MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Mike Carnes worked for Monsanto five years before, in 1981, he built four breeder houses with his wife, Regina, in the Horton community of Alabama.
“Luckily, the plant shut down, and I was able to start farming full time,” Carnes said. “To look back and think about what all we’ve been through and how we got to where we are now is really something.”
Now full-fledged pullet producers for Koch Foods of Gadsden with nine houses in operation, the Marshall County natives were recently honored at Alabama Poultry and Egg Association’s annual Evening of Fun in Birmingham.
Carnes said the takeaway from the award is nothing less than honorable.
“We’ve been involved in this industry for 40 years,” he said. “This is truly an honor we never expected. It makes me proud to be a poultry grower and a part of the poultry industry here in Alabama.”
Koch Foods complex manager Harold Hunt said the Carnes exemplify the qualities and practices to achieve the recognition, which was determined by farm accomplishments, public service involvement and environmental stewardship.
“Mike and Regina have grown their small farm they started 40 years ago into a family business,” Hunt said. “Koch Foods began as a no-name company in Alabama. Now, our growers are getting the recognition they deserve, and I’m proud the Carnes are some of our growers.”
Regina Carnes said their farm has provided more than just a source of income for her family.
“We love what we do every day,” she said. “Raising my children and now my grandchildren on our farm has taught them there are things that can’t just be given out to you. They learned strong work ethics, which I believe has helped them in so many ways.”
Ray Hilburn, APEA’s associate director, said the Carnes are worthy recipients of the farming award.
“Mike and Regina have seen many changes throughout their time and dedication in the poultry industry,” Hilburn said. “The accomplishments they have made on their farm in four decades prove they are deserving of this high honor. We are blessed to have them as part of our poultry family.”
The Carnes attend Bethany Baptist Church and have twin 36-year-old daughters, Jenna and Stefanie. Jenna and her husband, Ross Pinney, recently moved back to Horton with their 4-year-old daughter, Maddux. Stefanie and her husband, Josh Terrell, along with their son and daughter, Jacob, six, and Kaylee, 18 months, live across the road from the Carnes. Josh works on the farm with Mike.
In addition to the pullet houses, the Carnes have 200 brood cows on pastureland and produce their own hay. Mike has board member positions with the Marshall County Farmers Federation and Marshall County Cattlemen’s Association, while Regina serves on the Marshall County and State Women’s Leadership committees.
Getting to a stopping point on the farm is something that is not in the foreseeable future for Mike.
“It’d be nice to slow down,” he said. “But I don’t think I’ll ever be able to fully retire. I just love what we do so much.”