Three Outstanding Young Farm Families (OYFF) were chosen as finalists in a statewide contest open to farmers 18-35 years old who stand out as agricultural leaders on their farms and in their communities.
Finalists are featured in this edition of Neighbors. Judges will tour their farms this summer and select the overall winner. Each family will be honored at the Alabama Farmers Federation’s 44th annual Commodity Producers Conference July 30, when the winner will be announced.
The OYFF will receive a prize package worth more than $60,000, including a new General Motors pickup truck from Alfa Insurance, an 825i John Deere Gator from Alabama Ag Credit and Alabama Farm Credit and use of a John Deere tractor by local John Deere dealers and John Deere.
The first and second runners-up each will receive $500 courtesy of Alabama Ag Credit and Alabama Farm Credit. All three finalists will receive Big Green Egg cookers from the Federation.
The winning family will represent Alabama in the American Farm Bureau Federation Young Farmers and Ranchers Achievement Award contest in January in Phoenix, Arizona.
The Bevel Family, Marshall County
John and Hannah Bevel of Marshall County decided to leap into farming in 2008. They started with a herd of cattle and began row cropping in 2013.
“Both my grandfathers farmed, and my dad did too, but he quit in the mid-‘80s,” John said. “We started our farm from scratch.”
Previously, John used his poultry science degree from Auburn University as a supervisor and superintendent for an integrated poultry company.
“When we started dating, John told me he wanted to farm full time,” said Hannah, an Athens State University graduate and account supervisor for Albertville schools. “I wasn’t raised on a farm and was shocked by the long hours he works. But I knew from the start farming is all he wanted to do. I’m very proud of him.”
This year, John plans to raise corn, soybeans and wheat. He does custom planting and harvesting for another farmer. The Bevels also have 53 beef cows and 100 acres of pasture.
John said Marshall County is a great place to start a farm.
“We have plenty of places to sell our crops, and all the poultry plants buy corn,” he said. “I love to see things grow — whether it’s calves or crops. In farming, you always feel like you’ve accomplished something at the end of the day.”
The Bevels married in 2007 and have a three-year-old daughter, Madalyn. They were the Alabama Farmers Federation Wheat & Feed Grains Division winner for the Outstanding Young Farm Family contest and are competition finalists.
John is Marshall County Young Farmers chairman, serves as a Marshall County Farmers Federation board member and is vice president of his county Cattlemen’s Association. Hannah volunteers on the stewardship committee and in the nursery for their church, Mt. Vernon Baptist in Albertville.
The McGill Family Madison County
If enthusiasm and hard work equal success, Stewart and Kasey McGill of Madison County will achieve it.
Earlier this year, the couple was recognized for accomplishments on their farm and in their community by winning the Horticulture Division of the Alabama Farmers Federation Outstanding Young Farm Family contest. They are among three farm families selected as competition finalists.
“We love farming, and we love sharing information about what we do,” said Stewart, 34. “Today, so many people are curious about where their food comes from. We like showing them what we do.”
In addition to growing cotton, corn, soybeans, wheat and pumpkins on their 600-acre farm, the McGills have major roles in the family’s agritourism business. Tate Farms Cotton Pickin’ Pumpkins was started by Kasey’s family, and welcomes 50-60,000 guests annually. Stewart manages most of the operation.
Stewart is on the Federation’s State Wheat & Feed Grains Committee and is county Young Farmers vice chairman. He previously won the state Young Farmers Discussion Meet and finished in the top 16 nationally.
Kasey, 30, grew up on a farm, as did Stewart, whose family lived a few miles away. When Stewart finished his time at Auburn University, he began working at Tate Farms. They met when Kasey graduated from the University of Alabama in Huntsville and returned home to work at her dad’s crop insurance business. They married in 2010.
Stewart, a self-proclaimed workaholic, said he and Kasey are pleased they have built their own farm, but appreciate they have experienced family members willing to share their knowledge.
“We want to be a voice for our industry,” Stewart said. “Through the pumpkin patch and in other areas of our life, we get to share the real story of farming.”
The couple have two daughters, Allie, 4, and Reece 2. They were expecting their third daughter, Peyton, in May.
The Miller Family Blount County
From the back porch of their Blount County farmhouse, Lance and Stephanie Miller can see the cotton field where he proposed in September 2005. This October, they will celebrate 10 years of marriage and farming.
“I had no plans of being a farmer,” said Stephanie, who met Lance at Jacksonville State University. “The one thing we got from college was each other.”
With a public relations background, Stephanie switched gears from a potential NASCAR marketing career to life on the farm.
“I knew the farm wasn’t moving anywhere near a racetrack, so I started a blog and Facebook page for the farm,” she said.
After college, Lance said his family urged him to consider jobs besides farming, but he couldn’t resist.
“They knew how hard farming was,” he said. “I worked elsewhere for a little while, but it didn’t suit me. So I came back to the farm and worked with my Uncle Jimmy.”
In addition to their four poultry houses, the Millers grow peanuts, cotton and soybeans.
The couple are active Alabama Farmers Federation members where Lance is State Young Farmers Committee chairman and Blount County Farmers Federation treasurer. Stephanie is Blount County Young Farmers secretary and chairs the county Women’s Leadership Committee and Farm-City committees.
The Millers were the Federation Cotton Division winner in the Outstanding Young Farm Family contest and are among three finalists.
Lance said his greatest accomplishment is continuing the family tradition on their Century and Heritage Farm.
“Actually being able to farm in this day and age is the achievement I’m proudest of,” Lance said.
The Millers have two children, Reed, 4, and Jade, 10 months. They are members of Grace Baptist Church in Snead.