More than 800 Alabama Farmers Federation members attended the 42nd Commodity Producers Conference in Huntsville Aug. 7-10 for educational tours, seminars and Young Farmers Division contests.
From a goat dairy and equine hospital to a peach orchard and tree farm, the tours in north Alabama and southern Tennessee highlighted the second day of the conference. The squash processing facility and agritourism attraction at Lyon Family Farm based in Taft, Tennessee, was a highlight of the horticulture tour.
“It was nice to hear the story of someone else who has gone through the USDA certification process, because it can be challenging for us all,” said Destiny Allman, a fifth-generation tomato farmer from Blount County.
Dallas County Farmers Federation President and cattleman Jimmy Holliman toured beef, goat, horse and hay farms in Limestone, Morgan and Lawrence counties.
“I think all the stops have been excellent,” Holliman said. “Every farm we went to is using new technology. I like to see new ideas from other farmers. I try to take home little tidbits that may help me at our place, Circle H, do a better job with our cattle.”
Farmers learned more about the implementation of the new farm bill and the bright future of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System during general sessions Aug. 9. Other seminars covered livestock management, rural crime and environmental stewardship.
Young Farmers spent the final conference day competing in the Discussion Meet and Excellence in Ag contests.
Excellence in Agriculture contestants are involved in agriculture but earn no more than half their salary from production agriculture. In the Discussion Meet, contestants simulate a committee meeting and discuss pre-selected topics.
“We’re proud to showcase the skills of our young farmers” Federation Young Farmers Director Jennifer Himburg said. “This is the future of agriculture, and through these programs they develop communication skills they’ll use for the rest of their lives.”
Grace Smith Ellis of Autauga County won first in Excellence in Ag, with Zac Marsh of Blount County and Leah McElmoyl of DeKalb County taking home first and second runner-up awards, respectively.
Four finalists for the Discussion Meet were selected and will compete in the final round of the state contest at the Federation’s annual meeting in December. They are Joshua Williams, Marshall County; Kirk Smith, Blount County; Brady Peek, Limestone County; and Adam Wilson, Calhoun County. The seven winners each received a Yeti cooler
Ellis will be recognized at the December annual meeting in Montgomery, where she will receive a zero-turn John Deere mower from Dow AgroSciences and a computer package from Valcom/Css Wireless. The overall Discussion Meet winner will receive a 4-wheeler from First South Farm Credit.
After the Young Farmers winner announcements, the conference concluded with a special guest performance by gospel musician Guy Penrod, former lead singer of the Gaither Vocal Band.
The Women’s Leadership Committee also hosted contests during the conference. Graduating members of the ALFA Leaders class will be featured in October Neighbors.