Even growing up as the only son of a third generation farmer, William “Bill” Cameron Jr. didn’t see agriculture in his future — he saw football. But following his heart eventually led to Cameron returning to his roots and starting his own family farm.

Its evident Cameron’s decision to return to agriculture was the right one. He has been named the recipient of the most prestigious award in American Agriculture — the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year Award for 2007.

The announcement was made by officials of Swisher International of Jacksonville, Fla., and the Sunbelt Expo of Moultrie, Ga., sponsors of the Southeastern Farmer of the Year award for 18 years.

“It’s an honor to have Bill Cameron as North Carolina’s second Southeastern Farmer of the Year winner,” said J. Thomas Ryan, president, Swisher International. “He has an outstanding operation.”

“When looking at all Cameron’s accomplished in the agriculture industry it’s more than evident. . .he definitely made the right career choice,” stated Ryan.

Cameron was selected for the honor by a panel of judges in competition among 10 state finalists in the Southeastern states of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

“I’m honored and humbled to receive this award, especially after meeting the other nine state winners and seeing their operations.” “I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to work in an industry that I love and believe in,” stated Cameron.

“I also want to thank Swisher International and the Sunbelt Expo for caring about the ag industry, sponsoring the award and all they do to promote the American farmer.”

As the Southeastern Farmer of the Year, Cameron will receive a $14,000 cash award from Swisher International. He will also receive the use of a tractor of his choice for a year from Massey Ferguson North America, gift certificates totaling $1,000 from Southern States, a $500 cash award, a $500 gift certificate and custom designed jacket from the Williamson-Dickie Company and a $3,600 custom-designed gun safe from Misty Morn Safe Company.

Cameron’s story really is of a boy who left the farm only to find farming never left him. After 11 years of coaching high school football, Cameron returned to Raeford in a U-Haul truck with his wife, a baby girl — and four cows. In 1976, he devoted his life to full time farming.

His original 82 acre operation has grown into 860 acres today. Cameron’s diversified operation includes row crops and a cattle operation along with swine. The family also operates Five Points pet resort on their farm.

There’s 250 acres of corn with a yield of 140 bushels per acre, 425 acres of soybeans, producing 30 bushels per acre, 110 acres of wheat, 50 acres of oats, 120 acres of rye and 185 acres of hay.

His other enterprises include 150 head of Santa Gertrudis cows and six bulls that he uses to raise seed stock. Feeder steers are sold to Nichols Farm in Iowa. He also has a 6,000 head breeder gilt grower operation in 8 grower houses on contract with Premium Standard Farms.

“I’ll never regret the decision to leave the coaching ranks and returning to the farm. It’s what I really love doing.” “I guess my story is truly one that you can take the boy off the farm but the farm never leaves the boy,” says Cameron.

Cameron and his wife Rhenda have two children — daughter Candace who is operations manager for Five Points Resorts and son Bill III who works for a law firm in Salisbury, N.C.

Cameron is the second winner of the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year from North Carolina. Eddie Johnson of Elkin was selected as the overall winner in 2004.

The other state winners for the 2007 Southeastern Farmer of the Year award included: Billy Gilly of Holly Pond, Ala.; Michael Simon of Conway, Ark.; Alton (Bud) Adams of Ft. Pierce, Fla.; Daniel Johnson of Alma, Ga.; Scott Travis of Cox’s Creek, Ky.; Tom Robertson of Indianola, Miss.; William Johnson of Conway, S.C.; Grant Norwood of Paris, Tenn. and Steve Berryman of Surry, Va.