Kentucky is home to the Bourbon Capital of the World, the Horse Capital of the World, the Barbecued Mutton Capital of the World, and even the Houseboat Capital of the World. Now Hopkinsville is getting in on the action, proclaiming itself Batter Capital of the World.
“We will be known and officially trademarked as the Batter Capital of the World,” Brooke Jung, executive director of the Hopkinsville Convention and Visitors Bureau, told the crowd of hundreds at Tuesday’s Salute to Agriculture Breakfast.
Led by Hopkinsville Milling Company, the city’s oldest industry, the Christian County seat is also home to Siemer Milling and Continental Mills, making it a center for the production of SunFlour flours and mixes, Krusteaz mixes, Ghirardelli brownie mixes and Cracker Barrel and Red Lobster biscuit mixes, among many others. And Christian County is the leading wheat producer in the commonwealth, with more than 3.5 million bushels harvested from more than 46,000 acres annually.
Jung said she came up with the idea after reading a book last summer titled “Town, Inc.,” which talks about the importance of growing a community while building a business. She took the idea to Jerry Gilliam, 7th District magistrate and longtime ag leader, who enthusiastically embraced it.
Jung envisions a whole ecosystem around Batter Capital of the World, including food tours, farm tours, art exhibits and more. The designation will help bring in new businesses, boost community pride and bring recognition to the agriculture and milling and related industries.
“We want to push and promote this because we want it to be a success for Hopkinsville and Christian County because everyone will benefit,” said Mary Beth Shackelford, president of the Christian County Agribusiness Association, which hosted the event at The Bruce. “We decided the best way to introduce it would be at the ag breakfast because it all starts with agriculture.”
Hopkinsville Mayor Wendell Lynch and Christian County Judge-Executive Steve Tribble read a joint proclamation endorsing the declaration.
“We are thrilled to be the Batter Capital of the World,” Lynch said in a news release from the bureau. “We are so grateful to the farmers, industries and thousands of employees across several sectors that work every day to make this proclamation a reality.”
The breakfast, normally an annual event, was canceled last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic and rescheduled this year from March to yesterday. The crowd of more than 300 enjoyed a free pancake and sausage breakfast as they applauded the award winners.
The Friend of Agriculture honor went to Ross Morgan of H&R Agri-Power. In introducing Morgan, Brandon Garnett, regional vice president for Farm Credit Mid-America, described how H&R owner Wayne Hunt and Morgan were once rivals of a sort. Morgan and his wife were owners of H&R Implement and Hunt owned Agri-Power Inc. when the two companies merged in 1992.
“Ross Morgan, a farm equipment dealership lifer, is a face you’ll see at many industry events ... . But you won’t necessarily hear him, however. His demeanor is quiet and calm, but this industry sage remains present, up to date, and willing to share,” Garnett said. “Wayne Hunt brought resources, multi-location business expertise and an appetite for large growth, but without Morgan, the large-scale entity we know today may never have existed.
The Farmer of the Year award was given to Kirk Brunson.
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“This year’s farmer of the year winner has made a career of being a livestock and tobacco producer as well as working in the timber industry as a sawmill owner-operator and logger,” said presenter Joseph Sisk, a farmer and board member at Planters Bank.
Buy-Rite Parts & Supply was named the Agri-Business of the Year.
Don Pemberton, president of the Christian County Cattlemen’s Association, gave a history of the company now owned by Jeff Davis.
The business opened in 1975 as an offshoot of Baldwin Truck and Tractor with Larry Myers as manager. In 1984, Myers became owner of the business. As the business grew, bus trips to the annual NASCAR race in Bristol, Tenn., became a tradition. On the bus trip back to Hopkinsville after the Food City 500, Myers asked Davis, then a grain and tobacco farmer and entrepreneur, if he wanted to purchase Buy-Rite. A few month later, in October, Davis became owner.
“Buy-Rite is and remains successful due to their business model and outstanding customer service. If you need a part during harvest season after hours, the Buy-Rite team has been known to come open the store for you or even bring the part out to you,” Pemberton said. “Another factor to its success are the employees that make Buy-Rite what it is. There are several longtime dedicated employees and one of them told me that Jeff was the best boss he had ever had.”
Jay Stone, who for 23 years was the ag agent with the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service in Christian County, was given the Distinquished Service Award by Gilliam. Stone, a 1986 graduate of Christian County High School, transferred to Hopkins County earlier this year.
Finally, the Forever Blue Endowment for Christian County was announced. It was created by the Hopkinsville/Christian County FFA alumni to support current students. Organizers led by David Wimpy said the endowment will be used for such things as scholarships to the Kentucky FFA Leadership Training Center and to attend the state and national conventions. The association kicked off the endowment campaign with a donation of $15,000.
The guest speaker at the breakfast was state Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles, who talked about his department’s response to the pandemic.
“One thing we did last year, we kept agriculture open for business,” Quarles said. “Our farmers are not just considered essential workers, they are necessary. We got some much needed limelight on our industry last year.”
Other COVID-related efforts included work with local school food directors to keep students fed, reinvestment in meat processing, and support for food banks — support that is still needed, Quarles said.
“Just because the state’s reopening doesn’t mean the need has gone away,” he said.
Oh, and those Kentucky capitals of the world? They are, in order, Bardstown, Lexington, Owensboro and Monticello.