KNOXVILLE – The Tennessee Chapter of Gamma Sigma Delta, the International Society of Honor for Agriculture, has honored Tennessee Farm Bureau President Jeff Aiken with its 2021 Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award.
A longtime resident of Telford, Washington County, Aiken is a third generation farmer and the eighth president in the history of the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. Including its insurance arm, the organization currently serves more than 680,000 members.
With his two brothers, Aiken and his wife, Carol, manage over 900 acres where they raise tobacco, beef cattle and hay. Aiken first became involved with Farm Bureau through the organization of young farmers and ranchers. He was state president of YF&R in 1992, and in 1993 he and Carol were named Tennessee Young Farmers of the Year. He is also the first YF&R state president to become state president of the Farm Bureau.
Aiken began serving on the state board of directors in 1998, when he was elected deputy head by the county leadership of the Statewide Farm Bureau. He continued in this position until 2013, when he was elected vice-president of the organization. During his tenure on the State Council, he chaired numerous committees, including chairing the State Resolutions Committee from 2013 to 2015. He served on the Washington County Farm Bureau Board of Directors from 1982 to 2015 and during the period 1995-2008 he was the county president.
Aiken currently serves on the board of directors of the American Farm Bureau, the Tennessee FFA Foundation, the First Farmers and Merchants Bank, and the Maury County Chamber and Economic Alliance.
“I am truly honored by this recognition from Gamma Sigma Delta,” said Aiken. “Carol and I have been fortunate to work in the best industry and with the best people our entire lives. Many of them deserve to share this incredible honor, including the wonderful staff of TFBF. Agriculture is our most important industry, and we must continue to share our story to ensure a sustainable future.
Rob Holland, UT Extension’s Acting Assistant Dean for Agriculture and Community Economic Development Programs and Director of the Center for Profitable Agriculture, nominated Aiken for the award. “There is no argument that Jeff Aiken provided distinguished service to agriculture,” Holland said. “He certainly deserves the greatest recognition and appreciation for the myriad ways he has contributed to and supported the agriculture industry in our state and across the United States. I am happy to call him a friend, colleague and mentor.” Earlier this year, Aiken announced that he would not seek re-election as president for a fourth term. He is delighted to be returning to his farm in Washington County full time.
The Aikens are members of the Oakland Cumberland Presbyterian Church where he served as Sunday School Superintendent, Teacher, Deacon and Elder. Based at the UT Institute of Agriculture, the Tennessee Chapter of Gamma Sigma Delta recognizes Tennessee agricultural leaders and outstanding students and faculty.
This year Aaron Smith, associate professor of agricultural and resource economics at UTIA, is the section chair. Annette Wszelaki, professor of plant sciences at UTIA, chaired the awards committee. Founded in 1913, Gamma Sigma Delta is the oldest and largest honorary society focusing on scholarship and achievement in agriculture and natural resources.
A virtual celebration for all 2021 award winners and insider students took place online on November 19. Anni Self, Plant Certification Administrator and State Plant Regulatory Officer with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture received the organization’s Alumni Award. A full list of winners is available at utianews.tennessee.edu.