Agronomist Tony Driver, Crawford, Texas, is the 2021 recipient of the Texas Plant Protection Association Norman Borlaug Lifetime Achievement Award for his leadership within the association and agriculture.
TPPA founder and Board Chair Ray Smith describes Driver as well respected, positive and a hard worker.
"Tony is very knowledgeable in agriculture crops and chemicals," says Smith, a former colleague. "He is well respected by his growers, consultants, and chemical dealers. He's a very positive person and a very hard worker."
Driver received the award Wednesday, Dec. 8, during TPPA's 33rd annual conference and awards luncheon in Bryan. Smith says the Norman Borlaug Lifetime Achievement Award is the organization's most prestigious award.
TPPA founder Ray Smith, left, with Tony Driver, the 2021 recipient of the Norman Borlaug Lifetime Achievement Award, and Scott Nolte, TPPA Awards Committee chair. (Photo by Blair Fannin)
"Tony is the well-respected agronomic service representative with Syngenta Crop Protection. He has served TPPA as an officer and board member and been a sponsor for the conference for many years," says TPPA Executive Director and former colleague Bob Sasser. "He is well-deserving of this award. He is supportive of TPPA and encourages others to be involved."
The award is named for Norman Borlaug -- the agronomist, humanitarian, and Nobel laureate. Borlaug was known as the "Father of the Green Revolution," "Agriculture's Greatest Spokesperson," and "The Man Who Saved a Billion Lives." Borlaug completed his career as a member of the Texas A&M University staff, serving as a distinguished international agriculture professor.
Tony Driver recognized for his leadership and contributions to the Texas Plant Protection Association and within agriculture. (Photo by Shelley E. Huguley)
Driver, who serves as TPPA secretary, says receiving this award is touching and an honor, not only because it’s associated with Norman Borlaug but also the award's past recipients. "It makes you proud," he says.
Driver has worked with Southwest producers as an agronomist for more than 40 years. His interest in agronomy began in the small-town of Humphrey, Arkansas, where he grew up and his family still owns a farm today. He credits his initial love for the soil and watching plants grow to his mother who loved gardening and to his high school FFA instructor Mr. Craig.
"He got me involved in FFA. He wanted to get me more involved in agriculture, so I worked on farms while I was in high school," Driver says. "He set me up with a professor at UAPB (University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff), where I got my undergraduate degree, and the rest is history."
While earning his bachelor's in agronomy, Driver was introduced to and married his late wife Jacquelyn. "We were introduced by her mother," he says.
Upon graduation, Driver worked as a soil conservatist for the Arkansas Soil and Water Conservation District. He credits Jacquelyn for encouraging him to work with the private sector.
"She was a great influence on my life in agriculture," Driver says, adding that they worked closely together. "We were both agronomists."
Both Driver and Jacquelyn worked for Syngenta, initially called Ciba-Geigy. "She got her Ph.D. in weed science and biotechnology," Driver says. "We just always enjoyed agriculture."
Diverse cropping systems
Driver's been with Syngenta for 38 years. He works with diverse cropping systems including corn, cotton soybeans, wheat, multiple vegetable crops, peanuts, rice and citrus in South and Central Texas and Eastern Oklahoma.
Tony Driver works with a variety of commodities from corn to cotton to vegetables. He says what he enjoys most about his job is the people. (Photo by Shelley E. Huguley)
Driver says what he enjoys most about agronomy is the different people with whom he gets to work. "And you get to see how crops grow, work with the soil and all aspects of plant growth and development. And when you do the right thing for producers, your customers, and the company that you represent, you really feel like you had a lot of good productivity added to that day," Driver says. "Agronomy has always been a great interest to me. I just like the overall aspects of it."
During his early years with Syngenta and prior to his involvement with TPPA, Driver worked under Sasser. "Bob was a great influence teaching me good ethics and how to work with people, how to listen to what people have to say and being a good steward of the Syngenta product line, previously Ciba-Geigy. Bob has always been influential in my coming up and starting out with the private sector."
After working with Sasser, Driver transferred to Oklahoma where he worked for Ed Baker, another manager he credits for mentoring him. Driver's eventual return to Texas reunited him with Sasser but this time through TPPA.
Driver says TPPA has been beneficial to his career development. "Just seeing how these guys work together and the interest level they have. They bring in some of the best speakers to educate the growers in the area and consultants, channel partners and retailers." He says he also appreciates TPPA's university involvement.
Past recipients of the Norman Borlaug Lifetime Achievement Award include, H. Ray Smith (2004), Charles Stichler (2005), Barron Rector (2006), Travis Miller (2007), James Grichar (2008), Paul Baumann (2009), Jack LeClair (2010), Ron Lacewell (2011), Brad Minton (2012), Roy Parker (2013), Tom Cothren (2014), Randy Rivera (2015), David Baltensperger (2016), Ron Smith (2017), Ken Smith (2018), Juan Landivar (2019) and Bob Whitney (2020).
Look through this gallery to see who else was honored at TPPA's 33rd annual conference.