Though not raised on a farm, Annie Dee grew up in farming country in southern Illinois. 

After studying agriculture in college, she farmed land her parents owned in Florida. This land was later sold to start another in west Alabama. Over the years, she transformed Dee River Ranch near Aliceville, Ala., into a modern row crop and beef cattle operation.

As a result of her success as a diversified farmer, Dee has been selected as the Alabama state winner of the 2013 Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year award.

Dee joins nine other state winners from the Southeast as finalists for the award. The overall winner will be announced on Tuesday, Oct. 15 at the Sunbelt Ag Expo farm show in Moultrie, Ga.

Today, Dee River Ranch is a 10,000-acre operation, with corn, wheat and soybeans. Per acre crop yields are about 182 bushels for irrigated corn, 96 bushels for dryland corn, 53 bushels for irrigated soybeans, 46 bushels for non-irrigated soybeans and 53 bushels for wheat.

She operates the farm with her brother Mike Dee. Mike and Annie share ownership of the farm with their 10 brothers and sisters.

They harvest high moisture corn in July to gain top seasonal prices. The farm has about 253,000 bushels in grain storage capacity, and the Dees are planning to add more storage to help market their grain crops for higher prices.

Irrigation has become a major emphasis. In 2011, the Dees built a 25-acre reservoir and two pivots. They later built a 110-acre irrigation reservoir and five pivots. This year, they added 11 new Lindsay center pivot irrigation systems. “My goal is to have 100 percent of the row crop acreage irrigated,” says Annie. With additional irrigation, Annie believes she can eventually grow corn yielding an average of 300 bushels per acre.

Annie and Mike also added a wireless network to link the irrigation systems. The network provides high-speed internet over 20 square miles.

Lindsay officials now bring staff and clients from throughout the world to Dee River Ranch to see how integrated irrigation systems can increase productivity.