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Two Mississippians honored for leadership in agriculture

The Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation has honored Marie Rogers, Guntown, Miss., as its 2014 state winner of the Young Farmers & Ranchers Excellence in Agriculture Award, and the Excellence in Leadership Award was awarded posthumously to Conrad Mallette of Vancleave.

Marie Rogers, Guntown, Miss., has been named 2014 state winner of the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation’s Young Farmers & Ranchers Excellence in Agriculture Award, and the 2014 Excellence in Leadership Award was awarded posthumously to Conrad Mallette of Vancleave.

The awards were announced at the organization’s annual meeting.

Rogers was recognized for her involvement in agriculture, her leadership ability, and her involvement and participation in Farm Bureau and her community. As state winner, she received a zero-turn lawnmower, sponsored by Southern Ag Credit, and an expense-paid trip from Farm Bureau to the American Farm Bureau Federation annual meeting at San Diego, Calif.

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She is Mississippi State University Extension agent for Itawamba County, with responsibilities that include agriculture, natural resources, 4-H and economic development. She and her husband, Joe, have a cow/calf and row crop operation, growing soybeans and sorghum. They area also contract growers of certified sorghum seed for the Mississippi State Seed Foundation program.

“As part of my job, I teach youth and adults to appreciate agriculture,” Rogers says. “I oversee community and project clubs, as well as providing school enrichment programs for K-12 students, and programs for adults.” She also provides programming for cattlemen, row crop farmers, Master Gardeners, and beekeepers, to name a few.” 

One of the biggest issues in agriculture today, she says is misinformation, especially about genetically modified crops.

“One of the biggest problems is the abundance of unfounded research,” Rogers says “This can be addressed through education, using real agricultural research from land-grant universities and the USDA. Also, more research from the medical community would be helpful.  

Explaining benefits of GMOs

“I believe showing the public the benefits of genetically modified crops and the research that shows consumption of products containing GMOs isn’t harmful to the human body would help consumers warm up to these products. We can do this through traditional Extension programming or even a display at a grocery store or public event. Mississippi Farm Bureau is addressing the issue in their Farm Families of Mississippi campaign.  Social media outlets are also a great way to reach and educate consumers.”

Rogers serves as the resource person on the Itawamba County Farm Bureau board of directors. She also serves on the county Young Farmers & Ranchers Committee, has served on the YF&R State Committee, and has participated in numerous state and national YF&R activities. Marie and husband Joe were Region 2 Young Farmers of the Year in 2006. She was a YF&R State Discussion Meet finalist two years in a row, and she and Joe were the YF&R Region 2 Excellence in Ag finalists in 2012. 

She is a member of state and national Extension groups and local and state FFA groups. She received the Achievement in Service Award from the National Association of Extension 4-H Agents and the Clover Award from the Mississippi Association of Extension 4-H Agents.  She is active in her church and community.  She and her husband have two children.

The Excellence in Agriculture Award is presented to individuals or couples who do not have the majority of their income subject to normal production risk. Regional winners in the competition received an iPad from Southern Farm Bureau Life Insurance Company and a Yeti cooler from the Mississippi Farm Bureau Insurance Sales Department.

Mallette honored for leadership

The late Conrad Mallette was awarded the MFBF 2014 Excellence in Leadership Award. It was presented to his family during the organization’s annual meeting.

Over the course of his lifetime, Mallette worked tirelessly to promote agricultural and industrial growth in Jackson County, while helping the county’s Farm Bureau to become financially strong and the proud owner of two office buildings.

“Conrad was truly a good leader and a good person,” said Clyde Leslie Brown, one of his best friends. “When I began serving on the Jackson County Farm Bureau board of directors, we could just never catch up and get ahead.  We were always penny-pinching.  After Conrad became president in 1991, we started seeing a little light at the end of the tunnel. Now, we don’t borrow money anymore — we pay our way. We have money to spend on our programs. We don’t owe for anything now.

“Conrad had great credibility throughout the spectrum — a rare talent for people, but he had it,” Brown says.  “He knew how to meet people and how to talk to them about industry and economic development. He and I would participate in tours promoting farming and economic development in Mississippi and Jackson County.  We would talk to supervisors, and the governor would come down; we’d meet with Senators Trent Lott and Thad Cochran.  I believe it helped, because Mississippi and Jackson County are really growing — we now have Ingalls, Chevron and chemical.”

Born in 1935, Mallette finished high school in Vancleave and attended Perkinston Community College, then served in the U.S. Army and retired from Keesler Air Force Base as a carpenter. He also farmed and at various times grew row crops, hogs and cattle.

He served on the Jackson County Farm Bureau board of directors for 25 years and as board president for 16 years. He also served several terms on the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation board of directors. Jackson County Farm Bureau built its first office building in 1972 in Escatawpa, then bought an acre of land in Vancleave in 1996 and built an office on Humphreys Road, which is still operating today.  In recent months, a third office has opened in Ocean Springs.

In 2006, after Hurricane Katrina badly damaged the Escatawpa office building, Jackson County Farm Bureau relocated to Cumbest Bluff north of town. Mallette not only helped with getting the land and financing, he sketched out plans for the building and spent many hours of physical labor helping to build it. The new office opened in April 2, 2007.

“My father really believed in Farm Bureau and enjoyed working with the organization,” says his son, Ken, who serves as present of Jackson County Farm Bureau and has also served on the state board. “It was a challenge, and he liked a good challenge.”

Perry Meyers, vice president of Jackson County Farm Bureau, says, “When you think about what Conrad has done for our county Farm Bureau, it is amazing. We went from having to borrow money to make it to the end of the year to being financially solvent, with two office buildings that are paid for, and it’s all because of Conrad and hard decisions and late nights on the phone. People don’t understand how hard he worked — and there was no doubt it was for Farm Bureau.”

In addition to his work with Jackson County Farm Bureau, he was a director with the Soil and Water Conservation Commission, a member of First Baptist Church of Vancleave, a member of the county Farm Service Agency committee, and a member of the county Cattlemen’s Association. He was appointed to the Pat Harrison Waterway in 2004 and served as a director and on the finance committee until his death in 2007.  The 60,000-square-foot multipurpose complex in Vancleave, built by the board of supervisors in 2004, was officially named for him in November 2007 and dedicated in February 2008. 

The Excellence in Leadership Award was established to recognize those volunteer leaders of Farm Bureau who have made a significant contribution to Farm Bureau and agriculture in Mississippi. Their contributions have been performed as a result of an unselfish effort to strengthen Farm Bureau and to enhance rural life in Mississippi.

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