Billy Gilley, a poultry/cattle farmer from Holly Pond, has been selected as the 2007 Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year for Alabama.

In 1989, he purchased his first farm and built four 40- by 500-foot broiler houses with Ingram Farms, but continued to work at a factory at night. In 1993, he was able to quit his factory job and return home to farm.

Today, Gilley’s farm covers 350 acres, up from the 30 acres he purchased in 1989, and he has been selected as the 2007 Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer for Alabama. He was selected for the honor in judging conducted by the Alabama Farmers Federation and was nominated by Matthew Durdin.

Today’s operation annually produces 1,072,500 birds (4,500,000 pounds of meat) that are contracted through Tyson Foods. There are also 200 head of purebred Charolais cattle.

“I sell my purebred Charolais bulls private treaty to purebred and commercial cattlemen,” says Gilley.” My purebred Charolais heifers go back into the herd or I sell them for show heifers and club calf projects. All commercial cattle are sold through auction barns.”

In addition to the poultry and cattle, hay plays an important role in the operation with 60 acres producing four tons per acre.

“I feel God has truly blessed me to be able to earn a living doing something that I truly love and enjoy — farming,” he adds.

There are also plans for growth in the future. “I plan on purchasing some more land in the near future if it becomes available,” he says.

Gilley and his wife Terri have two grown daughters Angela Gilley and Jennifer Dias. Angela is working on her Masters degree at Alabama A&M University.

Previous state winners from Alabama include: Ricky Wiggins of Anderson, 1990; George Kiser, Sr. of Foley, 1991; Allen Bragg of Toney, 1992; Sykes Martin of Courtland, 1993; David Pearce of Browns, 1994; Glenn Jones of Blountsville, 1995; Raymond Jones of Huntsville, 1996; Dan Miller of Greensboro, 1997; Homer Tate of Meridianville, 1998; Eugene Glenn of Hillsboro, 1999; George T. Hamilton of Hillsboro, 2000; Bert Driskell of Grand Bay, 2001; Charles Burton of Lafayette, 2002; Bruce Bush of Eufaula, 2003; John B. East of Leesburg, 2004; James A. Wise of Samson, 2005 and Glenn Forrester of Columbia, 2006.

Alabama has had one overall winner with Raymond Jones of Huntsville being selected as the Southeastern Farmer of the Year in 1996.