Keeping it local is good for all
Johnny Mack Morrow
Franklin County Times
Enjoying local foods is good for the economy, and just plain good
Agriculture is one of Alabama's most important economic engines. It is easy to see as you drive across the state and notice the planted fields, herds of livestock, tractors and farm equipment fanning out over the landscape, and trucks hauling the bounty of our agriculture.
In every county in Alabama, farming and ranching are an important part of the local economy. The state's agriculture sector generated more than $4 billion in sales last year. According to the state Agriculture department, in 2002 there were 47,000 farms totaling more than 8 million acres of land.
Thousands of families carry on the proud tradition of farming, though the economics of farming seem to get harder and harder each year.
This year's drought has been tough on farmers, with yields of important crops lower than they have been in decades. Buying Alabama produce is a good way to support the state's farmers, and the best way to get the freshest food possible. Look for the Alabama A+ seal to know that you are buying local produce, and helping family farmers.
Alabama A+ is a program of the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries, created to promote local produce to local people, to keep dollars in the local economy, and to help smaller farmers sell what they grow. The program has been a great success.
The impact of agriculture on our state's economy doesn't end on the farm with the harvest. Thousands of jobs are created in utilizing those crops to make foodstuffs we all need. We should take pride in the Alabama companies that make some of our favorite foods.
Just think about Golden Flake Potato Chips, Barbers Milk, or Conecuh Sausage, and you conjure up great tastes that are a big slice of life in Alabama.
This October, the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries has teamed up with Alabama food manufacturers and the Alabama Grocers Association to work with our local grocers throughout the state to highlight Alabama's products. The Buy Alabama's Best campaign started a few years ago to increase awareness in our state about the many foods produced and refined in Alabama.
The state's agriculture department has a long list of local food product companies posted on their Web site (www.agi.state.al.us), and will promote those companies in stores with displays and stickers with the Buy Alabama's Best logo on the shelves. Ads will also run in the Sunday papers with coupons for great savings on Alabama items.
There's a good chance that during the month you'll find out that some of your favorite food products are made right here.
Everything from sausage to cheese, preserves to syrup, grits to rolls are all made here and sold in our stores. Yet rarely do we pick up a package and look to see if something was produced locally. Buy Alabama's Best will hopefully help us find Alabama products in the stores and encourage all of us to buy local foods. When we buy products from local food companies, we support the people they employ and our state's economy. Not only that, they are some of the best tasting, best quality products you can buy.
The Buy Alabama's Best program is a great idea, and state Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks should be applauded for making sure it became a reality. Sparks has worked hard to make sure Alabamians know how great local products are, but he also constantly brokers deals to export our products around the world. According to the Agriculture department, Alabama generated more than $ 400 million dollars in exporting goods in 2003. That number has since grown.
If folks around the world enjoy our bounty, then we should take advantage of it ourselves. So this month make an effort to try a few Alabama products you haven't tried before. Enjoy some local produce as the crops come in from the fields and into the stores. Look for the Buy Alabama's Best and the Alabama A+ logos in your local stores. Eating Alabama products can be both good for the local economy, and just plain good.
Johnny Mack Morrow is a state representative for Franklin County.