Hello Effingham County! I have had the honor and privilege over the last year and a half to work in this beautiful county. In that time span, I have met so many incredible people in this community. I especially love working with the farmers in Effingham. One bonus of my job is having the ability to nominate some of these farmers for their outstanding dedication to their practice. This past year I nominated Clayton Waller, for the Outstanding Young Farmer award. “The OYF program is the oldest farmer recognition program in the United States, selecting its first group of national winners in 1955, and is administered by the Outstanding Farmers of America fraternity. The goals of the OYF program are to foster better urban-rural relations through the understanding of farmers’ challenges, as well as the appreciation of their contributions and achievements; to bring about a greater interest in farmers/ranchers; and to help build an urban awareness of the farmers’ importance and impact on America’s economy.” Clayton won Outstanding Young Farmer for Georgia and ended up placing top 10 at the National level as well. I wanted to share two of Clayton’s answers that sums up why Clayton is deserving of such an honor!

How and when did the semifinalist get started farming?

“My dad started his farming operation in the early 1980’s, so I have been around agriculture ever since I was born. My grandfather also has a cattle and u-pick operation, which allowed me to see a different side of agriculture than the row cropping on our farm. My earliest memory of being on the farm was when I was about 4 years old. I started riding the tractor with my dad, and they say my eyes would light up when it was time to head out to tend the crops. My mom used to say farming was my calling, even back then. While other kids had G.I. Joe going on a mission, I had mine driving a John Deere, moving dirt and “prepping the land” for the growing season. By 2004, I felt like I was really farming because I was finally big enough to drive. That’s when I started working and learning. I was twelve at that point, and I would go to school and come home and work. Since I went to a private school without 4H or FFA opportunities, working on the farm with my dad was my only source of ag education. In the summer of 2008, my dad got a brain infection that required emergency surgery. That’s when my education really began. Suddenly, the workload and the decision making fell to me. A high school age kid making decisions that could potentially make or break us for the year, was stressful to say the least. I look back now and thank God for turning a bad situation into an opportunity for growth. The weight of those heavy responsibilities kicked my education and experience into high gear, and I learned more about farming in one season than in all the years prior. More importantly, my confidence grew tremendously. I’d always had my dad to instruct me before that crop year, but his illness forced me to pull on my boots and figure it out. Until that point in my life, I’d never considered farming professionally, and now I can’t see myself doing anything else.  When I finished college in 2014, I established a farm independent of my dad’s operation. I still partner with him relative to day- to-day operations on the Georgia side, but the South Carolina farm is my enterprise. God has blessed my family in many ways over the years, and what I thought was one of the worst years of my life turned out to be one of the best. I have a passion and love for farming that may not have developed without the challenges we experienced in ’08.”

Why did the semifinalist enter farming?

“If you asked my dad this question, the answer would be to prove he could do it. The determination to show he could start row cropping from scratch was what made the farm a success as I grew up. Watching him get up day-in and day-out, pouring his sweat and sometimes blood, into getting the land ready to produce the yields we needed in every crop we grew, was inspiring. For the longest time I just thought of farming as a side job to just help him out, but once I drank the Kool-Aid back in 2008, I made up my mind to carry-on with what my dad started almost 40 years ago. Farming is not a job; it is a lifestyle. Some people are born into the farming business but want nothing to do with it when they grow up. Anyone can work on a farm, but it takes a special passion and love for farming to live it. From a personal standpoint, I now want to make sure the practices and decisions I make are used to ensure the longevity and sustainability of my farm, and my dad’s, for generations to come. This has been done and will continue by making timely decisions on how to manage the crops in the fields, anticipating issues that may arise, and staying up to date with all new or evolving management practices.”

I am so proud of Clayton, his daddy Mr. Bart, and Clayton’s wife Cassidy! The answers above are not just responses, but they tell the story of a farmer. I wanted to not only congratulate Clayton, but also use his story to really advocate for the farmers here in Effingham. National Agriculture week is approaching in March, so if you see Clayton or any farmers out in the community, take some time and really thank them for their work. Not just farmers either, agriculture teachers, foresters, cattlemen, all work to better our industry. Farming is just like Clayton said, it is a lifestyle and there are so many people in this community still rooted in that way of life!

I hope y’all enjoyed this article. If you are interested in becoming a Master Gardener, please reach out to our office for more information! If you have any questions, suggestions, or want further information, please give me a call at or stop by the Effingham County Extension Office, (912)754-8040, 601 North Laurel Street | Springfield, Ga 31329.