His wife Betsy is also an active member in the Gillett United Methodist Church. She has served as the superintendent of the church’s Sunday school program and is active in the United Methodist Women and other church organizations.

Betsy works off the farm as an elementary school teacher. She is also a member of the Arkansas Education Association and the National Education Association. The Longs have two young daughters, Shelby, 10, and Sydney, 5.

Andy Guffey with Arkansas Farm Bureau Federation serves as state coordinator of the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year award. “Heath and Betsy are diligent protectors of the natural resources,” says Guffey. “They are a prime model of a hard-working, multi-generation farm family.”

Long was nominated for the award by Jason Grantham, who works as a trust officer at DeWitt Bank & Trust in Dewitt, Ark. Grantham manages 20,000 acres for the bank’s trust department.

“Heath does not farm trust land for the bank, but he is well-known in this community as a good farmer,” says Grantham. “Heath epitomizes what it means to be a farmer. He could have done anything he wanted to do, but he came back to the farm. He’s a hands-on farmer, and the many committees and organizations he serves on shows his love of farming. He works hard at it.”

As Arkansas state winner, Long will receive a $2,500 cash award and an expense paid trip to the Sunbelt Expo from Swisher International of Jacksonville, Fla., a $500 gift certificate from the Southern States cooperative and the choice of either $1,000 in PhytoGen cottonseed, or a $500 donation to a designated charity on behalf of new sponsor, Dow Agrosciences.

He is now eligible for the $15,000 that will go to the overall winner. Other prizes for the overall winner include the use of a Massey Ferguson tractor for a year from Massey Ferguson North America, another $500 gift certificate from the Southern States cooperative and the choice of either another $1,000 in PhytoGen cottonseed, or a second $500 donation to a designated charity on behalf of Dow Agrosciences.

Swisher International, through its Swisher Sweets cigar brand, and the Sunbelt Expo, is sponsoring the Southeastern Farmer of the Year awards for the 23rd consecutive year. Swisher has contributed some $884,000 in cash awards and other honors to Southeastern farmers since the award was initiated in 1990.

Long is the sixth state winner from Arkansas. The award was opened to Arkansas farmers for competition during 2007, and the state winner that year was Michael G. Simon of Conway. Other Arkansas winners include Brian Kirksey of Amity, who was selected as the overall winner in 2008; Orelan Johnson of England, who was state winner in 2009; Bill Haak of Gentry, who was state winner in 2010, and Michael Oxner of Searcy, 2011.

Long’s farm, along with the farms of the other nine state finalists, will be visited by a panel of judges during the week of Aug. 5-10. The judges for this year include Charles Snipes, a retired Mississippi Extension weed scientist who is president and research scientist with Stoneville R&D, Inc., from Greenville, Miss.; John McKissick, longtime University of Georgia Extension ag economist from Athens, Ga.; and farmer Brian Kirksey of Amity, Ark., who was the overall winner in 2008.