South East Farm Press Logo

Steve Cobb named 2023 Southeastern Farmer of the Year

Arkansas farmer Steve Cobb is the 2023 Sunbelt Ag Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year.

Brad Haire, Executive Editor

October 17, 2023

3 Min Read
2023 Sunbelt Ag Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year Steve Cobb and his wife, Terri.
Steve Cobb and his wife, Terri, won the 2023 Sunbelt Ag Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year during and opening day luncheon Oct 17. With them on the left is Chip Blalock, executive director of the Sunbelt Expo. To the right is Tyler Harper, Georgia commissioner of agriculture, and Georgia Governor Brian Kemp.Pam Caraway

Steve Cobb knew he wouldn’t win. But on good advice, he jotted down some notes in case he did. Before leaving the hotel that morning, he thought he slipped those notes into his coat pocket, but he didn’t. And he won.

That’s how the Arkansas farmer started his acceptance speech after being declared the 2023 Sunbelt Ag Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year. Though he didn’t have it written down, he knew what was in his heart: the strength of the American family farm and its vulnerable state right now.

Most farmers face similar challenges and issues, from labor to the environment to tough policy to weather to marketing and much more, he said.

“But I think we’re involved in a battle that is much larger and much greater than any of those problems,” he said. “The survival of our culture and our way of life that you represent, which is an incredible way of life, it’s worth fighting for. It’s worth voting for, and it’s worth being active for, because it is ours to protect. We need our farms and our families to exist and to help lead this country in a positive direction.”

The award program started in 1990 and 10 states now participate, including Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

“The other nine (farmers) are more deserving of this honor. They have tremendous operations. There is no separation. Just like my neighborhood at home, I am surrounded by elite farmers, great farm families. I guess I just get to represent them. I hope I can represent,” he said.

Cobb Farms started 50 years ago in Craighead County, and includes three entities:

  • A show-pig operation that produces 1,000+ show pigs annually, along with breeding stock for club pig production.

  • Cane Island Farms grows row crops, such as corn, cotton and peanuts.

  • The Cane Island Produce branch grows vegetables, specializing in year-round greenhouse tomatoes.

Cobb married Terri 47 years ago. She’s a retired 2nd grade teacher. They have Jarrett, Aaron, and Leslie and eight grandchildren around.

The operation is managed by Aaron and his wife, Cassandra, along with Cobbs’ daughter, Leslie Lyerly and her husband, Erick, and long-time employee and now partner, Darin Owens, and his wife Leigh Ann Owens and their daughter Taylor and her husband Kyle Outlaw. Their daughters, Emily and Bailey and Bailey’s husband, Caleb Dunbar, pitch in. Jarrett is a lawyer, and his wife, Ashley, is a licensed clinical social worker.

Cobb was selected by three judges, who toured the operations of all ten state winners this summer. The judges were David Wildy, overall farmer of the year winner in 2016 from Manila, AR, Joe West, retired assistant dean UGA Tifton (Ga.) Campus, and Darren Parker, vice president of Massey Ferguson North America.

As the overall winner, Cobb received an expense paid trip to the Sunbelt Ag Expo, $15,000 cash from the sponsors, a Massey Ferguson tractor for a year or 250 hours, a jacket from the Sunbelt Ag Expo, a Hays Smoker/Grill from Hays LTI, and a Henry Repeating Arms American Farmer Tribute Edition rifle from Reinke Irrigation.

Read more about:

Sunbelt Ag Expo

About the Author(s)

Subscribe to receive top agriculture news
Be informed daily with these free e-newsletters

You May Also Like