Businessmen Honored at RMA

Christian E. Mims
Jared Drew “Drew” Echols and the late Raymond “Ray” Headley Burch Jr. were honored at the sixth annual Sandy Beaver Entrepreneurial Leadership Awards.
With over 300 community members in attendance, Jared Drew “Drew” Echols and the late Raymond “Ray” Headley Burch Jr. were honored at the sixth annual Sandy Beaver Entrepreneurial Leadership Award dinner at Riverside Military Academy (RMA) last evening. 

This year marks the Sixth Annual Sandy Beaver Entrepreneurial Leadership Award dinner which honors extraordinary entrepreneurial leaders. 

“The vision, passion, and determination that General Sandy Beaver exhibited throughout his tenure as RMA’s president from 1913 to 1969, are qualities that we recognize and honor in Mr. Echols and Mr. Burch,” explained President Stanley C. “Staś” Preczewski.

Drew Echols is the farm manager at JAEMOR Farms located in Alto and a fifth-generation farmer. Along with his father, Jarl, and uncle, Judah, Drew is a partner in the family’s 550-acre farm which was established in 1912. 

More than 10 years ago, Drew helped to expand Jaemor Farms’ business to include retail and Agritourism. In 2006, Jaemor Farms began participating in the state’s agritourism industry and has become one of the most widely visited attractions, with more than 750,000 visitors on average each year. 

Among his many awards, Drew has been named Farm Bureau’s Young Farmer of the Year (2014) and The Gainesville Jaycees Young Man of the Year (2018). He has served as a program chair of Leadership Georgia and on several boards including the University of Georgia’s College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences Dean’s Advisory Board and Hall County Farm Bureau. 

Echols and his wife, Shelly, have two children, Chloe (15) and Cohen (11). 

“For me, it is awesome to get the award. But all my adult life I have fought for agriculture, fought for the farmer. That’s very unique, that a guy from ag(riculture), a full-time farmer, gets to win an entrepreneurial award like this. Farming is the oldest trade in the world, but here we are in 2019 getting an entrepreneurial award. That’s really cool; it’s cool to be a farmer now,” said Echols.

It was a posthumous honor for Burch who passed June 28, 2018.

Ray Burch, of Nicholasville, KY, served in the U.S. Air Force before moving to Gainesville in 1957. He began his career in development and sales with Twin Oaks Hatchery in 1959. After joining CWT Farms in 1961, Burch along with CWT won the National “E” for Excellence in Export and “E Star” award for its international export of poultry hatching eggs.

Ray was CWT’s President for more than 30 years and then served as Chairman of the Board. Throughout his lifetime, he volunteered on many other boards including the Hall County Development Authority where he presided as Chairman. As the Chattahoochee Country Club President, he made possible the building of the current CCC facilities. He was also active in Jaycees and the Kiwanis Club.

He is survived by his loving wife, Madge, daughters Nancy, Susan, Emily and son, Scott.

Mrs. Burch,accepted the award on his behalf stating, “in 1958, Ray & I moved to Gainesville where Riverside Military Academy was and continues to be a widely recognized proud Gainesville landmark institution. Since that time, thanks to General Beaver and son Colonel Sandy Beaver, Riverside has only grown in prestige and importance.  The Burch family is proud and grateful for Ray to be honored with the Sandy Beaver Entrepreneurial Leadership Award.” 

The Entrepreneurial Leadership Award Program was created in 2014 through the visionary leadership of several RMA alumni. The dinner is held in August each year drawing attendance by community leaders and business owners, as well as RMA Trustees, alumni, family, and friends of the Academy. Last year’s honorees were Jack E. Frost and the late W. Woodrow Stewart.

Proceeds and donations from the dinner help grow the Riverside Military Academy Foundation for the provision of tuition assistance for cadets whose families have demonstrated financial need.