Sam Moore’s initiation into the world of agriculture wasn’t very glamorous or rewarding. It came as a high school student and included planting 100 acres of row crops and looking after 20 cows.

After graduating from high school, he married his high school sweetheart, Helen. They immediately decided to start their own farm and purchased 120 acres. The operation included several acres of tobacco and 30 milking cows.

Forty-three years later, that 120-acre farm has grown into a versatile and successful operation of more than 4,200 acres and Moore being selected as the 2006 Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year for Kentucky.

He was selected in judging by the Kentucky Farm Bureau and was nominated by Marshall Coyle.

Moore is also the first Farmer of the Year for Kentucky as the Blue Grass state was added this year in competition for agriculture’s most prestigious award.

Moore now joins the other eight 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 Kentucky state winner, Moore will now 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 commemorate fireproof home safe from Misty Morn Safe, Co, and a $500 gift certificate from Southern States. He is also now 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 initiated in 1990.

“My dad was a construction worker and usually left home on Monday morning and returned on Saturday night,” says Moore. “He allowed me to use the equipment we had and paid me one-fourth of everything we could make.

“After buying our first 120 acres, we began leasing or purchasing farms as we could,” he adds. “We also adopted a conservative approach to growth.”

That growth today includes 1,500 acres of corn yielding 152 bushels per acre and 1,200 acres of soybeans with a yield of 48 bushels per acre. There’s also 150 acres of silage with a 22-ton per acre yield and 150 acres of mixed hay, yielding 4 tons per acre.

The operation also includes a very successful cattle operation with 400 head of purebred Angus cows, 60 head of Angus heifers and 30 head of Angus bulls.

“Most of our purebred Angus beef cattle are marketed as breeding stock,” says Moore. “All our cows, bull and heifers are registered Angus. We enjoy quite a bit of repeat business with our cattle because of our dedication to offering high-quality Angus breeding stock.”

The corn and soybeans produced are sold through cash sales while there has been a steady increase of the grain storage on the farm with a current capacity of 100,000 bushels.

“We also own 50 percent of Green River Mill,” adds Moore. “It’s a feed, seed, fertilizer supply store. It also provides a real service to area farmers.”

Moore and his wife Helen have four grown children. Daughter Shannon is a financial consultant; another daughter Sharla is a training coordinator for the Kentucky cabinet for health and family services. Sons Woody and Kyle work in the family businesses while Kent is a sales manager for an agri-business supply company.

“I am especially proud that we are building a family farming operation and have two of the sons involved,” says Moore. “Our major goal is to improve every acre we own or rent.”

Moore’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.