After 35 years of scheduling meetings and organizing agendas for farmers, the only agenda Jimmy Carlisle has on his mind is what he’ll do during retirement.
“I’m going to do all those things I’ve had to say ‘no’ to over the years because I was going to work the next day,” said Carlisle, who retired Nov. 27 as director of the Alabama Farmers Federation Governmental and Agricultural Programs Department. “I plan to spend more time with my family, spend time at the lake, bowhunt, fish, play golf and get involved in volunteer work. I definitely will miss my job. I can’t imagine how different my life would be if not for the Farmers Federation. It’s been one heck of a ride.”
That “ride” began when Carlisle’s friend Jim Cravey, who worked at the Federation, encouraged him to apply for a job in the organization’s Commodity Department. A Montgomery native and Troy State University graduate, Carlisle was hired in 1978 as director of the Federation’s Catfish and Poultry Divisions. In 2005, he was named Commodity Department director. Four years later, he successfully merged the Commodity Department with the Federation’s Governmental Affairs Department and became director of the newly formed Governmental and Agricultural Programs Department.
“Working for the Farmers Federation allowed me to meet some of the best farmers anywhere,” Carlisle said. “It’s also allowed me to travel around the world and learn more about agriculture. I’ve made some great friendships that won’t end with my retirement.”
Carlisle said some of his fondest memories are helping Alabama’s fledgling catfish industry grow into a $300-million-a-year commodity. At the same time, he was instrumental in building coalitions to boost Alabama’s billion-dollar poultry business. During his career, he also served as the Federation’s director of international trade and as a federal lobbyist.
“Jimmy earned a reputation throughout the Southeast as a thoughtful agricultural leader who brought together diverse organizations, businesses and government agencies to help farmers,” said Federation President Jimmy Parnell. “For decades to come, our farmers will reap the benefits of his hard work.”
In addition to being part of the Federation’s management team, Carlisle was Auburn University’s delegate to the Council for Agricultural Research, Extension and Teaching; served on the board of directors for Sunbelt Agricultural Expo, the Alabama Agribusiness Council and the Alabama Clean Water Partnership; and was past president of the National Association of State Aquaculture Coordinators. He and his wife, Marsha, have three children and seven grandchildren.
“Working here really is like having another big family,” Carlisle said of his years at the Federation. “I feel blessed to have worked with such talented, caring people who love farming and agriculture.”
Brian Hardin, who formerly served as assistant department director under Carlisle, became director following Carlisle’s retirement.
“Jimmy Carlisle has been a friend and mentor since the day I began working at the Farmers Federation,” Hardin said. “The programs he started and the coalitions he built have set a high standard of leadership for the Federation and served our members well.”