Johnsons named among Families of the Year

Published 11:50 am Tuesday, November 14, 2023

The Family Guidance Center of Alabama hosted its 35th Annual Families of the Year ceremony Sunday and among award families were one Lowndes County family residents know well – Highway 80 Cafe owners, The Johnsons.

One of five families chosen on their ability to work together, their involvement in the community, and their individual growth is the Johnsons, who operate the cafe, JSJ Produce and Phenica Tax Services, were nominated for the award by Lowndes County Head Start Family and Community Partnerships Manager Laura James-Hunter.

“It was indeed a pleasure to submit the Johnson family for the nomination,” Hunter said. “The entire Johnson Family assists with the cafe and the produce business. It is indeed a family affair. Mrs. Johnson [also] drives a school bus for Lowndes County Public Schools and has a tax service named after a daughter who passed away at a young age.”

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The Johnsons own about 130 acres in Burkeville that the family farms and say farming is their life. 

“We really don’t look at work we do as work,” said father and husband, Haigler Lee Johnson, Jr. “We have to work in order to get revenue to take care of ourselves and one another. But [farming] is a passion.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the family’s livelihood was threatened. Restaurant proceeds helped to undergird the farm’s operations, so pandemic-related gathering restrictions took a toll on the cafe’s revenue.

Not to be discouraged, the family took their grill outdoors and sold steaks and homegrown vegetables curbside.

“One day at a time, [God] is still keeping us,” Haigler said.

Alongside their work ethic, Hunter said the family are active in their church and community.

“The Johnson family have been active members of the Original Shiloh Primitive Baptist Church in Burkville since 2003,” she said. “Mrs. Johnson served on the Lowndes County Board of Education Head Start’s Policy Council for three years and volunteered a total of 284.5 hours, donating in-kind goods valued at over $7,600 from August 2007 to April 2013.”

According to Hunter, the family donates produce to Head Start families and local food drive collections during the holiday season.

“The Johnson family donated meals to the inmates of Lowndes County throughout the years, [giving] meals for bereaved families,” Hunter said. “From time to time, someone may stop by the cafe and if they are hungry, no one is turned away.

“One might wonder how the Johnson family can handle all of these tasks. Well, they are able to mobilize other family members, friends, and neighbors to make their goal possible.”

Johnson said his family works and worships together, giving away a good portion of the farm’s produce.

“In order to receive blessings, you’ve got to be a blessing to someone else,” he said.