Ellie Watson of Lee County triumphed in the Young Farmers Discussion Meet contest Dec. 9, following a powerful conversation with three other finalists about developing new markets for farmers.
Watson, director of the state agricultural branding program Sweet Grown Alabama, competed during the Alabama Farmers Federation’s 98th annual meeting in Montgomery. As the winner, she received a four-wheeler from First South Farm Credit.
“Advocating for Alabama agriculture is a responsibility I will never take lightly,” said Watson, who lives in Auburn. “I am grateful for the support of the Young Farmers Division and the opportunity to represent Alabama on a national stage.”
The contest simulates a committee meeting where participants examine agricultural issues. Other finalists were Adam Wilson of Jacksonville in Calhoun County, Kyle Morris of Hanceville in Cullman County and Brad Cox of Fayette in Fayette County.
Additionally, Outstanding Young Farm Family (OYFF) winner Luke Smelley of Hale County received a prize package worth over $60,000. Winnings included $35,000 toward a new Ford truck courtesy of Alfa Insurance; a John Deere 825i Gator sponsored by Alabama Ag Credit and Alabama Farm Credit; and a year’s lease of a John Deere tractor from AgPro, SunSouth and TriGreen.
Smelley and his wife, Lana, have five children and raise catfish and cattle in Prairie Eden. Farming must be the OYFF’s primary source of income.
Excellence in Agriculture contest winners Kim and Daniel Mullenix of Opelika in Lee County were also honored. They received a zero-turn mower from Corteva Agriscience and a computer package from Valcom/CCS Wireless. Excellence in Agriculture participants derive most of their income off the farm. Kim is Alabama’s beef systems Extension agent, while Daniel is ag technologies manager with Agri-AFC. They also raise beef cattle and have a son, Davis.
Discussion Meet finalists, the OYFF and Excellence in Agriculture winners were named during the Federation’s Commodity Producers Conference in Chattanooga in August. The Federation’s Young Farmers Division administers these programs.
Watson, Smelley and the Mullenixes next compete during expense-paid trips to the American Farm Bureau Federation national contests in January in Austin, Texas.