After a three-year hiatus, the Grayson County Agricultural Awards banquet returned on Monday evening to celebrate the achievements of the local farming community.

The event opened with a meal and keynote address from USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) State Executive Director Dean Schamore, who discussed the support the FSA can provide to farmers.

Schamore said farmers are needed, and it is fortunate the government recognizes their importance through FSA support programs.

In 2022, he said, Grayson County was 16th in the state for most FSA funding received with $1.3 million distributed to support the local agriculture community.

Schamore said farming constantly changes, and the FSA wants to be there to support farmers as they adjust to those changes.

Following Schamore’s speech, the event moved into its awards presentations.

First among the honorees was retired Grayson County Extension Agent for Agriculture & Natural Resources Jack Ewing, who received the 2022 Agriculture & Natural Resources Leadership Award.

Ewing was unable to attend Monday’s banquet, but his predecessor at the Grayson County Extension Service, Whitney Carman, who now serves as the county’s Extension Agent for Agriculture & Natural Resources, recognized his accomplishments during the event.

According to Carman, Ewing worked for 44 years, serving the agriculture community in various ways, through leadership, educational programming, research, on-farm demonstrations, and serving his agriculture clientele.

“He was most instrumental in developing a hay and alfalfa program to fit the needs of the county, forestry conservation projects, and helped farmers transition from tobacco to more diversified crops, like beef cattle and forages,” Carman said.

During Ewing’s career and through his programming efforts, he was able to help farmers increase their annual farm income from $7,300 in 1970 to over $55,000 in 2015, according to Carman.

“It’s hard to encompass everything he did over his 44-year career, but he still continues to help people today in an unofficial capacity, myself included,” Carman said. “Chances are, if you’re sitting in this room, you’ve worked with or learned something from Mr. Ewing. He is a true servant leader to the agriculture community in Grayson County.”

The next to be recognized were the 2019-2022 county winners of the Conservation Writing & Art contests, which are held annually for students in kindergarten through 12th grade. Art posters are created by students in kindergarten through 5th grade, and students in grades 6 through 12 write essays.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the agricultural awards banquet was cancelled for three years, so officials wished to recognize the students who won the county conservation contests during those years, as well as this past year.

The county Conservation Art & Writing Contest winners and the contest themes for each year were as follows.

2019 (Things That Fly): Elizabeth Barnett (Art) and Corbin Geary (Writing); both were unable to attend Monday’s awards banquet.

2020 (Exploring Kentucky’s Mighty Oaks): Layton Lush (Art, unable to attend the banquet) and Railey Mattingly (Writing). Mattingly was also the 2020 Area 3 Writing Contest winner.

2021 (We All Need Water): Samuel Mattingly (Art) and Taylor Powell (Writing). Powell was also the 2021 Area 3 Writing Contest winner.

2022 (Take a Hike): Lucy Smith (Art) and Eli Drake (Writing).

Next, Grayson County Conservation District Chairman Michael Shull presented the Cooperator of the Year and Master Conservationist awards.

Robert Fulkerson was the recipient of this year’s Cooperator of the Year award in recognition of his work to address erosion on his Big Clifty farm.

Shull said Fulkerson identified several erosion concerns, including streambank erosion where equipment crossed his creek and gully erosion in his crop fields.

In cooperation with the Conservation District and Natural Resources Conservation Service, Fulkerson corrected his gully erosion with several grassed waterways, and, on his own with some informal technical assistance, he stabilized his creek crossing.

This year’s Master Conservationist award recipients were Portia and Jerry Brown, who, since 1993, have tended Portia Brown’s family woodland farm established in 1947 in the Millwood area.

Shull said the Browns continue to improve their woodland value by actively partnering with the Kentucky Division of Forestry (KDF) to develop and continually update their Forest Stewardship Plan.

The Browns have also implemented KDF recommended practices through cooperative conservation with the FSA and Natural Resources Conservation Service to maintain their Forest Stand Improvement efforts and reduce soil erosion.

“Mrs. Brown also served as the 2022 President of the Kentucky Woodland Owners Association and Kentucky Woodland Owners Foundation Board, a testament to her dedication and passion for Kentucky woodlands,” Shull said.

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