By Marlee Moore
The Alabama Farmers Federation recognized two Alabama Cooperative Extension System and Auburn University professionals for work tangibly affecting farmers. Awards were presented Aug. 5 during the Federation’s Farm & Land Expo in Montgomery.
Dr. Jeremy Pickens received the Rittenour Award for Excellence in Production Agriculture and Forestry Research, while Kent Stanford scored the Duncan Award for Excellence in Production Agriculture and Forestry Extension.
Jon Hegeman of Calhoun County nominated Pickens, an assistant Extension professor, for the award on behalf of the Federation’s State Greenhouse, Nursery & Sod Committee.
“Dr. Pickens has consistently been one of the most visible and impactful Extension researchers I have ever met,” said Hegeman, the Federation’s Central Area vice president. “He asks what we need and works tirelessly to share his results to help improve the industry.”
Pickens uses applied research methods and conducts trials to answer farmers’ questions and concerns about pest control, plant nutrition and other issues. Most research is conducted at the Ornamental Horticulture Research Center in Mobile. He also works with specialty crops, including greenhouse vegetables and Christmas trees.
Pickens, 38, is an Auburn University graduate with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in horticulture. His doctorate focused on aquaculture. He lives in Spanish Fort with his wife, Brittany.
“I am truly honored to receive this award,” Pickens said. “It validates everything I do. It is a great feeling to know my stakeholders think this highly of me and that the work I do has a positive impact on their farms.”
Stanford is an associate Extension professor and statewide Extension specialist who focuses on nutrient management (related to agronomic crops, animal sciences, forages and poultry). He is based out of the Sand Mountain Research and Extension Center in Crossville.
The ’94 AU animal sciences graduate works behind the scenes to troubleshoot compliance issues for growers. Producer education works toward Stanford’s real goal: Helping farmers follow rules and telling their positive stories.
That includes encouraging quality record-keeping and complying with programs such as the Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) Rule. It’s a program he’s worked closely with since the late ‘90s and continues to influence.
Stanford, who co-facilitates the Inter Agency Waste Team, also worked with Dr. Rishi Prasad to write a new publication on the complicated topic of biosolids.
The farmer who nominated Stanford called him “a true joy to work with each time I needed his help.”
Stanford lives near Ashville with Amy, his wife of 25 years, and their children, Ross, 21, and Callie, 19.
“It’s humbling to be recognized for your efforts,” said Stanford, 50. “You don’t do this for recognition. Extension people have a heart for service.”
The Alabama Farmers Agriculture Foundation provides $10,000 and $5,000 in program support, respectively, to Pickens and Stanford.
The Duncan Award is named after L.M. Duncan, the first director of Alabama Extension. The Rittenour Award honors Charles Rittenour, the first president of the Alabama Farmers Federation.
The Alabama Farmers Federation is celebrating its centennial in 2021. It is the state’s largest farm organization with 340,000 members across all 67 counties.