Georgia farmer Philip Grimes is the 2014 Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year. Known for his meticulous crop management, high yields and conservation practices, Grimes beat out nine other Southeastern state winners.
The announcement was made during the opening luncheon Oct. 14 of the Sunbelt Ag Expo in Moultrie, Ga.
“Oooh, I’m scared to death to be standing up here” said Grimes as he began his acceptance speech with his wife, Jane, by his side. “I’m proud to be here representing the farmer of the year program. It’s a humbling experience for me and honor to be standing up here with this distinguished group of outstanding farmers. … I love to farm, and I’ve been blessed by God tremendously.”
The Tifton, Ga., farmer grows 2,200 acres -- about half his land is rented -- of peanuts, cotton but also snap beans, broccoli and cantaloupes, which he intercrops with part of his cotton crop.
Crop rotation is a big part of his overall crop management strategy. He rotates from peanuts to cantaloupe or watermelon to cotton or corn, putting his peanut rotation on a three- to four-year cycle. Since he began farming, he has kept records of what works on his farm and knows what each field needs to produce high yields. But, more importantly, he makes note of what doesn’t work for his crop management.
As a result of his high peanut yields, he is a standing, longtime member of the Georgia Peanut Achievement Club. In 2013, his irrigated acres yielded 6,400 per acre on 660 acres, his cotton 1,400 pounds per acre on 890 acres and 265 bushels per acre on 100 acres.
His father died when Grimes was five. Grimes didn’t grow up on a farm, but started working on local farms more than 40 years ago. In 1975, he married Jane and began working on his father-in-law’s farm. In the early '90s, he partnered with H.C. Dodson and eventually took over operation of Docia Farms.
A strong believer in conservation practices, he cover crops most of his land with rye, which helps with fertility and weed management.
Brian Tankersley, recently retired University of Georgia Extension director in Tift County, nominated Grimes, who welcomes Extension and private industry research on his farm. “I like to see how something can work on the farm a little bit before implement it on a bigger scale,” he said.
Grimes will receive a $15,000 cash award as overall winner plus $2,500 as a state winner from Swisher International and a Massey Ferguson tractor for a year from Massey Ferguson North America, a $500 gift certificate from the Southern States cooperative, the choice of either $1000 in PhytoGen cottonseed or $500 to a designated charity from PhytoGen cottonseed and a Columbia jacket from Ivey’s Outdoor and Farm Supply.
The other state winners this year include Phillip Hunter of Birmingham, Ala., Andy Gill of McGehee, Ark., C. Dennis Carlton of Tampa, Fla., Ray Allan Mackey of Elizabethtown, Ky., Danny Murphy of Canton, Miss., Frank Howey, Jr., of Monroe, N.C., Walter Lewis Dantzler of Santee, S.C., John Keller of Maryville, Tenn., and Robert “Tom” Nixon II of Rapidan, Va.
Georgia is the Sunbelt Spotlight State this year. Last year, South Carolina was the spotlight state. Last year, South Carolina farmer James Cooley was tapped as the 2013 Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Ag Expo Southeastern Farmer of Year.