Young farmers representing 12 agricultural commodities were honored recently as division winners in the Alabama Farmers Federation's Outstanding Young Farm Family (OYFF) competition.
Held during the Federation's Young Farmers Leadership Conference (YFLC), the competition recognizes young farmers and farm families between the ages of 18 and 35 who do an outstanding job in their farm, home and commodity activities.
Of the 12 division honorees, six finalists were selected to compete for the title of overall OYFF at the Federation's 92nd annual meeting in Montgomery, Dec. 5-6.
Alabama's OYFF winner will receive a prize package valued at more than $60,000, including a new GM truck valued at $35,000, courtesy of Alfa Insurance; lease of a John Deere Tractor, courtesy of SunSouth, TriGreen Equipment and Snead Ag dealers; a John Deere Gator XUV 825i, courtesy of Alabama Farm Credit and Alabama Ag Credit; and a personal computer package courtesy of ValCom Wireless and CCS Technology.
The winning family also receives an expense-paid trip to the American Farm Bureau Federation's 2014 annual meeting in San Antonio, where they will represent Alabama in the national Achievement Award competition. The trip is courtesy of the Alabama Farmers Federation.
OYFF commodity division winners were: Justin Hill of Calhoun County, Bee and Honey Division; Jim and Jessica Yance of Henry County, Beef Division; Lance and Stephanie Miller of Blount County, Cotton Division; Benjamin Brown of Etowah County, Dairy Division; James and Rosa Walker of Lauderdale County, Equine Division; Colin and Kristy Wilson of Jackson County, Hay and Forage Division; Cody and Cassie Young of Barbour County, Horticulture Division; Daniel and Jessica White of Randolph County, Meat Goat & Sheep Division; John and Jennifer Bitto of Baldwin County, Peanut Division; Greg and Michele Edwards of Russell County, Poultry Division; Stan and Kayla Usery of Limestone County, Soybean Division; and Jamie and Wendy Yeager of Dallas County, Wheat and Feed Grains Division.
The six finalists who will compete for the overall OYFF title in December are the Bitto, Edwards, Miller, Usery, Yance and Yeager families.
While the OYFF competition is a highlight of the two-day event, the Young Farmers Leadership Conference also offered more than 200 attendees a chance to participate in educational workshops and seminars on trust, leadership, committee growth and agricultural legislation.
At the opening banquet held at the U.S. National Infantry Museum, keynote speaker David Horsager offered attendees what he believes is the single-most advantageous trait one needs to be successful — trustworthiness.
A native Minnesotan, Horsager grew up on a kidney bean and potato farm and has since become an author, business strategist and organizational leadership professor. His book,The Trust Edge, was the focus of his seminars, where he led an in-depth, interactive conversation with attendees on the eight pillars of trust: consistency, clarity, compassion, character, contribution, competence, connection and commitment.
Lack of trust is biggest expense
"A lack of trust is your biggest expense, regardless of the role you're in," said Horsager.
"Farmers, parents, mechanics, coaches, insurance agents... doesn't matter; a level of trust is the greatest advantage you can have in life. If you don't think trust affects the bottom line, just ask Tiger Woods."
During the Feb. 23 morning session, YFLC attendees met with Federation President Jimmy Parnell and his wife, Robin. The informal meet-and-greet session offered participants a chance to get to know the Parnell family, as well as receive answers to questions relating to the future of the organization and Alfa Insurance.
For attendees who were also OYFF contestants, meeting with the Parnells was especially encouraging.
"I've been involved in the organization since I was a young farmer, so when I tell you the future president of this company could be in this room with us today, I mean it," said Parnell, who was honored as the OYFF winner in 1999 alongside Robin and their children, James Robert and Anna Grace.
"The friendships you make as a Young Farmer are friendships that last a lifetime, and I encourage each of you to get out of your comfort zone and spend some time meeting your fellow farmers."
Federation Young Farmers Division Director Jennifer Himburg echoed Parnell's advice, noting the benefits of the event. "The Young Farmers Leadership Conference provides a great opportunity for young farmers across Alabama to connect with each other and build relationships that will span generations in the years to come," said Himburg. "Communication is key to strengthening the Young Farmers program and the state's largest farm organization, and this event offers farmers several chances to collaborate with other members who share the same lifestyle."
Additional seminars held Saturday included an agricultural issues update, provided by David Cole and Mitt Walker of the Federation's Governmental and Agricultural Programs Department, and a county chairmen training session, hosted by the 2013 State Young Farmers Committee.
During the agricultural issues session, Cole offered updates pertinent to state legislative matters including irrigation, career tech programs and law enforcement consolidation, while Walker offered information on the 2008 farm bill extension and other federal issues.
Both encouraged attendees to get involved with FarmPAC, the Federation's political action committee.
"With less than 2 percent of the population being farmers, it's especially crucial to become proactive and engage your congressional representatives," added Walker.
"In terms of sports, let's just say that agriculture is on the defensive side of the ballgame. We have to do everything we can to elect leaders who understand and support agriculture's role, and joining FarmPAC is a way to help us achieve that mission."
The closing banquet featured dinner and a live auction, which raised $3,305. Proceeds from the event, auctioneered by Clint McElmoyl of DeKalb County, benefit the Federation's Agriculture Foundation.