CALLANDS, Va. (WDBJ7) A Pittsylvania County farmer is representing our state as the Virginia Farmer of the Year.
He's going up against farmers from nine different states to become the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year.
It’s been a dream of his since he was just 13. He went home from school after just two weeks of an agriculture class and told his dad he knew what he wanted to do with his life.
“There was a whole host of reasons why we shouldn’t do it, but I had a passion inside of me that that’s what I was gonna do and I was not going to take no for an answer," says owner and operator of Briar View Farms, Robert Mills.
Now, that 13 year old boy has more than 2,000 acres to tend to. He has four types of tobacco, a 300 cow/calf operation, and produces nearly 34,000 chicken pullets annually.
All of it earned him the honor of being named the Virginia Farmer of the Year.
“Something that we do for a living, that we’re so passionate about, we’re being honored for. It just doesn’t seem real," says Mills.
Mills wants to use this honor educate the public that the agriculture industry is more than just seeing these crops or livestock when you’re driving down the road.
“To be able to see live. To be able to see the birth of those newborn calves, to see the life cycle animals. To see plants and seedlings that you plant to see them grow. Those are experiences that most people never get to experience and to be a farmer and being able to do that is just something that’s a real blessing," he says.
Judges visited the farm Wednesday to take a tour. They are visiting 10 different farms, in 10 states this week.
“It’s an unbelievable to see the great farming operations throughout the southeast and to be reminded that the family farm is alive and well," says Sunbelt Agriculture Expo Executive Director, Chip Blalock.
The Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo says Virginia always nominates a great farmer, but this year is different.
“There’s so many great farmers and after 28 years it just gets better and better and better and the Mills family is truly the cream of the crop when it comes to Virginia agriculture," says Blalock.
Mills says he’s humbled and still can’t believe it’s happening. His dream when he was just 13 years old is a reality and he wants his sons to learn from that.
“I want them to look at me and say that he was hard working that he was willing to sacrifice so that the next generation and generations to come would be able to enjoy and love with the same passion that I have," he says.
The winner of Southeastern Farmer of the Year will be named at the Expo in Georgia in October.