The best part of farming might also be the hardest to describe for Coffee County’s Jonathan Sanders. Every day is different, with unique challenges and rewards, but each day also provides an opportunity to make things better, said the newly elected State Young Farmers Committee chairman.
Jonathan, 28, who was elected at the Alabama Farmers Federation’s 98th annual meeting in December, said he looks at the Young Farmers concept similarly.
“We have a great Young Farmers program in our state, and my goal is to keep it strong and growing,” he said. “I’m very honored to have been chosen as chairman, and it’s a privilege to follow in the footsteps of some great leaders.”
While Jonathan wants to focus on attracting and encouraging traditional farmers to join the organization, he said it’s also important to reach out to others involved in the agricultural community and create relationships with them.
“Through the Young Farmers program, I’ve been able to make friends throughout the state,” he said. “Farming looks different to different people. I have farmer friends who have never grown peanuts, but we still share many of the same issues, like dealing with bad weather and low commodity prices. I’ve been to two American Farm Bureau Federation Young Farmers and Ranchers (YF&R) meetings, which allowed me to grow relationships outside Alabama. At some point, I would like to serve on the national YF&R Committee.”
As State Young Farmers Committee chairman, Sanders will serve one-year as an ex-officio member of the Federation state board.
Federation Young Farmers Division Director Jennifer Christenberry said Jonathan’s passion for farming and the Young Farmers program will be an asset this year during his chairmanship.
“I’ve known Jonathan and his family my entire life,” she said. “I’ve had the opportunity to watch his leadership abilities grow through participation in the collegiate Young Farmers program at Auburn University and then as a State Young Farmers Committee member. His service as chairman will strengthen the organization for years to come.”
Jonathan and wife Sara, along with their 6-month-old daughter, Ivey Lucille, live on the family farm in northeast Coffee County’s in the Roeton community.
The youngest of six children, and the only boy in the family, Jonathan farms with his father, Carl, who lives nearby.
Jonathan, who has a degree in horticulture from AU, grows peanuts, cotton, corn, wheat, oats and timber. The variety farming offers is among its greatest appeals as an occupation, he said.
“There aren’t many jobs where you get to do something different every day,” he said. “Harvest time is my favorite time of year because it’s rewarding to see the results of months of hard work. Planting season is also great because it’s full of hope. It’s wonderful to watch a crop emerge.”
Sara, who is a special education teacher at New Brockton Elementary School, grew up in nearby Ariton. She participated in FFA in high school but admits she didn’t know much about farming until she began dating Jonathan.
“We knew each other in high school but never dated,” she said. “After I graduated from Troy University, I came back home, and Jonathan and I reconnected at an ag lending meeting. One of our first dates was to a Young Farmers meeting.”
The couple said they love life on the farm and can’t imagine raising their daughter anywhere else.
“I try to advocate for agriculture daily, especially for the crops I produce,” Jonathan said. “Serving as State Young Farmers Committee chairman gives me a bigger platform to serve farmers and be an advocate for our livelihood.”