By Marlee Moore
The Alabama Farmers Federation honored two Auburn University (AU) and Alabama Cooperative Extension System professionals Aug. 4, underscoring the organization’s commitment to investing in practical research and outreach benefiting the state’s farmers.
Dr. Geoff Williams earned the Rittenour Award for Production Agriculture & Forestry Research, while Dr. Adam Maggard received the Duncan Award for Excellence in Production Agriculture & Forestry Extension.
Federation President Jimmy Parnell thanked Williams and Maggard for their work serving beekeepers and timberland owners, respectively.
“Dr. Williams and Dr. Maggard are dedicated to helping our state’s farmers through research and education,” said Parnell, a Chilton County farmer. “They understand the importance of listening to stakeholders and have worked closely with Farmers Federation state committees to solve problems that impact people across Alabama. It is our pleasure to reward them for this work.”
Williams, who leads the AU Bee Lab, scored $10,000 for program support; Maggard, a forest-focused Extension educator, received $5,000, courtesy of the Alabama Farmers Agriculture Foundation.
Williams began revitalizing the Bee Lab in 2016, when he and wife Dr. Stephanie Rogers (a geoscience professor) joined Auburn’s faculty. The move placed them closer to their native Canada after five years in Switzerland, where Williams researched honeybees at the University of Bern.
Williams’s work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit have bolstered beekeeping on and off campus. AU-BEES honey sales fund lab research and increase name I.D. for the growing program. The lab works with beekeepers across the nation to coordinate and analyze data from the Bee Informed Partnership’s colony loss survey.
Additionally, Williams works with the Federation’s State Bee & Honey Committee to target research for Alabama beekeepers, such as ways to combat the pesky varroa mite.
He earned a bachelor’s in animal biology from the University of Alberta before an interest in parasitology helped him discover the sweet world of honeybees. He also holds a doctorate in biology from Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia.
“One of the main reasons I enjoy my job is that I work with and for beekeepers,” said Williams, an assistant professor in AU’s Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology. “To be recognized for that practical work and for helping to create better beekeeping in Alabama, that’s amazing.”
Maggard is an Extension specialist and assistant professor of forestry and wildlife sciences. The native Floridian received his bachelor’s in forestry and master’s degree in business from the University of Florida. He then ventured to Oklahoma State University, where he earned a master’s in forestry and doctorate focused on loblolly pine productivity.
Maggard and wife Kristi moved to Alabama in January 2017. Auburn’s strong roots in forestry Extension drove the move south, as did Alabama’s place in the heart of the Wood Basket. The state is home to more than 23 million acres of timberland.
Maggard builds Extension programming based on the requests of Alabama landowners. This ranges from carbon market deep-dives to forest management to analyzing timber prices. Earlier this year, Maggard helped organize the first cross-laminated timber (CLT) conference in the South. CLT is a burgeoning business that could positively impact Southern tree growers. Maggard also engages the next generation of natural resources leaders through Auburn’s Forest, Environment and Wildlife Leadership (FEWL) Academy.
“To say I am honored would be an understatement,” Maggard said. “This award recognizes excellence in Extension outreach, and that is exactly what I strive to do.”
The Alabama Farmers Federation was founded in 1921 and is the state’s largest farm organization with over 340,000 members. It established the Rittenour Award for Production Agriculture & Forestry Research and the Duncan Award for Excellence in Production Agriculture & Forestry Extension in 2019 to honor Auburn University and Alabama Extension professionals for work solving practical problems.
The Rittenour Award is named for the Federation’s first president, Charles Rittenour, while the Duncan Award honors L.M. Duncan, the first Alabama Extension director and a pivotal leader in forming the Federation.