Over 200 farmers and industry leaders attended the meeting, where workshop topics covered food safety, marketing, insect management, labor, peach production and more.
AFVGA Executive Director Mac Higginbotham said the conference was a prime opportunity for farmers to glean information and improve production.
“Networking with other producers, industry experts and horticulture company representatives is priceless,” said Higginbotham, who also is Alabama Farmers Federation’s horticulture division director. “Fruit and vegetable production has a $161.5 million economic impact on Alabama and employs more than 1,100 people. Horticulture markets are growing, and our farmers are working to meet consumers’ demand.”
A tour of Boozer Farms in Thorsby planted seeds for a successful conference Thursday morning. Grafting, wildlife control, fertigation and seed varieties highlighted the tour of the Boozers’ perennial and annual crops.
The Alabama Farmers Cooperative (AFC) sponsored Thursday’s lunch assembly, where partners, educators and farmers received inaugural AFVGA awards. Chilton County farmer Jimmy Durbin, whose Sunshine Farms manages 70,000 peach trees, was presented the Exceptional Achievement Award, AFVGA’s highest honor.
AFC Vice President of Advertising and Marketing Jim Allen received the Partner of the Year Award, while Dr. Ayanava Majumdar of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System received the Service to Horticulture Award.
Alabama Farmers Federation President Jimmy Parnell, who addressed the crowd during lunch, said the future is unlimited for Alabama horticulture.
“The public wants what you’re growing,” said Parnell, a Chilton County cattle and timber farmer. “They are looking for fruits and vegetables, and they like to know where it came from. You have a real advantage there.”
Forty exhibitors, such as ag lenders, seed and chemical companies and machinery dealers, set up shop throughout the conference. Workshops continued Friday, and a keynote address from Dr. Amnon Erez, a scientist at Israel’s Agricultural Research Organization, closed the conference.
Erez’s presentation focused on peach production — a timely subject in light of last season’s low chill hours and limited production.
Lee County farmer Beth Hornsby and Baldwin County farmer Hope Cassebaum were elected to the AFVGA board. Cassebaum, whose family farms in Lillian, said she’s excited to expand membership to producers across the state.
“Families want to put a face with the food they consume,” Cassebaum said. “That’s something horticulture farmers can easily do. By working together, we can reach more consumers and help them buy fresh, local foods.”
Source: Alabama Farmers Federation
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