newsnelson county man honored as 2022 southeastern farmer of the year

Nelson County man honored as 2022 Southeastern Farmer of the Year

Chris Graham
robert saunders
Robert Saunders. Photo: Sygenta Group

For Robert Saunders, whose family runs a wholesale nursery, orchard and farm market in Piney River, farming is in his blood.

“My dad passed away in March 2022. He loved farming with a passion, which he instilled in his children and many others,” said Saunders, who this week was named the 2022 Swisher/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year.

Saunders Brothers is a family-owned business nestled on the sunrise side of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Nelson County.

It was founded in 1915 by five brothers who raised rabbits, tobacco and apples.

Second generation Paul Saunders added boxwood to the inventory in the 1950s, and now that is the company’s specialty.

Today, third- and fourth-generation members of the family make up the majority of the ownership as the company continues producing peaches and apples.

The farm also grows a broad range of woody and herbaceous crops in the more than 400 greenhouses on site.

“This award is an amazing honor for not only me, but for the entire Saunders Brothers team,” Saunders said. “I began the Farmer of the Year journey not knowing much about the program but have gotten to meet an incredible group of farmers from across the southeast. Some of those relationships will certainly last a lifetime.”

As the 2022 Swisher/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year, Robert Saunders was given the opportunity by Syngenta Group, an agriculture science and technology company based in Basel, Switzerland, to make two $500 donations to charities of his choice.

Saunders chose to give both donations to the Nelson Memorial Library, which is part of the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library system.

“My wife Pat and I chose to donate to the Nelson Memorial Library, which has been serving individuals of Nelson County for 50 years,” Saunders said. “Our donation will benefit all of Nelson County, a place my family has called home for nearly 200 years.”

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris has won 17 Virginia Press Association awards for his work as an investigative reporter, feature writer and columnist. Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, both published in 2019, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to my YouTube page, Want to reach Chris? Try [email protected].