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December 16, 2010   Email to Friend 

Tuscaloosa County Farmers Federation Gets Word Out
By Darryal Ray

The Tuscaloosa Farmers Federation is spreading the "Farming Feeds Alabama" message via a 14-foot by 20-foot banner on a grain bin alongside Highway 43 between Northport and Fayette. From left, President John Walker III, Women's Leadership Committee Chairman Peggy Walker, Thomas Ed Harless and John Lavender.
It was a banner idea, one that Peggy Walker of the Tuscaloosa County Farmers Federation hopes will spread across Alabama much like the old black-and-white "See Rock City" barns of yesteryear.

"The idea came to me when I saw how beautiful Pike County's billboard was," she said, referring to a bright yellow-and-green "Farming Feeds Alabama" billboard the Pike County Farmers Federation erected along U.S. 231 last summer. "It just carries such a friendly message with eye appeal."

It's a message that she believes can be delivered throughout the state by placing large vinyl banners on barns, outbuildings, grain bins -- anything and everything that motorists may see whenever they pass a farm.

After all, the 14-foot by 20-foot banner wrapped around the grain bin on the Walker farm just off Highway 43 between Northport and Fayette is certainly drawing attention. "Farming Feeds Alabama," the banner proclaims. "Alabama's No. 1 Industry." Also clearly visible is the familiar red Alabama Farmers Federation logo.

The banner was placed there after Peggy, who chairs the county's Women's Leadership Committee, asked her husband, John, to present the idea to the county Federation's board of directors. The board quickly approved the idea, and decided to place it on the Walkers' grain bin.

"We started two years ago doing some billboards in Tuscaloosa during Farm-City Week," said John Walker, president of the Tuscaloosa County Farmers Federation. "We'd spend $2,500 each year. That's pretty expensive, and it only stays up there one month. We got some good publicity out of it, but we got to thinking -- actually Peggy was the one who came up with it -- that we could put it on these things out here in the country or wherever farmers and Federation members had land and without charge. The boy installing this one said, 'You're renting that to Alfa aren't you?' I said, 'No, I'm not renting that to Alfa. We're trying to get something started. We're trying to stimulate some interest so we can promote agriculture.'"

The banner, which is expected to last five years, cost the Tuscaloosa County Farmers Federation $537 -- installation included. It was such a good deal (and idea), the board of directors figured, that they got 25 smaller banners to place around the county as well.

"We didn't want 'Tuscaloosa County' on the banner because this is not about Tuscaloosa County -- this is about farmers feeding Alabama," said Peggy. "Agriculture is something that not everybody understands, and you don't want people to take it for granted because agriculture is such a challenge today. Even though a farmer farms because he has the ability and has the calling and the desire to do this for his livelihood, it's a constant challenge."

John Walker said the message is two-fold. "The first thought, the first idea you want to get across is 'Farming Feeds Alabama.' Without the farmer, you wouldn't have food," he said. "The second thought is about all the jobs farming produces in this state -- it's the No. 1 industry."

Peggy, meanwhile, has high hopes for the banner and would like to see all 67 county Federations utilizing their farms to get out the message.

"We hope this will be a statewide campaign and will be recognized from county to county," she said. "As the idea is shown to people, they will come up with more ways to promote it or present it. ... I'd like for others to pick up on this and see how beautiful it can be for their counties." "It's a good idea," said John as he smiles at Peggy.

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