Edward “Monty” Rast of Cameron, S.C., used the discipline he learned as a business management major at The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina, to develop a modern farm and several farm-related businesses.

As a result of his accomplishments as a crop farmer and agribusiness investor, Rast has been selected as the South Carolina state winner of the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year award. Rast now joins nine other state winners from the Southeast as finalists for the award. The overall winner will be announced on Tuesday, Oct. 16 at the Sunbelt Ag Expo farm show in Moultrie, Ga.

A farmer for 29 years, Rast farmed 1,800 acres of rented land last year. His per acre crop yields included 4,200 pounds of peanuts from 700 acres, 1,050 pounds of lint from 700 acres of cotton, 198 bushels of corn from 250 acres and 73 bushels of wheat from 250 acres.

“My dedicated employees and business partners are responsible for any farming success I may have had,” says Rast. “This is their award as much as it is mine.”

He has helped introduce other farmers to the benefits of global positioning systems (GPS). He uses GPS, field mapping and automated steering on his own equipment. For instance, he plants peanuts into heavy residue and uses GPS guidance to efficiently harvest his peanuts. “I also use GPS guidance for spray and fertilizer applications to avoid overlaps,” he adds.

Rast irrigates about half the land he farms. He relies on long-term land leases to justify his irrigation investments on rented land. He also hedges his production risks by using crop insurance.

Two of his farming ventures are Edisto Blueberries and Cannon Bridge Strawberries. His five acres of strawberries yield 20,000 pounds per acre per year. On seven acres, he grows 2,500 highbush blueberry plants per acre in plastic pots. Each blueberry bush yields about 10 pounds per year.

He hopes the strawberries and blueberries will supplement his retirement income and keep his family members involved on the farm. “Strawberries and blueberries have many health benefits for consumers,” he adds.

He sells the strawberries at retail markets in Orangeburg, S.C., and delivers the blueberries to the State Farmers Market in West Columbia, S.C. “I also give away strawberries to charities, friends and business associates,” he adds.