MARYVILLE, Tenn. - The University of Tennessee Extension Service has named a man from Maryville as Farmer of the Year.
The Daily Times reports John Keller is a third-generation farmer who operates the 780-acre Kelmont Farms with his wife and son. UT-Blount County Extension Service Director John Wilson nominated him for the honor.
Wilson said Keller's farm includes traditional row crops, livestock and specialty items. In addition, Keller also promotes and educates others about agriculture and farming in a variety of ways including hosting thousands of school children on field trips.
Keller will be recognized in August at the Tennessee Farm Bureau Presidents' Conference and in October at the UT Institute of Agriculture Ag Day.
"John is a conscientious and innovative farmer with a mind for the business, a ready hand for the farm task and a passion for the land and livestock," Wilson said. "John has demonstrated a desire to promote the advancement of and appreciation for family farms in Tennessee. He and his family are ready at a moment's notice to share the story of agriculture with the public."
Jason Fewell, UT assistant professor of agricultural and resource economics, there's a number of measures farmers have to meet to be considered for the recognition.
"The Tennessee Farmer of the Year represents the best of our state practitioners who not only run a profitable farming business but are also excellent stewards of their resources and the environment and leaders in their communities," Fewell said. "The Farmer of the Year must also be an ambassador for a business and way of life that is absolutely essential to our national standard of living but which is no longer understood by the majority of Americans. John Keller certainly meets those criteria."
Keller said farming is a family tradition for him.
"My father was both a teacher and farmer and my two grandfathers were farmers," he told the newspaper in an interview. "With this legacy and a fresh college degree in agriculture engineering from the University of Tennessee, I returned home in 1964 to take over the day to day management of Kelmont Farms. I started with 210 owned acres and 78 rented acres, producing row-crops and beef cattle and forages."
He says he tries to educate young people about farming by allowing them to visit his farm.
"Our hope and desire is for these to carry this experience with them throughout their life with a sense of appreciation for the American farm family," he said.