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July 31, 2015

Mary Johnson
(334) 235-1406

Clockwise from top left: Shelia Richardson of Cherokee County discusses flowers with Jason Powell of Petals From The Past in Jemison. Talladega County farmer Bob Luker, left, learns about new farming technologies with his daughter, Lauren, wife, Mindy, and son, Cohen at E.V. Smith Research Center in Shorter. Covington County Farmers Federation President Kenneth Northey, left, speaks to other tour attendees during the stop at Live Oak Equestrian Farm in Pike Road.

From pastures and gardens to hi-tech farming equipment and institutions of higher education, Alabama farmers learned about a wide range of topics while touring central Alabama sites July 31.

More than 800 farmers chose from six tour options for the second day of the Alabama Farmers Federation Commodity Producers Conference. Attendees toured farms and attractions in Autauga, Chilton, Coosa, Dallas, Elmore, Lee, Lowndes, Macon and Montgomery counties.

Covington County Farmers Federation President Kenneth Northey was on the yellow tour, which visited horse, forage, sheep, goat and beef cattle farms.

"I've been to the commodity conference before, but this is my first time on a tour," Northey said. "When you get the chance to visit other farms, you see some changes that may work in your area."

The blue tour featured schools in Auburn University's College of Agriculture. Charlotte Grimes, the Cherokee County Women's Leadership Committee chair, said she enjoyed learning about new technologies and growing practices on the tour.

"I always love coming to the commodity conference," said Grimes, who raises cattle and grows hay with her husband, James. "It's like a little vacation, and farmers don't really get to take vacations."

At the E.V. Smith Research Center in Shorter, farmers on the orange tour learned about variable rate irrigation and farm use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

"I can really see the importance and value of  research they are doing with these new technologies," said Bob Luker, Talladega County row crop farmer. "My farm isn't quite the right fit for some of it, but I think farmers could benefit from hiring a consulting firm that could diagnose problems and field scout with a UAV."

Luker said he enjoyed seeing the George Washington Carver Museum and Booker T. Washington's house, The Oaks, at Tuskegee University.
"That's why we brought the kids, so they could see the history of farming in our state," said Luker, who has two children, Cohen, 12 and Lauren, 9. "The best part of these tours though is interacting with other farmers and hearing their stories."

Hank and Shelia Richardson of Cherokee County were on the red tour, which highlighted central Alabama fruit, vegetable and nursery farms. Shelia said her favorite stop was Petals From The Past in Jemison.

"We are in the greenhouse business, and I love all kinds of plants," she said. "I loved seeing the roses at Petals From The Past and learning the history behind them."

With the Capital City hosting the conference, a special tour included stops at historical sites including the Alabama Department of Archives and History and the governor's mansion, along with a visit to the Alabama Farmers Federation and Alfa Insurance home office.

Tonight, conference attendees will enjoy a Montgomery Biscuits baseball game at Riverwalk Stadium. The conference continues tomorrow with educational seminars, Young Farmers contests and announcement of winners in the Women's Leadership Committee contests. 

Saturday afternoon includes a session on weather and climatology with State Climatologist John Christy and WSFA Chief Meteorologist Josh Johnson. Following that, farmers are invited to view the new Farmland film. 

The closing session of the conference features remarks from Georgia Farm Bureau President and American Farm Bureau Federation presidential candidate Zippy Duvall and announcement of Young Farmers contest winners.

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