Students tour Alabama agriculture from the mountains to the sea
Twenty-eight students from Auburn’s College of Agriculture spent their spring break 2018 on a tour of the state’s diverse farming and farming-related operations.
The group traveled more than 1,200 miles by bus the week of March 11-16, starting in the Tennessee Valley and ending at the Gulf of Mexico, and visited 19 different agribusinesses as part of Alabama Ag Expedition, sponsored by the Alabama Wheat and Feed Grain Producers.
“The Alabama Wheat and Feed Grain Producers saw the weeklong tour as an investment in College of Agriculture students and in the future of agriculture in our state,” said Carla Hornady, director of cotton, soybeans, wheat & feed grain divisions of the Alabama Farmers Federation. “The ag expedition showed students the diverse, on-farm production Alabama offers as well as the important role ag industries have in our state.”
Amy Wright, College of Agriculture associate dean for instruction, said the trip expanded students’ on-campus studies and personal experiences by exposing them to as many different types of agricultural operations as possible.
“During their time in the College of Ag, most students see operations that are directly connected to their major. This trip allowed students to see operations related to all the majors in the College of Ag,” she said.
The six-day tour began Sunday, March 11, with stops at the McMichen Farm, Cherokee Gin and Cotton Co. and Tate Farms, followed by tours of the Alabama Farmers Cooperative, Red Land Cotton, Mark Byrd’s farm and Haynes Farms March 12.
On March 13, students toured Drury Farms, West Fraser Mills and Parnell Inc. with stops on March 14 at CK Cattle Co., Priester’s Pecans, Conecuh Sausage and Tri-County Peanut.
On March 15 students began the day at Port of Mobile before touring Waters’ Nursery. The tour concluded on March 16 with stops at 4C Land & Cattle Co and Bonnie Plants.
“I think everyone on the tour finished it with a better appreciation for our state’s largest industry—agriculture,” said Hornady.
Jake Patterson, a senior in crop and soil sciences, concurred. Patterson, who hails from a family farm in New Market, said he gained a surprising education about the state’s varied agriculture operations.
“The Alabama Ag Expedition trip was one of the most beneficial experiences I have had in my time at Auburn,” he said. “Having the opportunity to see different commodities produced and the practices used to do so was very eye-opening. Alabama is such a diverse state. It amazes me that we produce anything from a cotton boll to citrus to catfish.”
Wright, who accompanied the students, said they ranged from freshmen to fifth-year seniors and earned two credit hours for participating.
In preparation for the trip, she said, students compiled information about the farms and industries on the agenda. Following the tour, they presented to fellow students and other groups about what they learned.
“This is a very diverse group,” Wright said. “Some of us have agricultural backgrounds, some don’t. Not only that, but this is a very culturally diverse group. We have students from China, the Ukraine and from all across the country and the state of Alabama.”
Hornady said educating those with no farm experience was as one of the goals of the tour.
“Our farmers realize many students don’t have a farm background but still want to pursue degrees in agriculture,” she said. “We certainly want to encourage those pursuits and encourage those students to seek those careers in Alabama.”
Patterson, whose farm background involves row cropping, said that the trip was not only valuable for presenting the diversity of Alabama agriculture but also for the opportunity to connect with the farmers and operators and with fellow students.
“Exposure to new environments is always important,” he said, “but the relationships made along the way mean a ton.”