By Brad Haire
University of Georgia
"Many who don't go to farms often have absolutely no idea the level of technology used to produce the food and fiber not only in this country, but all over the world," said Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue at the Willie B. Withers Sunbelt Ag Expo luncheon on opening day.
Perdue called agriculture Georgia's oldest and one of its most important industries. "We're committed in helping agricultural technology grow in Georgia," he said.
This year's expo had 1,201 exhibitors. It was expected to draw about 220,000 visitors.
At the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences building, visitors were quizzed on food safety and saw butterflies flying, insects eating and a miniature model farm irrigated by precision technology.
They learned about irrigation research, forestry, economic development and Internet imaging systems. They saw how wireless technology can help farmers more efficiently manage their farms. And under the "Dawgs Gone South" display, prospective students learned how they could get a four-year UGA degree in Tifton, Ga.
Visitors took tram tours of field demonstration sites. They learned about CAES scientists' crop research and saw firsthand how farm machines, many new to the market, work on real crops on the expo farm.
"Sunbelt Expo provides an excellent opportunity for the CAES faculty and staff to showcase new and ongoing college projects and programs to a wide variety of people from across the country," said Anne Young, chair of the CAES expo committee.
UGA President Michael F. Adams said the university remains committed to agriculture and to finding ways to improve and promote economic development and academic achievement in rural Georgia. Adams toured the expo grounds on opening day.
Eddie Johnson Jr. became the first North Carolina farmer to become the Lancaster/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year. The award has been given in each of the past 14 years on opening day.
Johnson received $16,700 in cash and prizes, along with the use of a tractor for a year. He farms tobacco, corn, silage, soybeans, barley and wheat on a 1,170-acre farm.
The other seven state finalists included John East, Alabama; Dale Sauls, Florida; Joe Boddiford Jr., Georgia; Sledge Taylor III, Mississippi; Earl Thrailkill, South Carolina; Austin Anderson, Tennessee; and Lance Everett, Virginia.
(Brad Haire is the former news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)