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 discussed 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, delegates elected leaders to serve on state commodity committees, State Women’s Leadership Committee and State Young Farmers Committee. Attendees also viewed the Federation and Alfa Insurance annual report videos.
A tribute breakfast Dec. 5 honored Federation leaders that died this year. Dell Hill from Talladega County delivered the devotion and brought uplifting words of faith to families who lost loved ones.
Dean Wysner, Randolph County poultry and cattle farmer, was presented the Service To Agriculture Award during a general session. Alabama Supreme Court Associate Justice Michael F. Bolin also received the Cultivator Award.
Outstanding county Federation boards and retiring commodity committee members were honored Dec. 5. Individual Leader Awards were also presented to members instrumental in establishing or supporting county-level programs. They 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; and Justin Lackey, Talladega County
- Women’s Leadership: Lydia Hayes, Cullman County; and Debra Bowen, Randolph County
- Public Relations and Communications: Lisa Lake, Cullman County
- Young Farmers: Ben Johnson, Randolph County; and 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.
This recognized leaders over 70 years old who served as county president, State Women’s Leadership Committee chairman or 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 afternoon; Federation President Jimmy Parnell was reelected to his sixth two-year term.
That afternoon, Agricultural Leaders For Alabama program members presented their capstone project, which focused on FarmPAC; they graduated from the leadership program that night.
Statewide winners of Young Farmers contests were also recognized. The winners represented Alabama in American Farm Bureau Federation contests in mid-January.
“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 Agricultural Foundation also hosted its second annual AgDash 5K and a silent auction, raising almost $25,000 for ag education.
View event photos on the Federation’s Facebook page.