Going back to childhood, the “fragrant smell of fresh-tilled dirt” motivated Brandon Whitt toward a farming career.
“I love the smell the soil, always have, dating back to my parents’ small farm,” noted Brandon, at age 34, who operates the family farm along with wife, Katherine Batey Whitt, and children, Emmaline, 8, Mary Corrine, 6, and Thomas, 3. “I’ve always loved getting my hands dirty, getting my nostrils filled with the smell freshly-tilled soil."
The love and success of farming resulted this week in Brandon and wife being named national National Farmer of the Year recipients by the Farm Bureau.
Katherine’s love of farming goes back to her own childhood when she accompanied her father, John L. Batey, to do her farm chores every morning before the school bus arrived in the then rural Blackman community of Rutherford County.
“I did the traditional jobs, such as feeding the livestock, helping Dad all I could when I was a little girl,” Katherine recalled. “I’m a farm Daddy’s girl.”
“Were you looking for a farmer as a husband,?” Katherine was asked by more than one newspaper reporter.
“Not necessarily, but being a farmer certainly didn’t hurt Brandon’s chances,” the farmer’s wife said charmingly with a smile. She’s expected to deliver the couple’s fourth child, a girl, within days.
In addition to being recognized throughout the U.S., the couple was presented a new GMC pickup for the success and attention the couple brings to farm heritage in Tennessee.
Brandon and Katherine manage day-to-day operations of Middle Tennessee’s historic Batey Farms that go back generations to 1807.
“We recognize Brandon, and his family, for their success and positive attention they bring to agriculture in Tennessee, plus Brandon is an excellent spokesman for the ag industry, and he and Katherine are noted for their giving back to the community,” noted Farm Bureau Director of Special Programs Dan Strasser, of Columbia.
Hundreds of family, friends and political leaders gathered at Batey Farms Wednesday, plus news media representatives from throughout Middle Tennessee as the pickup was presented to Rutherford County’s famous farm family.
But Brandon is not the biggest star on Batey Farms, due to “Wilbur,” Tennessee’s most famous pig that weighs now at a hefty 557 pounds. Wilbur the Pig has been featured in movies, newspapers, TV news clips and magazines the past eight years.
“Wilbur was just a little piglet when he was photographed and pictured on the front cover of the children’s book, Charlotte’s Web, that went worldwide back in 2006,” noted farm patriarch John L. Batey. “Now, Wilbur is just a big ol’ pet here at the Batey Farm. He still regularly has fans come out to visit him here at his pig pen.”
One newsman asked Wilbur if he was a happy swine, to which the pig emitted a soulful-sounding “oink” as he rooted around in the mud for another mouthful of hay.
“Wilbur also likes veggies, water melon and don’t tell our vet, but he really likes pizza,” Batey shared to the news media.
Farm friends from throughout the mid-state turned out for this week’s celebration of rural life in the Volunteer State.
“Brandon and his wife, Katherine Batey Whitt, carry on the proud farming tradition of our state, as current caretakers of historic Batey Farms,” confirmed lifelong Fosterville-area farmer (retired) Craig Lynch. “They represent Americana agriculture and what it means to feeding America and a lot of the world’s people. We’re very proud of Brandon and Katherine.”
Neighbor farmer Danny Fraley stopped feeding his mules Lucky and Leroy long enough to attend Wednesday’s celebration at the Batey Farms, located not far from Fraley’s farm on Baker Road.
“The Batey family stand for what’s still right and good in Tennessee, and symbolize how honorable farm life remains today,” farmer Fraley proclaimed. “Farmers help feed our nation and world.”