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
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-
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
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-
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.