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International fall expo features Mississippi
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi will be in the spotlight this fall during the 26th annual Sunbelt Agricultural Exposition in Moultrie, Ga.
"The Sunbelt Expo is considered 'North America's Premier Farm Show™,' so we are looking forward to showing thousands of people the vast impact of Mississippi's agriculture," said Michael Ouart, an administrator with Mississippi State University's Extension Service. "Instead of just showing our agricultural commodities, we want to provide a holistic view of the economic results of all the surrounding industries and the people who make up agriculture's big picture for the state."
Ouart, the Extension program leader of agriculture and natural resources, said 200,000 people usually attend the Expo. He described the Oct. 14 through 16 event as a great opportunity to highlight Mississippi's efforts in agriculture, community development, youth and families, economic development and natural resources.
"We've chosen the theme, 'We're Growing Places: Mississippi,' because this state is growing in so many different directions," Ouart said. "Our fertile soil has long given us a lot to brag about agriculturally, but our people are some of our greatest resources. They develop technology, add value to our products and work to make our communities better places to raise families."
One highlight of the three-day event is the naming of the Lancaster/Sunbelt Ag Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year. State winners representing Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia receive $2,500 each. The overall winner receives an additional $14,000, among other prizes.
"Since 1990, Mississippi farmers have won the top honor three times, which is second only to the state of Florida with four. This is testimony to the quality of farmers we have in Mississippi and the respect they have earned across the Sunbelt," Ouart said.
Regional winners from Mississippi have been Kenneth Hood of Gunnison in 1992, Ed Hester of Benoit in 1995 and Willard Jack of Belzoni in 2001.
The award program is an effort by the contributing organizations to reward farmers for their commitment of excellence to the farming industry; efficiency in farming practices; participation and leadership in community services; sound management and financial practices; planning for future development and changes; and sound environmental practices. Another goal of the awards program is to bring attention to those who feed, clothe and provide shelter to the world.
Chip Blalock, executive director of the Sunbelt Agricultural Exposition, said people from around the world are expected to take part in the 2003 expo.
"Our mission is to produce a premier farm show that is conducive to trade and emphasizes information, education and the use of agricultural technology, research and equipment," Blalock said. "This year, Mississippi will have the opportunity to showcase the quality and diversity of its agriculture, research and technology to the world that comes to the Sunbelt Ag Expo."
For more information on the event, visit the online site at http://www.sunbeltexpo.com.