Limestone County farmers Stan and Kayla Usery were named Alabama’s Outstanding Young Farm Family (OYFF) during the Alabama Farmers Federation’s 92nd annual meeting in Montgomery.

The Userys live in Elkmont with 7-year-old daughter, Jessa, and farm around 700 acres of winter wheat, soybeans, cotton and corn and manage nine broiler houses.

As this year’s winner, the Userys will promote Alabama agriculture across the state.

They also will receive more than $60,000 in prizes including a nicely equipped 2014 Chevrolet or GM pickup truck, courtesy of Alfa Insurance and the Federation; a John Deere Gator 825i XUV, courtesy of Alabama Farm Credit and Alabama Ag Credit; lease of a John Deere tractor, courtesy of SunSouth, TriGreen Equipment and Snead Ag dealers; a personal computer system from Valcom Wireless/CCS Technology; and an expense-paid trip to the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 95th annual meeting in San Antonio.

Now in its 56th year, the OYFF program recognizes young farm families and farmers between the ages of 18 and 35 who do an outstanding job on the farm and in the community.

The Userys were selected to compete for the award earlier this year after being named one of six OYFF finalists.

While Stan and Kayla were both raised on family farms, they agree their love for agriculture has only deepened over time. Today, Kayla spends a bulk of her time educating the county’s high school students, leaving Stan to do what he does best — farm.

“I always knew I wanted to be involved in agriculture,” said Stan, who established his own operation after graduating from Auburn University in 2005.

“I wanted to start farming full time as soon as I graduated high school, but my parents were adamant about me going to college. Looking back, I’m glad I went (to Auburn) because it gave me time to mature, ground myself and eventually become a smarter farmer.”

Experience has paid off

Federation Young Farmers Division Director Jennifer Himburg said the added experience has paid off, noting the Userys’ dedication to agriculture and the state’s largest farm organization helped secure their place as this year’s winner.

“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.”

While the Userys’ interest in agriculture stems from a lifelong love of the rural lifestyle, Stan says conservation and stewardship are two elements he’s most passionate about practicing on his land.

“Our farm is strictly no-till, and we plan to keep it that way,” he added. “For us, it isn’t just about being no-till; it’s a long term commitment to the land. Utilizing a lot of high-residue rotations is a sustainable system that allows me to build soil health. To be honest, I’m as proud of my residue as I am the pretty crop on top of the soil.

“Being able to pull up a set of roots and see a couple earthworms and a long, straight taproot… maybe it’s part of my agronomy background, but that image is one of my favorite things about working the land.”

Part of the Userys’ long-term commitment relates to the family’s future on the farm.

 “Being a young farmer and trying to grow is a challenge even under the best of circumstances,” Stan said.

“I could go out and purchase land here and there, but I want to expand in a responsible way. To remain successful, we have to love what we do, but we also have to invest time and resources in a smart way.”

Kayla said one of the most rewarding aspects of being married to a full-time farmer is sharing the experience with their daughter.

 “Farming instills a certain work ethic and sense of independence,” Kayla said.

“We’re proud we can bring up Jessa on the farm, where she can see the rewards of hard work each day.”