21 Sep Sunbelt Expo celebrates 35th anniversary
Each year, the Sunbelt Ag Expo makes fall a festive time for farmers and their families from the Southeast. This year will be a special Expo as the farm show celebrates its 35th anniversary. The 2012 farm show will be held Oct. 16-18 in Moultrie, Ga., and the show promises to be another big observance of agricultural bounty.
“For the past 35 years, our farm show has provided farmers and their families with a glimpse of the newest available agricultural technology, all in one central location,” says Chip Blalock, the Expo’s director. “We are proud of our history, and we are truly excited about the new farming technology and the exhibits we are putting together for this year.”
Blalock says the 2012 show will be a good one. “Some of the activities we plan include recognizing 23 exhibitors who have been with us for each of our 35 years,” he explains. “We commend these companies for their long-term commitment to our farmers and to our farm show, and we invite our visitors to show their appreciation for these companies and organizations.”
In addition, Blalock says the Expo will also celebrate the 100th anniversary of the propane gas industry. Propane-powered vehicles will lead the daily antique tractor parades. The Propane Gas exhibit will also offer safety seminars of interest to propane gas dealers and consumers.
“In addition, we will dedicate new permanent exhibit buildings for Reinke and Valmont/Valley,” says Blalock. “These are two of our longtime irrigation exhibitors and they have both been strong supporters of our research farm.”
Also in recognition of the 35th anniversary, the Expo will have a special exhibit in the farm show’s headquarters building. This exhibit will feature a collection of commemorative souvenir cola bottles from each of the 35 years of the show, along with a collection of official Expo programs published over the years.
Each year, the Expo welcomes some 1,200 exhibitors and hundreds of thousands of visitors. Visitors will see the exhibits in a 100-acre area that features both indoor, all-weather exhibits along with outdoor exhibits and exhibits in tents.
Special activities are once again planned for young farmers and their families on Wednesday, Oct. 17. These include a barbeque cooking contest, a horseshoe-pitching tournament, and an evening reception and dinner with valuable door prizes and entertainment.
Within the exhibits, the Expo maintains a full schedule of seminars and presentations that will educate, inform and entertain visitors. Many exhibits will offer interactive displays and activities that allow visitors to try out new equipment useful in farming.
The Santa Gertrudis Breeders International will sponsor the beef presentations this year for the first time. In addition to the traditional presentations by Extension beef and forage specialists, the beef presentations will also feature three producers from the Southeast who will be sharing their own experiences in raising cattle.
Other presentations will cover a variety of topics relating to animal agriculture. Some of these include alpaca management, commercial fish farming and pond management, cow milking demonstrations and dairy farming presentations, goat and sheep herd health seminars, and seminars on poultry production.
These presentations and exhibits make the Expo one of the best places for people to get information on starting up a new farm animal enterprise. Veteran animal agricultural producers will also benefit from these presentations, according to Blalock.
In the Georgia Agriculture Building opened last year, representatives of the Georgia Department of Agriculture and the Georgia Farm Bureau will be offering a full schedule of cooking demonstrations.
Visitors will also find a variety of cooking demonstrations in the Family Living Building. The Family Living Building will also be the site of the Expo’s popular backyard gardening presentations. The Family Living exhibits will also feature renowned regional artist Jack DeLoney who may be making his final Expo appearance. DeLoney specializes in painting watercolor scenes of farming’s past, and he has recently announced his impending retirement as a commercial artist.
Titan/Goodyear and the Georgia FFA Foundation will hold tire auctions on Tuesday and Wednesday of the show, with proceeds from the auction used to benefit FFA activities in the state.
Early in the history of Expo, Alabama was the first spotlight state exhibit, and this year Alabama returns as the Expo’s spotlight state exhibit. Several organizations from the state are collaborating to show off the diversity of Alabama agriculture. “We extend a special invitation to farmers and their families from Alabama, and we are honored to welcome our many Alabama friends and neighbors to this year’s show,” adds Blalock.
Within the 100-acre exhibit area, visitors will find special exhibit sections featuring lawn and garden equipment, pickup and automotive displays, irrigation equipment, all-terrain vehicles, hunting and fishing supplies, precision farming software and hardware, farm fencing, farm buildings, electricity, propane gas, antique tractors, sawmills and logging equipment. Don’t overlook the hundreds of small exhibits featuring a wide variety of products and services that can be found in the Expo’s agribusiness buildings.
The Expo is unique among farm shows because it has its own 600-acre research farm where farmers can get a close-up view of the latest equipment working in the fields. For many years, the Expo has been considered the largest farm show in the world with working equipment in its harvesting and tillage demonstrations.
In the fields, visitors will be able to test drive new Chevrolet pickups along with tractors equipped with automated steering and precision farming technology.
New field demonstrations are planned for this year featuring modern drain tile installation. These demonstrations will take place in a field directly behind the Expo farm shop. Precision farming technology such as global positioning systems will be used to design the new drainage system and to make sure it is put into the ground with pinpoint accuracy. The Expo invites farmers to come and see how drain tile can improve both the soils and the crops of many farms throughout the Southeast.
The crops on the farm include those most widely grown in the Southeast, including cotton, peanuts, corn, soybeans and hay. A new crop, sesame, has been planted in the crop plots on the farm this year. The Expo farm has some of the largest plantings to be found in South Georgia of two premier forage crops, alfalfa and perennial peanuts. Also, check out the Expo’s organic crop plots supervised by USDA agronomists.
University of Georgia Extension scientists use the Expo farm to test new herbicides, fungicides, planting dates, row spacings and crop varieties. They will use the information from these plots in making their crop production recommendations for the 2013 growing season.
Visitors will again be able to ride shaded shuttle wagons to see the crops and the field demonstrations on the farm. Visitors can get off the shuttle wagons to get a close-up view of the crops and the equipment, and then embark on another shuttle wagon for a return trip to the exhibit area.
Blalock says the Expo depends on the work of countless individuals, many of them volunteers. “These folks return to Moultrie year after year to work in the exhibits, in the field demonstrations, in organizing our stock dog trials, in parking the cars, in the food tents, in the ticket and information booths, in driving the tractors pulling our shuttle wagons, and in virtually every aspect of our farm show,” he adds. “We are grateful for all of the support our Expo receives from the local community and from agricultural businesses and organizations from throughout this region and this country. All of us come together each October because we have a profound appreciation for what agriculture contributes to our well-being, and because we all believe in the future of farming.”
Over the past 23 years, the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year award has become the most prestigious award for agricultural producers in the U.S. This year, outstanding farmers designated as state winners from 10 states will be recognized, and one will be named as the overall winner during the Willie B. Withers Luncheon on the opening day of the show.
“Everyone who farms will enjoy coming to our show,” says Blalock. “If you need a new tractor or combine, or a new implement, or a new seed variety, or if you want to start a new farming enterprise, then the Expo is the place to be. I can promise you that our staff and our volunteers and our exhibitors will do their best to see that you get the information you need to make your important farming decisions.”
The Expo is located southeast of Moultrie, Ga., on Georgia Hwy. 133. The gates open at 8:30 a.m. each day of the show. Parking is free of charge. Admission is $10 per person or $20 for a three-day admission ticket. Children under the age of 12 are admitted free when accompanied by an adult.
The Expo will welcome visitors during the hours of 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Oct. 16 and 17, and from 8:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Oct. 18.
Private and charter aircraft may land on a 4,500-ft. hard-surface runway at Spence Field under the control of the Federal Aviation Administration.
The Expo also offers sites for camping and for parking recreational vehicles. For additional information about camping facilities, contact the City of Moultrie by phone at 229-890-5425.