“I live and breathe farming,” says Martin. “I don’t want to be the biggest farmer, but I want to be one of the best at what I do.”

Steve Brown with the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service is the state coordinator of the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year award.

Ronnie Barrentine, Extension agent in Pulaski County, nominated Martin for the award. Barrentine admires Martin for developing a systems approach to conservation-tillage.

“This involves maintaining a ‘system’ of cover crops and old crop residue on the soil surface year-round,” says Barrentine. “He is building better soil, improving the soil’s organic matter, increasing the number of beneficial soil organisms and he is improving the water holding capacity of his soil.” 

As the Georgia state winner of the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo award, Martin will now receive a $2,500 cash award and an expense paid trip to the Sunbelt Expo from Swisher International of Jacksonville, Fla., a $500 gift certificate from the Southern States cooperative, and the choice of either $1,000 in PhytoGen cottonseed, or a $500 donation to a designated charity on behalf of our newest sponsor, Dow Agrosciences.

He is now eligible for the $15,000 that will go to the overall winner. Other prizes for the overall winner include the use of a Massey Ferguson tractor for a year from Massey Ferguson North America, another $500 gift certificate from the Southern States cooperative, and the choice of either another $1,000 in PhytoGen cottonseed, or a second $500 donation to a designated charity on behalf of our newest sponsor, Dow Agrosciences.

Swisher International, through its Swisher Sweets cigar brand, and the Sunbelt Expo are sponsoring the Southeastern Farmer of the Year awards for the 23rd consecutive year. Swisher has contributed some $884,000 in cash awards and other honors to southeastern farmers since the award was initiated in 1990.

Previous state winners from Georgia include:  Timothy McMillan of Enigma, 1990; Bud Butcher of Senoia, 1991; James Lee Adams of Camilla, 1992; John Morgan of Mystic, 1993; Alan Verner of Rutledge, 1994; Donnie Smith of Willacoochee, 1995; Armond Morris of Ocilla, 1996; Thomas Coleman, Jr. of Hartsfield, 1997; Glenn Heard of Bainbridge, 1998; Bob McLendon of Leary, 1999; James Lee Adams of Camilla, 2000; Daniel Johnson of Alma, 2001; Armond Morris of Ocilla, 2002; Jim Donaldson of Metter, 2003; Joe Boddiford of Sylvania, 2004; Jimmy Webb of Leary, 2005; Gary Paulk of Wray, 2006; Daniel Johnson of Alma, 2007; Wayne McKinnon of Douglas, 2008; Bill Brim of Tifton, 2009; Robert Dasher of Glenville, 2010; and Carlos Vickers of Nashville, 2011.

Georgia has had three overall winners, James Lee Adams of Camilla in 2000, Armond Morris of Ocilla in 2002 and Robert Dasher of Glennville in 2010.

A distinguished panel of judges will visit the Martin farm, along with the farms of the other nine state finalists, during the week of Aug. 5-10. The judges for this year include Charles Snipes, a retired Mississippi Extension weed scientist who is president and research scientist with Stoneville R&D, Inc., from Greenville, Miss.; John McKissick, a longtime University of Georgia Extension ag economist from Athens, Ga.; and farmer Brian Kirksey of Amity, Ark., who was selected as the overall winner in 2008.