With over 300 people in attendance, Drew Echols and the late Ray Burch Jr. were honored at the sixth annual Sandy Beaver Entrepreneurial Leadership Award dinner at Riverside Military Academy last week.
This year marks the sixth year for the event, which honors "extraordinary" entrepreneurial leaders.
“The vision, passion, and determination that General Sandy Beaver exhibited throughout his tenure as RMA’s president from 1913 to 1969, are qualities that we recognize and honor in Mr. Echols and Mr. Burch,” explained President Stanley C. “Staś” Preczewski.
Echols is the farm manager at JAEMOR Farms in Alto and a fifth-generation farmer. Along with his father, Jarl, and uncle, Judah, he is a partner in the family’s 550-acre farm which was established in 1912.
More than 10 years ago, Drew helped to expand Jaemor Farms’ business to include retail and Agritourism. In 2006, Jaemor Farms began participating in the state’s agritourism industry and has become one of the most widely visited attractions, with more than 750,000 visitors on average each year.
“For me, it is awesome to get the award. But all my adult life I have fought for agriculture, fought for the farmer. That’s very unique, that a guy from ag(riculture), a full-time farmer, gets to win an entrepreneurial award like this. Farming is the oldest trade in the world, but here we are in 2019 getting an entrepreneurial award. That’s really cool; it’s cool to be a farmer now,” said Echols.
It was a posthumous honor for Ray Burch, who died June 28, 2018.
Burch, of Nicholasville, Ky, served in the U.S. Air Force before moving to Gainesville in 1957. He began his career in development and sales with Twin Oaks Hatchery in 1959. After joining CWT Farms in 1961, Burch along with CWT won the National “E” for Excellence in Export and “E Star” award for its international export of poultry hatching eggs.
He was CWT’s President for more than 30 years and then served as Chairman of the Board.
Madge Burch accepted the award on his behalf recalling “in 1958, Ray and I moved to Gainesville where Riverside Military Academy was and continues to be a widely recognized proud Gainesville landmark institution. Since that time, thanks to General Beaver and son Colonel Sandy Beaver, Riverside has only grown in prestige and importance. The Burch family is proud and grateful for Ray to be honored with the Sandy Beaver Entrepreneurial Leadership Award.”
The Entrepreneurial Leadership Award Program was created in 2014 through the leadership of several RMA alumni.
Proceeds and donations from the dinner help grow the Riverside Military Academy Foundation for the provision of tuition assistance for cadets whose families have demonstrated financial need.