Faith. Family. Farming.

Those ideals have influenced humble, hard-working Ricky Wiggins for 7 decades.

“Ricky is one of those men you can sit with and just talk about farming and life,” says Jimmy Parnell, president of the Alabama Farmers Federation. “He’s a deep thinker and a man of even deeper faith. That shows. Ricky has a desire to do what’s right, whether on his farm in Covington County or in the nation’s capital fighting for farm policy reform. I’m pleased to present Ricky this Service to Agriculture Award.”

Since 1965, the Service to Agriculture Award has honored Federation leaders, politicians, agricultural icons and innovative researchers for work impacting both farmers and rural Alabama. Wiggins was presented the award during General Session II Dec. 4 in Montgomery.

A former Federation Southeast Area vice president, Wiggins has a strong moral compass and sharp business sense honed through success and struggles on his family farm outside Andalusia.

Wiggins partnered with his father, Gene, on the diversified family farm in the Carolina community shortly after marrying wife Sharon in 1971. Within a decade, the farm included peanuts, soybeans, corn, custom harvesting and hogs, plus children Heather, Russell, Shonna and Kristen.

The early 1980s brought devastating local drought, debilitating interest rates and declining commodity prices. Farms across the U.S. were in foreclosure, including Wiggins’.

“We still have struggles, and we have trying times, but the Lord has been good to us,” he said.

Following the crisis, Wiggins streamlined the farm to its current rotation of cotton and peanuts, plus stocker cattle. He also partnered with Russell once the younger Wiggins earned a degree from Auburn University.

The Wigginses firmly believe in conservation tillage, first implemented on their farm in 1993 via cover crops and strip tillage.

“The main reason at the time was erosion control,” Wiggins said. “Everyone was saying, ‘No till, no yield.’ Nobody believed in it around here back then.”

After a few years, it was clear: Their soil wasn’t washing away.

A subsequent move to high-residue cover crops made field work more difficult but built soil quality and improved organic matter. Yields increased, too.

“We are proponents, even advocates, of conservation tillage,” Wiggins said. “I think it’s one of the best things we’ve ever done.”

In addition to on-farm improvements, Russell’s return allowed Wiggins to grow involvement in the Federation, where he’d previously served on the State Young Farmers Committee. He joined the Covington County Farmers Federation board, served as District 10 director and assumed leadership roles through commodity organizations. Wiggins was elected Southeast Area vice president in 1998.

Wiggins simultaneously cultivated a passion for farm policy. Sharing his ideas built from personal experiences, he testified on Capitol Hill and contributed to farm bill discussions with decision-makers, knee-high in Covington County cotton.

Wiggins was a key player, too, as the Federation rejoined the American Farm Bureau Federation in 2004, citing Alabama farmers’ need for a national voice.

Today, Wiggins intentionally invests in the interwoven tenets of faith, family and farming. A small grin breaks across his face when mentioning his and Sharon’s “fiercely independent” children and 13 grandchildren, a close-knit crew that prioritizes dinners, vacations and worship at Carolina Baptist Church.

That’s in addition to farm work and agricultural community involvement. Wiggins chairs the Alabama Boll Weevil Eradication Foundation, though he’s stepping back from other roles to encourage younger generations to serve.

A man of few words, Wiggins is quick to praise his peers.

“There’s a world of people who are really great leaders that I’ve had an opportunity to be associated with over the last 50 years,” he said. “Anyone you talk to or visit, you can learn from.”

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