David Cromley said he was in a little bit more of a hurry than usual Thursday morning. He was dropping his young daughter off at school in Brooklet and rushing to get to Bulloch County’s annual “Blessing of the Crops” at Pittman Park United Methodist Church in Statesboro.
But he had no idea he would be recognized as the “Young Farmer of the Year” at the event that spiritually launches the planting and growing year for local farmers.
“It was totally unexpected,” Cromley said. “I dropped this little one (daughter Libby) off at school and then we had to scramble to get up here on time, so I had no idea my family was coming or about this award. I’m very humbled.”
Organized each year by the Agribusiness Committee of the Statesboro-Bulloch Chamber of Commerce, about 150 people enjoyed the cool morning outside Pittman Park to pray for a bountiful and safe farming year in 2023.
After a welcome from Chamber Chairman Chad Wiggins, John Emery Brannen, owner of Double B Ranch and Poultry in Register, offered the first prayer.
“We thank you, Lord, for this beautiful morning, where we are in a free country and we can gather and worship and praise you,” he said. “We stand here this morning, Lord, the tractors are fueled, the seed hoppers are full, everything’s been greased. The farmers are ready to go. The Earth is warming each day the sun comes.
“Lord, you’ve made us men that it’s just in us to get up and go when this season comes. We thank you for these men that put themselves to the test each year against Nature. They try to get things done to support their families and their communities.
“As we begin this year, Lord, we know the heavens are full of rain and the sun is warming the Earth. We pray that you protect us from floods, drought and wind. We know that it’s always a battle, and we thank you, Lord, for caring for us and watching out for us, our families and everyone that supports us.”
Prayers for a bountiful season
Wendell Brannen followed with a heartfelt prayer of his own.
“Our most gracious and benevolent Father, please uplift us this morning as we recognize a young farmer,” he said. “We thank you for the young farmers and old farmers, alike. Such a noble profession. One that provides food and fiber.
“The farmers can only prepare the soil because you give them the strength to do so. They can pick the proper fertility programs and pesticide programs only because you give them the wisdom. They pick the best varieties of seed. They can plant them in a like manner. But they only will come forth because it’s your choice. Dear Lord, they can do all the things that’s within their grasp and power to do. But only you can provide the increase.
“We come to thee when we are in need, and we’re coming to you now and asking that you provide us with a good season and a bountiful crop so that we might share those benefits in a manner that would be pleasing to you.”
Whitney Murphy with Corteva Agriscience offered her prayer:
“Heavenly Father, we thank you for the opportunity to come together and pray for each and every farm family here today and in this community,” she said. “Lord, we trust you with this crop, with this season. I pray that your blessing will continue to flow on each and every one who humbly serve the agriculture industry here. We will continue to pray for guidance and wisdom and sound judgment in all we do, and you will be with us on our journey this season.”
Young Farmer of the Year
After several more prayers, John Roach, market president for Morris Bank, which sponsored the event, introduced the Young Farmer of the Year.
“We recognize a young farmer with strong roots, a current impact and a promising future in agriculture in Bulloch County,” Roach said. “This young farmer is a shining example of someone who volunteers and works hard for the ag industry.
“…He is the county president for Bulloch County Farm Bureau. On a state level, he serves on the College of Ag and Environmental Sciences Alumni Board at the University of Georgia.
“…He is a great steward of the land and wants to protect farming in Bulloch County to support his family and all future generations. Our Young Farmer of the Year for 2023 is David Cromley.”
A surprised Cromley thanked the Chamber for his honor.
“I’m humbled to be here with fellow believers and just to be in the presence of God here,” he said. “In a time of so much division in our world, I just want to see our community pull together like this every day. I think farming has a bright future in Bulloch County. We have to adapt with the times, and I’m confident we will.”
Growing up on Cromley Farms in Brooklet, Cromley said he was open to a career outside of farming, but “I did an internship in Atlanta after I graduated and that cured me.
"I realized that Brooklet was a pretty nice place to live. Farming was what I wanted to pursue as a career.”
Cromley said earning a degree from the College of Agriculture at the University of Georgia taught him a lot about the business, but “my real education started when I got back home to the farm and got boots on the ground,” he said.
“Having the knowledge is one part of it, but having the experience is a much bigger part. I’m thankful for what I learned from my dad and my uncles and the long-time helpers on the farm.”
Cromley, however, also said his ties to UGA have helped him as well.
“Having the network from the College of Agriculture and the Farm Bureau have helped me have a larger impact with other farmers around the state and see how people are doing things in different areas,” he said. “Going to field days (with) the University of Georgia Extension and the Natural Resources Conservation Service are very helpful. I went to a Cover Crop Workshop where you learn about best farming practices. To be a successful farmer you have to realize that you don’t know it all, be constantly learning and apply that to what you do.”