Alabama Farm Family Leads By Example On Local, State And National Levels
⋅ BY CASSIDY NEMEC ⋅
Daniel and Carla Trantham, well-known advocates for agriculture in North Alabama, have worked to pave the way for young farming families to use their way of life as a platform for the agricultural industry near and far.
Situated on a roughly 1,600-acre farm in Alexandria, Alabama, the Tranthams farm cotton, corn and soybeans, raise cattle and run a multi-state trucking operation.
Daniel’s grandfather bought the original farm back in 1951. He had seven children, of which Daniel’s father was the youngest.
“They originally only had four chicken houses and a few cows, and my dad grew up tending those chicken houses. About the time he was getting out of high school, they closed them down,” Daniel said.
After those chicken houses were shut down, Daniel’s dad planted soybeans for the first time on some leased land. From there, more ground was leased and more soybeans planted. Then came the trucking component. Daniel’s uncles would haul the grain and began hauling for other people, launching them into a full-fledged business.
Before long, Daniel was growing up and becoming a large part of the farm. “As far back as I can remember walking around, I was just on dad’s shirttail everywhere he went, riding tractors and the combine in the fields. When I was about eight or nine years old, he started letting me drive and start fluffing hay. Once I got to do that, I was hooked, and now I’m still driving tractors today.”
Carla did not grow up in agriculture, but she worked at the trucking company and has become more involved in the industry since marrying Daniel. “I just kind of jumped in,” she said.
Over the past decade, the Tranthams have witnessed great production growth including increased acreage and crop yields, additional irrigation pivots and a climb in their trucking component with more poultry feed mills. That being said, every year is different.
“Whether it’s insects like armyworms, plant bugs or thrips, disease, drought, excess rain, hurricane-force wind, family health issues, or even being shorthanded, that litany of challenges is always there, and you never know which is going to drop,” Daniel said. “There’s also been times where landowners come to us in the fall and say, ‘Hey, we’re doing something different next year.’”
Daniel remarked that with all these challenges, the most rewarding part of the year for him is when the end of the season is reached, there’s some money in the bank and family support to do it all again the next year. “You faced all those challenges, and you made it. You made a crop — it might’ve been a little bit, or it might’ve been a lot, but you’ve got the assets to go again next year.”
Local, State And National Esteem
The Tranthams are heavily involved in the agricultural industry. Both are on the Alabama Farmers Federation (ALFA) state young farmers committee. Carla sits on the state women’s leadership committee. Daniel is on ALFA’s state soybean committee and the Alabama corn and soybean board of directors. Both can see themselves staying involved on the state level after finishing their terms on current committees.
In 2022, Daniel and Carla were awarded the Alabama Outstanding Young Farming Family Award in the state of Alabama by ALFA. From there, they went on to become the first Alabama state winners to be granted the 2022 Top Young Farm Family Award from the American Farm Bureau Federation. Both award processes are extensive and require the young farm family to be between the ages of 18 and 35.
“Winning these awards have really given us a platform. I think it’s a great way to advocate,” Daniel said.
“The major media is not portraying our story correctly, so if we want the correct narrative of agriculture to be spread, it’s up to us,” Carla said.
The Tranthams shine when it comes to making an impact where they are grounded.
Daniel is the Calhoun County young farmer’s chairman, the Calhoun and Cleburne County FSA chairman and on the board of directors for Calhoun County’s ALFA. Carla sits on the women’s leadership committee at the county level as well. Both are also involved with church and their five children’s school. Their children, Davis, Sadie, Anna, Sawyer and Callie, are all immersed on the farm and included in its operations.
“We are very involved with our kids’ lives. We host a lot of field trips out here. All of their classes came to the farm last year on a field trip, and I’ve taken over the farm day at their school,” Carla said.
“When we do those field trips for kids, there are always a lot of teachers and chaperones, and we use that time to talk to them as much as we do the kids,” Daniel added.
This ability to educate on agriculture at the school level does not stop there as Carla has also spoken to the school’s seniors and career tech classes. This gives the opportunity to discuss other programs the students might be interested in such as a young leadership program through ALFA for ninth- and tenth-graders. “It’s showing people there’s more to ag than just driving a tractor all day,” Carla said.
Looking Ahead And Bringing People In
In the foreseeable future, Daniel said they just recently purchased the land they had previously leased where their house sits and plan to clean that area up. “We would like to open that farm up to the public,” Daniel said. “Agrotourism is our short-term goal for now.”
Long-term plans include finding more direct-to-consumer ways to sell their products as they do their corn. He said this could include finding new specialty crops to grow and sell locally, noting an upcoming barley plot. He also discussed the possibility of a wedding venue on the property, paving the way for another component of the farm to manage.
“We have five children, so in the next 10 to 20 years, I hope that they’re active and want to be here on the farm,” Daniel said. “You’ve got to find something for your children to do; if they’re not needed driving the sprayer or the combine, they’re going to go find something else. We’re trying to teach them while they’re young now to see the passion in what we do.”
Carla said she sees the sustainability of a family farm down the road in finding a niche market. “You’re going to have to have something that people really, really want.”
The biggest piece of advice they have for agricultural advocacy is to allow and encourage visitors on the farm.
“I think it’s important for us to be transparent,” Carla said.
The Tranthams have had both current Alabama state senators out to their farm and believe that is where change can happen.
“We even had a congresswoman from Florida we met at a conference who was visiting Alabama. She came and toured our farm, and we went and had lunch with her,” Carla said. “Is it a little nerve-wracking? Yes. Do I know everything about politics? No. But don’t be afraid to reach out and invite them just to tell your story and answer their questions.”
Daniel reiterated the importance of not shying away from telling your story.
“Our story is getting told one way or another; we need to be the ones telling the truth about what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. At the end of the day, you’re just talking about yourself and what you do — no one knows that better than you do.”