Young farmers from across the state representing multiple commodities packed downtown Montgomery Feb. 26-27 for the largest Alabama Farmers Federation Young Farmers Conference in recent history.
The conference, which featured workshops on financial planning, livestock, farm safety and organization building, drew over 350 attendees. Finalists in the Outstanding Young Farm Family (OYFF) contest were announced Feb. 27.
“This is certainly the largest Young Farmers Conference since I’ve been here,” said Jennifer Himburg of the Federation, who has been on staff since 2012. “One thing I think everyone appreciated was Dr. Lowell Catlett, who is a renowned agricultural economist and speaker. We’re very grateful the Alabama Soybean Producers and Wheat & Feed Grain Producers sponsored him.”
Catlett, who is New Mexico State University’s dean of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, encouraged young farmers to remain positive about the future of agriculture.
“There’s never been a better time to be alive, and there’s never been a better time to be in agriculture,” Catlett said. “In the 1970s, we produced too few calories for the world to consume, but in 2014, we produced an excess of calories the world needed. Nobody knows the future, but trust your instinct, follow it, and get good advice.”
Conecuh County farmers Cameron and Christin Smith said they were excited to attend their first Young Farmers Conference.
“We have such a passion for agriculture, and this is the best outlet to express that passion,” Christin said.
Cameron said the educational opportunities the Young Farmers Division provides are unparalleled.
“Young Farmers, to me, is the step to grow after college—it’s continued education,” he said. “Young Farmers roots together agriculture and relationships. By being involved at this level, we feel like we’re breaking ground for our children and investing in our future.”
The conference concluded with the announcement of OYFF contest finalists. They were Lance and Stephanie Miller of Snead in Blount County, Stewart and Kasey McGill of Hazel Green in Madison County and John and Hannah Bevel of Albertville in Marshall County.
The winner will be announced at the Federation’s Commodity Producers Conference in Mobile July 28-31 and will represent Alabama at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual meeting in Phoenix, Arizona.
The OYFF will receive a prize package worth $60,000, including a new GM pickup truck, a John Deere tractor lease and an 825I John Deere Gator.
First and second runners-up will receive $500 cash courtesy of Alabama Farm Credit and Alabama Ag Credit. All three finalists received a Yeti cooler courtesy of the Alabama Farmers Federation and Alfa Insurance.
Commodity division winners who competed in the OYFF contest were Justin Hill of Eastaboga in Calhoun County, Bee & Honey; Spencer and Kate Williamson of Brewton in Escambia County, Beef; Lance and Stephanie Miller of Snead in Blount County, Cotton; Benjamin and Tamera Brown of Southside in Etowah County, Dairy; Stewart and Kasey McGill of Hazel Green in Madison County, Horticulture; Jonathan Sanders of Roeton in Coffee County, Peanuts; Eric and Carrly Lovvorn of Heflin in Cleburne County, Poultry; Ben and Jessica Johnson of Fyffe in DeKalb County, Soybeans; and John and Hannah Bevel of Albertville in Marshall County, Wheat & Feed Grains.