Cherokee County Tour Touts Relationships Among Farmers, Elected Officials

The Cherokee County Farmers Federation and Cherokee County Farm-City Committee hosted the Elected Officials Farm Tour June 25.

By Jeff Helms

Walking among bushes brimming with blackberries and blueberries, Randy Godwin unintentionally summarized the mission of a tour which brought about two dozen government officials and agricultural leaders to his Cherokee County farm.

“We all need to learn — and we need to learn how each other does things,” Godwin said.

That’s exactly what Cherokee County Farm-City Chairman Landon Marks had in mind when he organized the inaugural Elected Officials Farm Tour.

“We wanted to put farmers in the same room with our elected officials — those who are in Montgomery or even their local town halls making policies that affect our farming community,” said Marks, the county Extension coordinator. “We want them to know they can come to us; they can ask us questions; and we can be a point of contact for them.”

The event began on a steamy morning in late June at the Centre campus of Gadsden State Community College. County commissioners, city councilmen, a district judge, the county school superintendent and a state senator enjoyed a breakfast featuring local fruit and honey; 4-H Pig Squeal sausage; plus casseroles and breads cooked by Cherokee County Farmers Federation (CCFF) Women’s Leadership Committee members.

The group then boarded a bright yellow school bus bound for a new poultry farm near Sand Rock.

“I’ve got four houses going up, and they are 66 x 600 (feet),” said Jeff Bobo, who farms with his wife Tonya. “Each one of them is pretty much an acre, and they’ll hold 60,900 chickens per house. We’re going to have a quarter-million birds on the farm. That relates to a million people being able to eat two pieces of chicken each for 45 days just from this farm.”

While Bobo emphasized production, Marks, former County Extension Coordinator Danny Miller and Extension Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences Specialist Kent Stanford discussed the farm’s economic impact and sustainability.

“I wanted to get boots on the ground,” said Marks as he led the tour through poultry houses flanked by cotton fields. “For some of these elected officials, it may have been a while since they’ve been on a farm. Today, we are at a poultry farm that’s being constructed. It’s a huge economic impact to the area.

“Every once in a while you encounter some bad attitudes when it comes to certain kinds of farming,” Marks continued. “We want to let them know how we are handling mortality, nutrient management, odor and other concerns.”


Cherokee County District 3 Commissioner Ronnie Shaw grew up on a farm, but he said the tour opened his eyes to technological advances being made in agriculture.

“I like to see the change going on in our industry,” Shaw said. “It’s hard to explain to our younger generation how farmers like this work. They’re doing it out of pure love for the area. This is our community — these farms. We’ve got a lot of tourists moving in, but this is the base that has made our area what it is today.”

CCFF President John Bert East said the event was an opportunity to cultivate relationships.

“I think the main reason we’re doing it is to get better acquainted with them and provide some insight about agriculture in the county,” he said. “You see these folks on the ballot and vote for them, but you may only know them vaguely. This is a way for us to spend a little time with them, to learn more about their ideas and what they stand for.”

Back at Rastus Roofus Berry Patch (named after a stray dog Godwin adopted more than a decade ago), the former steel company engineer said the tour allows farmers and elected officials to set aside party affiliations and relate as neighbors.

“I’m not a politically oriented individual,” Godwin said. “I don’t particularly think we can solve the world’s problems through politics. Let’s get more people involved in what really makes the world happen and less people telling each other what to do. Maybe this will help. A lot of people who don’t live in my world really don’t know what it’s all about and don’t know the effort that it takes.”


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