By Jeff Helms
A hallmark of successful leaders is their desire to learn. For Mitchell Henry, a commitment to personal growth propelled the Lawrence County cattleman into leadership. It’s also his vision as newly elected chair of the Alabama Farmers Federation State Young Farmers Committee.
“This is an excellent opportunity to learn and to understand more about how the organization works,” said Henry, 27, who will serve a one-year, ex-officio term on the Federation’s state board. “My goal is to encourage other young farmers to be involved and learn as much as they can.”
Henry said the Federation’s Young Farmers Conference next month in Gulf Shores will include quality educational sessions on topics such as farm finances, labor, estate planning and precision agriculture. State committee meetings also are being enhanced through networking opportunities with legislators and others.
Young Farmers Program competitive events, however, first attracted Henry to the Federation.
“I wanted to be part of an organization that stood up for farmers,” said Henry, who competed in the Collegiate Discussion Meet while at Auburn University. “It gave me a chance to meet people of the same mindset. Being part of a community of people with the same issues and problems was very beneficial as a young farmer.”
Henry has since competed multiple times in the Young Farmers Discussion Meet and was a finalist with wife Rebecca in last year’s Outstanding Young Farm Family (OYFF) contest.
“Being an OYFF competitor was a very challenging, but rewarding, experience,” said Henry, the Lawrence County Young Farmers chairman. “It changed the way I look at this operation. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day work and not look at the big picture. The application forces you to look at the future.”
Henry has never been shy about setting goals. The Montgomery County native started his beef cattle operation as a sophomore in high school with 13 calves. He hauled the small herd to his maternal grandfather’s farm in Moulton, where he worked summers and during breaks to grow the business. By the time Henry graduated from Auburn in 2016, he had a 500-calf stocker operation. Today, he and grandfather Clinton Hardin have 1,000 stockers. Henry also has 40 Simmental-Angus brood cows, with plans to grow the herd to 200.
Henry and Rebecca live in a house built by his great-grandfather, John Clinton Hardin, who was a former Lawrence County Farm Bureau president and early customer of the insurance company.
“My father was interested in the organization because there weren’t many people out there speaking for farmers at that time,” said Clinton Hardin, as he reflected on the family’s legacy of Federation leaders. “This is a great opportunity for Mitchell. I’m glad to see him take leadership roles and help other people.”
Henry’s paternal grandfather, Davis Henry, also was active in the Federation. His uncle Mike and cousin Garrett both chaired the State Young Farmers Committee, and another uncle, Garry, served on the state board.
“It was important to my great-grandfather’s generation to have good insurance from people who understood farmers and their needs, and that still holds true today,” said Henry, a member of the Federation’s current Agricultural Leaders For Alabama (A.L.F.A. Leaders) class.
Rebecca, a pharmacist, said their family is dedicated to serving young farmers and the Federation.
“This is where we are putting our energy,” she said. “I’m excited for Mitchell to have the opportunity to serve as a board member.”
Rebecca also shares her husband’s passion for education. She’s developed a national social media following for her farm life photography and branded “Hardin Farms” merchandise.
“People fall in love with the people behind a business. When they know you, they want to support you,” she said. “With the farm, social media gets people excited about agriculture and knowing where their food comes from. It’s such an easy way for us to educate others about what we do and why we do it.”
Federation Young Farmers Division Director Hunter McBrayer said the energy and enthusiasm the Henrys bring to the state committee is contagious. Henry is in his second term serving North Alabama At-Large.
“I am excited to work alongside Mitchell as the State Young Farmers Committee chair,” McBrayer said. “He was elected to lead the committee because of his strong leadership skills, his ability to create a shared vision and his desire to take the committee to the next level. Mitchell is a strong advocate for agriculture, and I am excited to see what he has planned.”