State Cullman County student Nathan Duke receives endowed ag scholarship | CullmanSense

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Cullman County student Nathan Duke receives endowed ag scholarship

Auburn University student and scholarship recipient Nathan Duke was recognized during the Alabama Farmers Federation 2017 Scholarship Recipients Luncheon Aug. 19 at the Ham Wilson Arena in Auburn. Duke studies poultry science, production track. The R.W. Donaldson Endowed Scholarship is named after a longtime Cullman County Farmers Federation and Cattlemen's Association member. From left are Federation President Jimmy Parnell, Duke, Federation Executive Director Paul Pinyan and State Board Member Rickey Cornutt.

AUBURN - The state’s largest farm organization expects investments of more than $150,000 in scholarships to return high yields for 87 Auburn University students pursuing agricultural and forestry degrees.

Students were honored at the Alabama Farmers Federation’s 2017 Scholarship Recipients Luncheon Aug. 19 at Ham Wilson Arena in Auburn. Scholarships were funded by the Alabama Farmers Agriculture Foundation (AFAF) and county Farmers Federations.

Federation President Jimmy Parnell said as agriculture and technology evolve, the organization's most important task is investing in the future.

“These young people have answers to questions producers haven’t even thought of yet,” said Parnell, an Auburn ag graduate. “These days, it takes an education to be able to farm and do it correctly.”

Senior agricultural communications student Ellie Isbell promised county and state Federation leaders a return on their investment.

"I want to make a commitment on behalf of all the students — we will be the next generation of ag leaders,” said Isbell, a Colbert County native and former Federation intern. “You have equipped us, and when it’s time for you to retire, we will be ready. We will step up, lead this industry and represent the farmers of our state.”

Clay County Farmers Federation President Michael Dick said though his county organization is small, it recognizes the importance of scholarships.

“As a teacher and high school principal, I spent a lot of time helping graduating seniors choose where they would go in life,” said Dick, who is now retired. “This is a wonderful way we help students pursue an ag or ag-related field. We’re proud of these students and the way they’re committed to hard work.”

At the reception, Kim Slay wore two hats — wife of Chambers County Farmers Federation (CCFF) President Phil Slay and parent to scholarship recipient and AU senior, Zach. Thanks to the Federation, CCFF and Alfa Insurance, almost half the forestry student’s tuition is paid.

“When I married into my farm family, I didn’t realize I was marrying into the Farmers Federation,” said Slay, an AU animal science graduate whose children grew up attending Federation events. “Because of our Alfa family and like-minded individuals and organizations, when Zach graduates next spring, he will not walk off with a crippling load of student debt.”

Fifty-nine $1,750 scholarships were awarded through a county Federation match of $500. The AFAF contributed $1,250, along with support from the Federation and Alfa Insurance.

Another 27 students received county Federation scholarships from Autauga, Baldwin, Chambers, Chilton, Covington, Dale, Henry, Houston, Jefferson, Lee and Madison counties. Other county Farmers Federations awarded scholarships directly to students during county ceremonies.

Earlier this year, Alfa awarded $1,000 scholarships to 100 students pursuing various careers at Alabama colleges, universities and technical schools.

Additionally, Cullman County’s Nathan Duke received the R.W. Donaldson Endowed Scholarship from the Cullman County Farmers Federation and Cattlemen’s Association.

The Alabama Farmers Federation is the state’s largest farm organization with nearly 360,000 members in 67 counties.