By Marlee Moore
A mutual desire to educate others and invest in their community drives Landon and Lauren Marks. That passion earned the Extension professional and veterinarian first place in Alabama’s Excellence in Agriculture contest.
The Alabama Farmers Federation contest highlights Young Farmers ages 18-35 who are involved in agriculture but whose primary income isn’t subject to production risk. It includes an application and presentation highlighting ag involvement and leadership, in addition to examining three issues facing agriculture.
“We want to be a credible resource for people in the agriculture and livestock industries,” said Landon, 33, whose doctorate focused on beef cattle and forage production. “People don’t care about how much you know until they know how much you care.”
After marrying in 2012, the couple put down roots in Lauren’s hometown of Leesburg in Cherokee County. Lauren spent the next two years completing vet school at Auburn University, while Cullman County native Landon built a network to serve northeast Alabama farmers. That included attending his first county meeting with Federation Area 3 Organization Director Kyle Hayes.
Landon still attends board meetings as a regional Extension agent and updates producers on ag issues. He also chairs the Cherokee County Young Farmers Committee, which has helped revamp and quadruple attendance at the county’s annual Field-to-Fork Dinner.
Landon and Lauren work to emphasize youth education, whether building Book Barn ag literacy programs through Young Farmers, mentoring students at Marks Animal Hospital or co-coaching the Cherokee County 4-H Livestock Club.
“We’re invested in this community,” said Lauren, 33, whose practice opened in 2019. “People gave us a start, and we want to do that for others.”
The Markses own Mountain View Farm, a picturesque 70 acres with Angus and SimAngus cattle. They focus on improving genetics and bought their first heifers from Cherokee County Farmers Federation President John Bert East and his wife, Dawn.
They implement the same practices Landon encourages across his eight-county Extension territory and often invite beginning farmers to learn new management methods. Landon develops adult educational programs for livestock and forages. A typical week could include pest control recommendations, teaching artificial insemination classes, providing beef quality assurance trainings, coordinating alternative feed workshops, advice on forage selection and more. He coordinates county livestock shows, too, and helps with 4-H clubs.
“You never know what the next call is going to be,” he said.
That’s true for Lauren’s mixed-animal practice, too. In addition to helping pets, Lauren operates an ambulatory service for emergency calls and routine visits. She recently added a large-animal facility to the practice to accommodate haul-in livestock care, surgery and hospitalization. As her practice grows, Lauren, a local FFA advisory council member, hopes to increase involvement in organizations including the Farmers Federation, Alabama Cattlemen’s Association and Alabama Veterinary Medical Association.
Landon is the local Farm-City chair, serves on Auburn’s Ag Alumni Club board, and earned multiple state and national awards through Extension. The Markses are active members at Macedonia Baptist Church.
The couple scored their title in August at the Farm & Land Expo in Montgomery and will receive their prize — a zero-turn mower from Corteva Agriscience and a computer package from Valcom/CCS Wireless — during the Federation’s centennial celebration in December. They’ll represent Alabama in American Farm Bureau Federation’s Excellence in Agriculture contest this January in Atlanta.