Dedication and innovation yielded great rewards for John and Kate DeLoach when their Shelby County farm was named Alabama’s 2018 Farm of Distinction at the Alabama Farm-City Awards Luncheon in Birmingham April 5.
The couple received over $20,000 in cash and prizes and will represent Alabama in the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year contest at the Sunbelt Ag Expo Oct. 16-18 in Moultrie, Georgia.
Their 1,325-acre DeLoach Farms has been in the family since 1820 and includes 375 acres of cotton, 250 acres of soybeans, 200 acres of wheat and 150 acres of hay. The farm boasts some of the highest yields in the area and plants test plots with seed companies and university researchers.
But transforming the farm wasn’t easy, John said.
“I was 13 when my grandfather passed away,” he said. “Grandma talked about selling the farm, but I told her I’d come every day after school to help. At 16, when I graduated high school, I pretty much took over running the farm.”
Twenty-six years later, their land management plan includes 20 acres of improved wetlands where John regulates water levels to provide food and habitat for waterfowl. Future plans include adding honeybees, a vineyard and agritourism with the help of son Jess.
“We feel it is an honor to have the opportunity to take care of this land for a lifetime,” John said. “And what a responsibility it is, to pass that on to future generations.”
John is a member of the Agricultural Leaders For Alabama class and is active in the Alabama Farmers Federation, Alabama Cattlemen’s Association and Alabama Farmers Cooperative. He and Kate have been recognized at state and national levels for community service.
Alabama Farm-City Committee Chairman Jeff Helms said the DeLoach family showcases what it means to be a farmer in the 21st century.
“John and Kate are dedicated to using innovative techniques to improve the land they love and have been entrusted with,” Helms said. “They represent the very best of Alabama agriculture, and we’re proud for them to represent the state over the next year.”
As the Farm of Distinction, the DeLoaches receive a John Deere Gator courtesy of AgPro, TriGreen and SunSouth dealers; a 40-by-60’ pole barn courtesy of Register Barns; a $1,000 gift certificate from Alabama Farmers Cooperative (AFC); an engraved farm sign from Alfa Insurance; and $2,500 as the state’s Southeastern Farmer of the Year contest representative.
Other Farm of Distinction finalists were Thomas and Farrah Adams of Henry County, Greg and Diane Hamner of Lauderdale County, Trey and Pam Montgomery of Greene County, Sid and Susan Nelson of Sumter County, and Tyler and Madison Sanders of Houston County. Each received a $250 gift certificate from AFC and an engraved plaque.
For more photos from the Farm-City Awards Luncheon, visit the Alabama Farmers Federation’s Flickr and Facebook pages.