James Lee Adams `Farmer of the Year' James Lee Adams, a resourceful farmer who runs an operation that utilizes every byproduct available to him, has been chosen as the Lancaster/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year for the year 2000. Adams was announced as the Southeastern winner during the opening day of the Sunbelt Agricultural Exposition in Moultrie, Ga.

"Anyone who has been able to farm and still is farming after all we've been through the past few years could stand here just as well as me," said Adams in accepting the award. "On behalf of all farmers, and what they've accomplished for this country, I accept this award."

"Mr. Adams is representative of the modern farmer who takes advantage of modern technology, utilizes products that would be considered waste in many business ventures and believes in promoting agriculture to the general public and in working with both national and foreign governments to market and promote agricultural products.

"He is to be commended, as are all of the winners who represent what is outstanding in America today," said J. Thomas Ryan, executive vice president of Swisher International whose Lancaster Premium Chewing Tobacco brand has sponsored the award for 11 years along with the Sunbelt Agricultural Exposition.

Adams was chosen for the honor from finalists who represented eight Southeastern states. He was selected for the Southeastern honor by a group of judges who visited each of the state winners in August of this year.

He received a check for $12,500 from Swisher International, a year's supply of clothing from the Williamson-Dickie Company, the use of a Massey Ferguson 4200 series tractor for a year from AGCO, a $1,000 gift certificate from Southern States Cooperative and a custom- made gun safe from Misty Morn Safes.

Additionally, he and each of the state winners received a check for $1,500 from Swisher International and a $500 gift certificate from Southern States.

"We are proud to honor James Lee Adams as the 11th Lancaster/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year," said Chip Blalock, director of the Sunbelt Expo. "He is among an outstanding group of agricultural entrepreneurs who are featured in the Hall of Honor at the Sunbelt Expo headquarters building."

Adams previously was named the Lancaster/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year for Georgia in 1992. Georgia Extension officials had encouraged him for several years to allow his farming operation to be nominated for the honor a second time.

The seven other winners who also were honored during the Expo are, from Alabama, George Hamilton of Hillsboro; Florida, Damon Deas of Jennings; Mississippi, James Tackett of Schlater; North Carolina, Reid Gray of Statesville; South Carolina, Raymond Galloway, Jr., of Darlington; Tennessee, Harris Armour III of Somerville; and Virginia, John Davis of Port Royal.

Adams has a wide variety of enterprises on his 2,000-acre fully irrigated farm in southwest Georgia. He grows pecans, peanuts, cotton and corn, raises stocker cattle, has broiler houses and raises alligators. Adams, who has been farming for 31 years, oversees the operation which involves all family members.

Each of the crop and animal enterprises complements one another, says Adams. "We utilize everything," he says. "Chicken litter is used for fertilizer, peanut hulls are used for bedding in poultry houses, cattle graze in the winter under center pivots and the cattle are used in pecan groves during the summer where they graze beneath the pecan trees and serve as a pruning tool by eating the lower limbs from the trees. This make harvesting pecans easier and more economical."

Dead chickens, he adds, are used as food for alligators. The next step, says Adams, is to install greenhouses next to poultry houses to capture heat expelled from the poultry houses during the winter.

When Adams joined his father as a $100-per-week employee, he left a job which had paid considerably more. But he also brought a considerable amount of expertise from his previous experience.

"I believe we have the most complete set of records of anybody," says Adams. "All of our farm records since 1978 are on computer. This includes yields, daily weather and farming operations and costs."

Adams installed the personal computers and wrote the software for the programs.

Adams installed irrigation on his farm in 1972. "I believe we were among the first in the Southeast to install center pivots. Sixty-eight percent of agricultural losses are related to dry weather, and it's difficult to pre-sell or hedge production with erratic yields," he says.

Adams has built an efficient and cost-effective farming operation. "Our goal is not to be the largest farm but to be the most efficient," he notes.

The development of the alligator farming operation is an indication of that philosophy. Adams' son-in-law, Mark Glass, operates this venture which has 8,000 alligators and is being expanded to house 12,000. Hides and meat are being marketed from this venture which originally was designed to dispose of dead chickens.

"We have designed the alligator houses and they have landfill liners so the hides aren't damaged. They must be perfect for the buyers."

Adams also promotes agriculture by speaking to groups and by heading up industry organizations, such as serving as the president of the American Soybean Association.

He has traveled worldwide to market American farm products and has been active in trade negotiations.

He and his wife, Sue, have three children - Vicki Adams Davis, Susan Adams Glass and Sarah Adams, who is a student at Brenau College. Adams was nominated for the Georgia honor by Extension Agent Rad Yager.