James Barton, the patriarch of Barton Brothers Farms, died Saturday at age 83. The farm might be best known to many people for its green antique truck selling Barton sweet corn at the Lexington Farmers Market, but Barton Brothers was one of the largest non-equine farms in Fayette and surrounding counties.
Barton had been president of the Kentucky Corn Growers Association and secretary for the National Corn Growers Association, and he had served on many boards, including that of Kentucky Farm Bureau, Southern States Cooperative and the Kentucky Hemp Growers Association. He also helped to establish the Burley Producers Marketing Cooperative.
“He was truly an agricultural leader in our state, not only in Fayette County,” said Mark Haney, president of Kentucky Farm Bureau. “We’re just so grateful for the contributions he’s made to our industry over a lifetime.”
Barton was a graduate of the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture. Agriculture dean Nancy Cox described him as “an excellent practitioner of both the art and science of farming and a distinguished leader for Kentucky agriculture. He contributed much time to educating the next generation of farmers and stewards of the land.”
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Hampton “Hoppy” Henton, former Kentucky Farm Service Agency state director and a longtime farmer in Woodford County, said Jimmy Barton, who farmed for decades with his brother, Bob, was “a great guy. The dedication to agriculture was remarkable. They were traditional agriculture — tobacco, corn and soybeans, but innovative on the new stuff. They kept traditional agriculture on the forefront for Fayette County. ... They had always been good neighbors to the horse industry and been good counsel for all of us.”
Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles, whose family farmed in Scott County next to the Bartons, said in a statement that Barton was “a titan of Kentucky agriculture” who helped sow the seeds of modern Kentucky agriculture.
“During my childhood, I saw Jim’s dedication to farming not just when I saw him tilling the fields but also in his various leadership roles. His family is well known for being innovators in farming and leaders in our community. Jim was a mentor, a neighbor and a friend,” Quarles said.
Barton also was the head of an extended Barton clan, which continues to farm and work in Kentucky agriculture.
“Jim valued the importance of family (and made all of his kids work in the tobacco barn). He worked tirelessly to ensure that his family was well cared for,” according to his obituary. “He was a great storyteller and had many tales about the history of Kentucky and growing up in the Bluegrass (some may have been accurate).”
Visitation will be 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Milward Funeral Home Broadway. The funeral, presided by the Rev. Dennis Knight, will be at 10 a.m. Friday at St. Paul Catholic Church on Short Street.
In lieu of flowers, the family has requested memorial donations in his name to the Fayette County Farm Bureau Education Foundation, 1316 Versailles Road, Lexington, KY 40504.