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					Sunbelt Expo
SE 8      www.SouthernFarmer.com ◆ October 2008




2008 Farmer of
T      EN farmers compete for the title
       of Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo
       Southeastern Farmer of the Year.
Each is chosen by an organization that
participates in the competition.
                                             cializes in horticultural plants grown
                                             outside and in greenhouses on about
                                             8 acres. His farm consists of 205 acres
                                             of family-owned land and another 100
                                             acres of leased land. He grows pine trees
                                                                                          cilities include 126,000 square feet under
                                                                                          greenhouses and another 30,000 square
                                                                                          feet under shade structures.
                                                                                              Agri-Starts is a wholesale supplier
                                                                                          of starter plants for the commercial
                                                                                                                                        Kentucky
                                                                                                                                        Loretta        Lyons,
                                                                                                                                        Tompkinsville, Ky.,
                                                                                                                                        turned a part-time
                                                                                                                                        operation into a
  The 2008 finalists are:                     on 100 acres, bahiagrass and bermuda-        nursery industry. Agri-Starts also pro-       full-time farm after
                                             grass on 70 acres, and fruit trees on        vides research and development work           her husband, Hade,
Alabama                                      about a half-acre. He also raises 45 head    specializing in proprietary and licensed      died in 1976.
Lamar        Dewberry,                       of Brangus and Brangus-cross cattle.         plant propagation.                                Over the years,
Lineville, Ala., worked                         His 20 greenhouses cover approxi-             The firm’s annual production is about      she increased the
for 23 years as a                            mately 70,000 square feet. “We created       4 million tropical foliage plants per year,   size of the milking LORETTA LYONS
teacher before he                            a business in the middle of nowhere,”        6 million landscape plants per year and       herd, built silos and
could do what he                             Kirksey says. “We sell to customers          2 million food crop plants per year.          manure-holding facilities, added grain
really wanted: Be a                          in Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma and                Strode and his wife, Vicki, have three    production enterprises, and purchased
tree farmer.                                 Arkansas. We do our own trucking and         sons: Ty has worked five years full time       additional farmland. She also oversaw a
   While      teaching,                      deliver directly to our customers.”          for the business and is responsible for       major transition of the dairy farm into
Dewberry slowly but LAMAR                       Kirksey started in 1985 with two          trade show exhibits, catalog sales, local     one that emphasizes raising heifers. The
steadily bought land DEWBERRY                greenhouses and grew 60,000 cuttings         sales and the overall marketing effort.       farm totals 1,140 acres with 695 acres of
and now is a full-time                       the first year. “That started us in liner     Taylor is the firm’s shipping manager.         owned land.
farmer on 730 acres of productive tim-       production,” he says. Liners are trays of    Their youngest son, Cody, is a senior at          Her crop yields are notable: 2.5 tons
berland. He retired from teaching in         young plants grown for sale to whole-        the University of Central Florida.            of baled wheat silage per acre from 300
2003.                                        salers or retailers who then grow them                                                     acres, 19 tons of corn silage per acre
   Dewberry Land timber holdings in-         to larger sizes before selling to con-       Georgia                                       from 130 acres, 152 bushels of corn grain
clude 55 acres of longleaf pine planted      sumers.                                      Clayton        “Wayne”                        per acre from 300 acres, and 2.5 tons of
two years ago, 120 acres of loblolly with       After building his own greenhouses,       McKinnon of Douglas,                          hay per acre from 200 acres.
first thinning completed, 209 acres of        Kirksey started building greenhouses         Ga., runs a farm that                             She raises 800 head of dairy replace-
loblolly pine not yet thinned, 194 acres     for others. “We have built more than 500     embodies hard work,                           ment heifers each year and produces
of hardwood trees, 31 acres of growing       greenhouses in a three-state area, and       agricultural diversity                        timber on 185 acres of one of her farms.
mixed pine-hardwood stands, 68 acres         this sideline created capital we used to     and family farming.                               Lyons has been active in a number
of leased-out pasture and 21 acres of        buy land and cattle,” he adds.               The work McKinnon                             of organizations. She supports local
wildlife openings planted to food plots.        In addition, Kirksey works part           and his family have                           libraries and Extension home eco-
                                                                                                                   WAYNE
   Dewberry’s loblolly pines yield about     time as manager of Alpine Water              put in for the past 36                        nomics. She was appointed to the local
                                                                                                                   McKINNON
1.87 tons of wood per acre per year from     Association. His Spring Creek Farms          years is paying off.                          school board, served as president of
the first thinning, and his mature loblolly   provides backhoe services to the water       His operation now includes 600 rented         the Kentucky Master Farm Homemakers
sawtimber yields 4.35 tons of wood per       utility. Kirksey is active in many orga-     acres and 800 owned acres.                    Guild, was a charter member of the
acre per year when it is harvested.          nizations, including the South Central           His crops include cotton on 800           Kentucky Women in Agriculture or-
   Dewberry and his wife, Felicia, have      Rural Electric Co-op, Clark County Soil      acres, peanuts on 500 acres, tobacco          ganization and was elected to serve
two grown children: Nathan is a youth        Conservation District, Farm Credit ad-       on 100 acres, wheat on 200 acres and          on the local soil conservation district
minister at a church in Athens, Ala., and    visory board, Caddo River Consortium,        blueberries on 47 acres. In addition,         board. She also serves on the Kentucky
Abby raises poultry in Blountsville, Ala.    Clark County Cattlemen’s Association,        McKinnon raises pullets and roosters          Agriculture Heritage Center’s board.
   Dewberry has received a number of         Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corp.,         on contract, and maintains a 150-head         She is a Master Gardener and active in
awards for his excellence in tree farming.   Arkansas Green Industry, Arkansas            cow-calf herd. Per-acre crop yields are       her church. The Bowling Green Area
Some of these include the Wild Turkey        Rural Water Association, Arkansas State      900 pounds for cotton, 3,400 pounds           Chamber of Commerce named Lyons its
Woodland Award, State Tree Farmer of         Plumbing Association and Arkansas            for peanuts, 2,600 pounds for tobacco,        first South Central Kentucky Agriculture
the Year and the Treasure Forest Helene      Farm Bureau.                                 60 bushels for wheat, 14,000 pounds for       Hall of Fame Award recipient in 2007.
Mosley Award. He also was named a               Kirksey and his wife, Nan, have           highbush blueberries and 2,500 pounds             Lyons has three children: Kevin is
Southern regional finalist for a national     two children: Kathryn, 19, attends           for rabbiteye blueberries.                    a county Extension agent in Monroe
tree farming award.                          Henderson State University, and John             Irrigation is an important contributor    County, Ky. Kerry works on the farm,
   Dewberry is active in a number of tree    Brian, 13, is in eighth grade. Both have     to McKinnon’s yields. He notes that 25%       and Kela is a doctor. “Our farm is orga-
farming and related organizations, in-       raised and shown market steers.              of his cotton, 20% of his peanuts, 100% of    nized as a family corporation, and my
cluding the State Tree Farm Committee,                                                    his tobacco, 100% of his blueberries and      sons have their own individually owned
Alabama Treasure Forest Association,         Florida                                      100% of his wheat is irrigated. He started    farms that we lease,” she adds.
Alabama Forestry Association and the         Illinois native Randall                      irrigating with his dad using traveling
Forest Landowners Association. He also       E. “Randy” Strode                            guns. In 1980, McKinnon bought his first                          Mississippi
serves as president of the Clay County       took a leave of ab-                          center-pivot irrigation system and now                           Claude Gibson “Gibb”
Farmers Federation.                          sence from his high                          has 10 pivots.                                                   Steele III of Longwood,
   Felicia has been a licensed realtor       school coaching job                              This year, he’s investing in a new lo-                       Miss., grows rice and
since 1997, and the Dewberrys also own       to visit Florida and                         cally owned blueberry processing plant.                          soybeans on 7,300
the real estate company she operates,        learn about horticul-                        He says the plant should be in operation                         acres of heavy clay
Mountain Streams Realty.                     ture. He learned. He                         for the 2009 season and will be capable                          gumbo soils, of which
                                             stayed. He started RANDY STRODE              of individually quick-freezing fresh                             5,000 acres is rented.
                    Arkansas                 his own business.                            blueberries. It will also create about                              His yields are
                     Fourth-generation           Agri-Starts Inc., launched in 1984,      35 seasonal jobs during the five-month         GIBB STEELE        healthy: 177 bushels
                     farmer Brian Kirksey    specializes in tropical foliage and land-    processing season. The fruit will be mar-                       per acre for rice grown
                     of Amity, Ark., found   scape plants. Strode never went back to      keted nationally through the Michigan         on 3,650 acres, 55 bushels per acre for
                     a way to stay on the    Illinois.                                    Blueberry Growers organization.               soybeans grown on 2,650 acres, and 69.9
                     farm by growing             He now lives in Longwood, Fla., and          McKinnon and his wife, Lynn, have         bushels per acre for wheat grown on 700
                     nursery        plants   his operation is on about 25 acres near      three children: Clay, 15, plans to become     acres. One reason for the high yields:
                     for the wholesale       Apopka, Fla. “We produce a wide variety      a medical doctor and farm part time           Both soybeans and rice are irrigated.
                     market. In addition,    of plants, including tropical foliage, or-   when he’s older; Amanda is a teacher in          Almost all of the land Steele farms is
                     he raises cattle, hay   namentals, perennials and more,” Strode      local schools, and Monica is beginning        precision land leveled. This allows for ef-
BRIAN KIRKSEY
                     and timber on his       says. He estimates that he and his 60        an educational program that will lead         ficient flood irrigation for his rice crops
family’s 305-acre farm.                      employees maintain 1,200 to 1,300 plant      to a career working with troubled chil-       and furrow irrigation from polyethylene
   Kirksey’s Spring Creek Farms spe-         varieties. The Agri-Starts production fa-    dren.                                         pipe for his soybeans.

				
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