By Debra Davis
Houston and Pike counties are top in the state when it comes to Alabama Farm-City programs, and each group’s members were recognized at the organization’s awards program in Birmingham April 8.
County programs are ranked in two divisions. Division 1 has more than 35,600 people and was won by Houston County; Division 2 has fewer residents, and Pike County took top honors. In addition to an award and recognition for their hard work, winning committees also received cash awards from Alabama Farm Credit. Division winners received $300, runners-up took home $200, and category winners received $100.
“When Alabama Farm Credit approached us about being a Farm-City sponsor, we wanted their investment to enhance the program’s mission to build bridges between farmers and their neighbors,” said Alabama Farm-City Committee Chairman Jeff Helms. “By investing in these county programs, Alabama Farm Credit is helping to strengthen activities at the local level where it’s more difficult to find cash, rather than in-kind, support. We appreciate Alabama Farm Credit CEO and President Mel Koller for advancing Farm-City’s work in our communities.”
In addition to being named Division 1 winner, Houston County was recognized for the Best Media Coverage / Proclamation and Best Civic Club Programs. Utilizing the pandemic to highlight its Farm-City mission, the committee used digital billboards to feature photos of front-line workers on a farm. The signage included a Sweet Grown Alabama theme and Farm-City Week dates. The committee generated numerous media stories featuring Farm-City activities and created its own newsletter. Other activities included proclamations and community activities.
Cullman County was runner-up in Division 1 and was recognized for the Best Farm-City Dinner.
Division 2 state winner Pike County also was recognized for the Best Special Activities Program. The creative committee recognized senior county committee members; coordinated a job swap; honored local health care workers; coordinated a touch-a-tractor educational event; gave local tours; donated agricultural books to local libraries; and distributed educational materials to over 2,000 students. The group also established a memorial fund to honor long-time Pike County Farm-City Committee member Tammy Powell.
Powell also was honored posthumously with the Farm-City Service Award from the state organization for her work as a 4-H and Extension agent, as well as for the impact she made on countless young people and adults throughout the state. She was a tireless volunteer for the county Farm-City program.
Henry County was runner-up in Division 2 and also won the Best Civic Club Activities Award and Target Award for adoption of the 2020 Farm-City theme of Sweet Grown Alabama.
Allen Pickens of Lawrence County was recognized as Farm-City Volunteer of the Year. When the pandemic shut down group gatherings and threatened to ruin Farm-City activities, he stepped up to ensure the message of agriculture was still heard. He spearheaded a series of videos highlighting commodities raised in Lawrence County. Educational materials included viewer evaluations to gauge how much they learned. Pickens has been a valuable volunteer leader for years, working with special activities including a hayride and pizza farm program.
In addition to recognizing the state’s best Farm-City programs and winning students in poster, essay and video contests, Alabama’s Farm of Distinction winner was honored at the luncheon. Thomas and Melissa Ellis of Triple E Farm and Priester’s Pecans in Lowndes County were selected for the 2020 honor and will represent Alabama in the Southeastern Farmer of the Year contest at the Sunbelt Ag Expo Oct. 19-21 in Moultrie, Georgia. They will compete with top farmers from nine other states.
As the state winner, the Ellises received a John Deere Gator from Ag Pro, SunSouth and TriGreen dealers; a $1,000 gift certificate from Alabama Farmers Cooperative (AFC); and an engraved farm sign from Alabama Farmers Federation and Alfa Insurance. They also received $2,500 from Swisher Sweets and other prizes as part of the Southeastern Farmer of the Year program.
Andy and Karen Williams of Circle W Farms in Henry County were recognized as the 2020 Farm of Distinction runner-up. They received a $500 gift certificate from AFC and a Traeger grill and supplies valued at $1,000 from First South Farm Credit.