Ag Award winners
Farmer of the year: Bob Williams, Wauka Mountain Farms
Agriculture Hall of Fame: Sewell Blackstock, fourth-generation farmer
Outstanding Agribusiness: Glo-Crest Dairy/Mountain Fresh Creamery, Clermont
Friend of Agriculture: Rex Farmer, Georgia Mountains Regional Commission
Bob Williams always wanted to farm, but he didn’t start his dream job until later in life, after college and a six-year stint in the Air Force.
Since then, it’s been a long ride for the Gainesville native — 43 years at his Wauka Mountain Farms off Thompson Road near Clermont.
His years in the industry earned him some notable recognition Tuesday, as he was named Hall County’s farmer of the year.
Williams won the honor at the 21st annual Hall County Agribusiness Awards Presentation and Breakfast, sponsored by the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce and the UGA Cooperative Extension office in Hall.
“I really don’t feel deserving,” Williams said. “There are so many good farmers who’ve been doing this a lot longer than I have.”
“But it kind of makes me want to redouble my efforts,” he added. “It kind of inspires you a little bit.”
After Gainesville High School, Williams went to Georgia Tech, then on to the Air Force.
“The whole time I was in the Air Force, I was saving my money to try to make a down payment on (farm land),” he said. “I got up enough to get a loan without even having a job.”
He initially was able to buy 123 acres with a house and three chicken broiler houses.
Throughout his farming career, he has been a grower for Mar-Jac Poultry, but he also raises cattle at his now 400-acre North Hall County farm.
“I’ve really used the conservation (office) and county agent through the years to get me going in the right way,” Williams said.
He also was a commercial pilot, as “I don’t think I could have made it without a good outside job.”
Now, “I’m getting kind of old and I’m looking to the future,” said the 74-year-old. “I’m hoping that if my kids and grandkids don’t run it as a farm, they (can preserve it) as a conservation area.”
Wauka Mountain Farms also operates in Banks County with another 760 acres of certified pine forest.
Conservation is one of his big initiatives and is very important to him as a farmer.
“As I get older, I look at the children and I think that conservation is a good thing,” Williams said. “Even the people in the city could help out with conservation. With all the over-fertilized land that is in the city, with all these lawns, that does as much to pollute our water as some of the runoff from the farms. The city could join with us to kind of complete the conservation cycle.”
Conservation projects on his farm include fencing off streams, a wildlife habitat, rotational grazing for his 80 brood cows, as well as pollination planting for bees and other pollinators.
He also raises his own hay.
And chickens “fit in real good with beef cattle because you’ve got chicken litter for fertilizer,” he said.
Over the years, he has seen big changes in agriculture — chief among them, Hall County’s growth, which has erased a lot of available farm land.
“It’s hard to find a farm down in (South Hall) anymore,” he said.
Also winning awards Tuesday were Sewell Blackstock, a fourth-generation farmer named to the
Agriculture Hall of Fame; Glo-Crest Dairy/Mountain Fresh Creamery, Clermont, Outstanding Agribusiness; and Rex Farmer of the Georgia Mountains Regional Commission, Friend of Agriculture.
“The annual Ag Awards Breakfast is a nice way to recognize those individuals who continue to make agriculture great in Hall County,” said Michael Wheeler, Hall County extension coordinator. “It is also a good way to bring attention to the fact that agriculture is still the largest industry in Hall County. We are very proud of that fact.”
David B. Strickland of the Poultry Times contributed to this story.