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December 2, 2012





Jennifer Whittaker, (478) 405-3432,




MACON, Ga. – The Georgia Farm Bureau Federation recognized the best of the organization’s volunteers and county chapters during an awards program held Dec. 2 at the GFB 75th annual convention on Jekyll Island. The state award winners were honored for the programs they conducted this past year to promote agriculture.


“Every year I look forward to the opportunity to recognize our individual and county award winners. Our county Farm Bureau volunteers have worked hard this year to educate their communities about Georgia agriculture by hosting legislative meetings, farm tours, and Ag in the Classroom activities to highlight the contribution farming makes to Georgia’s economy,” GFB President Zippy Duvall said. “I’d like to thank all of our volunteers for giving of their time, talents and resources to make our organization the strong and effective voice of Georgia farmers.”


Georgia Farm Bureau named a McKemie Award winner - the highest honor given to a county in recognition of its outstanding member programs - from each of its three membership categories. Bacon County Farm Bureau, whose president is David Lee, received the McKemie Award for the 0 to 1,392-member division. Pike County Farm Bureau, whose president is Tom Lacey, won the McKemie Award for the 1,393 to 2,335-member division. Cherokee County Farm Bureau, whose president is William Grizzle, received the award in the 2,336 plus-member division. The McKemie Award is a memorial to one of the organization’s former presidents, W.J. McKemie.


Finalists in the McKemie competition, listed in alphabetical order, for the 0 to 1,392-member division were: Crawford, Heard, Jasper, Macon, Screven, Upson and Wilcox counties.


Finalists for the 1,393 to 2,335-member division were: Cook, Floyd, Franklin, Greene, Jeff Davis, Monroe, Polk, Spalding, Troup and Washington counties.


Finalists in the 2,336 plus member division were: Carroll, Coffee, Elbert, Habersham, Henry, Jackson, Madison, Newton and Stephens counties.


The Georgia Farm Bureau Distinguished Service Award was presented to Dr. James E. “Jim” Strickland of Tattnall County. Strickland has made numerous contributions to Georgia’s livestock industry during his career as a large animal veterinarian. After graduating from the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine in 1961, he practiced veterinary medicine in Thomaston and Glennville for more than 20 years before taking a position with the University of Georgia as an Extension Veterinarian for 15 years. During his time as a UGA Extension Veterinarian, Strickland worked to help cattle producers improve the overall health, genetics and nutrition of their herds.


Strickland has served on the Tattnall County Farm Bureau Board of Directors for more than 40 years and served as Tattnall County Farm Bureau president from October 1999 to September 2010. He first served on the Georgia Farm Bureau Beef Committee in 1996 and has consecutively served on the committee since 1999. He served as vice chair of the committee for seven of the past 13 years. Strickland also served on the American Farm Bureau Federation Animal Health Committee from 2009 through 2011.


“Throughout his career, Dr. Strickland has been a devoted advocate for animal agriculture not only in Georgia, but on the national level, too,” Georgia Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall said. “His volunteer work with Farm Bureau and the Georgia Cattlemen’s Association has benefited cattle producers and consumers as he has been a strong spokesperson for the Beef Quality Assurance program and other food safety practices.”


Strickland is a member and past president of the Georgia Cattlemen’s Association and is a member and past president of the Georgia Veterinary Medical Association. He is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association and has served on numerous AVMA committees. He also served as a member of the Georgia Department of Agriculture’s Agro-Security Awareness Training Team.


Chris and Marilynn Hopkins of Toombs County were named the Young Farmer Achievement winners. The Hopkinses began their farming operation in 2006 growing 50 acres of cotton and five acres of watermelons on rented land. Seven harvests later, they’ve expanded their operation to about 600 acres of cotton, wheat, corn, peanuts, watermelons, and pecans. Earlier this year the couple won the 2012 Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Award in recognition of the conservation practices they have implemented to protect the soil and water quality on their farm. The Hopkinses received a $500 cash prize and a year’s use of a Kubota tractor for being named the state winner. They also won an expense-paid trip to the American Farm Bureau Federation Convention Jan. 13-16 in Nashville, Tenn., to compete for national honors.


The finalists in the GFB Young Farmer Achievement Contest were James and Brooke Hitchcock of Washington County and Charlie and Nancie Sanders of Greene County. The Hitchcocks grow corn, cotton, peanuts and soybeans and maintain a herd of about 250 cattle. The Sanderses are active partners in their family dairy farm for which Charlie is the calf and heifer manager. The two finalist couples each received a $250 cash award.


Matt Bottoms of Pike County won the Young Farmer Discussion Meet and will enjoy an expense-paid trip to the AFBF Convention in Nashville to compete for national honors. Other finalists included, Kyle Dekle of Habersham County, B.J. Marks of Newton County and Clay Talton of Elbert County.4


During the discussion meet, the contestants discussed what could be done to encourage young farmers to return home to the farm if it means living in a rural area that does not provide the same amenities as a metropolitan community.


Bottoms received a $500 cash award, courtesy of Georgia Farm Bureau, and an Arctic Cat 500 all-terrain-vehicle courtesy of Southern Farm Bureau Life Insurance. The three finalists each received a $350 cash award from SunTrust Bank.


Georgia Farm Bureau presented a membership award to a county from each of its three membership categories in recognition of the counties’ membership campaigns that resulted in membership growth. Montgomery County Farm Bureau, whose president is David Carswell, received the GFB Membership Award for the 0 to 1,392-member division. Jenkins County Farm Bureau, whose president is Dobie Gay, won the award for the 1,393 to 2,335-member division. Elbert County Farm Bureau, whose president is Randy Ruff, received the award in the 2,336 plus-member division.


Other state awards presented included: Outstanding Promotion & Education Award received by Franklin County Farm Bureau; Outstanding Women’s Leadership Award received by Crawford County Farm Bureau; Outstanding Legislative Award received by Coffee County Farm Bureau; and Outstanding Young Farmer Committee Award received by Newton County Farm Bureau.


Charlotte Wingate, Colquitt County Farm Bureau office manager, received the organization’s Outstanding Office Manager Award. She was recognized for her work to promote agriculture and Farm Bureau in her local community. Wingate works with other ag groups in the county each year to hold a three-day Ag Awareness Event for all fourth grade students in the county. Wingate also serves on the Moultrie-Colquitt County Chamber of Commerce Agriculture Committee and is president of the Georgia Cotton Women.


Wingate has been employed with Colquitt County Farm Bureau since 2002. She and her husband, Gettis, have two children and four grandchildren.


Founded in 1937, the Georgia Farm Bureau Federation is the state’s largest general farm organization. The organization has 158 county chapters. Its volunteer members actively participate in local, district and state activities that promote agriculture awareness to their non-farming neighbors. GFB also has 20 commodity advisory committees that give the organization input on issues pertinent to the major commodities grown in Georgia.




For a high-resolution photo to accompany this release, click here.


CUTLINE FOR ACCOMPANYING PHOTOGRAPH: The Georgia Farm Bureau Federation honored county Farm Bureaus for promoting agriculture and individual members for personal achievement during the organization’s 75th annual convention. Georgia Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall (far right) congratulates the 2012 GFB award recipients (front row seated, L-R): Betty Harris, accepting on behalf of Crawford County; Matt Bottoms of Pike County; Tom Lacey accepting on behalf of Pike County Farm Bureau; Marilyn and Banks Hopkins of Toombs County; David Carswell accepting on behalf of Montgomery County Farm Bureau; Dobie Gay accepting on behalf of Jenkins County Farm Bureau; and Charlotte Wingate of Colquitt County; (back row, L-R) William Grizzle accepting on behalf of Cherokee County; B.J. Marks accepting on behalf of Newton County, David Lee accepting on behalf of Bacon County; Chris Hopkins of Toombs County; Derek Pridgen accepting on behalf of Coffee County; Max Freeman accepting on behalf of Franklin County and Randy Ruff accepting on behalf of Elbert County.