By Andrew Edwards
In front of the cotton fields next to the Macedonia Baptist Church on McQueen Smith was where several Prattville Public officials and Farm City committee members stood on Wednesday morning, ready to give thanks to all of those who are a part of the agricultural industry.
The occasion? To present a signed proclamation from Mayor Gillespie and County Commissioner John Thrailkill to the President of the Farm City Committee, Michael Lamar.
The proclamations addressed the specific benefits that local agriculture, forestry, farming and related industries can bring to the community, such as the $915 Million and 7,328 jobs they have brought to Prattville since the 2017 census of agriculture. They also help cities such as Prattville in ways you may have never thought about.
“Local farmers have really helped to bring a rise in tourism,” said Mayor Gillespie. “Whenever it’s not time for the crops to be growing, we have a lot of tourism coming in. A lot of properties have been growing sunflowers, which we didn’t have in this area until a few years ago. One of our local famers planted many acres, and we had people from all over the south coming to see them.”
But Farm City Week isn’t just about the revenue and tourism that local agricultural experts accumulate. It’s an opportunity for those on the Farm City Committee to organize events that will teach those in the community more about a profession that can tend to be overlooked at times.
Farm City President Michael Lamar has been involved with Farm City for many years, and he knows the importance that the week brings with it.
“Well, it’s actually kind of been farm city month,” Lamar said with a smile. “We started on November fifth with a kids farm tour at the AG Center in Autaugaville, where we had 800 public and private schools sixth graders in attendance. We had various agricultural programs that showed them everything that happens on a farm, and simply just the benefits of agricultural jobs in general,” Lamar said.
The events didn’t stop there, however, as the Farm City Committee organized a land-owners tour on November sixth at the Robert King property in Billingsley.
“We had about 175 adults. We fed them breakfast, lunch, and super. We had a tour of his property, and they talked about bald eagle management, flower management and mine land reclamation. Just a lot of really neat stuff that people may not have a whole lot of information on,” Lamar explained.
Ultimately, the week culminates to the Farm City Banquet, which will be held in the Prattville Doster Center this Thursday night. The banquet helps recognize the Farmer of the Year, Business Person of the Year, Pat Partridge Citizenship Award winner, and a Natural Resource Steward Award Winner.
With so many events, a great deal of time and effort has to be exerted from the Farm City Committee.
“There’s a group of us, a lot of which have been involved with this for over 20 years now, that get together around May and start plotting out what we’re going to do. It takes a lot of work to get the kids tour set up, the landowners tour, and the banquet. We start making those plans in late Spring, but come August, we’re all on board and meeting several times a month trying to finish up the preparations,” Lamar said.
Simply put, Lamar, along with the entirety of the committee, want the general public to understand the exact impact that famers and other agricultural workers have on the community.
“You can go and get any type of food that you want at the supermarket, and a lot of people don’t know where that food comes from. The majority of it comes from right around here. And besides just having food and clothing, farm city week exposes the economic impacts that agriculture has on the community. There’s 300,012 people working in agriculture in Alabama alone with $8 B in wages, and we have $571 M in exports out of this country – all because of agriculture,” Lamar said.
County Commissioner John Thrailkill, also showed his admiration for those in the agricultural profession.
“I don’t think we as consumers realize the work that they, agricultural workers, put into their craft to provide us with what we have to have. We would never even realize all that they do unless there was a shortage of it. We’re so fortunate to have these people in our community, and in our county,” Thrailkill said.
Farm City Week is recognized annually, but it shouldn’t only be limited to this small period of time. No matter what time of the year, take some time to learn about the importance of your local famers, forestry workers, etc. It’s a profession that supplies us with an abundance of goods and resources that are, ultimately, the foundation of our well-being.