CHEROKEE COUNTY FARM NAMED 2004 FARM OF DISTINCTION
BIRMINGHAM, Ala.-- A Cherokee County row crop and beef cattle operation was named Alabama's 2004 Farm of Distinction April 19 during the Alabama Farm-City Committee's awards luncheon in Birmingham.
|Alabama Farmers Federation President Jerry A. Newby, right, congratulates East Farms on being named the Alabama Farm-City Committee's 2004 Alabama Farm of Distinction. From left are, John Bert East, Dawn East, Tammi East, John B. East and Newby.|
East Farms, operated by John Bert and Dawn East of Leesburg, was selected for the statewide honor from a field of five district winners and one at-large winner. The Easts' farm includes 850 acres of cotton, 250 acres of soybeans, 50 acres of hay, and 250 acres of corn, which the family harvests as silage for its 400-head beef cattle operation.
John Bert East began farming at the age of 10 when he planted three acres of corn for a 4-H Club project. After attending Auburn University for three years, he returned to the family farm in 1972 and has been farming full time ever since.
East said weather has been a constant challenge during his 32 years in production agriculture, but recently, labor problems have forced him to change the way he runs his business.
"We couldn't find anybody much to help us do any of our field work, so we bought some bigger equipment," East said. "Now, we do all the work ourselves, so we don't have to depend on any outside labor to operate the farm."
As this year's winner, the Easts will receive $2,500 and a customized farm sign. This fall, they will compete with outstanding farms from seven other Southeastern states for the title of Lancaster/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year. The winner, who will receive $14,000 plus other prizes, will be announced Oct. 19-21 during the Sunbelt Ag Expo in Moultrie, Ga.
East Farms, which now covers 1,600 acres, uses forward contracting to market its cotton and soybeans prior to harvest. Calves are sold at local auction barns or through private sales at the farm. In recent years, East has switched much of his row crop acreage from conventional tillage to conservation tillage. Each fall, he plants cover crops, which reduce soil erosion and improve water quality. East said improved varieties of cotton also have reduced his dependence on insecticides to control pests.
A former pork producer, East said economic pressures forced him to diversify his operation several years ago. Today, he's optimistic about the future of agriculture.
"Right now, the future of agriculture looks real good," he said. "Commodity prices have gone up, and they think that maybe prices will be good for the next couple of years."
East credits his parents, John B. and Louise, for giving him his start in farming. His sons, Ben and Bart, also help out on the farm, and his sister, Tammi, does most of the bookkeeping for the operation. Ben and his wife, Shelley, are expecting the Easts' first grandchild later this month.
District Farm of Distinction finalists from around the state also were recognized during the Farm-City awards luncheon, which was held in conjunction with the Alabama Farmers Federation's Women's Conference.
District winners were: Prather and Lillian Slay of Slay Farm in Chambers County; Glenn and Peggy Rhoades of Glenn Rhoades Farm in Coffee County; Sonny and Pamela Bradford of Bradford Farms in Cullman County; Harry and Joy Noble of Joy H Farms in Macon County and Richy and Susanna Naisbett of Double Creek Ranch in Marengo County.
The Farm-City Committee of Alabama presents the Farm of Distinction award annually to a farm that exhibits outstanding management and productivity as well as exceptional appearance and conservation practices.