|Grocery List Farming|
Eclectic Hosts Farm City Event
Milk, butter, cheese and eggs – check those on the list. Tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and squash added. Don’t forget the ground beef, steak, pork chops, bacon, sausage or chicken – favorite things included on the grocery list. In March, the first Farm City event in Elmore County was held in Eclectic. The entire previously-mentioned grocery list of items was discussed with everyone who attended. So what does a grocery list have to do with farming?
While many counties in Alabama host annual Farm City events, this spring’s event in Eclectic was a first in Elmore County. Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES) Agent Katrina Mitchell shared how the idea was generated.
Mitchell handled the logistics, making sure everyone was prepared for the two-day event.
Visitors could easily spend an hour or so at the event, visiting the many stations. Wisely set up in the large, grassy lot belonging and adjacent to the Eclectic First Baptist Church, the exhibits caused a flurry of attention in the small town of approximately 1,200 or so residents. By bringing farm exhibits into town, the event became accessible to anyone who wanted to take part. On March 9, students in fourth, fifth and sixth grades from Eclectic Elementary School visited Eclectic’s Farm City. Accounting for almost 400 children throughout the day, students gathered hands-on knowledge about the variety of agricultural interests and groups stationed onsite. March 10, the event was open to the public. Excited students, who enjoyed their field trip, encouraged parents and families to come see their favorites. The prominent location of the event on the main drag in downtown Eclectic persuaded new visitors to drop by and see what was happening.
"I learned a lot at Farm City," said sixth grade student Jamie Rodgers. "A 6-month-old cow is huge! I touched a pig today; it wasn’t like I thought it would be."
Another student, Ariel Neighbors said she wants to be a farmer when she grows up and take care of horses. Jackson Dean declared Farm City cool. The Farm City message hit home with most students as Hannah Hughes summed up the field trip, stating "I learned how important our natural resources are to us."
Although not intended as a petting zoo, students and visitors received the opportunity to see and touch a variety of farm animals, some of which most had never seen other than in pictures. Milk and meat goats, sheep, rabbits, chickens, beef and dairy cows, and pigs were all showcased along with their by-products. Central Alabama Beekeepers Association (CABA) promoted the importance of beekeeping; CABA Vice President Larry McEndarfer utilized the club’s teaching hives and shared samples of sweet local honey. The first certified class of Junior Master Gardeners for the River Region talked with visitors about backyard gardening. The tomato, cabbage and strawberry plants given away by Bonnie Plants were huge hits with those who received them. Eclectic Cotton Queen Jessica Baker shared the history of cotton farming in the county and how Eclectic has served as a center for cotton processing. She also promoted the Eclectic Cotton Museum and the upcoming 20th Annual Eclectic Cotton Festival scheduled to be held in October in downtown. The wildlife skins and skulls station offered additional learning opportunities in the field of wildlife science. ACES sponsored a nutrition and food safety display. Elmore County 4-H Horse Club members brought their horses. The farm equipment station wowed visitors with science and technology.
Standing beside a huge piece of farm equipment, Chris George talked about the agriculture-based business he owns with his wife and how farming is a big part of life for their family. Their kids have shown livestock through 4-H all over the country. No matter where they are, George sees a common trend among kids who do not live on a farm, relaying that most kids think their food comes from the local grocery store.
"As someone in an ag-based business, I feel it is important to educate kids on the importance of agriculture," George said. "Kids, and adults too, need to see and understand the connection of farms to their everyday lives. Because of United States farmers, our country enjoys a plentiful and safe food source. People may buy their food at Winn-Dixie, but need to realize it is available thanks to farmers."
George felt hosting a Farm City event in Elmore County would help people realize that importance while seeing the many farming examples in the county. He also hoped the event would showcase a few of the many opportunities available in agriculture. Along with his wife, George owns Double C Precision Ag, Inc.; he sees firsthand how the world of technology has become closely integrated with all things agriculture. Computers help meet farmers’ needs to improve productivity and efficiency, in the office and in the field. He wanted to show students at the Farm City event a little of the future of farming and some of the job opportunities available to them. A proud resident of Elmore County, George believes in promoting farming and small towns, both of which make up the heartland of America.
The March Farm City event proved to be so successful that sponsors are planning to incorporate the event into the fall Eclectic Cotton Festival in order to reach a greater audience. Committee members and event planners hope more people will come to understand the importance of farming and agriculture.
So what does farming have to do with grocery lists? After visiting Eclectic’s Farm City event, visitors realize the answer – everything!
Ashley Smith is a freelance writer from Russell County.