OYFF Winners: Bradleys Win Hay & Forage Division
Sponsored each year by the Alabama Farmers Federation, the Outstanding Young Farm Family Awards Program recognizes young farmers between the ages of 17 and 35 who do an outstanding job in farm, home and community activities.
Division winners representing 11 commodities were selected in February. Of those, six finalists will compete for the
title of overall Outstanding Young Farm Family for 2007. The winner will be named at the Federation’s
86th annual meeting in December. This month, Neighbors profiles five commodity division winners. Look for features on the six finalists in the coming months.Most years, there would be 3,500 to 4,500 bales of hay in Brad Bradley’s hay barns right about now. This is not “most years.”Instead, only 500 bales were in the barn in late June — all leftovers from last winter, and another sign of what the drought of 2007 has done to farmers.”There are some fields where we haven’t even gotten the first cutting yet,” Bradley said. “There’s one field where I cut 1,000 bales on Memorial Day two years ago, and that was only about half of the field, maybe even a third. But we haven’t even cut that field the first time this year. It’s still a month away from being cut. That’s how bad it is.”We’ve still got to stockpile 800 round bales on our hills for our cows for the winter, and right now, we’ve got zero bales. Normally, at this time of year we’d have 200 or 300 bales.”Plus, he can’t sell his 140-head beef herd because nobody wants to buy when there’s no hay. The family’s erosion control business has gone south, too, as the drought has deflated the building boom.Even so, the Bradleys — Brad, Jennifer and 3-year-old Carson — try to make the best of the situation. Brad, a third-generation farmer, is considering paying a long-haul trucker to bring hay in from Kentucky on his deadhead runs back home.Even now, Brad holds down an off-farm job with Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Alabama, but he says farming will always be in his blood.”I was born into this way of life,” he said. “It’s a way of life that teaches a great work ethic. The rewards I receive after a long day in the field bring peace and fulfillment to my life.”