Ag hall of fame, fair person of the year named

Night had not yet fallen but the Clark County Fair was already well underway Tuesday evening when the Fair Board presented two native Winchester residents with awards for their work in the community.

Board member Frank Hicks first presented the 2017 Agriculture Hall of Fame Award to veteran farmer Nan Taylor Palmer.

He then presented a fellow board member, Jason Townsend, with the 2016 Fair Person of the Year Award.

Every year since 2007, the Clark County Fair Board votes to select a board member who has gone “above and beyond” for the Clark County Fair, according to the Fair book.

Townsend has lived in Winchester his whole life, and he’s been going to the fair for as long as he can remember. He loves it so much he hasn’t skipped a single year. When Townsend graduated high school in 1995, Hicks, who saw his love for the fair, encouraged Townsend to join the Fair Board.

“I thought about it for 20 years,” Townsend said with a laugh, before he finally joined three years ago.

He was in FFA in high school with Melissa Clark, president of the Fair Board, who convinced him to join the FFA Alumni. “I saw, you know, it makes you feel good to volunteer, do things, make things, and help people, and so it just carried over to the Fair Board.”

“I saw, you know, it makes you feel good to volunteer, do things, make things, and help people, and so it just carried over to the Fair Board,” he said.

Now chairman of motorsports, Townsend is known as the guy who “gets things done that need to be done,” Hicks said.

Townsend brought the idea of the power wheels derby to the Fair Board, a kind of demolition derby for kids, which takes place before the main event Saturday. He also helps out with mutton busting, set for Thursday, and the antique tractor show, among helping out around the fair during the week. As an FFA alumni, he continues to support the high school FFA students.

“It feels good being recognized,” he said.

The Hall of Fame award was created in 1993 as a way to recognize people who have made a significant contribution to the agriculture of Clark County.

Palmer, this year’s recipient, passed down her family farm to her son Kevin Poole after 35 years of managing the Winchester land. Her son is the seventh generation in her family to farm that land.

“I’m very blessed and grateful,” she said of being recognized for her work. She takes pride in her farm for growing quality crops and raising healthy livestock.

As a child, she followed her father around the farm learning the ins and outs of their burley tobacco, pigs, sheep, and cattle, but didn’t expect to take over the farm at first. However, being the sixth generation of a family of farmers carries some weight. Her family farm grew from a federal land grant during the revolutionary war.

“When I was in high school I was elected FFA sweetheart, so I’ve always had connections to farm folk,” she said.

When Palmer took over the farm she continued farming tobacco and began farming commercial vegetables, primarily cantaloupe and green peppers for several years.

She served on the Farm Service Agency, formerly the Clark County Committee, for 18 and a half years, the longest serving member to date. She was a charter member of the Clark County Vegetable Growers Association, which evolved into the Central Kentucky Growers.

The farm eventually terminated its tobacco crop but under Palmer’s careful watch, the cattle herd doubled, and she’s watched her son double it again. Palmer was also a charter member of the Clark County Agriculture Development Committee which served to help displaced tobacco farmers after the “tobacco buy-out” in 2004. She assisted these farmers in making the transition to other crops and livestock to take the place of tobacco.

Palmer said she feels blessed to have inherited a farm, where most farmers have to buy their land. The committee also supports young farmers trying to make a living and encourages people to become farmers.

“I love the country, I love the land and love Kentucky, and I’ve been privileged to have the opportunity to perpetuate something to the next generation,” she said. “And I’d like to see people appreciate farmers more. I really think these guys have a tough road ahead.”