Other winners from the AgriBusiness breakfast
Friend of Agriculture
Kit Dunlap, president of the Greater Hall County Chamber of Commerce, was honored with the 2011 Friend of Agriculture Award.
"I was absolutely thrilled," she said. "The Chamber has been a partner with agribusiness and agriculture since it began."
Dunlap said she realizes the effects agriculture and agribusiness have on Hall County.
"A lot of non-agricultural industries would not be here without the agricultural leadership we had in the 1940s and 50s, and she sees that." said Michael Wheeler, Hall County Extension coordinator. "She understands that we're all in the same engine, we all just have different parts."
The 2011 Outstanding Agribusiness Award went to a long-standing Clermont company.
"Cain Equipment has been in business since 1958," said former Hall County Extension Coordinator Gene Anderson. "The business has a rich agriculture history. It is one of the top hay equipment dealers in the Southeast."
Anderson said the company sells a variety of hay tool equipment, lawn and garden equipment, tractors and tractor parts, and also provides maintenance and service.
The company was founded by Al Cain and is now run by his son, Kabe, who is a cattle farmer.
Agribusiness Hall of Fame
Billy Skaggs, chief operating officer for the Georgia Department of Agriculture, is no stranger to Hall County. From 2002 to 2010, he served as the county's extension coordinator.
He came to the breakfast unaware he was an honoree.
"I was highly encouraged to come but I didn't know I was getting anything," Skaggs said. "I'm extremely honored. When I think about some of the previous inductees ... they're just some of the people who spent decades in the industry, and I'm honored to be among some of the pioneers of agriculture in the area."
Michael Wheeler, Hall County Extension coordinator, said Skaggs was never afraid to take chances and bring agriculture to the forefront of Hall County.
"Billy is a dynamic leader and a man of high integrity," Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black said. "I'm so very proud of all of his accomplishments in Hall County but so thankful he is serving as our chief operating officer. I'm as proud of him as I can be."
Allen and Doris Conner moved to a 9 acre plot of land in Clermont in 1977.
Thirty-four years and two children later, they are the proud owners of a successful 40-acre farm, producing young poultry, cattle and hay.
The Conners won a farm conservation award from Hall County Soil and Water Conservation District last year and a Rotary Award this year. Thursday morning, the couple was further honored by Hall County with the 2011 Farmer of the Year award for their efforts in conservation and production.
"I always loved agriculture. I just loved farming," Allen Conner, owner of Conner's Lime and Litter, said. "It's been a blessing. And the poultry industry's just been real good to us."
Conner ran chicken feed trucks for 20 years and began raising heavy breed pullets and roosters for Morris Hatchery in 2004. The chickens come to him only a couple of days old and he grows them for 20 weeks. All together, he has more than 20,000 birds at any given time.
The poultry are raised in modern chicken houses with motorized feed and water trays.
"Chicken houses ain't nothing like they used to be," Conner said. "We got a computer system that runs the heat and the fans and you can put your lights on it, your water on it. It tells you the high and low temperature and everything that goes on with the chicken house."
The Conner farm receives visitors from across the globe, everywhere from Canada to the Philippines.
"I was kind of astonished because when I got into it I didn't realize I'd have all sorts of people from all over the world coming to visit the farm, but it's kind of an honor," he said.
Despite the large number of animals on the farm, Allen said he does his best to be a good neighbor.
He planted trees to help reduce dust, erosion and noise.
"They have been very involved in conservation practices over the years," said Gene Anderson, former Hall County Extension coordinator. "They installed stream crossings so cattle can cross the stream without causing bank erosion."
Anderson said other conservation efforts the Conners worked toward include preventing erosion in heavy-use areas and keeping the creek clean.
"A lot of the stuff we're trying to do is improve water quality because all of our water goes to Atlanta. What we do up here affects them down there," Conner said. "The better job we do, the better quality water they're going to have south of here."
His cattle number between 20 and 30 and include Jerseys — a dairy breed — and various beef breeds and crosses. He breeds all of his cows with his Beefmaster bull, Big Daddy.
Conner said despite the variety of industries his farm represents, most of his income comes from the chicken houses. The rest, including his clean-out business and hay production, all combined come out to about the same amount.
He's still got big plans for his farm, which he called "a work in progress."
"We sort of do as we can, and then we have to quit for a little while. Get Home Depot paid off and then we go again," he said.
Conner wants to add some aesthetics to the landscape around his driveway and the chicken houses and put in a flower garden. He hopes his son and daughter — who help with the chickens when he and his wife cannot — will one day help him run the farm.
The farm, Conner said, is the best lifestyle he could ask for.
"I just think if you go through life and can't see nothing that you did, nothing that you improved, it's just been a waste," he said.