In Vietnam, Givhan flew a total of 1,250 hours on reconnaissance missions, and earned decorations such as the Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star, Purple Heart and 25 Air Medals.

After returning from Vietnam in 1969, Givhan worked for a few years at the Bush Hog manufacturing facility in Selma, Ala. There, he was responsible for designing tillage equipment. During that time, he began farming with his father, brother and a friend when the farm was about one fourth of its current size. He also served six years in the Alabama National Guard.

“In 1972, my father, brother and I formed Givhan Land & Cattle Company,” he recalls. “In 1973, I went to work full time managing the farm. My father died in 1976, and in 1985 my brother and I divided assets, and I became the sole stockholder in Givhan Land & Cattle Co.”

Givhan earned his pilot’s license in 1963 and still uses the flying skills he perfected as an Army aviator. He flies his own airplane to agricultural meetings and to various farm events, including the Sunbelt Ag Expo.

His farming plans include adding irrigation. “The idea is to use water from the catfish ponds for irrigation, and then to replenish the ponds with water from a well,” he explains. He also plans on using long-term leases that will allow him to improve the land he farms.

He protects the environment by using conservation-tillage planting and by encouraging landlords to put marginal, erodible land into the Conservation Reserve Program. He maintains grass buffers and vegetation along stream banks. “On our catfish operation, we do not allow cattle to get into the ponds, and we use computer sensors to monitor pond oxygen and conserve energy use,” he explains.

Givhan has been active in farm leadership. For 26 years, he served as president of the Dallas County Farmers Federation. He is president of Central Alabama Farmers Co-op, serves on a committee for the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives and is on the board of the Dallas County Cattlemen’s Association.

He is a founding member of the Alabama Agribusiness Council and is a member of the Alabama Farmers Federation Wheat & Feed Grains Committee. He has also worked to bring industry to the Black Belt region of western Alabama.

Since 2003, Givhan has served on the board of Alabama Farmers Cooperative and is the current board chairman. He is also a licensed auctioneer and a registered professional engineer. He’s also a strong supporter of Marion Military Institute where he went to school.

He and his wife Lynne are members of Safford Baptist Church. Sam and Lynne have two adult sons. Their youngest son David works on the farm where he is responsible for managing the farm’s hay and cattle production. Their oldest son Sam is an attorney in Huntsville, Ala., and he helps the farm by serving as the secretary and general counsel for Givhan’s farming company.

Givhan gives Lynne much of the credit for the success of his farm. He met her when he was a student at Marion Military Institute and she was attending Judson College in the same town, Marion, Ala. They married in 1964.

 “It was very tough for our farm and for many farms during the early 1980s, with drought, grain embargoes and low prices,” he recalls.

“Lynne’s off-farm job and her income was a big help in paying our living expenses.” She taught school for a time, and before retiring, Lynne worked for about 15 years as director of mental retardation services for Cahaba Regional Mental Health Center in Selma, Ala. Her hobbies include gardening, and she was active for several years in the Extension-sponsored Master Gardner program. 

Jeff Helms with the Alabama Farmers Federation is the state coordinator of the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year award.

Givhan was nominated for the award by Robert Utsey, area organizational director with the Alabama Farmers Federation. “I worked with Sam when he was president of the Dallas County Farmers Federation,” says Utsey.