Jan 24, 2020
Georgia growers honored at SE Regional

A number of Georgia growers were honored during an awards breakfast at the Southeast Regional Fruit & Vegetable Conference held Jan. 9-12 in Savannah, Georgia.

The breakfast recognizes individuals from Georgia who have been honored in the past year. This year’s event was sponsored by Bayer Cropscience Seminis and emceed by Aries Haygood, president of the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association. Charles Hall, executive director of the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, and Vice President Drew Echols, also spoke and assisted in the presentation.

Southeast Regional was started “almost 20 years ago, by a combination of the Georgia/South Carolina Peach Council and the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Council,” Hall said.

Jonathan Mein of Bayer Seminis spoke briefly about how his company is coming together following a two-year merger. The two branches of the company – crop protection and seeds –  shared a booth at the trade show this year, he said.

Jonathan Mein
Charles Hall, left, and Jonathan Mein of Bayer Seminis. Photos: Stephen Kloosterman

“We are really looking to work together especially in the horticultural space, especially with vegetable growers, especially in the Southeast,” he said. “We’re excited to be here.”

U.S. Senator David Perdue
U.S. Senator David Perdue

U.S. Senator David Perdue, R-Georgia, spoke about economic, trade and immigration issues relating to agriculture.

“I put a bill in 2017, at the president’s request, to basically imitate Canada, Australia and New Zealand’s immigration law. It’s called the RAISE Act,” Perdue said. “It moves from a family-based immigration system to a merit-based immigration system, which by the way would solve the visitor work program that we all know we need.

“Half of labor in Georgia, in ag, which is our biggest industry, is illegal. It’s undocumented, we know that. We’re the biggest users of H-2A, but H-2A was not designed for farmers by farmers. It was designed to be a bureaucratic nightmare and … it is.”


Two individuals named to the 2019 Fruit + Vegetable 40 under 40 award presented by Fruit Growers News and Vegetable Growers News were also honored at the breakfast.

Drew Echols, left, and Cain Hickey
Brandon Wade

Cain Hickey, an assistant professor and viticulture Extension specialist at the University of Georgia, was named to the 2019 40 under 40 list. His research currently focuses on pruning, trellising, fruit zone management and spring frost mitigation.

Brandon W. Wade, a plant manager at Alma Nursery & Berry Farms, was also named to the list. He is president of the Georgia Blueberry Growers Association.

Produce Business Magazine also recognizes 40 under 40 leaders, and recently named Beth Oleson as a leader.

Oleson serves as the Director of education and food safety for the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association.

Drew Echols, left, and Beth Oleson
Drew Echols, left, and Beth Oleson

Haygood said Oleson had established herself as a go-to person when food safety questions arise and also does outstanding work in putting together a two-day education session for Southeast Regional Fruit & Vegetable Conference.

Brian and Becky Tankersley, the owners of Double Branches Farm in Lincoln County, Georgia, were recognized.

Brian and Becky Tankersley, center, with Drew Echols and Aries Haygood

Earlier in 2019, they had won the Farmer-Rancher Pollinator Award from San Francisco-based nonprofit group Pollinator Partnership.

Their 97-acre farm grows is strawberry, blackberry and blueberry pick-your-own operation in Georgia’s Lincoln County.

Foster Rhodes, a former Extension agent for Georgia’s Houston County, was recently recognized for being named to the Georgia Agricultural Hall of Fame.

Foster Rhodes
Foster Rhodes, center, with Drew Echols and Aries Haygood.

“Foster Rhodes has been a key member of the Georgia Agricultural Exposition Authority, which oversees the Georgia National fairgrounds in Fairview,” Haygood said. “Foster has been a key supplier to our peach and vegetable growers through the business, the Walker-Rhodes Tractor Co. He has been a strong supporter of the SE Regional conference since its inception.”

Bill Brim, a co-owner of Lewis Taylor Farms, was also named to the Georgia Agricultural Hall of Fame in 2019. He also has been involved in policy work, for instance serving on the USDA National Advisory Fruit and Vegetable Committee.

Bill Brim
Bill Brim, center, with Drew Echols and Aries Haygood.

“Bill was on the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Organizing Board in 1996, and he has provided strong leadership for our organization in our industry,” Haygood said. “As a young grower, Mr. Bill’s been a mentor to me.”

Robert L. Dickey III of Dickey Farms was also recognized at the breakfast. He had earlier been named Georgia Farmer of the Year by the Sunbelt Ag Expo.

Drew Echols with Robert Dickey.

Dickey Farms is a Peach, Pecan, strawberry farm and agribusiness operation in Musella, Georgia. Robert leads the farm with his brother Stan, Father Bob, and son Lee. Robert is also a representative in the state legislature.

Robert’s son Lee Dickey won the 2019 Mr. Peach Award, given each year to an individual who furthers the marketing of Georgia peaches.

WIll McGehee, left, and Lee Dickey.

Lee had earned an accounting degree and was a partner at an equity firm before coming back to work at Dickey Farms, said Will McGehee, a sales manager at Genuine Georgia marketing group.

“He left a lucrative job in the finance world and he is continuing a pretty deep legacy at Dickey Farms,” McGehee said. “I know a lot of you with kids are looking at longevity from your farm. That’s something you pray for every day, is how is this going to sustain? And when one of your kids comes back and decides to take the reins, it’s a special moment.”

– Stephen Kloosterman, associate editor

Above, Will McGehee speaks at the awards breakfast.

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