Dec. 17—VALDOSTA — Two local farmers were honored at Lowndes and Echols county’s Second Annual Farmer Appreciation Breakfast at the Lowndes County Civic Center earlier this month.

In partnership with the Valdosta-Lowndes County Chamber of Commerce and Georgia Grown, Lowndes County named David Corbett of South Georgia Produce, Inc. the Large Farmer of the Year and named Janet and Steve Hendley of Fifth Day Farm as the Small Farmer of the Year.

Corbett told all 135 attendees that he’s thankful to receive the Large Farmer award.

Steve Hendley expressed similar sentiments, stating his win was a complete shock to him.

“This was totally a surprise. This morning we were feeding the animals when we got a call saying we needed to come down here. … Thank you very much. We appreciate it and we’re honored,” he said.

Since 2021, Lowndes and Echols counties have awarded area farmers for their contributions to the state’s agriculture.

In Lowndes, county agriculture contributes an estimated $116,585,161 to the economy while Echols County contributes $222,146,323 to its economy, according to the latest Georgia Farm Gate Value Report done by the University of Georgia.

During the ceremony, Lowndes County Manager Paige Dukes said while growth is necessary to Lowndes County, county officials still prioritize their agriculture roots.

“We’re always going to be rural, agriculturally based. We could listen to the rest of the world tell us that we need to be more like them. What I say is, they need to understand that they need to be more like us,” she said.

Lowndes County Commission Chairman Bill Slaughter said it takes skilled leadership to balance between encouraging growth and industry that will attract more residents to the area while maintaining the agricultural community and the land that produces “many goods that our citizens enjoy.”

“So it’s quite a challenge that we have worked with. We get it right, we feel, like a lot of times. But we get it wrong sometimes. I’m here to tell you that we’re not perfect but we take all the information that we can get and we try to make the very best decision that at the end of the day, (is) what is best for us. … What’s best for Lowndes County,” he said.

Arthur Tripp, Georgia state executive director of U.S. Department of Agriculture, also gave remarks, informing the audience that in the next 10 years, 50% of the country’s producers will be due to retire, and that’s why initiatives such as the farmer’s appreciation dinner are important to the industry.

“I believe that it is vital to ensure the spirit of these awards. Agriculture is virtually the only industry every single day, whether it be the food that we eat, the clothes we wear and the air we breathe, has a hand in our lives. It is a testament to the reality that agriculture touches. I feel very good about the future of our industry,” he said.

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