County hosts annual growers conference

Some of the newest technological advances in agriculture were exhibits during the 2016 Alabama Fruit and Vegetable Growers Conference. (Photo by Anthony Richards)

Some of the newest technological advances in agriculture were exhibits during the 2016 Alabama Fruit and Vegetable Growers Conference. (Photo by Anthony Richards)

Chilton County was the center of the farming world within the state on Wednesday, as the 2016 Alabama Fruit and Vegetable Growers Conference and Trade Show took place at the Clanton Performing Arts Center.

“Alabama fresh products are in high demand and we are currently not meeting the demand that is out there,” Executive Director Mac Higginbotham said. “We’re trying our best to fill those gaps.”

It was the second year that Chilton County hosted the event, where growers and agricultural experts from throughout the state were represented. The county’s central location and farming culture makes it a natural fit.

“Chilton County has been so hospitable to us, and we really appreciate the opportunity,” Higginbotham said.

The conference consisted of exhibits selling farming products and researchers on the cusp of discovering the latest advancement within the field of agriculture.

According to Higginbotham, roughly 200 farmers pre-registered as well as 40 exhibitors.

“It’s a great for new and beginning farmers, but also for more experienced farmers to gain education,” Higginbotham said.

Taylor Hatchett was one of many local farmers at the conference. She lives in Thorsby and owns Boozer Farms, where they focus on sod as well as fruit and vegetable production.

Hatchett is in her second year serving on the Alabama Fruit and Vegetable Growers board, but has attended her share of conferences with her family over the years while growing up.

As a board member, she helps in the planning of programs that help meet the needs of growers through out the state of Alabama.

“It seems that there is a shift in the regeneration of small farms throughout the state,” Hatchett said. “A lot of what has helped that is the Farmers Market Authority that allow for people who have five to 20 acres to still farm, but on a smaller scale.”

Farm tours were held at Penton Farms in Verbena. Participants learned of crops that included the farm’s U-pick strawberries, pumpkin patch and peach production.

“This is where the science meets the applied,” Hatchett said. “People want to get back that connection to know where their food is coming from.”

Alfa President Jimmy Parnell was one of the speakers along with others, such as County Extension Coordinator Gay West and Clanton City Councilman Bobby Cook.

Parnell has seen the growth from the first year to the second and believes that Chilton County has a golden opportunity to become a permanent fixture for the conference moving forward.

“None of us know everything and that is the nice thing about getting together in groups like this,” Parnell said. “It’s always good for the local economy to bring in events like this.”

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