Alabama Farmers Federation and Alfa Insurance helped secure a bright future for agriculture and forestry as 70 Auburn University students received scholarships from the Alabama Farmers Agriculture Foundation (AFAF) during a luncheon Aug. 23.
Alfa and Federation President Jimmy Parnell congratulated the students for their academic achievements and challenged them to use their leadership skills to benefit the industry and their communities.
“This is an exciting day,” Parnell said. “I look at this as an investment in the future of Alabama, the Alabama Farmers Federation and Alabama agriculture. These students will be key players for the next generation.”
Among those recognized were 52 students who received $1,750 scholarships through a new program, whereby the Foundation provides $1,250 in matching funds for every county Federation that contributes $500 toward a scholarship.
Pike County junior Katelyn Johnson transferred to Auburn from Troy University this fall and is one of the first recipients of the new scholarship.
“I’ve grown up around agriculture and really love it, so I wanted to stay involved,” said Johnson, who is majoring in agricultural communications. “I’m so grateful for the scholarship. It’s going to help me get where I’m supposed to be. I really just want to be an advocate for agriculture.”
Pike County Farmers Federation President Steve Stroud attended the recognition luncheon, where Johnson and other recipients received certificates and Alfa Farmers backpacks.
“With agriculture the way it is today, and with the world population increasing daily, we need more kids involved in agriculture,” Stroud said. “These scholarships are just one of the avenues to attract those students.”
Federation Southeast Vice President George Jeffcoat of Houston County chairs the organization’s scholarship committee. He said the goal is to have at least one scholarship recipient from each of Alabama’s 67 counties.
“I’m excited to see this many young people planning on going into the agriculture field,” Jeffcoat said. “This program is a way we can help them continue their education.”
Although the AFAF matching contribution applies to one student per county, some county Federations awarded multiple scholarships. Other counties gave scholarships directly to students or through the College of Agriculture. Those students were recognized at other events, but all tolled, about 100 students will attend an Alabama college or technical school this fall as a scholarship recipient from AFAF or a county Farmers Federation.
Rising tuition makes that investment more important than ever, said Tuscaloosa County Farmers Federation President Joe Anders.
“Anytime we can promote agriculture and get our youth involved in agriculture, it is worth investing in,” Anders said. “He who controls the food, controls the world, and we need to keep encouraging young people to get involved in farming. They may have a dream to be involved in agriculture and can’t afford it. But if they can get this scholarship, maybe they’ll be able to achieve their dreams.”
Pickens County senior Judson Smith is living his dream thanks, in part, to an AFAF scholarship. He will graduate in May with a degree in animal sciences-muscle foods production.
“My short-term plans are to work in a food facility, particularly a beef facility, doing food safety and quality assurance,” Smith said. “My long-range plans would be to come back to Alabama and start a vertically integrated beef operation to provide jobs, economic stability and a sense of pride for this area.”
Smith said the scholarship gave him financial security to pursue internships and leadership development opportunities while in college.
“I believe it’s important as we look to the future and a growing population that we have a means to feed that population, and we have a means to feed it domestically,” Smith said.
In addition to 60 county scholarship recipients honored at the luncheon, 10 students were recognized for continuing their AFAF scholarships under the previous statewide program.
Click here to download a full list of scholarship winners.