A Marshall County grain, soybean and beef cattle business was named Alabama’s 2015 Farm of Distinction at the Alabama Farm-City Awards April 2 in Birmingham.
Rickey Cornutt of Cornutt Farms near Boaz has been farming most of his life, but he said he’s never enjoyed it more than the last few years.
“I’ve always wanted to farm. I graduated high school, went to college for one year and decided I wanted to come back on the farm,” Cornutt said. “We went through a lot of lean years in the ‘80s and ‘90s. It’s been good the last five or six years.”
Cornutt and wife Connie were selected for the award from a field of four finalists across the state. As this year’s winner, Cornutt Farms received more than $12,000 in cash and prizes and will represent Alabama in the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year contest at the Sunbelt Ag Expo Oct. 20-22.
Cornutt, who farms in partnership with his brother, Chris, began with just 25 acres. Today, Cornutt Farms covers more than 2,000 acres and includes 1,200 acres of corn, soybeans and wheat, 250-beef cows and 150 acres of hay. Unlike farms in the Tennessee Valley, the Cornutts’ fields aren’t hundreds of acres in size. In fact, just moving equipment and keeping up with leases can be a big job.
“Out of that 1,200 acres, we have about 42 different landlords,” Cornutt said. “Probably, the average size of a farm would be 20-25 acres. There’s a lot of moving down the road. It’s been a challenge, but that’s just Sand Mountain.”
Because his farm is interwoven with the community, Cornutt said it’s important to be courteous with drivers and respectful of neighbors whose properties adjoin his fields.
“I feel like to be a good neighbor, whether you are a farmer or not, you need to be kind to one another,” he said. “There’s been times when people don’t understand why we work late at night or why we are working on a Saturday. I feel like being a good neighbor is just part of being a good person.”
The Cornutts’ prize package included a John Deere Gator from SunSouth, TriGreen and Snead Ag dealers; a $1,000 gift certificate from Alabama Farmers Cooperative (AFC); $2,500 from Swisher International and an engraved farm sign from Alabama Farmers Federation and Alfa Insurance. AFC awarded a $250 gift certificate to each finalist.
Other finalists were Lance and Heather Whitehead of Fayette County, Mitch and Dawn Lazenby of Lee County and Joe and Edria Todd of Henry County.
In addition to running his farm, Cornutt is president of the Marshall County Farmers Federation and is a member of the Federation State Soybean Committee. He also serves on the board of directors of the DeKalb County Farmers Co-op and Marshall County Soil and Water Conservation District.
The Cornutts are members of Gum Springs Baptist Church and have two daughters, Leslie Baugh, 26, and Cara, 19.
Despite the challenges inherent in farming, Cornutt said he wouldn’t choose any other way of life.
“There have been some lean times, but God has blessed us,” he said. “He’s allowed us to keep doing what we’re doing, and we’re thankful for that and we give Him the glory for it.”
For photos of the event, visit the Alabama Farmers Federation’s Flickr page.