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Farm Family of the Year
Chamber of Commerce honors Spence families
Stacy Spence drives a cotton picker while brother Alan drives a baler while harvesting cotton Tuesday. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

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     Most farmers can tell you the main reason they farm; it's in the blood. The phrase "family farm" means a great deal to Alan and Stacy Spence, brothers who farm together and whose family was chosen as the 2008 Farm Family of the Year by the Statesboro-Bulloch Chamber of Commerce agribusiness committee.
      The Spence farm is actually what was once the Mallard farm on Akins Pond Road, owned by their grandfather Jack Mallard. But it is Alan and Stacy who now till the land, raising row crops and their families in the northwestern Bulloch County community of Middle-ground.
      The brothers have been farming together for almost 20 years. They began raising hogs, feeding them with corn they grew themselves, but when hog prices dropped they realized growing the corn for sale was more lucrative. Now, they grow corn, peanuts, cotton, wheat, and soybeans.
      "We've had a good crop this year," Stacy Spence said as he and his family - wife Anna, daughter Page and sons Forrest and Bo joined Alan, his wife Beth and their son Hayden on a chilly November morning to pose for pictures and talk about the honor of being chosen as 2008 Farm Family of the Year.
      "We've had a real good crop, probably the best overall cotton crop this year," Alan Spence said. "The weather has been real good, for early and late cotton. We didn't get a lot of rain but it came at the right time."
      It's a family venture, with the children participating when they are able, performing chores such as pulling weeds. The wives help when they are needed as well; on a farm, everyone pitches in.
      And there are fun times too, such as when the kids get to play in the cotton boll buggy.
      The brothers learned a love for farming growing up, when their father Ed Spence operated the farm. Alan worked a few years at Tillman and Deal Farm Supply before joining his father on the farm in 1985.
     Working in the agricultural area taught Alan Spence a great deal, including the fact that he was meant to farm. "I learned a great deal," he said. Working at Tillman and Deal was "the best college I had."
Stacy lived with his brother when he was still in high school and after going off to college, realized he, too, wanted to farm. After all, it's in the blood.
      His favorite part of farming is "during harvest, when you're out here, reaping what you sow," he said. "After we've planted our crops and put our heart and soul into it all year."
      "I like the freedom of it," Alan Spence said. "The choices you make affects your family, but it's not like you have somebody telling you what to do. You make your own decisions."
      His wife Beth lived on a farm, too. That "makes me value what you have, and know there is a God because he gives us what we have," she said. "I wouldn't want Hayden to be raised anywhere else. We learn to work hard and (the farm life) is more family-oriented."
      Stacy's wife Anna wasn't raised in an agricultural atmosphere, so "coming into it was a little difficult, learning everything," she said. "But it's a good place for kids to be raised."
      The whole family was both surprised and honored to learn they had been chosen as the Chamber's 2008 Farm Family of the Year.
      "We're not used to a lot of recognition," Stacy said. "We were humbled. That's (farming) all we've ever known and to be honored for it is humbling."
      "I was just shocked, surprised, and very appreciative," Alan said. "We don't do it for the recognition, we just love it. It felt good to be put with a group of people who farm for the same reason."
      "I was very proud of them," Anna Spence said. "They are a great family to be with and I am honored to be with them."
      "I was also proud and honored," Beth said. "I feel like they deserve to be recognized because they do work so hard."

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