By Tia Lynn Ivey
At the age of 30, Lee Nunn of Bostwick decided to take a leap of faith into a new career as a farmer.
“I started from scratch,” remembered Nunn. “I dipped my toe into the water and never came back out.”
Now, 15 years later, Nunn has been named Georgia’s 2020 Farmer of the Year.
“It’s kind of a humbling achievement to be judged by your peers and be chosen for this award,” said Nunn, who was congratulated in person by Georgia Governor Brian Kemp last week. “I’m excited about it.”
What began with a small parcel of land in Bostwick grew into 1,600 acres of farmland from Bostwick to Madison, yielding a various array of crops, including wheat, soybeans, field peas, corn and cotton.
“I started with one farm, one field, and no equipment,” said Nunn. “Fifteen years later, I have built up a pretty large operation for this part of the state.”
While Nunn didn’t discover his passion for farming until his thirties, the seeds were planted early in his childhood.
“My grandfather was a farmer, but he retired when I was 13-years-old,” said Nunn, who helped out on his grandfather’s row crop and dairy farm. “So, I got away from farming there for awhile after he retired. Then, my wife’s family had some land available for rent and I saw the opportunity to return to my farming roots.”
Over the years, Nunn expanded and eventually brought his own family back into farming as well, with his father working full-time on the farm and his own 13-year-old son helping out from time to time.
Soon after harvesting his first crops, Nunn realized farming was a rewarding endeavor and a profession of which he could be proud.
“I love watching things grow. It never stops amazing me,” said Nunn. “But mostly, agriculture touches almost every aspect of your life. We are a couple generations removed from life on the farm now and a lot of people don’t understand the importance of agriculture. I don’t farm to get awards, but it was nice to get one. We work hard. Years of long days and late nights, a lot of sweat, and hoping Mother Nature would be kind with rain and sunshine. It’s a tough profession, but a rewarding one.”
As Georgia’s 2020 Farmer of the Year, Nunn is in the running to become this year’s Southeastern Farmer of the Year through the Sunbelt Agricultural Expo this August. He was nominated by Lucy Ray, Agriculture and Natural Resources agent for University of Georgia Cooperative Extension in Morgan County. He will compete against nine other farmers from different states for the title.
According to the University of Georgia’s Extension News, Nunn owns related agribusinesses including custom farming services, agricultural construction and a trucking division. “I’ve been thrilled to be able to do it every day. I’m on the farm all day every day, doing what I love,” Nunn said.
Extension News described Nunn as “an avid believer in using the latest technologies available” and “always open to field research.”
“He definitely will try something new, but he makes sure the research and data back up the decisions he makes,” said Ray, who nominated Nunn for the award.
According to Extension News, “Although almost all of his crops are dryland, Nunn is collaborating on UGA Extension’s soil moisture sensor project to optimize irrigation for about 5 percent of his land.
“Water is the limiting factor, so that’s why we have to be so efficient,” Nunn said. “We have to micromanage every decision. It’s a totally different atmosphere up here than south Georgia.”
According to Extension News, Nunn “started working with precision agriculture about eight years ago and has progressively increased its use on his land every year. All of his tractors, sprayers and combines are now auto-steer.”
“I’m a very big believer in precision guidance,” explained Nunn. “It’s the only way to go. We do yield mapping on the combine. We save on fertilizer by having that system pay for itself. It’s a good initial investment but pays in the long run. Even when I talk to some of my friends (who aren’t involved in agriculture) they’re amazed about what the technology can do.”
Extension News reported that “some of his notable production achievements include a 30 percent reduction in pesticide use, a 75 percent increase in conservation tillage with no-till or minimum-till cropland, and improved soil fertility using local poultry litter.”
Ray admires Nunn’s farming philosophy.
“He’s a good example that conservation practices are profitable in the long-term,” said Ray. “He’s got a reputation as someone who can get things accomplished and a really good heart.”
Nunn and his wife Sally have two children, Claire and Mason, and he is active in Morgan County’s agricultural community. “He has served as president and treasurer of the Morgan County Farm Bureau and chairman of the local U. S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency board. He has also participated in the Conservation Stewardship Program offered by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and serves on the county’s Extension advisory board,” said a release from Extension News.
“I am just blessed to be able to do what I love everyday with my family by my side,” said Nunn.
To learn more about the Southeastern Farmer of the Year award, visit sunbeltexpo.com/foty.