Herb Bennett and Ben Copeland, two pioneers in Georgia agriculture, will be inducted into the Georgia Agricultural Hall of Fame during a ceremony set for Sept. 19 at the Classic Center in Athens. The hall of fame is a program of the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
A former University of Georgia Extension agent and poultry scientist, Bennett has been called “the father of the commercial egg industry in Georgia.” He will receive the award posthumously. President of Patten Seed Company, Copeland and his company have been instrumental in making Georgia turfgrass one of the largest agricultural commodities in the state.
Improving the poultry industry
Bennett graduated in 1931 from the UGA College of Agriculture and began his ag career on a dairy farm. He later switched his attention to poultry science, a career change that would greatly benefit the poultry industry.
He served as the county agent in Jasper, Madison and Dodge counties and became the UGA poultry specialist in 1944. With funding from the Sears-Roebuck Foundation, Bennett began the 4-H Club Poultry Chains to teach youth the process of raising poultry from chicks to layers. The clubs began in eight counties and grew to include 1,500 boys and girls in 123 Georgia counties by 1954. Today, Georgia 4-H’ers continue to learn about poultry and Georgia’s largest ag industry through poultry judging and poultry projects.
Bennett helped launch the industry in Georgia through his sound poultry husbandry techniques that were adopted by other southern states. Bennett’s methods were also translated into Spanish and used to train poultry farmers in Puerto Rico, the Caribbean, and parts of Central and South America. In the 1950s, his methods were shared through a UGA film, “Feathering the Nest."
He also authored numerous Extension poultry articles including one based on his experience building and operating Georgia’s first 300-foot laying house. Bennett worked as a private poultry consultant from 1961 until his retirement in 1970. Bennett died in 1986.
Leading turfgrass production
At the young age of 14, Copeland worked in the tobacco fields for the company he now leads. As a college student, he spent his summers planting UGA-bred “Tif bermudagrass” on golf courses across the Southeast.
After graduating from UGA with a landscape architecture degree in 1967, Copeland started his professional agriculture career designing parks for the Tennessee Department of Conservation. Bill Roquemore, owner of Patten Seed Company, encouraged Copeland to return home to Georgia and work with him in 1970. In 1995, Copeland became president of the company, which now markets 125 million square feet of sod and more than 200,000 pounds of grass seed per year.
In addition to managing the company’s turfgrass production, Copeland also manages Patten’s pecan production, which includes a tree nursery that provides more than 30,000 trees annually. More than 80 percent of the company’s pecans are exported to China.
The Georgia Agricultural Hall of Fame was established in 1972 to recognize individuals making unusual and extraordinary contributions to agriculture and agribusiness industries in Georgia. Inductees are first nominated and then selected by a committee designated by the president of the UGA CAES Alumni Association. Nominees must have impeccable character, be outstanding leaders in Georgia agriculture, have made noteworthy contributions and have received appropriate recognition for achievements and accomplishments in more than one area of agriculture.
To register to attend the hall of fame induction ceremony at the CAES Alumni Association Awards Banquet on Sept. 19, go to www.caes.uga.edu/alumni/ or call Juli Fields at (706) 542-3390.
To view the Georgia Agricultural Hall of Fame, go to www.caes.uga.edu/alumni/fame/.
(Sharon Dowdy is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)