There aren’t many times L.O. Bishop is speechless, but after learning he would receive the Alabama Farmers Federation’s Service to Agriculture Award, he was at a loss for words.
“I don’t usually get emotional,” said a teary-eyed Bishop, president of the Colbert County Farmers Federation. “I am honored beyond words.”
Bishop’s dedication and service to the state’s largest farm organization earned him the highest honor presented by the Federation. He will receive the Service to Agriculture Award at the Federation’s 92nd annual meeting Dec. 5-6 in Montgomery.
Part storyteller, part philosopher and part historian, Bishop can chat for hours about growing up on his farm near Cherokee, the Coon Dog Cemetery, the Limber Twig Hunting Club or the 935 Coffee Club. His tales also are likely to include his life-long love for the Alabama Farmers Federation.
“There are really two L.O. Bishops,” said Federation President Jimmy Parnell. “There’s the one you first meet, who is always laughing, joking and entertaining. And then there’s the other who is a serious, sharp businessman, who is always thinking, always busy. His mind is amazing, it never stops. And a lot of the time, he’s thinking about other people and this organization.”
Bishop, 78, and his wife Grace have been married for 59 years. They were named Alabama’s Outstanding Young Farm Family in 1966. They have three children, six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Bishop’s 500-acre farm adjoins the scenic Natchez Trace and includes timber and 250 acres of row crops where they rotate wheat, soybeans and corn. Once a large pork producer, Bishop still raises a few hogs, but it’s his mouth-watering Bishop’s Barbecue that gained him notoriety outside ag circles.
“I guess my involvement in most everything I do has to do with loving people,” Bishop said. “The most important thing in all our lives should be the other person, not us. If you see happy people, they won’t be sitting around thinking about their selves. There’s nothing that gives more satisfaction than helping someone else.”
Much of Bishop’s life has been about serving others. He was first tapped for the Colbert County Federation Board in 1958. He was elected county president in 1967 — a position he’s held continuously since then, making him one of the longest-serving county presidents affiliated with the American Farm Bureau Federation.
For 28 years Bishop was on the Federation’s State Board of Directors, 14 as vice president and 14 as a district director.
“This organization has been such a big part of my life it’s hard to imagine how different things would be if not for the Federation,” Bishop said. “I’ve traveled all over the world with leaders of this organization. There are just no better people anywhere than farmers right here in Alabama. I have at least one good friend in every county of our state, and that’s from meeting them through the Federation.”
The late Goodwin L. Myrick, former president of Alfa and the Alabama Farmers Federation, is credited with describing Bishop in a way that pleases him.
“If you see L.O., he’s either going to or coming from a good time,” Bishop quotes Myrick as saying.
“I’ve had a great life, all my life,” Bishop added. “I’ve had a lot of fun, and I still like to have fun. What more could anyone want?”