Susan has also served as an advisor for the local Farm Service Agency office, and she represented Dinwiddie County as a member of the South Centré Corridors Resource Conservation and Development Council. In addition, she has been a coach for youth baseball and t-ball teams.

Maxwell and Susan are the parents of two adult sons. Their older son Nick is a fire fighter and a paramedic in Spotsylvania County and lives in Richmond, Va. Nick helps the farm with computer applications.

Their younger son Cody works on the farm. In addition to running the family’s custom fertilizer and lime spreading business, Cody grows pumpkins and is a contract tobacco grower for Philip Morris International.

Cathy Sutphin, associate director of 4-H for the Virginia Tech University Cooperative Extension Service, is the state coordinator of the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year award.

Michael Parrish, Extension agent in Dinwiddie County, Va., nominated Watkins for the award. Parrish admires the flexibility Watkins shows in being able to get in and out of enterprises such as sheep, pumpkins and cotton when markets dictate.

“Maxwell has been a leader in our area and a good example for other farmers to follow,” says Parrish. “He’s always willing to help out his neighbors.”

As the Virginia state winner of the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo award, Watkins 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 Virginia include: Nelson Gardner of Bridgewater, 1990; Russell Inskeep of Culpepper, 1991; Harry Bennett of Covington, 1992; Hilton Hudson of Alton, 1993; Buck McCann of Carson, 1994; George M. Ashman, Jr. of Amelia, 1995; Bill Blalock of Baskerville, 1996; G. H. Peery III of Ceres, 1997; James Bennett of Red House, 1998; Ernest Copenhaver of Meadowview, 1999; John Davis of Port Royal, 2000; James Huffard III of Crockett, 2001; J. Hudson Reese of Scottsburg, 2002; Charles Parkerson of Suffolk, 2003; Lance Everett of Stony Creek, 2004; Monk Sanford of Orange, 2005; Paul House of Nokesville, 2006; Steve Berryman of Surry, 2007; Tim Sutphin of Dublin, 2008; Billy Bain of Dinwiddie, 2009; Wallick Harding of Jetersville, 2010; and Donald Horsley of Virginia Beach, 2011.

Virginia has had two overall winners with Nelson Gardner of Bridgewater in 1990 and Charles Parkerson of Suffolk in 2003.

A distinguished panel of judges will visit the Watkins 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.