Consider this your special invitation to attend the Sunbelt Agricultural Exposition.

It’s a giant farm show held during the middle of October each year near Moultrie, Ga. It’s a farm show that for 34 consecutive years has earned and built on its reputation as North America’s Premier Farm Showtm.

The Expo is ever changing, yet ever the same in its overall goal: to introduce the latest in agricultural production technology to U.S. farmers.

If you farm, or if you want to farm, or if you have ever at any time felt close to the land, then the Expo is the place to be.

The farm show will again welcome visitors during its Tuesday through Thursday schedule, this year from Oct. 18 through Oct. 20. The Expo will once again be held at its longtime permanent location, at Spence Field near Moultrie, Ga. The site is located four miles southeast of U.S. Hwy 319 on Ga. Hwy 133.

“We have had a great farm show since our first one in 1978,” says Expo director Chip Blalock, “but this year’s show will be our best one yet — with new exhibitors, new technology and our outstanding field demonstrations.

“Farmers have learned they can count on Expo to see new technology before it becomes widely available. Come see for yourself because I can assure you our exhibitors will meet or exceed your expectations.”

Blalock has seen many changes in farming and in the Expo since he became the farm show’s director in 1998. “We are proud of the professionalism of American farmers,” he says.

“We are proud to offer these farmers and their families an event that showcases all of the good they do for the people of this country. The American people can be sure they will be well fed and clothed and housed because of the efforts of the American farmers. Our farm show is a testament to the productivity of American farmers.”

Even if you’ve attended Expo every year it has been held, you’ll find something new this year. For instance, a new exhibit building just steps away from the main gate will offer an overall introduction to the dynamic agricultural industry of Georgia. It will include special exhibits sponsored by the Georgia Department of Agriculture and the Georgia Farm Bureau Federation.

This is just one of more than 1,200 exhibits you’ll see in the site’s 100-acre exhibit area. Many of these exhibits are contained in permanent exhibit buildings to insure that, whatever the weather, you will be comfortable while taking in the latest offerings of new farming technology. Outdoor exhibits are plentiful as well.

It’s a real treat

If you have never attended the Expo, and you decide to attend this year, it will be a real treat for you.

John Deere will open a new test driving-range for its utility vehicles. The Expo will welcome dozens of new exhibitors this year. One is the Albany State University Water Policy Center with vital information to share on scarce water supplies during drought years such as this one.

Visitors will see another major improvement in the Expo facilities with the expansion of the Priefert horse arena. The Colquitt County Saddle Club had been looking for land to build a new horse arena, when the Expo volunteered to offer the Saddle Club use of the horse facilities on the show grounds. The arena has been expanded to 140- by 250-feet, and equipped with new Priefert corral panels.

The Saddle Club will also provide horse demonstrations during Expo sponsored by Southern States, including some featuring handicapped children who take part in equestrian Special Olympics events and others featuring the Georgia High School Rodeo Association members.

Also for this year, you’ll see some retrofitted miniature Sukup brand grain bins conveniently placed as information booths on the exhibit grounds. These bins will be staffed by individuals who can provide information on the all of the events and exhibits at the farm show.

In a University of Florida exhibit focusing on “the swamp,” you’ll learn this term is much more than just a nickname of the school’s football stadium. The real swamps of Florida and the Southeast contain vital natural resources such as cypress logs, tupelo honey, and a wide assortment of aquatic wildlife, including, of course, gators.

The Titan/Goodyear tire exhibit along with the tire auctions to benefit the Georgia FFA Foundation will be moving to a new exhibit location this year. The new site is at block A-3 of the exhibit grounds, between the John Deere and the Valmont/Valley irrigation exhibits.

The static exhibits, 600-acre working research farm, harvesting and tillage equipment demonstrations and the tractor driving ranges combine to make the Expo the most comprehensive must-attend farm show in the southeastern United States.

Visitors will get the opportunity to evaluate models and brands that might not be readily available in local areas.

The show offers state-of-the-art machinery demonstrations as well as new research-developed farming practices and cutting-edge interactive educational exhibits.

The Expo farm was built over many years on land that had once been an old military airbase. The Expo farm, now managed by Michael Williams, has made a concerted effort to mirror what is taking place on real farms throughout the Southeast.

For instance, this year Williams has greatly increased the farm’s plantings of cotton, a crop that saw strong demand earlier this year and record high prices. More than 200 acres of cotton have been planted on the farm, more than enough to keep the new pickers with built-in module builders busy throughout each day of the show during the harvesting demonstrations. Cotton has been grown every year since the first farm show on the Expo farm.

Other crops also highlighted

In addition to cotton, the Expo farm fields feature other major crops grown in Georgia, including peanuts, corn, soybeans and forages for haymaking.

Tractor-drawn covered shuttle wagons will transport visitors to the fields to see the popular harvesting and tillage demonstrations. On the way, visitors will be able to get off the wagons and test drive GMC trucks or any number of new tractors, many of them equipped with global positioning systems and other precision farming technology.

As a real farm, the Expo copes with the same weather challenges as other farms in the region.

This year, for example, the Expo farm was challenged by extreme drought, the same drought that harmed crops throughout the Southeast. Fortunately, at Expo irrigation is the norm rather than the exception. Irrigation systems operated non-stop, particularly during the dry months of May and June.

The irrigation systems at Expo are among the best in the nation, featuring variable rate water application, efficient nozzles and flow meters to verify the amount of water applied each season.

This year, the Expo farm welcomes the addition of a new eight-tower Reinke center pivot system that will cover 150 acres. The new irrigation system features the latest technology in telemetry, Nelson nozzles and a built-in weather station. 

The telemetry technology includes computer-based links to connect the pivot and its pumping system to a centralized computer.

The weather station will collect and report real-time weather as well as historical weather data, information that will be combined with system’s operating history and plant water requirements to efficiently schedule irrigation for the crops.

The Sunbelt Expo helps to sponsor the farming profession’s most prestigious award in the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year program.

Nine outstanding farmers have been selected as state winners from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. One of these farmers will announced as the overall Farmer of the Year winner at a luncheon to be held on Tuesday, Oct. 18.

The Expo extends a special invitation and welcome to visitors from Arkansas. The diverse agriculture in this state will be highlighted for the first time in a special spotlight state exhibit.

The American Grand Finals Stock Dog Trials returns to showcase some of the nation’s top Border Collie dogs as they move both cattle and sheep through a number of obstacles and into pens in a large grassed field close to the exhibits.

Win a new pickup

You’ll have the chance to register to win a new pickup truck in the Expo’s pickup and automotive exhibits. Also, be sure to register for the main gate door prize, a Massey Ferguson lawn tractor.

Backyard gardening will be the focus of daily presentations offered by Extension Service specialists in the Family Living building.

Hunting and fishing seminars and related exhibits will return to Agribusiness Building-4.

Beef cattle exhibits and seminars will again take place in the Bill Patten Beef Pavilion. Other special exhibit sections have been set aside for horses, dairy cattle, poultry, sheep and goats, and alpacas.

Portable sawmills will be operated in the western section of the exhibit grounds. All terrain vehicles and utility vehicles will be available for test-driving in the eastern part of the show grounds.

Antique tractors will return with a large display in the western section of the exhibit grounds, along with daily parades throughout the grounds.

Other special exhibit sections are devoted to lawn and garden equipment, fish ponds and commercial aquaculture, electricity and propane gas.

Expo visitors will find facilities available for overnight camping. The Spence Field site still has a 4,500-foot active runway, controlled during the farm show by the Federal Aviation Administration, and it is available for use by private and charter airplanes during Expo.

The show will be open to visitors each day starting at 8:30 a.m. Admission cost is $10 per person or $20 for a three-day pass. Children under the age of 12 are admitted free when accompanied by a parent or adult guardian.

For additional information, contact the Sunbelt Agricultural Exposition, 290-G Harper Blvd., Moultrie, Ga. 31788. Phone: 229-985-1968, fax: 229-890-8518, E-mail: info@sunbeltexpo.com, Web site: www.sunbeltexpo.com.