Saturday, April 12, 2008

Ham and Eggs heady fare

Step 1: Begin with a dash of information about current state legislation relating to Georgia’s agricultural sector. Add a soupçon of exciting news about on-going activities at Fort Valley State University.

Step 2: Simmer gently with a generous gift to the university.

Step 3: Season lightly with musical selections from a nationally known gospel recording artist

Step 4: Garnish with more than a quarter century of traditional Southern style breakfast fixings including country-cured ham, grits, biscuits, hash browns and scrambled eggs.Serves:

About 200 farmers, educators, agribusiness representatives, legislators and rural residents. It was a hearty fare that university administrators and state legislators served up to a crowd of 210 early risers at FVSU’s 26th annual Ham and Egg Breakfast on Tuesday, April 8.

Dr. Mark Latimore Jr., interim dean of FVSU’s College of Agriculture, Home Economics and Allied Programs, opened the 8 a.m. breakfast by inviting participants to mix and mingle during the event in the C.W. Pettigrew Farm and Community Life Center.“Enjoy each other, interact with each other and interact with your legislators,” he said.

Following the first of two musical selections by nationally known gospel recording artist Debra Snipes, FVSU Extension Family Life Specialist Kena Torbert recounted the history of the original ham and egg show held at Fort Valley State College for more than a half-century and the Ham and Egg Breakfast at Fort Valley State University that began 26 years ago. “Ladies and gentlemen, we have put all of this together for your enlightenment, empowerment and entertainment,” Torbert said.

FVSU President Dr. Larry E. Rivers added his own welcome in his remarks, calling the breakfast a tradition that gives rural residents and the FVSU family an opportunity to thank public officials and legislators for their efforts. Rivers went on to cite some of the university’s recent accomplishments and herald some of its planned activities. He began by thanking the legislative trio – state Rep. Lynmore James (D-Montezuma), state Sen. George Hooks (D-Americus) and state Sen. Ross Tolleson (R-Perry) – and Tommy Irvin, commissioner of Georgia’s Department of Agriculture, for their work and support in creating a “safe center” at Fort Valley State. Rivers said the $750,000 facility will shelter animals from across the state during natural and man-made disasters.

As Rivers continued, Irvin asked the president to pardon him as he took a moment to present the FVSU Foundation a $2,000 check. Joking that his annual gift was from his private account and involved no state funds, Irvin, who has served as Georgia’s commissioner of agriculture since 1969, walked to the head table and presented Rivers the check. Thanking Irvin for his long association with FVSU and praising him for his many contributions and strong support, Rivers presented Irvin a commemorative plaque in appreciation. As he presented the plaque, Rivers told the audience that the inscription noted the College of Agriculture’s gratitude and appreciation for Irvin’s continued contributions and commitment to FVSU and its educational programs. Following the presentation, Rivers told his audience that FVSU is now in stage three of its dorm construction program. He went on to briefly note the $20 million state-of-the-art science building scheduled to begin construction later this spring, as well as the new football stadium and student center being planned.

Dr. Daniel K. Wims, FVSU executive vice president and vice president for academic affairs, followed Rivers’ remarks by recognizing and thanking attending legislators, local officials, area business representatives, and state and federal agricultural agency officials for their continued support and participation. After Wims’ introduction, Tolleson opened the legislative reports by telling the audience that two of the session’s activities – a comprehensive state water plan and good agriculture and forestry budgets – were worthy accomplishments. “If we don’t do it, it’s going to affect agriculture,” he said, as he explained the water plan’s importance to Georgia’s agricultural future. “We need to protect, conserve and use our water resources wisely to protect our state’s agricultural sector.”

Tolleson pointed out that the 2008 legislature put together good agriculture and forestry budgets. He told rural residents that legislators “need to stay focused on the two budgets to protect agriculture since they both have a huge impact on rural Georgia.”He closed his report by noting that hard work by Tolleson, James and Hooks resulted in the animal shelter remaining in the state’s budget. “Your entire delegation has worked hard to make certain that the parts of this budget that impact this institution and agriculture are intact,” he said.

Replacing Tolleson at the podium, Hooks told the audience that water was one of the critical issues legislators tackled at the last session. “Hopefully, folks up in Atlanta better understand the problems we face in rural Georgia,” he said. “We have hopefully saved our rural sector’s resources.”

Hooks joined Tolleson in reporting that Middle Georgia’s legislative delegation worked hard to get the emergency animal shelter started at FVSU. He said the completed facility will work hand-in-glove with the university’s veterinary science department and prove a vital resource for the university and the state’s residents. James ended the update session by pointing out that the accomplishments of the area’s legislative delegation are the result of teamwork in the house and senate.

“Fort Valley State University is still strong in the state’s budget,” he said, “thanks to your delegation in Atlanta.” Following their reports, the legislators fielded audience questions that ranged from homebuyer education efforts and alternative energy programs to increased student enrollment at Georgia’s colleges and universities, small farm beef production issues, and biotechnology research.

According to breakfast coordinator James Hill, the 2008 event was an enjoyable and educational experience for all. “As it has for more than a quarter-century, the breakfast brought mid-state residents together to focus on agriculture,” he said. “It’s a grass-roots wellspring where the governed call their representatives to account – to explain and often defend their stewardship of our interests.”

Hill, the SARE 1890 director at FVSU, said reaction to the morning’s events were as diverse as the participants. “Many enjoyed this year’s musical selections by Debra Snipes. Her presence added a new dimension to our annual proceedings and enriched our fare for participants,” he said. “Others renewed their fellowship with FVSU’s administrators, faculty and staff, and kept abreast of legislative issues touching agriculture.”

Fort Valley resident Ollie Russell agreed with Hill’s observation. She said she enjoyed networking at the breakfast. Russell, a retired FVSU extension program assistant in Peach County, called the breakfast an educational opportunity where participants discover the relationship between Georgia’ agriculture and its economy. “It’s also a chance to meet and greet people involved in rural life and all that it means – from the storekeeper to the farmer,” she said. “I really enjoyed meeting old friends and making new ones at this year’s event.”

Contact: B.K. Lilja

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