Many never think about farming as a career choice, or they come into it late in life. However, for two South Alabama families, the Brannons and the Carnleys, farming is all they’ve ever known.
“Ever since I can remember, we’ve been in agriculture in some way,” says Gerald Brannon. “There hasn’t been a year that we haven’t farmed at least some.”
The Brannons: Surviving Drought and Hurricanes
When Gerald was just a small boy, his father started out in the livestock business and eventually moved to the feed and seed industry. With the addition of his brother Steve to the operation, they began farming more and more, slowly transitioning to full time. Today, Gerald and Steve, along with their two sons Todd and Jared, run Brannon Farms.
During an interview with Landscapes magazine, the Brannon men shared their individual journeys that led them to the decision to join the family farm.
- After four years of serving in the U.S. Air Force, Gerald decided to come home. With his father’s health declining, he knew he had to step in and take on some responsibility.
- As for Todd, Gerald says he would not go to the babysitter’s, but would rather go to work with his dad on the farm, and sleep anywhere on the combine he could find.
- And Steve and Jared never pictured themselves anywhere else. They knew from the start that continuing the farm was going to be a big part of their lives.
With planting season just around the corner when interviewed, the Brannons were gearing up for another year of row crops, primarily peanuts and cotton — something people in South Alabama thought they were crazy for starting but is now the primary crop in the area.
“In 1991, we made up our minds we were going to do it,” says Gerald. “Everybody laughed at us.”
After they found a gin that could process their cotton, they began the journey. While cotton is a significant part of their operation, it isn’t the only thing they produce. Peanuts are another hot commodity around their farm today, as well as cattle.
Over the years, Brannon Farms, like many, have had their share of challenges.
“We’ve made it through some terrible drought years,” says Steve. “Not to mention a hurricane every now and then, and other weather events that can make it interesting.”
With challenges always being a part of farming and changes being made at their home bank, they found themselves looking elsewhere for a lender. Todd knew just where to turn.
“We were very fortunate Alabama Ag Credit was there,” Gerald explains. “When you have to deal with somebody who doesn’t know agriculture, or doesn’t have any connections to it, it’s hard, because they don’t understand the tough years and won’t stick with you like Alabama Ag Credit.”
While thankful for Alabama Ag Credit in a time of need, the Brannons also attribute their success to a much higher power.
The Carnleys: Farming for Five Generations
While a rare and dying breed, the Brannons aren’t the only family in Alabama thanking the Lord for their farm’s success.
An hour away in Elba you can find the Carnley family moving cattle, tending to poultry houses or planting row crops — just as they’ve done for over 40 years. Fifth-generation farmers, the Carnleys rely heavily on family, faith and Alabama Ag Credit to guide the farm’s success.
“For me, one of the biggest things that’s been passed down from generation to generation is to give the credit to God,” says Adrian Carnley, one of the farm’s owners.
“As for me and my brother, we can proudly say we’ve never cranked a tractor or worked a day on Sunday,” his dad, Kenneth Carnley, adds.
After three hard years, Adrian and his brother Jerimy and cousin David began searching for a lender who would work with them to provide the capital they needed to make improvements and plant a crop that year. With faith, hope and a few tears in their eyes, the Carnleys turned to the Lord and Alabama Ag Credit. Not long after, their fathers, Kenneth and Larry, found themselves doing the same when their local bank was sold.
“There’s ups and downs in farming, so you’re glad that you’ve got somebody that will work with you,” says Adrian of the challenges that led his family to Alabama Ag Credit.
When asked how they decided to join the family farm, their answers were similar to those of the Brannons. Some had a military background, some tried college first, and some knew from day one that farming was exactly what they wanted to do.