As Alabama families prepare for their Thanksgiving meals later this month, hundreds of students, farmers and business leaders will come together to celebrate the Farm-City relationships that bring food to the table.
First observed in 1955, National Farm-City Week begins the Friday before Thanksgiving and seeks to foster understanding and cooperation among rural and urban residents. This year, Alabama’s Farm-City theme is “Grown Safely. Extra Tasty.”
“As farmers increase production and improve efficiency to meet the growing demand for food, consumers often are bombarded with questions about the safety of modern farming,” said Alabama Farm-City Committee Chairman Jeff Helms. “This year’s theme will give Farm-City committees and students a chance to counter misinformation by showcasing the safety of our food supply and discussing how it impacts the security of our nation.”
County Farm-City Week events include farm tours, banquets, business breakfasts and festivals. Two of the most popular activities are the Farm-City poster and essay contests. Each year, thousands of budding artists in grades K-6 depict the theme on poster board. Winning entries from each county go on to compete at the state level for cash prizes sponsored by Alabama Farmers Cooperative. The top 14 posters also appear in the Alabama Farm-City Calendar. Meanwhile, the essay contest gives young writers in grades 7-12 the opportunity to showcase their creativity.
This year, the Alabama Farm-City Committee added a new student competition. The Multimedia Contest is open to students in grades 9-12, and encourages interpretation of the theme using PowerPoint, Keynote or similar computer applications.
At the national level, food safety will be the focus of the National Farm-City Symposium Nov. 13. The symposium will be broadcast live on the AgriTalk radio network beginning at 10 a.m. CST and online at AgriTalk.com.
The theme of food safety follows a strategic plan developed by the National Farm-City Council five years ago, which called for the annual commemoration to focus on a single, potentially divisive issue. Helms points out that misinformation abounds about food-borne illnesses. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the occurrence of such cases dropped 23 percent from 1998 to 2010.
“Few American’s have heard the amazing story of how American farmers have improved food safety through animal health programs, the conservative use of crop protection materials, improved field sanitation standards and on-farm refrigeration,” Helms said. “Deadly diseases that were common decades ago are virtually non-existent today.
“For Alabama farmers, food safety is not about feeding the world, nor is it merely a patriotic gesture,” Helms added. “For them, it is a way of life. Their families live on the land and are the first to eat the bounty it produces. This makes food safety an intensely personal experience for farmers. They are dedicated to producing healthy, wholesome products for their families and ours — not just today, but for generations to come. That is the message we want to convey with ‘Grown Safely. Extra Tasty.’”
For a list of county Farm-City chairman and contest rules, visit www.alfafarmers.org/farm-city. Farm-City calendars may be ordered (minimum 10) by contacting Paula Culver at firstname.lastname@example.org.