NASHVILLE (TSU News Service) – Daryl Whitaker is a rare “breed…er,” in cattle, that is.
In just six years after taking over a declining, 22-acre family farm in Estill Springs in Franklin County, Tenn., Whitaker has employed new and innovative farm-improvement methods that have turned things around and earned him a statewide recognition.
At a packed 2012 Small Farm Expo and Small Farmer Recognition Program Thursday, the former Air Force munitions systems specialist turned cattle breeder was recognized as the Tennessee Small Farmer of the Year.
The Expo, hosted by the TSU College of Agriculture, Human and Natural Sciences Cooperative Extension Program, recognized Whitaker for “Best Management Practices” and for his attention to details.
He beat out two other farmers and farming families for the top award. Lannon Farms, represented by Lance and Cathy Lannon, of Lebanon, Tenn., received the “Alternative Enterprises Award,” while John R. Swendiman, owner of Tojo Creek Ranch, also in Lebanon, Tenn., received the award for “Innovative Marketing.”
“I was ecstatic, to say the least when I was informed that I had been selected as Farmer of the Year,” said Whitaker moments before the announcement at the Expo.
This is not Walker’s first good fortune with winning awards for his farming practices. In 2010 and 2011, respectively, Whitaker was recognized as the Top Forage Producer, and the Top Beef Producer of the Year by the Franklin County Livestock Association.
He attributes his success to his willingness to learn and his openness to new ideas.
“To be successful, one must have the attitude to learn something new everyday,” Whitaker said.
Whitaker’s farm, which he took over after his father, John, died in 2006, is now a sprawling 35-acre cattle breeding ground made possible after repairs, construction and rebuilding efforts. He thanked the Tennessee Ag Enhancement Program, which helped him to purchase new equipment; the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the USDA Farms Service Agency for helping him purchase additional cattle to increase his breeding stock.
“I thank Tennessee State University, and the Franklin County USDA Farms Service Agency for their recognition and this award,” said Whitaker, who was accompanied by his mother Mary.
In presenting the awards, TSU President Portia Holmes Shields, thanked the organizers of the Expo. She lauded the partnership with the University of Tennessee and the cooperation of all of the federal and state agencies, especially Extension services for involving students in “these” activities.
“It is about saving America and it is about smart farming when we can involve these young people in the research activities,” Shields said. “You all are doing a wonderful job here through Extension and all of our agricultural programs. We are very grateful for your efforts.”
Earlier, Dr. Chandra Reddy, Dean of the College of Agriculture, Human and Natural Sciences, thanked Dr. Shields and the various institution and agency representatives for their cooperation in making the Expo a success.
“This could not have been possible without your partnership and cooperation,” Reddy told the organizers, making special reference to Dr. Latif Lighari, Associate Dean for Extension, who has headed the organization of the Expo since its inception nine years ago. “You and your colleagues have always done a remarkable job as shown in this huge attendance.”
Before declaring the 2012 Expo closed, Dr. Lighari recognized his fellow organizers, the various farm managers and research leaders, exhibitors, small farmers, schools and students for their attendance.
“Your input, participation and visit made this Expo one of the most successful since we started,” Lighari said. “We thank you and especially the small farmers who are the lifeline to what we do.”
Other speakers and agricultural experts at the Expo were the Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, Julius Johnson; the President of Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation, Lacy Upchurch; Dr. Larry Arrington, Chancellor of the Institute of Agriculture at the University of Tennessee; and Dr. Tim Cross, Dean of Extension at the University of Tennessee.
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