From the coast’s greenhouses and sweet potato fields to the bountiful row crops of the Wiregrass and northwest to the forests, pastures and poultry houses scattered throughout, Alabama agriculture shined brightly as Sunbelt Ag Expo’s 2023 Spotlight State.
The state agricultural marketing brand provided a cohesive theme as more than 10,000 visitors to the Spotlight State building ventured on a “Road Trip through Sweet Grown Alabama” during the expo Oct. 17-19 in Moultrie, Georgia.
“The Alabama Peanut Producers Association was proud to have peanuts as the first “stop” of the Sweet Grown Alabama barn. What better way to welcome guests than with a healthy and nutritious snack like peanuts?,” said Alabama Peanut Producers Association Executive Director Libbie Johnson. “By helping to sponsor Alabama’s showcase as the highlight state activity and participating in Sunbelt, it was an excellent opportunity to share information on the importance of peanuts to Alabama and the southeast with all of the event’s visitors.”
The three-day extravaganza started with a ribbon cutting where Sunbelt Ag Expo Executive Director Chip Blalock applauded Spotlight State volunteers, sponsors and committee members who contributed to the expertly designed exhibit.
“The Spotlight State concept came about in 1983, and this is Alabama’s fifth time shining in the Sunbelt spotlight,” Blalock said. “This year, they’ve done a great job depicting the diversity, variety and quality of Alabama agriculture — from north to south, east to west. Alabama’s got it going on when it comes to agriculture.”
Flanked by Spotlight State platinum-level sponsors, Alabama’s 2023 Southeastern Farmer of
the Year representatives Darrel and Lydia Haynes of Cullman County snipped the red ribbon and welcomed guests into the building.
Covering 3,000 square feet, the rectangular building mimicked regions of the state with 10 exits, or displays, that highlighted commodities produced in each area, like peanuts and cotton in the Wiregrass and catfish in west Alabama. Each exit included informative backdrops, interactive games and Sweet Grown Alabama-inspired giveaways.
The road trip theme included rest areas with benches and picnic tables built by the Elmore County High School FFA. On the demonstration stage, food bloggers shared recipes featuring Sweet Grown Alabama ingredients while three Alabama Extension experts presented on gardening and decorating with outdoor materials.
More than 60 volunteers staffed the building and helped in planning. Plus, more than 40 organizations, businesses and farms supported the effort through monetary sponsorships and in-kind donations.
By Mary Wilson