Gotcher Family Receives Two Top Honors
by Fay Garner, Public Affairs Specialist, NRCS, Auburn, AL
Kathy Gotcher (NRCS District Conservationist in Lawrence County, Alabama), and her family received two top honors in less than a year.
On March 19, 2013, Kathy and her husband, Henry, joined 22 new inductees into the Alabama 4-H Wall of Fame. At the Awards Banquet at the Alabama 4-H Youth Development Center in Columbiana, the Gotchers received the Colbert County 4-H Volunteer award. This award honors individuals and organizations who have made a significant impact on the 4-H and Youth Development program, its members and leaders.
The 4-H Club Foundation, Inc. and Alabama 4-H honors, remembers and pays tribute to those who have influenced the lives of Alabama youth by their commitment "To Make the Best Better."
In November 2012, Kathy and her family received another honor, the 2012 Colbert County Extension “Farm Family of the Year Award.”
To understand the Gotchers deep agricultural roots and their commitment to resource conservation is to know a bit of their family history.
Kathy grew up on a row crop and cattle farm. Her parents grew cotton, corn, soybeans, and wheat, and raised cattle.
She received her Bachelor of Science Degree in Agriculture Communications from Mississippi State University in 1984. She and Henry were married in 1985. He was an Auburn University graduate (1979) with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Agronomy.
The same month of their marriage, they applied for and received a loan from Farmers Home Administration to purchase 50 acres to start a row crop operation. As an early Christmas present that same year, Kathy said that Henry bought her 12 cows. This was the beginning of their cattle operation.
The next year they purchased 10 adjoining acres and moved in a mobile home. They later built a house on the spot where they still live today raising their three sons, Will (22), Ben (19) and Marc (16).
Kathy started working for NRCS in 1987 when it was still the Soil Conservation Service. She progressed through the ranks from Soil Conservation Technician in Colbert County (1987-1989), Soil Conservationist in Lauderdale County (1989-1991), Resource Conservationist for the North Team in Decatur Alabama (1991-1994), District Conservationist in Colbert County (1994-2007), and currently, District Conservationist in Lawrence County.
She said, “I like working for NRCS because I am able to get out in the county and meet some really good people who have the same goal as I do – to protect our natural resources, now and for future generations. I am also able to help educate youth to respect and preserve our natural resources through local environmental education programs.
The Gotchers decided to stop row cropping in 1990, and Henry went to work for a construction company. They still maintain their cattle operation and cut and bale their own hay.
Kathy and her family have a deep love for the land and enjoy being outdoors. They especially like hunting and fishing. In 2007, the Gotchers bought an additional 200 acres so the boys would have a place of their own to enjoy their hobbies. The land has two large ponds stocked with fish. They spend weekends in a cabin they built there. Kathy said, “The cabin is run solely on solar power and we collect the roof run-off for water.”
Even though Henry and Kathy received the most recent award, the whole family is very involved in 4-H. Kathy said that since the three boys were old enough to attend the meetings they have worked hard and have made their mark in the organization. All three have served on the Regional 4-H Advisory Council and have held various officer positions in the local 4-H County Council. They volunteered lots of hours for various activities including church events.
Will placed third in the tractor driving contest at the National 4-H Engineering and Science Event at Perdue University. He has won several local and state 4-H events. He graduated from Mississippi State University in December 2012 with a degree in Agriculture Engineering, Technology, and Business with an emphasis on Precision Agriculture. He is currently working for Tri-Green Equipment (a local John Deere dealership) as their Integrated Solutions Consultant for North Alabama.
Ben placed fourth in the tractor driving contest at the National 4-H Engineering and Science Event at Perdue University and he has also won several local and state 4-H events.
Their youngest son, Marc, is following in his brother’s footsteps and is also involved in 4-H. He has won first place at the State 4-H tractor driving and wood working contests.
Kathy said, “Henry and I believe that if you keep your children involved in programs such as 4-H, it will give them the knowledge and guidance to develop their leadership skills. Then they will become successful at whatever they are doing.”
It is evident that this philosophy applies to adults also, hence Kathy’s and Henry’s induction into the 2013 Alabama 4-H Wall of Fame and being named Farmer of the Year. It is obvious that the Gotchers have a love for the land and don’t mind sharing it.
Dr. William Puckett, Alabama NRCS State Conservationist, said that, “We are proud to have Kathy as a member of our agency staff. I believe her hard work and family values add to her work ethic and help her achieve the NRCS conservation goals set for her county.”