Jon and Amy Hegeman of Calhoun County were named Alabama’s Outstanding Young Farm Family (OYFF) during the Alabama Farmers Federation’s 91st Annual Meeting in Montgomery.
The Hegemans, who manage eight acres of greenhouses and established a horse training facility near their home in Anniston, were selected to compete for the award earlier this year after being named the OYFF finalist in the Greenhouse, Nursery & Sod Division.
They have a 10-month-old daughter, Ella Kate. The OYFF program, now in its 55th year, seeks to recognize young farm families and farmers between the ages of 18 and 35 who do an outstanding job on the farm and in the community.
OYFF finalists also promote a better understanding of agriculture with the urban populace.
As this year’s winner, the Hegemans will promote Alabama agriculture across the state through a variety of activities.
They also will receive thousands of dollars in cash and prizes including a nicely equipped 2013 Chevrolet or GMC pickup truck valued at $35,000, courtesy of Alfa Insurance; a John Deere Gator 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 CCS Technology/Valcom Wireless; and an expense-paid trip the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 94th Annual Meeting in Nashville, courtesy of the Alabama Farmers Federation.
Federation Young Farmers Director Jennifer Himburg said the Hegemans’ win is a testament to their dedication to agriculture and the organization.
“Though I’ve worked with Jon only a few months, I’m incredibly impressed by his commitment to being a leader in the Federation and the Young Farmers program,” said Himburg. “Jon and Amy seek not only to develop their leadership skills, but to create those opportunities for others as well. Both Jon and Amy’s level of dedication and work ethic is evident, and it’s great to see them recognized.”
Wasn’t raised on a farm
While Amy has four generations of West Texas ranching in her family to influence her enthusiasm for rural life, Jon wasn’t raised on a family farm. Instead, his journey has taken him from the Dominican Republic to Canada, where he worked on a dairy farm; Florida, where he worked on a large row crop farm; and North Carolina, where he worked on a green bean farm before ultimately settling down in Alabama.
Despite several moves, Jon said his love of agriculture never wavered.
“I always knew I wanted to do this, but it didn’t take me long to realize just how difficult breaking into the (agricultural) world would be,” said Jon.
“Banks are hesitant to take risks on the young, so I had to seek out alternative methods that would still allow me to own my own business and put food on the table. When an opportunity presented itself managing four acres of greenhouses in Calhoun County eight years ago, I took it.”
Over the course of a few years, those four acres grew to eight, which Jon manages in partnership with Greenway Plants.
To ensure the operation remains strong and to reduce financial risk, the nearly 350,000-square feet of ornamental accent plants and Boston ferns are pre-sold each year to larger nurseries and retail centers.
“It helps us plan our year, make smarter decisions and make sure we have a sufficient team,” he added.
While Jon is busy with the greenhouses, Amy’s priority is managing Hegeman Farms, their horse operation. In addition to training and selling performance horses, she also offers riding lessons.
“Horses have always been an important part of my life,” said Amy. “Since Jon and I both love horses, building the equine operation behind our home a little over two years ago seemed like a natural progression.”
Away from the greenhouses and stables, the Hegemans are members of Grace Fellowship Church. They are also active in the Calhoun County Young Farmers Committee and a slew of industry organizations. Jon was also elected to serve as State Young Farmers Committee chairman during the Federation’s Annual Meeting.