Hall of Honor Inductees
2020 - Hall of Honor Inductees
Tommy J. Brown
Tommy J. Brown was born in Hackneyville, Alabama, in 1949, and spent his growing up years on a two-acre farm and working on his neighbor’s beef cattle operations. Through his participation in 4-H and FFA, he developed a love of animal agriculture and an interest in the genetic improvement of beef cattle.
Brown earned a bachelor’s degree in animal science from Auburn University in 1971 and a master’s degree in agriculture in 1982.
Brown spent 32 years with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System serving the people in Dale and Chilton Counties and the Blackbelt region of Alabama. His efforts in developing and promoting performance and special marketing programs for producers in Chilton County and throughout Alabama greatly improved the quality and value of their beef cattle. Brown conducted a successful 4-H livestock program in Chilton County that allowed many local 4-H members to be rewarded for their efforts in producing top quality animals in all species of livestock.
After retiring from ACES in 2003, Brown served as genetic and marketing director for two large seedstock operations that produced superior bulls for beef producers in the Southeast.
Brown has held numerous leadership positions at agricultural organizations. From 2001-2009, he served on the board of directors for the Beef Improvement Federation, and from 2008-2009, he served as the federation’s president.
Brown also served on the board of trustees for the American Simmental Association from 2005-2011, and spent three of those years as the chairman of the association’s breed improvement committee.
A member of the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association since 1967, Brown was recognized as a lifetime director in 2015. In 1985 he received the Richard Deese Award for recognition for his efforts in promoting the Alabama BCIA Program in Alabama.
Brown has been married to his wife, Linda, for 50 years. Together they have two children, Lee and Jill, and three grandchildren.
Perry County native Val Ivey might have missed his calling in life had he not been so taken by the late-model company cars and generous expense accounts all the farm chemical salesmen he knew enjoyed. And he likely would not have met those individuals had he not started scouting farmers’ cotton fields as a teenager.
Fortunately, those things occurred, leading him into a successful 46-year career as an agricultural chemical company sales representative and manager with a passion for helping growers in Alabama and surrounding states protect their crops and livelihoods.
Ivey grew up on the family farm in the Sprott community and was the youngest of four children. Near the end of his junior year in high school, elder brother Henry, an Auburn University agriculture graduate who worked at and would later become superintendent of the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station’s Wiregrass Substation, offered to help him line up work over the summer as a cotton scout. The younger Ivey would spend that and subsequent summers inspecting customers’ crops to identify pests and other conditions that could lower their yields.
In the fall of ’67, he enrolled at Auburn University as an agricultural science major and joined the professional/social agriculture fraternity Alpha Gamma Rho his freshman year. After completing his degree in 1971, he went to work with Ring Around Products Inc. in Prattville as a chemical and seed sales representative before earning a promotion to manager of the company’s Chemical Division.
Ring Around sold to Funk Bros. Seed Co. in the mid-1980s, and he continued there until 1987, when he accepted a technical service position in Montgomery with Terra Chemicals. Terra became Agriliance LLC in 1999 and, in 2011, Agri-AFC. Ivey retired in December 2017 as proprietary products manager.
Through the years, he has been an active member of and effective leader in numerous ag-related organizations, including the Alabama Agribusiness Council, the Alabama Agricultural Chemical Association, the Alabama Seedsmens Association and the Alabama Crop Management Association. He is a Certified Crop Adviser and a Certified Professional Agronomist.
One of Ivey’s greatest strengths has been his ability to captivate and inspire audiences using a blend of knowledge, wisdom and humor. He has had a significant impact on production agriculture through training both industry representatives and growers.
He married wife Saundra in 1989 after a whirlwind romance that began when they sat beside each other on a flight from Montgomery to Atlanta. The couple moved from Montgomery to Birmingham in 2018. In retirement, they enjoy spending time at their place on Lake Eufaula and at the 40-acre Marion County farm she purchased a few years ago.
The Iveys have three sons, a daughter and seven grandchildren.
W. Gaines Smith
Gaines Smith is a native of Autauga County, where he grew up on a small diversified farm in the Evergreen community near Independence. He attended Auburn University where he earned a B.S. degree in animal science, an M.Ag. degree in Agricultural Business/Production and an Ed.D. in education administration/public administration.
Smith retired as executive director of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System in 2011 after serving for three years as interim director and 10 years as director. During his 45-year career with Extension, he came up through the ranks having garnered experience at the county, district and state levels. He served on numerous councils, boards, and committees, including the board of directors for the Longleaf Alliance, board of trustees of the national and state 4-H program and was the Extension representative to the State Soil & Water Conservation Committee.
Soon after his retirement, the Alabama 4-H Club Foundation named its new science education building after Smith, who was instrumental in seeing the project to fruition, not only through his leadership and skills but sometimes through donations from his own pocket. The facility was the first gold-certified Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design education building in the Eastern United States.
Following his retirement, Smith continued to support conservation activities and volunteered with many organizations, councils, associations and schools. He has always offered his time and expertise to assist others in understanding why it is important to conserve natural resources and increase self-sufficiency. Smith serves as supervisor of the Autauga County Soil and Water Conservation District, a member of the Autauga County Master Gardener’s Association and a director of the Alabama 4-H Club Foundation. He is also co-trustee/co-manager of the Overstreet Smith Trust in Autauga County.
Smith is co-owner and co-manager of Evergreen Hills Forest in Autauga County where he and his family own more than 1,200 acres of forestland, which is a Certified Tree Farm, TREASURE forest and is Stewardship Certified. He, his wife Joan and other family members have worked tirelessly to insure the land is maintained using accepted practices such as thinning, burning and firebreaks and harvesting and replanting.
He is the recipient of the Distinguished Service Award from both the Alabama Association of County Agricultural Agents and the National Association of County Agricultural Agents. He also received the Ruby Distinguished Service Award from the National Epsilon Sigma Phi. This is the most prestigious recognition presented by ESP and is designed to recognize truly outstanding thinking, performance and leadership in Extension.
Smith and his wife spend time at their homes in Auburn and in Autauga County. They have a daughter, Heather Smith Medeiros, three sons, Kevin Harper, Jaison Smith, Collin Smith, and four grandchildren.
2019 - Hall of Honor Inductees
K. Ben Gore
Ben Gore was born on a small cattle farm in Albertville, Alabama, in 1952. He still lives on and operates the farm today. His interests in cattle and farming led to his early involvement in programs such as 4-H and FFA and later to his pursuit of a business career that would benefit farming families and communities.
He earned an accounting degree from Auburn University in 1974 and quickly went to work in a loan officer training program with First Alabama Bank. In 1976, he joined Alabama Farm Credit at its Albertville office, where he served for 32 years, including 22 years as branch manager. Under his leadership, the Albertville branch grew from $20 million to $200 million in assets as it helped finance and grow the poultry industry in North Alabama.
Gore was named CEO of Alabama Farm Credit in 2009. As CEO, the Alabama Farm Credit team more than doubled in staff and grew from $400 million to more than $800 million in assets. He retired in 2018 after 42 years with the bank. Gore says his career was rewarding because of the ways in which it enabled him to help farming families expand and grow their operations.
In addition to his career in banking for the agricultural industry of Alabama, Gore has served his community through organizations such as the Sand Mountain Civitan Club, where he was a member and past president for 25 years. He is also a board member and past president of the Cecil Wright Tutoring Center, an after-school program for middle-school-aged children in Albertville; and he is a board member of the Douglas Water Authority, a rural water system in northeast Alabama. He is also a 40-year member of Albertville First Baptist Church.
He currently serves the agricultural industry at the state level through his role as president of the Alabama Agribusiness Council and as a board member of the Alabama Poultry and Egg Association.
Gore and his wife of 30 years, Becky, have four children and eight grandchildren.
John W. Jensen
John Jensen has led a 40-year career dedicated to improving lives through the development of aquaculture in communities around the world.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in fisheries and wildlife management from the University of Minnesota in 1969, Jensen served as a Peace Corp volunteer in Brazil, where he helped fishermen develop a fish marketing cooperative that would lift many out of poverty. In 1972, he joined the Auburn University staff as a research associate working to build a Brazilian aquaculture industry. The work he and his colleagues conducted in Brazil ultimately led to the development of tilapia as a commercially grown fish.
Jensen returned to Auburn in 1975 and, in 1979, was appointed fisheries extension specialist for the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. His work in this role led to the founding of the Alabama Fish Farming Center and the Alabama Catfish Quality Assurance Program. He was named head of Auburn’s Department of Fisheries and Allied Aquacultures in 1995 and then interim dean of the College of Agriculture and interim director of the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station in 2001. He served in the latter role until 2004. Through his leadership in each of these positions, Auburn’s fisheries and aquaculture program was named a Peak of Excellence in 2002.
Following his time as interim dean and director, he served as Auburn’s special assistant to the president for agriculture from 2004 to 2005. Upon his retirement in 2007, he was named professor emeritus and visiting scholar. He returned to Auburn from 2013 to 2015 to serve as interim director of his former department, which had been renamed the School of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences.
Throughout his career and in retirement, Jensen has loved challenges. In 2012, he completed his hike of the Appalachian Trail. Also in retirement, he has continued to travel frequently to Brazil and has helped establish an aquaponics system in Honduras to produce fish and vegetables for more than 500 orphans. Jensen also serves on the executive board for the Sunbelt Agricultural Expo in Moultrie, Georgia.
Jensen and his wife, Marianne, have four children and six grandchildren. They reside in Auburn.
DAN SMALLEY is a lifelong resident of Arab, Alabama, and a retired poultry farmer who for decades was a leader in and advocate for the state’s poultry industry.
He grew up working on his father’s cattle, poultry and hog farm, and in 1973, after graduating with a B.S. degree in marketing and finance from Samford University, he returned to his hometown to manage that enterprise. Two years later, he and his young bride, Mary Nell, ventured into the poultry business on their own with Red Hill Farms in Arab and went on to build that into what, at one time, was the largest broiler farm in Alabama, with 16 houses at its peak.
A contract poultry grower with Gold Kist, Smalley was appointed to that corporation’s board in 1985 and, in 2000, was named chairman of the board. He served on the board until 2004, when Gold Kist sold to Pilgrim’s Pride. During those years, he frequently spoke across the U.S. as an ambassador for poultry and for agriculture.
In April 2011, Smalley lost nine of his poultry houses and more than 100,000 birds to tornadoes. He sold the poultry operation four years later but retained and still manages the farm’s timber stand. He also operates Smalley Development Co., a real estate development entity he established in 1988.
For many years, he was on the boards of the Alabama Poultry and Egg Association and the Marshall County Farmers Federation and held terms as president of both. He was a Gov. Guy Hunt appointee to the Alabama Board of Agriculture and Industries, was president of the Alabama 4-H Club Foundation and the Alabama Agribusiness Council and was the first active farmer to chair the Chicago-based nonprofit Farm Foundation.
He is a graduate of both Leadership Alabama and the Alabama Agriculture and Forestry LEADERS program and was active in several other organizations related to agriculture, renewable energy, natural resources and the environment. Honors included being named to Business Alabama magazine’s first class of “Rising Stars under 40,” winning the Alabama Farmers Federation’s Outstanding Young Farmer Award in the poultry division and being inducted to the Alabama 4-H Wall of Fame.
He has been highly involved in his community, serving as president of the Arab Chamber of Commerce, the Marshall County Economic Development Council, the Kiwanis Club and the Foundation for Marshall Medical Centers. He is a former member of the Alabama Air National Guard.
He and his wife have been married since 1972 and are active members of Arab First Baptist Church. They have two grown children, Jeremy and Dana, and one grandson, James Camp.