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June 15, 2011   Email to Friend 

Debra Davis
June 15, 2011

Baldwin County Board Member Joel Sirmon, third from left, discusses his sweet potato crop with Farm Bureau leaders who toured his farm earlier this week. From left are Tennessee Farm Bureau Chief Administrative Officer Joe Pearson, North Carolina Farm Bureau Livestock Director Chester Lowder, Sirmon, American Farm Bureau (AFBF) Director of Congressional Relations Mary Kay Thatcher, AFBF Economist Veronica Nigh and Alabama Farmers Federation Horticulture and Greenhouse, Nursery & Sod Divisions Director Mac Higginbotham.
ORANGE BEACH, Ala. - The Alabama Farmers Federation hosted the 2011 American Farm Bureau Federation Southern Region Commodity Conference in Orange Beach, attracting commodity directors from 13 states.

The more than 100 attendees participated in workshops and tours of outstanding farms in south Alabama and received an update on the coastal recovery from Dr. George Crozier, executive director of the Dauphin Island Sea Lab.

Farm Bureau commodity directors from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia attended the meeting.

"Alabama was pleased to serve as host for the event," said Federation Director of Governmental and Agricultural Programs Jimmy Carlisle. "The workshops helped all of us focus on issues that affect each state in the Southern Region. While our states are different in some ways, many of the challenges we face are the same, and it helps each of us to discuss those challenges and the solutions to help protect and improve agriculture."

Carlisle said meeting members of other Farm Bureau organizations was a valuable part of the meeting.

"Establishing a relationship with our counterparts in other states can be very valuable to each of us in the future," Carlisle said.

Federation Executive Director Paul Pinyan welcomed the group during the opening session Sunday evening.

Workshops included updates on the 2012 Farm Bill and the commodity market, discussions about technological advances and innovations in agriculture and the agricultural water enhancement program.

Tour stops Monday afternoon included Magnolia Land Co. in Foley, which started as a dairy and evolved into a horse boarding business that includes newly constructed migratory bird habitats.

Waters Nursery LLC in Robertsdale showed attendees its 120-acre container grown nursery and diversified row crop farm that produces peanuts, wheat, corn and soybeans.

Sirmon Farms in Daphne featured a family-owned farm that grows cotton, peanuts and sweet potatoes and operates a sweet potato brokerage business.

Oak Hollow Farm in Fairhope revealed how agritourism evolved into a successful business that includes fishing, horseback rides, skeet shooting, a playground and a restaurant. At Oak Hollow, state leaders also demonstrated the Fatal Vision Program aimed at educating teens about drunk driving.

Attendees were greeted at Monday night's dinner by Baldwin County Farmers Federation President and Federation State Board Member David Bitto and his wife, Gloria.

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