Sixteen graduates of the Alabama Farmers Federation leadership program were recognized at the organization’s 42nd Commodity Producers Conference in Huntsville in August.
Representing multiple commodities and all areas of the state, the third Agricultural Leaders for Alabama (A.L.F.A.) class spent the past two years learning agricultural policy, leadership skills and organizational involvement.
“Once you’re identified as a leader, you still have the opportunity to grow,” Federation President Jimmy Parnell said at their graduation. “This group will make a difference in Alabama agriculture.”
Graduates agreed public policy and farm tours were important to their education. However, forging new relationships with one another had the greatest impact.
“I believe we’ll be working for years together in the Farmers Federation,” said Cullman County poultry farmer Lee Haynes. “I can call upon my classmates for business or many others reasons, and I believe they’ll be there.”
The graduates were nominated by their county presidents and attended eight three-day sessions. The program requires candidates to be Alabama residents between the ages of 25 and 45.
Federation Young Farmers Division Director Jennifer Himburg said the program required farmers to spend 24 days away from their farm, but it was a worthwhile investment.
“It’s a very small portion of time when you look at your entire career in agriculture,” Himburg said. “I think one of the things that’s hard to do as folks who are involved in production agriculture is take time to develop yourself.”
DeKalb County farmer Clint McElmoyl said the program introduced him to new experiences.
“We did a high ropes course,” McElmoyl said. “I’m a big guy; I don’t care about jumping out of trees, but I overcame some of that. We were about 30-40 feet in the air, and the young lady teaching the course said, ‘I want you to do something you’ve never done before,’ and I had never jumped out of a tree.”
Sumter County farmer Grant Buck said farming is a unique lifestyle that stresses faith and family, and it was reassuring to meet other farmers who share those values.
“You see a common bond in the farming community,” Buck said. “All the farms we visited had the same thing in common, and they were the three F’s: family, faith and farming. I’m very passionate, but it’s great to see other farmers who are passionate, too.”
Click here to download a full list A.L.F.A. leaders.