By Maggie Edwards
A passion for family, farming and serving others led Winston County’s Zack Brannon to win the 2023 Young Farmers Excellence in Agriculture contest this summer.
“I competed three times, and the third time was the charm,” said Brannon, a past Winston County Young Farmers chairman. “This really meant so much to me, and it meant a lot to the county.”
Excellence in Agriculture participants highlight their industry passion and Alabama Farmers Federation experience through an application and presentation. The contest is for members ages 18-35 who earn most of their income off the farm.
Winston County Farmers Federation (WCFF) President Darrell Lee praised Brannon’s leadership and dedication to agriculture.
“This award brought honor to the county,” Lee said. “Zack is the first person in our county to win an award like this. We are proud he is ours.”
Brannon will represent Winston County on the national stage during the American Farm Bureau Federation’s contest in January. As the state winner, he will receive a zero-turn lawnmower from Corteva Agriscience during the Federation’s annual meeting in December.
Brannon’s involvement in Young Farmers began when he started his career as Winston County Extension coordinator in 2019. His leadership has since breathed life into the program.
“Being involved in Young Farmers helped me in my personal life, on the farm and in my Extension work,” said Brannon, 35. “The network and opportunities have sharpened my skills in all areas.”
Those skills were also honed by Brannon’s participation in Class V of Agricultural Leaders for Alabama (A.L.F.A. Leaders), the Federation’s premier leadership program.
“It was a phenomenal opportunity for me,” said Brannon, who serves on the WCFF board. “That experience with that group of people was life changing.”
As the county Extension coordinator, Brannon helps lead local Extension events and programming. This includes 4-H, food safety, agronomy, animal science, forages and more.
“My job is to know the needs of the county and find individuals who can come in and help,” he said.
Brannon grew up around agriculture but didn’t start farming till he and wife Hannah moved to her family’s cow-calf and hay operation in Haleyville.
“It’s just me and my wife now,” Brannon said. “We were partnered with my father-in-law, but he has since passed. It’s been a tough couple of years without him. I miss having my tractor buddy out there with me.”
He and Hannah, a registered nurse, married in 2015 and are raising their daughters — Elliott Grace, 4, and Vivie Mae, 1 — on the near-century-old farm.
“The best thing about farming is knowing I have been a good steward of the resources I have been given,” Brannon said. “I want to build something to hand to my daughters so they can take it to the next step.”
Brannon graduated from Auburn University in 2013 with a poultry science minor supplementing his agricultural economics degree. That set the stage for seven years in the poultry industry before he joined Extension in 2019. He’s now working on a master’s degree.
“Agriculture is a labor of love,” Brannon said. “I have a servant’s heart, and with Extension, I get to help someone every day.”