News Meet the 2023 Outstanding Young Farm Family Finalists: The Henrys of Lawrence County

Meet the 2023 Outstanding Young Farm Family Finalists: The Henrys of Lawrence County

Meet the 2023 Outstanding Young Farm Family Finalists: The Henrys of Lawrence County
August 2, 2023 |

By Marlee Jackson

Mitchell Henry might have grown up in Montgomery County, but when given the option to take over his grandfather’s cattle farm in the Tennessee Valley, moving north was an easy yes. 

“You have to go where your opportunities are,” said Mitchell, 29. “I always had in my mind that I was going to graduate from Auburn, come here and continue the farm.”

That operation, Hardin Farms in Lawrence County, was founded in 1939. It’s an 84-year legacy Mitchell and wife Rebecca take seriously. 

“Mitchell genuinely loves farming,” said Rebecca, 30, who was raised on a Madison County cattle farm. “I’m proud of his work ethic. Mitchell sees a project, envisions it and brings it to fruition.”

Since moving to Moulton, Mitchell’s projects have included tripling hay acreage; purchasing equipment to harvest hay; and adding a trailer to haul feed, silage and poultry litter.

Herd health is improving, too.

Hardin Farms historically bought higher-risk calves from sale barns. As stocker numbers grew, Mitchell began buying weaned, vaccinated cattle from local farms. That careful attention is reducing risk and improving his bottom line. So is lengthening the acclimation period for calves once they reach the farm. In seven years, morbidity rates decreased by half, while mortality rates dropped from 10% to 3%.

The Henrys are honest: Managing a nearly century-old farm is challenging. But those challenges — repurposing buildings, redesigning pens and organizing scrap metal — also represent their blessings.

“We’re established; we’re rooted; we’re here; and we’re not going away any time soon,” Mitchell said. “Land takes time to get it how you want it. Years of farming this land have allowed me to operate in a way that is a lot easier. We have infrastructure where everything flows easily.”

Mitchell has expanded the farm’s footprint to 400 acres. He’s annually retaining ownership of nearly 1,000 stocker cattle and has diversified into cow-calf production. That’s in addition to streamlining record-keeping and building a new shop.

Mitchell purchases local feedstuffs — cotton gin debris, beer mash and scrap corn — to lower his cost of gain. The products are mixed with high-protein corn silage to create the cattle’s primary feed source; they feast on haylage, too.

Mitchell’s resourceful nature is a trait inherited from his maternal grandparents, Clinton and Barbara Hardin. Clinton said it’s a dream come true for his grandson to carry on the family’s heritage of hard work.

“An operation like this, you’ve got a lot of things to learn,” Clinton said. “Mitchell’s been learning that. He’s at the point where he can do it without me, and that’s great. Barbara and I feel blessed that he and Rebecca are here.”

Since marrying in 2018, the Henrys have grown involvement in the Alabama Farmers Federation. Mitchell graduated from the premier A.L.F.A. Leaders program, was State Young Farmers Committee chair and is the local Federation secretary and treasurer. The Henrys have helped lead the county Young Farmers Committee, serve on the State Beef Committee and are involved in other ag organizations.

When she’s not working as a pharmacist in Courtland, Rebecca helps in the hay field or mans the computer when working cattle. Her support is essential, Mitchell said.

“I don’t know what I would do without Rebecca,” Mitchell said. “She really helps me be able to get up in the morning and do what I do every day.”

Rebecca also spearheads Hardin Farms merchandise and social media highlighting farm life. That perspective now includes Clint, born in March. The young farmhand hit the hay fields early, riding with Mitchell at 2 weeks old.

“If he’s anything like me, Clint will grow up to love every second outside,” Mitchell said. “I just love being out in God’s creation.”

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