By Mary Wilson
Thousands of people from across the country who attend the annual Sunbelt Ag Expo in Moultrie, Georgia, will experience a tasty road trip through Sweet Grown Alabama.
For 2023, Alabama is the expo’s Spotlight State. This brings with it recognition during the Southeastern Farmer of the Year Luncheon Oct. 17, as well as nearly 3,000 square feet of exhibit space to tell the story of Alabama agriculture over the expo’s three days Oct. 17-19.
“Alabama agriculture is truly diverse,” said Sweet Grown Alabama Director Ellie Watson. “Our farmers grow everything from fruits, vegetables, peanuts and cotton to cattle, poultry and catfish and everything in between. We’re looking forward to a fun-filled three days at Sunbelt. It takes a village to tackle a project of this scale, and there’s no better village than Alabama’s agricultural community. We’re thankful to work with so many friends from other organizations to bring this ‘Road Trip through Sweet Grown Alabama’ to life.”
Before guests hit the proverbial pavement, Watson suggests they grab a visitor guide (complete with an exhibit road map) from the Sweet Grown Alabama Welcome Center at the building’s entrance. They’ll then be guided through 10 fun, flavorful and fact-packed exhibits.
Engaging activities and snappy swag abound as visitors learn about Alabama’s diverse agricultural landscape. The bounty includes agritourism, catfish, cattle, corn, cotton, dairy, forestry, greenhouse products, peaches, peanuts, pecans, poultry, sod, soybeans, strawberries and sweet potatoes.
At each roadside exit, tourists will soak in trivia, like the fact that 50% of peanuts produced in the U.S. are grown within a 100-mile radius of Dothan. Plus, the state ranks No. 2 in the U.S. for catfish production and No. 3 for sod production, while beef cattle are raised in all 67 Alabama counties.
With a little extra planning, a road trip to Sweet Grown Alabama can result in gathering up special giveaways and enjoying educational presentations. That includes ice cream samples, daily interactive workshops focused on making horticulture fun, cooking demonstrations, longleaf pine seedling giveaways and more.
When the excitement of experiencing Alabama agriculture overwhelms, visitors are invited to the Sweet Grown Alabama Rest Area — where they can kick up their feet and sit a spell on park benches and picnic tables built by Elmore County High School FFA.
Before waving goodbye, visitors are encouraged to document the trip to Sweet Grown Alabama by snapping a selfie with flowers and sweet potatoes, Alabama’s official state vegetable. Plus, they can enter to win a protein pack of meat raised by an Alabama farmer. The $200 value will be delivered straight to the winner’s door this fall.
Numerous Alabama agricultural organizations and businesses have worked tirelessly this year to support the Sweet Grown Alabama mission and produce a worthy Spotlight State exhibit. Their employees are the masterminds behind the road trip design of the building. They’re also the exhibit’s volunteers and are excited to share their expertise about and passion for Alabama’s agricultural industry. Agriculture has a $70.4 billion economic impact on the state and employs more than 580,000 people.
The Sunbelt Ag Expo is North America’s Premier Farm Show with more than 1,200 exhibitors on the grounds at Spence Field in Moultrie. The event highlights the latest agricultural technology, research and equipment, which draws thousands of attendees. Learn more at SunbeltExpo.com.
While Sweet Grown Alabama serves as the year’s Spotlight State theme, it’s also Alabama’s official branding program that connects retailers and consumers to Alabama-grown foods and other agricultural products. The program began in 2019 and is housed within the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries.