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Farmers on tour

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By Jay Polk - bio | email

ANDERSONVILLE, GA (WALB) - It's mid-February in South Georgia and the crops are nowhere near being ready to harvest.  So what's a farmer like Cornelius Key to do?

"Roadtrip," said Key.

But farmers in these parts are a hard working bunch and even when they go on a roadtrip, there's a purpose.

So early Friday morning about 80 people set out from downtown Albany for a free tour. Their first stop was Mendez Strawberry Patch near Andersonville. Here the group learned about sustainable agriculture.

According to Jerry Pennick, the Director of the Land Assistance Fund for the Federation of Southern Cooperatives and Land Assistance Fund; "it's showing how you can make a living off of a small farm, growing those small fruits and vegetables."

From the Mendez farm it was a short jog down Highway 280 to the Southern Alternatives Agriculture Cooperative in Leslie where our travelers learned about a concept called value added agriculture.

"Basically, we're adding value to raw crops. In the case of pecans, we're taking the pecans, cracking them, shelling them, making candy out of 'em," said Pennick.>

And making candy out of these pecans certainly has added to their value. People couldn't resist these sweet treats and some of the group bought some to take home with them.

After travelling to near Andersonville and Leslie, the final stop of the day took the group to the Flint River Farmers Cooperative; in Newton.

Here the specialty is greens, especially collard greens. The group had a chance to see how the packages of greens come together. With the cooperative farm tours done, it was off to the old Baker County Elementary School for a visit to a cooperative run kitchen that serves up some fine home cooking.

"We have a man who does and excellent job with making ribs. His ribs are now in the Pic 'n' Save in Albany. But he could only do that because this commercial kitchen was available so that he could produce those ribs in a certified facility," said Shirley Sherrod, Georgia State Director for the Federation of Southern Cooperatives and Land Assistance Fund.

But for Cornelius, while the food was good, today's trip was all about education.

"Just to show them how they can enhance their operation. How they can make, you know, try to better themselves," he said.

If they're successful, Georgia will go a long way toward continuing to be the breadbasket of the South.

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