Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Farm Bureau Farm Tour: Day 1

Last weekend was the very popular Georgia Farm Bureau Young Farmer Tour. The tour fills up really fast every year, and this year was a big one -- three buses! It's actually not a young farmer tour. It's planned and sponsored by Georgia Farm Bureau Young Farmers, and I think it's supposed to be for young farmers, but it's more like an all day early bird special! In other words, there were way more old folks than young ones on this tour. (Nothing against old folks -- I'm just stating facts.)

Brad and I managed to find the other two young couples (besides the Young Farmer Committee) to buddy up with for the tour. We got to see some old friends and make some new ones!

This year the tour was in the 8th Farm Bureau district that includes 17 counties in Georgia. This was my first Young Farmer Tour, and I was really looking forward to the planned stops. It is really amazing to think about the time and planning that the Young Farmer Committee and Georgia Farm Bureau staff put into this tour. It really went so smoothly!

Our first stop was one I know so well... the Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter. I've been going to the fair there for 20 years now, but I learned some new things on our visit.

  • The GNFA makes over 50% of their yearly revenue during the 11 days of the fair.
  • They have shows 48 out of the 52 weekends of the year.
  • GNFA has a free compost program -- folks can take containers to the fairgrounds to fill up for home fertilizer anytime during the year.
  • The goat program participation increased 30% last year and has become quite a large program at the fairgrounds.
I really didn't get any good pictures because we rode around in the bus, but this is one of the arenas. Another practice ring and barn is now under construction.

If you've never been to the Georgia National Fair in Perry in October, it's worth a trip! This year's concerts will be announced sometime during or after July.

Our next stop was William L. Brown's roadside market on Hwy 49 in Macon County. The market was not open yet, but I think it is now!

They took us on a little tour of the surrounding fields of various crops.

They have an Elberta peach -- their "claim to fame," so says Howard Brown. The Elberta was the very first freestone peach, a peach in which the fruit falls away from the seed. It is not a good shipping peach. I didn't think the Elberta existed anymore, but Mr. Brown says that this variety is "very similar"  to the original.

Baby Elbertas.

Pretty baby peach!

These trees are two years old, I believe. They take three years to produce. (SSM, correct me if I'm remembering this stuff incorrectly!)

Lots of tomatoes and peppers.

I loved the wagons with all the stakes piled up.

They have U-pick Zenias!

Beautiful pecan orchard behind the store.

The next stop was for lunch at South Georgia Technical College -- very nice place! Then we headed to the National Peanut Research Lab. I know. That sounds boring, but it wasn't!

We saw several presentations on peanuts. Below, a research specialist holds peanut proteins -- a byproduct of pressing peanuts to extract the oil.

The oil can eventually be made into biofuel. I don't know how close it is to being an economical reality, but it was neat.

Next we walked out into the sweltering heat to see a plant research project. These are drought research plots. There are sensors in the ground that monitor the moisture in the soil. The little roofs roll over the peanuts if they don't need water.

This plot is a testing ground for planting peanut embryos only -- the little part you see when you break the peanut in half -- and what they might need as a seed cover to provide nourishment to grow. It's an option for farmers to be able to purchase a lot less seed -- weight-wise.

Then we saw some other lab-related and irrigation stuff that Brad probably liked (and understood) more than I did! Next....

Now on to the Crisp County Power Commission on Lake Blackshear. It was pretty hard to hear in the building, so I don't know how much I learned, but I have some neat pictures!

This is the power building at the dam and one of the chains that holds up the door things that let the water through.

If you look close, you can see the swirl of water going into the power house.

Water swirl.

Power controls. This power station provides 10% of Crisp County's electricity and offers some discount over other power company rates.

Brad looking at the power generator thing. (I'm not so great at power terminology.)

On the dam. This is the only picture of me and Brad (taken by Ga Farm Bureau photographer). I have no idea what I'm thinking!

An interesting thing about the dams on the Flint. There are fish who used to go upstream and spawn -- before there were three dams on the Flint. Now conservationists are trying to allow the fish to return upstream, and each dam has to make adjustments. The first adjustment is an eel ladder that allows the eel to "climb" the dam. Then there is also a fish climber where they get into a sort of series of lockes that move around and up in a spiral with water forced up with them. The fish get in them and travel up and over the dam. If they have success in the southernmost dam at Lake Seminole and the fish make it to the next dams, both other dams will have to be modified with an eel ladder and/or fish dam climber to help the fish and eels over. For Lack Blackshear, they said their dam modification project would cost around $6 million.

That's about it! It sure was hot, but we had a great time! Now it was on to supper and then rest for the next day's events!