Paul Rogers Jr., of Wakefield, Virginia — a former member of the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors and strong supporter of the university’s agricultural technology program — has been selected as state winner of the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year award.

Rogers has had a long and successful farming career and an equally extensive and rewarding avocation as a youth league and high school baseball coach.

Rogers joins nine other individuals as finalists for the overall award that will be announced on Oct. 16 at the Sunbelt Expo farm show in Moultrie, Georgia.

A modest individual, Rogers runs a farm encompassing 1,680 acres of open land. He rents 1,122 acres, owns 558 acres of open land, and also owns 499 acres of timber.

“I’m just a humble man who tills the soil,” he said. 

Rogers has chaired an advisory board for the Tidewater Agricultural Research and Extension Center. He’s on an advisory board for Virginia Agricultural Leaders Obtaining Results (VALOR) and served on an advisory board for groundwater management in eastern Virginia. He served on the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors while president of the Virginia Board of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

He has been a director of the Peanut Growers Cooperative Marketing Association, the Virginia Crop Improvement Association, the Virginia Cotton Board, the Virginia Corn Board, the Virginia Corn Growers Association, the Colonial Agricultural Education Foundation, and the Virginia Agribusiness Council. He also took part in leadership programs offered by the University of Virginia’s Sorensen Institute.

“It is a pleasure to recognize Paul Rogers this year,” said Bobby Grisso, associate director of Virginia Cooperative Extension. “He is a hard-working famer, serves the community, university, and the state, and is a leader whose actions are committed to agriculture.”

Among the crops Rogers raises is Virginia-type “ballpark" peanuts, and he receives premiums for jumbo and fancy peanut kernels. Having coached baseball for more than 50 years, it’s appropriate that Rogers grows ballpark peanuts. 

A baseball coach at Tidewater Academy since 2005, his team won a state championship in 2013. He has long been active as a coach and director of youth baseball in Wakefield. Recently, the town named its youth league baseball fields after Rogers, and in 2004, his former players placed a plaque in his honor at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.

“My professional goals are more than the bottom line,” he said. He keeps his farm profitable, but said, “I am guided by my passion to be a role model as a father, coach, and mentor and to give back to the field of agriculture. My wife Pam and I have incorporated this passion into our lifestyles.”

Rogers said he has matured as a farmer and business owner by serving on many boards and organizations. He appreciates his family for keeping the farm running during his absences.

As the Virginia winner of the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo award, Rogers will receive a $2,500 cash award and an expense-paid trip to the Sunbelt Expo from Swisher International of Jacksonville, Florida; a $500 gift certificate from Southern States cooperative; and a Columbia vest from Ivey’s Outdoor and Farm Supply.

He is now eligible for the $15,000 cash prize awarded to the overall winner. 

Previous state winners from Virginia include Nelson Gardner, of Bridgewater, 1990; Russell Inskeep, of Culpepper, 1991; Harry Bennett, of Covington, 1992; Hilton Hudson, of Alton, 1993; Buck McCann, of Carson, 1994; George M. Ashman Jr., of Amelia, 1995; Bill Blalock, of Baskerville, 1996; G.H. Peery III, of Ceres, 1997; James Bennett, of Red House, 1998; Ernest Copenhaver, of Meadowview, 1999; John Davis, of Port Royal, 2000; James Huffard III, of Crockett, 2001; J. Hudson Reese, of Scottsburg, 2002; Charles Parkerson, of Suffolk, 2003; Lance Everett, of Stony Creek, 2004; Monk Sanford, of Orange, 2005; Paul House, of Nokesville, 2006; Steve Berryman, of Surry, 2007; Tim Sutphin, of Dublin, 2008; Billy Bain, of Dinwiddie, 2009; Wallick Harding, of Jetersville, 2010; Donald Horsley, of Virginia Beach, 2011; Maxwell Watkins, of Sutherland, 2012; Lin Jones, of New Canton, 2013; Robert T. “Tom” Nixon II, of Rapidan, 2014; Donald Turner, of North Dinwiddie, 2015; Tyler Wegmeyer, of Hamilton, 2016; and Robert Mills Jr., of Callands, 2017.

Virginia has had three overall winners, Nelson Gardner, of Bridgewater,  1990; Charles Parkerson, of Suffolk, 2003; and Robert Mills Jr., of Callands, 2017.