2018 Farm-City Tour highlights economic diversity of Cullman County


Stan Wood, right, talks with tour participants about managing timber on his property, Riverwood Farms, so that it promotes healthy tree growth while also providing a strong habitat for wildlife.

CULLMAN – The annual Cullman Farm-City Tour was held Oct. 23, 2018, with a group of local residents visiting two agriculture and two manufacturing facilities located across Cullman County.

"Distinct differences exist between farm and city life, but rural and urban communities rely heavily upon each other to provide the abundant American way of life," said Bonnie Baty, chairman for the Cullman Farm-City Committee. "Here is Cullman County, we have a unique mix of farm and city life and are blessed to have both agribusiness and industrial manufacturing that fuel our economy and make Cullman County a great place to live and work."

The day started with a trip to Wallace State Community College where Travis Kress took guests inside the school's new Small Farmer Training Program. The first group of students to take the course will receive training in how to start and operate their own farms or serve as a farm manager of existing farms. For those interested in working in agriculture, the program will offer a better understanding of farm operations to work in nonprofits or farmer assistance and promotion organizations.

The other agriculture stop took the tour group to the southern border of Cullman County to visit Riverwood Farms where owners Stan and Suzanne Wood — the 2018 Farm-City Family of the Year — hosted lunch and gave a tour. The Woods purchased the property, formerly owned and managed by International Paper, more than a decade ago. They have continued to manage the timber supply across more than 1,400 acres while also developing a beautiful private hunting camp as well as their home, which serves as a wonderful weekend and holiday gathering place for their family and friends.

Industry stops on the 2018 Farm-City Tour included LP in Hanceville and Rehau in Cullman. At LP, the tour took guests through each step of LP’s manufacturing process for oriented strand board (OSB), which is widely used in the construction industry. The highly automated process sees that none of the timber parts go to waste as even the bark from trees is used as fuel for the plant's dryer. At Rehau, tour participants saw how the company's just-in-time manufacturing process is used to produce parts for the Mercedes-Benz plant near Tuscaloosa as well as several other auto manufacturers.

The main goal of Farm-City is to deepen understanding of the relationship between rural farmers and urban workers. Since 1955, Farm-City committees have hosted educational events and invited city folk to visit local farms for a first-hand look at how their food is raised.

"Farmers are dedicated to producing quality food, fiber and forest products for everyone to enjoy," Baty said. "Moving those products from farms to homes requires cooperation with people from varying walks of life. Grocers, truck drivers, factory workers, computer scientists, bankers, veterinarians, chemists, salesmen and numerous others all play important roles in getting food from fields to kitchen tables."

The final Cullman Farm-City event for 2018 is the annual banquet, scheduled for Nov. 15, starting at 6:30 p.m., at the Cullman Civic Center. Fred Hunter, WBRC Fox 6 meteorologist and host of the weekly show ‘Absolutely Alabama,’ will be the guest speaker. Live music will be performed by Cotton Pickin Kids, and the 2019 Farm-City Family will be announced. Tickets are $20, and can be purchased at Merchants Bank, Peoples Bank, Cullman Savings Bank, Citizens Bank and Regions Bank.

(Below) Tim Thornhill of LP talks with guests on the 2018 Farm-City Tour about the process of converting wood fiber into oriented stand board (OSB), one of the most widely used construction materials in the country.