From crawling under conference tables as a child to voting during annual meeting business sessions as a young farmer, Jerry Allen Newby Jr., has been rooted in the Alabama Farmers Federation since before he can remember.
As 2017 Young Farmers State Committee chairman, the seventh-generation Limestone County farmer takes on his most active Federation role yet as he seeks to cultivate future leaders, increase county participation and grow understanding of the Federation’s mission.
“I’ve always been around the Federation and understood its purpose,” said the 30-year-old, who will serve a one-year, ex-officio term on the state board of directors. “But when you start earning your living on the farm and realize how significant that job is to your family, you really understand how important the organization is to agriculture.”
Growing up, begging his mother, Dianne, to take him to the field after school was Newby’s daily ritual. Other childhood staples were playing in cotton wagons with his sisters and cousins, attending cow sales with his grandfather, James, and riding in the tractor with his dad, Jerry.
Because his father served as Federation president from 1998-2012, Newby experienced firsthand how Federation involvement produces a stronger agricultural future for Alabama.
“You need allies to protect against things like misinformation, bad policy and other concerns detrimental to farmers,” said Newby, who previously served as Limestone County Young Farmers secretary and chairman and District 1 state committee representative.
Newby said growing local Young Farmers committees is his priority and encourages counties to share ideas throughout the year, not just at the Young Farmers Conference.
“Some counties have awesome Young Farmers groups,” he said. “Whatever you’re doing, we want to know.”
His end goal? Participation from all 67 counties at the Young Farmers Conference and Young Farmers business session at the Federation annual meeting.
“Many of our counties are active but don’t attend our state conventions,” Newby said. “You don’t see the business side and magnitude of what we do until you attend the annual meeting.”
Newby said meeting participation will improve state committee involvement.
“I want people to be interested enough to serve,” Newby said. “If you look in the Federation boardroom, people that were active in Young Farmers typically hold Federation positions later down the road.”
Continuing to grow interest in Outstanding Young Farm Family, Excellence in Agriculture and Discussion Meet contests is another goal, as is seeking future agriculturalists by holding FFA chapter Discussion Meets.
“Young Farmers could be the next step for them to be involved in agriculture,” he said.
Despite his plans and past leadership roles, Newby said he couldn’t make it without Ashley, his wife of almost eight years. The Newbys dated throughout high school and tied the knot after Ashley graduated from the University of Alabama in Huntsville.
“Ashley is the one who keeps it all together,” Newby said. “She keeps me on task.”
The Newbys, who live in Athens, have two children, Madalyn, 6, and Jerry Allen Newby III, 4, nicknamed Newby.
Whether it’s sending meeting reminders, coordinating ag toy drives or organizing book donations from local beekeepers, Ashley works behind the scenes to ensure success for the Limestone County Young Farmers.
“I try to think of new ideas and get people involved at the county level,” said 29-year-old Ashley, who also volunteers at Madalyn’s school. “These are things farmers don’t always have time to do.”
Newby partners with his uncle, Jimmy Newby, cousins John and James Newby, and his sister Elizabeth Crow and her husband Justin in Newby Farms. The family’s large diversified farm is in Limestone and Madison counties and Giles County, Tennessee.
While the family splits the workload of growing row crops and raising Holstein steers, Newby is most passionate about farm strategy, like problem solving, planning and technology, along with irrigation, cattle and cotton.
“Our predominant crop was always cotton,” said Newby. “Today, our rotation consists of more grain, but my favorite crop has always been cotton. I like planting cotton, watching it grow, and I love to pick good cotton.”
In addition to farm and Federation duties, the Newbys teach Sunday school at Sardis Springs Baptist Church and are members of the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association.
“Your word is everything. That’s what we strive to remember,” Newby said. “We want to be good stewards and community members.”