett Reece of Dallas, Ga.
The overall winner of the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo South-
eastern Farmer of the Year award will be announced at a luncheon
Oct. 17, the opening day of the Sunbelt Ag Expo farm show.
For a complete list of state and overall winners, please visit sun-
State Farmer of the Year Award winners for 2016 at the luncheon in
their honor at Sunbelt Expo. From left, Wendell Gibbs (Alabama); David
Wildy (Arkansas); Tony DiMare representing Paul DiMare (Florida);
John McCormick (Georgia); Keith Lowery (Kentucky); Paul Good (Mis-
sissippi); Jerry Wyant (North Carolina); Kerry Own (South Carolina);
James Haskew ( Tennessee); and Tyler Wegmeyer (Virginia). The overall
winner was David Wildy. This year’s overall winner will be announced
at a luncheon Tuesday, Oct. 17, at the 40th anniversary Sunbelt Expo at
Over the past 28 years, the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year award program has honored excellence across
Southern agriculture’s diverse landscape, and those who have participated in the program are part of a special group.
Unfortunately, some members of this unique group of farmers
are no longer with us. In memoriam, here is a list of the Farmers of
the Year who have passed.
AUSTIN ANDERSON, Tennessee State Winner 2004; HUGH
ARANT, Sr., Mississippi State Winner 1990; LEROY BALDWIN, Florida
State Winner and Overall Winner 1993; BRUCE BUSH, Alabama
State winner 2003; ROBERT CONNELLY, SR., South Carolina State
JERRY EDGE, South Carolina State Winner 1998; NELSON GARDENER, Virginia State and Overall Winner 1990; JAMES GRAHAM,
Tennessee State Winner 1990; ED HESTER, Mississippi State and
Overall Winner 1995; RUSSELL INSKEEP, Virginia State Winner 1991.
ORELAN JOHNSON, Arkansas State Winner 2009; GEORGE KAISER, Alabama State Winner 1991; BILLY LONG, Florida State Winner
1994; SYKES MARTIN, Alabama State Winner 1993; BUCK McCANN,
Virginia State 1994; ERNIE NUNEZ, Florida State and Overall Winner
1991; RICK PARSONS, Mississippi State winner 1994 and 2003.
WILL PUTNAM, Florida State Winner 2002; WILLIAM TACKETT,
Mississippi State Winner 2000; TALBERT THOMAS, Mississippi State
Winner 1993; BOBBY VANNATTA, Tennessee State Winner 1995;
EDWARD WILSON, Tennessee State Winner 1993; and JAMES WISE,
Alabama State Winner 2005.