By Marlee Moore
After more than 37 years traveling the northeast corner of Alabama serving farmers, Kyle Hayes is shifting gears. The Alabama Farmers Federation Area 3 Organization director retired Dec. 1.
It’s a bittersweet move for Hayes, a Cherokee County native who traces his Federation roots to the late ‘60s, when his parents moved home to the family farm near Centre. His grandfather was the local Farmers Federation president, his father was an Alfa Insurance agent, and Hayes joined Alfa as a claims adjuster in 1984 after graduating from Auburn University in agricultural business and economics.
In 2004, he transferred to a job he always thought he’d enjoy — serving as a liaison between the Federation home office and local farmers. That area now includes Blount, Calhoun, Cherokee DeKalb, Etowah, Jackson and Marshall counties.
“It never really seemed like work to me,” said Hayes, 60. “The farmers knew I loved them and wanted to take care of them. I could not have asked for a better place to work or better people to work with. They’re like my extended family.”
Through the years, Hayes helped sculpt farmers into leaders. Former Area 3 Young Farmers have climbed the ladder to serve as leaders on county boards, state committees and the Federation state board. Others include an American Farm Bureau Federation Young Farmers & Ranchers Committee chair, Alabama senators and representatives, and an Alabama lieutenant governor.
Hayes’ record sheet includes winners in the Alabama Farm of Distinction, Outstanding Young Farm Family, Excellence in Agriculture and Discussion Meet contests.
“I loved going out, getting people involved and seeing how they would be the most impactful,” he said. “It’s been amazing to see them grow into leaders.”
He also helped found Agricultural Leaders For Alabama (A.L.F.A. Leaders), the organization’s premier leadership training program.
Federation President Jimmy Parnell thanked Hayes for his service to the state’s farmers and complimented his knack for identifying leaders.
“Kyle is a thinker,” Parnell said. “It’s always good to have someone on your team who is thinking everything through. We appreciate all Kyle has done in his years of service to Alfa and the Federation.”
Hayes said he’ll miss the fellowship with colleagues and friends but plans to trade out traveling to board meetings and farms with a different sort of travel — soaking up sights with Luanne, his wife of 35 years. The Hayes family includes two daughters, Taylor Hayes and Kelsey Bickett, and one son-in-law, Will Bickett.
He’ll also invest more time at First Baptist Church in Centre, where he is deacon chair. Hayes also plans to spend time hunting and fishing.
“There is a season for everything, so I’m going to look forward to the next season,” he said.