A Bulloch County farm family and a long-time agricultural partner were honored Friday at the annual Farm City Luncheon, hosted by the Statesboro-Bulloch Chamber of Commerce.
The Grayson Ellis family from Hopeulikit was named the 2012 Farm Family of the Year, while Blanchard Equipment sales associate Wade Hodges was honored as the 2012 Agribusiness Partner of the Year.
The selections were made by the Statesboro-Bulloch County Chamber of Commerce Agribusiness Committee. The luncheon was held at the Bulloch County Center for Agriculture.
Andrea Whitfield, with Ag South Farm Credit, introduced the Ellis family, listing members Grayson and Becky Ellis as well as adult children Benjie, Mark and Tara.
The Ellis family farms about 2,000 acres in Bulloch and Jenkins counties, raising market hogs, catfish, and row crops including cotton, peanuts, soybeans and wheat.
“They’re just good people,” Whitfield said.
The chamber agribusiness committee selects families who have given back to the community and are involved, as well as having a rich agricultural history with all members involved in the operation.
The Ellis family members have a “strong work ethic,” and Grayson Ellis grew up on the family farm as well as worked in the family grocery store with his father, John Paul Ellis.
“They are a hard-working, God-fearing family that loves Bulloch County,” Whitfield said.
Grayson Ellis said he was humbled by the honor.
Was he surprised?
“I’m telling you,” he said after the luncheon. “This feels really good. It’s an honor to be chosen, and I’d never have thought it in a million years.”
He said he has farmed for more than 35 years and “it’s all I know. We’ve had our ups and downs, good days and bad days, made money and lost money.”
The Ellis family shared the spotlight with Hodges, who can often be found in his office “on two phones with a customer in front of him,” said his friend David Brown, who introduced him before Hodges was named as Agribusiness Partner of the Year.
Hodges became emotional as he accepted the honor.
“I appreciate it, I’m humbled,” he said. “I love all of y’all. Those of y’all who know me know I like to be on the down low. I don’t like to be up here like this.”
Hodges is a third-generation farmer and had served on the board for Excelsior Electric Membership Corp., Bulloch County Planning and Zoning Commission, and he is a former member of the Farm Service Agency.
Billy Skaggs, who works with Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black’s office, was the keynote speaker for the event.
“The best part of this job is that I get to talk to farmers and promote agriculture,” Skaggs said.
One of every 20 workers in Georgia is connected to agriculture in some way, and about 700,000 Georgians work in agricultural or agriculturally related businesses. In 2010, Georgia farmers contributed $107 billion to the state economy.
Farming is “not an easy job. It’s back-breaking work that is only successful for people who have a passion for it,” Skaggs said.
According to www.farmcity.org, the National Farm-City Council has supported educational programming to build interdependence between rural and urban citizens since 1955.
The week leading to and including Thanksgiving Day is proclaimed as National Farm-City Week, and attention is focused on consumer and classroom education to increase awareness of the agricultural community and its importance, according to the website.
Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.