By Marlee Moore
Three hard-working couples are in the running to be Alabama’s 2022 Outstanding Young Farm Family (OYFF).
This year’s finalists, chosen after an intense application and interview process, are Mitchell and Rebecca Henry, Lawrence County; Brady and Anna Peek, Limestone County; and Daniel and Carla Trantham, Calhoun County.
OYFF applicants, who are 18-35 years old, must have 50% or more of their income subject to production risk.
Following on-farm judging this summer, Alabama’s OYFF will be named during the Alabama Farmers Federation Farm & Land Expo in Birmingham Aug. 6 and will score over $70,000 in prizes.
The prize package includes $40,000 toward a Ford truck courtesy of Alfa Insurance; a Gator from Alabama Ag Credit and Alabama Farm Credit; a year’s lease on a John Deere tractor from SunSouth and TriGreen; and an all-expenses-paid trip to the American Farm Bureau Federation national competition in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in January. All finalists received a Blackstone Griddle Package from the Federation.
The Henry Family – Lawrence County
On plush pastureland tucked inside the Moulton city limits, Mitchell and Rebecca Henry are fulfilling a dream cultivated when the farmer-pharmacist duo met at Auburn University.
“We’d rather be working on the farm than anything else,” said Mitchell, 28. “I pushed hard to build the farm while at Auburn. I knew Rebecca was the one for me when I learned about her upbringing (on a cattle farm) and appreciation for hard work.”
The fifth-generation farmers annually manage 1,000 stocker cattle in Lawrence County, building on a foundation laid by Mitchell’s grandparents.
“Instead of buying high-risk calves from the sale barn, I purchase higher-quality livestock, which produces higher-quality beef,” said Mitchell, the Alabama Farmers Federation State Young Farmers Committee chair and a member of Agricultural Leaders For Alabama.
Mitchell has fine-tuned growing and harvesting corn silage and hay since joining the farm full time. He mixes that base with protein-packed soy, wheat, corn or other ingredients, depending on cost, availability and calves’ needs.
The Henrys have increased efficiency while reducing stress by working cattle on horseback; adding concrete pads near feed bunks to decrease mud; and increasing the adjustment period before working new cattle. That’s lowered disease and mortality rates, too.
In the last year, they’ve bought hay equipment and added a trucking business to haul feed and fertilizer. The Henrys are growing a cow-calf herd and have sold beef directly to consumers.
The couple, who attend Moulton Church of Christ, share their farm story through Young Farmers and Farm-City committees, in addition to social media.
“Social media has been huge for us to help people connect with farmers,” said Rebecca, 29. “On my pharmacy school application, I wrote I wanted to work for a small pharmacy, live in a small town and be married to a farmer. I can’t wait to get home every day and hop in the feed truck with Mitchell.”
The Peek Family – Limestone County
From trading equipment to improving infrastructure, Brady Peek has spent more than a decade growing his Limestone County farm.
“I like to grow things,” said Brady, 29. “As a farmer, I can grow a crop while growing a business. I focus on planting a seed and protecting that plant all the way to harvest.”
An affinity for farming prompted Brady to plant 100 acres of soybeans in 2010. Today, he and wife Anna continue to increase efficiency on their 1,700-acre corn, cotton, wheat and soybean farm.
To spread risk, increase flexibility and market grain when prices are better, the Peeks built a grain bin. A second is in the works.
“This year, we sold 20% of our crop at harvest; we previously sold our entire crop at harvest,” said Brady, the 2021 Alabama Farmers Federation State Young Farmers Committee chair. “That put us in the trucking business moving grain.”
The Peeks routinely trade equipment — a two-fold value.
“Everything is for sale,” Brady said with a smile. “Most farms look at equipment as a cost, but ours is a tool that lets us grow a crop and continually upgrade to more modern equipment.”
Anna’s quiet direction balances Brady’s bolder leadership style. The fifth-grade teacher incorporates agriculture into lesson plans at Athens Intermediate School.
“We live in a rapidly growing urban area, so it’s important to teach kids about ag,” said Anna, 28, an Ag In The Classroom grant recipient. “When I’m off in the summer, I help on the farm. Brady and I just work well together.”
The Peeks attend Oakland Church of Christ and are involved in Limestone County Young Farmers. Anna serves on the local Women’s Leadership Committee, while Brady is part of the State Wheat & Feed Grain Committee, Agricultural Leaders For Alabama and national associations.
“We love to farm, and we want to farm,” Brady said. “Everything we’ve done is a move for tomorrow.”
The Trantham Family – Calhoun County
Five pairs of little legs weave through rows of perfectly planted corn near Daniel and Carla Trantham’s Calhoun County home.
“I would not trade this for the world,” said Carla, 34, motioning to Davis, Sadie, Anna Kate, Sawyer and Callie soaking up fresh air, freedom and family time. “This is what childhood is supposed to be like.”
A similar upbringing set the stage for Daniel to grow his family’s row crop, cattle and feed business after joining the operation in 2010.
“I’m most proud of our commercial feed business,” said Daniel, 34. “People wanted to buy feed, so once we saw we could fill that need, we went back to planting more corn and wheat.”
The Tranthams bag and sell 80 tons of feed and grain weekly at their storefront in Alexandria and through feed stores. Direct marketing reduces price fluctuations and offers a steady stream of revenue. They also sell wheat straw and Bermudagrass hay while improving yields on 1,000 acres of corn, wheat, soybeans and cotton through irrigation and seed selection.
Since 2010, Daniel has more than doubled grain storage and more than tripled his cattle herd to 300 head.
“We’re part of a cooperative of farmers growing uniform calves to sell to feedlots,” Daniel said. “We implement strict weaning protocols, have improved feed rations and can sell our calves three months earlier than we used to.”
Daniel’s family also operates a trucking company, where Carla manages payroll.
The Tranthams prioritize family time and worship at Leatherwood Baptist Church, in addition to agricultural advocacy. Daniel is the local Young Farmers chair and serves on the Alabama Farmers Federation State Soybean Committee. Carla is on the local Women’s Leadership Committee.
“I feel blessed to be born into this life, but it’s a huge responsibility to keep it going,” Daniel said. “I don’t feel like I go to work. I get up every day and just do our life.”