What is a family farm? Simply put it is a farm that is owned and operated by a family unit. There is a lot of talk about corporate farming and the evils of such farming practices.

The truth is 97 percent of U.S. farms are family owned. Whether they grow crops such as cotton, peanuts, soybeans, corn, tomatoes, vegetables, pecans or cattle, they all have one thing in common. They work hard as a family to make the farm successful.

Each year Okaloosa County Farm Bureau and the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Okaloosa County Extension recognize one outstanding farm family. This recognition honors the farmer’s dedication and commitment to agriculture in Florida and to their superior values.

For 2017, we are delighted to recognize the Russell Boyett family of Baker.

Russell, along with his fiancée, Debbie McLain, farms about 250 acres of cotton, peanuts and soybeans.

He grew up on a farm belonging to his grandfather, who raised row crops, cows and hogs in Okaloosa County.

Russell began farming part-time in 1983. In 2010, after retiring, he began farming full-time. Russell plans to keep farming until he just can’t farm anymore.

Personally, I’ve visited fields and watched Russell and Debbie help other farmers harvest their crops. I’ve seen them working alongside each other to get the job done.

They represent farm families everywhere as the backbone of U.S. agriculture. Here in Okaloosa County, we are proud to call Russell and Debbie our farm family of the year for 2017.

Jennifer Bearden is an agent at the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension office in Crestview.