Brain Kirksey, 49, a diversified farmer from Arkansas, was named the 2008 Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year on Tuesday during the opening day of the Moultrie, Ga., farm show.

“I can’t tell you how surprised and honored I am for Arkansas, my small community of Amity, and my county,” said Kirksey in accepting the honor. “We have a great farm – it’s a small farm, and we call it a survival farm. We wanted to stay on the farm, so we had to come up with the ingenuity to be able to stay, and it has worked.”

Kirksey’s major crops include horticultural shrubs, pine forests, bahiagrass, bermudagrass and fruit trees. “Farming has been a way of life for the Kirksey family for four generations. I started working at a nursery during high school and college and saw a marketing opportunity to utilize on our farm. I was able to work with my grandfather after college and saved $10,000 to build my first greenhouse and began a propagation operation,” he says.

Other nominees for this year’s award included Lamar Dewberry, Alabama; Randy Strode, Florida; Wayne McKinnon, Georgia; Kent Wannamaker, South Carolina; V. Mac Baldwin, North Carolina; Tim Sutphin, Virginia; Loretta Lyons, Kentucky; Jerry Ray, Tennessee; and Gibb Steele, Mississippi.

As the 2008 winner, Kirksey received a $14,000 cash award from Swisher and other cash prizes and gifts.

This year marks the 31st Sunbelt Agricultural Expo – the largest farm show in the United States with outdoor harvesting and tillage demonstrations. More than 1,200 exhibitors were featured at this year’s show, with more than 100,000 visitors expected during the three-day event.

email: phollis@farmpress.com