A trip through Bulloch County back roads to a remote farm, a visit to a fertilizer company and a stop at a small local grist, cane and sawmill was followed by lunch and a display of tractors Thursday as the Statesboro Kiwanis Club and Statesboro-Bulloch County Chamber of Commerce combined their annual farm tours for the first time.
Club members and other interested parties gathered Thursday morning at the Kiwanis fairgrounds to board buses for the tour. Members of local FFA chapters also attended. The first stop was at Wade Hodges’ Farm, where the group was able to view different varieties of cotton and a couple of types of corn growing.
Will Duffie, sales representative for seed and chemical company Monsanto, spoke to the group and explained how different seeds had been planted in order to test the varieties. The rolling fields of planted cotton, with pinkish white blooms forming, a small pond nestled amid the rows and a stand of pines made a relaxing backdrop as he talked about the cotton maturing early due to hot weather and dry conditions.
Dan Pitts, technical development representative for Monsanto, talked about the company’s most well-known product, Roundup herbicide, as well as other genetic engineering efforts that have helped farmers.
He also displayed a “kudzu” bug, which appeared recently in north Georgia and puzzled scientists because it was a species unknown in this country.
Coming from Japan, the bug has a bad smell and can wipe out some soybeans as well as kudzu vines. It has made its appearance in Bulloch County, he said.
The next stop was at Southern States Fertilizer company, where representatives spoke about the goods and services available, and how research has helped develop products that make farming easier and more productive.
Visitors learned about the newest technology in farm chemicals, seeds and animal feed, which the company also offers.
The last stop before going back for lunch was at Stacy Freeman’s farm on Country Club Road. Nestled amid natural landscaping and a forest of trees, the farm holds a grist mill, a sawmill and cane grinding mill.
The Freeman family traces back with roots in Bulloch County “since the colonial days,” Freeman said. His is the only licensed commercial grist mill in Southeast Georgia, and he prides himself on the history he has preserved on his farm.
“We’re thankful we were able to preserve this machinery,” he said. Visitors were able to sample cornbread made from the products made at the mill and purchase cornmeal and grits.
Combining the tours — the Kiwanis tour has always been held in June and the Chamber tour later in the year — “has had a really good response,” said Elliot Marsh, Chamber Agribusiness Committee chairman. Combining the tours provides a larger forum and elicits more response and exposure, he said.
After the final stop, the buses brought the group back to the Kiwanis Community Building, where Daniel Gross, representative of the Georgia Agribusiness Council, spoke to the club and guests about what the council offers.
He said Bulloch ranks 24th out of 159 counties in Georgia regarding agriculture. In 2009, he said peanuts, cotton, chickens and soybeans were the top crops, and added that an $8 million Farm Gate Value in equine mean horses “are a very important thing down here. It’s not something that is often thought about in agriculture but it is.”
One in seven jobs in Georgia are related directly to agriculture, he said.
After the meal, guests were able to view farm equipment brought by Case and John Deere and ask representatives questions.
Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.