Since reaching the grand old age of 10, Cherokee County farmer John B. East has had his roots planted solidly in the world of agriculture.He grew up “toying” around on his parent’s farm in Leesburg, Ala., and at only 10 years old, East decided it was time to launch his personal farming career–three acres of cotton and three acres of corn as part of 4-H projects.It wasn’t long before the “growing pains” again hit the youthful East. He soon had two more agricultural projects, and this time they included cattle and hogs.Those growing pains have never left East, and his desire to succeed has resulted in his selection as the 2004 Lancaster/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year for Alabama. East earned the right to represent Alabama at the Sunbelt Expo when his farm was named Alabama’s 2004 Farm of Distinction by the Alabama Farm City Committee.East will now compete with seven other state finalists for the 2004 Lancaster/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year Award, which will be announced during the Sunbelt Expo in Moultrie, Ga. on Oct. 19.As the Alabama winner, East will receive a $2,500 cash award and an expense-paid trip to the Sunbelt Expo from Swisher International of Jacksonville, Fla.; a jacket and a $200 gift certificate from the Williamson-Dickie Company; a commemorative gun safe from Misty Morn Safe Co.; and a $500 gift certificate from Southern States. He also is now eligible for the $14,000 cash award that goes to the overall winner and the use of a Massey Ferguson tractor for one year from AGCO, Inc.Swisher International, through its Lancaster Premium Chewing Tobacco brand, and the Sunbelt Expo are sponsoring the Southeastern Farmer of the Year Award for the 15th consecutive year. Swisher has contributed more than $600,000 in cash awards and honors since the award was initiated in 1990.After attending Auburn University for three years, East returned to the family farm in 1972 and his full time farming career was under way. He made a major switch in crops, selling off an unprofitable 250-sow hog operation and adding row crops and beef cattle.Today’s successful operation includes 850 acres of cotton that produces 800 pounds per acre; 200 acres of corn with a production of 110 bushels per acres; 250 of soybeans yielding 35 bushels per acre; and 50 acres of hay.
Another bright spot in the operation is a 400-head commercial beef cattle herd.”Most of the crops are sold by forward contracting,” said East. “Prices are set prior to harvest. Some corn is stored on the farm and is used to make feed for the cattle. Silage is also stored in silos and fed to cows along with hay that is harvested from the farm. Most of the cattle are currently sold at a local auction or by private sales direct from the farm.”One of the keys to the success of East Farms is that it still is a family business. East’s parents, John and Louise, still take active roles in the operation, and his sister, Tami East, keeps the books for the farm when she’s not working in the fields.Other members of the family partnership include sisters Donna Myrick and Cindy Hightower.In the future, East plans to purchase more registered black Angus cattle to further enhance his beef operation. He also would like to install an irrigation system on some of his row crop land.East and his wife Dawn have two grown sons, Ben, who is currently assistant principal at Cherokee High School, and Bart, who is a student at Gadsden State Community College and plans to attend Jacksonville State to purse a degree in education.