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 a highlight 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 Mitt Walker, the GAP Department director. “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, specialty crops, beef cattle 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?”
A chorus of chuckles and groans ran through the room. 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 were 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. Tours were packed with information to help farmers improve their bottom line. They 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, 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. Read more here.
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, giving positive stories from Washington, D.C.
“We’re feeding the world with the people in this room, and we thank you,” Carl said.