From left Bill, Albert, Bernard and David Peterson, named here as the 2015 Top Producer of the Year article in the News and Info section
Thanks to the ancestry efforts of a Peterson relative we now understand that there have been farmers in our family in the United States for 13 consecutive generations. In recent times each generation had to initiate its own farming business. Our current farming partnership originated in the 1970’s survived the 1980’s, profited in the 1990’s and grew into the new millennium.
John C. Peterson (great-grandfather to Albert) with his “Seven Sons Dairy” was an early Kentucky innovator bottling and delivering milk in glass milk bottles. During John C. Petersons farming tenure, large milk processing plants made his on-farm milk bottling facility non-competitive. In response, he discontinued the bottling operations and continued successful dairy and crop operations. He was successful because he knew how to adapt to change when clearly the tide had turned. Eleven children and fifty-five grandchildren later, dairy farming put another generation on its feet.
The new generation adapted and changed more slowly and after almost 20 years of milking cows, the new generation chose to focus on no-till crop production supplying the bourbon whiskey industry. Even though the last cow didn’t leave the farm until 1998, grain acres and profitability grew through the 1990’s. Today Peterson Farms consists of 4 partners operating 15,500 physical acres (of which nearly 6000 are planted and harvested twice annually) across seven counties of central Kentucky.
Three brothers – Billy, David and Bernard – and Billy’s son, Albert, make up the management team at Peterson Farms today. Each is a co-owner of the business. They obtained their undergraduate degrees in agriculture-related studies at the University of Kentucky.
William O. Peterson
Billy Peterson is a Partner at Peterson Farms. His special focuses include developing croplands, practicing a strong conservation ethic, effectively employing new technologies, achieving high earnings, and deploying in excess of $30 million in farm assets under management.
Billy re-joined Peterson Farms in 2009 after directing Management Operations for the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture from 1986 through 2009. He had spent weekends and vacations on the Farm throughout his tenure at the University, so in essence he never really left. In his capacity as Director of Management Operations, Billy oversaw all research farmlands, forests, and facilities consisting of 20,000+ acres, 500+ buildings, 600+ vehicles, and 125+ employees.
Billy enjoys learning, and continuously refreshes his knowledge of farming by taking courses, reading, and attending industry conferences. He is a graduate of the Ohio State University Overholt Drainage School.
Billy is the eldest grandchild of John C. Peterson, a prominent Kentucky farmer from the 1930’s through the 70’s. He is the eldest of eight children of William B. Peterson, the original founder of Peterson Farms. Following elementary and high school education at St. Francis, Billy obtained a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Engineering in May, 1970 and a Master of Science in Agricultural Engineering in December, 1971, at the University of Kentucky.
He commenced a PhD in Agricultural Engineering at Cornell University in New York in 1972, focusing on the microbiology of denitrification in animal manures, before returning to farming in 1974. He is a past president of the Research Center Administrators Society (RCAS), and a member of the National Property Management Association (NPMA).
Billy is married to Susan Zawisa, a family nurse practitioner. They have two sons and a daughter, and three grandchildren.
David A. Peterson
David Peterson is a Partner at Peterson Farms. David handles year-round hedging of grain and monitoring of commodity prices. Equally comfortable in the fields as in the board room, David is responsible for corn planting in the spring, and in the fall, he manages all aspects of the grain elevator activity.
David joined Peterson Farms upon his graduation in 1975 from the University of Kentucky, where he received a BS in Agricultural Economics and Business. David became a Partner in Peterson Farms in 1976.
David served on the board of directors of the Kentucky Soybean Association from 1991 through 2000. He currently serves on the Marion County Farm Bureau board of directors.
An avid reader, David consumes global agricultural information via the Internet, farm magazines, and crop scouts and consultants.
David lives on the Farm and is married to Sandra Jean Smith, who is the office manager for Peterson Farms. They have two daughters.
Bernard L. Peterson
Bernard Peterson is a Partner in Peterson Farms, focusing on financial analysis, bank relations, new technologies, and day-to-day farm activities. He re-joined the Farm in 1992 following positions at Hallway Feeds and MoorMan Manufacturing in Central Kentucky.
Bernard serves as the Kentucky representative for the National Association of Wheat Growers, and is the past president of the Kentucky Small Grain Growers’ Association. He is a 2011-2012 attendee of “The Executive Program for Agricultural Producers” (TEPAP) program at Texas A & M University.
He is a 1982 graduate of the University of Kentucky where he received a BS in Animal Science, with a minor in Agricultural Economics. Bernard was a member of the agricultural fraternity Alpha Gamma Rho, where he held leadership positions. He received a parochial school education prior to college.
Bernard is married to Annette Wathen, who teaches high school in nearby Bardstown, Kentucky. They have two daughters.
Albert L. Peterson
Albert Peterson is Operations Manager and General Partner at Peterson Farms. Since returning to the farm in 2001, Albert has been a key contributor in the significant expansion that has occurred over the past ten years, both in terms of the increase in managed acres as well as the increase in performance. Albert is particularly focused on continuous improvement and conservation efforts.
Albert is involved in many aspects of farm management. He works most closely with soil and crop fertility, farm agronomic decision-making, soil drainage improvements, machinery acquisitions, corn planting, and harvesting of all crops. Albert has been educated on Soil Fertility by Neil Kinsey and has attended the Farm Journal Corn College. Albert is also trained on AGPS drainage tile installation software and Trimble drainage systems and SST technologies software.
In January of 2015, Albert completed both Unit I and Unit II of The Executive Program for Agricultural Producers (TEPAP) at Texas A&M university.
From 1997 through 2001, Albert was employed by John Deere Harvester Works as a design and test engineer. During that time, Albert traveled internationally and worked closely with the development of the separator and cleaning shoe of the 50 series STS combines, which have now evolved into the industry leading 70 series STS combines.
In 1997, Albert received a B.S. in Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering from the University of Kentucky. He graduated from Henry Clay High School in Lexington, Kentucky.
Albert lives on the Farm and is married to Karen (Wood), who recently joined the Peterson Farms accounting team. They have one daughter together, Abigail.
Karen serves as the Human Resources Manager and an Accounts Payable Specialist. Karen is a key person in the farm office and farm business. In her current role she is responsible for:
- Processing Bi-Monthly Payroll for all employees.
- Personnel management and compliance for the farm operation
- Landowner Lease payment organization and payable generation.
- Completes expense entries in accounting software (primarily– seed, chemical, fertilizer)
- Drafting Landowner Lease documents.
- Fuel Inventory Management
- Helps with anything else that needs to be done.
Scott Ebelhar joined the Peterson Farms team in the spring of 2014. His role as Chief Agronomist includes the management of crop scouting, soil and crop fertility, GIS data management, small grains planting operations, and agronomic decision making. Scott is also assists in seed purchasing, land evaluation, and various field operations.
Born and raised in Owensboro, KY, Scott spent his childhood and early career working on his family’s row crop farm. This provided him experience in producing yellow corn, wheat, and soybeans as well as specialty crops such as non-gmo white, high-oil, and waxy corns, grain sorghum, and tobacco. Scott graduating from Western Kentucky University with a B.S. in Agriculture (Ag Business Emphasis) and a minor Business Administration in 2001.
In 2003 Scott joined Garst Seed Company as a Development Agronomist conducting corn and soybean yield trials and making product selections for the Ohio and Mississippi River Valleys. In 2005, joined Beck’s Superior Hybrids as a Practical Farm Research Director where he established the company’s first satellite Practical Farm Research facility at Fort Branch, IN. During his 9 year tenure with Beck’s Scott also served as a Team Sales Agronomist, completed his Masters in Agronomy from Iowa State University, help establish Beck’s Research and Distribution Center in Henderson, KY, and gained valued experience conducting agronomic research trials, advising farmers, also established many industry contacts. Scott is also a Certified Crop Advisor.
Scott and his wife Laura live in Bardstown, KY with their three children and are members of Saint Joseph’s Catholic Church.
Kristie Saffer, CPA, MBA
After graduating with a finance degree from the University of Kentucky, Kristie worked for Investment Advisors at Raffensperger Hughes and Company (Raff) in Evansville, IN. While working at Raff, Kristie completed courses necessary to sit for the CPA exam and transitioned to public accounting in Evansville, IN. After moving to Louisville, KY, Kristie sat for the CPA exam and continued her public accounting career at Strothman & Company PSC, gaining more experience in tax, accounting and auditing. After seven years in public accounting, Kristie transitioned to the life insurance industry and earned her MBA. There she worked in the internal audit area and served as Chief Compliance Officer reporting to the Audit Committee Chair/Board of Directors’. Kristie is Peterson Farms’ controller and is focused on managing the Farms’ revenue and timely payments to vendors and landlords. She has been with the Farm since 2012 and is a Certified Public Accountant.