Sharing, caring, learning and growing were common themes at the Alabama Farmers Federation’s 45th Commodity Producers Conference in Birmingham Aug. 3-5.
The University of Florida’s Dr. Kevin Folta inspired about 1,000 farmers attending the conference to be agricultural advocates.
“We talk to each other very well, but we don’t talk to others very well,” said Folta during Saturday morning’s general session. “I want you to understand how you can make a huge difference in just 15 minutes a week of stepping into the conversation.”
Folta has been attacked by activists for refuting social media claims about the dangers of food and farming. He now travels the country teaching farmers to communicate about agricultural technology.
“We have to understand they have concerns and we are part of the solution — not a threat,” he said. “We have to show empathy and build rapport. People are seeking honest answers about science, medicine, food and farming, and they don’t know who to trust.”
In addition to Folta’s presentation Saturday, farmers attended seminars on topics ranging from food safety and conservation to herd management and crop rotation. Friday’s agenda featured tours of farms and educational sites throughout central Alabama.
Elmore County farmer Jonathan Edgar joined a tour focused on corn, soybeans and other row crops.
“We always enjoy it every year,” he said. “We get to see other farms, how other people manage their farms and the kind of practices they use. We hope to learn something new to better our farm and make it more successful and more profitable.”
New Auburn University President Steven Leath kicked off the conference Thursday night by pledging to make a great university even better.
“I’m an ag guy, and we’re going to strengthen agriculture in all its facets,” said Leath, who began his career as a plant pathologist. “We want to make our institution stronger, grow its productivity and yield greater results for people like you.”
At the opening banquet, former Federation Commodity Department Director Jimmy Carlisle was honored by the Sunbelt Ag Expo for years of service on its board of directors. Living Faith Quartet provided entertainment and featured the thunderous bass of Morgan County Farmers Federation President Mark Byrd.
Saturday afternoon, conference attendees visited about 90 vendors and research exhibitors during the inaugural Alabama Farm Expo. Federation Governmental and Agricultural Programs Director Brian Hardin said the event allowed farmers to speak one-on-one with scientists and suppliers.
“They had a chance to visit on everything from seed and feed to irrigation and investments,” Hardin said. “One of the most valuable things we can provide our members is a forum for discussion. We hope the Alabama Farm Expo becomes an annual opportunity for sharing and learning.”
Thanks to generous support from Federation members, Alabama Farm Expo attendees and Alfa Insurance employees, $120,000 was donated to Children’s of Alabama at the closing banquet. For more on that, click here.