WINDER - Ed Wall, 87, still works the same 72 acres near Statham he has farmed since age 15. Wall has seen farming change a lot from the years when he and his daddy raised cotton, wheat and oats.
He was one of about 25 people Thursday who enjoyed the annual Farm City Tour, sponsored by the Barrow County Chamber of Commerce.
"I learn what's coming on in the county, the new things they're bringing in," said Wall, who has made the tour for the past six years.
The tour was designed to educate the public about how important agribusiness is to daily life.
"It's important for people to understand how agriculture affects business," said Chuck Steele, agribusiness committee chairman.
The first stop was the Winder Fire Department Museum, built in 1934. Winder's Fire Department was formed in 1908 by volunteers who were more than likely farmers. Participants also toured Lanier Technical College, which educates future farmers or students who are members of farming families; the Georgia Club, built on former pasture land; Home Depot, that sells equipment and chemicals to farmers and the Barber Creek Reclamation Facility, that will spray the Georgia Club golf course when it goes on line in December. Barrow County Fire Marshal Dana Thornton cooked lunch for the tour. Food was provided by the Barrow County Farm Bureau and the Georgia Development Authority.
Changes in Barrow's
As Barrow County becomes more residential, many old farms have been purchased for housing developments. Wide rolling pastureland is still common, but farmers are changing their crops to suit the progessive times.
McLocklin Equine Service operates from a 75-acre farm that has been in Boyd McLocklin's family since 1898. The McLockin farm has evolved from cotton farming to a horse business. McLocklin Equine Service specializes in equine team building. The concept uses horse-based exercises to strengthen business communications and build teamwork skills among co-workers.
"The horse population is growing in Barrow, but they are more for recreation than work," McLocklin said. "That's a part of the agriculture picture. It will grow, but it is atypical."
On Wall's Statham farm, about 50 head of Black Angus cattle graze the family acreage where cotton once grew.
"Cattle are easier to raise than crops, and you get more money out of them," Wall said.
Wayne McLocklin, a Winder attorney whose farm was featured on the tour, has gone exclusively to cattle production, too.
"Cotton wore out the land," McLocklin said. "Poultry and cattle go good together because poultry produces the organic fertilizer needed for the cattle's grazing land."
Nevertheless, Georgia cotton production has increased by 40 percent over 10 years, according to Britt West, county extension agent. The closest gins stand in Bostwick and Elberton, he said.
Georgia leads the nation in producing poultry, pine, peanuts and pecans. Barrow County is home to about 35 poultry farmers who raise about 30 million chickens per year, compared with Barrow's 8,700 annual cattle production. Only three or four of those farmers produce breeding eggs. The last table egg producer in Barrow County closed in 2005, Britt said.
Hay is Barrow County's No. 1 cash crop.
Like most Barrow County farmers, Wayne McLocklin works a full-time job while farming nights and weekends. His wife, children, father and cousins help out. Farming is profitable, but it is getting harder to make a living on a small farm without another source of income.
"Did you hear about the farmer who won $2 million in the lottery?" asked Steele. "When asked what he was going to do with the money, he said, 'I'm going to keep farming until it is all gone.'"
Local farmers can get some relief from their tax burdens through the conservation plan.
"It makes your county property taxes be based on being a farm," Boyd McLocklin said. "You have to agree not to develop it for 10 years. It'd be hard to farm without it."