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Special to the Enquirer Mark and Sandy Byrd of Byrd Family Farms in Morgan County are announced as the 2022 Alabama Farm of Distinction during the Alabama Farm-City Awards Luncheon and Program April 7 in Birmingham. The Byrds received a John Deere Gator courtesy of SunSouth and TriGreen Dealers; a $1,000 gift certificate from Alabama Farmers Cooperative; and an engraved farm sign from Alfa Insurance and the Alabama Farmers Federation. They are pictured with TriGreen’s Jay Hamlett and Lynne Morton; SunSouth’s Lester Killebrew; Alfa Insurance and Alabama Farmers Federation President Jimmy Parnell; and AFC’s Jade Randolph.

Farm of Distinction title goes to Morgan County farm

Special to the Enquirer

Faith and family are the foundation on which Mark and Sandy Byrd built their farm, recognized April 7 as Alabama’s 2022 Farm of Distinction. “I don’t know how anybody could farm without having God on their side – without trusting Him,” said Mark, who accepted the award during the Alabama Farm-City Awards Program and Luncheon in Birmingham. “We’ve overcome so much. When you go through challenges, you have to stay focused and trust the Lord to see you through those times.”

For Byrd Family Farms in Danville, tough times have included storms, droughts and a fire that destroyed one of their chicken houses. Despite those challenges, the Byrds have grown from 100 acres and four poultry houses in 1993 to a diversified farm with fields spanning 40 miles in two counties. “We’ve totally upgraded all the older chicken houses. We’ve added shops and storage barns for our equipment, and we built a new chicken house in 1996,” Mark said. “We went from about 40 acres of corn, soybeans and wheat the first year to nearly 2,000 acres now.

“We’ve got a grain handling system where we can store right at 100,000 bushels of grain,” Mark added, “which really helps during our harvest.”

As Farm of Distinction winners, the Byrds received a John Deere Gator from SunSouth and TriGreen dealers; a $1,000 gift certificate from the Alabama Farmers Cooperative; and a farm sign from Alfa Insurance. The Byrds farm with their sons, Perry and Rodney. Both are mechanically minded and have contributed to the farm’s success by refurbishing old equipment, making repairs and manufacturing solutions for everyday tasks. Over the years, the Byrds’ operation has included a wheat straw business, custom hay baling and a trucking company. Their five-year plan includes building a store along busy Highway 157 where they can sell farm products and Alabama-grown goods. Mark said he’s driven by the same determination that led him to buy a used tractor and hay baler at age 14 and plant his first 15-acre crop at 18. “I don’t like somebody to tell me no,” he said. “When I want to achieve something, I’m going to do my very best to achieve it. I haven’t always been successful. Life’s a struggle sometimes. But I don’t see that as a failure. Once you give it all you’ve got, then that’s a success.” Known throughout the Southeast as bass singer for the Living Faith gospel quartet, Mark also serves as Morgan County Farmers Federation president and represents District 2 on the Federation’s state board. The Byrds attend Temple Baptist Church. The family will represent Alabama in the Swisher/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year contest in Moultrie, Georgia, Oct. 18-20. As the state representative, the Byrds will receive $2,500 from Swisher and have the chance to compete for an additional $15,000, along with other prizes.