PALMETTO -- One by one, people walked to a podium inside the Palmetto Women's Club Wednesday to share a personal story about their relationship with the late Callon C. Keen.
"I used him kind of like a stepfather," said John O'Connor, who knew Keen for 30 years and served with him with the Manatee River Southern Soil and Water Conservation District. "He was so full of knowledge."
"He taught you a lot of things, the moral of the story," said Larry Parrish, whose father, like Keen, was a citrus grower in Manatee. "He always had the time."
For his contributions and influence on Manatee County agriculture, Keen, who died in 1995 at the age of 83, was inducted into the Manatee County Agriculture Hall of Fame.
Four of Keen's 11 children were present Wednesday to accept the honor on their father's behalf.
"It's the most important day of our lives," said Buddy Keen Jr., who was overcome with emotion as stories of his late father were told. "I'm proud."
"This is one of the most wonderful days we've had," said Eunice Parks, one of Callon Keen's daughters. "It's an honor to us."
Callon C. Keen was a sixth-generation farmer whose family was among the first pioneers in Manatee. Keen was also a retired grove consultant for Rutland Ranch
in Parrish, a member and former director of Manatee County Cattleman's Association, an associate supervisor for the Manatee River Soil and Water Conservation District; a Manatee County committee member of the Consolidated Farm Agency; former director of the Manatee Farm Bureau; area vice president of the Florida Association of Conservation Districts; a charter member of Palmetto Future Farmers of America; and a former 4-H leader.
The winning team at the Manatee River Soil and Water Conservation Annual Land Judging Competition receives the Callon C. Keen Memorial Trophy.
"People realize what he did for this county," Buddy Keen said. "He wasn't an "I" and "My" man. He was behind the scenes."
Farm City Week Essay Winners were also honored at the ceremony. Braden River High School junior Emily Champagne won the high school competition while Melanie Doty from Haile Middle School won the middle school competition. Each winner received a plaque and $75 check from the Farm City Week Committee.
Lakewood Ranch High student Garett Schultz placed second in the high school competition while Savanna Thomas of Braden River High took third. In the middle school division, Christine King of Noland Middle took second while Julia Lawson of Haile placed third. Second place winners were awarded $50, while third place was given $25.
Farm City Week events continue today with Ag Venture, in which 1,000 third-graders will visit the Mosaic Arena at the fairgrounds to learn about agriculture. There will be a agriculture farm tour on Friday and a free prospect show at the Mosaic Arena at 1 p.m. Saturday. To reserve a seat for the farm tour, call 941-722-4524.
Nick Williams, East Manatee reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411 ext. 7049. Twitter:@_1NickWilliams