Like a familiar thunderclap, his words rolled over the docile crowd. Less than 20 seconds into his unscripted speech, the creed he proclaimed hit home, and the jolted audience returned to him a thunderous clap of their own.
On Oct. 17, first-generation Virginia farmer Robert Mills, Jr., held the 2017 Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year award in his hand and proclaimed the FFA creed to the more than 600 people attending the opening-day luncheon at the 40th anniversary Sunbelt Ag Expo in Moultrie, Ga. From that opening salvo, he launched into one of the best speeches given to accept the award; and many a fine farmer has given many a fine speech over the 28 years of the farmer of the year program.
The quality of the recording isn’t great. An Olympus digital recorder held just off the right side of the stage where Mills gave his speech was used to capture it, but the short speech is worth a listen.
Mills, a tobacco and livestock farmer, was one of ten farmers competing to be the farmer of the year, which is announced each year during the Sunbelt’s opening day luncheon. Any of the top farmers could have won, and each one was advised days prior to the announcement to have an acceptance speech ready, or remarks jotted down in case he won.
During the speech, Mills obviously wasn’t talking from written notes. When he was asked after the speech if he prepared his remarks in any way before hand, he said, no; not really. He just said what was in his heart. This is what came out.