Tuesday, August 9, 2016

A Summer of Conferences...

I've already written about going to the ALFA President's Conference in Asheville, NC earlier this summer, but that wasn't the only conference we attended! We didn't get a "real" vacation this year, we were too busy conferencing. The last week of July consisted of two conferences, the Southern Peanut Growers Conference and the ALFA Commodity Conference.

The Southern Peanut Growers Conference was at the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort near Destin, FL. The "fancy" resort could've definitely been better, along with the 10 minute drive to the crowded beach, but hey, I'll take what I can get. Here's some of my favorite pictures...

And the very next week, we were off to the Alabama Farmer's Federation Commodity Conference! This conference consists of workshops and speakers, tours and banquets. Very educational for farmers! The location of the conference changes every year. This year it was in Mobile.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

2016 Alabama Farmers Federation President's Conference

Lance is the State Young Farmer's Chairman for the Alabama Farmers Federation, which makes him a member of the (ALFA) State Board of Directors. Last week, we got to attend the President's Conference in Asheville, NC.
We started off the trip with a selfie. No point of even going anywhere if you don't throw in a couple of selfies.

Not too far out of the way, we had to make a detour to probably our favorite place on the planet, the Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge area. We didn't have a whole lot of time, so we decided to eat at one of those places that you always want to try, but somewhere like the Old Mill always wins out. We ate at Happy Days Diner. It was pretty good. Looks like it has good milkshakes and sundaes, but we didn't have time for that. We had to get next door to our favorite store in our favorite place on the planet.

Stages West! They have just reopened after being closed for almost a year because of a fire. Take my money! And they did. I bought a cute dress for Jade and boots for both kids. I always buy Reed a pair of boots from here. He loves his boots.
Oh, and what did Lance buy? That's not a stovepipe hat. That's an old timey device they use to measure your head in order to shape your cowboy hat correctly. That's right, Lance bought a cowboy hat and has such a crooked head that they had to bring out the big guns. The left side of his head is strangely warped up in about the shape of my frying pan. 

We finally arrived at our destination in Asheville...The Grove Park Inn. It's a historical hotel. One fancy shindig. But dang if it didn't take us 3 days to figure our way around. There's a tunnel, you take the elevator down to go up, up to go down, I'm still confused.
That night, we ate at a local farm. It was fun until the flooding rains came. Did I mention they were in a drought until we showed up? How can we make it rain there, but not in Alabama? Anyways, your welcome Western North Carolina.

The next morning, Lance had one of those important, top secret meetings he has to occasionally attend. I'm pretty sure they do retina scans and have secret handshakes. So, I hung out outside. 

Can't say it was a horrible view.
That afternoon, we ate lunch at the Biltmore and toured the house. That is one fancy house. It's always been something I've wanted to see. Now that I've seen it, I think they had way too much money, ha. We took an audio tour and heard some interesting stories about the place.

Leave your swim suit at home. Their pool has had a leak since the 80s, lol.

We just bought our new summer home! Just kidding, I really had you going there, didn't I? 
Wanting to keep up the fancy Biltmore style, we ate at the hotel that night.
Look at those teeny tiny vegetables! Bahaha!
After some more meetings the next day, we had some free time. We, scratch that, I drove the Blue Ridge Parkway (Lance napped) to Mount Mitchell. Very pretty views and 61 degrees at the top. A nice change from the 1 million degrees back home.

We ended the night with something we never get to do...take a picture of my feet! No! Go to the movies! But check out those seats! Couches with cupholders! There's nothing like that in the Snead Metropolitan area. We saw Independence Day 2. Lots of action, but lots of cheese. Cheesiness? Nachos. Buy nachos for this movie.
And how else would we end the trip, but with a dark movie theater selfie?!

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Outstanding Young Farm Farmily Competition 2016

Once again, we are competing in the "Outstanding Young Farm Family" Competition. We won the cotton division and are one of the top three finalists. We actually just had the judges come out to our farm last week and did on camera interviews. Here's the article from Neighbors Magazine. I just copied the part explaining the competition and about our family, so if you want to read the entire thing click here.


Finalists Compete For State Outstanding Young Farm Family

May 24, 2016
By Mary Johnson and Debra Davis
                    Three Outstanding Young Farm Families (OYFF) were chosen as finalists in a statewide contest open to farmers 18-35 years old who stand out as agricultural leaders on their farms and in their communities.
Finalists are featured in this edition of Neighbors. Judges will tour their farms this summer and select the overall winner. Each family will be honored at the Alabama Farmers Federation’s 44th annual Commodity Producers Conference July 30, when the winner will be announced.
The OYFF will receive a prize package worth more than $60,000, including a new General Motors pickup truck from Alfa Insurance, an 825i John Deere Gator from Alabama Ag Credit and Alabama Farm Credit and use of a John Deere tractor by local John Deere dealers and John Deere.
The first and second runners-up each will receive $500 courtesy of Alabama Ag Credit and Alabama Farm Credit. All three finalists will receive Big Green Egg cookers from the Federation.
The winning family will represent Alabama in the American Farm Bureau Federation Young Farmers and Ranchers Achievement Award contest in January in Phoenix, Arizona.

The Miller Family Blount County
From the back porch of their Blount County farmhouse, Lance and Stephanie Miller can see the cotton field where he proposed in September 2005. This October, they will celebrate 10 years of marriage and farming.
“I had no plans of being a farmer,” said Stephanie, who met Lance at Jacksonville State University. “The one thing we got from college was each other.”
With a public relations background, Stephanie switched gears from a potential NASCAR marketing career to life on the farm.
“I knew the farm wasn’t moving anywhere near a racetrack, so I started a blog and Facebook page for the farm,” she said.
After college, Lance said his family urged him to consider jobs besides farming, but he couldn’t resist.
“They knew how hard farming was,” he said. “I worked elsewhere for a little while, but it didn’t suit me. So I came back to the farm and worked with my Uncle Jimmy.”
In addition to their four poultry houses, the Millers grow peanuts, cotton and soybeans.
The couple are active Alabama Farmers Federation members where Lance is State Young Farmers Committee chairman and Blount County Farmers Federation treasurer. Stephanie is Blount County Young Farmers secretary and chairs the county Women’s Leadership Committee and Farm-City committees.
The Millers were the Federation Cotton Division winner in the Outstanding Young Farm Family contest and are among three finalists.
Lance said his greatest accomplishment is continuing the family tradition on their Century and Heritage Farm.
“Actually being able to farm in this day and age is the achievement I’m proudest of,” Lance said.
The Millers have two children, Reed, 4, and Jade, 10 months. They are members of Grace Baptist Church in Snead.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Tips to Host a Farm Field Day


Here in Blount County, the Blount County Young Farmers, along with help from the county Women's Committee, and FFA, host an annual event called Kid's Day on the Farm. We've been doing this so long, I guess you could call us "experts." We've had a lot of trial and error to get to what the event is today. I thought I would offer some pointers to anyone who may be looking to start an event like this in their area.

  • First, decided who you're going to work with. Are you going to host this by yourself? Partner with another group? Sponsors?
  • Where is the event going to be held? Is there a local farm with the capacity to host a field day? We use our county agribusiness center, which works well because it is a big building, has ample parking, and also has bathrooms.
  • Who will come to this event? An entire school? The public? The amount of people you invite will depend on the space you have, the amount of money you have to work with, and time restraints. We invite every 2nd grader in our county.

  • One thing we do that the kids look forward to each year is they each receive a free t shirt. This is actually where most of our work comes in. We order almost 900 shirts for students, teachers, workers, sponsors, and exhibitors. We shop around for the best price and gather enough sponsors to cover the entire cost. We start this process 3 months in advance of the event. We have a list of sponsors that we ask every year. If any of those turn us down, we have a backup list.

  • Another thing we start 3 months in advance is contacting the exhibitors. What do you want at the event? Animals? Tractors? Demonstrations? Crops? We have a big variety at our farm day. We get livestock panels donated from the local coop, so we have pens to put a few different colors of cows/calves and a variety of other animals such as a donkey, mini horse, percheron, etc. Don't get caught up in just getting animals there though. Here is a list of our exhibits from this year, to give you some ideas:

  • Mini Horse, Mule, Percheron, Donkey, Jersey, Longhorn, Pigs, Show Calf, Charolais, Hereford, Paint horse, Pigs, Bees/Beekeepers, Petting Zoo, Baby Chicks/Mini Chicken House, Ferrier, Vet, Extension Agents, Antique Tractors, New Tractors, Hay Equipment/Hay Bales, Fruit/Veggie Stand, Know Your Poisons Exhibit, Local Tv Weatherman, Cotton, Peanuts, Soybeans/Corn, Grist Mill, Portable Cotton Gin, Sheep Sheering, Soil Tunnel, and a Water Wheel Trailer.

  • 2 months in advance, start contacting teachers for shirt sizes and numbers of students. We also get our ag teachers to send us student workers, so we get worker shirts for them.
  • After exhibitors start agreeing to come and numbers start coming in of those attending, decide what "extras" you're going to offer throughout the day. We contact the county cattleman's association and ask them to donate steak sandwiches for the workers and exhibitors. We get drinks from Coca-Cola. We also make sure to have plenty of water available.

  • We contact Barber's Milk and Bud's Best Cookies to get milk and cookies donated for the kids to eat before they leave. We also order each teacher a reusable shopping bag and fill it full of all kinds of goodies. Some we buy, like ag fact bookmarks and ag coloring books, but some things are donated, like Cotton Inc. stickers, and small sacks of peanuts. Ask anyone and everyone for donations!

  • In the month leading up to the event, make sure to confirm/remind everyone who will be there. Assign jobs. We get some of the ag students to lead classes around, while others we assign to talk about different exhibits. Make sure to assign someone to be in charge of them. Someone to check on your exhibitors-bring them water/lunch, etc? We have a backdrop where we take photos of each class, so we have a photographer. We also have people assigned to help park busses and usher students in the door.

  • In the weeks leading up to the big day, if you ordered shirts, or other materials, make sure you pick a day to sort them. Ours is a big job. We sort everything by class and school. The shirts are brought to the schools a couple of days before the event and the goody bags are given to the teachers right before they board the bus to leave.
  • Don't forget to contact the local newspaper or tv station if you would like some media coverage.
  • We also create a schedule, so we will know when the next group of kids will be arriving. It would be mass chaos if 800 students were there at the same time. Usually, one or two schools are being led around, while one is arriving and one is leaving.

  • Set up as many things as possible, such as tables and livestock panels, the day before. It never fails the day of, tractors will be late or a cow will get loose. Both have happened to us. Don't forget to assign a time for everyone to be there the next morning.

  • Most importantly, don't stress too much and have fun teaching folks about agriculture!