Corcoran’s Heritage Helps Hone Leadership Skills
Barbour County’s sandy loam soil grows more than peanuts, corn and cotton. The area produces leaders, particularly in the Corcoran family and especially for the Alabama Farmers Federation.
Allie Corcoran, 26, was elected chairman of the Federation’s State Young Farmers Committee at the 92nd annual meeting in December. She grew up attending Federation meetings with her family and joins a long line of leaders named Corcoran. Her father, Walt Corcoran, is a former state Young Farmers chairman and former Barbour County Federation president. Her grandfather, the late Sonny Corcoran, was Barbour County president and her grandmother, Ann, was active in the Women’s Division.
“When we were young, my sister, Cassie, and I always went to Alfa meetings and trips,” Corcoran said. “I became really active in Young Farmers while I was a student at Auburn University, and I’ve been involved for almost 10 years now.”
Corcoran served as the District 7 representative for the Young Farmers State Committee for two years and last year was State Committee vice chairman. She is a member of the Agricultural Leaders For Alabama (A.L.F.A.) class that will graduate later this year. However, she said attending the American Farm Bureau Federation’s National Young Farmers and Ranchers Conference in Phoenix, Ariz. last year was pivotal in her decision to seek the state chairmanship.
“That meeting showed me that by working with others, I can connect with people and reach out to groups to make us all stronger,” Corcoran said. “It was an opportunity for me to really think outside the box and see what could be accomplished. “Young farmers look different from 20 years ago,” she said. “Young farmers are in the classroom as teachers; they’re working at the Natural Resources Conservation (NRCS) office; they’re stay-at-home moms. I want us to reach out to all those as well as traditional farmers and find more groups if they’re out there. I want them all to be a part of what we’re doing.”
When Corcoran isn’t working to recruit new young farmers, she runs a fruit and vegetable farm with her sister Cassie Young, 29, called Backyard Orchard, just north of Eufaula on U.S. Highway 431. The sisters grow strawberries, blueberries, peaches and a variety of vegetables. They’re expanding the farm to include agritourism with a new barn-style country store. It will function as a retail outlet, restaurant and kitchen, and office and meeting room.
Corcoran’s horticulture talents and leadership ability haven’t gone unnoticed. Serving on the Federation’s State Horticulture Committee, she’s made Horticulture Division Director Mac Higginbotham one of her fans.
“Allie is a perfect example of our heritage and what our future holds,” Higginbotham said. “Allie and her family’s agricultural history bring a wealth of knowledge and understanding to the challenges farmers face. Her dedication to agriculture is evident in her ability to network and communicate. She’s always eager to share her experience with those outside of agriculture, and that’s invaluable.”
Corcoran works part time at the Barbour County NRCS office, and the farm keeps her busy. However, she is keenly focused on goals for young farmers across the state.
“I want us to have more district Young Farmer meetings that allow members from nearby counties to get to know one another,” she said. “My ultimate goal is to have a Young Farmers Committee in every county, even if it starts with a single member. I want our members to be engaged and active, and I see our state committee as facilitators of that.”
Corcoran’s enthusiasm kicks up a notch when she talks about friends she’s made across Alabama and beyond through Young Farmers activities and the experience she’s gained. She said it’s helped develop her organization and leadership and new skills.
“Speaking in public is not something I was comfortable with,” Corcoran said, “but talking about agriculture and farming is something I’m passionate about. It’s important that I share my story. The Young Farmers helped me get better at that and tons of other things. I learn something new all the time by talking to other young farmers. I want more young farmers to have the same opportunities I’ve had.”