This story is a part of a long form story I will be working on throughout the rest of this year about agriculture in Georgia. If you are a farmer or know a farmer that you think would be great for this story, please fill out the form at the end of this blog post.
2016 AG Forecast Seminar
Every year, several seminars are held all over Georgia where forecasters, economists and other professionals share large amounts of data and predict what the agriculture industry is likely to do. Like previous years, 2016 is looking grim for farmers.
Production is actually steady and expected to grow in some areas. It's the rest of the world that is struggling. The U.S. dollar is extremely strong compared to many other countries. Countries like Japan, China, and Korea where their fragile currency is in decline, importing U.S beef will be too costly. This will surely dampen profits for Georgia farmers and farmers nationwide.
An Unlikely Farmer
Before the seminar began, I saw Melanie Sanders sitting quietly in the back of the room as the room filled with Georgia farmers and agriculture professionals. I approached her and asked if I could sit and ask her a few questions. We talked briefly about farming before the 2016 AG Forecast seminar began.
A few days later, Sanders allowed me to follow her around and have a look into her life as a farmer. I learned quickly that Sanders, though quiet, is a strong force in the farming community.
She has worked for 20 years at a local bank, is the chairman of the Georgia Farm Bureau Women’s Committee and serves on the Board of Education in Oglethorpe County and manages to squeeze time in for farming.
Melanie doesn't like to get up in a room full of people and give a speech, but when she see's her and other farmers livelihood being threatened, she's willing to venture outside of her comfort zone.
With less than two weeks before the commissioners voted on whether or not a poultry farmer could continue his operation, Sanders typed up a letter to send to every poultry farmer she could. She spent an entire Saturday collecting addresses. She sent the letters hoping farmers would show up to advocate for this poultry farmer.
“The meeting was packed. It was standing room only.” 15 farmers got up and said “let us earn our living.” “That was way out of my comfort level, but I felt good about what I was doing.” In the end, the man was able to build his poultry houses.
“If you wanna have influence on things, you gotta step right in there”, Sanders said.