Photo by Ron O’Connor. The 2019 Farm Family of the Year Award was given to the Billy Simmons Family. Carol and Billy accepted the award which was presented by Nikki Foster from The Mosaic Company, a major sponsor of the luncheon.

Each year, members of the community who make an impact on Hillsborough County agriculture are honored at the Annual Harvest Awards Luncheon. This year, the 19th Annual Harvest Awards Luncheon was held on Thursday, October 17 at the Hillsborough County Fairgrounds.

Jake Raburn, director of marketing at Hinton Farms, served as the Master of Ceremonies. Raburn said, “County Fairs have long been a place to celebrate a community’s agricultural history.”

The 2019 Farm Family of the Year Award was given to the Billy Simmons family. Farming for the Simmons family reaches back to the beginning of the legacy of Plant City being the winter strawberry capital of the world.

Billy and Carol Simmons have been farming strawberries since 1977. However, the family traces its farming roots back to both of their great-grandparents, who grew strawberries in the 1800s. Today, two of their six children are fifth-generation farmers.

The Lifetime Achievement in Agriculture was awarded to Ronald Wetherington. He was born in 1937 in Sydney, Florida. He graduated from Turkey Creek High School and began working on the family farm. Wetherington earned his American FFA Degree in 1958. He has served on several boards and is a member of the FFA Hall of Fame and the Strawberry Growers Hall of Fame.

The Outstanding Woman in Agriculture Award was given to Pam Walden. She is retired from the Hillsborough County School District after 40 years of service. She received Teacher of the Year for both Elementary and Middle School.

According to Sheriff Chad Chronister, who presented the award, “Walden exemplifies the impact women have in agriculture.”

The Outstanding Young Farmer Award was given to Dennis Carlton Jr. He is a seventh-generation cattleman and farmer. Carlton is a partner in Carlton and Carlton Ranch, a cow-calf operation which is located in six Florida counties. Carlton was selected for the award because he is not only a cattleman and rancher, but is also actively involved as an agricultural and community leader and is a youth supporter of 4-H and FFA.

The Outstanding Public and Community Service Award was given to Cindy Paulus and Seeds of Faith Community Garden. Paulus passed away recently. Her legacy continues on with the Seeds of Faith Community Garden. The garden is located on at Bay Life Church in Brandon. The garden donates fresh produce to local food banks such as ECHO.

Eleanor Saunders, executive director of ECHO, said, “It is such an honor to be associated with Cindy Paulus. The garden was her passion, and because of her efforts, the garden has donated over 18,000 pounds of fresh produce.”

There were several elected officials in attendance, including Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioner Kimberly Overman, who said, “I am very proud of our agricultural leaders. The agricultural economy in Hillsborough County is vital to our success.”

For more information, please visit www.hillsboroughcountyfair.com.