If it’s fall in south Georgia, it’s time for Sunbelt Ag Expo. The annual celebration is much like a family reunion for all the businesses and industries that serve agriculture in the southeastern U.S.
It was established as a place where farmers and their families could take a well-deserved break from their daily chores to enjoy a unique opportunity to see firsthand what the agricultural industry has to offer, and to catch a glimpse of the future of farming.
The agriculture-based trade show will take place Oct. 16-18 at Spence Field near Moultrie, Ga. Known as “North America’s Premier Farm Show®,” Expo features more than 1,200 exhibits that showcase the latest in farming technology. It’s the place farmers can come to obtain practical information on how to be better at what they do.
Whether you are a large acreage production farmer, or a weekend lifestyle farmer, home gardener, or just someone with an interest in rural living, Expo is an event you won’t want to miss.
Expo has a unique site for its displays. For instance, you’ll find a 100-acre exhibit area, plus an adjoining 600-acre working research farm. The exhibit area will have a good mix of outdoor displays, along with indoor exhibits in permanent buildings. These exhibits will carry virtually any, and every, product or service t a farmer or someone who lives in the country would need.
This official program is your best resource for finding out everything there is to see and do at this big farm show. Use this program to plan your visit through the 100 acres of exhibits, and be sure to bring it with you when you come to Expo.
Innovation and Science
Harvesting and tillage demonstrations in the crop fields set the Expo apart and above most other agricultural trade shows. Visiting farmers can follow along as crops are harvested, and get a closeup look at combines and other farm machinery in operation. Tractor-drawn shuttle wagons will carry visitors out to the fields where cotton, peanuts, corn, soybeans, and hay are being harvested, and will then return everyone to the exhibit grounds.
The harvesting and tillage demonstrations, as well the equipment driving ranges and precision agriculture demonstrations, all provide opportunities to see and compare a wide range of equipment in an actual working farm setting. Expo is also one of the best venues for comparing different brands of irrigation equipment. Company representatives and specialists will be in the fields and at exhibits to answer questions.
Innovation, science, technology, and education are all a part of the Sunbelt Agricultural Exposition, the largest farm show in the Southeast, and the largest farm show in the U.S. to offer harvesting and tillage field demonstrations.
Animal agriculture provides a living for many Sunbelt farmers and ranchers, and Expo will have a good selection of animal-related exhibits. You’ll find special exhibit sections focusing on horses, beef cattle, sheep and goats, dairy cattle, poultry, alpacas, and fish and pond management.
In addition to static exhibits, visitors can also attend educational and entertaining seminars, and demonstrations for a variety of specialized agricultural industries. These presentations will be among the highlights of the beef, horse, sheep and goat, aquaculture, alpaca, dairy and poultry exhibits. Also check out the presentations on electrical safety, backyard gardening, and sustainable living.
If you’re interested in fishing, pond management, or fish farming, be sure to visit the aquaculture exhibits on the northernmost part of the exhibit grounds. A master catfish chef will provide cooking demonstrations, while children can test their casting skills in fish ponds. Seminars by university fish experts will cover a wide variety of topics, including aquaponics, a production system that combines aspects of aquaculture with hydroponics.
Other special sections cover agribusiness, tractors and equipment, irrigation, precision agriculture, livestock, forestry, antique tractors, pickup and automotive exhibits, lawn and garden products, electricity, propane gas, hunting and fishing, family living, backyard gardening, all-terrain vehicles, and stock dogs.
Expo works closely with 22 land grant colleges and universities in the Southeast. Many of these schools will have their own excellent educational exhibits at the show, while others will share the expertise of their researchers and Extension specialists who help make Expo’s educational demonstrations and seminars so informative.
You’ll be able to see an antique tractor parade starting at 2 p.m. each day. And when these machines from bygone days are not rolling through the show grounds, you can find them in the outside static displays at location WC-7 in the western section of the exhibit grounds.
You’ll also find test driving tracks for tractors, trucks, and all-terrain vehicles. Some of these will be found along the Farm Shop Road, the main field road leading from the exhibit area and past the Expo farm shop, before eventually reaching the crop fields in the Darrell Williams Research Farm. Driving tracks for all-terrain vehicles will be found in the easternmost part of the exhibit grounds, near the active aircraft runway and parked airplanes at locations B-13 and C-13.
Each year, the Sunbelt Expo highlights the agriculture of one of ten southeastern states, and this year the spotlight is on the Commonwealth of Kentucky, home to America’s best-known horse race, the Kentucky Derby. But, there’s much more to Kentucky agriculture than horse racing. The state’s top agricultural commodities include broilers, corn, horses and mules, soybeans, cattle and calves, tobacco, dairy products, wheat, hay, and eggs.
The agricultural organizations within the state are working together to come up with a topnotch exhibit that will give each Expo visitor a real appreciation for the farming expertise that can be found in the Bluegrass State. You can find the Kentucky exhibit at location B-6 onthe exhibit grounds.
Expo also offers great family entertainment. Some exhibits will have musical performers, and the American Grand Finals stock dog competition offers great entertainment for visitors who can sit and watch the action from well-shaded bleacher seats. Stock dog trials will take place with continuous competition throughout all three days of the show.
This marks the 29th year for the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year awards. For almost three decades, these awards have grown to become one of the most prestigious honors available to Southeast agricultural producers.
The program recognizes ten outstanding farmers from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. The overall Farmer of the Year winner will be announced Tuesday, Oct. 16. Each state winner will receive $2,500, along with other valuable prizes, and the overall winner will receive $15,000 plus some other nice prizes.
Top agricultural scientists from the southeastern region, many from the University of Georgia, collaborate on dozens of research projects at the Expo’s 600-acre Darrell Williams Research Farm. These studies cover everything from the latest and best crop varieties to row spacing, plant disease and insect control, soil fertilization practices, irrigation scheduling, and precision ag technology, to name but a few.
“Our studies with university and corporate researchers are focused on the major crops grown in the Southeast — cotton, peanuts, corn, soybeans, and forages — and are all aimed at improving the farmer’s bottom line,” says Chip Blalock, Sunbelt Expo executive director.
Working Farm Site
Cody Mitchell, Expo farm manager, and his crew of co-workers have been working throughout the year to make sure the farm is a showplace, with ripe crops in peak condition for harvesting during the three days of the farm show.
Weather forced some delays in planting Expo crops this year, and planting wasn’t completed until June 18. As a result, Mitchell and the farm crew had to alter some of their normal production practices, for example, planting some different cotton varieties. And in order to plant a peanut variety that would be ready for harvest during mid-October, they switched to the Georgia-09B runner variety, which is considered to have a medium maturity. Mitchell has been hoping it would be ready for harvest about 125 days after planting.
The Hoss Tools Sustainable Living Center at Expo is designed specifically for families who produce, or want to produce, their own food from gardens and small farming plots. Folks who want to grow their own food will enjoy presentations on topics such as growing fresh fruits and vegetables, beekeeping, and honey production. You’ll find these exhibits in the western section of the show grounds, at location WB-7, near entrance gates 2 and 3. Sustainable Living exhibits are easily accessible from the handicapped parking area.
Expo extends a special welcome to young farmers and their families Wednesday, Oct. 17. During that day, Young Farmer chapters will compete in a barbeque pork cooking contest and a horseshoe pitching tournament, followed by an evening dinner with entertainment and valuable door prizes.
Also on Wednesday, a new series of competitive events will be offered to visiting middle school and high school youth attending. These events are patterned after those designed for competing FFA members, though students in 4-H or other organizations are invited to take part. Many of these events will be in the R.W. Griffin building at location D-7.
Since its beginning in 1978, Expo has offered exhibits catering to the entire family, and this year is no exception. The Expo Family Living Building is located to your left after you enter the main gates, and will again host some 175 different exhibits, with many unique products that can be used in the home, garden, and kitchen. The Family Living Building has become especially noted for hosting cooking demonstrations, along with exhibits featuring one-of-a-kind and locally-grown foods, spices, and cooking ingredients.
Renowned equine expert Julie Goodnight will be performing and educating Expo visitors about horsemanship during all three days of this year’s Expo. She grew up on a Florida horse farm and currently works from her stables in Poncha Springs, Colo. She has hosted her own television program, “Horse Master with Julie Goodnight,” and is an expert in training both riders and horses for dressage, jumping, racing, reining, and cutting. She emphasizes rider safety in her training sessions. Goodnight’s sessions, along with other equine events, will take place at the Priefert Horse Arena at location E-11 in the northernmost part of the exhibit grounds. Her appearance is sponsored by the Georgia Equine Commission.
The 2018 Sunbelt Expo will be held Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, Oct. 16-18. Exhibit grounds are open to visitors starting at 8:30 a.m. each day, with closing at 5 p.m. Tuesday/Wednesday and 4 p.m. Thursday.
Admission prices are $10 per person, or $20 for a three-day pass. Children age 10 and under are admitted free with accompanying adults. Expo offers discounted advance tickets that can be purchased from Aug. 1 until Oct. 12. For information on advance ticket sales, please check out the Expo website (www.sunbeltexpo.com) or contact the Expo by e-mail at [email protected]
The Expo website’s visitor information page will have a list of motels in the area. If you will require overnight lodging, it’s suggested that you contact motels early for reservations, as those in and near Moultrie tend to be filled during the show. Also, overnight camping is available on the Expo grounds. If you are interested RV parking or camping, phone 229-890-5425.
Sunbelt Expo is located on Georgia Hwy. 133 four miles southeast of U.S. Hwy. 319 and southeast of Moultrie, and is held on 1,680 acres of the former Spence Field, an old military airbase. Runways at Spence Field will be active during the Expo. Private and charter airplanes can land on a 4,500-foot FAA-controlled hard-surface runway. From the airplane parking areas, it’s just a short walk to the exhibits.