When Rickey Cornutt steps on stage in Moultrie, Georgia, Oct. 20 to represent Alabama in the Southeastern Farmer of the Year contest, it will be validation of a lifelong pursuit.
“My grandfather and father were farmers, and as a child, I loved to help them,” said Cornutt, who is Marshall County Farmers Federation president. “I always wanted to be a farmer. I went to college for a year and decided to come back and farm. In 1981, I started full time farming on a small scale. As we grew, we tried to stay out of debt. God has blessed us, and we were able to expand our operation.”
Today, Cornutt and brother, Chris, farm about 1,200 acres of row crops and have a 250-cow beef cattle herd. Rickey and wife Connie earned the chance to compete against nine other state champions by being named the Alabama Farm-City Committee’s Farm of Distinction winners in April.
Federation Area Organization Director Kyle Hayes nominated the Cornutts for the award.
“I have known Rickey and Connie for 25 years or more,” Hayes said. “They represent values you look for in family farming. Rickey is passionate about his faith, his family and his farm. He’ll do a great job representing Alabama agriculture.”
As Alabama’s winner, the Cornutts have already received a John Deere Gator from SunSouth, TriGreen and Snead Ag dealers; a $1,000 gift certificate from Alabama Farmers Cooperative (AFC); and an engraved farm sign from Alabama Farmers Federation and Alfa Insurance.
They also will receive a $2,500 cash award and an expense-paid trip to the Sunbelt Expo from Swisher International of Jacksonville, Florida, a $500 gift certificate from the Southern States Cooperative, the choice of $1,000 in cottonseed or a $500 donation to a designated charity from PhytoGen and a Columbia vest from Ivey’s Outdoor and Farm Supply. The Southeastern Farmer of the Year will receive $15,000, the use of a Massey Ferguson tractor for a year from Massey Ferguson North America and other prizes.
Cornutt’s corn, soybean and wheat acreage is scattered among 42 small fields on Sand Mountain. Because his farm is interwoven with the community, he said it’s important to be courteous with drivers and respectful of neighbors whose properties adjoin his fields.
“I feel like to be a good neighbor, whether you are a farmer or not, you need to be kind to one another,” he said. “There’s been times when people don’t understand why we work late at night or why we are working on a Saturday. I feel like being a good neighbor is just part of being a good person.”
Cornutt’s role as an ambassador for agriculture extends beyond his farm gates and leadership in the Farmers Federation. He also serves on the boards of the DeKalb County Farmers Co-op and Marshall County Leadership Challenge. He sits on the state soybean committee that allocates research and promotion funds and is an adviser for a Tennessee Valley Authority committee that funds community projects such as volunteer fire departments.
The Cornutts attend Gum Springs Baptist Church. Their older daughter, Leslie, is a registered nurse who is married and works in Guntersville, Alabama. Their younger daughter, Cara, wants to follow in her father’s footsteps and return to the farm. She attends Snead State Community College and plans to transfer to Auburn University next fall.
“We have had some lean years in farming, but overall God has blessed our family and our farming business,” said Cornutt. “We give Him the glory.”