Agricultural tours, educational seminars, two nights of entertainment and plenty of food are focal points of the 42nd annual Alabama Farmers Federation Commodity Producers Conference in Huntsville, Aug. 7-10.
The conference starts Thursday at 7 p.m. with a banquet featuring Alabama’s FFA string band competition winner. All conference events, excluding tours, will be at Huntsville’s Von Braun Center.
A full day of tours is planned for Friday, including stops at top farms in northern Alabama and southern Tennessee.
Saturday features educational seminars on current agricultural issues, as well as the Young Farmers Discussion Meet and Excellence in Agriculture preliminary contests. For information on those contests, visit AlfaYoungFarmers.org.
The Federation’s Women’s Leadership Division luncheon is Saturday and coincides with the tables-capes, quilt and apron contests.
Entertainment for the closing banquet is gospel music singer Guy Penrod, who penned 2012’s No. 1 selling gospel album “Hymns.” He is known for his work as the lead singer of the Gaither Vocal Band, a position he held from 1994–2008.
The $130 million HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology in Huntsville is the starting point for farmers as they tour part of the nation’s second-largest research park at Cummings Research Park.
During the visit, farmers will meet institute leaders, tour the facility and learn how HudsonAlpha assists farmers around the state and nation. The stop also includes a report on recent training sessions for Alabama agriscience teachers.
After lunch, farmers on the tour will gain first-hand experience with some of the latest agricultural farm equipment including Quadtrac. Farmers also will see some of the newest ag spray equipment on the market and get to test drive some of the latest equipment available to consumers.
Steve Nash’s dairy in Chapel Hill will greet farmers as the first stop on the all-Tennessee tour.
Nash owns a third-generation dairy and is moving his 1,500 cows from California to Tennessee. Nash served on the Fresno County Farm Bureau (FCFB) Board of Directors in California for 12 years and currently serves as its second vice president. His past leadership positions include Dairy Commodity chairman for FCFB and the California Farm Bureau Federation.
Lunch will be at the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation (TFBF) building in Columbia. TFBF is the largest state Farm Bureau with more than 650,000 members.
The Tennessee Livestock Producers, a marketing affiliate of TFBF, is the last stop on the tour. The organization was established to start competitive bidding in Nashville, which was used as a benchmark throughout the state.
A trip to the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, and its 13,000-acre campus await tour members, where the 2,000-foot Cumberland Plateau is sure to provide some great views.
Approximately 9,000 acres of the campus are managed under a multiple-use management plan, which allows for timber production, recreation and aesthetics. Visitors will tour unique forests, historic sites and beautiful buildings on the campus.
After the campus tour, stops include Woodall Sawmill in Skyline, followed by “Little Nashville,” a 972-acre tree farm and TREASURE Forest owned by Jack McGuinn of Huntsville.
First on the five-stop tour is the farm of former Alabama Cattlemen’s President Donna Jo Curtis. The Curtis herd is founded on Angus and Charolais bloodlines but now uses some Hereford bulls.
The next stop is Humble Heart Farms, a goat dairy specializing in several flavors of fresh French cheese and goat cheese desserts. The group will then tour the famous Belle Chevre Creamery.
After a steak sandwich lunch at the Red Caboose in Elkmont, past president of the National Cutting Horse Association James Hooper will host the fourth stop on the tour.
The tour concludes at Red Oak Farms in Danville, where Federation Hay & Forage State Committee Chair Wade Hill will showcase one of the few alfalfa hay fields in Alabama.
Farmers will tour the 233-acre Scott’s Orchard in Hazel Green on their first stop, then journey north into Tennessee.
Recognized in 2010 as a Tennessee Century Farm, the Scott family raises 17 varieties of apples, peaches, corn, soybeans, watermelons, pumpkins, peppers and tomatoes.
The next stop is Lyon Family Farms in Taft, Tennessee. In addition to an agritourism business featuring corn mazes, pig races, a pumpkin patch and tire swings, Richard and Shelley Lyon farm several hundred acres of crops. They have 140 acres of nursery stock, 175 acres of row crops, 50 acres of squash, 150 acres of pumpkins. This year, they’re adding several acres of okra and bell peppers.
A tour of Jack Daniel’s Distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee, rounds out the day.
For more information and registration, visit AlfaFarmers.org. Registration deadline is July 11.