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Debra Davis
(334) 613-4686

MOBILE MOBILE, Ala.-- A Chilton County farm family was chosen as 1999 Outstanding Young Farm Family during the Alabama Farmers Federation annual meeting in Mobile Dec. 5. Jimmy and Robin Parnell, who live near Stanton in rural Chilton County, were selected from nominations throughout the state in 11 different commodity divisions. The Parnells advanced to the final selection process when they were named the state's Outstanding Young Farm Family for Alfa Farmers' Beef Division earlier this year.

As the 1999 Outstanding Young Farm Family, they will receive the use of a 2000 Ford Explorer for one year, an IBM personal computer and software package sponsored by Valcom Business Centers of Alabama, a $200 cash award and a plaque. The Parnells also will serve on the Alabama Farmers Federation State Young Farmers Committee.

The Parnells have been married 11 years and live on a family farm with their two children, James Robert, 6, and Anna Grace, 2. The Parnells began attending Young Farmers meetings in Chilton County about eight years ago, and in 1997, Jimmy served as chairman of the state Young Farmers Committee.

"The thing we enjoy about Young Farmers is that the other young couples share the same values, hopes and expectations," Jimmy said. "Through the Young Farmers, we now have friends all over the state."

Sponsored each year by the Alabama Farmers Federation, the Outstanding Young Farm Family Awards Program recognizes young farmers between the ages of 17 and 35 who do an outstanding job in farm, home and community activities. The Parnells say the experiences they have gained through the Federation's Young Farmers' program have made a difference in their lives.

"During high school and college I had about 100 to 150 head of cattle of my own. When I graduated from Auburn in 1985, the cow business just sort of grew from there," Jimmy recalled. "There's been a lot of hard work that has gone into it with some failures and success stories along the way."

Jimmy's degree in agribusiness and economics no doubt helped him make some of the decisions that have made their farm a success. Timing is crucial in every business, but especially the cattle business, Jimmy said. Today, he farms with his brothers Jeff and Joseph and their father, James "Jamie" Parnell. The four operate Parnell Inc.

Jimmy and Robin have about 700 crossbred brood cows and run a stocker operation with about 2,500 head a year. The Parnells have cattle in Oklahoma and New Mexico that were started at their Alabama ranch earlier this spring. They also regularly graze cattle on wheat in Texas and Kansas, while some go straight to the feed yards in the Midwest. Wherever the cattle wind up, the Parnells retain ownership of the animals.

The Parnells are active in the timber business, harvesting between 1,000 and1,500 acres per year. Jimmy also is a local timber dealer. He buys and sells the timber and deals with the mills and other timber dealers. His father and brothers supervise the harvesting and trucking end of the business.

While Jimmy deals with the fluctuating prices of timber and cattle and unpredictable weather, he's quick to point out that Robin has the most important job in the family. She put her career as a registered nurse on hold to devote more time to her family. "I love living in the country and being here with the kids and Jimmy," Robin said. "I always wanted to live in the country and marry a farmer. I'm really getting to live the life I always dreamed about. Our kids benefit from living in the country, too. They know a lot of things that kids who grow up in the city take for granted, like the difference between a bull and a cow and that chickens come from eggs, not just the grocery store."

The Parnells attend Hillcrest Baptist Church. Jimmy serves as vice chairman of the Chilton County Republican Party and was a candidate for District 42 of the Alabama House of Representatives in 1998. He currently serves on the Chilton County Water Board and the boards for Central Alabama Farmers Co-op, Chilton County Cattlemen's Association and Colonial Bank of Chilton County. He also serves as regional vice president for the Alabama Cattlemen's Association.

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