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 2013. The winner will be named at the Federation’s 92nd annual meeting in December.
The overall winner will receive more than $60,000 in prizes including: a nicely equipped 2014 Chevrolet or GM pickup truck, courtesy of Alfa Insurance and Alabama Farmers Federation; a John Deere Gator 825i 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 Wireless/CCS Technology. Alabama’s top young farm family will represent the state in the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Achievement Award competition at its January 2014 annual meeting in San Antonio.
Three division finalists are featured in this series. Look for stories on the remaining three finalists in the Fall/September issue.
Childhood dreams aren’t often realized. But that’s exactly what happened for Russell County poultry farmer Greg Edwards who grew up dreaming of being a farmer.
“I grew up in Miami, where our neighbors were 10-feet away from us,” he said. “But even as a kid, I knew I wanted to be a farmer. People thought I was crazy, and I’m sure there are days where I’d agree with them.”
Like most first-generation farmers, paving a path to an agricultural lifestyle wasn’t without its share of problems. It even included a brief stint as an air conditioning/refrigeration apprentice, which Greg quickly admits was something he knew he didn’t want to do the rest of his life. Some of the maintenance skills he learned come in handy on occasion, he said, but it’s a chapter he’s glad is closed.
To start farming, Greg worked with a vegetable farmer and, later worked with a company that built and repaired poultry houses. When he decided to dive head first into his own poultry farm, Greg knew he couldn’t do it alone and solicited family support.
“A few years back, I really felt like it was the right time to go after what I had always wanted,” said Greg, who along with his wife Michele and children, Grayson and Lily, is the 2013 Outstanding Young Farm Family in the Poultry Division. “I talked to my parents, and they agreed to take the leap with me. So, we started looking at investing in poultry houses and found a run-down set of 15 houses. We bought them in June 2006, renovated them and had our first flocks that September.”
Today, the Edwards own Flying E Farms in Pittsview. The 128-acre farm includes 15 poultry houses and 50 acres of hay. The rest of the land is wooded, but Michele says a homestead is in their near-future plans.
“We live in Eufaula now, but we can’t wait to live on the farm and wake up to explore God’s creation every day,” said Michele, a North Carolina native. “The kids love being out here, and we’re so proud to be able to raise them around agriculture. It’s important to us to teach them where the chicken nuggets they eat come from before they reach the grocery store. They’re still young, [3- and 2-years-old], but they’ll be able to grow up here and share their story with others.”
A true family farm, Flying E is maintained entirely by the Edwards. Michele, a nurse, helps as much as time allows, but the majority of the daily tasks are handled by Greg and his uncle, Rick Edwards.
“Rick is my right-hand man,” Greg said. “I couldn’t do it without him, and I wouldn’t want to. We both genuinely love going to work every morning. For us, this isn’t work — it’s what we want to be doing. We’re incredibly blessed and for me, this is a dream