Farmer of the Year | Massey Ferguson

Massey Ferguson Congratulates 2022 Swisher/Sunbelt Ag Expo Farmer of the Year

Robert Saunders named Farmer of the Year

Massey Ferguson congratulates Robert E. Saunders as the 2022 Swisher/Sunbelt Ag Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year. This award is recognized as one of the most prestigious honors in American agriculture and earns Robert 250 hours on a Massey Ferguson tractor, among other prizes.

Robert is a multigenerational farmer from Piney River, Virginia, who grows woody ornamentals, annuals, perennials, field ornamentals, grafted trees, peaches, nectarines, apples and Asian pears. The farm has a long history dating back to 1915 when Robert’s grandfather, Sam, and four of Sam’s brothers partnered to start the farm. Robert’s father, Paul, started a small nursery on the farm in 1947, and 40 years later, after earning his BS in Agricultural Engineering, Robert joined his father.

Robert and his brothers expanded the business, which evolved into Saunders Brothers Inc. Eventually, Robert took over sales and oversaw the expansion of the sales team and shipping department. He remained the farm’s sales and shipping manager for nearly 25 years while fulfilling his passion as its resident engineer. Now serving as general manager, Robert doesn’t consider himself a typical horticulturist or orchardist. He is a self-proclaimed problem-solving farmer, working alongside his three brothers, two children, three nephews, a highly motivated management team and a dedicated group of employees.

When Robert joined the family business, the farm consisted of 542 acres of owned land. Today, the total acreage operated is 3,192. Saunders Brothers, Inc. markets its products in both the wholesale and retail areas. Its local and regional sales staff service about 600 active wholesale customers, primarily along the east coast from North Carolina to Massachusetts.

Robert’s, as well as Saunders Brothers Inc.’s, success is a testament to the sacrifices, blood, sweat and tears that farmers have made across generations. “Hard work has always been a part of my family’s life,” said Robert. “I still have my first paycheck for $13.80 from the summer of 1968 when I was four years old. My family will always be rooted in the principles of honesty, morality and integrity — a fact that continues to gratify most and astound a few.”

Robert is the 32nd Swisher/Sunbelt Ag Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year since the award’s inception in 1990. Massey Ferguson is proud to join Swisher and Sunbelt Ag in honoring “excellence in agriculture.”

For more information about Saunders Brothers Inc.’s offerings and their family-run operation, visit their website at To find details about the Farmer of the Year award, past winners and the nomination process, visit

Find a Dealer