On the pristine Rutherford County Century Farm where MTSU alumnus Katherine Batey Whitt grew up in the Blackman community outside of Murfreesboro, she and her husband, fellow alumnus Brandon Whitt, received a special prize Wednesday, March 5, for being nationally recognized.
They were presented with an “MTSU blue” GMC Sierra truck from Chevrolet Buick GMC Cadillac of Murfreesboro by dealership owner Michael Creque and Kent Borough, General Motors zone manager, of Spring Hill, Tenn.
The Whitts, both graduates from the MTSU School of Agribusiness and Agriscience program in the early 2000s, received the truck for being named Young Farmers and Ranchers Achievement Award recipients by the American Farm Bureau Federation.
The actual announcement and an accompanying award plaque were made in January during the organization’s 95th annual convention. In front of about 100 friends, agriculture industry representatives, auto industry officials and nearly 30 fellow alumni, the truck and the keys to start it were handed to the couple.
“Obviously it is terrific to receive such an honor,” said Brandon Whitt, who was an agribusiness major and a marketing minor. “Most importantly, the award provides us a platform to express our appreciation to those who have made an impact in our lives, to put us in the place where we’re standing today.”
Katherine Whitt, who majored in agribusiness and minored in food science, said the recognition was “more of an accolade of his (Brandon’s) hard work. My role has been more of support. The physical work was him.”
Both credited their education from MTSU, where they met and she was named homecoming queen, for steering them in a successful path.
“I went into agriculture and food science, too, because I enjoyed it,” Katherine Whitt said. “It (agriculture) was a passion. My education lets me interact with people in the agriculture industry, and a lot of it was (interpersonal) relationships we had in class together.”
Brandon Whitt said his MTSU agribusiness degree “gave us a diverse education, which was to look outside the box. It gave me hands-on experience and allowed me to get my hands dirty and learn firsthand how to operate a farm and create a business.”
Katherine Whitt’s parents, John L. and Melissa Batey, are university alumni from the mid-1970s. Darla Whitt, the mother of Brandon Whitt, attended MTSU at one time.
John L. Batey and Brandon Whitt work together to operate Batey Farms, an eighth generation family farm in operation since 1807. Brandon and Katherine Whitt have two daughters, Emmaline, 8, and Mary Corinne, 6, and a son, Thomas, 3. A fourth child, another girl, is due in March.
MTSU alumnus Donald Blankenship of Murfreesboro received the same Young Farmer and Rancher award in 2009.
Among MTSU alumni attending were Rutherford County Mayor Ernest Burgess, Smyrna businesswoman and Mayor Mary Esther Reed, state Rep. Dawn White, Geraldine “Gerry” Dement, Donald McDonald and recently retired Pettus Read.
White presented them with a framed proclamation from the state of Tennessee, signed by Gov. Bill Haslam and other key legislators, recognizing their achievement.
Dan Strasser, director of special programs with Farm Bureau and a Columbia, Tenn., resident, led the program.
— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)