Young farmers from throughout Alabama gained valuable, firsthand experience while touring outstanding farms in Baldwin and Mobile counties during the Alabama Farmers Federation Young Farmers Conference Feb. 28-29.
More than 400 attendees representing all types of farms and agribusiness ventures attended the annual conference, which included tours, contests and networking opportunities.
In addition to drawing on the wisdom of experienced growers while touring farms, the value of relationships many young men and women build with others across the state during this conference is immeasurable, said Federation President Jimmy Parnell.
“It’s encouraging to see so many young people who are interested in agriculture and the Farmers Federation,” said Parnell, a former State Young Farmers Committee chairman. “The Young Farmers program is the future of our organization and the future of agriculture in Alabama. Based on what I’ve seen at this conference, our future is in good hands.”
The Driskell family’s farm in Grand Bay was among stops for farmers who toured Mobile County. Bert Driskell operates the farm with his brother, Darrell, and the siblings’ children and grandchildren.
“I was involved in the Young Farmers program years ago, and that’s where I met some of the best friends I have in this business,” Bert said. “The Farmers Federation is a great organization. It brings all different kinds of farmers together to learn from each other and encourage each other.”
Young farmers Mitchell and Rebecca Henry of Lawrence County shared similar comments. They said networking and visiting farms was inspiring.
“It’s great to see so many new faces at the conference, along with other farmers we’ve met in the past,” said Mitchell, 26. “It’s good to hear how they’ve done on their farming operations this year and to see where they are going.”
Rebecca, 27, said touring south Alabama farms was interesting, and she especially liked getting to know other farmers and learn from them.
“There are plenty of hardships in farming,” she said. “But it’s great to come here and see others who have those same challenges we do. It’s encouraging to build each other up and go home with the attitude that we can be successful.”
Mitchell is the Lawrence County Young Farmers chairman and serves on the State Young Farmers Committee. He said the program is open to anyone interested in agriculture.
“It doesn’t matter if you have trees, cattle or row crops, or if you think you want to become a farmer, there’s a place for you,” Mitchell said.
In addition to the tours, couples competed in preliminaries of the Outstanding Young Farm Family (OYFF) contest. Three finalists will compete Aug. 1 for the title at the Alabama Farm and Land Expo in Mobile.
Finalists are Ben and Bethany Johnson of Randolph County, who also won the Poultry Division; Joe and Ashley McCraney of Barbour County; and Josh and Savannah McCoy of Dale County, the Peanut Division winners.
Other commodity division winners were Mitchell and Rebecca Henry of Lawrence County, Beef Division; and Brady and Anna Peek of Limestone County, Wheat & Feed Grain Division.
The OYFF contest is open to members 18-35 years old who earn more than half their income from on-farm production. It recognizes those who do an outstanding job on their farms and in their communities. The OYFF will receive a prize package worth more than $60,000 in prizes and represent Alabama in the American Farm Bureau Federation’s national competition.
Learn more about the Young Farmers program at AlfaYoungFarmers.org. Visit the Federation’s Facebook page for event photos.