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July 27, 2009   Email to Friend 

OYFF: Poultry Is Henegar's New King For Whitaker Family
Darryal Ray

Jeff and Randi Whitaker with their sons, Aiden (6) and Keegan (4).
Sponsored each year by the Alabama Farmers Federation, the Outstanding Young Farm Family Awards Program recognizes young farmers between the ages of 17 and 35 who do an outstanding job in farm, home and community activities. Division winners representing 11 commodities were selected in February. Of those, six finalists will compete for the title of overall Outstanding Young Farm Family for 2009. The winner, who will be named at the Federation's 88th Annual Meeting in December, will receive a John Deere Gator, courtesy of the Federal Land Bank of Alabama, $500 cash from Dodge, the use of a new vehicle and other prizes and will go on to compete at the national level for a new Dodge Ram 3500. This month, Neighbors profiles seven commodity division winners. Look for features on the six finalists in the coming months.

Jeff Whitaker may have been raised on a potato farm, but he says Henegar's reputation as the state's spud king is fading fast.

'That's because the DeKalb County farming community, which still celebrates the potato each Fourth of July, continues to move away from the once-lucrative crop in favor of something more dependable. For Jeff and Randi Whitaker and their sons, 6-year-old Aiden and 4-year-old Keegan, that something is poultry.

"I was about 12 when Dad got out of the potato business," Jeff says. "We were big into potatoes -- he probably had around 350 acres the year he got out. That year, the prices were so bad it wasn't worth digging them. When that happened, he said, 'It's not worth it. I'm quitting, and I'm going to raise chickens.'"

Jeff, for one, hasn't looked back. He now operates four, 40-foot by 500-foot houses which sit adjacent to his Dad's four houses. "We help each other every day with jobs," he says. "We are like partners (except) each one gets a check from their own houses.

"I'll take the chickens anytime," Jeff adds. "The only thing that we ever felt positive about potatoes was when winter time was here, you had time off. Plus, it takes two or three years to get you out of a hole if you have a bad potato crop, but with chickens, you've got about eight weeks before your next check."

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