|By TIM THORNBERRY
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — There’s only one time each year when a table filled with state officials, a governor, U.S. senators and representatives, commissioners and business leaders, just to mention a few, could be overshadowed by a ham, but the Kentucky Farm Bureau (KFB) Country Ham Breakfast held annually at the Kentucky State Fair does just that.
This year more than 1,600 spectators came to dine on a traditional country breakfast including, of course 450 pounds of Kentucky country ham, shake hands with old friends and politicians but mostly to watch the auctioning of the fair’s grand champion ham.
The purpose of placing bids on the ham is to provide money to the charity of the winning bidder’s choice.
This year’s ham brought a record $500,000 dollars and was purchased by First Southern Bank based in Stanford.
Randy Attkisson, chief financial officer for First Southern, handled the bidding duties for his bank and said the proceeds of the auction will go to Crown Financial Ministries, a faith-based financial counseling service.
Runner-up in the bidding was Republic Bank and Trust Company, which won the prized ham last year with a bid of $340,000 and won in 2004 with a bid of $60,000.
Over the past 42 years, there have been 23 different winning bidders raising more than $2 million for charities.
“It’s not often that an agricultural event catches the imagination of the public and grows into a phenomenon that exceeds even the most optimistic predictions of its sponsors, but the Country Ham Breakfast is one of those rare occurrences,” said Marshall Coyle, KFB president. “In its 43 years it has grown and evolved in ways few would have foreseen, but it still serves its original purpose - to promote a quality Kentucky farm product in full view of the urban consumers who buy and enjoy it.”
Coyle also pointed out that even the always-political flavor of the breakfast doesn’t overshadow the true meaning of the event.
“The hoopla and the political buzz that accompanies the ham breakfast are great, and serve to spice it up for the media and the audience alike,” he said. “But the real flavor is provided by the ham and the other menu items, and the willingness of very generous businesses and individuals who have ponied up over $2.3 million in charitable funding to support this very important endeavor.”
The tradition began in1964 when that first ham went on the auction block weighing in at just over 15 pounds and sold for $124 or, roughly $8 per pound with the winning bid going to Dick Garnett of Louisville.
After that, the bidding has gotten higher and higher each passing year with a variety of state businesses chipping in for the cause.
“We have roots in Kentucky’s small towns and cities, and supporting this auction is just one way we can show support for our local farmers and agricultural businesses,” said Attkisson. “We’re proud to be at the auction representing the many Kentucky communities our employees and customers call home.”
This year’s champion ham was exhibited by Broadbent B & B Foods, of Cadiz which is owned by Ronny and Beth Drennan. This is the third win in a row for the Drennans.
Miss Kentucky Rachelle Phillips of Princeton shouldered the task of showcasing the ham for perspective bidders while Cliff-Ed Irvin, president of the Kentucky Auctioneer’s Association had the honor of auctioning off the year’s winning ham.
This farm news was published in the Sept. 6, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.