It’s time for a new edition of the Land Show with Dave and Johnny. On the show today with the guys, Chris Upchurch from Rocking U Farm. Randall Upchurch with your Farmland Report. Captain David Hare with Alex City Guide Service. Brian Watts with your Timber Talk segment, and of course, the Wild Man himself, Tim Baker. So sit on back, relax, and enjoy a new edition of The Land Show with Dave and Johnny.
ROCKING U FARM WINS OUTSTANDING YOUNG FARM FAMILY AWARD
Dave Milton: Hey, everybody, welcome to The Land Show with Dave and Johnny. It’s a beautiful Saturday morning, here, and I think it’s still technically fall, but it’s starting to feel like winter. Johnny B, how are you doing today?
Jonathan Goode: I’m doing well, man. Good to be with you this morning.
Dave Milton: I tell you what, man, it’s been a nice, crisp, almost winter-like conditions this past week, and this is fat man’s revenge time right here.
Jonathan Goode: Making up for all those hot summer days.
Dave Milton: I’m about three times the size of my wife, and right now, she’s suffering, and I’m suffering in July, so, I kinda like it.
Jonathan Goode: Well, man, how about after the show last week, that SEC championship game. If you are an Alabama fan, you just, gosh … And if you’re in the stock market, I mean, that’s been up and down this week, and then that SEC championship game …there were some heartstoppers there.
Dave Milton: That SEC championship game was like hell for an Auburn fan, watching our two biggest rivals look like protein back there. I had a hard time watching that one, but congratulations to Alabama. They’re a heck of a ball team.
Jonathan Goode: I live over in Perry County, and they had the tornado warnings that came out during the Iron Bowl and … I mean, during the SEC championship game, and football’s so serious, very few people even paid attention to the tornado warnings. They’re like, “Get that down off the screen.”
Dave Milton: Yeah, I heard where that was the, I think, the second most-watched SEC championship game in history. I don’t know what the first one was. And it was the most watched college football game of the year, which is not surprising.
Jonathan Goode: Well, it was a good game. And, man, this is exciting. I have seen tons of four-wheelers and UTVs running up and down the road. I know a lot of folks are in the deer woods this week.
Dave Milton: Yeah, and people are killing a lot of big deer. Yeah, I mean early, and so it’s an exciting time, and we’ve got an exciting show.
Jonathan Goode: Yeah, Dave, I’m excited right now. We’re going to talk to Chris Upchurch, not Randall Upchurch. He’s a cousin of Randall Upchurch, but Chris Upchurch with Rocking U Farm. Chris, how are you this morning?
Chris Upchurch: I’m doing good.
Jonathan Goode: Well, good, man.
Chris Upchurch: How are you doing?
Jonathan Goode: Yeah, we’re good. We’re good. Thank you for being on the show. This has been a busy week for your family winning the Outstanding Young Farm Family Award this past week, so congratulations on that.
Chris Upchurch: Thank you. We appreciate it.
Jonathan Goode: Yeah, so I know you’ve been at the ALFA Farmers Federation Conference the last few days. This is where you were awarded. You obviously knew you were up for the award, but did you know that y’all were winners? Or when do you know that? When did you find out?
Chris Upchurch: Well, we actually found out in August at the Commodity Producers Conference & Expo with ALFA in Montgomery. We were selected from three top finalists, and we were awarded the award then. But this weekend, we actually got some of our prize packages. We received our Gator in Montgomery this week.
Jonathan Goode: Well, yeah, let’s talk about that a minute. This is a prestigious award. Before we talk about the award, let’s talk about the goodies.
Dave Milton: The Gator, now, you’re talking about a UTV, right?
Jonathan Goode: Right. Yeah, John Deere.
Dave Milton: You’re not talking about an actual gator.
Jonathan Goode: No, that’s correct. What were some of the things that were included in your prize package, Chris?
Chris Upchurch: Well, it’s a pretty nice prize package. We received the John Deere Gator this week, and also a $35,000 Ford vehicle. We also get a $100 lease from John Deere, on a John Deere tractor. We get a pole barn and also a trip to New Orleans to compete nationally at the American Farm Bureau annual meeting.
Jonathan Goode: Well, that’s exciting. Congratulations. That’s quite a prize package. I know that you and your family have worked hard on the farm. Remind us, you were on the show a couple of years ago, and we don’t want to take credit for the win, but that probably being on The Land Show pushed you over the top, Chris. But remind us, Rocking U farm, what sorts of products do you grow there?
Chris Upchurch: We’re in the chicken business. We grow chickens to sell for food. We have three mega houses, 66×600 houses. You can place about 150,000 birds a flock. A cow path operation, 130 brood cows on our farm. And we also have a small cooping company where we clean up chicken houses, sell chicken litter to area farms, travel in about a 130-mile radius and also haul a lot of commodities for other farms, feed for cattle and grain.
Jonathan Goode: Well, man, it sounds like you don’t let any moss grow on you there. Sounds like you always got something going on.
Chris Upchurch: Yes, sir, we keep busy.
Jonathan Goode: Well, that’s exciting. I always like it when folks that we know, good folks, are recognized with these sorts of awards. What was the process? How did you get nominated or put into the consideration for this award?
Chris Upchurch: Well, it all started about a year ago. There was an application that started the process. We filled out that application. I can’t take all the credit. My wife is a big help to us on the farm. From the application, we had an interview. And the interview was at the Young Farmers Conference. From the application, and then the interview, they selected the top three finalists. Through the farmers, they talked to who owned the farm, and did on the farm judging. And we had 90 minutes with the judges here on the farm. We showed them our operation, and then we were chosen in August at the Market Conference as the winner. It was a kinda lengthy process, but it’s a rewarding process.
Jonathan Goode: Yeah, for sure. And this is one of those things where you probably didn’t alter any of the things that you were doing on the farm just to win an award. I mean my assumption would be that you try to practice excellence in your day-to-day work on the farm. I’m assuming that’s how you run your business there.
Chris Upchurch: Yes, sir, that’s right. We try to conserve and use all our resources here on the farm. When the judges came, it was just like a regular work day. We had chickens going out as the judges were leaving. The critters were coming in to catch our chickens, so it was just like a regular work day here on the farm during the day.
Jonathan Goode: You probably wore your good-boy jeans though.
Chris Upchurch: Yes, I did. Put my good-collared shirt on.
Dave Milton: Hey, Chris, we’ve got listeners all over the state, and for folks who may not be familiar with Clay County, it’s a beautiful rolling hills there, and Chris, I want you to talk about two things. One is, you’re a relatively young guy. Talk to maybe some listeners out there, younger folks, that are thinking about getting into the poultry business. And what I love about the poultry business, there’s really not another type of farm that a young family can step into that maybe they don’t come out of a farming heritage. They’ve got a little land they can buy, and they got some want-to, and they can develop some trust with the producers and with lenders. It’s a great way for a young person to get involved in farming. Tell your story about how you got involved in farming. I know you grew up in it, but you’ve really built up. I’ve seen your farm. You’ve really built it up over the years. I’ve admired what you’ve done, and then talk a little bit about the heritage there in Clay County. I know for generations, there’s been families, like your family, that have done well with poultry and cows and the combination, and that chicken litter really makes that fescue grow. So, I know that’s a lot, but talk about all that.
Chris Upchurch: Yes, sir. I’m a fourth generation poultry farmer here in Clay County. My family’s been farming here just north of Lineville for many years. My granddad, my great granddad, had chicken houses. My dad has a farm operating still now. We help each other field where our farms are separate. We’re here in the foothills of Cheaha Mountain. Our land is rolling; no road crossing here in our area. So, chicken houses and cattle and timber really work well right here where we’re at. Chicken houses is a good way to farm if a young person is looking to get into agriculture. But I would recommend being diversified. Try to have cattle, doing what you can to be diversified. I think it’s important to be diversified in agriculture. But it’s a great way of living, a great way to raise a family, that’s what we like about it. My wife is on the farm with me and helps me. We’ve got a brand new son. He’ll be three months next week.
Dave Milton: Congratulations.
Chris Upchurch: We look forward to raising our family here on the farm, teaching them the value of hard work and how to live on the land.
Jonathan Goode: Well, I don’t know you that well, Chris. But I know Randall Upchurch and Haley Upchurch, and I think that hard-working runs in the Upchurch family. I think you all definitely exemplify that. And one of our agents, Cody Rascoe, he was the first runner-up in excellence in agriculture, received that award from ALFA. Do you know Cody?
Chris Upchurch: I do. I sure do. Good guy.
Jonathan Goode: Yeah, he is. And it’s really neat to see folks like you all win the award. Do you have any words of advice for young farmers? I mean, Dave asked you how you got into it. Do you have any words of advice for folks that are just starting out in a farm about how to make a go of it?
Chris Upchurch: Well, I find that hard work really says a lot. I think, be involved in the community, local workforce organizations, the ALFA, the Farmers Federation, Cattlemen’s Association, Poultry and Egg Association. I could go on and on. Just be involved and get to know people that think like you do and that can help you if you have a problem.
Jonathan Goode: Yeah, absolutely. And you’re kinda taking a stand and having a say in what your specific industry’s doing when you’re involved with those industry associations. And they can be very helpful, can’t they?
Chris Upchurch: Yes, sir, that’s exactly right. They have a big number base, and they have a big board where they can go to work for us, politically, or if problems arise where we can stay on the farm and need to work on our farm.
Jonathan Goode: Now, you said earlier that your family will go in January to compete with the American Farm Bureau. You’ll have an opportunity to be an Outstanding Young Farmer of America. Something like that?
Chris Upchurch: Yes, sir. I don’t know exactly how the title reads, but we will compete in January. We’ve already submitted our application for that. And that will be at the American Farm Bureau annual meeting in January.
Jonathan Goode: Well, I know, all of us here in Alabama are rooting for you. The IRS is rooting for you. I’m sure they want to see what prize package you’re bringing home. But that’s exciting, man. Have you already taken possession of the Gator and that sort of stuff?
Chris Upchurch: I did. We came home yesterday from the annual meeting in Montgomery, and we brought it home yesterday with us. So, we just now got it on the farm and looking forward to putting it to work using it here on the farm.
Jonathan Goode: I got you now. Did Alabama Ag Credit sponsor that John Deere Gator? Do I remember that right?
Chris Upchurch: They did. Alabama Ag Credit and what’s the other?
Dave Milton: Alabama Farm Credit.
Chris Upchurch: Yeah, Alabama Farm Credit and Alabama Ag Credit have sponsored the Gator for this event.
Jonathan Goode: Well, they do a great job, and they’re sponsors of The Land Show. We appreciate Alabama Ag Credit, and Chris, we wish you and your family all the best, my friend, and good luck. I hope you represent Clay County well at the American Farm Bureau meeting next month, and congratulations again-
Dave Milton: Yeah, congratulations, Chris.
Chris Upchurch: Well, thank you.
Jonathan Goode: On winning the Outstanding Young Farm Family Award from ALFA.
Chris Upchurch: Thank you. And thank you for having me on the show.
Jonathan Goode: Yes, sir. Merry Christmas to you.
Chris Upchurch: Merry Christmas.
Jonathan Goode: Yeah, I always like it when the good guys get the recognition, and I know the Upchurch family’s proud of Chris and his wife, Jordyn, and wish them all the best.
Dave Milton: Yeah, you know it’s exciting, Jonathan, to see these young farmers, and I’m seeing it all over the state. I’ve seen a lot of folks, like Chris. And even in our own group, Cody Rascoe. Cody’s a real innovative young cattle farmer, and he’s a land agent with Southeastern Land Group in Cullman County. Cullman County and Clay County are very similar in a lot of ways, even though, geographically they’re a pretty good distance apart. But that combination of chickens and cows and fescue grass has really built a rural economy that lasts for generations in both those places. And, Cody, runner-up for that award is a big, big honor. We’re proud. He’s a part of Southeastern Land Group, an important part of what we’re doing and not a better guy to deal with, with these type properties if you’re looking for a small farm.
Jonathan Goode: Yeah, and it is interesting. I mean, those farm sizes in Cullman County and Clay County, your average farm size is probably 40 to 80 acres.
Dave Milton: Yeah, they don’t have to be big. You can do a lot on 40 or 80 or 100 acres. And I think the Upchurch’s have got a little bit more. But you can actually run, those counties have some of the highest cow per acre ratios of anywhere in the nation, because they’re able to grow grass year around, and grow grass so well with the chicken litter. And they do it responsibly. It’s good for the land, and it builds the soils. But they’re just able to grow great grass there year around.
Jonathan Goode: And it’s a pretty part of the state. I enjoy going to both of those areas and was up in north Alabama around Cullman a few weeks ago and just seeing the leaves change, it was just a pretty part of the world. And Mount Cheaha-
Dave Milton: I don’t know if you can see it from their farm, but you can almost see Mount Cheaha from the Upchurch farm. So, both places are beautiful.
Jonathan Goode: Yeah. Well, we want to congratulate, again, Chris and Jordyn Upchurch on winning the Outstanding Young Farm Family Award. And, it’s cool. I mean, it really is cool to see people that we know do so well and receive well-deserved recognition. So congratulations Upchurch family. And you all stay with us. We’re going to take a quick break. We’re going to hear from the other Upchurch, Randall Upchurch, on the other side of the break. More of the Land Show with Dave and Johnny.
Click here to listen to the rest of the show.