Farm tours headlined the program as Alabama’s best and brightest burgeoning farmers gathered in Montgomery March 2-3 for the Alabama Farmers Federation’s 2018 Young Farmers Conference.
Buses carrying nearly 400 young farmers branched across central and southeast Alabama Saturday for tours, a popular feature back for its second year, said State Young Farmers Committee Chair Ben Maples.
“There’s no better way to improve your farm than by learning from outstanding farmers who have a wealth of experience,” said Limestone County’s Maples. “This is our largest conference in 25 years, and we’re grateful seasoned leaders took time to educate these producers. I took away ideas to incorporate onto our cattle farm and hope the others did, too.”
Tour A headed west to Dallas County, where attendees netted knowledge at Pearce Catfish Farm. They dined on Southern comfort food at the Orrville Farmer’s Market before wrapping up at Bell Place Farm, Jamie and Wendy Yeager’s row crop operation.
Tour B featured east Alabama agriculture, starting with Robertson/Lanier & McKay Cattle Co. in Chambers County. Attendees next flocked to Auburn University’s National Poultry Technology Center before growing their greenhouse knowledge at Young’s Plant Farm in Lee County.
Parkman Land & Cattle Co. kicked off Tour C in Montgomery County. Tour attendees then journeyed south to Gene and Jana Renfroe’s Pike County TREASURE Forest and finished their day at Steve Stroud’s poultry and hay farm in Pike County.
2018 Outstanding Young Farm Family (OYFF) finalists were named during the closing banquet following interviews Friday. They are Chad and Heather Grant of Butler County, Gannon and Kristin Nunley of Franklin County, and Chris and Jordyn Upchurch of Clay County.
Finalists received a Traeger grill and will compete for more than $70,000 in prizes during on-farm judging this summer. The 2018 OYFF will be named at the Federation’s 46th Commodity Producers Conference in Montgomery Aug. 4.
Other OYFF division winners were Josh and Amanda Slaughter of Shelby County, Beef Division; Luke Smelley of Hale County, Catfish Division; Jonathan and Sara Sanders of Coffee County, Peanut Division; Ben and Jessica Johnson of DeKalb County, Soybean Division; and Jamie and Lindsey Roberts of DeKalb County, Wheat & Feed Grains Division. The Grants also won the Poultry Division.
Other conference events included an auction that raised funds for the Alabama Farmers Agriculture Foundation and entertainment from Fun Pianos by 176 Keys, a dueling piano show. The top three winners of the social media photo contest were Noel Welch of Lee County, Abby Keel of Calhoun County and Michelle Bufkin of Lee County.