Sponsored each year by the Alabama Farmers Federation, the Outstanding Young Farm Family Awards Program recognizes young farmers between the ages of 18 and 35 who do an outstanding job on the farm and in the community.
Division winners representing 10 commodities were selected in February. Of those, six finalists will compete for the title of overall Outstanding Young Farm Family for 2012. The winner will be named at the Federation’s 91st annual meeting in December.
The overall winner will receive thousands of dollars in cash and prizes including: a nicely equipped 2013 Chevrolet or GMC pickup truck, courtesy of Alfa Insurance and Alabama Farmers Federation; a John Deere Gator XUV, courtesy of Alabama Farm Credit and Alabama Ag Credit; lease of a John Deere tractor, courtesy of SunSouth, TriGreen Equipment and Snead Ag dealers; and a personal computer system from Valcom/CTS Wireless. Alabama’s top young farm family will represent the state in the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Achievement Award competition at its January 2013 annual meeting in Nashville.
Three remaining division finalists are featured in this issue.
Sharing a love of football, family and faith, Talladega natives Matt and Mandy Armbrester are the epitome of an all-American Southern family. Toss in Matt’s role as a farmer and their combined support of agricultural education, and it’s clear their enthusiasm for agriculture helped earn them a place as one of six finalists in the Alabama Farmers Federation’s Outstanding Young Farm Family competition.
Named the overall finalist in the Wheat and Feed Grains Division, the Armbresters grow 207 acres of corn, 520 acres of soybeans, and rotate 200 acres of cotton and wheat. They also work 500 stocker calves on 416 acres of open pasture land. While farming is a life they enjoy, Matt and Mandy admit it wasn’t always their master plan.
“My first love was football,” said Matt, who received a full scholarship to the University of Kentucky. “My dad and uncle farmed so I was always around agriculture, but I loved being on the field more than working in it.”
Though Mandy says she helps Matt on the farm when she can, her primary job for the past 11 years has been teaching.
“I love being a teacher, and I try to incorporate agriculture in my classroom as often as I can,” said Mandy. “It’s amazing how many students don’t know where their food comes from. From my farm experience and working with the Ag in the Classroom program, I’m able to share my love of agriculture with others.”
Matt said he also knows first-hand just how many people aren’t aware of where their food comes from and what ‘modern-day farmers’ look like.
“I came home from Kentucky and finished out my college career at Troy University. After graduation, I took a job as the inaugural coordinator of the Mobile Dairy Classroom program,” recalls Matt. “A lot of my time was spent in cities, and folks were just captivated by the milking process. The urban demographic was so separated from the rural way of life.”
Since Matt left his post as Mobile Dairy Classroom coordinator to work full-time as a farmer, the Armbresters have experienced their share of challenges. Matt injured his knee the first year and was forced to sit out from a bulk of the work and harvest. Expecting things to get better the next year, the Armbresters were dealt another surprise — the premature arrival of their son, Hayes, now 16 months. While the bulk of serious problems are behind them, Matt and Mandy agree the lifestyle they enjoy is worth the challenges met.
“Despite high input costs, increasing expenses and equipment breakdowns, being a full-time farmer is a decision I’m glad I made. It isn’t a job — it’s a lifestyle,” explained Matt. “I can’t imagine doing anything else.”
In addition to farming and teaching, Matt and Mandy are members of the Talladega County Farmers Federation, where he serves as Young Farmers chairman and she serves as the Ag in the Classroom coordinator. They are members of First Baptist Church of Talladega.