Bradley Weaver was sinking his hands into dirt and learning how to farm long before he started kindergarten.
Now 21, Weaver is one of four finalists in a national contest for farmers who have mastered skills in production, finance, management and research.
He has the chance to receive the American Star Award in Agribusiness from the Future Farmers of America organization during its 85th national convention in Indianapolis on Oct. 27.
Weaver said the award is something he has been working toward for years.
"The first time I went to the national convention we were watching the videos of the star finalists and I said, ‘That is going to be me one day,'" he said.
"That was seven years ago and I decided at that time it was my ultimate goal in life."
Weaver has been interested in agriculture since he was a young child, which was not unusual in his family.
"My grandfather did cows and my dad did cows for a little bit before growing pumpkins and doing a greenhouse," he said.
Weaver said his involvement in agricultural business started young so that he could "raise money for college."
He started growing pumpkins at age 5 and Christmas trees when he was 9. Daffodils and daylilies came when he was a freshman in high school.
Today, Weaver also manages a small, successful landscaping company while taking classes in business administration and biology at North Georgia College & State University.
His online site, which sells historical toys, natural soaps and honey, uses the Internet to introduce his products.
All in all, he operates eight businesses that bear his name. Yet, he still looks for other opportunities.
"I plan on expanding out in the future. For the first time, I am planting 2 acres of blueberries this year," he said.
Reggie Stowers, a Dawson County High School agriculture teacher and FFA adviser who has known Weaver for many years, said his strength is that he's "not afraid to work."
"He does what he does well and that leads to something else to something else to something else. That is a true salesman," Stowers said.
That trend is perhaps most evident in the growth of Weaver's businesses.
According to a FFA press release, Weaver used to sell about 4 acres of pumpkins, 100 Christmas trees and 100 pounds of boiled peanuts per year.
He now provides landscaping services for corporate retreats and sells more than 300 pounds of boiled peanuts per year.
In addition to pumpkin and Christmas tree sales, he also offers more than 300 varieties of daylilies and 30 varieties of daffodils.
Weaver said he has even hired his high school FFA friends as employees at his pumpkin patch.
All the while, the award was in the back of his mind.
"I have been working toward this," Weaver said. "So when I heard I was one of four finalists in my area in the nation it meant a lot. It felt awesome, almost relieving, to hear I made it this far."
As a finalist, Weaver will be interviewed by a panel of judges, who will ultimately name the top candidate in his category.
The winner will be announced in an onstage ceremony at the national convention and will receive a plaque and an award of $4,000. The runners-up will each receive a plaque and $2,000.
Weaver's competition hails from Kentucky, Wisconsin and Texas.
Weaver, the son of retired teachers Tony and Karen Weaver, said "it's been a great time" even if he doesn't win, and he "wouldn't trade it in for anything."
His membership to the high school FFA chapter will end after this convention. Then he looks forward to joining the alumni group.
In addition to Weaver's award, the Dawson County High School FFA chapter also received notice that four current members will receive the American FFA Degree for "demonstrating the highest level of commitment to FFA and for making significant accomplishments in their Supervised Agricultural Experiences."
The four students are Kenneth Houseal, Eli Kesting, Nick Reynolds and Seth Stowers.
According to Stowers, only 3,500 of 540,000 members nationwide will receive the recognition.