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April 22, 2005   Email to Friend 

Jeff Helms
(334) 613-4212
April 22, 2005

James and Joyce Wise of Coffee County are honored as Alabama's 2005 Farm of Distinction April 25 during an awards ceremony in Birmingham. From left are Jim Allen of Alabama Farmers Cooperative (AFC), Lester Killebrew of Henry Farm Center, James Wise, seated, Joyce Wise, Alabama Commissioner of Agriculture Ron Sparks and Alabama Farmers Federation President Jerry Newby. AFC, Henry Farm Center and Alfa Health, along with Lawn and Leisure of Montgomery and Wire Road Tractor in Auburn, sponsored prizes for the Farm of Distinction winner.
BIRMINGHAM-- A diversified row crop and beef cattle operation in Coffee County, J.A. Wise and Son Farms, was named Alabama's 2005 Farm of Distinction by the Alabama Farm-City Committee April 25 in Birmingham.

As this year's winner, James and Joyce Wise received prizes valued at more than $10,000 and will represent Alabama in the Southeastern Farmer of the Year competition with the winner being named during the Sunbelt Ag Expo Oct. 18-20 in Moultrie, Ga.

Located in the Fairview community, Wise and Son Farms was started by James Wise in 1954 after he graduated from Alabama Polytechnic Institute, now Auburn University.

Starting with 420 acres and the philosophy that he could only make money if he utilized the land 12 months a year, Wise has since expanded his farm to include 3,500 acres--which he was able to pay off in 2002. Today, he raises about 1,200 acres of cotton, corn and soybeans during the summer months and then uses the row crop land for winter grazing when the weather turns cold. James also has installed terraces, drainage tiles and other conservation measures to prevent erosion and ensure he gets the maximum return from his investment.

That same business savvy led Wise to adopt an unique marketing strategy for the calves produced each year by his 500-cow, mostly Limousin, beef cattle herd.

"We market all the calves through the Laura's Lean beef program," he said. "It's a group based in Lexington, Ky., and their advertising philosophy is that their beef is raised with no growth additives of any kind and no antibiotics. It's just pure lean beef. We've been selling with this same group for about seven or eight years, and we've got a good working relationship with them. Their up-front money is real good, plus they have bonus money for yield grade and dressing percentage and ribeye area. So, it's been a real good marketing tool for us."

The success of the Wises' diversified farming operation has provided them other opportunities as well. James' son, Allen, now owns John Deere dealerships in Samson and Andalusia, and recently the elder Wise loaned his leadership abilities to a statewide effort to rid Alabama of Tropical Soda Apple, a costly and destructive invasive plant species.

As the 2005 Alabama Farm of Distinction, the Wises received a John Deere Gator CX valued at $5,200 donated by Wire Road Tractor in Auburn, Lawn & Leisure in Montgomery and Henry Farm Center with stores in Abbeville, Brundidge and Dothan. In addition, the Alabama Farmers Cooperative presented them a $1,000 gift certificate, redeemable at any of its member Quality Co-op stores, and the Alabama Farmers Federation and Alfa Health also gave the family an engraved, mahogany farm sign valued at more than $1,300.

Swisher International of Jacksonville, Fla., will pay for the Wises' trip to the Sunbelt Expo in October, where they will receive a $2,500 cash award as Alabama's winner and compete for $14,000 and other prizes.

The Farm of Distinction each year recognizes one Alabama farm that excels in management, conservation and environmental practices as well as overall appearance and leadership of the farm owner.

Other finalists for the Farm of Distinction were: Ronald and Ann Vaughn of Huntsville in Madison County, Mark and Debbie Randall of Ethelsville in Pickens County, Bill and Leeta Thomas of LaFayette in Chambers County, Alvin and Dot Stone of Pine Apple in Wilcox County and Joe and Debbie Roberts of Fayette in Fayette county. Each of the finalists received a plaque and a $250 gift certificate from Alabama Farmers Cooperative.

The Farm-City Committee of Alabama presents the Farm of Distinction Award annually. Farm-City Week is observed nationally each year the week before Thanksgiving as a way to help bridge the gap between rural and urban residents.

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