Return of Farm-City to Chilton yields awards for committee

Published 3:55 pm Thursday, April 18, 2024

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By Carey Reeder | Managing Editor

In its first year back in Chilton County, the farm-city program made an immediate impact in the community and was recognized for that by taking home awards at the Annual Farm-City Awards Program on April 11.

Held in Auburn, the annual awards banquet recognizes some of the state’s best representatives throughout the farm-city program from the previous year. Over 350 students, county committees and families came together at the banquet this year to celebrate year-long achievements and creative exhibits showcasing the 2023 theme — Agritourism: Connecting Alabama Farms and Communities.

“The goal of our theme last year was ‘Connecting Farms and Communities.’ This has been the mission of Farm-City Week since its inception in 1955,” Jeff Helms, Alabama Farm-City Committee Chairman, said. “The work done last year by students, teachers and county volunteers strengthened bonds between farmers and the neighbors who buy their products and provide services needed to sustain Alabama’s agricultural and forestry economies. We believe the seeds of understanding planted in 2023 will continue to bear fruit for years to come.”

The Chilton County Farm-City Committee won the Best Media Coverage & Proclamation Award for 2023 in Division I, or countries with larger populations. The committee’s well-publicized proclamation on Oct. 18, 2023 and the events during Farm-City Week from Nov. 13-17, 2023 in the local media earned them the award. The committee was given a first-place trophy, and a $300 prize.

“We were pleasantly surprised,” Lucy Edwards, Co-Chair of the Chilton County Farm-City Committee, said. “It was easy to accomplish because we had so many in the community help us, and the program was received so well in the community. The community support countywide is what allowed us to accomplish what we accomplished.”

Chilton County Probate Judge Jason Calhoun, who signed the proclamation into order last October after driving into downtown Clanton on a tractor, was named the Volunteer of the Year at the banquet after serving as a member of the Chilton County Farm-City Committee.

“It was an unexpected honor to win this statewide award. I am not sure that I am worthy of such, but I gladly accepted it on behalf of our committee,” Calhoun said. “We all worked hard and the results showed it. We had a tremendous turnout at last year’s banquet, and the great people of Chilton County understand the value of our urban and rural communities supporting each other. We look forward to another successful banquet this year.”

Students are a big part of the farm-city initiative each year, and 18 students were honored at the banquet for their displays of Alabama agritourism in poster, essay and video contests. The winners and runners-up in each contest received a trophy and cash awards from the Alabama Farmers Cooperative, and the AFC also provided matching cash awards to each school of the winners and runners-ups. Entries were judged by state agriculture and business leaders chosen by the Alabama Farm-City Committee.

“The youth involvement is a very critical piece to farm-city nationwide, statewide and on a local level because they are our future, and we need to instill in them the importance of agriculture, as well as the impacts that agriculture and businesses have on each other,” Edwards said. “We are working with the youth and trying to get them engaged at a young age to get them thinking about how all of this works together, and how you cannot have one without the other.”

In the seventh to ninth grade essay contest, Caleb Cook of Billingsley School won $300 and first place, and Susan Atchinson of Chilton Christian Academy won $200 and second place. Billingsley High School was represented in the 10th to 12th grade essay contest as well with Denver Guthery taking second place and a $200 cash prize. In the video contest, Billingsley’s Kayden Bland finished runners-up and won $200.