CHIPLEY — Hundreds of farmers, friends and family gathered Thursday for the 50th annual Farm-City Day Banquet at the Washington County Agricultural Center.
The annual event features the recognition of the county’s top agriculturalists — Tree Farmer of the Year, Conservationist of the Year, Cattlemen of the Year, Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award and, of course, the Farm Family of the Year.
Also receiving special recognition was Washington County Extension Director Andy Andreasen, who is retiring at the end of this year.
“Andy’s contribution to the cattle industry in Washington and Jackson Counties is extraordinary,” said friend and fellow cattleman Herman Larimore. “He is the ‘go-to’ person if you need information that is not readily available.”
Gene Keller — Tree Farmer of the Year
Gene Keller was named the 2012 Washington County Tree Farmer of the Year, and the award was presented by the Florida Forest Service.
Keller was born in 1927 and grew up on a family farm in the northern part of Illinois, said emcee and Washington County Extension Office Director Andy Andreasen.
While in high school he participated in FFA and raised Duroc hogs for show in the county fair. In 1942, he won Grand Champion of all Breeds in the Sandwich Illinois Fair.
In 1968, the Keller family relocated to the Hinson Crossroads area of Washington County Florida where they predominantly raised soybeans and winter wheat. While clearing land and planting crops, Keller hired many different high school boys to help plow, plant and harvest the crops. He appreciated their hard work and commitment to the farm both then and now. One of these "high school boys," Glen Weber, later leased the land to raise cattle.
“In the early 1990’s, Mr. Keller planted slash pines on 300 plus acres of the farm. Through the years he has tried to follow effective soil and water conservation measures to produce the highest timber yield while protecting the land and wildlife,” Andreasen said. He maintains drainage ditches across the farm while implementing prescribed burns and timely thinning on the pine tree farm. Keller takes great pride in improving the farm while enjoying the beauty of the forest and wildlife.
He says he "just likes to watch the trees grow." He even checks the tree diameter growth each year to measure the progress and development of his timber, Andreasen said.
Terrell Reeder — Conservationist of the Year
Terrell Reeder was named 2012 Conservationist of the Year. The award was presented by the Orange Hill Soil and Water Conservation District.
“Terrell Reeder was brought up during a time when many households in Northwest Florida relied upon having an oversized garden in order to feed a large family,” said Andreasen.
Reeder spent a career in the marine industry, but returned to dry land in 2002, retiring to 180 acres southeast of Wausau.
“Along with a beautiful sloping topography came the challenge of stabilizing the soil while being able to use it productively,” Andreasen said. “He has worked with the local Natural Resources Conservation Service in order to do this. He has utilized benefits of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program as well as technical services in order to preserve the integrity of the land.”
Reeder and his wife, Mary, raise a variety of livestock, including horses, gamebirds, and peacocks. They are currently raising sheep and miniature Herefords. They also produce several varieties of blueberries that are irrigated by an efficient drip irrigation system. They currently have 6 acres in blueberry production and are members of the Wiregrass Blueberry Association. Future plans are to increase the blueberry acreage to 15 acres and increase the miniature Hereford herd, Andreasen said.
Steve and Chris Smith (Smith Farms) — Cattlemen of the Year
Brothers Steve and Chris Smith were named the 2012 Washington County Cattlemen of the Year.
The James H. Smith family moved to Vernon in August of 1971, Andreasen said. “Having sold their 60 acre farm in Northeastern Ohio, ‘Jim’ bought 116 acres just out of Vernon on Pioneer Road,” he said. The Smith family consisted of father, Jim, mother, Joyce, and sons Steve, age 15, Ted, age 13, and Chris, age 4, all of whom moved to Vernon —an older brother, Gary, had already joined the Merchant Marines upon graduating from high school earlier that year.
In the mid 70’s, Steve, along with help from his dad and others started building fences, cow pens, and putting in water lines for cattle. It was then that he began buying a few cows and heifers from area farmers.
In October 1982, while penning cattle, Steve was struck down by a rogue cow, Andreasen said. He was severely injured as the cow tried to jump over him and was left with a spinal cord injury, paralyzing him. It was at this time that help for the young family came from all different directions as Steve was hospitalized for close to 6 months. All of the crops were taken care of as well as all the cattle by a host of friends and relatives. It was at this time that younger brother, Chris, came into the farming picture.
Chris was just 15 when older brother, Steve, was injured. He, along with their dad, took responsibility for the daily tasks involved with caring of the cattle. Upon graduation in 1984, Chris chose a full-time farming career with his brother, Steve.
The Smith goal is to raise cattle that are efficient and have good carcass qualities, Andreasen said. The cows are bred to calve in November/December prior to winter grazing which typically comes in January.
The Smiths intensively graze about 220 acres of Bahia grass, millet and crabgrass in the summer months. In the winter months there are about 150 acres of ryegrass, oats and clover for the cattle to graze.
The Smith farm now consists of 362 acres owned by Steve and Chris and another 575 acres of rented land.
Laurence Cutts — Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award
Receiving the 2012 Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award was Laurence Cutts, Washington County’s legendary beekeeper.
Laurence Cutts was born in 1935 in Snowden, Ala. His family started beekeeping when his Grandfather accepted eight hives of bees in lieu of a last payment on a sewing machine he had sold, Andreasen said. His family continued acquiring hives in Alabama and in Washington and Walton Counties in Florida. During the war, the Poplar trees were being cut down and used to build ammunition boxes, taking away a major food source for the bees in Alabama. Cutts’s father, Paul Cutts, moved the family to Chipley in 1943.
Cutts graduated from high school in 1954 and started attending Florida Christian College in Temple Terrace. “After a few months, he told his father that he would rather dig ditches for the rest of his life than go to college one more day,” Andreasen said. “Thinking he would change his mind, Laurence’s father brought him home and put him to work digging footers for a new honey house. But Laurence didn’t change his mind and that was the beginning of his long career in the beekeeping industry.”
In 1985, Cutts began work with the Department of Agriculture, Division of Plant Industry as the Bureau Chief of Apiary Inspection. His beekeeping expertise became widely known as he traveled to the Caribbean, Mexico and Australia speaking and teaching about bees. He often teaches elementary school children about bees during our Washington County Ag in the Classroom programs, Andreasen said.
Cutts continued to work with the Department of Agriculture until his retirement in 2003. Cutts moved back to Chipley after his retirement and continues to live in Chipley and work in beekeeping. He remains active in the beekeeping industry serving on several advisory boards and holding beekeeping seminars.
This past February, Cutts was inducted into the Florida Agriculture Hall of Fame becoming the first beekeeper to receive this prestigious recognition. He was involved in the planning and instruction in the first Extension multi-state interactive video training for bees this past winter as well as the Bee Field Day & Trade Show, coming up at the Washington County Ag Center on Saturday, Dec. 1.
Jarrod Adkison Family — Farm Family of the Year
The 2012 Washington County Farm Family of the Year is the Jarrod Adkison family.
Jarrod, his wife of thirteen years, Tara, and four children live on the same farm on New Prospect Road that was founded by his grandfather, Floyd Adkison, in 1949, said Andreasen.
Chelsea, 19, attends Chipola College. Nathan, 13, is an eighth grader at Roulac Middle School. Mary Beth, 11, is a sixth grader also at Roulac Middle School. Harrison, 9, is a third grader at Kate Smith Elementary School. Tara works as R.N. at Jackson Hospital in labor delivery. Both Mary Beth and Harrison are enrolled in 4-H and enjoy the youth activities of the organization.
Jarrod, the son of Ken Adkison, is a third-generation, lifelong farmer who along with his cousin Philip grows corn, peanuts, soybeans, wheat, oats, cotton and hay on 1180 acres. Charolais influence beef cattle are also used to diversify the farming operation by utilizing grains produced on the farm and marginal land that is too wet to cultivate, Andreasen said.
The farm also markets some young purebred bulls as well as commercial feeder calves. The farm also employs two full-time employees that are vital to the farming operation.
Jarrod’s leadership in Washington County agriculture is seen in his service to numerous agriculture organizations. He serves on the board of directors of both the Washington County Farm Bureau and the Washington County Cattlemen’s Association. He has served on the Washington County Extension Agriculture Advisory Committee and the Panhandle Peanut Advisory Committee.
Jarrod has also served as a Farm Service Agency director for the past four years. His farm has hosted several Beef Cattle Reproduction Management Schools conducted by the University of Florida Extension Service.
“Jarrod has lived his entire life on the farm. After graduating with a degree in marketing from Troy State University, he returned to live out a dream of raising a family on the farm he loves so dearly,” Andreasen said. “Jarrod is proud to be a part of the rich heritage of family farming in Washington County. He is very thankful for the sacrifices made by his grandfather, dad and uncle that provided this opportunity for him to follow his dream of farming.”
Jarrod’s future plans are to keep the farm in a position to allow his children the same opportunity to live and work on the farm and carry on with their family farming tradition.