Friend of Agriculture: Tim Evans, Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce vice president of economic development
Outstanding Agribusiness: New Leaf Landscape Services, Gainesville
Agriculture Hall of Fame: Bill Whitmire, purebred Angus cattle producer
Jarl Echols’ life got a little peachier Tuesday morning.
The co-owner of Jaemor Farms, a longtime peach grower off Ga. 365 in Lula, was named Farmer of the Year at the 2017 Hall County Agribusiness Awards sponsored by the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce and UGA Extension.
“You don’t ever think about getting anything like this, but it’s sort of a help to get recognition of what you’ve been doing. It’s encouraging,” Echols said, speaking after a breakfast and awards presentation at the North Hall Community Center.
Working the 350 acres is about all Echols has known in his working life, having spent 39 years — as of last week, he noted — with the family business.
“I’ve never punched a time clock,” he said. “When I got out of high school, that’s what I wanted to do and that’s what I’ve done.”
Agriculture is certainly in Echols’ lineage. According to Jaemor’s website, the family began farming cotton and a few peach trees in 1912.
Peaches became the mainstay, but the farm diversified over the years, growing strawberries, blackberries, muscadines, scuppernongs, concord grapes, watermelons, squash, tomatoes, zucchini and pumpkins. A fig crop was added this season.
In addition, the farm has added a marketplace and attractions, such as hayrides, and has become a wedding venue.
Today, Jaemor attracts about 1 million visitors per year, Echols said.
He recalls a much slower offseason years ago.
“When peaches were done, we had to hunt for something to do for a couple of months, then we were back on the farm,” Echols said. “In the last 20-25 years, I’ve been on the farm full-time.
“It’s been an interesting ride.”
In accepting his award, he referred briefly to last week’s freezing temperatures, which affected about half his peach crop.
“We’re in a tough situation sometimes in dealing with the weather,” Echols said. “But daddy (Jimmy Echols) told me … a long time ago that God’s more interested in growing men than he is peaches.
“We have a lot of rough mornings this time of year, but maybe we’ve got a good crop of peaches to look forward to.”