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December 29, 2013

Living off the land: Userys named state’s top young farm family

ELKMONT — In the Usery household, an heirloom tomato is called “Mr. Stripey Tomato,” Chocolate Milk and Cheesecake are prospective baby names and high-tech poultry monitors get tagged as “middle-of-the-night chicken alarms.”

These are only a few of the observations shared by Jessa, the 7-year-old gregarious daughter of Stan and Kayla Usery, during a recent Sunday afternoon on the family farm in Elkmont.

The Usery spread includes a renovated ranch-style home featuring a front porch and a cozy interior with gleaming hardwood floors installed by Stan and his brother-in-law, a fenced-in pool nestled between the house and Stan’s farm laboratory, multiple equipment sheds and five poultry houses.

The property is also home to the state’s reigning Outstanding Young Farm Family. The Userys, who finished as a top finalist in 2011, received the honor on Dec. 6 during the Alabama Farm Federation’s annual meeting in Montgomery.

The family received more than $60,000 in prizes, including $35,000 toward a new pickup truck, a John Deere Gator cart and an all-expenses paid trip to American Farm Bureau Federation’s 95th meeting in San Antonio to compete in the national contest.

The OYFF program recognizes farm families and farmers ages 18 to 35 who do an outstanding job on the farm and in the community, according to Alabama Farmers Federation spokeswoman Mary Johnson.

Jennifer Himburg, director of the federation’s Young Farmers Division, said the Userys’ dedication to agriculture and the state’s largest farm organization helped them win the 56th OYFF award.

“Stan and Kayla represent the very best of the young farmers in this state,” Himburg said. “Their compassion and commitment to being stewards of the land and raising a family with roots in agriculture represents the very heart of the Alabama Farmers Federation.

“They are both well respected among their peers for their achievements in production agriculture and their dedication to giving back as leaders in the industry.”

Reid farmer Paul Looney grows corn, wheat, soybeans, canola and some cotton and has a son, Ben, who finished in the top six of the OYFF program twice. Looney said the award means the Userys will have more networking opportunities.

“It’s not all about winning, and they will make friends all across Alabama,” he said. “It’s pretty impressive to win because it’s an intense program, and Stan is a good, young farmer.”

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