Clemson’s College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences (CAFLS) presented four alumni awards last month to recognize these graduates for their outstanding service to the college, university and their profession.

CAFLS logoThe CAFLS Alumni Board selected four recipients this year: one Young Alumni, two Professional Achievement and one Distinguished Service Award. While the event was held virtually this year, the college hopes to have an event in the spring to recognize this year’s recipients along with the 2021 recipients.

“We have had unusual circumstances this year and were disappointed that we were not able to have an in-person event in the spring to recognize our college alumni award recipients,” said CAFLS Director of Alumni Relations Sennah Honea. “We didn’t want the year to pass without recognizing the accomplishments of our outstanding alumni in some way and while this is not ideal, we want you know that we appreciate all you are doing for your profession, the college and the university.

The Young Alumni Award was presented to Justin Ballew, a 2011 Ag Education graduate who also received his master’s from the University of Georgia in 2013. Ballew is a commercial horticulture agent with the Clemson Cooperative Extension Service in the Midlands area.

Ballew was nominated for the award by CAFLS alumni board member John Parris, who said Ballew “is very knowledgeable and is often a requested speaker for horticulture meetings throughout the state.”

“Justin’s reputation as someone with impeccable character as a leader in his field has continued to grow,” Parris said in making his nomination. “Justin exemplifies the superb quality of agricultural graduate that Thomas Green Clemson envisioned when he recommended the establishment of a ‘high seminary of learning.’”

CAFLS Dean Keith Belli added: “As an Extension agent, Justin is very involved with the Agricultural Agents organizations both in the state and nationally,” Belli said. “He is a recognized expert in plant disease and insect diagnosis using microscopy and basic molecular techniques and has received many awards for his contributions. Also, he and is wife are very involved in their community through their church.”

A Professional Achievement Award, meanwhile, was awarded to Marc Cribb, a 1977 graduate in plant sciences who has worked most of his career in the soil and water conservation community in both South Carolina and nationally until his retirement in 2018.

Nominated by Tyler Brown, Cribb has been an active voice both on a state level and national level serving each district and its commissioners and has spent countless hours ensuring that the needs of the South Carolina soil and water conservation districts have been met while furthering the state’s conservation mission parallel with it.

“Marc has also positively influenced his community through outreach efforts with 4H and FFA through the South Carolina Envirothon,” Belli said. “Marc served as lead for this competition that allows high school students to showcase their knowledge of natural resources, which in turn, has influenced these students to continue their higher education in the agricultural sciences and natural resources.”

A Professional Achievement Award also went to K. Flint Holbrook, received his master’s in 1986 from Clemson’s Agricultural Engineering program and is a senior vice president and water market director within Woolpert’s Infrastructure Sector. Woolpert, Inc., is an Architecture, Engineering and Geospatial Services Company.

Nominated by Parris, Flint has 35 years of engineering experience in the area of stormwater, wastewater and water. Flint is an active member of several professional organizations and a Licensed Professional Engineer in nine states as well as a registered Hydrologist by the American Institute of Hydrology. He previously served as an adjunct faculty in the Department of Agricultural Engineering.

“Flint is considered an expert in the stormwater/watershed management field and is an advocate and sounding board on behalf of various regional municipalities regarding EPA and other agency stormwater/watershed regulations,” Belli said. “He also has additional experience in mining, oil and gas, and agricultural applications.

“Flint is an active member of the York County and the South Carolina Farm Bureau Federation and has been a significant supporter of the SC FFA especially during the time his son served as President of the State FFA. He and his wife are involved in the community through their church and have contributed financially to the Clemson University Foundation to support agricultural leadership.”

Kemp McLeod was awarded the Distinguished Service Award. A 1976 graduate of the agronomy program and a fourth-generation farmer at McLeod Farms in Mac-Bee, McLeod was nominated by Dr. Kirby Player with much support from his fellow colleagues.

McLeod Farms has more than 650 peach production acres and grow more than 30 varieties of peaches, along with large acreages of other fruit, berries and vegetables. In the 1970s, McLeod Farms was the first peach farm in the nation to install a drip irrigation system and over the years have continued to be on the cutting edge of technology. McLeod Farms has been recognized nationally and internationally as one of the most technologically advanced fruit and vegetable operations in the nation.

McLeod Farms also operates one of the most successful farmers markets in the southeast.  Kemp has been a pioneer in the agri-tourism market and the family sponsors many festivals each year on the farm. They are attended by thousands and many worthwhile charities are supported with proceeds from these festivals each year. The McLeod Children’s Hospital in Florence received more than $20,000 this past year as a result of the farm’s corn maze.

“Kemp is generous with his church, local schools, local athletic programs, fellow farmers and Clemson University,” Belli said. “He has been very philanthropic both in his community and to Clemson University. He has been a long-time supporter of CAFLS Tailgate and many university scholarships and is also a supporter of IPTAY and Clemson athletic events.”

Over the years, Kemp has received many awards, but two most recent noteworthy awards are the 2016 South Carolina Order of the Palmetto from Governor Nikki Haley which is the highest honor a private citizen can receive from the SC Legislature, and he was named the 2017 South Carolina Farmer of the Year by the Sunbelt Ag Expo.

Longtime friend and classmate Phil Perry said, “Kemp McLeod is a great man, a great farmer, a great businessman and a great advocate for agriculture. Faith, family and farm are his highest priorities.”