By Marlee Moore
Successful land stewardship, strong community involvement and smart business practices scored Jon and Amy Hegeman the 2023 National Outstanding Young Farmers (NOYF) Award.
The Calhoun County farmers received the honor during the Outstanding Farmers of America (OFA) Awards Congress Feb. 18 in Appleton, Wisconsin.
“Being able to represent to our state, especially after another farm family in Alabama won a similar award in the same time period, is a great honor for Calhoun County,” said Jon, referencing fellow county farmers Daniel and Carla Trantham, who won the American Farm Bureau Federation Achievement Award in January.
As one of four national winners, the Hegemans, who operate a commercial greenhouse and raise cattle and horses in White Plains near Anniston, were presented a cash prize from John Deere. They will also represent OFA in Washington, D.C., during National Ag Week in 2024.
Coordinated by the National Association of County Agriculture Agents, OFA is comprised of past nominees of its national awards program. The 1,500-member group helps farmers network and exchange ideas to improve and promote agriculture.
The Hegemans made the NOYF Top 10 after an intense application process gauging their farm growth, conservation practices and community involvement. Applicants must be between 21 and 40 years old and derive 2/3 of their income from production agriculture.
They were nominated for the award by Alabama Extension Agent Henry Dorough. Applicants can be nominated by Extension personnel or former Congress attendees.
“Growing up in the Dominican Republic, moving to the U.S., getting into commercial ag and overcoming roadblocks, it’s quite surreal,” Jon said. “And it was totally unexpected.”
In addition to growing millions of container plants for big box stores annually, the Hegemans have invested time, talents and resources into the Alabama Farmers Federation. Jon is the organization’s Central Area vice president and is a former Young Farmers chair at the state and national levels.
He and Amy won the Federation’s Outstanding Young Farm Family contest in 2012 and have both chaired state commodity committees — Greenhouse, Nursery & Sod and Equine, respectively. Jon is also a graduate of Agricultural Leaders For Alabama, the Federation’s premier leadership program.
“It was good to meet other people across the nation. It’s amazing how many Farm Bureau relationships roll over to the OFA,” Jon said. “We look forward to getting a lot more people from Alabama involved in the Congress.”
The Hegemans have two children, Ella Kate and Jon Henry, and attend Grace Fellowship Church in Anniston.