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For three busloads of Farm-City Day participants, Tuesday offered a fresh look at the new Elizabethtown Sports Park.
They listened to Director Seth Breitner talk about the 12 baseball fields and 12 sports fields on the 160-acre property.
“Basically, what you’re standing in is one of the largest sports parks in the country,” he said.
The park was one of the tour stops for the annual event, which is meant to improve understanding and relations between urban dwellers and rural residents.
Breitner said the park is unique because it supports multiple sports.
The park so far is scheduled to be the site of 45 tournaments, many of which are national and regional events. It is becoming well-known across the country and in other countries, he said.
Investing in youth sports tourism to make an impact on the community almost is recession-proof, Breitner said.
“Many times, people will give up their vacations, but they won’t give up youth sports for their kids,” he said.
The group also visited Back Forty Farms near Glendale to learn about the farm’s irrigation system.
Owner Bob Wade Jr. held up two ears of corn. One was a plump ear from the 400 acres of his 3,500-acre operation he was able to irrigate. The other was shriveled and scorched by the dry, hot conditions this summer.
“I had some people ask me if I had a crystal ball because of the drought,” he said.
Wade long had been planning to invest in irrigation to make the most of his land, especially because the cost of land doubled during the past six years.
He explained technology — which can documents yields, project computer-accurate straight lines and lay out seed distribution plans — is critical to the future of farming.
“That’s one of the things that is changing, hiring people who can think and manage, versus people with strong backs,” he said.
Geraldene Priddy of Sonora said her husband, Joe, particularly enjoyed hearing about irrigation.
The couple is nearing retirement as farmers and used to run a dairy and raise hogs and beef cattle.
“I still get out and drive a tractor sometimes,” Joe Priddy said.
That long commitment to farming draws the Priddys to the event each year.
Norbert Skees of LaRue County also visits Farm-City Day each year.
The farmer and insurance businessman said he was particularly interested in this year’s event because the guest speaker was James Comer, commissioner for the Kentucky Department of Agriculture.
Skees said he recently heard Comer speak in his home county and wanted to take the opportunity to hear him again.
“I’m really proud of his interest in agriculture, and I’m glad to have him as commissioner,” he said.
Comer said an important effort in agriculture is to eliminate waste, fraud and abuse within the department and make it as trusted and transparent as possible. That effort began with an audit at the beginning of the year and continues with a place on its website documenting all revenue and spending.
It is also important to increase agriculture literacy in Kentucky so residents understand farmers are stewards of soil and the best caretakers of animals. They should think of farmers with the same respect they think of first responders, Comer said.
“They’re heroes, and farmers are heroes,” he said.
Agriculture is the key to rural economic development, and getting fresh food from farms to school cafeterias is the idea behind programs fighting childhood obesity, he said.
Many farmers are concerned about the future of agriculture because of issues such as their children and grandchildren not being interested in the business and the increasing average age of farmers in the state, Comer said.
He said meeting regularly with FFA chapters and agriculture students has made him optimistic about the future of agriculture.
“You see in their eyes the passion that these young people have,” he said.
Comer said seeing those dedicated young people make him optimistic about the future of agriculture.
Amber Coulter can be reached at (270) 505-1746 or firstname.lastname@example.org.