By Jeff Helms
MONTGOMERY, Ala., Feb. 10 — Elected officials rubbed shoulders with farmers Wednesday evening over platefuls of Alabama-grown foods at the Alabama Farmers Federation’s Taste of Alabama legislative reception in Montgomery.
Louisville poultry farmer Trip Horne said the event whets the appetites of lawmakers while connecting them to farm families who raise the state’s food and fiber.
“Most of us at the local level have an excellent relationship with our legislators. We talk on a regular basis, but this is the perfect opportunity to mingle with representatives from other parts of the state and share our views and our concerns,” said Horne, who serves on the Federation’s state board and is president of the Barbour County organization. “We also get to hear what’s going on at the State House. It’s just a wonderful opportunity to let each other know what we can do to help better agriculture in this state.”
County Farmers Federation presidents and FarmPAC advisory trustees from across the state visited with over 100 elected officials, including over 80 legislators; Supreme Court justices and appellate judges; members of the Public Service Commission and Alabama State Board of Education; and FarmPAC-endorsed candidates for statewide office. Attendees included Gov. Kay Ivey, Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth, Attorney General Steve Marshall, Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries Rick Pate, State Treasurer Young Boozer and Secretary of State John Merrill.
State Sen. Steve Livingston, R-Scottsboro, said the annual gathering is about good food and fellowship.
“First of all, it’s great food, but primarily it’s a chance to see our good friends who come down here to visit with us,” he said. “It’s an opportunity for us to get together in an environment where we can have conversations about things back home, take care of a little business and just to see good friends.
“Agriculture feeds Alabama — no question about it,” Livingston added. “We’re proud to have a role in that in Jackson County, DeKalb County and Madison County. We’ve got a lot of cows and a lot of chickens up there, and we’re proud to be a part of the grain portion of agriculture, too. It’s important we take care of our folks that feed us because I like to eat.”
Products featured at the Taste of Alabama included Bishop’s Pulled Pork Barbecue from L.O. Bishop of Colbert County; mini pecan pies from Priester’s Pecans of Lowndes County; grilled peanut butter and jelly sandwiches from Alabama Peanut Producers Association; ice cream from Blue Ribbon Dairy of Elmore County; oysters on the half shell from Murder Point Oysters of Mobile County; beef brisket from Trinity Farms of Lowndes County; Alabama honey; and U.S. farm-raised catfish. Other menus items were chicken tenders; sweet potato fries; fried green tomatoes; turnip greens; cornbread muffins; blackberry, cherry and peach cobblers; lamb kabobs; and shrimp and gouda cheese grits.
State Rep. Barbara Drummond, D-Mobile, praised the role farmers play in sustaining Alabama communities.
“I think farmers are the soul of America, particularly in the state of Alabama,” she said. “I like this event because it highlights the importance of what the farming community is to survivorship of any community, any city. I’ve always been a lover of farmers. As they say, ‘I’m not a country girl; I’m a city girl.’ But from the moment I began working with the farmers in Mobile County, I knew their value to our community.”
Drummond said farming techniques have changed, but the purpose and values of farmers have not.
“I have some farmers (here tonight) who are from Mobile County. They are not in my district, but they know that I have a love for farming. I have a love for what they do in our county,” she said. “They know that I fight for those issues that are important to them because, if it’s important to them, it’s important to me and my family in those urban communities.
“When I come to the ‘Taste,’ it highlights the goodness that lies within the state of Alabama and what we can do when both urban and rural work together — we can build a better Alabama.”