OYFF FINALISTS: The Looneys, Soybean Division
The son of a farmer, Ben Looney has seen his share of changes in agriculture over the years. Yields and prices fluctuate; the weather remains unpredictable. But through it all, this Limestone County farmer remains thankful for being a farmer, even when harvest seasons look bleak. “If there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s how to change,” said Ben, adding that the crops grown on his farm also have changed. “When I started farming on my own 15 years ago, I borrowed Dad’s equipment and rented around 200 acres of land for cotton. Today, I’m a landowner.” A few years and nearly 900 acres later, Ben and his wife, Miranda, grow cotton, corn, wheat, soybeans and canola on their 1,100-acre farm in Athens – rotating crops for the best possible harvest. This year, they planted 200 acres of corn, 400 acres of wheat, 100 acres of canola and 400 acres of soybeans.“With the rotation schedule, I can grow five crops in three years,” explains Ben.Among the mix, soybeans have been successful for the Looneys, who are the Outstanding Young Farm Family in the Soybean Division for the Alabama Farmers Federation. But beans aren’t the only things that seem to grow well on their farm. Sons Colby (13 in November) and Clay (7) are growing taller every day. Ben and Miranda say raising the boys on the farm is a blessing.“The best thing about our lifestyle is being able to raise our boys here,” said Miranda, who works with special needs children during the school year. “The values they’re learningâ€¦ hard work, a love for the landâ€¦ they’re learning all that on our farm.” For Ben, developing a love for the land originated from his father, Limestone County Farmers Federation President Paul Looney. It’s a love he says he’s glad to pass on to his sons.Part of loving the land, Ben adds, is being a good steward. To preserve as much acreage as possible, he practices no-till conservation, which makes the land stronger and more productive. The Looneys are active in Round Island Baptist Church and Tanner Youth Sports. Last year, they helped establish a community garden at Round Island to teach kids where food comes from and to provide food for the hungry. They say they enjoy giving back to their community, but Ben says farming is where his heart is.“I don’t know how I could love my job more than I do,” he said with a smile.