Area farmers part of statewide co-op plan
A group of local farmers are working with state agencies to develop a cooperative marketing program.
The Alabama A+ Agricultural Marketing Cooperative would allow sheep, goat and rabbit farmers statewide to come together in one association.
This would help producers unite in areas related to production, marketing and processing their products.
"It will be a multi-species program," said Leighton farmer J.C. Holt. "We are trying to bring all three produces together under one organization.
Charlie Meek, coordinator of the Northwest Alabama Resource, Conservation and Development district, said the program would help farmers in those various fields.
"The goal is to give more strength in marketing," Meek said.
The Alabama Department of Agriculture has been working with legislators to get funding to pay the debt owed on an abandoned processing plant in Morgan County. If the farmers were able to use the Geneva plant, it would increase their ability to market sheep, goat and rabbit meat.
Andrew Williams, with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, said the types of products involved in the co-op allow more people to get involved with farming.
"A lot of the small farms have just a few acres and that is OK with these kinds of products," he said.
"They don't have to have large pastures filled with cattle. They don't have to have as much equipment either."
About 35 people met at the A.W. Todd Center in Russellville this week to discuss the plan.
"The demand for rabbits is a whole lot greater than the supply," Holt said. "We feel goats are the same way."
Williams said many ethnic groups now living in Alabama have opened a new area of production that needs to be offered.
If the cooperative program, comprised of the Tri-States Rabbit Growers Association, Alabama Goat Producers Association and the Alabama Sheep Producers Association can come together as one unit, it will greatly benefit their ability to market themselves.
"If we can come together and have sustainable marketing we will be looked at highly," Blake Gardner, a Morgan County farmer, said.
State Sen. Roger Bedford, State Rep. John Knight, D-Montgomery, Alabama A&M University, Alabama Agricultural Land Grant Alliance, Alabama Cooperative Extension System, the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries, Auburn University, RC&D, Small Farms Research Center, the Tri-State Growers Association, Alfa and Tuskegee University have worked together to develop the cooperative.