Farm family: Nunleys’ Vina farm ranks among top in state

FRANKLIN LIVING MAY/JUNE 2018 — Gannon and Kristin Nunley first began farming operations in Franklin County in May 2012. Just six years later, they are among the top three farm families in the state.

Announced as finalists in the Alabama Farmers Federation’s Outstanding Young Farm Family contest in March, the Nunleys are now “sprucing up” their 72 acres in anticipation of a visit by a panel of judges this summer, who will select the OYFF winner. “We want to be best foot forward,” said Gannon. “At the same time, we are working farm. It’s not all sunshine and roses.”

The working farm boasts six poultry houses – producing more than 100,000 chicks every 60 days – as well as cattle. “We’re a very small operation compared to a lot of these guys,” said Gannon. “The whole drive of the contest is to see who’s the most productive. Who’s showing growth?”

Their passion for farming developed and grew despite lack of family background in the industry. Neither Gannon nor Kristin’s parents were farmers – although when the Nunleys moved from Red Bay to their Vina farm six years ago, her parents decided to fall in step and take up poultry farming right alongside them. For Gannon, his interest was cultivated by being on friends’ farms as a child. In high school he got involved with FFA and began working in the horse business, progressing to showing horses and raising colts. “I didn’t grow up on a farm, but I got here as fast as I could,” Gannon said.

An FFA adviser at Hamilton High School, where she teaches agriscience, Kristin’s interest in ag has come full circle – the seed of it planted when she herself was an FFA student. “I was really inspired at the high school level. We had a fantastic ag teacher and FFA adviser, Herbert Trulove (at Red Bay High School),” Kristin said. I just thought I wanted to be a part of it.” In her words, “crooked paths” led her to her own family farm; she first majored in pre-pharmacy before deciding to commit to agriculture with an animal science degree at Auburn University.

Like most big dreams that become reality, the Nunley family farm began as just an idea they would talk about.

“We had said we would love to have a small farm, to begin with, to mess with a little bit of this and a little bit of that,” Kristin said. They knew buying and establishing a farm would be a big investment, but the talking finally came to fruition when they were able to amass the capital and connect with the right people to purchase a piece of property in Vina along Bear Creek. “The good Lord above just opened the door for us to be able to buy this operation. It was just like we were meant to be here.”

The Nunleys’ lives are all about agriculture, day in and day out. “It’s 24 hours a day, seven days a week for us,” Kristin said. Even their children – Cooper, a 7-year-old rising third-grader at Red Bay, and Adalie, 4, who will start Red Bay Pre-K in August – get in on the family business. “Cooper is my equipment man – anything that involves motorized equipment, he’s all about it. He can run just about any of it,” Gannon said. “My little girl, she’s my animal lover.”

“Baby chick day is celebration day on the farm,” Kristin added. Both the children love animals, especially their pony. “We’re hoping to someday introduce them to the show world, with livestock.”

The Nunleys are also agriculture and rural farm life advocates, dedicating their time to organizations like the Alabama Farmers Federation and the Franklin County Cattlemen’s Association. Outside of farming, they are also active in their faith – involved in the music ministry at Red Bay Freewill Baptist, where Gannon is a chairman on the board of trustees, and Kristin is on the shower committee. Gannon is also a Gideon.

Although farming is a passion, it’s also a business – and a challenging one. Gannon said, given the tenacity it takes to be successful in farming, being nominated as a finalist in the OYFF competition was validating and rewarding.

“It’s run like any other business. We have Mother Nature to contend with, which is always unpredictable. With things like they are, markets and commodities, it’s tough right now. It’s hard on everybody. To be able to be showing some growth and a little bit of profit – it’s a really good thing,” Gannon said. “It’s nice to get a pat on the back every now and again.”

But what perhaps drives them the most is their own love for the business and their conviction that they are doing exactly what they’re meant to be doing.

“We were given this task to be good stewards of what God has blessed us with, and what more humble way can you do that than to put your hands in the dirt and take care of it hands on?” Kristin said. “We give all the credit to the good Lord above because he opened all these doors for us. He obviously has a purpose for us being here. We hang all our hopes, every day, that God has a reason for this. We just do it the best we can.”

Kristin also espouses the joy to be found being close to nature – “being able to put my hands on something that is so complex yet so simple at the same time and just knowing God created that and put that here for us to take care of and enjoy” – as well as being a part of providing food for the people of the world. “There is one more mouth that gets fed every day that we do this … That’s the one thing that keep us going every day.”

For Gannon, it’s all tied up in “the satisfaction of getting to see everything full circle” – calves to grown cattle and chicks to chickens. “You can look out across the pasture at the end of the day at the sun setting, and everything makes sense,” he said. “Take a breath and look around. It’s a simple way of life, and I like that.”

It’s a simple way of life they would recommend to anyone.

“You don’t have to come from it to get into it, and you don’t have to be the largest to be successful and make a living at it,” Gannon added. “It’s there for the taking.”

The winning 2018 Outstanding Young Farm Family will be announced at the Federation’s 46th Commodity Producers Conference in Montgomery Aug. 4.


Story by Alison James / Photos by Cortney Green

News

Miss RHS pageant takes place Friday

Franklin County

Political announcement: David Hester speaks about run for reelection as county commissioner

Franklin County

BTCPA auditions for final production of season take place March 3-4 

Franklin County

RCS holds annual Black History Month program 

Franklin County

PROGRESS 2024: American Legion Posts 64 and 120 – ‘Veterans Strengthening America’

Franklin County

RHS graduate crowned Miss Northwest Shoals

Franklin County

RHS graduate crowned Miss UNA

Franklin County

PROGRESS 2024: In memoriam – Monuments honor the fallen of Franklin

High School Sports

RHS senior chosen as Bryant-Jordan Region 8 Scholar winner

High School Sports

Russellville High School ladies soccer team members participate in annual Night to Shine

News

Russellville High School Scholars Bowl team qualifies for state tournament

News

Vina kindergarteners connect with lots of other classes

News

PCHS JAG student places in district conference

Features

Wedding Spotlight: Layne and Frank Edwards

Franklin County

RHS senior competes at state DYW competition

News

Extension, 4-H present free resume workshop

Franklin County

Franklin County has lots to love

High School Sports

Russellville High School honors alum Luther Tiggs with special night of basketball

News

BTCPA announces second production of season

News

RMS holds annual state assessment celebration

Franklin County

Red Bay welcomes new city attorney

Franklin County

Attempted traffic stop leads to high-speed vehicle pursuit, wreck 

Franklin County

Vehicle pursuit ends in wreck, arrest 

News

RFD, RHS collab promotes job readiness, community safety

x