GOLDEN & GROWING: Agriculture tour highlights manufacturing plants, treasure forest
Published 2:00 am Friday, August 28, 2015
Nearly 40 Wiregrass farmers visited Pike County Thursday to learn about the area’s diverse production agriculture and related industries. The tour included stops at manufacturing plants and a forestry and wildlife utopia.
The tour was organized by the Alabama Farmers Federation and also included a tour of Covington County farms Wednesday. There, the tour group visited row crop, livestock and poultry operations highlighting that county’s diverse agricultural industry and made a stop at Power South’s generating plant.
Debra Davis, publications director Alabama Farmers Federation, said she was especially proud to have farmers from other areas who are interested in seeing what Pike County has to offer.
Agriculture is the county’s leading industry and is responsible for an annual economic impact of $2.7 billion, according to a recent Auburn University survey, Davis said. “Since the tour participants were all from Southeast Alabama, our row crops and poultry are familiar to them,” Davis said. “Peanuts have a prominent place in the county and its farms history.
“The farmers were very interested in the Golden Boy peanut butter plant in Troy since many of them grow peanuts. The tour of Golden Boy Thursday morning showed many farmers how peanuts they grow are made into the delicious food staple.”
Later in the morning, the farmers toured Gene and Jana Renfroe’s farm near the Hephzibah Community.
“The breathtaking views and close contact with native plants and wildlife were the backdrop of the Renfroe farm,” Davis said. “Gene and Jana both serve as directors for the Alabama Treasure Forest Association. Their efforts combine timber management, stewardship and education on their farm. The Renfroes’ Treasure Forest is so unique that it’s truly a gem for Pike County.”
While at the Renfroes’ farm, tour participants heard from Pike County’s Mike Chirico who discussed his tilapia fish farm in nearby Coffee County.
The final tour stop was in Brundidge at Southern Classic Food Group and the future home of Magnolia Vegetable Processors under construction nearby. Chuck Caraway, owner and plant manager, told farmers he was looking for farmers to grow the cucumbers, okra and other vegetables he’ll need for the new plant.
Steve Stroud, Pike County Farmers Federation president, said he thinks it’s wonder that there is a company in Pike County that is willing and able to buy locally grown farm products.
“Farmers have a great opportunity to diversity into the produce industry like never before,” Stroud said.
“Cucumbers and okra are a good fit for area farmers.”
“While most of the farmers on the tour live only a short drive from Pike County, tours like the one Thursday offer them the opportunity for a closer look at what Pike County farmers are doing to make their farms successful,” Davis said.
Boyd Deal, Federation Area 8 organization director and tour organizer, said farmers are constantly looking for ways to improve what they do and become more efficient.
“The cost of land, equipment, seed, feed and fertilizer has gone up drastically in recent years, and the price the farmer is paid for what he grows hasn’t kept an even pace,” he said. “So the best farmers can do is try to find ways to reduce costs and increase efficiency.”