Nearly 300 young farmers learned how to harness their passion for agriculture and prepare for a successful transition when taking over the family business during the Alabama Farmers Federation Young Farmers Conference in Montgomery, Feb. 27-March 1.
Finalists in the Federation’s Outstanding Young Farm Family (OYFF) competition also were named at the conference.
“It was exciting and energizing to see so many new faces at the Young Farmers Conference this year,” said Federation Young Farmers Division Director Jennifer Himburg. “It just shows the future of Alabama agriculture is strong and will continue to thrive.”
Guest speaker Matthew Lohr, a former teacher, Virginia House of Delegates representative and Virginia Department of Agriculture commissioner, reminded farmers to live with passion and determination to promote agriculture.
A workshop by Jolene Brown, a farmer, author and family business consultant from Iowa, focused on mistakes that break up a family farm and what young people can do to run a successful farm.
The conference also included sessions on common misconceptions about agriculture, taxes and services of the Farm Service Agency (FSA) and the Natural Resources and Conservation Service.
Cory Abercrombie, who works with former Young Farmers Division Director Brandon Moore in Toney, attended the conference with a friend and said the information and relationships gained from his first Young Farmers Conference were invaluable.
“We would like to start farming ourselves, but it’s hard to get started in it, so we attended the FSA workshop,” Abercrombie said. “The workshop explained what FSA does to help young farmers through different loans and programs for people like myself. It was nice to meet a lot of people who are young and trying to cut their teeth in farming but don’t know how, and I met more experienced farmers who can give advice. The camaraderie was a big factor.”
Other conference activities included a Friday night concert by the band Blue Denim and a live auction on Sunday that raised more than $7,000 for the Alabama Farmers Agriculture Foundation. The foundation funds scholarships for students seeking agriculture and forestry degrees at Alabama colleges.
The top three OYFF contestants were named at the closing banquet. Finalists are Garrett and Emily Henry of Hope Hull in Montgomery County, Beef Division winner; Stewart and Kasey McGill of Hazel Green in Madison County, Horticulture Division winner; and Lance and Stephanie Miller of Boaz in Blount County, Cotton Division winner.
The overall winner will be announced at the Federation’s Commodity Producers Conference in Montgomery, July 30-Aug. 2.
The OYFF will receive a prize package worth more than $60,000, including a new GM pickup truck, 825I John Deere Gator and use of a John Deere tractor.
The first and second runners-up will each receive $500 cash courtesy of Alabama Ag Credit and Alabama Farm Credit.
The winning family will represent Alabama in the American Farm Bureau Federation Young Farmers and Ranchers Achievement Award contest in January in Orlando, Florida.
Other OYFF commodity division winners were recognized at the conference. They are Bee & Honey Division, Justin Hill of Lincoln in Calhoun County; Catfish Division, Ashley Kyser of Greensboro in Hale County; Dairy Division, Benjamin and Tamera Brown of Southside in Etowah County; Peanut Division, John and Jennifer Bitto of Elberta in Baldwin County; Poultry Division, Christopher and Nikki Hilburn of Luverne in Crenshaw County; Soybean Division, Jeremy and Stephanie Wilson of Lincoln in Talladega County; and Wheat & Feed Grains Division, John and Hannah Bevel of Albertville in Marshall County.
Pictures from the conference are available on the Federation’s Flickr page.