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Kiwanis helps kick off Farm-City Week

VALLEY — The Kiwanis Club of Valley played host to a Farm-City kickoff event Wednesday during the noon hour in the family life center at Langdale Methodist Church. The purpose of Farm-City Week is to bring about a better understanding between rural and urban people by increasing their knowledge and appreciation of each other as partners in progress.

Wednesday’s guest speaker, John Willoughby, illustrated that need for better understanding by talking about his experience in asking a group of city children were food came from. “I asked a group of ten of them,” he said. “Six children told me McDonald’s, three more said the grocery store and one of them said granny’s house.”

Farm-City Week events such as Family Day on the Farm give elementary school-age youngsters a chance to spend some time on a local farm see how crops are grown and livestock raised.

Willoughby is an agriculture marketing specialist with the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries. He’s been with the department for 13 years and spends much of his time working with farmers markets. He commended the job being done by Laurie Blount with the Valley Farmers Market, calling it one of the best in the state. That’s high praise given that there are 170 farmers markets in the state and some 950 Alabama farmers participating in them.

“We have lots of information we can e-mail people on the best ways to operate farmers markets,” he said.

Willoughby said that farmers markets are a great resource for seniors. “You know you are getting vegetables and produce that were grown within a 50-mile radius of where you live,” he said. “You can meet the farmer who grew the fruits and vegetables you are purchasing at very affordable prices.”

Another benefit is the coupon book the senior can receive. Some $30 worth of coupons in those books come in handy at farmers markets.

A farmers market is a good place for children to go as well. “They can learn that vegetables come from seed and that livestock are raised on farms,” he said.

Willoughby said that most farmers markets are open from 21-25 weeks during the growing season. He said that it’s rare to have a farmers market open for fall crops. Valley will be doing that on Friday, November 16th, giving east Alabama farmers a chance to sell their fall crops a week before Thanksgiving.

Farmers markets, said Willoughby, have given some farmers a learning experience. “They realize that if they are going to keep their family farm they are going to have to sell their produce at retail prices at places like farmers markets,” he said. “Farmers are constantly working their soil and improving  it. All kinds of interesting things are being grown on Alabama farms. We’re trying to diversify. We have the weather, the water and the soil. A lot of people in California are wanting to come here to grow. We have all types of different farming going on here right now. Tons and tons and tons of food is now being grown indoors.”

This year’s Farm-City Tour will be taking place on Friday, November 9th. To sign up, contact the Greater Valley Area Chamber of Commerce at (334) 642-1411 or www.greatervalleyarea.com. It begins with breakfast at the Lanett Hampton at 8 a.m. EDT. Loading the bus starts at 9 a.m. with the first stop being WestRock in the Huguley Industrial Park. At 11 a.m., guests will see a demonstration by the Chambers County K-9 unit. After lunch at noon, the group will head toward the Langley Farm near LaFayette for a 1:30-2:30 p.m. tour. The bus will be back at the Hampton Inn & Suites by 3 p.m.