News Summer Conference Educates, Inspires Farmers

Summer Conference Educates, Inspires Farmers

Summer Conference Educates, Inspires Farmers
September 1, 2023 |

By Marlee Jackson

Scores of trucks bearing Farming Feeds Alabama vanity tags filled parking garages in Mobile Aug. 10-12 as 700 attendees packed out the Alabama Farmers Federation’s summer conference.

Perennial favorite farm tours and new commodity-specific educational tracks were highlights of the Farm & Land Expo. The Federation’s Governmental & Agricultural Programs (GAP) Department organizes the annual event.

“Even though we know things are hard on the farm right now, it was refreshing to see our farmers relaxed while they caught up with each other,” said GAP Department Director Mitt Walker. “We’re hopeful they were able to recharge while learning something they can implement back home.”

To better serve farmers, Walker’s team created targeted seminar tracks for poultry, row crops, beef cattle, specialty crops and natural resources. Many sessions were standing room only. 

Additionally, two general sessions focused on risk management tools and an agricultural economic outlook — critical topics due to weather, market fluctuations and rising interest rates. 

Dr. Mykel Taylor kicked off the outlook session asking, “Anyone remember 18% interest rates?”

The room echoed with a chorus of chuckles and groans. Eighteen-plus percent interest reigned in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. Rates are above 5% now.

“We’re high relative to where we’ve been but not relative to history,” said Taylor, an economist and the Alfa Endowed Eminent Scholar at Auburn University (AU). “We’re probably getting closer to normal than where we’ve been for the last 7-10 years.”

During the Farm & Land Expo, farmers hopped on buses that visited farms and agribusinesses across Baldwin, Escambia and Mobile counties — all packed with information to help farmers improve their bottom lines. Tours included the Armentrout TREASURE Forest, AU’s Ornamental Horticulture Research Center, Bellingrath Gardens, boat tours of Mobile Bay, Coastal Growers peanut-shelling plant, Driskell Turf Farm, Faggard Farms, Freeland Farms, Martin’s Nursery, Mason Hills meat processor, McKenzie Farm Market, Mullek Farm, Ramsay Cattle Co. and Sessions Farm Market.

Keeping with the conference theme of practical application for farmers, the Federation honored two experts for tangibly impacting farmers’ lives. Dr. Steve Li received the Rittenour Award for Excellence in Production Agriculture & Forestry Research, while Gerry Thompson was awarded the Duncan Award for Excellence in Production Agriculture & Forestry Extension. (See pages 8 and 9.)

Alabama’s Port City also hosted contests for the Women’s Leadership and Young Farmers divisions. (See pages 5 and 6.)

To kick off the conference, U.S. Rep. Jerry Carl, R-Ala., joined the packed banquet room of farmers. His 1st Congressional District includes Mobile. He encouraged the slate of Federation leaders, sharing positive stories from Washington, D.C.

“We’re feeding the world with the people in this room, and we thank you,” Carl said. 

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