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Farming, baseball, and community service are young farmer’s priorities

With the graying of the American farmer population — average age 57 years in the 2007 Census of Agriculture — it’s always a pleasure to visit with younger generation farmers and to see the dedication and love they have for their profession.

Brad Spencer, who was recently named statewide winner of the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation’s Outstanding Young Farmer and Rancher competition and placed in the top 10 nationally, not only is continuing a family farming tradition, but also manages to find time in a very busy work schedule for contributions to his community and state.

“I was born and raised on my father’s farm, and can’t remember when I wasn’t doing farming things,” says Brad, now in partnership with his father, growing sweet potatoes, peanuts, wheat, and soybeans.

He laughingly admits to “wrecking a tractor when I was 8 — ran it off in a ditch — but thankfully I wasn’t hurt, and it’s just one episode in the wonderful experience I’ve had growing up in farming. I’ve learned a lot of valuable lessons from my father, and I want our two boys to be exposed to those same values.”

Next to farming, Brad loves baseball. He grew up playing the game and now helps with coaching local junior high and high school youth. He also gives pitching lessons and, in an old horse barn behind his house, has installed a batting cage so youngsters can get batting practice.

In a nearby field, he’s building a baseball diamond — “my ‘Field of Dreams,’” he smiles — which will also be available to area youngsters. His 11 year old son, Hunter, “is crazy about baseball,” Brad says, and the team on which he plays is ranked 10th in the nation in their league.

Both Hunter and his 8 year old brother, Justin, who is quite the artist, are involved with farm chores with their “college fund,” a 57-cow herd and 20 acres of watermelons.”

He has been active in local, state, and national Farm Bureau activities, including trips to Washington to discuss agricultural issues with lawmakers, and in promoting agriculture to the public.

“I feel it’s our duty as farmers to do all we can to make the consumer public aware of where their food comes from and the contributions farmers make to this country’s food production,” he says. He was recognized by the Sweet Potato Council for innovativeness in promoting the product and he and his family are featured in a Farm Families of Mississippi TV commercial promoting the state’s agriculture.

This fall, he’s planning a paid dove hunt at the farm to raise money for St. Jude Children’s Hospital at Memphis. “We also donate potatoes for area food pantries, for the Society of St. Andrew, and for various food drives. Other sweet potato growers here also participate in various charitable causes. We’re a very tight-knit community.”

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