December 7, 2015
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Jennifer Whittaker, email@example.com
GEORGIA FARM BUREAU PRESENTS STATE AWARDS
Outstanding county programs, young farmers recognized
MACON, Ga. - The Georgia Farm Bureau Federation recognized the best of the organization’s volunteers and county chapters during its 78th annual convention on Jekyll Island. The state award winners were honored for the programs they conducted this past year to promote agriculture.
“Recognizing our individual and county award winners is a highlight of Georgia Farm Bureau’s annual convention. Our county Farm Bureau volunteers have worked hard this year to educate their communities about Georgia agriculture and recruit members for our organization,” GFB President Zippy Duvall said. “I offer my heartfelt congratulations to all of our winners and my gratitude to all of our county volunteers for generously giving of their time to advocate for Georgia agriculture.”
Georgia Farm Bureau named a McKemie Award winner - the highest honor given to a county in recognition of its overall member programs - from each of its three membership categories. Bacon County Farm Bureau, whose president is David Lee, received the McKemie Award for the 0 to 1,274-member division. Washington County Farm Bureau, whose president is Sidney Law, won the McKemie Award for the 1,275 to 2,150-member division. Henry County Farm Bureau, whose president is Ross McQueen, received the award in the 2,151 plus-member division. The McKemie Award is a memorial to one of the organization’s former presidents, W.J. McKemie.
Finalists in the McKemie competition, listed in alphabetical order, for the 0 to 1,274-member division were: Crawford, Jasper, Macon, Treutlen, Turner, Upson and Wilcox counties. Finalists for the 1,275 to 2,150-member division were: Cook, Greene, Houston, Monroe, Pike, Polk, Spalding, Stephens and Toombs counties. Finalists in the 2,151 plus-member division were: Banks, Cherokee, Coffee, Habersham, McDuffie, Madison, Newton, Walker and White counties.
Georgia Farm Bureau presented a Membership Excellence Award to a county from each of its three membership categories in recognition of the counties’ membership campaigns that resulted in membership growth.
Macon County Farm Bureau, whose president is Mike McLendon, received the GFB Membership Award for the 0 to 1,274-member division. Bibb County Farm Bureau, whose president is Jimmy Jordan, won the award for the 1,275 to 2,150-member division. Coffee County Farm Bureau, whose president is Derek Pridgen, received the award in the 2,151 plus-member division.
Other state awards presented included: Outstanding Promotion & Education Award received by Henry County Farm Bureau; Outstanding Women’s Leadership Committee Award received by Chattooga County Farm Bureau; Outstanding Legislative Committee Award received by Cherokee County Farm Bureau; and Outstanding Young Farmer Committee Award received by Madison County Farm Bureau.
Jean Dykes, Henry County Farm Bureau (HCFB) office manager, received the organization’s Outstanding Office Manager Award. She was recognized for her work to promote agriculture and Farm Bureau in her local community. A graduate of Clayton College & State University, Dykes has been employed with HCFB since 2013 following a 24-year career in banking. She and her husband, Johnny, live on a small farm in McDonough.
Lauren Goble, a first-grade teacher in Jones County, received GFB’s Georgia Agriculture in the Classroom 2015 Teacher of the Year Award. Goble, who teaches 19 students at Mattie Wells Elementary School in Gray, was recognized for incorporating information and activities in her classroom curriculum that teach her students about agriculture and how it impacts their daily lives. She received a $500 award and an expense-paid trip to the National Ag in the Classroom Conference in Litchfield Park, Ariz., in June 2016.
Paul Kelly of Jasper County won the 2015 GFB Quality Hay Contest, which was open to any Farm Bureau member who produces Bermudagrass hay. Hay entered in the contest was tested at the University of Georgia Testing Lab using the Relative Forage Quality (RFQ) Test, which predicts fiber digestibility and likely animal intake of the hay. Kelly’s winning Coastal Bermuda hay had an RFQ of 142.3. He won the free use of a Vermeer TM1200 Trailed Mower for one year courtesy of the Vermeer Manufacturing Company with the option to purchase the mower at a reduced price at the end of the year.
Matt and Melissa Bottoms of Pike County were recognized as the GFB Young Farmer Achievement winners. The Bottomses operate a nursery where they grow a variety of fruit plants, vines and trees that they sell wholesale and on their website. They also grow wheat, soybeans and canola. Matt and Melissa served on the GFB Young Farmer Committee in 2008 and were committee chairmen in 2009. Matt is the Pike County Farm Bureau vice president and serves as chairman of the GFB Environmental Horticulture Committee. Melissa is beginning a three-year term on the GFB Women’s Leadership Committee. The Bottomses have three daughters.
The Bottomses received a $500 cash prize, courtesy of Georgia Farm Bureau, and an expense-paid trip to the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) Convention Jan. 8-13 in Orlando, Fla., to compete for national honors. They also received a Polaris rough-terrain-vehicle, courtesy of Southern Farm Bureau Life Insurance.
The finalists in the GFB Young Farmer Achievement Contest were Elton and Tabitha Baldy of Colquitt County and Jonathan and Bridget Hitchcock of Washington County. The Baldy family grows a variety of vegetables along with cotton, peanuts and rye on a total of 1,200 acres. The Hitchcocks farm with Jonathan’s brother James, sister Jennifer and father Waylon, growing corn, cotton, peanuts, soybeans, wheat and canola on a total of 1,883 acres, as well as raising a small herd of beef cattle. The two finalist couples each received a $500 cash award, courtesy of GFB.
Kyle Dekle of Habersham County was recognized as the GFB Young Farmer Discussion Meet winner and will enjoy an expense-paid trip to the AFBF Convention in Orlando to compete for national honors, courtesy of GFB. Finalists included Heather Brannen of Bulloch County, Garrett Ganas of Ware County, and Caroline Lewallen of Hall County. Dekle received a $500 cash award, courtesy of Georgia Farm Bureau, and a Polaris all-terrain-vehicle (ATV) courtesy of Southern Farm Bureau Life Insurance. The three finalists each received a $350 cash award from SunTrust Bank.
Stephanie Butcher of Coweta County won the Young Farmer Excellence in Agriculture Award. GFB presents this award to recognize young farmers who earn the majority of their income from something other than production agriculture. Butcher is the Coweta County Extension coordinator. She and her husband Kirk live in Senoia and work the family’s dairy.
Butcher won a Polaris 4x4 ATV courtesy of Southern Farm Bureau Life Insurance, and an expense-paid trip to the AFBF Convention in Orlando to compete for national honors, courtesy of GFB.
The other finalists for the Excellence in Agriculture Award were Matthew and Kimberly London of White County and Justin Shealey of Cook County. Matthew farms with his father, Stanley, and grandfather, Verner, raising Holstein replacement heifers and growing a variety of forages for the 1,800-head herd on about 800 acres. Kimberly works at Northeast Georgia Medical Center. Shealey is the Echols County Extension coordinator and grows cotton, peanuts, wheat, watermelons and cattle. The finalists each received a $500 cash award courtesy of AgSouth Farm Credit.
Founded in 1937, the Georgia Farm Bureau Federation is the state’s largest general farm organization. The organization has 158 county chapters. Its volunteer members actively participate in local, district and state activities that promote agriculture awareness to their non-farming neighbors. GFB also has 20 commodity advisory committees that give the organization input on issues pertinent to the major commodities grown in Georgia.
CUTLINE TO ACCOMPANY PHOTO:The Georgia Farm Bureau Federation honored county Farm Bureaus for promoting agriculture and individual members for personal achievement during the organization’s 78th annual convention. Georgia Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall (standing, back row, far right) congratulates the 2015 GFB award recipients (front row seated, L-R): Charles Elliott accepting the GFB Outstanding Promotion & Education Committee Award for Henry County; Ross McQueen accepting the GFB McKemie Award in the 2,151-plus member division for Henry County; Sidney Law accepting the GFB McKemie Award in the 1,275-2,150 membership division for Washington County Farm Bureau; Linda Leslieaccepting the GFB Outstanding Women’s Leadership Committee Award for Chattooga County; GFB Young Farmer Excellence in Agriculture Award winner Stephanie Butcher of Coweta County; GFB Young Farmer Achievement Award winners Melissa, Matt and Abigail Bottoms of Pike County and (back row, from left) Clay Wilson accepting the GFB Outstanding Young Farmer Committee Award for Madison County Farm Bureau; GFB Hay Contest Winner Paul Kelly of Jasper County; David Lee accepting the GFB McKemie Award in the 0 to 1,274 membership division for Bacon County Farm Bureau; Jimmy Jordan accepting the GFB Membership Excellence Award in the 1,275-2,150 membership division for Bibb County Farm Bureau; Mike McLendon accepting the GFB Membership Excellence Award in the 0 to 1,274 membership division for Macon County Farm Bureau; Derek Pridgen accepting the GFB Membership Excellence Award in the 2,151-plus member division and Len Cagle accepting the GFB Outstanding Legislative Committee Award for Cherokee County Farm Bureau. Not pictured are GFB Outstanding Office Manager winner Jean Dykes of Henry County, GFB’s Georgia Agriculture in the Classroom Teacher of the Year Lauren Goble and GFB Young Farmer Discussion Meet Award winner Kyle Dekle of Habersham County.