Initially, Lawrence “Wink” Conyer didn’t set his sights on farming. But in 1999 that all changed, and 18 years later, the fruits of his labor are recognized and rewarded.

Hundreds gathered at Hestand Stadium for the 65th Annual Farmers Appreciation Fish Fry Thursday in honor of the Conyer family, the Jefferson County Farm Family of the Year.

“I’m from a farming family,” Conyer said. “My daddy was a sharecropper. But, I said I was never going to farm. So, I guess you never say never.”

According to Pine Bluff Regional Chamber of Commerce event coordinator Mandy Owens, the agribusiness committee selects the family who receives the award through a process with the Arkansas Farm Bureau.

“It was a surprise to me, but it feels good,” Conyer said of receiving the award. “A lot of hard work pays off.”

The Pine Bluff Regional Chamber of Commerce annually hosts the event in an effort to recognize local farmers and their contributions to not only Pine Bluff, but also the state of Arkansas.

“This is for agribusinesses and local businesses to kind of honor the local agribusinesses and the farm family of the year,” Owens said. “We live in the delta and agriculture is huge here. So, I think that it is very important for us to honor them.”

Patrons filled the stadium waiting in line to receive fish and give their congratulatory remarks to the honored family of the night. For many, attendance continues to be paramount as it also provides a way to fellowship with colleagues.

“I’ve been coming for years and years since the 70s,” said David Judkins. “It’s a good place to network and see your friends. You get to see some business people that you don’t get to see all that often.”

The Conyer Farm produces soybeans, rice, corn and wheat.

Conyer says one day he hopes his great grandson will continue the tradition of farming. But, for now, he’s happy that his son is following in his footsteps.

“He gave me my first tractor,” said Kelcey Conyer, smiling. “He got me started."

Kelcey, who farms in Crittendon County and grows soybeans just like his father, says he’s proud of his father’s recognition and attributes the support of his mother, Edna Conyer, as a vital role in his success — a success he hopes to have in the industry someday.

“Hopefully, my grandson and I can take over one day and maybe we’ll win farm family."