Alabama farmer of the year Wendell Gibbs left is the first to congratulate Arkansas farmer David Wildy as he hears he is the overall winner of the 2016 Swisher SweetsSunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year announced during the opening day of the Sunbelt Ag Expo Oct 18

Alabama farmer of the year Wendell Gibbs, left, is the first to congratulate Arkansas farmer David Wildy as he hears he is the overall winner of the 2016 Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year, announced during the opening day of the Sunbelt Ag Expo Oct. 18.

Arkansas’ David Wildy 2016 Southeast Farmer of Year

Diversified Arkansas farmer David Wildy was named the 2016 Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year during the opening day of the Sunbelt Ag Expo Oct. 18.

During his acceptance speech, and choking back tears, he said, “My family, without them, there would be no Wildy Family Farm. And also my wife, Patty, she is the glue of our family. Whenever there is anything going wrong, everybody runs to Patty, to mom, and she straightens us out. She puts us on the right track. Sometimes I’m right, and sometimes I’m wrong. Sometimes the boys are right and sometimes they are wrong. But we all get along and it is due to her. Thank you,” he said to his wife.

The fifth-generation Wildy Family Farm is based in Manila, Ark., and was started by Wildy’s grandfather in 1914. Wildy became a fulltime farmer in 1975. The farm now is a true multi-generational effort with 12,295 acres (2,145 acres owned and 10,150 acres rented), and the family grows cotton, corn, soybeans and wheat, and recently added peanuts and potatoes to the rotation. Almost 90 percent of his land can be irrigated either by furrow or center pivot. He also has a small beef cattle herd.

Wildy thanked Mollie Dykes with Arkansans Farm Bureau for heading up the process of selecting the state winner, which starts with county-level nominees who are judged to narrow thing down to district winners and eventually to a state winner each year.

The Southeast Farmer of the Year program is in its 27th year. As this year’s winner, Wildy will receive $15,000 cash from Swisher International plus the $2,500 for being the state winner. He also gets the use of a Massey Ferguson tractor for a year from Massey Ferguson North America, a $500 gift certificate from the Southern States cooperative, a Columbia jacket from Ivey’s Outdoor and Farm Supply, and a smoker-grill from Hays LTI.

Each state winner received a $2,500 cash award and an expense paid trip to the Sunbelt Expo from Swisher International, a $500 gift certificate from the Southern States cooperative, and a Columbia vest from Ivey’s Outdoor and Farm Supply.

(Sunbelt Ag Expo contributed to this article.)

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