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Help Alabama grow

By Staff
Rep. Ronald Grantland, Hartselle
As spring turns to summer, Alabama's natural beauty becomes more evident than ever. Everything turns a rich green as the showers of past months enrich the plants and trees. In fields throughout Alabama, crops are growing and some are already coming in.
One of the best things about summer is enjoying Alabama grown produce.
There's nothing better than fresh vegetables and fruits, and you'll find no better produce than what is grown right here in Alabama.
The state's homegrown products capture the freshness and flavor of Alabama and its bountiful fields. From Chilton County peaches to Dothan's peanuts, our state has been blessed with a wide variety of countryside that grows many different kinds of crops.
Agriculture is an integral part of our way of life and our economy. Alabama's agricultural products exceeded $4.5 billion last year in sales, creating thousands of jobs throughout the state.
Last year alone, Alabama produced 820,000 bales of cotton, 27 million bushels of corn, 557 million pounds of peanuts and 6.7 million bushels of soybeans. Those figures combined with livestock production show that Alabama is a haven for agricultural success.
Along with major crops, Alabama's farms also help the economy in other ways. From farmers' markets to u-pick-it farms, the produce of Alabama's farmers helps everything from small markets to tourism. County fairs and festivals are based on farming, and these events bring both dollars and exposure to the state while showcasing the fruits of many of our farmers' labor.
I encourage every citizen to buy Alabama grown produce. When you buy local fruits and vegetables, you keep dollars in the state and help support rural communities as well. Not only are you getting the world's best produce, you're also strengthening our economy.
Look for the A+ logo when you shop. The A+Alabama Agriculture program is sponsored by the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries, and when you see that yellow and red A+ symbol, you know it is Alabama grown. Another way to find local produce is to shop at the dozens of State Farmer's Markets in cities and towns across the state, or at local roadside stands.
For those looking for the freshest produce, there are u-pick-it farms. The strawberries have already past, but the blueberries are coming in, and it is a treat to go out and pick your own. Throughout the summer and into the fall, u-pick-it farms will have everything from corn to tomatoes and cantaloupes to watermelons, and picking your own is a fun activity for the whole family.
You can find a list of u-pick-it farms on the Alabama Department of Agriculture's website: www.agi.state.al.us, and select the Alabama U-pick-it icon.
With the corn growing higher and the tomatoes getting bigger on the vine, it looks to be another great season for Alabama produce. I encourage everyone to treat yourself and your family to some mouth-watering local produce. Not only will you satisfy your taste-buds, you will do your part to make sure one of our state's most important industries continues to flourish.

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