Baldwin County is home to some of the South’s most beautiful beaches and some of the state’s most productive farmland. It’s also home to third-generation farmer John Bitto, chairman of the Alabama Farmers Federation State Young Farmers Committee, who wants to promote agriculture as a possible profession for more young people.
Growing up on a farm established by his grandfather and working the land alongside his father, Baldwin County Farmers Federation President David Bitto, John has seen his share of hard work, but adds that any day on the farm is a good day.
“My father has run the family farm for over 40 years, and I’m glad I could come back after college and help the farm stay in the family,” said John, an Auburn University graduate and Elberta native. “I’ve been farming full time for almost seven years.”
A labor of love for this Baldwin County family, the Bittos’ raise peanuts, cotton, soybeans, corn, wheat, oats, sorghum and beef cattle. One element behind a young farmer’s success is to be involved in an organization that respects and supports agriculture, John said. That’s among the reasons he’s been an active member of the Federation’s Young Farmers organization since 2003 and was elected chairman of the statewide organization in December.
“There are so many challenges facing young farmers today,” said John. “High input costs, the lack of availability of good farm land and the difficulty of entering the profession if not already involved in a farming family all are things that could discourage many from even trying to farm. And even if they’re able to start, there’s no guarantee that the rising costs will allow them to be successful.”
With so few farmers, it’s important to support each other, John said. Federation Young Farmers Division Director Brandon Moore echoed those sentiments, emphasizing the importance of pursuing agriculture as a profession.
“Today’s generation of young agricultural producers understands the importance of professional development, networking and having a voice in the state’s largest farm organization,” said Moore. “The Young Farmers Division seeks to provide opportunities for our state’s next generation of farmers and agricultural leaders.”
Growing up on the farm, it was only natural John would choose to share his life with someone who had his same passion for agriculture. Though her role on the farm isn’t full time – she works as an orthopedic trauma physician assistant – Jenn has a clear love for agriculture and a strong determination to be a good steward of the land.
“My wife is a huge supporter of our family farm,” said John. “She’s also involved in the Baldwin County Young Farmers Committee.”
As this year’s state committee chairman, John said he hopes to encourage other young farmers to pursue agriculture and take an active role in emphasizing the importance of farming.
“I also want to educate people on what farming truly entails… providing safe, nutritious and affordable food to people around the world,” he said.
For information about the Young Farmers program, contact Moore at (334) 612-5159 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit AlfaYoungFarmers.org.