Visitors revel in return of Sunbelt Ag Expo
By Jennifer Whittaker & Jay Stone, Georgia Farm Bureau
Attending Sunbelt Ag Expo this year was like going to a family reunion after you haven’t attended one in a couple of years. With Expo canceled last year due to COVID-19, ag enthusiasts from across the Southeast were eager to return when the gates opened Oct. 19-21 for the 43rd show.
Exhibitors and guests enjoyed the in-person interaction and opportunity to catch up on the latest farm technology and equipment.
“This is going to be the best Sunbelt. Why? Because we’re having it,” Sunbelt Expo Executive Director Chip Blalock joked during the opening ceremony. “This past year has been a hard year on live events. Thanks so much for all of our farmers, exhibitors and attendees for coming back in such a big fashion.”
Virginia shined as the 2021 Spotlight State of the Year with its ‘Virginia Agriculture: 400 Years of Progress’ exhibit in the middle of Expo’s 100-acre exhibit grounds. Visitors learned about Virginia’s agricultural history and the ag advancements made during the past 400 years of the commonwealth that have led to the state’s agriculture and forestry sectors having a combined total economic impact of $70 billion on Virginia’s economy.
Displays highlighted Virginia’s many ag achievements, such as having the first commercially grown peanuts, being home to the McCormick Reaper and yielding extensive research on no-till practices that promote soil health. The commonwealth’s tobacco production was highlighted along with its cattle, cotton, equine and peanut crops through the approximately 30 displays that made up Virginia’s exhibit.
Virginia State University’s mobile agriculture learning lab, parked on the west side of the spotlight state building, gave Expo guests an interactive virtual tour of Virginia and a crash course on the diversity of agriculture in the commonwealth.
Nunn represents Georgia in Southeastern Farmer of the Year contest
2020/2021 Georgia Expo Farmer of the Year Lee Nunn and the other nine state winners vying for the Swisher/Sunbelt Ag Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year Award were honored during the Willie B. Withers Lunch. Nunn, a diversified row crop farmer from Morgan County, did a fantastic job of representing Georgia. A Morgan County Farm Bureau director, Nunn grows wheat, soybeans, cotton, corn & winter field peas. He also owns a custom farm service business harvesting crops for other farmers; has an ag construction company building farm structures and fencing for other farms and operates a small trucking company.
South Carolina’s Bob Hall, a fruit & vegetable producer, was named the ‘20/’21 Swisher/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year. Hall and his wife, Susan, of York, S.C., grow a variety of fruit and vegetables on their farm and operate three fruit stands as part of their Bush-N-Vine Farm. Hall is a 40-year Farm Bureau member and has served as a South Carolina Farm Bureau director since 2010.
The other eight state representatives for the Swisher/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year were: Alabama’s Thomas Ellis; Arkansas’ Jamie Anderson; Florida’s Rick Roth Jr.; Kentucky’s Stephen Kelley; Mississippi’s Joe Edmondson; North Carolina’s James Lamb; Tennessee’s Jay Yeargin; and Virginia’s Charles Isbell Jr.
Kemp applauds farmers
“Farmers are so important,” Gov. Brian Kemp said while speaking at the Expo lunch on opening day. “You can’t stay home as others can when there’s bad weather or a virus shuts things down. We appreciate what you do to keep us fed.”
Kemp discussed efforts the state has made in the past year to bring new jobs and business to Georgia, saying, “We had a record year for job development in Georgia. Seventy-four percent of the projects and jobs have happened outside of Metro Atlanta.”
He thanked members of the Georgia General Assembly, Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black and various business associations for working together to bring economic growth across the state.
Kubota rewards U.S. Veteran with tractor
Master Gunnery Sergeant Tracy Robinson (USMC-Ret.) received a year’s lease of a Kubota Series M tractor courtesy of Kubota in support of the Farmer Veteran Coalition “Geared to Give” program.
Robinson, an Early County Farm Bureau member who grows row crop - peanuts, cotton, corn, soybeans and wheats - on approximately 700 acres, has farmed since leaving the Marine Corps in 2011 without any equipment of his own, exchanging his labor for use of other farmers’ equipment.
Shiny new farm equipment
Checking out shiny new farm equipment is a big part of the Expo experience for many attendees.
John Deere unveiled its new CP770 cotton picker at Expo, the first time the company’s late model round-bale cotton harvester has been demoed at a farm show according to John Deere
Customer Support Manager Seann Cox. He said the JD CP 770 picker was available for farmers to order last year. According to JD Customer Support Manager Bob Long, about five of the pickers have been delivered to farms in South Georgia and were expected to start harvesting cotton last week.
Long said the company's CP 770 cotton picker has a larger cab that is quieter than previous models and offers farmers better visibility. The cab of the CP 690 model can fit inside the CP 770 cab, Long said.
The six-row picker runs on a 13.6 Liter engine versus the 13.5 L engine in the CP690 picker, Long added, which makes the 770 model about 20% more fuel efficient than the CP 690 model. The JD CP 770 model can run up to 4.6 miles/hour compared to the 4.4 miles/hour speed of the CP 690, Long said. John Deere's
"This may not sound like a big deal, but over the course of a day's harvesting it adds up," Long said.
Another new feature of John Deere's new CP 770 cotton picker is that it has walkways on both sides of the harvester to make it easier for operators to clean and work on the equipment.
The CP 770 cotton picker has the ability to produce a bale with a maximum diameter up to 96 inches. Farmers can set the picker to produce a 94-inch bale if they prefer, Cox said.
Kelly Manufacturing Company (KMC)’s 7406 peanut picker was used to harvest the Expo farm’s peanut crop during harvest demos held each day of the show. Attendees were also able to see KMC’s stalk shredder in action in the cotton and peanut fields. Shredding the stalks of both crops after the cotton and peanuts are harvested, helps reduce pest populations and speeds the process of returning organic matter back into the soil.
Massey Ferguson showed off its redesigned 5S and 8S tractors, which AGCO Marketing Product Specialist Adam Sills said were retooled with user experience in mind.
“The specs are kind of leveling out between competitors and everybody’s got the same,” Sills said. “You think about your car, the operator experience. Our engineers interviewed a lot of farmers from around the world. Big farmers, small farmers, men, women, custom applicators. We really wanted to get what they want out of a tractor. The No. 1 thing was the cab. They want that comfort. They’re used to being in their King Ranch or Denali pickup, and they want have that feeling in the tractor, as well.”
The cabs on both tractors were appointed with new comfort features, with the operator’s joystick integrated into armrests, tiltable steering wheels that allow for easier cab entry and exit, and other features.
The 5S, designed for use by hay and livestock producers, is available with 115 hp to 145 hp and is built on the same frame as the Massey Ferguson 5700S series tractors. The 8S, designed for row-crop applications, is built on the company’s 7700S large frame format.
The 8S, available with 205 hp to 265 hp, is configured with an 9.5-inch gap between the front of the cab and the rear of the engine box, allowing enhanced cooling of both the engine and the cab and making for a quieter ride.
GFB & GDA promote Ga. farmers
Georgia Farm Bureau and Georgia Department of Agriculture staff greeted Expo visitors who stopped by the Georgia Agriculture Building GFB staff recruited new members and discussed how Georgia Farm Bureau works to advocate for farmers and teach consumers how farmers grow their food.
Georgia Grown Executive Chef Holly Chute and Chef Olivia Rader gave daily cooking demos in the Georgia Agriculture building featuring Georgia commodities and Georgia Grown products.
Kudos to Dr. Nick Place, UGA College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences dean, for beating the ag school deans from Auburn and Florida in the annual Cow Milking Contest with a blowout win.