‘Rooted in Tradition’ is the theme this year for the Hillsborough County Fair, which is an apt descriptor as well for the prestigious Harvest Awards announced before the annual fair opens.
This year’s seven honorees were set to be recognized on November 2 during a 12 Noon luncheon at the Hillsborough County Fairgrounds in Dover, three hours before the grand opening of the 11-day county fair.
Count among them Joseph ‘Joe’ Sumner III, a seventh-generation cattle rancher whose family settled in Southern Hillsborough County in 1909, where Sumner continues to operate a cow calf operation with his wife, Nikki, and children, Kayleigh Sumner and Joe Sumner IV. Joseph received this year’s Harvest Award for Outstanding Farmer/Rancher/Nurseryman. His great-grandfather is the namesake of Jule F. Sumner High School in the Balm/Riverview area.
Hailing from Lithia is D.A. ‘Doug’ Holmberg, this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award recipient. Described as an “educator, agricultural innovator, horticultural leader and creative thinker,” Holmberg owns and operates Holmberg Farms, which produces citrus, tropical fruits and woody ornaments. He is a past president of the Hillsborough and state ag teacher associations and the Hillsborough County Farm Bureau. He taught at Horace Mann Middle School in Brandon.
Deeply rooted in tradition as well are members of the Winfred Harrell family, recipients of the 2023 Harvest Award for Farm Family of the Year. The family since 1960 has owned and operated Harrell’s Liner Farm in Plant City, while Harrell’s Nursery reportedly has grown to a major operation with more than 145 employees. As duly noted in the awards announcement, “the Harrell family exemplifies the values of hard work, service and caring that has been a staple in Hillsborough County’s agricultural community.”
Posthumous Memorial Award recipients this year are Timothy Cribbs, a 39-year agriculture teacher who was department head at Durant High in Plant City, and Clyde Dixon Sr. of Plant City, a World War II veteran who retired from careers in construction and crop insurance.
The 2023 Harvest Award for Outstanding Women in Agriculture recognizes Dee Dee Grooms of Plant City, the matriarch of Fancy Farms, founded in 1974.
Fred Williams receives the Outstanding Public and Community Service Award, in part for his service on the Florida FFA Foundation Board and his role as co-founder of the Greater Plant City Chamber of Commerce Pig Jam — set for its 20th year on Friday and Saturday, November 17-18 — at 1401 Gordon Food Service Dr. in Plant City.
The annual awards ceremony recognizes Friends of the Fair honorees as well. This year’s list of 21 recipients is as follows: American Show Camels, ACME Barricades, Astin Farms, Bill Bartlett, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Mounted Posse, Hillsborough County Cattlewomen, Hillsborough County Commissioner Michael Owen, Central Maintenance and Welding, iHeartMedia, In The Field magazine, Ed and Terri Kelly, McCullagh & Scott, Odiorne Insurance, Pipe Pros, Stepp’s Towing, the Tampa Bay Times, TECO Peoples Gas, Tew Electric, United Rentals and, posthumously, Robert McElheny.
The Hillsborough County Fair runs Nov. 2-12 at the Hillsborough County Fairgrounds in Dover, at 215 Sydney Washer Road. For more information, visit https://hillsboroughcountyfair.com or call 813-737-3247.