By Debra Davis
Thousands flocked to a festival-like event in downtown Montgomery, dubbed the Family Farm Fun Day, held in conjunction with the Alabama Farmers Federation’s annual Farm & Land Expo Aug. 5-8.
Fresh fruits and vegetables, friendly farm animals, antique tractors, artisan crafts, country music and fantastic food filled the area in and around the historic Union Station Train Shed Aug. 7. The free activities helped celebrate the Federation’s 100th anniversary. The organization’s Brian Hardin described the event as a huge success.
“Our intent was to reach members and the public about the historical importance of the Farmers Federation and to elevate awareness and significance of farm families in our state,” Hardin said. “It also provided a way for the public to interact with some of the great farmers in Alabama. Celebrating our farmers’ role in providing food, fiber and beauty to our environment is something that unifies everyone. To see the smiles and experience the excitement with people who are not familiar with agriculture was rewarding.”
Additionally, the Federation hosted its Farm & Land Expo Trade Show following the Family Farm Fun Day. The event featured booths highlighting farm equipment, member benefits, agricultural lending, wildlife management and historical information about the organization.
Two outstanding Auburn University and Alabama Cooperative Extension System personnel nominated by farmers were honored at the Expo’s welcome dinner. Jeremy Pickens received the Rittenour Award for Excellence in Production Agriculture & Forestry Research. He received $10,000 for programming costs. Kent Stanford received the Duncan Award for Excellence in Production Agriculture & Forestry Extension. He received $5,000 for programming costs. Both awards are funded by the Alabama Farmers Agriculture Foundation.
Five farm tours took members to some of the best agricultural operations in central Alabama. Stops included cattle farms, agritourism operations, a turf farm, winery, dairy farm, hunting preserve, fish hatchery and research stations.
Keynote speaker Steve Robinson, the former chief marketing officer and executive vice president of Chick-fil-A, addressed members during the Expo’s general session Aug. 7. He stressed the importance of character, competence and chemistry in corporate America.
The Federation Women’s Leadership Division also hosted its annual contests, which attracted some of the state’s top seamstresses and decorators. (See page 10.)
Young Farmers events drew a lot of interest with 13 contestants in the Discussion Meet, five entries in the Excellence In Ag contest and announcement of the Outstanding Young Farm Family. (See pages 8-9.)
In Alabama’s inaugural Ag Innovation Challenge, Wade Helms and Helms Manufacturing Co. LLC in Houston County won $10,000 as contest champions. Jefferson County’s Michael Lynch of CHONEX was first alternate and won $5,000. The new contest was sponsored by the Federation, Farm Bureau Bank, Alabama Ag Credit and Alabama Farm Credit.
Helms and his team developed a system to attach a set of planters to a strip-till machine allowing the implement to complete two tasks at once. CHONEX up cycles poultry manure into a microbial soil stimulant. Helms and Lynch will represent Alabama in American Farm Bureau Federation’s (AFBF) national Ag Innovation Challenge. Ten national finalists, announced in October, will compete at the AFBF’s annual convention in January. Alabama is the first state to implement a preliminary Ag Innovation Challenge.
Entertainment by country music singer-songwriter Billy Dean closed the annual conference.