Published on 10/17/14

UGA CAES featured prominently in this year's Expo

By Clint Thompson

Rain or shine, the Sunbelt Agricultural Expo in Moultrie is the place to be for farmers and others working in the field of agriculture. The 37th annual Expo was no different as thousands flocked to south Georgia this week to see new technologies, learn from university scientists and see the latest farming equipment on the market.

“We started off with the inclement weather on Tuesday and persevered and overcame that to a great day on Wednesday with great crowds throughout the grounds and wrapped it up on Thursday with another gorgeous day at the Sunbelt Expo. We already have our sights squarely set on Oct. 20, 21, 22 (2015),” said Chip Blaylock, executive director of the Sunbelt Expo, referring to dates for next year’s Expo.

Scientists and Extension specialists from the University of Georgia have been a prominent part of the Expo for years, but this was just UGA President Jere Morehead’s second time attending the event. Despite a daylong deluge of rain on Tuesday, Morehead came away impressed.

“The Sunbelt Expo is a great reminder that no industry is more important to the state of Georgia than agriculture,” Morehead said. “This event also reminds us of the significant role UGA, as the state’s land-grant university, must continue to play in supporting this critical area of Georgia’s economy. I was pleased to see on display the many strong partnerships that exist between our institution and key leaders and groups in the agriculture industry.”

Also in attendance was Austin French, an alum of Georgia 4-H’s Clovers & Company, who sang the Star-Spangled Banner at the Swisher Sweets Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year luncheon. This year’s farmer of the year award recipient was Tifton’s Philip Grimes, marking the first time since 2010 that a Georgia farmer received the show’s highest honor.

Georgia was the Spotlight State this year and the Spotlight State committee helped deliver a new addition to the Sunbelt Expo. The new Spotlight State building, unveiled on Tuesday, will be used for each year’s spotlight state. Next year, Mississippi will be the Spotlight State.

“We’re proud that Georgia has been selected as the 2014 Spotlight State and the addition of the new Spotlight State building is certainly something to celebrate,” said Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black, following a groundbreaking for the building in September.

Georgia’s exhibit included a mural depicting the state’s agricultural diversity. Georgia farms more than 60 commodities, with poultry topping the list at 33 percent of the state’s annual farm gate value.

UGA's Academic Impact

Each year the Sunbelt Expo provides UGA’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences the opportunity to talk with and recruit state high school students.

“A lot of students that enjoy coming here have an interest in our programs and our majors. It’s an opportunity for them to find out more about our college. They can find out what they need to do as far as how to apply to the university and what they might want to study when they get there,” said Brice Nelson, student recruitment coordinator in the CAES Office of the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs.

Part of UGA’s recruitment efforts included its ambassadors, CAES students that help promote the college through different activities and events, including the Expo.

“The ambassadors do a really good job. They can relate to them and tell them about their experiences, whether it’s on the Tifton Campus, Griffin Campus or Athens Campus. The ambassadors can give them that real world experience of college and how they adapted to it and what they enjoy about it,” Nelson said. “High school students really like talking to the college students, that’s for sure.”

Next year’s Sunbelt Expo will be held Oct. 20-22.

Clint Thompson is an agriculture writer based in Tifton, Georgia.

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