By Jeff Helms
When Sweet Grown Alabama is spotlighted at the Sunbelt Ag Expo later this month, there could be no better embodiment of the theme than Haynes Farms of Cullman County.
The seven-generation beef cattle and grain operation spans three Alabama Century Farms with combined agricultural heritage of 377 years. On Oct. 17, Darrel Haynes — part of the fifth generation — will compete with peak producers from nine neighboring states for the title of Southeastern Farmer of the Year.
Despite overcoming challenges to build a 4,000-acre business, Haynes rejects traditional scorecards of success. Rather, faith drives the soft-spoken Southern gentleman.
“A farmer has to be faithful in everything, down to the smallest chore, to practice good stewardship,” he said. “God gave me and my family a love for the land, for His creation, and a passion for watching crops and livestock grow. I’ve learned life is brief and precious, so I’m always looking for ways to do and make things better. Numbers and yields aren’t as important to me as being grateful for what I get to do each day.”
Haynes farms with wife Lydia and sons Ben and Bart. Ben and wife Whitney’s six children are the latest generation caring for the land.
The family earned the chance to represent Alabama at Sunbelt when their operation was named the Alabama Farm-City Committee’s Farm of Distinction. The honor came with an engraved farm sign from Alabama Farmers Federation and Alfa Insurance; a John Deere Gator from TriGreen and SunSouth dealers; and $1,000 each from Alabama Farmers Cooperative and First South Farm Credit.
As a state winner, the Hayneses will receive $2,500 from Sunbelt sponsors at the event in Moultrie, Georgia. The overall winner will receive $15,000, in addition to other prizes.
Federation Area 2 Organization Director Tyler Monday nominated Haynes for the Southeastern Farmer of the Year contest.
“The Haynes family has great enthusiasm for being stewards of the land and takes pride in continuing their long-term farming legacy,” Monday said. “Darrel and Lydia are always eager to share their knowledge and experiences with the many groups of people who have visited the farm over the past 50 years. What makes Darrel and his family’s operation stand out is their attention to detail and commitment to doing all the little things right — from diligent maintenance of their farming equipment and cleanliness of their facilities to production of high-quality crops and livestock year after year. Behind all that achievement is a passion and love for farming that’s evident in everything they do.”