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Mike Waters family named 2015 Farm Family of the Year
Chamber surprises Nevils farmer with award
W 112015 FARMER OF YEAR 01
Mike Waters and his family were named the 2015 Farm Family of the Year by the Statesboro-Bulloch County Chamber of Commerce Agribusiness Committee during the chambers Farm-City Breakfast on Friday. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

Nevils area farmer Mike Waters said he "smelled a rat" when his friend Raybon Anderson invited him to the Farm-City Breakfast Friday morning, but he didn't quite expect to be the surprise guest of honor.

Waters and his family were selected by the Statesboro-Bulloch County Chamber of Commerce Agribusiness Committee as the 2015 Farm Family of the Year. The annual honor is announced during the chamber's Farm-City Breakfast.

He sat quietly throughout the meal, listening to keynote speaker Van McCall's speech and then Anderson's introduction, which gradually gave hints about the person to whom the annual honor would be awarded.

"He grew up in the soil, getting his feet dirty, soil underneath his fingernails, at an early age," Anderson said.

Waters worked while he was in high school and college, starting his own career in 1980. He farmed with his uncle, who passed away after an unexpected illness. He then partnered with his father, and then his mother, Marie Waters, following his father's death.

Today, Waters farms on property that both sets of his grandparents farmed before him, mainly off Highway 46 near the old Bulloch Fertilizer plant near Nevils. He grows soybeans, cotton and peanuts, along with "a few head of cattle," he said Friday afternoon, taking a moment to talk after the busy morning.

His grandparents and parents "instilled a love of dirt" in him, he said. "I love being outdoors, with no schedule, communing with nature."

Still, farming isn't easy "with today's economic conditions," he said. "You never know what commodity prices will be, and there is no control of what you're going to get for what you grow."

Anderson coaxed Waters into attending the breakfast, where the surprise announcement was made, by telling Waters that he was attending and was allowed to invite one person.

"He kept asking if I was still going," Waters said Friday afternoon, laughing.

Waters' mother continues to work as his partner, and the rest of his family, who help him "on occasion," are his brother, Marty Waters, nephews Allen, Cory and Thomas Waters, and his long-time employee of 18 years, Mike Deal.

McCall speaks about agriculture

Van McCall, an ordained minister who is also the education outreach and special projects coordinator for AgSouth, spoke at Friday's breakfast about the future of agriculture and the importance of promoting awareness of it to those who are not familiar with the industry. McCall said he grew up in a farming family.

"This is my passion. This is what I have lived my life for," he said, prefacing a speech filled with comedy similar to that of Jeff Foxworthy. In a pronounced Southern drawl, McCall said he hailed from Denton, Georgia, and gave several anecdotes about life in the small town, population 212.

"Agriculture is the workhorse of our great American society," he said, making the first of many equine-related references.

He spoke of a massive iron horse sculpture he passed each day as he traveled to classes at the University of Georgia. He said he had an epiphany that told him to abandon his studies in marine biology in Florida and instead attend school at UGA's College of Agriculture.

"That was the day I saddled up for agriculture," he said. "It bucked me along the way, but I tried to stay in the saddle."

He spoke of how farming has grown from feeding horses and mules in order to raise food for the family to today, when horses are mainly for pleasure and showing and farmers "are now feeding the world."

Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.


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