By Marlee Moore
Competing on his high school’s livestock judging team planted the seed for Josh Melson’s career as an agriscience education teacher and FFA adviser.
Cultivating a similar passion for agriculture in the next generation fuels Melson’s work at A.P. Brewer High School (APBHS) and helped the Morgan County young farmer win the Alabama Farmers Federation Excellence in Agriculture contest this summer.
“This is what I’m called to do,” said Melson, 33, motioning to his agriscience classroom and shop filled with students.
Melson, who was raised on a small horse farm in Danville, holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Auburn University (AU). Pit stops in the poultry industry, at the Federation and with Alabama Extension grew his real-world agricultural experience with farmers and pointed Melson back to the classroom.
“My ag teacher, Mr. Sandy Fields, was still giving me advice as an adult, just like good ag teachers do, and told me, ‘Josh, you’re not doing what you’re called to do, and you’re called to teach,’” Melson said. “Because of my former jobs in the industry, I’m able to give students real-life scenarios of the career paths they’re looking at.”
Melson takes an interactive approach to lessons, like when students developed a livestock facility to see how animals move through equipment.
“It makes them think on a large scale,” he said. “We may have a future cattle producer sitting in the class, so my hope is after they design the facility at school, they can take that information to the farm.”
After the final bell rings, Melson beelines it to the 40-head cattle farm he operates with his wife, brother-in-law and father-in-law.
“Our whole plan is to inspire our kids to have their own little farm projects along the way,” Melson said. “We’re small, but we’re teaching our kids the value of hard work.”
Melson and wife Mary have three children — Ellie, 15; Sawyer, 8; and Fynnley, 2. Between juggling his full-time job at APBHS and shepherding youth at Grace Point Baptist Church, Melson is involved in Morgan County Young Farmers, where he served as chairman for three years.
Federation Young Farmers Division Director Hunter McBrayer commended Melson for growing the local Young Farmers Committee.
“Josh and his committee really focus on reaching out and growing involvement in the organization,” McBrayer said. “He’s uniquely positioned to bring ag students into the fold as new members. Josh understands our mission, and we appreciate his servant leadership.”
Melson also serves on the local town council, is a member of the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association, has helped organize benefit rodeos and is an AU College of Agriculture mentor.
This was Melson’s third year competing in Excellence in Agriculture, where contestants are 18-35 years old; receive less than half their income from production agriculture; and submit applications delving into their background, Farm Bureau involvement and views on agricultural issues. They also present before a panel of judges.
As the state Excellence in Agriculture winner, Melson will receive a zero-turn lawnmower and will compete during American Farm Bureau Federation’s national contest in January.
“Even in college, I knew I wasn’t going to be a full-time farmer,” Melson said. “My question has always been, ‘What can I do to make an impact on agriculture?’ Receiving this award is humbling and helps me know I make a difference in our industry.”