By Mary Johnson
Participants in the 40th annual Alabama Farmers Federation Commodity Producers Conference will drive down I-65 until the map turns blue. In addition to delicious seafood and the bustle of the Port City, Alabama farmers will visit some unique farms in the southern end of the state.
The conference will be at the Renaissance Riverview Plaza Hotel in Mobile Aug. 2-4.
“We are excited to again bring representatives from our commodities together for fellowship during this educational conference,” said Jimmy Carlisle, director of the Alabama Farmers Federation’s Department of Governmental and Agricultural Programs. “Seminars will cover topics to educate our farmers about the latest agricultural innovations and ways to improve efficiency and productivity.”
Registration begins Aug. 2 at 2 p.m., followed by a welcome banquet. Entertainment will be the FFA Quartet. The next day, farmers will participate in one of five tours around Mobile and Baldwin counties. Morning seminars and a general session will take place Aug. 4, with the grand finale banquet that evening sponsored by Alfa Health, Alfa Dental and Swisher International/Sunbelt Ag Expo. Entertainment will be provided by Mark Lowery, a Christian comedian, songwriter, and singer.
After last year’s success, the conference will again open itself to Alabama’s Young Farmers and the Young Farmers’ Summer Conference.
“Having young people involved injects energy into the group, giving farmers faith in the future,” Carlisle said. “The conference provides a great opportunity for our young farmers and more experienced farmers to learn from each other.”
The Discussion Meet and Excellence in Agriculture competitions, part of the Young Farmers program, will take place the morning of Aug. 4. In the Discussion Meet, contestants provide specific action-plan solutions for certain issues facing agriculture.
Competitors must display public-speaking, problem-solving and consensus-building skills. The Excellence in Agriculture contest requires young agricultural professionals to give an illustrated presentation on how their work and civic activities strengthen agriculture. Participants must be employed in an agriculture field other than farming. Winners will be announced during the closing banquet Saturday.
The Women’s Leadership Committee will also host its quilting, apron-sewing and tablescape competitions. Contest entries must be set-up Thursday as judging will take place that evening.
Winners will be announced at Saturday’s Women’s Luncheon.
The ag tours will introduce attendees to the culture and agriculture of Mobile and its surrounding areas. Buses will depart from the Mobile Convention Center Friday morning, with lunch served on the tours.
The Blue Tour will feature aquaculture, with stops at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab Estuarium, the Auburn University Shellfish Laboratory and the Aquatic Teaching Facility at Alma Bryant High School. Participants will view the long-term effects of the oil spill and hurricanes with a drive through the community of Bayou La Batre. The final stop is near Grand Bay at Art Session’s farm, where pecans and satsumas, among other crops, are grown for roadside markets.
The Green Tour starts with a boat tour of Week’s Bay National Estuarine Reserve. Enjoy a stroll along the elevated boardwalk to view the unique swamp ecosystem. The tour will then head to a tree farm/TREASURE Forest near Grand Bay to learn about invasive species and forest certification.
Orange Tour participants will experience the Gulf Coast Agricultural and Seafood Co-Op in Bayou La Batre. The tour will head to Andy Thornburg’s Farm to view a Sunn Hemp plot (a plant used as a cover crop to reclaim poor land) and the Deer and Hog Mega Fence. The trip includes a stop at Oak Hill Tree Farm, owned by Cliff and Brian Keller, in Grand Bay.
The Red Tour will visit Sirmon Farms, a sweet potato, cotton and peanut operation owned by Gordon Sirmon. The second stop is Waters Nursery in Robertsdale, where Tony Waters will provide lunch from his catering business, “Waters Edge.” The tour concludes at Perdido Vineyards, a muscadine grape farm owned by Jim and Marianne Eddins.
The Yellow Tour will focus on livestock and forage. It covers three different cattle operations: Higgdon Farms, Faggard Land & Cattle and Driskell Farms. Next is a visit to a commercial goat operation at Pittman Farms. The tour ends at Impressible Minis, a miniature purebred horse farm.
To register for the conference, contact your County Farmers Federation. For more information, contact Carla Hornady at (334) 613-4735.