After growing up on his father’s farm and graduating from Auburn University in 1968, Glenn Forrester wasn’t sure which path to pursue. So, for three years, he tested the teaching profession as a vocational agriculture instructor.

He did, however, keep his hands in the dirt as he continued assisting his father on a part-time basis. When his dad retired in 1984, he became a full-time farmer, joining his brothers Charles and Ted in Forrester Farms Partnership.

Today, Forrester Farms encompasses 4,150 acres (up from 2,000 in 1984) and Forrester has been selected as the 2006 Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year for Alabama. He was selected for the honor in judging conducted by the Alabama Farmers Federation and was nominated by Boyd Deal.

Forrester now joins eight other Southeastern state winners as a finalist for the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year Award for 2006, which will be announced during the Sunbelt Expo in Moultrie, Ga., on Tuesday, Oct. 17.

As the Alabama state winner, Forrester will receive a $2,500 cash award and an expense-paid trip to the Sunbelt Expo from Swisher International of Jacksonville, Fla., a jacket and a $200 gift certificate from the Williamson-Dickie Company, a commemorative fireproof home safe from Misty Morn Safe Co., and a $500 gift certificate from Southern States.

He is also eligible for the $14,000 that will go to the overall winner and the use of a Massey Ferguson tractor for a year from Massey Ferguson North America.

Swisher International, through its Swisher Sweets cigar brand, and the Sunbelt Expo are sponsoring the Southeastern Farmer of the Year Award for the 17th consecutive year. Swisher has contributed more than $700,000 in cash awards and other honors since the award was initiated in 1990.

Forrester’s farm includes 900 acres (500 irrigated) of peanuts that yield 3,500 pounds per acre; 400 acres (200 irrigated) of cotton yielding 900 pounds per acre, 800 acres of bahiagrass with a yield of 300 pounds per acre, and 400 acres of oats producing 70 bushels per acre.

Sod also plays an important role in the operation as there are 600 irrigated acres of centipede with a yield of 85 pallets per acre and eight acres of registered 419 Tifway Bermuda also producing 85 pallets per acre. Wildlife habitat covers 500 acres and there 450 acres of improved pine.

“All our peanut production is sold as certified or registered seed,” says Forrester. “We own and operate a peanut shelling business that allows us to value add our production. All shelled goods not sold as seed are sold to the edible market.”

Sod is marketed directly to landscape businesses, construction contractors and individuals. Seed harvested from the centipede is sold through wholesale distributors or to other sod growers.

“For the past two years, we have rented more than 350 acres, packing shed equipment, hydro coolers and cool room storage for cantaloupe production,” says Forrester. “These cantaloupes are sold to several major food retailers. This has added a lot of value to our operation. We are also planning to expand our turf operation to approximately 1,000 acres.”

Brother Charles has retired from the successful operation. Joining Forrester and his brother Ted as partners are their sons Jared and Arnie, respectfully.

Forrester and his wife Sylvia have four grown children, including son Jared; son Jason, a political consultant; daughter Janna Sayers, a Medicare program analyst; and son Jonas, a computer sales representative.

Previous state winners from Alabama include: Ricky Wiggins of Anderson, 1990; George Kiser Sr. of Foley, 1991; Allen Bragg of Toney, 1992; Sykes Martin of Courtland, 1993; David Pearce of Browns, 1994; Glenn Jones of Blountsville, 1995; Raymond Jones of Huntsville, 1996; Dan Miller of Greensboro, 1997; Homer Tate of Meridianville, 1998, Eugene Glenn of Hillsboro, 1999; George T. Hamilton of Hillsboro, 2000; Bert Driskell of Grand Bay, 2001; Charles Burton of Lafayette, 2002; Bruce Bush of Eufaula, 2003; John B. East of Leesburg, 2004; and James A. Wise of Samson, 2005.

Alabama has had one overall winner with Raymond Jones of Huntsville being selected as the Southeastern Farmer of the Year in 1996.

Forrester’s farm, along with the other eight state finalists, was visited by a distinguished panel of judges during the week of Aug. 7-11. The judges for this year include Eric Raby, vice president, marketing, Massey Ferguson North America; Rogers Reynolds, retired executive with Farm Credit; and Jim Butler, retired agricultural engineer and research leader.