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March 02, 2009   Email to Friend 

Darryal Ray
(334) 613-4187
March 02, 2009

The 2009 OYFF Commodity Division winners and their children were honored at the Young Farmers Leadership Conference in Montgomery on Saturday evening.
MONTGOMERY, Ala.-- U.S. Rep. Bobby Bright urged more than 350 young farmers and their families to "always work hard, never give up" Saturday night, Feb. 28, as the Alabama Farmers Federation concluded its annual two-day Young Farmers Leadership Conference at Montgomery's Renaissance Hotel.

Bright, who was elected to the U.S. Congress last November, told the gathering at the annual Outstanding Young Farm Family banquet that lessons learned on the farm helped him realize his dream. "It has shaped my character; it shaped my values," said Bright, the youngest of 13 children born to a Dale County sharecropper. "It will never change the integrity and honesty instilled in me as a sharecropper's son. My dream has come true. You are looking at a man who is living his dream."

The former Montgomery mayor then told the young farm families that they also could realize their dreams through hard work and goal-setting. "Always work hard. Never give up. Set goals in your life and work to attain those goals," advised Bright. "If you have a dream, if you set a goal and work hard, you can attain it."

During the banquet, Outstanding Young Farm Family winners were announced in 13 commodity divisions. Six finalists, chosen from among the division winners, will now compete for the overall OYFF title, which will be announced in December at the Federation's 88th Annual Meeting in Mobile.

The commodity division winners were: Beef Division, Clay and Dana Kennamer, Jackson County; Cotton Division, Gaylan and Angie Shelly, Escambia County; Dairy Division, Benjamin Brown, Etowah County; Equine Division, Robert and Jennifer Cruise, Morgan County; Greenhouse, Nursery and Sod Division, Rob and Angie McHugh, St. Clair County; Hay and Forage Division, Brad and Christy Lee, Coffee County; Horticulture Division, Brian and Paige Cash, St. Clair County; Meat Goat and Sheep Division, Daniel Hall, Randolph County; Forestry Division, Josh and Denise Smith, Randolph County; Peanut Division, Thomas and Farrah Adams, Henry County; Poultry Division, Jeff and Randi Whittaker, DeKalb County; Soybean Division, Benjamin and Miranda Looney, Limestone County; and Wheat and Feed Grain Division, Matthew and Stacey Smith, Calhoun County.

The six finalists were the Kennamers, Shellys, Cruises, McHughs, Cashes and Adamses.

"These young farmers are the backbone of our agricultural future in Alabama," said Brandon Moore, director of the Federation's Young Farmers program. "It's only fitting that we recognize them and encourage them, particularly in light of today's unfavorable economic climate."

Each commodity winner received an engraved, wooden plaque and a $200 cash prize. Those winners also will serve as ex-officio members of their respective state commodity committees during 2009. The top six division finalists received those awards, along with one year's free membership in the Alabama Farm Analysis program.

The overall winner, which will be selected by a panel of judges that will visit each farm, will receive the use of a Dodge Nitro courtesy of the 67 county Farmers Federations, a new John Deere Gator XUV courtesy of the Federal Land Bank Association of Alabama, $500 cash from Dodge Trucks, a $250 voucher for Valvoline Oil products, a computer package sponsored by the Valcom Business Centers of Alabama and free one-year membership in the Alabama Farm Analysis Association.

The state winner also receives an expense-paid trip to the American Farm Bureau Federation's annual meeting in Seattle where he/she will compete for the American Farm Bureau Young Farmer and Rancher Achievement Award. The winner of the 2010 Achievement Award also receives a nicely equipped 2010 Dodge Ram Quad Cab pickup.

The OYFF competition was the highlight of the Federation's Young Farmers Leadership Conference, which is designed to prepare farmers ages 17-35 for leadership positions in agriculture and their communities. In addition to the OYFF competition, the event also included leadership development training and a seminar on Alabama's Ag in the Classroom program. Other workshops included an information session on the H2A immigrant guest worker labor program, followed by a presentation by the 2008 Outstanding Young Farm Family, Chip and Lisa Stacey of Conecuh County.

Other activities included a pedal tractor pull for children and a silent auction that raised more than $2,000 for the Alabama FFA Foundation.

For more information about the Young Farmers program, visit www.AlfaYoungFarmers.org.

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