Faith and family are the foundation on which Mark and Sandy Byrd built the business recognized April 7 as Alabama’s 2022 Farm of Distinction.
“I don’t know how anybody could farm without having God on their side, without trusting Him,” said Mark, who accepted the award during the Alabama Farm-City Awards Program and Luncheon in Birmingham. “We’ve overcome so much. When you go through challenges, you have to stay focused and trust the Lord to see you through those times.”
For Byrd Family Farms in Danville, tough times have included storms, droughts and a tragic fire that destroyed one of their chicken houses. Despite those challenges, the Byrds have grown from 100 acres and four poultry houses in 1993 to a diversified farm with fields spanning 40 miles in two counties.
“We’ve totally upgraded all the older chicken houses. We’ve added shops and storage barns for our equipment, in addition to more chicken houses,” Mark said. “We went from about 40 acres of corn, soybeans and wheat the first year to nearly 2,000 acres now. We’ve got a grain handling system where we can store right at 100,000 bushels of grain, which really helps during harvest.”
As Farm of Distinction winners, the Byrds received a John Deere Gator from SunSouth and TriGreen dealers; a $1,000 gift certificate from Alabama Farmers Cooperative (AFC); and a farm sign from Alfa Insurance. They also will receive $2,500 as Alabama’s representative in the Swisher/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year contest Oct. 18-20 in Moultrie, Georgia.
The Byrds farm with their sons, Perry and Rodney. Both are mechanically minded and have contributed to the farm’s success by refurbishing old equipment, making repairs and manufacturing solutions for daily tasks.
Over the years, the Byrds’ operation has included a wheat straw business, custom hay baling and a trucking company. Their five-year plan includes building a store along busy Alabama Highway 157 where they can sell farm products and Alabama-grown goods.
Mark said he’s driven by the same determination that led him to buy a used tractor and hay baler at age 14 and plant his first 15-acre crop at 18.
“I don’t like somebody to tell me, ‘no,’” he said. “When I want to achieve something, I’m going to do my very best to achieve it. I haven’t always been successful. Life’s a struggle sometimes. But I don’t see that as a failure. Once you give it all you’ve got, then that’s a success.”
Known throughout the Southeast as bass singer for the Living Faith gospel quartet, Mark also serves as Morgan County Farmers Federation president and represents District 2 on the Alabama Farmers Federation state board. The Byrds attend Temple Baptist Church.
Stanley Walters of Perry County was runner-up in the Farm of Distinction contest. He received a Traeger grill and supplies valued at $1,000 from First South Farm Credit and a $500 gift certificate from AFC.