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Providence farmer Dean Hutto and his wife, Sara, are farming advocates.

The two see the importance of the young farmer for the future of the United States and its food supply.

Their advocacy and efforts in support of agriculture were recognized at the January South Carolina Farm Bureau's Young Farmer and Rancher Conference in Columbia, where the Providence couple received the South Carolina Young Farmers and Ranchers achievement award.

"I was humbled to be selected the winner," Dean Hutto said. "There are a lot of young farmers around the state who deserve this award, so it was an honor to win."

The SCFB award is for individuals or married couples actively engaged in farming and/or ranching, with the majority of their income coming from production agriculture.

The award acknowledges success in agricultural production and leadership achievement.

The Huttos were judged on the growth and financial progress of their farm or ranch, as well as their Farm Bureau and community leadership.

Three state finalists were named based on written applications. Each finalist hosted a panel of judges for an interview and tour of their farm operations.

The award is sponsored in part by the South Carolina Farm Bureau Federation and Southern Farm Bureau Casualty Insurance Company.

As part of their winnings, the Huttos received $33,750 to apply to the purchase of a Ford pickup truck. The national winner will also receive a new Ford truck.

In addition to the truck, the two received an expenses-paid trip to the annual 2019 American Farm Bureau Federation FUSION Conference in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in March.

The couple also received a one-night stay at the S.C. Farm Bureau Annual Meeting in Myrtle Beach in December to be highlighted as the 2019 winner as well as an expenses-paid trip to the American Farm Bureau Federation meeting.

The couple will compete for the national award in January 2020 at the annual AFBF convention in Austin, Texas.

"We are excited to go and meet other farmers from around the country," Hutto said.

Hutto, 30, is a seventh-generation farmer and Sara, 25, is from a fourth-generation farm family.

Hutto credits his success to his father.

"I have leaned on the experience of my dad to try and learn as much as possible. Also I am open to try new things and try to learn from mistakes," he said.

Hutto is a Holly Hill Academy and 2011 Newberry College graduate. He farms with his father, Barry, and his brother, Richard.

He farms about 1,450 acres of corn (775 irrigated); 1,000 acres of cotton (100 irrigated); 600 acres of soybeans and 100 acres of peanuts. The farm also grows about 35 acres of bell peppers and 80 acres of broccoli.

He entered into farming full time with his family in 2011.

A graduate of Clemson University, Sara is a nurse in the Regional Medical Center's cardiac care unit.

The couple's involvement in agriculture has been honored previously.

In 2017, the two were recognized as National Outstanding Young Farmers, a part of the Outstanding Farmers of America Program, at an awards ceremony held in Greenville.

They were among the 10 finalists for the national award.

Hutto said that despite the recognition, "farming is tough right now."

"Commodity prices are very low, interest rates are rising and our input costs are not coming down. We are trying to weather the storm and hope for better times ahead."

Hutto says as a young farmer, he is a rare breed.

"The farm economy needs to improve," he said, when asked about the challenge of attracting more young people into world of farming.  "Things are out of whack with low prices and high input costs, including everything from seed and fertilizer to equipment."

Hutto has been an outspoken advocate for agriculture over the years.

In 2016, he testified before the S.C. House Ways and Means Committee about the 2015 flood and the aftermath that affected farmers locally and around the state.

Hutto lost all his cotton and about 80 percent of his peanuts after the October 2015 flood.

About 20 percent of his soybean crop stayed in the field because of the water.

He also invited legislators and news media to tour his farm, giving them a visual understanding of the actual damage to farmers’ crops following the flood.

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Contact the writer: gzaleski@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5551. Check out Zaleski on Twitter at @ZaleskiTD.

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Staff Writer

Gene Zaleski is a reporter/staff writer with The Times and Democrat.

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