By BECKY GILLETTE
If there was ever a superwoman of agriculture in Mississippi, it has to be Cala Tabb of Eupora, who was named Mississippi Farm Bureau Woman of the Year in 2018. She and her husband, Billy Tabb, recently spent four days lobbying on trade and farm policy in Washington D.C. Several years ago, the couple won the Young Farmers & Ranchers Achievement Award from Mississippi Farm Bureau and then went on to compete against winners from other states to win the national award from the American Farm Bureau Federation. Cala was named Monsanto Southeast Farm Mom of the Year in 2017.
Cala has a full-time job as the librarian at the Eupora Elementary School and the Eupora High School. Billy farms about 2,500 acres in four counties growing cotton, corn, peanuts, soybeans and wheat. The couple has four children, ages 6, 11, 12 and 14.
Cala feels one of the main reasons she got picked for Farm Bureau Woman of the Year is that she does a lot of ag education in her libraries. She formerly taught fifth grade reading and language. But teaching in the classroom, there is a set curriculum designed to help students meet state proficiency exams.
“I can do so much in my library because I don’t have a certain lesson plan,” she said. “I have a lot more freedom in the library. We live in a heavy ag area. Some of our fields are in the city limits. The headquarters for our shop is right behind Fred’s in town. The school kids see my husband working in the fields. We take it for granted because we live in a farm community that kids understand farming and know what it is. But not all of them do.”
Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation President Mike McCormick said Cala is an excellent representative of the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation.
“Educating our communities about agriculture is very important, and we need people like Cala teaching our students and neighbors about where their food comes from and how their clothes are made,” McCormick said. “Through her role as Farm Woman of the Year, she is able to tell agriculture’s story as farming moves into the future.”
Cala is originally from Vardaman. Her parents farmed sweet potatoes when she was growing up.
“My mother was very much involved in the farm,” Cala said. “She didn’t just pay the bills. She drove the tractor. She did everything. Then my grandparents, my daddy’s parents, farmed a little, and my mother’s parents have always had cattle and still do.”
She was involved with Future Farmers of American while in high school.
“I loved it,” she said. “I loved my ag teacher. I thought it was great.”
There is a joke that some kids think chocolate milk comes from a brown cow. Cala doesn’t think it is that extreme, but many children just don’t understand the process of what it takes to get food to your table.
“I try to educate them on that,” Cala said. “I have some books I bought from the American Farm Bureau. There is a book for each school month. Each one has a commodity like peanuts, corn and cranberries. Even I feel like I’ve learned a lot from the books.”
A favorite exercise is, “How did that get in my lunchbox?” It is an overview of different types of food and where they came from.
“Everything connects back to a farmer,” she said. “If you wear clothes and eat, you need to be thankful for a farmer. And the kids love learning about agriculture. They like something a little different and outside of the box. With the farm in town, these kids have seen Billy on a tractor. It makes it relatable. You can teach someone anything, but if you don’t make it relatable, they can’t understand. I feel like I’ve done a good job making farming relatable to them. I don’t think I will have all these kids become farmers, but it makes them appreciate farmers which is important because they will all be consumers one day and decide what food to buy and what they believe about farming and farming practices.”
If you get on social media, farmers aren’t always portrayed in the best light. While Cala doesn’t push her ideas on students, she tries to get them to be critical thinkers who make their own choices.
“If they are hit with negative information about Roundup or genetically modified crops maybe, if they are concerned, they will ask about it instead of jumping on the bandwagon and sharing everything on Facebook,” she said.
Cala and Billy’s recent trip to Washington D.C. involved meeting with Mississippi Senators and Representatives, talking to them about trade and asking if anyone knew what was going to happen with the trade wars. What are commodity prices going to do? They also talked to their representatives about the new farm bill.
“It is hard for us to take time away from our farm and my job to lobby in D.C.,” Cala said. “But we feel it is so important to know firsthand what is going on and that we talk to the people who represent us so they know that farmers care. I’m busy with my job, helping on the farm and our kids play all kinds of sports. We are very busy. I feel like when we go to D.C. or do things for the Farm Bureau, it is not about us. We feel like we are doing this for future generations so maybe they don’t have to fight as much of a fight. If we can help them down the road, that is what we are trying to do.”
Cala is also vice president of the Webster County New Century Club, a woman’s organization.
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