By Marlee Moore
Sixty-three years after young farmers converged on Mt. Cheaha for their first conference, 350 contemporaries traveled to the Tennessee Valley to tour farms, fellowship and compete in contests.
The Alabama Farmers Federation’s Young Farmers Conference was Feb. 26-27 in Huntsville and continued the organization’s centennial celebration. The Young Farmers Division, tasked with promoting leadership and agricultural education for farmers 18-35 years old, was founded as Alabama Farm Bureau Young People’s in 1957.
Federation Young Farmers Division Director Jennifer Christenberry thanked attendees for their interest, involvement and investment, especially amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“Like a lot of things since last year, this conference was full of firsts,” Christenberry said. “We weren’t able to meet as a group because of social distancing, but thanks to hard work from the State Young Farmers Committee, Federation staff and local farmers, we pulled off successful tours.”
Six tours spread across north Alabama to allow young farmers to glean knowledge from experienced, time-tested producers. The various tours focused on row crops, cattle, poultry, agritourism, honey, research and more.
On their way home following the conference, Kaleb and Karah Skinner said they brainstormed how to apply insights from tours to Rock House Farms, their Cleburne County pasture-raised meats operation.
“We both were extremely interested and impressed with the sudex hay mix at Cornutt Farms, in addition to their on-farm corn sales. We are currently looking for a local supplier for corn,” Karah said. “Sumners Farm was totally our jam since we are trying to transition into South Poll cattle as grass-fed beef sellers. All the info on their summer and fall planting was exactly what we needed since we are about to prepare our pastures for planting.”
Networking at the conference was important, too.
“The connections we’ve made have changed everything for us,” Karah said. “Kaleb has been able to gain connections all over the state for information on hog breeders, corn growers for feeding out hogs, and soil and water information for soil tests. We really came back refreshed and encouraged.”
Ten families competed in Outstanding Young Farm Family (OYFF) contest interviews Feb. 26. The three finalist families were named during a livestream at the closing event at Top Golf. They are Mitchell and Rebecca Henry, Lawrence County; Josh and Savannah McCoy, Dale County; and Brady and Anna Peek, Limestone County. The finalists will participate in on-farm judging this summer as they compete for over $60,000 in prizes. The families won the beef, peanut and cotton divisions, respectively, and received a DJI Mavic Mini Drone sponsored by the Federation.
Additional OYFF division winners were Joe and Ashley McCraney, Barbour County, poultry; Evan and Christy Nelson, Jefferson County, hay and forage; and Kaleb and Karah Skinner, Cleburne County, pork.
Conference photo contest winners were Michael Elliott, Jefferson County; Bethany Johnson, Randolph County; and Christy Nelson, Jefferson County.