By Jeff Helms
|Lamar and Felicia Dewberry of Clay County, center, accept Farm of Distinction awards and prizes from the sponsors. From left are, Lester Killebrew of SunSouth John Deere dealerships, Ed Underwood of TriGreen Equipment, Lamar Dewberry, Felicia Dewberry, Alabama Farmers Federation President Jerry A. Newby and Jim Allen of Alabama Farmers Cooperative.
A certified Treasure Forest and Tree Farm from Clay County was named Alabama’s 2008 Farm of Distinction by the Alabama Farm-City Committee April 14 in Birmingham. As this year’s winner, Lamar and Felicia Dewberry received prizes valued at more than $10,000 and will represent Alabama in the Southeastern Farmer of the Year competition with the winner being named during the Sunbelt Ag Expo in Moultrie, Ga., Oct. 14-16.
Unlike many farmers, the Dewberrys won’t harvest their crop this fall, but the seeds they’ve planted will continue to yield dividends for years and even generations to come.
A retired agriscience teacher, Lamar already is seeing the fruits of his labor as the young men and women he mentored achieve success in their own careers. But after more than two
decades of coaching young people in events like forestry judging and livestock shows, the self-proclaimed country boy also is now seeing Dewberry Lands produce valuable timber, critical wildlife habitat and priceless beauty.
The farm spans 730 acres, including 329 acres of loblolly pines, 194 acres of hardwoods, 55 acres of longleaf pines and more than 20 acres of wildlife openings. The operation has won awards for wildlife management and environmental stewardship including the National Wild Turkey Woodland Award and the Treasure Forest Helene Mosley Award.
The Dewberrys manage their land for what Lamar calls the "twin crops of modern forest management" - timber and wildlife. But it’s Lamar’s commitment to protecting the water and reducing soil erosion in the rolling hills of Clay County that makes his farm distinctive.
"I always mark the streamside management zones when we have a timber harvest," Lamar said. "I get back at least 50 feet on each side of the stream, sometimes farther according to how steep the land is next to the stream. We could probably allow some harvesting in that zone, but we don’t allow any for two reasons: one, there’s not going to be any runoff in that stream if we don’t get within 50 feet of the stream, and two, it serves as a wildlife corridor."
Lamar is president of the Clay County Farmers Federation, and Felicia is a licensed realtor. They have two children, Nathan, 26, and Abby, 25.
As this year’s Farm of Distinction winner, the Dewberrys received a John Deere Gator donated by Sun-South and Tri-Green Equipment dealers in Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee. In addition, Alabama Farmers Cooperative presented them a $1,000 gift certificate redeemable at any of its member Quality Co-op stores. Alabama Farmers Federation and Alfa Health awarded the Farm of Distinction an engraved, mahogany farm sign. The Alabama winner also will receive a $2,500 cash award and an expense-paid trip to the Sunbelt Ag Expo to compete in the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year contest, with the winner receiving $14,000, plus several other prizes.
The Farm of Distinction finalists are judged on their management, conservation and environmental practices as well as the overall aesthetic appearance of the farm and leadership of the farm owner.
Five other finalists also were honored during the program, which was held in conjunction with the Alabama Farmers Federation State Women’s Conference. They were Charles and Vera Britton of Madison County, Charles and Donna Butler of Madison County, John and Mandy Newman of Chambers County, Mike and Mary DuBose of Pike County and Donnie and Norma Waters of Baldwin County. Each finalist received a $250 gift certificate from Alabama Farmers Cooperative.
The Farm-City Committee of Alabama presents the Farm of Distinction Award annually. Farm-City Week is observed nationally beginning the Friday before Thanksgiving and ends on Thanksgiving as a way to help bridge the gap between rural and urban residents.