Masks and a pared-down menu didn’t stifle appetites or conversation at the Alabama Farmers Federation’s Taste of Alabama legislative reception Feb. 10.
Gov. Kay Ivey was among dozens of elected officials who joined county Federation leaders for the annual event. She praised the values of farmers and thanked Federation President Jimmy Parnell and Executive Director Paul Pinyan for their support.
“Alabama’s agriculture industry is critical and embodies who we are as a state,” Ivey said. “Under Jimmy Parnell’s leadership, Alfa continues to be a bright spot to ensure the needs of our farmers are met. I am always glad to join Jimmy, Paul and all of the good folks at Alfa. I look forward to working with them as we continue making Alabama a great place to live, work and raise a family.”
Other statewide constitutional officers enjoying a taste of Alabama were Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth, Attorney General Steve Marshall, State Auditor Jim Zeigler, Secretary of State John Merrill, and Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries Rick Pate. Guests also included 59 members of the Alabama Legislature, eight State Supreme Court and appellate court judges, two members of the Alabama State Board of Education and Public Service Commission President Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh.
Rep. Wes Kitchens, R-Arab, said the reception provided an opportunity for legislators to visit with farmers from their districts.
“It’s always good to be at the Taste of Alabama — always good to be with our people and get some of our local farmers down here,” Kitchens said. “Farming is such a vital part of our industry in Marshall, Blount and DeKalb counties. It’s always good to have them down in Montgomery and show them a little about what’s going on and be able to talk to them about the issues related to agriculture.”
Almost 100 Federation leaders hosted the lawmakers for a meal featuring Bishop’s Barbecue of Colbert County and pies from Priester’s Pecans of Lowndes County.
Sen. Garlan Gudger, R-Cullman, said he enjoyed the food and fellowship.
“It’s always one of the favorite (events) for all the legislators,” Gudger said. “We get to network with our people from back home. We’re able to eat really great food and be able to socialize and catch up — and really just do what we’re supposed to do, fellowship from the farm all the way to the State House.”
Kitchens and Gudger said the pandemic has prompted lawmakers to expedite priority bills and enhance virtual access through online video and audio.
“COVID has definitely given us some challenges this year,” Kitchens said. “Committee rooms have been a little bit different — meeting virtually and having Zoom calls. But I do think it also opens the process up a little bit. In the past, people from back in Marshall County and across District 27, if they weren’t in Montgomery, they couldn’t hear or see what was going on. I do think that’s one positive we’ve seen from it.”
Both legislators said they’ve missed the in-person contact with constituents. They urged farmers and Federation members to contact their senators and representatives about issues affecting their lives and livelihood.
“Communication is the key,” Gudger said. “Without communication, there’s no potential for growth. Contact your legislator if there’s something you need to be heard on. They’ll still answer that phone because (you) are part of this group and this organization.”
Gudger added he feels blessed to be part of the Federation and to have opportunities to network with members at events like the Taste of Alabama.
“(It’s) reassuring to know I’m aligned with what their beliefs are and where we need to be voting,” he said