Rita Garrett has many fond memories of Cherokee County. It’s where she grew up on a family farm in Sand Rock as one of 10 children. It’s where she met and married her husband, Donnie; and it’s where they raised their daughter, Andrea, on their own farm.
“It’s hard for me to put into words, but when I’m out on the farm there’s a closeness to nature that’s hard to explain,” she said. “It’s rewarding to know that with God’s help we’re producing food and fiber on our farm that will touch so many other families just like mine.”
Rita was elected chairman of the Alabama Farmers Federation’s State Women’s Leadership Committee in December following five years as a state committee member that included service as secretary-treasurer and vice chairman. She works full time as the accounts payable clerk for the City of Centre, where she also serves as a municipal court magistrate. Prior to that, she enjoyed a successful career in finance, retiring as an assistant vice president and security officer for a local bank.
While Rita loves her city job, she said her passion is the farm.
“There’s a lot of days that I take lunch to Donnie on the farm just to get to be with him and see what’s going on at the farm,” she said. “It’s like an escape for me.”
The Garretts’ farm is much different from the one where Rita grew up. They grow cotton, soybeans, corn and wheat. The farm she grew up on was diversified in its own way.
“When I was a child, we produced most all our own food,” she said. “We grew vegetables, had several fruit trees and grew our own peanuts and corn for popcorn. I’ve milked a cow and churned butter and even picked cotton by hand. I’ve been involved in agriculture all my life.”
With all that background in agriculture, marrying a farmer seemed a perfect fit, as did her eventual involvement with the Farmers Federation.
“Donnie was asked to serve on the Cherokee County Farmers Federation Board 23 years ago,” Rita said. “We both became active on the county level. He served as vice president and was later president for six years. He also served three years on the Federation’s State Board as a district director.”
Rita’s involvement included serving as county Farm-City chairman and working on various other county-sponsored events.
“I am so humbled and honored to have been elected state chairman of such a hard-working group of women,” Rita said. “The other members of the State Women’s Leadership Committee are all such wonderful leaders, and we all help each other. We do a lot more than just cooking and sewing. We help with politics, develop policy and promote agriculture as a whole.”
In addition to their involvement with the Farmers Federation, the Garretts are active members of the First United Methodist church of Centre. They are especially proud of their daughter Andrea Eubanks and her husband, Seth, who Rita says bring immeasurable joy to their lives.
As this year’s chairman, Rita said she wants to encourage more young women to become involved in the Women’s Leadership Committee while at the same time encouraging all young people to appreciate and respect agriculture as a profession.
“Really, that’s why the Farmers Federation is such a wonderful organization,” she said. “We all have different backgrounds and life stories, but we’re all working together for the good of the organization.”