News Ag Expedition Eye-Opening for Auburn Students

Ag Expedition Eye-Opening for Auburn Students

Ag Expedition Eye-Opening for Auburn Students
May 2, 2024 |

By Maggie Edwards 

Nineteen cities and 12 tours over six days shaped a superb spring break for 15 Auburn University (AU) College of Agriculture students March 3-8.

That adventure was the Alabama Ag Expedition led by the Alabama Wheat & Feed Grain Checkoff.

“This trip teaches participants the importance of Alabama agriculture and shows them career opportunities in the industry,” said Alabama Farmers Federation Wheat & Feed Grain Division Director Carla Hornady. “We pour into the students because they are the future of agriculture.” 

Hornady said the trip is life changing for the college crowd. 

“When you take kids somewhere they’ve never been, you see things through their eyes,” she said.

Take Nick Allen from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He tried U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish for the first time and said he enjoyed its flavorful taste as it came up from the fryer.

The catfish dinner was served at Gvillo Farms, a Hale County hay operation. The next day, the group continued its Catfish Country journey and saw production firsthand at Drury Catfish & Cattle in Greensboro. The family farm produces 5 million pounds of catfish annually. 

That farm visit opened up a new world, Allen said. 

“As someone from the city, I’m used to seeing small neighborhood farms — things that aren’t even close to Alabama’s production scale,” said Allen, a freshman studying agricultural communications. “It puts things into perspective and shows what drives other states’ economies.” 

Students witnessed mechanized cabbage harvest at McKenzie Farms in Fairhope. McKenzie Farms produces 250,000 cabbage plants annually. AU students are pictured with Mike McKenzie, second from left.

Ag Expedition attendees who grew up around farm life were intrigued, too.

“I realized the gap there is between producers and consumers,” said Coffee County native Kate Nelsen. “Growing up in a farming community, I thought I understood what being a farmer was. Now I see the sacrifices they make to feed the world.” 

Farmers are problem solvers, engineers, machinists and accountants, Nelsen said. 

“They think outside the box,” said Nelsen, a senior studying horticulture. “Visiting with farmers challenged me and my classmates to do the same.” 

Montgomery County’s Aubrey Grace agreed.

“From someone with no experience to me with farm experience, it was a great way to make industry connections,” said Grace, a junior in agricultural communications. “I stepped foot on a dairy (Blue Ribbon Dairy in Elmore County) for the first time. The expedition helped us understand Alabama’s diverse ag commodities.” 

AU offers the Alabama Ag Expedition as a two-hour course. Before spring break, each student researched a tour stop. Once at the location, they gave an overview to their peers.

More stops included Flowerwood Nursery, Baldwin County; McKenzie Farms, Baldwin County; Haynes Farms, Cullman County; SmartLam, Houston County; Triple E Farms, Lowndes County; Tate Farms, Madison County; Bunge, Morgan County; and Pursell Agri-Tech, Talladega County.  

“We hopped on a bus and toured a lot of farms, but it was more than that,” Grace said as he noted the effort it took to coordinate the trip. “I so appreciate all those who worked hard to make the Alabama Ag Expedition possible.”

Additional sponsors included Alabama Ag Credit, the Alabama Catfish Checkoff, Alabama Farm Credit, Alabama Farmers Cooperative, Alabama TREASURE Forest Association, Corteva Agriscience, First South Farm Credit and GreenPoint Ag.

The next Alabama Ag Expedition is slated for AU’s 2026 spring break. 

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