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State Excellence in Agriculture Recipients


William and Julie White of Oktibbeha County were recently named winners of the Young Farmers & Ranchers Excellence in Agriculture Award. They were recognized for their involvement in agriculture, their leadership ability and their involvement and participation in Farm Bureau and their community. The Excellence in Agriculture Award is presented to those individuals or couples who do not have the majority of their income subject to normal production risk.

William and Julie received a Grasshopper zero-turn lawnmower and will represent Mississippi in state in national competition in Nashville, Tennessee, in mid-January.

William is the facilities coordinator for the Mississippi State University (MSU) Leveck Research Station, and Julie is the Oktibbeha County Extension Director for the Mississippi State University Extension Service. At the Leveck Research Station, William manages 300 registered Angus, Charolais and Hereford cattle and 100 horses. He also coordinates research and hands-on teaching for the MSU Animal and Dairy Science Department and College of Veterinary Medicine.

Julie provides coordination for the overall county Extension program, which includes agriculture, family and consumer science, and 4-H. Her primary focus area is youth and adult agriculture programs that include livestock, poultry, equine, forestry, horticulture and other agronomic crops.
In addition, the Whites are the fifth generation to farm their 200-acre family farm. Both were raised on family farms – one on a small commercial cow/calf operation and the other on a small dairy farm. They currently run a small commercial cow/calf operation and raise their own hay and feed to reduce input costs.

“We work to produce quality calves to sell at market, but our main goal is to be good stewards of the land provided to us by our ancestors,” William said. “We both have a strong passion for agriculture and are instilling that passion in our children on a daily basis by providing them the opportunities that our parents gave us to learn how to work on the farm and care for the land and animals. As our children get older, we plan to slowly transition into a registered cattle operation to provide them with the opportunity to show and market quality cattle.”

“Our jobs and our family farm give us the opportunity to work together to promote agriculture and the cattle industry through various camps and tours that provide educational experiences,” Julie said. “It is our philosophy that we need to imprint children at a young age about agriculture and where their food and fiber come from. Also, it is essential for them to understand that farmers are good stewards and work daily to feed and clothe the world.”

Julie and William say that farmers today need to take responsibility for promoting their own farms as well as the agricultural industry as a whole. The Whites feel that a unified agricultural voice is critical, despite the many different methods of production used on farms and the many different types of agricultural commodities produced on farms across the state and nation.

“Agriculture cannot defend itself from those who oppose it if a unified action is not taken,” William said. “Together, not only can we defend agriculture, but we can promote and strengthen our agricultural industry, especially among those who have become generations removed from farm life.”

“There are many tools today, such as the Internet and social media, that provide a quick, easy and inexpensive way for producers to allow the consumer to learn about everyday life on their farms,” Julie said. “If each farmer could change the perception of just one person each year, the perception of agriculture as a whole would slowly change. It’s all about making agriculture local to the consumer.”

The Whites participate in Farm Bureau and other agricultural and civic organizations.
They are active in their county Farm Bureau, where he serves as chair of the YF&R and beef committees, and she serves as a board advisor and as vice chair of the women’s and ag in the classroom committees. They were members of the YF&R State Committee for two years, and she served the committee as secretary. He serves on the beef advisory and social media committees. They have both worked with various other YF&R committees.

The Whites are involved in numerous local and state agriculture organizations, including the Oktibbeha County Cattlemen’s Association, which he has served as president and she serves currently as secretary. She also serves as secretary for the Oktibbeha County Forest Farmers Association and the Oktibbeha County Ag Club.

She is a past president of the Mississippi Association of Extension 4-H Agents. He has been named Outstanding Cooperator for the Oktibbeha County Soil and Water Conservation District, and she has received the Clover Award from the Mississippi Association of Extension 4-H Agents. The Whites are active members of their community and church. They have two children, ages 7 and 5.

For more information about the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation Young Farmers & Ranchers Program, contact YF&R Coordinator Kirsten Johnson at (601) 977-4277.

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The Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation is the state's largest general farm organization with more than 197,000 member-families statewide.  There are Farm Bureaus in all 82 counties in Mississippi where agriculture comprises a fundamental part of Mississippi 's economy.  Headquartered in Jackson , the federation is an independent, non-profit agricultural organization and is not associated with any arm of the government.  For more information about Farm Bureau, visit our website at www.msfb.org.

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