Florida dairy farmer Dale McClellan was named the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year during the opening day of the Expo, being held Oct. 16-18 in Moultrie, Ga.

McClellan says he was literally born into farming, being raised on his grandparents’ dairy farm in Tampa.

“I’d like to give thanks to God for giving me a miracle some time back — I was leaving a lot of potential on the table. And thanks to my wife Mary for being my greatest supporter and cheerleader,” he said in accepting the honor.

McClellan, of Thonotosassa, Fla., helped to start a milk-marketing cooperative and developed his own milk and fruit juice processing plant. He is known for the fat-free, sugar-reduced chocolate milk he delivers to Florida schools.

“I’d like to thank the 160 great employees of our company who allow me to take off to be here today, and thanks to the owners or our company who are also family members for giving me space,” he said.

McClellan also thanked the “many Florida food service directors for seeing a small company as an important thing.”

“I’d also like to give thanks to my mentors who taught me that failure can be a great springboard to success. I accept this award for M & B Farms.”

(For an in-depth look at McClellan's farming operation, and the operations of the other nine 2012 state winners, see http://southeastfarmpress.com/sunbelt-ag-expo-0. Additional information about the Sunbelt Expo can be found at that location).

At his dairy in Lecanto, Fla., McClellan milks some 700 cows three times daily with a rolling herd average of about 23,000 pounds of milk per year. His farm consists of 1,272 acres, including 952 acres of rented land and 320 acres of owned land.