March 30, 2018
By Marlee Moore
Farm tours headlined the program as Alabama’s best and brightest burgeoning farmers gathered in Montgomery March 2-3 for the Alabama Farmers Federation’s 2018 Young Farmers Conference.
Buses carrying nearly 400 young farmers branched across central and southeast Alabama Saturday for tours, a popular feature back for its second year, said State Young Farmers Committee Chair Ben Maples.
“There’s no better way to improve your farm than by learning from outstanding farmers who have a wealth of experience,” said Limestone County’s Maples. “This was our largest conference in 25 years, and we’re grateful seasoned leaders took time to educate these producers. I took away ideas to incorporate onto our cattle farm and hope the others did, too.”
Three buses headed west to Dallas County, where attendees netted knowledge at Pearce Catfish Farm. They dined on Southern comfort food at the Orrville Farmer’s Market before wrapping up at Bell Place Farm, Jamie and Wendy Yeager’s row crop operation.
Another tour featured east Alabama agriculture, starting with Robertson/Lanier & McKay Cattle Co. in Chambers County. Attendees next stopped at Auburn University’s National Poultry Technology Center before visiting greenhouses at Young’s Plant Farm in Lee County.
Parkman Land & Cattle Co. kicked off an additional in Montgomery County. Attendees then journeyed south to Pike County where they visited Gene and Jana Renfroe’s TREASURE Forest near Troy and finished their day at Steve Stroud’s poultry and hay farm in Goshen.
“Farm tours are beneficial because we see people who are ahead of us in their career path and progressiveness,” said Lee County Young Farmers Chair Daniel Mullenix, who works for Agri-AFC and owns a beef cattle operation. “The value of a conference like this is the relationships you form, too. The Farmers Federation tries to help us become better stewards of what we have been given and further our careers in agriculture.”
2018 Outstanding Young Farm Family (OYFF) finalists were named during the closing banquet of the conference. They are Chad and Heather Grant of Butler County, Gannon and Kristin Nunley of Franklin County and Chris and Jordyn Upchurch of Clay County.
Finalists received a Traeger grill and will compete for more than $70,000 in prizes during on-farm judging this summer. The 2018 OYFF will be named at the Federation’s 46th Commodity Producers Conference in Montgomery Aug. 4.
OYFF division winners were Josh and Amanda Slaughter of Shelby County, Beef Division; Luke Smelley of Hale County, Catfish Division; Jonathan and Sara Sanders of Coffee County, Peanut Division; Ben and Jessica Johnson of DeKalb County, Soybean Division; and Jamie and Lindsey Roberts of DeKalb County, Wheat & Feed Grain Division. The Grants also won the Poultry Division.
The conference also included an auction that raised $10,830 for the Alabama Farmers Agriculture Foundation and entertainment by a dueling piano show. Social media photo contest winners were Noel Welch of Lee County, Abbie Keel of Calhoun County and Michelle Bufkin of Lee County.
For more photos, visit the Federation’s Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts.