By Debra Davis
||Stuart and Deborah Sanderson of Limestone County accept the 2006 Outstanding Young Farm Family of Alabama awards during the 85th Annual Meeting of the Alabama Farmers Federation in Mobile. From left are: David Howse, president of the Federal Lank Bank of North Alabama; Spencer Swan, president of the Federal Land Bank of South Alabama; Federation President Jerry A. Newby; Deborah Sanderson with son, Spencer; and Stuart Sanderson.
Stuart and Deborah Sanderson of Limestone County were selected as the 2006 Outstanding Young Farm Family of Alabama during the Alabama Farmers Federation’s 85th Annual Meeting in Mobile.
The Sandersons were selected to compete for the award after being named the Outstanding Young Farm Family in the Wheat & Feed Grains Division earlier this year.
The Sandersons, along with their 2-year-old son, Spencer, live near Madison where Stuart farms with his cousin Chad Henderson, his uncle, Mike Henderson, and his grandfather, G. W. Henderson. Their 4,000-acre diversified farm includes corn, wheat, cotton and soybeans.
As the 2006 Outstanding Young Farm Family, the Sandersons will participate in many activities promoting Alabama agriculture during the coming year. They will receive for six months the use of a John Deere tractor sponsored by John Deere and Company, a new John Deere Trail Gator sponsored by Federal Land Bank, the use of a 2007 Chevrolet Trailblazer for a year, courtesy of county Farmers Federations of Alabama, an IBM computer package from ValCom Business Centers of Alabama and $500 cash from Dodge.
As the Alabama Outstanding Young Farm Family for 2006, the Sandersons will go on to compete for the American Farm Bureau’s Young Farmers and Ranchers Achievement Award in 2007.
Stuart said his farm’s diversified crops, the use of technology and calculated marketing decisions allow him to minimize risks associated with farming. Still, he keeps close watch on the weather and the commodity market by using whatever means necessary, whether it’s calling up fellow farmers on his cell phone or keeping check on the Chicago Board of Trade.
Stuart’s admiration for technology also extends to Deborah, an engineer with a missile defense and aerospace supplier. She said she sees her role as relating more to home life than farm life, including taking care of their son, Spencer, whose first word at age nine months was "tractor."
Together, the farmer and engineer have also become partners in the effort to bring Alabama’s first ethanol manufacturing plant to the Tennessee Valley.
Young Farmers Director Brandon Moore said the awards program seeks to honor families like the Sandersons not just for what they are doing, but for the inspiration they provide to other farmers around the state.
"It’s exciting to see a young farm family do well in a time when the number of farms is declining," Moore said. "Stuart has been on the forefront of adopting new technology that makes his farm more efficient and productive. He has a passion for farming and for the future of agriculture in Alabama. That’s evident by the many new programs he’s involved in, including bringing ethanol production to north Alabama and the steps they take to protect the environment and natural resources on the land they farm."