Ray Allan Mackey named “Farmer of the Year”Posted on Dec 6, 2013
Each year, KFB recognizes an individual whose efforts not only strengthen the state’s agriculture industry but also demonstrate service and leadership both on and off the farm. Three Kentucky farmers were considered as finalists in this year’s competition – Mackey, Gary Cecil of Daviess County, and Kenny Imel of Greenup County. After a careful review of each finalist’s nomination form and an on-site visit to their farms in early October, the judging committee selected Mackey as 2013’s “Farmer of the Year.”
Mackey currently raises corn, soybeans, tobacco, beef cattle and swine on his 4,535-acre farm in Hardin County. He began farming immediately after graduating from college, first helping his father manage the family farm, then sharecropping some neighboring land, and eventually purchasing his own farm in 1986. As the size of Mackey’s farmland and facilities continued to grow with more acquisitions over the following years, so did his family’s involvement on the farm. Mackey’s wife, both of his sons, and his brother all play integral roles on the farm today.
Not resting on his successes, Mackey is currently in the process of upgrading his farm’s grain handling and storage facilities, installing a more efficient dryer and grain transfer equipment. He is also developing new ways to provide adequate drainage for crop production, expanding his farm’s existing tile system, maintaining its stream banks and leveling field areas damaged by flooding.
In an effort to prevent soil erosion and preserve the quality of the water, land and resources around him, Mackey implements several agricultural conservation practices on his farm. Practicing no-till or minimum-till farming methods, crop rotation, utilizing grass and rock cover to prevent erosion in critical areas, and planting cover crop wheat on harvested tobacco fields has helped make Mackey a conscientious steward of the land he farms.
Mackey is well known for the active roles he has taken in both KFB and the Kentucky Corn Growers Association (KyCGA). He has been a member of the Hardin County Farm Bureau board of directors since 1985 and served as its president since 2004. He is also vice chair of the KFB Swine Advisory Committee and the KFB District Three chairman. Currently serving as president of the KyCGA, Mackey has been a member of the organization’s board of directors since 2003 and additionally acted as its treasurer, secretary and vice-president during that tenure. Mackey is also a member of the National Corn Growers Association’s Research and Business Development Team and a graduate of its Leadership Academy.
Judges visited the “Farmer of the Year” finalists during the fall to conduct interviews and see each operation firsthand. The KFB Federation awarded Mackey with a $1,000 prize for being named “Farmer of the Year,” and the other finalists, Cecil and Imel, received $250 each. All three finalists were also presented with a KFB jacket.
In addition to the statewide recognition and prizes, KFB’s “Farmer of the Year” winner will represent Kentucky in the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Ag Expo Southeastern “Farmer of the Year” contest, the South’s most prestigious agricultural award, in Moultrie, Georgia, October 14-16, 2014. The state winner will also receive $2,500 from Swisher International, a $500 gift certificate from Southern States Cooperative, the choice of either $1,000 in PhytoGen cottonseed or a $500 donation to a designated charity from Dow AgroSciences, and a Columbia vest from Ivey’s Outdoor and Farm Supply. Kentucky’s winner will compete against nine other state winners for the chance to win a $15,000 award from Swisher International and several other sponsor-based prizes.
Cecil, a 38-year farming veteran, raises tobacco, watermelons, corn, wheat, pumpkins and other miscellaneous vegetables on his farm in Daviess County, and is currently the only commercial watermelon grower in the state. His farming career began in the mid-1970’s when he rented his first 10 acres of land to grow tobacco and helped local farmers haul their hay and corn. A family endeavor from the beginning, Cecil’s wife, Imelda, helped provide additional income by working as a nurse while raising their three children. Their son, Ryan, and daughter, Suzanne, have both returned to the farm to fill integral roles in the operation today. Working with labor-intensive crops like tobacco and vegetables, Cecil now employs more than 20 workers and has added two greenhouses for early vegetable production. He is a long-time KFB member and has served on the Daviess County Farm Bureau board of directors for nearly 30 years, including two terms as president. He also represented Kentucky for 10 years on the U.S. Potato Board, served on Kentucky’s Soil Conservation board for 16 years, and offered his time and leadership to numerous other local civic and industry-specific organizations.
Imel, a 37-year farming veteran and first generation horticulturalist, manages a greenhouse nursery of ferns, mums, hanging baskets and specialty pots on his farm in Greenup County. He also raises cattle and mixed grass hay, and operates a successful agritourism business that attracts thousands of visitors each year. Imel started farming when he was just 14 years old, inspired by an FFA project that introduced him to raising cattle, hogs and produce. As he moved into full-time farming, Imel also raised field crops, chicken, and hogs. He eventually focused his efforts on greenhouse, cattle and hay production, adding agritourism features as a way to continue growing his farm. Imel has served on the Greenup County Farm Bureau board of directors since the early 1980’s, including four terms as its president and vice president, is presently a member of the KFB Certified Roadside Market Advisory Committee and the state Horticulture Committee. Imel volunteers additional time assisting local industry clubs and civic organizations.
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