By Marlee Moore
Lydia Haynes emanates energy, whether hopping in a tractor, loving on her five grandchildren or visiting with friends at an Alabama Farmers Federation meeting.
The Cullman County farmer, 67, brings her trademark enthusiasm to the Federation’s 2022 State Women’s Leadership Committee (WLC). Haynes, who was elected chairman by fellow female farmers at the annual meeting in December, also holds a one-year, ex-officio role on the Federation’s state board.
“I want to re-energize, reinvigorate and encourage the county committees,” said Haynes, whose family raises row crops and cattle in Fairview. “We have to overcome the challenges of the last two years. To do this, we need to get more young farmers and farm wives involved or re-engaged.
“My daughter-in-law, Whitney, is the mother of five and is a family and consumer sciences teacher at Fairview High School. She is very involved on the farm and has begun a gate-to-plate direct-marketing business of our Haynes Farms all-natural beef. She stays engaged with our committee via virtual means, such as Zoom.”
WLC involvement can impact a farm’s bottom line, Haynes said. County committees provide space to network, share ideas and benefit from others’ experiences. Involvement also creates community for women balancing the demands of farm life and raising families in rural areas.
According to the 2017 Census of Agriculture, 36% of U.S. farmers are women, while 56% of all farms have at least one female decision-maker.
Haynes was raised on a cotton farm in east Cullman County. She met Darrel, her husband of 45 years, at Auburn University and juggled farm life, motherhood and her work as a physical therapist until retiring in 2020.
Today, she shares responsibility for raking, baling and wrapping hay and hay silage for 600 brood cows and feeder calves; hauling and unloading grain; spraying; bush hogging; mowing; and cooking and taking meals to the field.
Haynes’ Federation roots span a century. Her grandmother, Lydia Lovelady, was a Cullman County Farm Bureau charter director. Haynes and Darrel began their involvement in the Young Farmers Program 40 years ago and raised their children, Ben and Bart, around the organization. Ben is the Cullman County Farmers Federation president.
Haynes purposefully edged closer to retirement before running for the state WLC in 2017.
“I wanted to give the position the time it deserved,” said Haynes, who is in her second term serving Region 1, which includes Blount, Cherokee, Colbert, Cullman, DeKalb, Etowah, Franklin, Jackson, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Limestone, Madison, Marion, Marshall, Morgan and Winston counties.
Haynes plans to build on current programs, such as the Ag in the Classroom Summer Institute and the Women’s Leadership Conference. Some of her favorite local WLC activities support 4-H projects, calf shows, and family and consumer science cook-offs.
Federation Women’s Leadership Division Director Kim Earwood said she looks forward to Haynes’ lively leadership.
“Lydia is a hard worker and understands the challenges and opportunities we face as women in agriculture,” Earwood said. “She is excited to meet members where they’re at, make our committees successful and promote our industry. We are thankful for her leadership.”
Haynes bulked up her leadership skills during the American Farm Bureau Federation Women’s Communications Boot Camp in November. During the four-day conference in Washington, D.C., Haynes and 14 other female leaders honed skills related to public speaking, communicating with elected officials, social media strategy, targeted messaging and working with the media.
Haynes plans to implement those lessons when working alongside the eight state WLC members. She said it’s an honor to help her peers provide grassroots support for Federation efforts.
“I feel certain the Alabama Farmers Federation is second to none with all we offer our members year-round to serve, be involved, have influence and make a difference,” she said. “And I strongly feel that our State Women’s Leadership Committee is what most states strive for.”