Not only does he tend to the needs of his family farm in Telford, but he also provides a voice for farmers locally and throughout the state of Tennessee. Perhaps that’s why he was chosen as the Lawson Building Supply, Inc., Kubota Equipment Outstanding Farmer of the Year at the 16th annual Farm Expo.
Anthony Shelton, an agriculture extension agent with the University of Tennessee Extension in Washington County, nominated Aiken for the award. An essay was part of the contest requirements and Aiken didn’t have any trouble putting into words how much he loves his job.
"I feel blessed to get to do what I do," Aiken said. "To me, the opportunity to get to do something that you truly enjoy and believe in is so rewarding. I know that not everyone gets that opportunity and I love what I do."
Aiken’s Farm is divided between tracts of land on both sides of 11-E. Until 2005, the family operated a dairy farm, but decided to diversify and now raises beef cattle, tobacco, corn, hay and straw.
The land that supports 100 acres of tobacco and 200 acres of corn butts up against the Nolichucky River and boasts a beautiful mountain view. The other tract of land is home to Aiken and his wife, Carol, as well as his two brothers and their families, plus their 85-year-old mother. About 300 head of cattle are there, too.
In December, Aiken was elected vice president of the Tennessee Farm Bureau. He has served as director-at-large on the state board of directors since 1998, and has been the county president for many years in addition to serving on the board of directors for the Washington Farmers CO-OP. Aiken said he’s looking forward to the challenges and responsibilities that lie ahead, including the opportunity to effect agriculture-related legislation and increasing farm education.
"The general public is two or three generations removed from the farm," Aiken said. "A lot of them don’t realize the whole mentality of what goes on. There needs to be a huge educational effort."
Aiken knows that this new appointment is going to keep him away from the farm a bit more, but considering that his 50th birthday is right around the corner, he’s not too anxious.
"Age has a way of affecting your ability to be able to do things on the farm," he said with a laugh. "Used to, I could spend 20 hour days on the farm and couldn’t wait for the next day, but at 50, it’s a little bit different. Some time off will be welcome."
Aiken said he’s always wanted to be a farmer and is the fourth generation to do so on his family’s land in Telford. The Farmer of the Year winner was given $1,000, a Kubota jacket, and an engraved plaque.
"I am very thankful to the sponsors for making the effort to recognize folks in agriculture," Aiken said. "It is humbling and I’m flattered to have won, but I can think of 100 other folks who I think are just as deserving or more deserving than myself."
First runner-up in the contest was Scott Widener, who farms more than 450 acres in Washington County, Va., near Damascus. The Widener Farm had a dairy operation until 2010 and now raises beef cattle and some produce.
Jerry "Petie" Southerland was named second runner-up in the contest. His 150-acre family farm in the Cedar Creek Community of Greene County produces 32 acres of tobacco, plus sweet corn in the summer and pumpkins, fodder and hay each autumn.