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Meeting emphasizes importance of agriculture
SWC District gathers in Forsyth
Emily Pruitt and daughter Hannah Grace, 4, of Cleveland enjoy the Upper Chattahoochee River Soil & Water Conservation District annual meeting Thursday night at the Lanier Technical College Forsyth Conference Center. - photo by Crystal Ledford

About 200 members of farming families from several Georgia counties gathered Thursday night at the Lanier Technical College Forsyth Conference Center.

Members of the Upper Chattahoochee River Soil & Water Conservation District came together for the organization’s annual affiliate dinner meeting.

During the event, farm families from each of the five counties were presented with plaques and certificates noting their achievements in conservation efforts.

The five farm families of the year from the respective counties were: Milford’s Farm in Forsyth; Turner Family Farm in Dawson; Dyer Farm in Lumpkin; J.A.C.K. Farms in Habersham; and Eric Nix Farms in White.

Besides recognizing the farm families of the year, the dinner meeting also included a recap of some of the district’s accomplishments in 2013.

Leonard Ridings, district chairman, said members’ $25-per-year dues go to support many programs to encourage farming and conservation.

Among those he cited from the past year were scholarships for seven 2013 high school graduates to pursue studies in agricultural fields.

Scholarships were awarded to graduates in Forsyth, Dawson, Lumpkin and White counties.

In addition, 10 high school students from several of the district’s counties were able to attend a natural resource workshop at Abraham-Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton.

“That program is very important because many of the students who take part end up going into agricultural programs,” Ridings said.

Members also heard from keynote speaker Scott Angle, dean and director of the University of Georgia’s College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences.

Angle praised the farmers, noting the importance of their jobs given Earth’s ever-increasing population.

“I think most of you know that we’ve got to produce more food in this country. The world population is growing very quickly,” Angle said.

“We’ve got to double food production by the year 2050 and that’s going to happen through everything that we do in this room today.”

Angle went on to say that he believes Georgia will become a leader in providing food.

“Georgia is becoming a bread basket of the world,” he said. “We are blessed in many ways, ways we’re sometimes not even aware of in this state, with reasonably good amounts of water, good soils, a good hardworking, intelligent work force. We’ve got the resources that we need here to produce the food for the rest of the world.”

Angle also noted the importance of encouraging young people to go into agriculture-related fields.

“We did a study a couple of years ago showing that … between the University of Georgia, Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, Fort Valley State University, Berry College and some of the technical schools, we were only training about 55 percent of the people needed to work in this industry,” he said.

“So we’re trying to ramp up the education that we can offer in the state now.”

In that same study, Angle said, it was shown that students coming out of College of Agriculture had UGA’s second highest starting salaries, after only the Terry College of Business.

“For all you young people in here, I hope you will think about going into this great profession … we need you studying agriculture and we need you staying in the state and contributing to this great profession because it’s our obligation to feed a hungry world.”