Session 3 of Advancing Georgia’s Leaders in Agriculture and Forestry started off at the Georgia Farm Bureau headquarters in Macon on Sunday. We met with Jon Huffmaster and got a legislative update and took in some media training from Ray D’Alessio. We each got a chance to sit in the Georgia Farm Monitor TV studio and do a quick mock interview. We were able to critique it with Ray on Monday. We also visited the Middle Georgia Food Bank and learned about their operations on Monday as well. We heard from Mr. Zippy Duvall (GFB president) and Mr. Brian Tolar (president of the Georgia Agribusiness Council).
Tuesday was a fun and exciting day at Georgia’s State Capitol. We learned about legislative lobbyists and the issues they face and also heard from some of the leading legislators that are ag’s greatest supporters, including Representative Terry England, Representative Jay Roberts, Representative Tom McCall and many others.
It was a very busy day at the Capitol—sine die was only two days away and everyone was trying to make one last push for their bills to be voted on and approved. We were able to catch Secretary of State Brian Kemp in his office and he spoke to our small group briefly.
It was also the 40th anniversary of the film industry in Georgia. Georgia Department of Economic Development’s Film division had a great video playing showing highlights of many movies filmed in Georgia from Fried Green Tomatoes to Smokey and the Bandit to my personal favorite, The Walking Dead television series. I had to pick up a Georgia zombie hunting permit of course!
Later that afternoon, we walked across the street to the Georgia Department of Agriculture where we learned about the Georgia Grown Farm to School program and listened to Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black teach us about agriculture leadership. We also heard from Representative Jason Shaw about the Rural Caucus and how many issues that affect rural Georgia are the same for urban areas. The urban/rural line of delineation is not as obvious as we initially perceived.
That night was our night off and a large portion of the group went to eat at a great seafood restaurant called Six Feet Under. It was right across the road from a large cemetery and the food was delicious. We all shared appetizers including friend green tomatoes and fried gator tail!
On Wednesday, we visited Truly Living Well Farms under the direction of Mr. Rashid Nuri. His organization is investing in urban farming operations to combat the food deserts in Atlanta. I think this was one of my favorite experiences on the trip. I want to have a large garden with as much variety as they have! It was totally foreign to see such a large green space with the skyscrapers of Atlanta in the view.
That afternoon, we visited the Salvation Army Bellwood Boys and Girls club and had a blast. We helped the students complete their homework and then we got to kick back and play. The director said they have never once finished their homework before 4:00 and that the children don’t usually get as much one-on-one attention as they got that day. It was a great opportunity to give back to the community.
That night, we got to eat at the famous Mary Mac’s Tea Room. It was a delicious family-style meal of meat loaf, chicken and dumplings, and some of the best macaroni and cheese I have ever had. We participated in a group reflection and discussed what we learned, what we could take back to our homes, and what we would like to get out of future sessions. It was a great time to think about what we learned and make best use of that knowledge.
On our last day, we visited the Atlanta Beltline, which is an abandoned rail track that is being restored into a pedestrian walkway and bike loop around Atlanta. The development and redevelopment going on in the area is tremendous. I am proud Atlanta will have such a great green space for its residents.
Our last stop was at the Atlanta Journal Constitution. We learned about the media cycle and how to present our news stories to reporters in order to increase our chances of publication. It was a great informative session.
It was hard to leave such a great group after such a wonderful week, but I couldn’t wait to get home to Wyatt and Justin—who didn’t look to be missing me too terribly. They had a great time together, but it sure was good to be home!