His farm was selected for Agri-21 Farming Systems sponsored by land-grant universities in the Tennessee Valley region. Selected farms host farm tours, field days and the like to teach sustainable farming practices to other farmers. “I was brought into this program to teach others about effective marketing,” he adds.

In Franklin County, Dixon serves on the County Planning and Zoning Board. He also sits on the local Farm Bureau and Soil Conservation District boards. He is an active member of the Franklin County Livestock Association and has been on a local Extension advisory committee. He also served on a Farm Credit board and was active in Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers. He serves on a Tennessee Farm Bureau commodity committee and is a director of the Lower Middle Tennessee Video Board Sale.

Steve and his wife, Karen, are active members of First Baptist Church in Decherd, Tenn. Karen serves on an advisory committee for Franklin County Extension. In past years, she helped on the farm with tobacco harvesting, hog farrowing and straw baling. Now she mainly works at Grandaddy’s Farm.

Steve and Karen have three young adult children, Andrew, Stephanie and Philip. Andrew also works at Granddaddy’s Farm. Philip is studying diesel mechanics and works on the farm when he isn’t in school. Stephanie is a journalism student at the University of Tennessee.

Robert Burns with the University of Tennessee Cooperative Extension Service is state coordinator of the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year award.

Dallas Manning, Tennessee Extension area specialist—farm management, nominated Dixon for the award. “Steve does a good job in production and in his management and marketing,” says Manning. “He does a great job in keeping farm records.”

As the Tennessee state winner of the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo award, Dixon 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.

Previous state winners from Tennessee include: James R. Graham of Newport, 1990; Burl Ottinger of Parrottsville, 1991; Dwaine Peters of Madisonville, 1992; Edward Wilson of Cleveland, 1993; Bob Willis of Hillsboro, 1994; Bobby W. Vannatta of Bell Buckle, 1995; George McDonald of Riddleton, 1996; Jimmy Gaylord of Sharon, 1997; Jimmy Tosh of Henry, 1998; Eugene Pugh, Jr. of Halls, 1999; Harris Armour of Somerville, 2000; Malcolm Burchfiel of Newbern, 2001; Ed Rollins of Pulaski, 2002; John Smith of Puryear, 2003; Austin Anderson of Manchester, 2004; John Litz of Morristown, 2005; Bob Willis of Hillsboro, 2006; Grant Norwood of Paris, 2007; Jerry Ray of Tullahoma, 2008; Richard Atkinson of Belvidere, 2009; Brad Black of Vonore, 2010; and Mac Pate of Maryville, 2011.

Tennessee has had two overall winners with Jimmy Tosh of Henry in 1998 and Bob Willis of Hillsboro in 2006.

A panel of judges will visit the Dixon farm, along with the farms of the other nine state finalists, 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, a longtime University of Georgia Extension ag economist from Athens, Ga.; and farmer Brian Kirksey of Amity, Ark., who was selected as the overall winner in 2008.