PIKE ROAD – Farmers and foresters in Alabama knew all about sustainability before sustainability was cool.
A year-long campaign – Down to Earth: Agriculture Sustains Alabama – has been unveiled to let people know that local growers have been protecting the environment long before ‘sustainability’ became a pop culture buzzword. . The kickoff was at Pike Road.
Agriculture and forestry are the state’s largest industry, generating more than $70 billion in economic spinoffs each year. One in five jobs in the state is related to agriculture, with about 600,000 people working in the industries or in jobs related to them.
“Make no mistake about it, our farmers are the backbone of Alabama’s economy,” said Governor Kay Ivey, who spoke at the event. Ivy is from Wilcox County and grew up on a family farm. “It is imperative that we be good stewards of the land, keeping our forests full and our lands fertile.”
The future is bright as long as farmers continue to protect the environment, said Jane Russell, whose Montgomery County farm raises cattle and grows wood.
“It will be forever, as long as we reforest,” she said, noting that timber producers are replanting more trees in Alabama than they are cutting. “We will have clean air, clean water and habitat for wildlife.”
There is certainly an economic component to environmental protection. Lower costs mean better bottom line. But it’s more than planting trees and using no-till methods for row crops, which limits tillage. Farmers understand that their greatest resource is the land itself.
Ask Drew Wendland from Autaugaville. He is the fifth generation to work the land of Autauga Farming Company, which dates back to 1919.
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He and his wife, Lauren, attended the event with their young sons, Mills and Smith.
“To be good stewards of the earth, we need to be economical and sustainable,” he said. “I want to give my sons the same opportunities to work on the farm that I was given.
“Good practices do more than support the land; they support businesses, livelihoods and families.”
Down to Earth is a partnership between the Alabama Agribusiness Council, Alabama Association of RC&D Councils, Alabama Cattleman’s Association, Alabama Cooperative Extension System, Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries, Alabama Farmers Federation, the ‘Alabama Forestry Commission, the Alabama Poultry and Egg Association and Sweet Grown Alabama.
- Agricultural land covers 8.6 million acres in Alabama. This includes 40,592 farms, 97% of which are family farms.
- The third largest contiguous state behind Oregon and Georgia, Alabama has 23 million acres of forest land. Of these exploitable forest lands, 93% belong to private owners.
- Alabama is in the top five nationally for the production of lumber, paper, and pulp.
- Other major commodities include poultry, beef cattle, greenhouse, nursery and turf products, cotton and soybeans.
- Over the past 70 years, American farms have nearly tripled their production while the resources used such as land, energy and fertilizers have remained stable.
- Since 1982, erosion of cropland due to wind and water nationwide has decreased by almost 50%.
Source: Alabama Federation of Farmers.
Contact Montgomery Advertiser reporter Marty Roney at [email protected]