Ag Breakfast Award Winners
Farmer of the Year: Ann Jones, Jones Cutting Horses, Flowery Branch
Friend of Agriculture: Sammy Smith, Gainesville school board member
Outstanding Agribusiness: Lanny Dunagan, Welding Service
Agriculture Hall of Fame: the late Dr. Rick Hinton, longtime Northeast Georgia veterinarian
A fourth-generation family farmer known across the country for her cattle and equine expertise is Hall County’s 2015 Farmer of the Year.
Ann Jones of Jones Cutting Horses in Flowery Branch received the honor Wednesday at the Hall County Ag Breakfast Awards. Jones owns and operates dairy ranches in Hall County and in Oklahoma, as well as a smaller equine operation here.
“Ann has been a friend of my family for many, many years and those of you who know Ann know she isn’t afraid to speak her mind,” said Billy Skaggs with the Georgia Crop Improvement Association, who presented the award Wednesday. “She’s also quick to speak up for her friends and those causes she cares about, and I’ve been a beneficiary of her friendship for a lot of years. I’m very grateful for her.”
Skaggs said Jones’ father was a dairy farmer who served on the Hall County Farm Bureau board of directors and as district director for the Georgia Farm Bureau.
She has since become well-known in Georgia and across the country for equine expertise. Jones has had 82 world championship horses, most awarded in cutting and cow horse competitions.
Cutting is when a horse rider selects a cow from a herd, guides it to the center of the arena and tries to keep it from going back to the herd. Cow horse entails a horse rider performing specific maneuvers around a cow.
Skaggs said Jones is a member of several state and national equine organizations, including the Georgia Farm Bureau Equine Committee, and is on the board of directors for the Georgia National Fair.
“In particular, she has volunteered and donated her time and expertise to horse clubs around the state,” Skaggs said. “She’s also very active in the Youth Equine Day, which is held every year at the Capitol. She has done a tremendous job in the equine area in terms of helping young people.”
Jones said she was grateful to the agriculture community for its support and to her husband, Ike Swofford, without whom she could not run the operation.
“It’s one of those things that just hasn’t sunk in yet,” Jones said. “It’s a tremendous honor and I can think of a whole lot of folks who are a lot more deserving than I am. It’s just an honor to have been there amongst my peers and to know that it’s chosen by my peers. So I’m very grateful.”
Gainesville Mayor Danny Dunagan also presented his brother Lanny Dunagan the Outstanding Agribusiness Award for his work with Lanny Dunagan Welding Service. Abit Massey presented the Friend of Agriculture Award to Sammy Smith with the Gainesville City Schools Board of Education. And Dixie Truelove named the late Dr. Rick Hinton to the Hall County Agriculture Hall of Fame for his exceptional service to the community. Truelove presented the award to Rick Hinton’s son, Blake Hinton.
Michael Wheeler, Hall County Cooperative Extension coordinator, thanked those gathered Wednesday and quoted a letter from Thomas Jefferson about farmers, saying, “Cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens. They are the most vigorous, the most independent, the most virtuous, and they are tied to the country and wedded to its liberty and interests by the most lasting bonds.”
“I find these words to be just as truthful and important today as they were spoken 230 years ago,” Wheeler said. “It’s important for us to remember and honor those who have chosen agriculture as their lives’ work and to thank those who support it.”