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Joe Braden says he "broke in" his wife Jean by picking five bales of cotton soon after their marriage 63 years ago.

-- Photo by David Farnsworth

Joe Braden


Heflin, AL

Alfa Member Since:

Current Office or Board:
President, Cleburne County Farmers Federation

Previous Office(s) or Board:
Vice-President, Cleburne County Farmers Federation

Other Farming Activities:
Cleburne County Board of Equalization

My Farm:
Braden and his son Larry operate a diverse 150-acre farm, raising both cattle and truck crops.

"In 1952, I had five acres of sweet potatoes and netted $153. Needless to say, I didn't raise anymore sweet potatoes," Braden recalls. "The year I finished high school my dad and I had two acres and made 1,200 bushels. Evidently, he was a lot better farmer than I was."

What I Like About Agriculture:
"I enjoy farm work," says Braden. "I like to feed and watch animals eat and watch things grow."

Biggest Challenge Facing Agriculture:
"Too few young farmers," says Braden, adding that his son, Larry, is now acting as Young Farmers chairman until they can train a young farmer for the post. Currently, he says, the Cleburne County Young Farmers has only three members "but seem to be coming right along."

Bridge Work:
Braden has also been active in the Alabama Farmers Federation's efforts to repair or upgrade deficient rural bridges in the state. He tells of a deficient one-lane bridge on a county road not far from him that not only forces three farming operations to transport machinery on state highways but also forces unnecessary detours for area schools. The Federation is urging members affected by 99 deficient rural bridges to contact their congressmen and ask that funding be made available for repairs to those structures.

My Family:
Joe and his wife of 63 years, Jean, have three children -- Kathy Cochran, Larry Joe Braden and Connie Tesnel. They also have 10 grandchildren, 16 great grandchildren and one great great grandchild.

"My wife and I married in 1947, and I was doing a little farming that year," Braden says. "We made five bales of cotton, and me and my wife picked every bit of it. We married the 2nd of August, and I broke her in by picking cotton, and she hasn't like to farm since."

My Faith:
Braden is a member of Pine Grove Baptist Church in Heflin, where he serves as a deacon and adult Sunday school class teacher.

A Good Day/Bad Day Is...
"At 83, every day is good," says Braden.

You May Not Know:
"After I finished school, I went into the restaurant business here in Heflin from 1945-'47," says Braden. "It was just a small cafe, hamburgers and sandwiches mostly. But I made more money on the jukebox than anything else. Everybody had to hear some music when they came in the door."

Braden's father started out as a school teacher in Trussville back in the 1920s, but quit to go into cotton farming. "Then, the Depression came along and he went broke," says Joe. "He moved to Cleburne County, and started cotton farming again. Then, in 1939, he started selling Watkins products -- medicines, linaments, garden dust -- all over the county. In 1946, he became Cleburne County's first Farm Bureau agent, selling what today is Alfa Insurance." The elder Braden died in 1966.

-- Compiled by Darryal Ray

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