April 2018
Co-op Matters

E.P. Garrett Manager of the Year

Marshall Farmers Co-op General Manager Steve Hodges, who has 43 years of service, surprised with award.

 

From left, AFC CEO Rivers Myers, Steve Hodges and his wife, Mar. Photo credit: Morgan Graham

To conclude his report to the 81st annual membership meeting of Alabama Farmers Cooperative in February, CEO Rivers Myres said he looked forward to watching AFC’s team win together. No one exemplifies that team spirit better than Steve Hodges, the 2017 E.P. Garrett Manager of the Year.

Though Hodges, a 43-year employee and current general manager of Marshall Farmers Co-op, was at a loss for words when recognized during the awards banquet, he later spoke about his years with the Co-op and the honor he received.

"I couldn’t have done this by myself," Hodges said. "I have a great board at Marshall and a great bunch of employees who are really dedicated and helped every way possible. I just happened to be the coach of the winning team."

That winning team is one Hodges helped build during two decades as the store’s general manager. In addition to running the Arab location, in 2009, Hodges led the effort to merge with the Cullman store that was then facing closure.

In his introduction of Hodges, Myres highlighted this unique accomplishment and the success Hodges has brought to the merged Co-ops.

"This manager has shown a progressive attitude by working through consolidation of a struggling member into his cooperative and making it a tremendous success," Myres explained before announcing Hodges’ name. "It has become a model for future consolidation."

Hodges began his Co-op career fresh out of the University of North Alabama in AFC’s management trainee program. After spending time in each of the departments in the company’s Decatur headquarters, he went to the Madison County Co-op to work under Frank Hanes, who was then the general manager.

Hodges thanked Hanes, under whom he worked again in the 1980s and ’90s, and whom he looked to for advice and support after Hanes moved into a management services district representative role.

He also gave credit to his wife, Mar, a retired educator who secretly coordinated the attendance of 13 family members to see Hodges take home AFC’s highest honor at the Montgomery event. Not only was Hodges surprised by their presence, he was caught completely off-guard by his selection for the award.

"I honestly didn’t know [Myres] was talking about me until he called my name," Hodges said after the event.

Hodges, who had announced before the meeting that he would retire at the end of 2018, said he was thrilled to be ending his career with AFC on a high note.

"Steve is a Co-op man, and he loves the Co-op," said Ben Haynes, a member of both the Marshall County and AFC boards of directors. "I was really, really proud that he was chosen and I was there to see it because I know how hard he works and how much he cares."

The E.P. Garrett Manager of the Year Award is awarded annually to a manager or general manager of a Quality Co-op based on a number of qualifications, including the store’s performance over the preceding five years. In addition to a cash prize and plaque, the recipient receives the use of a Ford pickup truck for one year.

 

Mary Catherine Gaston is a freelance writer from Americus, Georgia.