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Mackey a 'Farmer of the Year' finalist

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Elizabethtown farmer among field of three for prestigious award

By Marty Finley

Ray Allan Mackey exudes modesty when talking about his farming career, which stretches back roughly four decades to the days he started tending to his father’s farm.

Now Mackey’s individual farming process is being rewarded on a state level. He was named one of three finalists for “Farmer of the Year” by the Kentucky Farm Bureau.

“I think I’d be humbled to start,” Mackey said of winning the award, which recognizes farmers for their commitment to agriculture, effective farming practices, strong financial management and exemplary leadership. “(I’m) absolutely humbled to even be nominated.”

Mackey, who raises corn, soybeans, tobacco, beef cattle and swine among others on his Elizabethtown farm, said the nomination in some ways validates the hard work, time and energy he has pooled into the industry, which he engaged in earnest after he graduated college.

After working on his father’s farm and sharecropping neighboring land, Mackey purchased his own farm in the 1980s, which continues to grow, stated a biography of Mackey prepared by KFB. His operation now stretches across several thousand acres.

As the size of his farming operation grew, his wife, sons and brother took on more active roles.

When discussing his success, he references one influential family member as the source of his sustainment.

“Had it not been for what my father (accomplished) when he came to Hardin County, I would not be able to do what I am today,” he said of his dad, Ray Mackey.

Mackey also has held leadership roles in Hardin County Farm Bureau, the Kentucky Corn Growers Association and the Kentucky Farm Bureau, including its swine advisory committee, according to KFB.

Mackey said he does not consider himself one of the top farmers in Kentucky because there are scores around the state who do great work and are just as involved as he is. Yet he hopes his work has left an imprint on the county.

Mackey said the productivity of farmers has increased from 40 years or even 10 years ago out of necessity as demand has grown. Maintaining production is incumbent on the farmer who intends to make a career out of it because of the time and risk involved, he said.

“If you’re not productive, you won’t be farming for long,” he said.

Mackey’s competition for the award is Gary Cecil, a Daviess County farmer who raises crops such as watermelon, tobacco and wheat; and Greenup County farmer and horticulturalist Kenny Imel. Both Cecil and Imel have nearly 40 years of farming experience.

Judges for the contest visited the men individually, touring their farms, and will name a winner Dec. 6 at the KFB annual meeting in Louisville. The winner will receive $1,000 from the Kentucky Farm Bureau Federation.

All three finalists receive a KFB jacket, and runners up receive $250.

The “Farmer of the Year” also represents the state in the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Ag Expo Southeastern “Farmer of the Year” contest in Moultrie, Ga. from Oct. 14-16, 2014. The reigning farmer will compete against nine other state winners for $15,000.

The Kentucky farmer chosen also nets $2,500 from Swisher International, a customized jacket and $200 gift certificate from Williams 

Dicke Co. and a $500 gift certificate from Southern States Cooperative, according to a KFB news release.

Marty Finley can be reached at 270-505-1762 or mfinley@thenewsenterprise.com.