By Marlee Jackson
Debbie Dunn’s love for language impacted hundreds last year through encouraging invocations she led as the Alabama Farmers Federation State Women’s Leadership Committee (WLC) vice chair.
Her way with words will reach further in 2024. Committee members named Dunn chairman during the Federation’s annual meeting in December.
“I want to make sure women have a voice and are able to tell the story of farming with others, whether it’s going into schools and sharing a book or helping with farm tours,” said Dunn of Geneva County.
Through her year of service, the retired teacher will tap into skills honed in the classroom and at her family’s farm on the Alabama-Florida line.
“You can be in two places at one time,” said Dunn with a grin as she and husband Steve zigzagged between states while checking cows behind their home near Samson.
The skills at Dunn’s disposal include a gracious personality, quick smile and spirited speech, said Federation Women’s Leadership Division Director Kim Earwood.
“Her way with words is just one of her talents,” Earwood said. “Debbie has a way of making everyone feel at ease. She’s so welcoming.”
In addition to leading the nine-person state committee, Dunn will learn intricacies of Alfa Insurance as a Federation state board member.
She’ll also build on her strong Federation foundation.
Dunn’s county work began thanks to support from Sharon Turner, a fellow Geneva countian and former State WLC chair. Turner encouraged Dunn to run for the state committee in 2018.
For three decades, Dunn taught elementary students, an ideal inroad for promoting WLC programs like Ag in the Classroom and Farm-City contests. Dunn now chairs the flourishing Geneva County Farm-City Committee, which scored big statewide wins last year.
Steve is proud of his wife’s work. The row crop and cattle farmer said WLC members are uniquely positioned to advocate for agriculture.
“Women play a vital role in what happens on the farm,” said Steve, the Geneva County Farmers Federation president. “When it comes to education, ladies can get children’s attention quickly. That’s the key to getting them going down the right road.”
This year, Dunn hopes to lead by example while inspiring excitement and resiliency in WLC volunteer-leaders. A two-time cancer survivor, Dunn taught while earning two master’s degrees and raising sons Ira and Sam.
She also refined a passion for prose as she read books and led writing exercises for fellow teachers.
That passion prepared her to share thoughtfully crafted invocations last year. It also helped her pen an adaptation of poet George Ella Lyon’s free-verse work “Where I’m From.”
“I’m from a farm in Alabama, where the mornings are welcomed by the birds blessing the sun and where I’m tucked in at night by the switching off of the tractor and the lowing of the calves. This is where I call home…”
Many farm families can relate to her story, Dunn said before speaking the final stanza.
“I’m from late-night suppers…waiting for the sun to set and close the day, waiting for the old farmer to come in from the barn seeking comfort and rest. I’m from a farm in Alabama.”