Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) joined leaders of agriculture in Pike Road for the dedication of the new Pike Road Agriculture, Recreation and Performing Arts Center and to kick off the yearlong promotion of the Down to Earth Campaign.  Agriculture and forestry groups are launching the campaign to promote the importance of agriculture and forestry both economically and to improve and maintain the sustainability of Alabama.

“I’m proud to join my friends in the forestry and agriculture communities to kick off the Down to Earth Campaign!” Ivey said. “I know firsthand that our farmers are the backbone of Alabama’s economy. Our agribusiness and forestry communities are stronger than what you’ll find anywhere else in the country, and I’m so thankful for their partnership with my administration. I proclaimed today as Down to Earth Day to encourage good stewardship to ensure our land remains Alabama the Beautiful for generations to come.”

Ivey said that growing up in Wilcox County, her father had a cattle farm and timber operation in Monroe County.

Ivey said that she learned much about hard work and the importance of farming from her childhood experiences.

Pike Road Mayor Gordon Stone said that he also grew up on a farm in Wilcox County.

“I could never have believed then that one day I would be the mayor of the fastest-growing city in Alabama,” Stone said.

Stone said that the new Pike Road Agriculture, Recreation and Performing Arts Center will have paddocks where visitors can see actual farm animals and learn about their food supply, even when they are there to play baseball and softball. It will also allow the city of Pike Road to maintain its connection to its agricultural roots.

More than 20 exhibitors were on hand to provide hands-on educational opportunities for the public to learn about the sustainable practices Alabama’s farmers and forest landowners use every day.

Representatives from nine agricultural groups including the Alabama Agribusiness Council, Alabama Association of RC&D Councils, Alabama Cattlemen’s Association, Alabama Cooperative Extension System, Alabama Department of Agriculture & Industries, Alabama Farmers Federation, Alabama Forestry Commission, Alabama Poultry & Egg Association and Sweet Grown Alabama joined Gov. Ivey and Mayor Stone to kick off the Down to Earth Campaign.

In Alabama, 97% of farms are family-owned. Over 70% of Alabama is forested, and over 93.2% of those forest resources are privately owned.

Autauga County farmer Drew Wendland said that his family raises corn, oats, cotton, wheat, soybeans, pecans, hay, and cattle. He is the fifth generation of his family to live and work on the family farm.

“Every day I go to work with my father, brother and cousin, and my grandfather calls each day to make sure that we are all doing what we are supposed to be doing,” Wendland said. “The perception is that farmers are backward and behind the times. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Wendland said that farming uses the latest technology including satellite monitoring of crops in order to get the right resources for each acre as well as self-driving tractors.

“My goal is to leave it better than I found it,” Wendland said.

Jane Russell and her family have a beef cattle operation where they raise 350 head of Hereford, Angus, and Charolais cross cows. Russell explained that running the three breeds of cattle in the three-way cross means that the cows are stronger and healthier, “and we have no calving problems”.

Russell and her family also have a timber operation.

“Trees produce oxygen,” Russell said, and Alabama’s forests capture billions of tons of carbon, taking CO2 out of the atmosphere.

“Sustainability is at the core of what Alabama’s poultry industry believes in,” said Johnny Adams, Alabama Poultry and Egg Association (APEA) CEO. “Our farmers have reduced carbon emissions and produce more chicken with less feed and water usage than ever before. We’re proud to join fellow Alabama agricultural organizations to highlight what our farmers are already doing to conserve and protect for generations to come.”

Gov. Kay Ivey is seeking re-election in the May 24 Republican primary.

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