May 28, 2014
Justin Barrett addresses the crowd at Bar Neal Farms in Wetumpka Saturday as a part of the Smithsonian Institution's "The Way We Worked" exhibit. "Agriculture in Elmore County" was the first presentation of the exhibit, and presentations on different professions in the county will continue every Saturday until July 6.
The Smithsonian Institution’s Museum on Main Street exhibition “The Way We Worked” started Saturday, May 24 with the largest economic driver in Elmore County and Alabama—agriculture.
Justin Barrett of Bar Neal Farms and River Region Beef hosted reporters, chamber of commerce members, farmers and interested citizens under his open-air barn in Wetumpka.
Barrett, who owns the farm with his father and grandfather, said it’s important the exhibit started with agriculture.
“Between farmland and timberland, about 85 percent of Elmore County is covered in agriculture,” he said. “We’re tying to get more folks to understand how big of an impact agriculture is to the local community.”
Museum on Main Street is a traveling exhibition designed to engage small towns and bring attention to rural communities. Wetumpka was one of two cities in Alabama chosen by the Smithsonian, the other being Northport.
The exhibit will continue with a presentation on different professions every Saturday until July 6.
Wetumpka Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Vanessa Lynch said agriculture was an obvious choice to start with, and having Barrett speak was a perfect fit.
“The reason we started with agriculture is because it has the largest impact on our economy,” Lynch said. “Our goal with going to a locally owned family farm is to remind people they’re here and they play a huge role in our survival.”
According to Barrett, agriculture injected $319.5 million and 4,857 jobs into the local economy, Barrett also noted 97 percent of farms are family owned, and each farmer feeds 155 people.
The Barretts own 1,200 acres and rent another 1,300, where they produce about 1,500 bales of hay and raise 450 cows.
“I think there is a big push right now for people to know where their food comes from and how it affects them,” he said.