The Bulloch County Agriculture Arena was the new setting Friday for the annual “Blessing of the Crops” event that spiritually launches the growing year for local farmers.
Sponsored each year by the Agribusiness Committee of the Statesboro-Bulloch County Chamber of Commerce, more than 125 people enjoyed the sun-filled, cool morning to pray for a bountiful and safe farming year in 2021. And, for only the second year, a Young Farmer of the Year was recognized.
Agribusiness Committee Chairman Zach Murphy welcomed the group, looking back on a year that no one could have predicted when the 2020 Blessing of the Crops event was held.
“Last year, we held the event across the street in the Center for Agriculture and none of us had any clue what we would see over a year’s time (with the COVID-19 pandemic),” said Murphy, a regional vice president with AgSouth Farm Credit. “There’s been a lot of losses, but there’s been many positive things and I hope we can share our faith today.”
Then, without knowing his name would soon be called as Young Farmer of the Year, Speer Brannen offered the first prayer of the day.
“Thanks for this beautiful morning Lord to come together and praise you and humbly ask you for your blessing of this upcoming crop year,” he said. “We pray that you would bless us, Lord, with mild weather and timely rain as we try to be good stewards and shepherds of the lands and livestock you’ve given us.
“We are so thankful for a community that comes together like this asking for your blessing, Lord. What a joy it is to be part of something like this. We pray Lord that you lift up our local government officials all the way up to the federal level and that they will look to you for wisdom and guidance.”
Carolyn Etheridge, market president for Renasant Bank in Statesboro, referenced her lifelong connection to farming in her prayer.
“Lord, I’m thankful that I was raised in a farm environment in farm country,” she said. “I appreciate that you help us remember where our blessings come from and to give you the glory. I pray that you help us be there for each other. Thank you for this community and all that you give us.”
There were several other prayers, including an emotional plea from an unidentified man.
“We ask your blessings on this year,” he began. “Lord, we believe in the unseen God and the unseen things that are before us. You’re a God of the future and we know you’re out there for us each and every day as we come into the next day. We pray that you lift up all of these folks. Bless their families. Bless the farm community and those that are so helpful. And for the technology and the good things you’ve given the farmers. I pray that we just be a thankful people.”
“Lord, we love you and thank you for all that you do. Thank you for the blessings and also the trials that you bring and help lead us through. Help us as we go through 2021 and to focus more on you and lead us in our daily walk.”
When the prayers were finished, Sara Brinson, co-chair of the Chamber’s Agribusiness Committee, gave the audience some background information about who was selected as Young Farmer of the Year.
“This individual, their spouse and their children love God, love people and love their agricultural heritage and industry,” Brinson read from the award nomination. “I cannot think of an individual family more fitting of this honor to represent Bulloch County and our agricultural future.”
She then called on John Emery Brannen, owner of the Double B Ranch, to introduce his son Speer as Young Farmer of the Year.
“I think Speer found his love for farming at a young age,” he said. “He got bit by that bug that the rest of us did when the sun’s shining and the dirt forms up and he’s ready to go. He’s ready to plant something and get it done.”
Speer Brannen, 35, founded Hawkshaw Poultry Farms in Register and he is a fifth generation farmer.
John Emery Brannen continued:
“By the time Speer was getting ready to get out of college, he said ‘Dad, I like the chickens pretty good. I believe I’ll get some chicken houses.’ I told him that it would be hard. That they’re not just going to let you have them while you’re in college. He said, ‘Well, that’s all right. I’m going to go up there and introduce them to Speer Brannen.’ And seven years later he was in the chicken business. I said, ‘He’s got a stubborn streak just like his mama.’ I meant to say determined streak.”
In accepting the award, Speer Brannen brought his family, wife Brittany and daughters Sawyer Kate and Marley James, up with him.
“It’s so humbling to receive this award and be part of the ag community,” he said. “It’s such a blessing to be part of a community that comes together first to ask the Lord’s blessing before we begin the year. It’s just a joy to be part of this community much less to be recognized for anything.
“We farmers enjoy the work that we do and we see the Lord’s hand every day on what we do.”