By Maggie Edwards
Passion for preserving agricultural strength emanated from nearly 1,200 Alabama Farmers Federation members as they filled the Renaissance Hotel & Convention Center in Montgomery Dec. 4-5.
During the organization’s 101st annual meeting, farmers from all 67 counties elected leaders, heard from officials, celebrated award winners and voted on policy recommendations.
Federation President Jimmy Parnell highlighted the importance of taking time away from home to chart the course for the state’s largest farm organization.
“This is the time of year when farmers have a little more time to get off the farm to fellowship with and seek encouragement from fellow farmers,” said Parnell, a Chilton County farmer. “We are living in tough times, but visiting with each other gives us strength to go back home and keep working hard. This organization has a strong legacy, and we’re grateful to our grassroots leaders for their past, present and future work.”
During Day 1, attendees viewed Federation and Alfa Insurance annual report videos. Delegates also elected leaders to serve on state commodity committees, the State Women’s Leadership Committee and the State Young Farmers Committee. (See pages 12-13.)
A tribute breakfast Dec. 5 honored Federation leaders who died in 2022. Talladega County Farmers Federation board member Dell Hill delivered the devotion and brought uplifting words of faith to families who lost loved ones.
Randolph County poultry and cattle farmer Dean Wysner was presented the Service To Agriculture Award during a general session, while Alabama Supreme Court Associate Justice Michael F. Bolin received the Cultivator Award. (See page 15.)
Outstanding county Federation boards and retiring commodity committee members were also honored. Individual Leader Awards were presented to members instrumental in establishing or supporting county-level programs. Those leaders, and their areas of service, were:
- Local and Community Services: Donnie Waters, Baldwin County; Ashton Cottingham, Bibb County; Lillian Slay, Chambers County; Billy Sturdivant, Franklin County; Mary Sudduth, Winston County; Justin Lackey, Talladega County
- Women’s Leadership: Lydia Haynes, Cullman County; Debra Bowen, Randolph County
- Public Relations and Communications: Lisa Lake, Cullman County
- Young Farmers: Ben Johnson, Randolph County; Zack Brannon, Winston County
Senior Leaders Awards were presented to Frank Grant, Barbour County; Donnie Garrett, Cherokee County; Allen Pickens, Lawrence County; Mahlon Richburg, Lee County; Larry Bowen, Randolph County; Pat Buck, Sumter County; Dell Hill, Talladega County; Jimmy Hugh White, Talladega County; and John E. Walker III, Tuscaloosa County.
These awards recognize leaders over 70 years old who served as county president, State Women’s Leadership Committee chair or as a state board member.
Thirty-four counties received Awards of Excellence for Federation activities. They were Baldwin, Barbour, Blount, Calhoun, Chambers, Cherokee, Choctaw, Clarke, Clay, Coffee, Crenshaw, Cullman, Dale, DeKalb, Fayette, Franklin, Hale, Houston, Jefferson, Lawrence, Lee, Limestone, Marshall, Mobile, Montgomery, Pickens, Randolph, Russell, Shelby, St. Clair, Talladega, Tallapoosa, Walker and Winston counties.
Federation business session and state board elections concluded Monday as Federation President Jimmy Parnell was reelected to his sixth two-year term. (See page 8.)
That afternoon, Agricultural Leaders For Alabama program members presented their capstone project, which focused on FarmPAC. The 16-member class graduated from the organization’s premier leadership program that night. (See pages 20-21.)
Statewide winners of Young Farmers contests were also recognized. The winners represented Alabama in American Farm Bureau Federation contests in mid-January. (See page 11.)
Special guests included Kellyanne Conway, who served as senior counselor to President Donald J. Trump; Gov. Kay Ivey; Attorney General Steve Marshall; and U.S. Sen. Katie Britt.
“The question is not who. The question is what,” said Conway, referencing choosing candidates. “Ask yourself: What is the job description for the president? What issues keep you up at night…that affect your family…your values, your vision?”
During the event, the Alabama Farmers Agriculture Foundation hosted its second annual AgDash 5K and a silent auction, raising almost $25,000 for agriculture education.