Ed Hester has been farming in Bolivar County, Miss., for five decades, which by today's standards is an accomplishment in its own right. However, Hester hasn't just managed to survive those 50 years in farming, he's used his knowledge and dedication to teach, lobby and serve the agriculture industry through his participation and leadership in numerous agricultural organizations, including a strong involvement in the Mississippi Farm Bureau.
His efforts and successes were recognized Dec. 3 at the winter annual meeting of the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation as Hester was named the organization's first Excellence in Leadership Award winner.
The Farm Bureau board of directors voted this year to begin presenting this award to recognize some of the true leaders to whom the organization owes a debt of gratitude for service through leadership positions, by using personal influence to help educate politicians and the general public concerning the needs of agriculture and for being the role models and teachers of younger farmers, said MFBF president David Waide in presenting the award.
“The Excellence in Leadership Award recognizes volunteer leaders of Farm Bureau who made a significant contribution to Farm Bureau and agriculture in Mississippi,” said Waide. “Their contributions are a result of an unselfish effort to strengthen Farm Bureau and to enhance rural life in Mississippi.
“Ed Hester lives up to every criterion this award was established to recognize and it's my personal honor as well as the honor of the more than 230,000 members of Farm Bureau to present him with this first Excellence in Leadership Award.”
Waide added that Hester's philosophy in life is based on his Christian faith coupled with the desire to seek solutions to the social, cultural and economic problems facing agriculture today.
“His willingness to volunteer continually puts him in the forefront of issues as he represents all farmers in our country as well as the Delta region,” said Waide.
Hester, in his brief comments of thanks, recognized the importance of organizations such as Farm Bureau and the importance of each individual being continuously mindful of ways to put agriculture in a positive light before the public and policymakers.
Hester and his wife, Louise Aldridge Hester, have farmed in and around Benoit, Miss., for all of their 50-plus years of marriage. Their operation began with 16 acres of land and now encompasses 4,700 acres of cotton, rice and soybeans.
“It's important to not just farm well, but to give back to agriculture because agriculture gives so much,” said Hester. “There is a constant change in agriculture, through politics, through demand, through regulatory organizations, and you have to be a player in that to protect agriculture.”
He's lived up to that belief by allowing numerous research projects to take place on his farm, by hosting groups from throughout the world to tour his farm and learn about America's farming practices and by being a mentor and a helper to his farming neighbors.
Hester has been on the board of directors of the Bolivar County Farm Bureau for more than 30 years. He served on the MFBF state board of directors and as chairman of the soybean advisory committee.
He served as president of the Mississippi Soybean Association, as a member of the Mississippi Rice Council, as a vice president of Delta Council and as chairman of the board of directors of the Land Bank of North Mississippi.
Hester, a 1955 graduate of Mississippi State University, received numerous awards during his career, having most recently been selected as the Mississippi Row Crop Farmer of the Year and as Mississippi's Lancaste/Sunbelt Mississippi and Southeastern Farmer of the Year.
He's been recognized in virtually all areas of his operation for achievements in commodity innovations and in appreciation for his willingness to work with private, educational and research organizations to put practices to use on his farm before they are recommended to the general public.
He and his wife reside on their farm in Benoit, Miss.
Eva Ann Dorris is an ag journalist and contributing writer for the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation.