The 26 annual Agriculture and Forestry Appreciation banquet was recently held at the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame in Carthage. Approximately 130 producers, landowners, and local civic organizations gathered for lunch to recognize outstanding producers in the categories of Conservation Rancher, Outstanding Woodland Conservationist, Outstanding Woman in Agriculture, and USDA Producer of the Year. The Bill Whitaker Community Service to Agriculture award given in memory of longtime Soil & Water Conservation District (SWCD) director Bill Whitaker, who was a constant supporter of agriculture in Panola County, also was presented.
The 2010 Conservation Rancher went to Frankie Aaron. Aaron moved to the Panola County area in 1980. He is actively involved in agriculture through his cow/calf operation and markets an estimated 150 head of preconditioned calves annually. Kathy English was recognized as the Outstanding Woodland Conservationist. She manages a 202-acre stand of timber that she and her late husband owned. English was humbled by the recognition and said she was just trying to carry on as her husband would want.
The Outstanding Woman in Agriculture award was presented to Connie Easley for her support of agriculture through 26 years of employment with the Texas AgriLife Extension Service, her volunteer work on the Panola County Jr. Livestock Show board, and her tireless efforts in the organization of educational programs and field days, as well as the 4-H program. The USDA Producer of the Year award was presented to C.W. Fields of the Antioch Community. He received recognition for this award through the diversification and self-sustainability of his agriculture operation. Fields operates approximately 850 acres, 400 of which are in timber, 125 acres in hay production and the remainder is used to support his 200 plus cow/calf herd. Fields has been raising his own replacement heifers since 1973.
The final presentation was the Bill Whitaker Community Service to Agriculture award which was given to Dean Hopkins of Gary. Hopkins owns and operates 800 acres of land, part of which has been in his family since the 1800's. Hopkins volunteers his time to numerous organizations within the county, including the beef and forage committee, Panola County Soil & Water Board and AgriLife Leadership Advisory Board. He also is a supporter of the 4-H and FFA programs, volunteering his time to the Junior Livestock Show. In the past he has sponsored a child with a scramble heifer at the local rodeo.
Local agriculture agencies of Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Soil & Water Conservation District, Texas Forest Service, and the AgriLife Extension Service, work together to organize the annual event, which has a long standing tradition in Panola County. This important banquet would not be possible without the financial support of numerous businesses. Panola County is a place where the community comes together to support agriculture and takes time to recognize those individuals doing an outstanding job.
Martha Whitaker presents Dean Hopkins with the Bill Whitaker Community Service to Agriculture award in memory of her late husband.
Phillip Gates presents Kathy English with the Outstanding Woodland Conservationist.
Connie Easley receives the Outstanding Woman in Agriculture award from Teresa Griffin, District Technician Panola SWCD.
Pat Penturf, Soil Conservationist NRCS, presents the USDA Producer of the Year to Mr. C.W.Fields.
Matt Feno, District Conservationist NRCS, presents Frankie Aaron with the Conservation Rancher of 2010.