BONIFAY — Ken Barton and his family were named Farm Family of the Year at this year’s Holmes County Farm City 2012 Banquet held at the Holmes County Agricultural Center on Tuesday, Nov. 13.
“We are very proud to recognize the Barton Family as the Farm Family of the Year tonight,” said Shep Eubanks, Holmes County IFAS Extension Director. “I want to take just a few minutes to tell you a little bit about the family.”
Eubanks said that Ken Barton had lived his entire life in Holmes County except for a few years in his early childhood.
“Ken then returned to the community when he was in the fifth grade, when his dad bought a small far to raise hogs and cows and grew some corn for feed,” he said. “And that’s where he first began to develop his love for agriculture.”
Barton knew he wanted to be farmer someday, said Eubanks, going through high school he worked at the farm and attended Bethlehem school.
After graduation Barton went to attend a community college in Tampa where he studied electronics and after graduating he moved back home.
“It was when he moved back home that he met his wife Rhonda and they got married and he began farming with her father in 1979 on a share crop basis,” said Eubanks. “Not long after that started his own farm. He mentioned that Mrs. Rhonda has always been a big help on the farm.”
He said it wouldn’t be uncommon to find her tractor cutting cotton stalks or operating the module builder during the cotton harvest.
“The wives were just as an important part of the farm as the man is,” said Eubanks. “We just wanted to recognize Mrs. Rhonda as being equally as important in this thing.”
As the Bartons increased the size of their farm, the size of their family also grew. Their daughter, Tonya, was born in 1981 and their son, Chad, was born in 1983. After graduation Tonya attended Florida State University and Chad attended Enterprise State Community College.
Tonya is married to Kevin Amerson and they have two children, Kason, 7, and Kolton, 4.
“Tonya is an elementary school teacher at Bethlehem School and Kevin is employed with Dothan Livestock as a field representative,” said Eubanks. “Kevin also has a cow/calf operation and produces oats and hay. Tonya, Kason and Kolton are always eager to help with the hay operation or assist with in working with cattle.”
Chad is married to Ashley Miller and they have two children, Kenny, 4, and Kaylee, 2.
“Chad is employed at Fort Rucker as an aircraft machanic,” he said. “Chad is also a 50/50 partner in the row-crop operation of the Bartons’ farm. Ashley is a stay-at-home mom and helps out on the farm by running errands, picking up parts or supplies. Kenny and Kaylee love the time they spend in the field or in a tractor.”
In 2003 Ken scaled back his farming operation and took a job with the Florida Peanut Producers Association as their executive director. This is the “check-off organization” for peanuts in the state.
“They are involved in research, promotion, education and legislative activities,” said Eubanks. “Ken enjoys working for and representing the peanut farmers in the state of Florida.”
Ken, Chad and Kevin have full-time employment off the farm.
“To operate our farm we must use the best management practices and time management possible to make sure the work is done properly, efficiently and in a timely manner,” said Ken. “Our family is committed to each other and our farm and without a true love of agriculture and family this farm would not prosper. We are thankful and grateful to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, that He allows us to be stewards of one of His Greatest Creations, Mother Earth.”
Representative of Congressman Jeff Miller, Helen Rigdon, was present to let everyone know that the award of Holmes County Farm Family of the Year 2012 to the Barton Family would be recorded and stored in the Library of Congress after being read to the House of Representatives on the House Floor.
“Ken and Rhonda Barton are Northwest Florida natives with a deep connection to the local farming community,” read Rigdon as it would appear in the Library of Congress. “Farming became a part of their childhood and way of life. Thirty-three years ago, they were married, and it then became a love they have since shared as husband and wife and one that they now share with their children and grandchildren. Together, they successfully operate a 1,200-acre farm, where they raise livestock and grow peanuts, cotton, oats, and hay. The success of the farm is largely due to the way in which the Barton family operates. Each plays a supporting role, while embracing the best management practices. It is through their tireless work and dedication that the Barton Family demonstrates a true love of agriculture and family.
“Outside of the farm, the family plays an active role in the community. Ken and Rhonda are heavily involved in numerous state agriculture associations, including the Florida Peanut Producers Association, the Southern Peanut Farmers Federation, the Florida Cattlemen's Association, and the Florida Farm Bureau. In 2003, Ken became the Executive Director of the Florida Peanut Producers Association, where he proudly represents the peanut farmers of the state of Florida in both Tallahassee and Washington, D.C. He also dedicates his time to research, promotion, and education in Florida peanut production.”