Helping others has been a lifelong calling for Sharon Byrd of Dale County, the new state chairman of the Alabama Farmers Federation Women’s Leadership Committee.
Success as a nurse, farm wife, mother and church leader were good training for her leadership role in the state’s largest farm organization.
“I’m excited about this year and what the Women’s Leadership Committee can accomplish,” said Byrd, who was elected in December. “We have some very talented, hard-working women on our state committee and in our county organizations. They are inspiring.”
Byrd, who lives in Ariton, was elected to serve a one-year term as state committee chairman during the Federation’s 92nd annual meeting in Montgomery. She is serving her second three-year term as a state committee member.
Growing up, her father’s military career required Byrd’s family to move frequently. They moved back to his hometown of Ariton when he retired in 1967. It was there Byrd met her future husband, Jerry, who dreamed of owning a farm. After 42 years of marriage, their dream farm grew from 100 acres to more than 1,200 where they raise peanuts, cotton, corn, wheat and beef cattle.
Byrd’s face lights up when she talks about her children, and her smile broadens when she talks about spoiling her grandchildren. Her daughter, Michelle Ridgway, 41, and her husband, Joe, live in Houston, Ga. Sons, Steven, 32, and Brian, 36, now manage the farm. Brian and his wife, Kendra, have two children, Bailey, 9, and Brock, 8.
“I’m used to a busy schedule, but wanted to be sure I had time to fulfill my commitment as chairman,” Byrd said. “My friend, Gloria Jeffcoat, (a former state committee chairman from Houston County) encouraged me to take a more active role on the State Committee and urged me to seek the chairmanship.”
With several years experience as Dale County Women’s Leadership Committee chairman, followed by service as State Women’s Leadership Committee secretary, then vice chairman, Byrd was well trained to assume her new role.
“Following leaders like Debbie Freeland, Gloria Jeffcoat, Rita Garrett, Faye Dial and others, makes this a special honor for me,” Byrd said of her predecessors. “They are inspiring, talented women.”
Dale County Women’s Committee Chairman Frankie Davis nominated Byrd for the charimanship position. She said she’s confident her long-time friend will be an excellent leader.
“Sharon only puts her family ahead of her service to the Farmers Federation,” said Davis, a two-term chairman of the State Women’s Committee. “Sharon is very capable of making all the ladies in our state proud.”
Although goals for the State Women’s Leadership Committee haven’t been formally established for the year, Byrd said she has some personal goals.
“I’d really like to see the Women’s Leadership program expand and have an active committee in every county,” she said. “It can be hard to get people involved these days, but if we convince them to give it a try, I think they’ll find it rewarding.”
While she talks about being inspired by others, State Women’s Leadership Division Director Kim Ramsey said Byrd is an inspiration to those around her.
“Sharon is highly organized and always prepared for anything we are doing,” Ramsey said. “Her level head and words of wisdom are constants on our committee, and I have noticed the ladies across Alabama value the comments Sharon shares with them. Sharon’s sweet spirit, thoughtful disposition and joyous attitude will prove to be key elements during her leadership for the Women’s Division this year. We are looking forward to a wonderful and productive 2014.”