Legislators and other government officials had a chance to sample Alabama foods and visit with farmers and small business owners during the Family Farm and Family Business Day on the Hill this week at the State Capitol.

The event, organized by a coalition of agricultural and business groups, emphasized the important role farms and businesses play in Alabama by producing healthy food, creating jobs and boosting the economy.

“With 2012 declared the Year of Food in Alabama by the Department of Tourism, it seemed fitting to allow legislators and other leaders the opportunity to meet with those who raise and produce food locally,” said Brian Hardin, assistant director of Governmental and Agricultural Programs for the Alabama Farmers Federation.

“With this event, members of the Alabama Farmers Federation get to showcase their hard work while sharing their issues and concerns with legislators.”

U.S. Rep. Martha Roby, R-Ala., welcomed the crowd and asked farmers to keep her informed about important issues affecting business. Roby reminded farmers that she and U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Ala., both serve on the House Agriculture Committee and are true advocates for agriculture.

“The two of us are working very hard for Alabama’s farmers,” Roby said

Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey spoke on the importance of agriculture and small businesses to the state.

“The work you do is the backbone that drives the economic engine of Alabama,” Ivey said.

Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan introduced Gov. Robert Bentley and mentioned the garden the governor planted at the mansion. Bentley joked about setting up his own fruit stand on Finley Avenue in Montgomery.

He also praised the work of farmers and small business owners.

 “We are so proud of our farmers,” Bentley said. “Farmers are special people. You live by faith because you never know what the prices are going to be. Prices of gasoline, prices of commodities, prices of fertilizer.”

Rosemary Elebash, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business of Alabama (NFIB), said the Family Farm and Family Business Day on the Hill provided the 10,000-member group a chance to share how its work helps Alabama.

 “This event was a great opportunity for small-business owners to come together and learn more about what’s happening in the legislature and speak out about the issues affecting them and their family businesses,” Elebash said.

Alabama Farmers Federation is the state’s largest farm organization with more than 400,000 member families. NFIB is the state’s largest small-business association with members representing businesses from restaurants to roofing companies.

Attendees sampled food from Alabama companies including Dean Sausage Co., Golden Flake Snack Foods, Crazy Wanda’s and The Seafood Association from Bayou La Batre.

Dessert was provided by Blue Bell Creameries and Mayfield Ice Cream with Milo’s Sweet Tea and Barber’s lemonade available to wash it all down.

Sponsors for the event included the Alabama Farmers Federation, National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), Alabama Peanut Producers Association, Alabama Catfish Producers, Alabama Agribusiness Council, Alabama Cattleman’s Association, “Buy Alabama’s Best” Campaign and Alabama Poultry & Egg Association.