Georgia Cotton Commission’s 2024 Trustees’ Award Winners
Wednesday, February 7th, 2024
The Georgia Cotton Commission’s Trustees’ Awards were presented at the 2024 Georgia Cotton Commission Annual Meeting January 31 in Tifton. The Trustees’ Awards are awarded to individuals who have dedicated themselves to the advancement of the cotton industry in Georgia. Producers, research and extension specialists and other cotton industry associates of high character and integrity who have given exceptional service to the cotton industry are eligible to receive this award.
The award was named after the Georgia Colonial Trustees who set out to create an agricultural colony to expedite agriculture productivity, which led to a ten acre “Trustee Garden” to display “modern” farming techniques. The Trustee Garden was established in 1734 in Savannah, Georgia. Many crops were experimented with that first year, but cotton was the crop that thrived and has been planted in Georgia every year since. Previous winners of the Trustees’ Awards include Louie Perry and Mike Lucas.
The recipients of this year’s Trustees’ Awards are Bob McLendon, Ronnie Lee and Chuck Coley.
Bob McLendon started farming in Calhoun County since 1974 and currently produces cotton, peanuts and corn outside of Leary. McLendon earned as associate degree from Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College and is a 1963 graduate of the University of Georgia. He and his wife, Barbara, raised four daughters and have nine grandchildren.
Throughout his career, McLendon has been and remains extremely active with numerous agricultural organizations. He has served as chairman of the National Cotton Council, president of Southern Cotton Growers and the Calhoun County Farm Bureau, and a board member of his local FSA committee, Cotton Incorporated and countless other industry organizations. He has been president of Edison Gin Co-op and Sunshine Warehouse of Arlington, as well as many other agribusinesses that compliment his farming operation. He has also served on the ABAC and Darton College Foundations and remains very active in the local community. McLendon was named Sunbelt Farmer of the Year in 1999, ABAC Master Farmer in 1994, and is a recipient of the Harry S. Baker Distinguished Service Award and the Southern Cotton Growers Producer Recognition Award.
Ronnie Lee and his family operate Lee Farms in Bronwood. They raise cotton, corn, peanuts, small grains, hay, pecans, and cattle in Terrell, Lee, Sumter, and Webster Counties. Lee also is involved in multiple agribusinesses – including a cotton gin, McCleskey Cotton Company; an aerial application business; a trucking company; and a gin saw and machine shop operation. His three sons – Ron, Neil, and Chandler are all active within multiple parts of the operation.
Lee has along tenure of service to agriculture – having served as Chairman of the National Cotton Council; president of Southern Cotton Growers; and a former board member of Cotton Incorporated, the National Peanut Buying Points Association, and the American Peanut Shellers Association. He has served as a member of the Georgia FSA State Committee under both Republican and Democratic administrations.
He has received many accolades during this time, including the Cotton Achievement Award, the High Cotton Award, the Southern Cotton Growers Cotton Producer Recognition Award, local Soil Conservationist of the year, and others. Lee, an alumni of Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, lives in Terrell County with his wife Sheila.
Chuck Coley began managing his family farm at 23 when his father, Sonny Coley, passed. He now owns and operates Coley Farms, which grows cotton and peanuts, and Coley Gin & Fertilizer, a cotton gin and peanut buying point, in Dooly County. Coley is also a dedicated servant leader in the cotton industry, having served as Chairman of the National Cotton Council, American Cotton Producers, and the Cotton Foundation; president of the National Cotton Ginners Association, Southeastern Cotton Ginners Association, and Southern Peanut Warehouse Association.
Coley, who has degrees in Agronomy and Agricultural Economics from the University of Georgia, is a past winner of the Cotton Achievement Award and the Horace Harden National Ginner of the Year. He and his wife, Deby, have two adult children and three grandchildren.
The Georgia Cotton Commission is a producer-funded organization located in Perry, Georgia. The Commission began in 1965. Georgia cotton producers pay an assessment enabling the Commission to invest in programs of research, promotion, and education on behalf of all cotton producers of Georgia. For more information about the Georgia Cotton Commission please call 478-988-4235 or on the web at www.georgiacottoncommission.org.