June 2014
Co-op Matters

Haynes Brings Youthful Perspective to AFC Board

  Ben Haynes, a native of Cullman County, is the newest – and youngest – member of AFC’s Board of Directors.

Ben Haynes recently accepted the position of board member of Alabama Farmers Cooperative. He was installed at AFC’s Annual Membership Meeting in Montgomery. 

Haynes, 36, is a native of the Fairview area in Cullman County. He is a fifth-generation farmer and a 2000 graduate of Auburn University. In fact, the entire Haynes family is dedicated to Auburn. 

Since Haynes’ oldest uncle went to Auburn in 1968, there have only been a couple of years when a member of the family wasn’t on the Plains. 

Haynes Farms, LLC, includes Haynes, his father Darrel and his brother Bart. Together they row crop about 1,200 acres of corn, soybeans and wheat. They also have a couple hundred acres of dedicated hay ground. 

Haynes Farms also produces commercial cattle – Charolais, Brangus and Hereford. They also maintain a small herd of Brahman cattle. Each year, they produce around 600 calves that they background themselves, then sell through Superior Livestock Auction. Haynes noted that the farm has been selling truckloads of cattle since his father returned from Auburn in the 1970s. 

Recently, cattle from the Haynes farm have been directed to feedlots in Maryland and Indiana. Haynes said there is a supplier in Maine that markets beef to Whole Foods stores on the East Coast and it is more cost effective to obtain the cattle directly from Southern and Midwestern producers than from feedlots in the West.

Haynes said his cattle, sold this way, are marketed under an "All Natural" label. The farm must agree to certain restrictions such as not allowing antibiotics or other additives to be used. It has turned out to be a reasonably good market.

Haynes has served on the board for Cullman Farmers Co-op and was retained as a board member when the store merged with the Marshall County operation. Most recently, he served as president of the Marshall Farmers Co-op Board. 

Even though Haynes is considerably younger than your typical board member, he looks forward to being the junior member on the board.

"All the guys I knew and the ones I’ve gotten to know over the past several months, I don’t mind being associated with them," Haynes said with a chuckle. "They are a good group of men."

Being asked if he would consider serving on the board, Haynes said, "It was something I felt like I could contribute to and hopefully be a small part in the continuing success and strength of farming."

Haynes noted that Cullman County is like other mostly rural counties in that the farming economy is quite mixed.

"We’re always going to have some cattle, some crops," he said. "We’re in a part of the world where some of your for-profit suppliers are never going to be fired up about servicing this area."

Thankfully, Cullman County is blessed with a strong Co-op to fill the needs of its members, noted Haynes.

"From a selfish standpoint, we need the Co-op to be strong and able to deliver service and product for our farm to be successful. And I know there are lots of places in the state that are like my place and depend on that service. The Co-op fills that void," said Haynes.

"The Co-op has been around for a very long time and if I can play a very, very small role in continuing that success and legacy then I will have considered whatever time I spent on the board to be time well spent."

As is typical for most farmers, Haynes doesn’t have many outside interests. His interests are family, church and farming. His family usually enjoys a trip to Auburn once or twice a year. 

Haynes has found a kindred spirit in AFC President Rivers Myres. Myres is new to the job as well and they are both tackling the learning curve that comes with any new experience. 

"Concerning Rivers, I’m really impressed with his humility and his willingness to listen to folks," Haynes said. "Since we started at the same time, we kind of feel like we’re in this together. I feel like he’s going to do a fine job going forward."

Haynes and his wife Whitney have three children, Jack, 6; Lola Kate, 3; and Charlie, 1. Whitney teaches Family and Consumer Science at Fairview High School. They are active members of Mt. Olive Church, where Whitney’s grandfather is the pastor. 

Haynes has served on the local board for the Alabama Farmers Federation and was the Chairman of the State Young Farmers Committee in 2011. He graduated from Fairview High School in 1996. While a student on the Plains, Haynes was a member of Phi Gamma Delta fraternity and an Ag Ambassador.

Susie Sims is a freelance writer from Haleyville.