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Southeastern Farmers of the Year pay it forward with charity donations

Long-known as a generous community, the farmers named as the 2020 Farmers of the Year in 10 states took the opportunity provided by Syngenta to offer a hand to the charity of their choice. Syngenta gave $5,000 in donations in $500 increments to the charity chosen by each farmer in the 2020 Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year program.


“These farmers contribute to the health and well-being of their local communities day in and day out, so we found it fitting to express our gratitude by also giving back to their communities with a donation to service organizations near and dear to their hearts,” said Pam Caraway, Syngenta communications lead. “Agriculture is an industry of passion, dedication and sacrifice, characteristics exemplified by each of the winners selected, and we are proud to sponsor this award in recognition of their achievements.”

Chip Blalock, executive director of the Sunbelt Expo, agreed. “Agricultural producers are key to the success of our communities, industry, and nation. Their admirable dedication to their communities, spirit of perseverance and determination is what the Swisher Sweets Sunbelt Ag Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year award program looks to recognize.” Blalock said. “These charity donations are an appropriate extension of the leadership these growers provide every day.”

Stephen Kelley of Bardwell, Kentucky, humbled to join the ranks of in his state, noted that the charity donation included in their award package was a fitting tribute. “Our local farmers are naturally supportive and protective of each other,” Kelley said. “If a situation arises, such as an illness or flooding of one’s fields, farmers are quick to lend help to see that the fellow farmer is able to survive the crisis at hand.”

Kelley chose a donation to the Carlisle County 4-H Council because of his family’s longtime affiliation and their continued involvement as volunteers. 4-H promotes the full development of young people by developing life skills through hands-on, learn-by-doing opportunities.

Lee Nunn of Madison, Georgia, selected Camp Twin Lakes, one of the places where he volunteers, to receive the donation. The camp, which is self-sustainable, offers outdoor activities for children with medical challenges.

“It is important for young kids to understand agriculture and where their food comes from,” said Nunn. “My wife is a teacher, so I volunteer at local schools to talk about the industry and show students the tools and equipment we use to produce crops.”

Jay Yeargin of Greenfield, Tennessee, chose to support agricultural education to those outside the industry. “Every day, we just try and do our very best to protect the land that has been provided to us to help feed the world,” said Yeargin. The charitable organization he selected, Discovery Park of America, is creating a new exhibit to help tell that story and make the connection from table to farm for thousands of visitors from across the country.

James Lamb of Clinton, North Carolina, can see Union Chapel AME Zion Church from his farm and said the support of his church community helped him expand his operation.  As a Sampson County Soil and Water Supervisor, member of NC Farm Families, and active supporter of the Sampson Community College Animal Science Department, Lamb supports his community in numerous ways.

“All businesses in the area provide goods and services to farmers, so the community supports farmers and the farmers support the community,” said Lamb.  

winners honored through charity donations include:

  • Bob Hall, York, South Carolina, Filbert Presbyterian Tarecuato Mission Team
  • Rick Roth, West Palm Beach, Florida, Samaritan’s Purse
  • Thomas Ellis, Fort Deposit, Alabama, Alabama Cattlemen’s Association May and Ned Ellis Scholarship Fund
  • Joe Edmondson, Vardaman, Mississippi, Multiple Sclerosis Association of America
  • CJ Isabell, Rockville, Virginia, Virginia Fairs
  • Jamie Anderson, Lonoke, Arkansas, Open Arms Shelter
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