Jimmy Skrine is a man of few words.
The Portal-area farmer just quietly, humbly grows his crops — cotton, soybeans, peanuts, wheat and beef cattle — nurtures them and harvests them each and every year, as he has for more than 60 years.
Skrine Farms, which he has run since 1961, is more than 1,700 acres when combined with the portion his son oversees, on Portal-Metter Highway just outside the Portal city limits.
On Friday, the Statesboro-Bulloch Chamber of Commerce’s Agribusiness Committee named Skrine the 2014 Farmer of the Year during the annual Farm City Luncheon at the Bulloch County Center for Agriculture.
In his typical, quiet style, he softly thanked his family members, friends and visitors for watching him win the award. He said he didn’t have a speech, which drew laughter from the audience, and then he quickly walked back to his seat.
When he had a few minutes for the honor to sink in, Skrine, 73, talked after the ceremony about the profession he loves so much, he has done it since he was a boy. He dropped out of school in 10th grade to take over his father’s farm after his father developed serious health problems.
“It means the world to me and my family,” Skrine said of the award.
Allen Muldrew, the executive director of the Downtown Statesboro Development Authority, was given the 2014 Ag Partner Award. The committee commended him for opening the October First Friday event the last two years to an agriculture-themed event. This year, the event was so big, East Main Street was closed to vehicular traffic.
“Actually, I just came for the meal,” a surprised Muldrew said.
“I’m honored to be with them, I don’t know why they’re honored to be with me,” he continued, referring to the Agribusiness Committee.
Before the awards were given, Brandon Ashley, a commodity specialist with the Georgia Farm Bureau, was the luncheon’s featured speaker. He explained that the luncheon is Bulloch County’s way of kicking off National Farm City Week, which is actually next week, the week of Thanksgiving. Its purpose is to highlight the importance of partnership and interdependence between farmers and people who live in urban and suburban areas.
Ashley pointed out how important Bulloch County agriculture is, not just to the local area, but to the state and world. Bulloch is in the top 10 in Georgia in terms of production of a number of crops: Vidalia onions, sweet corn, rye and pine straw, to a name a few. And the county is No. 1 in the state in soybean production.
“The farmers here in Bulloch County help feed and clothe the world,” he said. “Georgia is a leader for the entire nation in agriculture production, and really the world, and Bulloch County is a leader in production in the state. So it only makes sense that Bulloch County is among the leaders in many commodities not only here in Georgia, but also around the world.”
Ashley shared several numbers to put the impact of Bulloch County’s agricultural production into perspective. The 44,789 acres of cotton grown in the county can produce 19 million pairs of blue jeans, 68 million dress shirts and 109 million adult men’s T-shirts. From the 21,000-plus acres of peanuts in Bulloch, 634 million peanut butter sandwiches can be made. Of the 11,000 acres of soybeans, almost 1 billion crayons can be produced, he said.
Skrine, the Farmer of the Year, said he cannot imagine ever working anywhere besides the fields.
“I have farmed since I was big enough to get on a tractor,” Skrine said. “I’d hate to go ahead and make a change and do something else.”
Jason Wermers may be reached at (912) 489-9431.