On 3,300 acres in southern Middle Tennessee, Mike Robinson and his wife, Krislyn, have spent 32 years raising cattle and a family as well as planting, cultivating and harvesting a variety of row crops. All the labor has paid off in countless ways, but Mike’s most recent “harvest” is being named the Tennessee Farmer of the Year by University of Tennessee Extension.
The Robinsons live in the Belvidere community of Franklin County. Along with their twin sons Tracy and Kary, and their daughters Kaylee and Callie Pearl, they own and operate Sugar Tree Farms, which includes property in Franklin, Moore and Lincoln counties. The Robinson’s diversified operation includes a commercial Black Angus herd; corn, soybean, wheat and oat production; a feed store that sells bag and bulk feed; a Farm King Equipment dealership; a custom-hire enterprise; and a hay and straw market. If you look close, you may see a Jersey cow or two left over from 14 years of operating Sugar Tree Dairy.
Robinson was nominated to be Tennessee Farmer of the Year by Dallas Manning, the UT Extension Area Specialist for Farm Management for 10 Middle Tennessee counties, including Franklin County. Farmers from across the state were nominated for the honor by their county extension agents or by area farm management specialists.
Robinson will be introduced as the Tennessee Farmer of the Year in August at the Tennessee Farm Bureau President’s Conference in Franklin, Tenn.; at the Tennessee State Fair Hamburger Grilling Contest for Media, which is sponsored by the Farm and Forest Families of Tennessee; and at the UT Institute of Agriculture Ag Day celebration scheduled for September 30 in Knoxville.
Robinson is a self-starter. He began farming when he was in the 11th grade after he borrowed $9,600 from his grandfather to buy 18 acres. “The business has just grown from there,” he says. Today, he is grateful for the family aspect of the operation. His wife and sons are integral to the business. “The farm couldn’t exist without the boys,” Robinson said, modestly. “There is too much to do without them.” His young daughters are in training on the farm and through 4-H, and they are happy to help with appropriate chores.
Robinson and his family have been involved in many agricultural and community activities over the years. He’s been a member of the Franklin County Farm Bureau for 30 years, and has served as a voting delegate several times. He has also been a repeat member of the Farm Credit Advisory Board and served for more than a decade on the CFW Waste Management Board. In 1990 Robinson was named as Franklin County Conservation Farmer of the Year. Krislyn Robinson is a former elementary school teacher and home schooled their children. In addition to her duties on the farm, Krislyn is active with the local Tennessee Farm Bureau Women and teaches Sunday school at Lexie Church of Christ. Sons Tracy and Kary are also active in their community and enjoy participating in the Tennessee Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers program.
As Tennessee Farmer of the Year, Robinson will compete in the Southeastern Farmer of the Year competition at the Sunbelt Ag Expo in Moultrie, Georgia. That competition chooses from among the top farmers from 10 southeastern states and is sponsored by Swisher International, Inc. The award recognizes excellence in agricultural production and farm management, along with leadership in farm and community organizations. The award also honors family contributions in producing safe and abundant supplies of food, fiber and shelter products for U.S. consumers. The overall Southeastern Farmer of the Year will be announced October 17.
This year Tennessee is the “Spotlight State” among the states participating in the Sunbelt Expo. A rotating honor, each year’s spotlight state highlights statewide contributions to agriculture. Planners for this year’s exhibit intend to showcase how the state’s agricultural industry is integral to Tennessee’s culture and tourism industry. A partnership of the UT Institute of Agriculture, the Tennessee Departments of Agriculture and Tourist Development, as well as many industry sponsors and other collaborators, the exhibit will spotlight how the soundtrack of America is made in Tennessee. The Sunbelt Expo runs from October 17-19. More information is available online at sunbeltexpo.com.
Robinson, who is truly appreciative of his statewide honor, is very excited to be representing the Spotlight State. “I told the boys it would be really exciting if the family could bring home the award to further spotlight Tennessee,” he said.