Each year the Hillsborough County Fair honors pioneers in agriculture at the Annual Harvest Awards Luncheon. The honorees were recognized on Thursday, October 19 at the Hillsborough County Fairgrounds. The luncheon also marks the kickoff of the County Fair.
The Harvest Awards were originally established by the Cooperative Extension Service to recognize the achievements and commitments to agriculture and to preserve the agricultural heritage of Hillsborough County.
According to Mike McKinney, cochair of the County Fair Harvest Committee and retired County Extension Director, “We have honored over 75 agricultural leaders and families over the years.” McKinney added, “It still remains the premier awards program in the county.”
This year’s Farm Family of the Year was awarded to Charles and Betty Grimes. Charles and Betty grew their farm business from a small enterprise to a major operation that includes eight companies growing strawberries, fruits, vegetables and other crops on approximately 5,000 acres in eastern Hillsborough County.
The Lifetime Achievement Award in Agriculture was given to Marvin Brown of Plant City. In 1976, Marvin farmed one acre of strawberries in Lakeland. The strawberries were sold at a roadside stand. A year later he sharecropped 26 acres, and the following year he incorporated Favorite Farms, leasing 28 acres.
The Outstanding Woman in Agriculture went to Extension Agent Alicia J. Whidden, a lifelong educator. Prior to her career with the Extension, Whidden was a biologist for the UF/IFAS Strawberry Lab in Dover.
The Public and Community Service Award was given to the Mustard Seed Garden Ministry at Tim’s Presbyterian Church in Lutz. The garden was started four years ago. They grow produce for the homeless and others needing fresh vegetables in their community.
This year’s Young Farmer/Rancher/Nurseryman of the Year Award went to Daniel Gutierrez, a young Mexican immigrant with a passion to farm and to provide for his family. Gutierrez and his family moved to Plant City in 1990 to find a better place to live, prosper and contribute to the community. After working in the fields owned by others in order to learn his craft, Gutierrez is now the farmer-owner of Sunripe Growers. He grows over 10 different crops.
For information, visit www.hillsboroughcountyfair.com.