By Marlee Moore
MONTGOMERY, Ala., Aug. 4 — Some of Alabama’s best and brightest young farmers were honored Aug. 4, despite restrictions which forced competitive events to be held via livestream.
“Farming didn’t stop for coronavirus, so we wanted to make sure the Young Farmers Division had an opportunity to continue developing future leaders and recognizing outstanding members,” said Alabama Farmers Federation Organization Department Director Mike Tidwell. “When the Alabama Farm & Land Expo was cancelled, we switched to a virtual format for the Discussion Meet and Excellence in Agriculture contests.”
Judges were able to visit farms of three Outstanding Young Farm Family (OYFF) finalists this spring. The other events were hosted on the Federation’s website July 31-Aug. 1, and the awards program aired on Facebook the following Tuesday night.
Ben and Bethany Johnson of Randolph County were named the overall OYFF, which comes with a prize package valued at over $60,000. The couple farms poultry, beef cattle and row crops and has two children, Blakely and Brooks.
As OYFF, the Johnsons will receive $35,000 toward a Ford truck courtesy of Alfa Insurance; a John Deere 825i Gator from Alabama Ag Credit and Alabama Farm Credit; and a lease on a John Deere tractor sponsored by AgPro, SunSouth and TriGreen dealers.
OYFF runners-up were Joe and Ashley McCraney of Barbour County and Josh and Savannah McCoy of Dale County. Each family received $500 from Alabama Ag Credit and Alabama Farm Credit. OYFF competitors must earn more than half their income from production agriculture.
Emmanuel Bankston of Henry County took home first place in the Excellence in Agriculture contest. He will receive a zero-turn mower from Corteva Agriscience and a computer package from Valcom/CCS Wireless. Participants in the event are involved in agriculture but derive the majority of their income off the farm. Bankston is operations superintendent for Golden Peanuts in Headland. Six young farmers competed for the top prize this year.
Excellence in Agriculture first runner-up was Kayla Greer of Montgomery County, while Chase Hammock of Talladega County was second runner-up.
Four Discussion Meet finalists also were named from 10 contestants. There are Ali Cantrell of Montgomery County, Garrett Dixon of Lee County and Jerry Allen Newby and Brady Peek of Limestone County.
They will explore solutions to pressing agricultural issues during the final round of Discussion Meet at the Federation’s annual meeting in December. The winner will receive a four-wheeler from First South Farm Credit.
All Young Farmers contest finalists received gift certificates for Redland Cotton products courtesy of the Federation and Alfa. The Johnsons, Bankston and the Discussion Meet winner will compete nationally during the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual convention set for January.