News Alabama Young Farmers Born to Succeed

Alabama Young Farmers Born to Succeed

Alabama Young Farmers Born to Succeed
April 2, 2024 |

By Maggie Edwards 

Hard work, resiliency and positivity. Those concepts encouraged 445 Young Farmers during the Alabama Farmers Federation Young Farmers Conference Feb. 9-11 in Gulf Shores. 

“In life, we face many obstacles, especially as farmers,” said keynote speaker Braxten Nielsen during the opening banquet. “There are many things out of our control, but the first thing we can control every day is our mindset.”

Nielsen, a former bareback rider, inspired the packed room of 18- to 35-year-old farmers by sharing how he overcame a life-altering rodeo accident.

“As you work through challenges, you’ll find your true character,” Nielsen said. “You are born to succeed. You are a child of God. You can make things happen because of the greatness inside of you.” 

That success can come from one’s sphere of influence, he added. 

“One of the most important things you can do is surround yourself with greatness,” Nielsen said while scanning the room of attendees. “Put yourself with people who believe in you, people like those at this conference.”

Coleman Lett of Calhoun County and Cody Castleberry of St. Clair County joined fellow Young Farmers during the conference welcome reception at The Lodge at Gulf State Park.

Relationship building is just one reason events like Young Farmers Conference are important, said Federation Young Farmers Division Director Hunter McBrayer.

“It’s about networking, leadership and the opportunity to participate in a grassroots organization,” McBrayer said. “Over 400 Young Farmers coming to learn and grow together is a big deal.”

Educational sessions kicked off Day 2 with a presentation from Corbitt Wall of DV Auction and the Feeder Flash YouTube channel. Wall delivered insights about cattle markets. 

The group then split into breakout sessions with topics ranging from legal updates and Alfa Insurance farm policies to diversifying markets for farm products. 

“All farmers have the same issues, even if we raise different commodities,” said Federation State Young Farmers Committee member Forrest Anders of Morgan County. “We have a diverse state, but this year’s speakers had impactful messages for everyone.” 

Four-hundred and forty-five Young Farmers from across the state gathered in Gulf Shores Feb. 9-11 for Young Farmers Conference. Braxten Nielsen delivered the keynote address Feb. 9.

Joy Funderburk’s biggest takeaways were from the estate planning and tax readiness workshops.

“I am 29, so estate planning isn’t something I tend to think about, but the session encouraged our generation to be prepared,” said Funderburk, whose family owns Little Mountain Growers in Elmore County. “This conference feels like a family reunion. I met new people within the industry and built a camaraderie with other Young Farmers trying to succeed.” 

Federation State Young Farmers Committee Chair Dillon Turk thanked fellow Young Farmers for organizing the event. 

“This is the biggest Young Farmers Conference the organization has ever had,” said Turk, whose family owns a nursery in Mobile County. “It’s an opportunity to take your family and fellowship with farmers across the state. I encourage everyone to put value on time spent learning with other producers.”

State Young Farmers Committee members Bart Williams of Autauga County, Cal Logan of Greene County, Dillon Turk of Mobile County, Denzil Dees of Sumter County and Forrest Anders of Morgan County greeted 445 conference attendees in Gulf Shores.

During the conference, applicants competed for Outstanding Young Farm Family (OYFF) commodity division titles and three finalist slots. Commodity winners will serve one-year, ex-officio terms on their respective state commodity committees or affiliated organizations’ boards of directors. They are Drew and Lauren Wendland of Autauga County, wheat & feed grain; Jacob and Misty Porter of Clay County, poultry; Tommy and Lauren Murray of Franklin County, soybean; Heath and Christina Clary of Hale County, catfish; Garrett and Robin Dixon of Lee County, peanut; Seth and Kaylee Hubert of Madison County, fruit & vegetable; Tyler and KoryAnn Watt of Sumter County, beef; and Whit and Amanda Lovelady of Talladega County, hay & forage. 

2024 OYFF finalists are the Dixons, Loveladys and Wendlands. 

All finalists received a custom Yeti cooler from the Federation. They’ll compete for nearly $80,000 in prizes during on-farm judging this summer, and the state winner will be announced during the Federation’s Farm & Land Conference in August. The winner will represent Alabama nationally in January. 

“This state is full of incredible young farmers,” McBrayer said. “Applying for the OYFF makes those farmers sit down and track their growth from Year 1 to now. It also helps them set goals for the future. This contest gets our younger, strong leaders even more involved in state-level work, too. It’s exciting to see the depth of talent we have in our pool of members.”

The 2024 Outstanding Young Farm Family finalists were announced Feb. 10 during Young Farmers Conference in Gulf Shores. They are the Wendlands of Autauga County; the Dixons of Lee County; and the of Talladega County. From left are Federation State Young Farmers Committee Chair and Mobile County farmer Dillon Turk, the Wendlands, the Dixons, the Loveladys, Federation Executive Director Paul Pinyan and Federation Young Farmers Division Director Hunter McBrayer.

After OYFF announcements, auctioneer Clint McElmoyl led the charge on a live auction benefiting the Alabama Farmers Agriculture Foundation. Generous Federation Young Farmers helped raise over $30,000 for agricultural literacy projects, scholarships and other youth-focused events. 

Federation President Jimmy Parnell praised the group for stepping up and caring about the future of agriculture.

“Our Young Farmers program is booming, and I want to say thank you to all the people who make it happen,” said Parnell of Chilton County, former chair of the State Young Farmers Committee. “It’s our job to grow and develop Young Farmers. This network makes up the future leaders of not only this organization, but the state.” 

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