Bob Willis of Hillsboro, Tenn., has been named the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year for 2006.

His award was announced Oct. 17 at the Willie B. Withers Expo Luncheon during the opening day of the 29th annual Sunbelt Expo.

Willis competed with top farmers from across the Southeast for the prestigious award. The competition included a state finalist from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

In 1961 Willis purchased his first 145 acres and grew sweet potatoes. From those humble beginnings he has expanded his operations to encompass 4,500 acres on which he grows corn, soybeans and wheat, as well as other commodities. He also manages 850 head of Holstein heifers and 130 head of beef cows.

Willis was selected to represent Tennessee by the University of Tennessee Extension and was nominated by C. Dallas Manning, UT Extension farm management specialist located in Coffee County. Dean Northcutt serves as the Coffee County UT Extension adult agriculture agent and director.

In a press release from the Sunbelt Expo, Willis is quoted as saying, "Winning this award is truly a surprise." Willis attributed his success to the many people who have stood by him and encouraged him during difficult times. "Without their wonderful help and support, this award would not be possible."

"I am also very humbled by the award" he added, "especially after meeting and seeing the operations of the other eight state winners. I also want to thank Swisher International and the Sunbelt Expo for caring about the agriculture industry and sponsoring the award."

The Southeastern farmer of the year competition is a tradition of the annual Sunbelt Agricultural Expo. The Sunbelt Expo is the world's largest farm show with on-site row crops and field demonstrations.

During the show's three days, Oct. 17-19, the latest technology from the agricultural industry was on display at the show grounds and 600-acre working farm. For complete information about the competition and the Sunbelt Expo, visit the Web site: http://www.sunbeltexpo.com