AUTAUGA COUNTY ROW CROP, CATTLE OPERATION NAMED ALABAMA FARM OF DISTINCTION
BIRMINGHAM, Ala., April 11 -- A diversified row crop and cattle operation in Autaugaville, Ala., was named the state's 2011 Farm of Distinction during the Alabama Farm-City Awards Luncheon today in Birmingham.
|Andy and Dawn Wendland, seated, accept prizes for the Alabama Farm of Distinction from the sponsors. From left are Kenneth Williams of Snead Ag Supply, Jay Hamlett and Lynne Morton of TriGreen Equipment, Lester Killebrew of SunSouth, the Wendlands, Jerry Newby of the Alabama Farmers Federation and Grace Smith of Alabama Farmers Cooperative.|
As this year's winner, Andy and Dawn Wendland of Autauga Farming Company will represent Alabama in the Swisher Sweets Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year contest Oct. 18-20 in Moultrie, Ga. Wendland said he's honored to be recognized, but he was quick to share the credit with employees and family members who have helped tend the farm's crops and livestock over the last 100 years.
"I feel fortunate to be that third generation that's kind of taken hold of the reins. Having really good people is a real big part of it, too. That's been a real asset to us," Wendland said.
Autauga Farming Company has about 2,500 acres of cotton, corn, soybeans and wheat, as well as about 750 beef cows. The Wendlands were founding members of Autauga Quality Cotton Association, which has grown to become one of the nation's leading cotton marketing cooperatives -- serving 2,000 producers in nine states. They also joined forces with neighbors to form the Producers Feeder Cattle Sale, which secures premium prices by marketing uniform truckloads of cattle.
Despite good prices for cotton and cattle this year, Wendland said skyrocketing production costs are forcing farmers to find ways to be more efficient. One way the Wendlands have reduced costs is by transitioning their farm almost entirely to conservation tillage. They also are using GPS guidance and swath control to prevent overuse of fertilizer and crop protection materials.
As Alabama's Farm of Distinction winner, the Wendlands received a John Deere Gator donated by SunSouth, Snead Ag and TriGreen Equipment dealers in Alabama. They also received a $1,250 gift certificate from Alabama Farmers Cooperative, redeemable at any of its member Quality Co-Op stores. The Alabama Farmers Federation and Alfa Health presented the Wendlands an engraved farm sign, and they also will receive a $2,500 cash award and an expense-paid trip to the Sunbelt Agricultural Expo. The Swisher Sweets Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year will receive $14,000, plus several other prizes.
While Wendland admits farming can be difficult, he feels blessed to work at a job he loves and to be able to raise his kids in a wholesome environment.
"I guess it's just a challenge in today's environment to be efficient and productive and economical, and all those things that we try to be," he said. " It's a challenge, but I enjoy doing what I do. I'm always thinking about it and always trying to improve what we do."
Wendland is a leader in the Alabama Farmers Federation and Alabama Cattlemen's Association. He and Dawn are members of the Church Street United Methodist Church. They have five children, Katie, Drew, Will Howard, Dan and Emma.
Five other finalists also were honored during the program, which was held in conjunction with the Alabama Farmers Federation State Women's Leadership Conference. They were Bud Hopson of Creekstand Catfish Farm in Lee County, Webb and Joy Thornhill of Thornhill Farm in Jackson County, Phillip and Nancy Garrison of GoldVine Farm in Cullman County, Andy and Anne Sumblin of Andy Sumblin Farm in Coffee County and Roy and Becky Jordan of Landrum Creek Farm in Marengo County. Each finalist received 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.