By Maggie Edwards
New frontiers, new prize packages and new policy highlighted the experiences for Alabama farmers during the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) Annual Convention Jan. 19-24 in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Brady and Anna Peek of Limestone County claimed third place in the AFBF Achievement Award contest for the nation’s top young farm families. This is the second consecutive year Alabama’s representatives have finished in the Top 3.
“It’s an honor,” said Brady, a row crop farmer. “Everyone there was deserving. To be there was humbling, but to farm every day is humbling as well. We didn’t know if that would be possible. To be recognized as outstanding is icing on the cake.”
As third-place honorees, the Peeks received a $2,500 Investing in Your Future grant from AmericanAg; $2,500 in merchandise from Stanley Black & Decker; and a safe sponsored by Case IH. They qualified for the national contest after winning the Alabama Farmers Federation’s Outstanding Young Farm Family competition last summer. Their state prize package was worth nearly $80,000, thanks to sponsors Alfa Insurance, Alabama Ag Credit, Alabama Farm Credit, John Deere, SunSouth and TriGreen.
Federation President Jimmy Parnell praised the Peeks for their dedication to the agricultural industry and organization.
“Brady and Anna are the definition of what the New Frontiers convention theme means to Alabama,” Parnell said. “I’m convinced that the new frontier is the old frontier. The things that made America great came from agriculture, and that is what I want us to focus on as we look at our new frontier.”
That agricultural focus is what propelled the Peeks to this accomplishment, said Federation Young Farmers Division Director Hunter McBrayer.
“Brady has a willingness to do things different,” McBrayer said. “He has been able to chart his own course. We’re incredibly proud of him and Anna.”
The Achievement Award recognizes Young Farmers for Farm Bureau involvement on the national, state and local levels; farm growth; and financial success.
National involvement for Brady included voting in the business session at the 2021 AFBF convention. That’s where grassroots policy shines, Parnell said.
This year, Alabama’s 19 voting delegates joined 327 other delegates from across the country Jan. 23 to push policy that will impact decisions in Washington, D.C.
The session included Parnell’s reelection to the AFBF board of directors and the reelection of AFBF President Zippy Duvall. The Georgia farmer has led the nation’s largest farm organization since 2016.
“I am first a farmer, but I realize the importance of what this job can do for rural America and our farmers,” Duvall said to the delegate body. “I love this organization, and I will defend it as long as I can. This country’s future depends on the men and women who you all represent.”
Duvall’s presidential address challenged thousands of AFBF members to be engaged.
“Leadership starts with each of us,” he said. “It doesn’t matter your title, or how young or how old you are. You can help chart the path to new frontiers for Farm Bureau and for our communities. The task is too big for anyone to tackle alone, but together, we can reach the summit.”
A convention high point was Federation Wildlife Division Director William Green presenting on the Cultivation Stage. Green’s session, “From Feral Hogs to Hungry Deer: Wildlife Damage Considerations for 2024,” was a fan favorite during the trade show. Topics covered the latest tips for farmers dealing with production losses due to native and invasive species.
Additionally, Limestone County’s Greyson Lauderdale represented Alabama in the Discussion Meet competition, while Jonathan and Sara Sanders of Coffee County finished their term serving on the AFBF Young Farmers & Ranchers Committee.
The state’s youth organizations were in the spotlight, too.
Alabama 4-H Ambassador President Gavin Yocom of Shelby County and Alabama FFA President Kayden Ray of Tallapoosa County attended leadership development workshops where they connected with other students, developed a better understanding of Farm Bureau and deepened their knowledge of the Young Farmers program.
Other convention highlights included encouraging speeches from U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, professional speaker Jack Uldrich and executive consultant Greg Harden; the Annual Meeting of Farm Bureau Women; and the announcement of the 2024 Book of the Year, “My Grandpa, My Tree, and Me.”
Vilsack announced the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s plan to invest millions in renewable energy and domestic fertilizer projects. This is projected to lower energy bills, generate new income, create jobs and strengthen competition of U.S. farmers, Vilsack said.
The Federation was also honored for outstanding achievements in all four Awards of Excellence categories: Advocacy; Coalitions & Partnerships; Engagement & Outreach; and Leadership & Business Development.
“Alabama is ready for new frontiers,” Parnell said. “Being surrounded with almost 5,000 farmers gives me hope that American agriculture is moving in the right direction.”