OUTSTANDING YOUNG FARM FAMILIES HONORED
"POINT CLEAR, Ala." Alabama's top young farm families in 12 commodity divisions were recognized Feb. 2, at the Alabama Farmers Federation's Young Farmers Leadership Conference in Point Clear. More than 350 farmers between the ages of 17 and 35 attended the annual conference, which is designed to help young farmers develop skills they need to be successful.
Outstanding Young Farm Family division winners included: David and Wendy Rogers of Cherokee County, beef division; Chad and Gwen DeVine of Baldwin County, cotton division; Alan and Mandora Payton of Dekalb County, dairy division; Joe and Amy Mathis of Bibb County, forestry division; Joe and Alicia Smith of Shelby County, horticulture division; Matthew and Amy Self of Barbour County, meat goat and sheep division; Kris Balkcom of Dale County, peanut division; Burk and Amanda Williams of Cherokee County, pork division; Jason and Ashley Holladay of Crenshaw County, poultry division; Mike and Shannon Dee of Pickens County, soybean division; Wesley and Heather Hamner of Lauderdale County, wheat and feed grain division; and Bert and Dee Anthony of Lowndes County, wildlife division.
The judges selected six finalists to compete for the title of overall 2002 Outstanding Young Farm Family. The finalists were David and Wendy Rogers, Chad and Gwen DeVine, Alan and Mandora Payton, Joe and Alicia Smith, Jason and Ashley Holladay and Mike and Shannon Dee. The winner will be announced this December at the Alabama Farmers Federation's annual meeting in Mobile.
During the weekend conference, young farmers participated in workshops on a variety of topics including direct marketing, commodity futures trading, the farm bill and farm management.
"The State Young Farmers Committee tried to plan meetings that addressed the critical issues that are on the minds of these young farmers," said Federation Young Farmers Director Brandon Moore. "The farm bill is a major concern, and we probably had more discussion in that workshop than any other. With farmers facing low prices, however, marketing is becoming increasingly important, so we devoted about half of the program to helping farmers find new ways to market their products." In addition, Moore said the conference provided an opportunity for young farmers to spend time with other families who share their same values, goals and challenges.
In recognizing the Outstanding Young Farm Family division winners, Moore praised the competitors for having the commitment it takes to succeed under tough economic conditions.
"To be this age and be able to raise a family on the farm makes all of you outstanding young farmers," he said. "To make it work, you have to possess management skills that other 20- to 30-year-olds have not even thought of yet."
Farmers Federation President Jerry Newby, who is a former chairman of the State Young Farmers Committee, addressed the group Saturday evening. Other speakers included Federation Executive Director Mike Kilgore, Calhoun County dairyman and entrepreneur David Wright, marketing expert Bob Coffman of Urbandale, Iowa, Federation National Affairs Director Keith Gray, 2001 Outstanding Young Farmer Laird Cole of Hale County, State FFA President Grace Smith of Autauga County, Miss Alabama Agriculture Kacey Walton of Shelby County. Entertainment was provided by Walton and her younger sister, Kara, as well as 2001 State Talent Contest Winner Brandon George of Mobile County.