April 2014
Co-op Matters

Manager of the Year

 
  Rivers Myres, left, AFC’s CEO, presents Perry Catrett, manager of Luverne Cooperative Services, with the E.P. Garrett Manager of the Year Award during AFC’s annual meeting in Montgomery.

Luverne Cooperative Services Manager Perry Catrett was recently announced as E. P. Garrett Manager of Year at the annual meeting of Alabama Farmers Cooperative.

Perry Catrett has had several jobs through the years, but he’s always returned to farming because it’s been in his blood since the age of 5.

That’s how old he was when he began using his little muscles to toss square bales of hay out of the back of a pickup truck as hungry cattle slowly walked and nibbled behind.

When he wasn’t tending to his family’s small cattle herd in Crenshaw County where he grew up, he earned an agriculture degree from Auburn University, taught school, graded peanuts and was a supervisor at a prison farm.

Always in the back of his mind, however, was his love of farming and he knew, one day, he’d return to it in some capacity for good.

Once that happened, his expertise in all things agriculture landed him his dream job and he would eventually be recognized as the best in Alabama when it came to a certain special designation.

It occurred on the night of Feb. 26, 2014, when his name was announced as the E.P. Garrett Manager of the Year during the annual meeting of Alabama Farmers Cooperative, Inc.

 
Ashley Catrett is proud of her husband Perry, manager of Luverne Cooperative Services, upon his winning the E.P. Garrett Manager of the Year Award.  
   

Hundreds of farmers and ranchers stood and applauded as a surprised Catrett rose to be recognized. His initial thought was to find a place to hide.

"I had no idea this would happen and I wanted to crawl under the table," he said, during an interview with Cooperative Farming News after he was honored at the annual AFC meeting at the Renaissance Montgomery Hotel and Spa at the Convention Center.

Applauding and beaming with pride was his wife Ashley, who kept the secret of his impending honor for two weeks.

"She never cracked a smile when I looked over at her," said her happy husband. "It had to be hard to keep a secret that long."

When AFC President Rivers Myres began reading about the honoree without mentioning his name, he gradually outlined all the accomplishments that helped him win the coveted honor.

Myres said the winner makes his presence known "not by words, but through a display of work ethic and customer service infused with old-fashioned family values."

"He learned the value of hard work from his parents on their family farm," Myres said. "He refined his work ethic in 1983 as a 15-year-old when he and his mother agreed to maintain the farm following his father’s death."

That was the giveaway clue that sank in for Catrett, but he still found it hard to believe at first. When he came back to earth, he realized that all his hard work during roller coaster times had finally paid off.

"Some things just happen for a reason," he said. "That’s what happened to me and I must admit it was pretty rough at first."

He referred to the pink slip he received 14 years ago at Samson High School in Geneva County where he had been teaching ag science.

The termination wasn’t his fault, but his status as junior instructor in a two-teacher staff during a "reduction in force" period left him with the short straw out in the cold.

He and Ashley were proud parents when Perry learned he had lost his job. Daughter Cassidy was about 3 years old while her sister Cameron was about to be born.

That’s when he went to work grading peanuts for a brief period as he filled out other job applications for something more permanent.

"I was trying to make some diaper money," he said, with a laugh. "As it turned out, I got a pretty good job around that time."

It was for the state Department of Corrections as a cattle supervisor at a prison farm in Atmore. He did it for 2 years, but, once again, wanted to get back to farming.

"I was 32 at the time and had never been on a horse before, but I managed not to fall off," said Catrett, who used four-legged transportation to oversee inmate help at the sprawling cattle facility.

He finally found the stability he was looking for at Luverne Cooperative Services Inc. where he was looking for some fencing supplies.

The manager asked him if he’d be interested in working there and Perry quickly accepted the offer.

He began by handling business at the counter, but it wasn’t long before his management skills were noted at the Co-op where he had been a long-time customer.

He hoped he’d become manager of the business one day and that’s what happened when a vacancy occurred in the management position.

After being hired, Perry underwent a 14-month training program. In 2003, he was named manager of the Co-op.

The Catretts are a busy foursome with Perry managing the store while Ashley works at the central office of the Crenshaw County school system. Their daughters are also busy with their school work as well as showing cattle at competitions around the state. Weekends are hectic as the couple drive the girls to their next event.

Shinglepile Creek Farm is where they live. In addition to a small cattle herd, Perry keeps tabs on their growing timber "crop" on the 160-acre farm that’s named for the creek running through the property.

The Luverne Rotary Club would love to have Perry as its president and he’s not opposed to it, but business comes first and he’s as busy as ever these days.

Rotary is important to Perry and he currently serves on the board of directors. In 2012, he was recognized as a Paul Harris Fellow, one of the organization’s highest honors.

Alvin Benn is a freelance writer from Selma.