January 29, 2018
By Debra Davis
Every farmer has a story to tell and a unique way to tell it. Encouraging farmers to share their stories is a passion for Fayette County’s Debbie Roberts.
Roberts is the 2018 Alabama Farmers Federation State Women’s Leadership Committee chair. She and husband Joe live in Fayette County and have been active Federation members for over four decades. She said communicating through social media helps farmers share a positive message about agriculture.
“We must be the ones to tell our story,” Roberts said. “We can no longer afford to let others talk for us. We have to learn to use what tools we have to educate others about how we help feed and clothe the world.”
The Roberts raise broiler chickens for Peco, Inc. and own an ag-centered trucking company, Roberts Hauling. Feed products to individual farmers and feed stores make up the bulk of the hauling, and the Roberts also are partners of Fayette Ag Services, an agriculture supply store.
Working on the farm together has been a part of the couple’s 42-year marriage. After raising two children on the farm, and now spending lots of time with their seven grandchildren, Roberts said she wouldn’t choose another lifestyle for her family.
“I always wanted to marry a farmer, to be close to the land, to work it and watch the crops grow,” said Roberts, who, like Joe, is a Fayette County native. “I enjoy working with the chickens. It’s hard work but satisfying. We have enjoyed the freedom of being self-employed, setting goals and seeing them accomplished. A farm is a wonderful place to raise a family.”
But it isn’t without challenges, she said.
“Knowing every decision is yours and yours alone can be a little intimidating,” Roberts said. “Over the years, I’ve learned to not worry about things we can’t control.”
The Roberts found support from other Alabama farm families through the Federation. Roberts said most active members are full-time farmers who only want what’s best for agriculture.
“What’s best for agriculture is usually what’s best for everyone,” she said. “The Federation is like a big, extended family. You may only see people once a year, but you feel a kinship with them because they are farmers, too. We have experienced the same things, whether it’s getting a combine stuck or getting ready for baby chicks.”
Roberts said she’s humbled to serve as State Women’s Leadership Committee chair and as an ex-officio member of the Federation's state board. She said her goal is to build on existing programs and increase agriculture promotions. She said she’d also like to focus on helping farmers better communicate their stories.
“The Women’s Division provides an opportunity to participate in policy and activities that promote agriculture,” she said. “It helps encourage women to seek leadership opportunities to tell our farms' stories. Facebook and other social media platforms can be a great tool to challenge some of the myths about farming. It’s also important for farmers to be confident in sharing information about what they do on their farms.”
Federation Women’s Leadership Division Director Kim Ramsey said Roberts has focused on educating consumers and others about agriculture since she was elected to the state committee.
“Debbie is a wonderful advocate for our industry and continues to think out of the box and look for ways we can share information,” Ramsey said. “She is a tremendous asset to our organization and to farmers across the state.”
Roberts has held several Federation leadership roles, including State Women’s Leadership Committee secretary, county Federation secretary for over 30 years, Fayette County FarmPAC chairman and Fayette County annual Farm-City dinner co-chair. Joe is county Federation president, Federation State Poultry Committee chairman and a former District 5 state board member.
The Roberts are members of Calvary Baptist Church where Debbie teaches Sunday School. She is Fayette County Republican Committee secretary and recently was appointed to the Alabama Water Resource Commission.