When the agricultural community in North Carolina goes shopping, they do it right. This week the N.C. State Fairgrounds transformed into the largest agricultural expo in the Southeast. Over 400 farm equipment manufacturers and service providers converged as exhibitors set up in all seven of the buildings on the fairgrounds campus as well as across multiple outdoor displays.”Buying sight unseen is becoming more the norm in many industries, but farm equipment is not conducive to that type of purchase,” said show manager David Zimmerman.Farmers are busy, and it is hard to get them to leave the demands of day-to-day work on their land. While they are at the show they maximize their time with conferences, continuing education, and meetings.One way the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services helped facilitate that was with their information setup in the Jim Graham Building. The NCDA&CS showed the wide range of education they have to offer consumers, farmers, and the agribusiness industry from resources and information on emergency planning, bioenergy technology assistance, keeping family farms in production, to information on the upcoming census of agriculture.Other integral parts of the show are information sessions and the recognition of excellence within the agricultural community.Thursday, February 2 brought the Ag Development Forum featuring the Commissioner of Agriculture’s annual state of agriculture address, an economic outlook, and a federal legislative update, as well as a discussion on the important role agriculture plays in emergency response.The Exporter of the Year Award is given out at the forum each year and that distinction for 2017 went to Carolina Cotton Growers Cooperative of Garner. “North Carolina cotton growers have had two of the hardest seasons in recent memory,” Commissioner Troxler said. “Despite these challenges, Carolinas Cotton Growers Cooperative managed to leverage their relationships and experience to find new customers in existing international markets to the benefit of its member farmers.”Friday featured Breakfast with the Commissioner, which is always a highlight of the farm show. The breakfast was a fundraiser for the Tobacco Farm Life Museum in Kenly, N.C. and the work they do to preserve farm life heritage.Commissioner of Agriculture, Steve Troxler addressed the crowd prior to the awards ceremony with a discussion about our agricultural heritage and the path we must forge as we look to the future of North Carolina agriculture. “We cannot get to our $100 billion goal of agricultural registry that I believe we can have in North Carolina unless we recognize how we got to $84 billion,” said Troxler.The commissioner went on to thank the crowd for supporting the work of preserving farm heritage, and to say, “I assure you even though we’ve just been through two disasters here, I’m not going to let that deter me from working toward that $100 billion goal.”This special morning included several milestone honors. The tobacco short course held their graduation acknowledgement at the beginning of the program with Dr. Collins from NC State College of Agriculture and Life Sciences presenting the degrees.Brandon Batten, sixth generation Johnston County farmer received the Innovative Young Farmer Award and Jimmy Gentry received the Excellence in Agriculture Award. Gentry was a public educator for 30 years and then went on to become the president of the North Carolina State Grange in 2003. Regarding the recognition Gentry said, “It is a great honor to be selected as a recipient of the Excellence in Agriculture award. Being able to work within the agricultural community of North Carolina is a great privilege, and I am thankful that the Grange provides me with this opportunity. There are a lot of great people in this state who believe that a healthy agricultural economy is important, and I really enjoy working with many who share this appreciation for agriculture. I am very appreciative to those associated with the Tobacco Farm Life Museum who made the decision to recognize me in this way.”In addition to the meetings, the show brought entertainment, like the South Atlantic Woodsmen Association Lumberjack Show, the FFA Truck and Tractor Driving Competition, and as is tradition Friday night closed out the event with the Southern National Draft Horse Pull.
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