Thousands of people from across the country who attend the annual Sunbelt Ag Expo in Moultrie, Georgia, will get to 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 agriculture in Alabama over the expo’s three days Oct. 17-19.
“Alabama agriculture is truly diverse. Our farmers grow everything from fruits, vegetables, peanuts and cotton to cattle, poultry and catfish and everything in between,” said Sweet Grown Alabama Director Ellie Watson. “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 hitting the proverbial pavement, Watson suggests guests grab a visitor guide (complete with a road map!) from the Sweet Grown Alabama Visitor’s Center at the building’s entrance and 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 to Sweet Grown Alabama’s Spotlight State 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, Alabama. Plus, the state ranks No. 2 in the U.S. for catfish production and No. 3 for sod production, while beef cattle are produced in all of Alabama’s 67 counties to the tune of a $2.5 billion industry.
With a little extra planning, a road trip to Sweet Grown Alabama can result in gathering up special giveaways and enjoying educational presentations. Ice cream samples will be served daily at 3 p.m. at the strawberry and peaches exhibit. On the Sweet Grown Alabama stage, daily interactive workshops focused on making horticulture fun will take place at 2 p.m. Well-known Alabama food bloggers will serve up special treats during cooking demonstrations on Oct. 17 and 18 at 11 a.m.
Additional freebies celebrate Alabama agriculture’s two largest sectors — forestry and poultry. Each day, five people will be randomly selected to receive $20 Chick-fil-A gift cards at the poultry exhibit, which supports Alabama’s robust poultry industry that ranks No. 2 in the nation for broiler production. Since Alabama ranks third in the contiguous U.S. for timberland acreage, longleaf pine seedlings will be given away at the forestry exhibit Oct. 17 at 3 p.m.
When all 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 the Elmore County High School FFA. Now that’s true Southern hospitality.
Before waving goodbye, document the trip to Sweet Grown Alabama by snapping a selfie with flowers and sweet potatoes, Alabama’s official state vegetable. Plus, enter to win a protein pack of meat raised by an Alabama farmer. It’ll be delivered straight to the winner’s door from Sweet Grown Alabama later in the 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, as well as the exhibit’s volunteers, who are all excited to share their expertise about and passion for Alabama’s agricultural industry. Through all its related industries, 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.
Sweet Grown Alabama makes it easy to find and support farmers who sell products directly to the public. Through its online database, consumers can search for Sweet Grown Alabama members by ZIP code, product or business type. Visit sweetgrownalabama.org to learn more.