Farmer Federation, ALFA pledge $1 million for research center facelift

AUBURN – The Alabama Farmers Federation and Alfa Insurance have made a $1 million dollar pledge to the Tennessee Valley Research and Extension Center in Belle Mina for a much needed facelift. The center is one of 12 active research facilities operated throughout the state by the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station.

Jerry Newby, president of both the Federation and Alfa, said his organizations have committed $1 million, to be paid over five years, toward a $1.8 million facility upgrade at the Tennessee Valley center. The contribution is part of Auburn University’s “It Begins at Auburn” campaign and will count toward the College of Agriculture’s $27.7 million goal in the $500 million overall campaign.

“The Alabama Farmers Federation and Alfa Insurance are glad to support farming by renovating and upgrading the Tennessee Valley center in Belle Mina,” said Newby. “When the College of Agriculture approached us about making a contribution to its campaign, we looked for a project that would benefit Alabama farmers both now and in the future. Improving the facilities at the Tennessee Valley center will meet this goal by providing researchers and Extension personnel the tools they need to serve rural Alabama.

“The Tennessee Valley center is involved in research that benefits farmers, not just in the Tennessee Valley, but throughout the state,” he added. “In addition to being our state’s premier cotton research facility, it also is home to projects that focus on livestock, horticulture, grain crops and much more.

“In the short term, the work being done at Belle Mina benefits farmers through variety trials, demonstration plots and by housing regional Extension specialists,” Newby said. “In years to come, research being done there on irrigation, pest management and cropping practices should improve the profitability of agriculture.”

The facility also houses diagnostic tools to help farmers and homeowners get timely answers to questions about plant diseases and pests.

Richard Guthrie, Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station director and dean of the AU College of Agriculture, commended the federation and Alfa for the substantial gift.

“The Tennessee Valley center is an important center of agricultural research and extension in the Tennessee Valley, and the farmers and scientists who utilize the center deserve to have a state-of-the-art facility,” Guthrie said. “Alfa’s generosity will make that possible, and we are extremely grateful.”

The remaining $800,000 needed for project completion will be sought through state and federal funding sources. The total $1.8 million renovation will result in a new auditorium and 150-seat meeting room at Tennessee Valley center and also will add office space for Extension employees and provide laboratories for Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station scientists working at Belle Mina.

According to Chris Gary, development officer for the College of Agriculture, this donation is the latest of several from the Federation and Alfa that are continuing to benefit the college in many positive ways.

Recently, Alfa donated $500,000 to construct the new Alabama Farmers Pavilion at Ag Heritage Park, a 30-acre site on the Auburn campus that honors Alabama agriculture. The pavilion is now open for use and is serving as a meeting place for many groups, both from the Auburn campus and from the community and state. In late 2006, a plaque was placed at the pavilion honoring Alabama farmers past and present.

“Auburn University and the farmers of the state of Alabama will reap benefits for generations to come stemming from Alfa’s generosity and foresight,” said Gary.

(Contributed by Jamie Creamer.)

Contact: Jamie Creamer, (334) 844-4877 (jcreamer@auburn.edu), or
Mike Clardy, (334) 844-9999 (clardch@auburn.edu)