Wagswoofs – Faith, family, and farming are the pillars that hold us together.
For the past seven decades, Ricky Wiggins has been greatly influenced by these ideals.
According to Jimmy Parnell, the President of the Alabama Farmers Federation, it is appropriate that the prestigious award of the organization was presented to a farmer who embodies the qualities of humility and hard work. This recognition took place at the annual meeting, which coincidentally shared the same theme.
“Parnell spoke highly of Ricky, describing him as a genuine individual who possesses a wealth of knowledge about farming and life. Ricky’s contemplative nature and unwavering faith are evident in his character. Whether tending to his farm in Covington County or advocating for necessary changes in farm policies at the national level, Ricky consistently strives to do what is right. Recognizing his dedication and contributions, I am honored to present Ricky with the prestigious Service to Agriculture Award.”
The Service to Agriculture Award has been recognizing Federation leaders, politicians, agricultural icons, and innovative researchers since 1965 for their significant contributions to farmers and rural Alabama. Wiggins was bestowed with this prestigious award during General Session II on December 4th in Montgomery.
Wiggins, a former vice president of the Federation Southeast Area, possesses a robust moral compass and a keen business acumen that he developed through both triumphs and setbacks on his family farm in Andalusia.
Wiggins joined forces with his father, Gene, on their diverse family farm in the Carolina community soon after tying the knot with his wife Sharon in 1971. Over the course of ten years, the farm grew to include a variety of crops such as peanuts, soybeans, and corn, as well as custom harvesting and hogs. During this time, Wiggins and Sharon also welcomed their four children – Heather, Russell, Shonna, and Kristen.
During the early 1980s, a combination of factors including a severe drought, high interest rates, and falling commodity prices had a devastating impact on farms across the United States. Unfortunately, Wiggins’ farm was not spared from this turmoil and faced the threat of foreclosure.
“I remember sitting in my office one night, feeling a wave of anticipation wash over me,” recalled Wiggins, who is now 73. Tears streamed down my face as I poured out my prayers and thoughts. In that moment, I found solace and clarity. I whispered, ‘Thank you, Lord.’ Though uncertain of what lay ahead, I vowed to become a better person – a better husband, father, Christian, and businessman. Whether on this farm or elsewhere, I was determined to grow and excel in every aspect of my life.”
The following day, a kind-hearted individual volunteered to assist in rescuing the farm. Wiggins expressed gratitude, describing it as a divine blessing.
“We continue to face challenges and experience difficult moments, but we have been blessed by the Lord,” he expressed.
After the crisis, Wiggins made changes to the farm and now focuses on growing cotton and peanuts, as well as raising stocker cattle. Once his younger brother Russell graduated from Auburn University, they became partners in the business. It’s worth noting that all three sisters also attended the same university.
The Wigginses have been strong advocates for conservation tillage since they first introduced it on their farm in 1993. They started by incorporating cover crops and strip tillage as part of their sustainable farming practices.
“The primary motivation at the time was to address erosion control,” explained Wiggins. “The prevailing sentiment in the area was that ‘no till equals no yield.’ There was a general lack of belief in this farming practice during that period.”
It became evident after a few years that their soil was not eroding.
Switching to high-residue cover crops not only made field work more challenging, but it also enhanced soil quality and increased organic matter. As a result, yields experienced a significant boost.
“We wholeheartedly support and promote conservation tillage,” Wiggins enthusiastically expressed. “In our opinion, it is one of the most beneficial practices we have ever adopted.”
Russell’s return not only enabled Wiggins to make improvements on his farm but also provided him with the opportunity to expand his involvement in the Federation. Prior to this, Wiggins had already served on the State Young Farmers Committee. Now, he went on to join the Covington County Farmers Federation board, take on the role of District 10 director, and assume leadership positions within commodity organizations. In 1998, Wiggins was elected as the Southeast Area vice president.
Wiggins developed a deep interest in farm policy while also nurturing his passion. He actively engaged in sharing his thoughts and ideas, drawing from his personal experiences. This included testifying on Capitol Hill and participating in farm bill discussions with influential individuals who were well-versed in Covington County cotton.
Wiggins also played a crucial role in the Farmers Federation’s decision to rejoin the American Farm Bureau Federation in 2004. This move was driven by the recognition that Alabama farmers required a unified national platform to advocate for their interests.
Wiggins deliberately focuses his investments on the interconnected principles of faith, family, and farming. A bright smile illuminates his face as he talks about his “fiercely independent” children and 13 grandchildren, a tight-knit group that prioritizes shared dinners, vacations, and attending Carolina Baptist Church for worship.
In addition to his farm work and active involvement in the agricultural community, Wiggins also serves as the chairman of the Alabama Boll Weevil Eradication Foundation. However, he is now taking a step back from other responsibilities to inspire and encourage the younger generations to take up leadership roles.
Wiggins, a man who chooses his words carefully, is known for his tendency to give credit where it’s due.
Over the course of the past 50 years, I have had the privilege of being associated with a multitude of exceptional leaders. It never ceases to amaze me how much there is to learn from every individual I encounter. Each person I talk to or spend time with has something valuable to teach me.
Wiggins Honored with Service to Agriculture Award by Alabama Farmers Federation