Anniston, Ala., is famous for being home to one of America’s largest army installations during World War II. Today, it’s earning recognition as a training ground for young farm leaders thanks to the recent election of Jon Hegeman as chairman of the Alabama Farmers Federation’s State Young Farmers Committee.
“It’s a rather humbling honor to know my fellow peers believe I can lead our great committee in the upcoming year,” said Hegeman, who, along with wife Amy, also was named the state’s Outstanding Young Farm Family for 2012. “I’m looking forward to learning more about the state’s agricultural background, meeting with young farmers across Alabama and recruiting new members.”
Hegeman recognizes that recruiting the younger generation of farmers won’t be an easy task.
“The Alabama Farmers Federation is a strong organization with a history of supporting farmers and promoting the voice of Alabama agriculture,” he explained. “Because it’s so tough for young farmers to start up farming today – especially those who, like me, weren’t raised on a family farm – we need to encourage them to take the risks that will, with hard work and perseverance, result in a rewarding lifestyle. The sooner [young farmers] get involved in the organization, the more experience and maturity they’ll achieve before seeking leadership roles in the future.”
Part of Hegeman’s plan to grow the committee involves reaching out to more farmers across the state, especially those, he says, who are sometimes overlooked.
“We have a great Young Farmers program, but we also have room for improvement and expansion,” he said. “I plan to work hard to recruit additional members, and I want to strengthen our program events so we can better compete with members from other state Farm Bureaus. We have some outstanding young farmers in this state, and I would like to see them take the national title as the Excellence in Agriculture and Achievement Award winners.”
In addition to his new role as state chairman, Hegeman serves as chairman of Calhoun County’s Young Farmers Committee. He also manages eight acres of greenhouses in partnership with Greenway Plants, and together, he and Amy established an equine facility – Hegeman Farms – at their home two years ago.
Though the Hegemans’ home in the White Plains community is more than 1,500 miles away from his first taste of agriculture in the Dominican Republic, Jon and Amy agree that sharing an understanding and love for agriculture makes life run a bit smoother around the farm.
“We both know how to take care of things and can share the load,” they said. “And we’re especially proud to raise our daughter, Ella Kate, with the same pride in agriculture we share.”