By Maggie Edwards
Alabama-grown food, fellowship and one-on-one conversations filled the room during the Alabama Farmers Federation’s annual Taste of Alabama legislative reception April 5 in Montgomery.
Over 100 elected officials and numerous farmer-leaders gathered as legislators engaged with their local constituents, such as Baldwin County farmer Mark Kaiser.
“I had the opportunity to visit with my elected officials,” said Kaiser. “They were all very grateful to be here and are thankful for our support.”
As a Federation state board member, Kaiser represents Mobile County, which is home to Alabama Sen. David Sessions, R-Grand Bay. Sessions is also a farmer.
“We grow cotton and peanuts, raise cattle and have fruit and vegetables on our farm near the Gulf Coast,” said Sessions, who chairs the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. “I enjoy serving my district and the people of the state and appreciate the opportunity to look out for agriculture.”
As a farmer and state senator, Sessions acknowledged the significance of farmers getting involved with local politics.
“It is important for us as farmers to get our stories to the rest of the state and to the people who don’t understand agriculture,” Sessions said. “We want to keep families on their farms. We don’t want to rely on someone else for our food.”
Legislators annually enjoy visiting the Federation home office to taste the delicious flavors of Alabama-grown products. This year’s menu included Bishop’s Barbecue Pork, Colbert County; praline pecans from Priester’s Pecans, Lowndes County; grilled peanut butter and jelly sandwiches from the Alabama Peanut Producers Association, Houston County; ice cream from Blue Ribbon Dairy, Elmore County; shrimp from Greene Prairie Farm, Greene County; smoked turkey gumbo from the Federation State Wildlife Committee; beef brisket from Trinity Farms, Lowndes County; honey from the Federation State Bee & Honey Committee; U.S. farm-raised catfish; and more.
State Rep. Napoleon Bracy Jr., D-Saraland, said the event showcases agriculture’s diversity.
“Agriculture is one of the largest industries in Alabama, and I feel privileged to serve on the House Committee on Agriculture. One thing I want to highlight is this barbecue sauce made in Alabama,” said Bracy as he held a bottle of Bishop’s Barbecue sauce. “This is what I look forward to the most. We are so grateful to the agricultural industry here in Alabama.”
Alabama Sen. Dan Roberts, R-Mountain Brook, said he embraces the shared values of many legislators and the Federation.
“We love showing up at Alfa meetings and hearing the concerns of members,” Roberts said. “Having the Federation speaking into legislation that we are working on while representing the people of Alabama is a critical component in how legislation is made. It is a privilege to work with Alfa on many issues.”
In addition to legislators, the Federation welcomed Gov. Kay Ivey and other constitutional officers, who mingled with the crowd of farmers. The impressive crowd highlighted the event’s importance, Kaiser said.
“If you are not participating, you don’t have a voice,” he said. “The more you participate, the stronger your voice is for Alabama agriculture.”