Last Friday the Auburn University Young Farmers organization went on our fall farm tour. We try to do one every semester to a farm somewhere in the state of Alabama to learn about a different area of production agriculture. Last spring we visited Purcell Farms which does a little bit of everything: cows, golf course, hunts, etc.
So last Friday morning for our fall farm tour we loaded up three pickup trucks and journeyed about 2 1/2 hours from Auburn to Monroe county. Our first stop was the Frisco City Farmers Cooperative in Frisco City Alabama. Here we met up with Scott Saucer.
Scott is a grower in the area and I had previously met him through working at the Alabama Young Farmers Leadership Conference, he was our guide for the day. While at the co-op we learned about fertilizer and took a look at their stockyard.
They sell cattle here every Wednesday. There were not any cattle in the barn on Friday, but there was a random horse. This area years ago raised a lot of hogs, but in recent years like the rest of Alabama people moved away from raising hogs so this stockyard now handles cattle.
From there we drove to a PhytoGen test plot. PhytoGen is a cotton seed company.
Some growers do test plots of different varieties , they grow small plots and when they harvest they keep a close track of how they do and report it back to the copany. The plot we looked at had three different varieties being grown. Different varieties are used because they have certain characteristics the grower might want (ex. seedling vigor, storm tolerance, fiber quality and yield potential)
If you see signs like this while going down the road, it is probably a test plot.
We also visited a cattle operation on our journey. This producer was a full time cattle farmer. It is calving season so there were several cute calves running around.
One management practice that many cattle farmers use is breeding all their cows at the same time. Cows like humans can be very troublesome when giving birth. If the farmer didn’t control when they were born he would be busy all year watching soon to be mama cows. So it is easier for them all to give birth around the same time.
The Monroe County Farmers Federation fed us a wonderful lunch of BBQ and fixed us up with literature about peanuts.
After our bellies were full we traveled to a peanut buying point near Atmore, AL. This particular buying point is the largest in the United States. One of our group members, Mark Philips and his family grows cotton and peanuts in Henry County. He said that their peanuts after harvest go through this buying point.
Buying points are throughout the southern part of Alabama. After peanuts are harvested they are put in trailers and sent to these buying points where they weigh, clean, dry, inspect, grade and prepare peanuts for storage and shelling.
If a truck is brought in and the moisture content is too high, they hook up a blower to the holes in the end of the trailer (as you can see in the picture above) and blow air until they dry out and can be stored. If I remember correctly this buying point handles 70 million tons a year of peanuts.
Fun Fact: DYK that 50% of all peanuts grown in the United States are grown within a 100 mile radius of Dothan, Alabama?
From there we traveled to the big city of McCullough, AL to the Frank P Currie Gin. Growing up on a cotton farm I have been to several cotton gins, but it always amazes me to see how they work.
Cotton is brought in on module trucks. A conveyor belt takes it into the gin.
This machine is the gin. It separates the seed from the fiber.
The seeds here are are separated and fall to the bottom
The cotton is in long fluffy sheet. It is stacked up and this machine bundles it up tight and it is then covered in plastic.
Each of these weigh around 300 pounds
The seed and lint is moved by a vacuum system to a warehouse where it is stored. It practically fills up the whole building.
The seed after it has been removed from the cotton.
Cotton seed is very useful. Many people feed it to cattle. It can be used to make oil as well. This here will be carted off to farms to be used for feed.
The cotton fiber after it is wrapped is placed in a warehouse and sold. Most cotton now goes overseas especially to China to be made into a variety of things. It could be used to make t-shirts, blue jeans, sheets, or even dollar bills!
Our farm tour was in my opinion a great success. We all learned a lot (some more than others). It will be interesting to see where we journey to in the spring. Like I told Austin, our president, I wish we could take every Friday off and ride back roads of Alabama and look at and learn about crops. It would be nice, but then again I don’t think our professors would take too kindly to that.