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Chamber names Ard’s Dairy Farm as Agribusiness of the Year

A third generation dairy farmer took home the Agribusiness of the Year award Tuesday at the annual Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce Membership Banquet, giving a shout-out to her father at home in Ruth.

“My dad works so hard,” said Julie Ard James.

James’ father, Pat Ard, was a full-time dairyman for 48 years. He took over Ard’s Dairy Farm when his parents retired. They started the business in 1941.

James has turned the Holstein dairy farm into a agribusiness that offers educational farm tours where students can bottle-feed calves, see cows get milked, get lost in a corn maze or feed fish in a pond.

“We’re always excited when we have an opportunity to shine a light on agriculture, but particularly for us, for dairy farming,” she said. “It was just an honor for us to win this award, but to bring light to the dairy farmers is just the best part of it for me.”

This is Ard’s Dairy Farm’s first win and James was impressed with the banquet, which took place at Homestead at Brookhaven Nursery.

“It was very impressive to see what the Chamber is doing for the community putting that banquet together and honoring the educators and the first responders, everyone who was honored. It was a really neat experience seeing the community coming together,” she said.

Other winners were:

• First Responder of the Year: Dexter Harris with the Brookhaven Fire Department

• Ambassador of the Year: Cynthia Price

• Volunteer of the Year: Celine Craig

• Business of the Year: Brookhaven Animal Hospital

• Educators of the Year: Brenda Hedgepeth and Dianne Watson from Brookhaven Academy, Kellye Sicks from Mamie Martin Elementary, Dot McClendon from Mississippi School of the Arts, Lucy Watts from Enterprise Attendance Center and Jody Hoff from Copiah-Lincoln Community College.

Other honors went to outgoing Chamber directors Danita Hobbs, Scott Kimbrell Jr. and Chad Smith and incoming directors Clint Estess, Angela Furr, Rockie Netherland and Cynthia Price.

Dustin Walker, outgoing chairman for the Industrial Development Foundation, was acknowledged. He is replaced by Lucy Shell as incoming chairwoman.

Board President Colby McMorris passed the gavel to Jeff Richardson, executive director of the KDMC Foundation, who will serve as president for the year. President-elect is Ryan Holmes with Dungan Engineering.

McMorris said he is hopeful that the momentum continues at the Chamber.

“Brookhaven and Lincoln County is served by a wonderful Chamber made up of wonderful businesses and more than that, wonderful people. I believe the future for Brookhaven is strong based on the representation at the membership banquet,” he said. “I was very honored to be able to serve this community and I look forward to all the Chamber has in store for the next few years.”

He said membership continues to grow.

“We’re at record highs this year and hopefully that will keep on going,” he said.

McMorris said participation is also growing in Chamber-sponsored events like Ole Brook Festival, Downtown Jazzed Up and Girls‘ Night Out.

“All those things have grown exponentially, which of course is good for our businesses but really good for our town and community,” he said. “All those things make your community better and add to your quality of living.”