By Debra Davis
For most of his life, Mike Tidwell has quietly encouraged others. After graduating from Auburn University with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in agriculture education, he spent seven years mentoring agribusiness students at Marbury High School.
The Randolph County native joined the Alabama Farmers Federation in 1989 as Young Farmers Division director and brought that same leadership style to a statewide audience.
Tidwell, 60, retired from the Federation Dec. 1 after nearly 33 years of service. He was Young Farmers director for 11 years before his promotion to director of the Organization Department in 2000. In that department, he worked with 10 area organization directors and assisted leaders of the Young Farmers and Women’s Leadership divisions.
At the Federation’s annual meeting in December, Tidwell received the Cultivator Award from Federation President Jimmy Parnell. The award honors those who foster relationships to benefit farmers, members and rural communities.
“Mike’s devotion to our core values of faith, family, community and integrity made him a tremendous asset throughout his career and his entire life,” Parnell said. “As Young Farmers Division director, he introduced men and women throughout the state to our organization. Many of those young people now serve as committee chairs, board members and presidents at county and state levels.”
Tidwell was integral to many of the Federation’s political and legislative victories and has fostered candid communication between county Federations and the home office, Parnell said. He also laid groundwork for the Federation’s member benefit package, was instrumental in establishing the Agricultural Leaders For Alabama program, and expanded the Federation’s scholarship program and workforce development efforts.
Dedicated to his family and his church, Tidwell plans to spend more time with both, he said. He and wife Beth have two children — a daughter, Paula Bear, and a son, William. Paula and her husband, Jacob, have two children and are expecting a third this spring.
Tidwell said his love for people and agriculture allowed him to have a rewarding career.
“I’m not sure I could have made a living farming, but this job gave me the opportunity to work in agriculture and farming,” Tidwell said. “Mostly, my career has been behind the scenes, which is what I prefer. But I do feel like the work done by the Federation has helped farmers stay on their farms. Farmers rely on us to represent them in the State House and in Congress so they can stay on their farms and work.”
Tidwell doesn’t plan to rest in his retirement. In addition to working with his church, he has his eye on a portable sawmill and wants to cut trees into lumber.
“I plan to be busy as long as I can stay healthy,” Tidwell said. “I appreciate the opportunities this organization provided me over the years, and I look forward to watching it continue to grow and serve farmers across our state.”