By Marlee Moore
A bevy of speakers commended Alabama Farmers Federation members for a common characteristic during the organization’s Women’s Leadership Conference April 12-14 — their commitment to serving communities.
During the welcome dinner in Birmingham, child advocate Liz Huntley encouraged, empowered and inspired the 200-plus attendees while sharing thought-provoking stories from her difficult childhood.
“You are given many, many, many talents,” she said. “And those talents, they don’t belong to you. God gives you those talents to use for others.”
Huntley thanked attendees for using talents wisely on their farms, with their families and for their communities. She underscored the importance of everyday heroes who impact society.
“On this side of life, this is my justice. With everything I have experienced and gone through, God has uniquely positioned me to impact young people,” said Chilton County’s Huntley, who co-founded in 2016 the Hope Institute, which helps build a character-driven culture in schools. “If you build people of character, you start to build the citizens we want for our communities and nation.”
Huntley’s fellow Chilton countian Jimmy Parnell welcomed members to Birmingham during the opening dinner. Parnell, who leads the Federation and Alfa Insurance as president, highlighted the key role Women’s Leadership Committees play in public policy.
“I appreciate what y’all do every day for the state,” he said. “This group makes a big difference. I appreciate your involvement in politics and on your farms as you make Alabama a better state.”
Emphasizing female leadership in politics continued the next morning during a legislative update. Federation External Affairs Department Director Brian Hardin thanked members for helping educate 37 new legislators about agriculture. He encouraged them to channel Huntley’s powerful ability to connect with an audience.
“As it becomes more and more unique that people have a connection to the farm, things like visiting a farm are a treat for legislators,” he said. “We are proud to represent you in Montgomery every day, but it has an even greater impact when you can show legislators why farming is important to you, the challenges you face and the good you do in your community.”
During a national affairs update, the Federation’s Mitt Walker mentioned hot topics such as labor, Waters of the U.S., foreign ownership of land, budgets and the upcoming farm bill. Walker, the organization’s Governmental and Agricultural Programs Department director, thanked the women for forming relationships federally.
“Y’all see the dividends it pays off with people like Sens. Tuberville and Britt,” he said. “Y’all formed real relationships with them on the campaign trail. Continue to keep those relationships open.”
Other conference highlights included regional caucuses where ladies swapped advocacy and outreach ideas; a chance to mingle with vendors; an estate planning workshop with Leah Mitchell of DeKalb County; a lesson in lingering around the table with social media celebrity Brenda Gantt of Andalusia; and the Alabama Farm-City Awards Luncheon April 13.