Robert Naron was presented the Excellence in Leadership Award, which honors Farm Bureau members who have made significant contributions to the organization and the advancement of agriculture and rural life in Mississippi.

He started farming full-time in 1968, and says he is especially proud of the role he played in helping to increase rice acreage in his county.

“In 1974, rice production in the Delta was still restricted by government controls and was farmed on a limited acreage. A group of farmers, through Bolivar County’s Farm Bureau resolution process, got together and worked with U.S. Rep. David Bowen to try and do something about that. With his help, we voted at a county annual meeting to support opening rice allotments so anyone could grow the crop.”

The program was eventually opened and Bolivar County became the largest rice-producing county in the state.

Naron and his father were also on the forefront of using conservation farming methods.

“My father started a land forming program, as did other farmers in our county,” he says. “We never did have the large acreages that some farmers have today, but all through my 40 years of farming I worked at improving our farm through land forming.

“It enables farmers to control the water they use, to conserve water, and to limit erosion. When I was in college, I worked with the Soil Conservation Service, and got early lessons in the need for water control structures and conservation measures.”

In recognition of his conservation efforts, he was presented the Delta F.A.R.M. Environmental Stewardship Award in 2000.

Naron says when he started farming, “my father encouraged me to join Farm Bureau and become an active volunteer leader. Nona Watson, our Farm Bureau secretary, later encouraged me to enter the Young Farmer of the Year competition, which my wife and I won. I also participated in legislative trips to Washington for meetings with lawmakers, to share idea, and see how they were representing agriculture’s interests.”

He says Farm Bureau tries “to support total agriculture, whether it be livestock, poultry, timber, row crops, vegetables, or whatever, and I appreciate the organization’s efforts to take agriculture’s message to consumers through its Farm Families of Mississippi promotional campaign.

“We need to let people know where and how their food is grown, and how much it costs to produce it. Agriculture is a big business — and it’s an important business.”

In 2009, Naron was honored with lifetime honorary board member status by the Bolivar County Farm Bureau.