For those who’ve been to the Sunbelt Ag Expo’s common hay demonstration web site, you’ve got seen Benjie Baldree, even if you happen to did not comprehend it. And if you happen to had been a third-grader in south-central Georgia within the final 20 years, or the instructor or mother or father of 1, you may’ve seen him, too.
On the Expo, Baldree was the tall, lean-looking fellow with the Abe Lincoln (or Shenandoah) beard, sporting the broadbrim hat and collectively dealing with the walkie-talkies. His laidback however pushed method saved the shifting components of the Expo’s hay demo reducing in the precise route.
The Sunbelt Ag Expo might be Oct. 19-22 in Moultrie, Ga. The present grounds and the Darrell Williams Analysis Farm will once more be full of all issues rural.
For ten days or so prior to the annual present and through it, Baldree is the ‘normal’ of the 100-acre hay demonstration part of the 600-acre Sunbelt Ag Expo Darrell Williams Analysis Farm, one of many largest hay manufacturing demo and analysis websites within the nation.
Again in 2000, Darrell Williams, the Expo’s long-serving farm supervisor, knew Baldree and his confirmed knack for regular logistics. Williams requested Baldree to begin ‘hanging across the hay web site’ when he had the time, Baldree stated.
“He needed help, and we were already down here doing research work. We would talk from time to time about how he wanted to set things up with the forage demo,” Baldree, 72, stated throughout an interview on the Expo headquarters in August.
Baldree on the time was an agronomic analysis technician primarily based on the College of Georgia campus in Tifton, simply north of the Expo grounds. He wasn’t on the lookout for one other process.
“But I guess you could say before I knew it, I was the guy looking after the hay and hay equipment during the Expo,” he stated with a snort. “But from my standpoint, I saw it as another adventure. I believed in what the Expo was doing and still do.”
Twenty years in the past, he stated, the Expo hay demos possibly included 20 items of apparatus complete. Right now, it might probably complete as many as 80 items of apparatus, together with mowers, balers, rakes and tedders, demonstrating each bit of apparatus twice a day every of the three days of the present.
“If someone wants to see what it is all capable of doing, this is literally the only place in the world to see it all like we’re able to do. In a real-life situation, people see what they want to see and learn what they want to learn about hay production in the Southeast,” he stated.
Within the final decade, curiosity in hay manufacturing has grown ‘tremendously within the decrease Southeast,” he said. “I inform individuals again after I was youthful, attempting to develop a little little bit of hay, most folk did not know what a tedder was round right here. However now hay manufacturing is a large enterprise. Persons are buying on a regular basis for hay tools and attempting to keep forward or enhance their productive.”
In accordance to USDA knowledge, Georgia producers managed nearly 600,000 acres of hay in 2020 with common yield of three tons per acre.
Baldree grew up on the household farm in Tift County, the place he nonetheless lives. He graduated from highschool in 1968, after which received a two-year ag diploma from the native Abraham Baldwin Agricultural Faculty. Quickly after school, he took a job at a giant well-known plantation in Lee County, Ga., changing into the proprietor’s ’24/7 man.’ He realized how to work for a workaholic, he stated, who anticipated a lot.
Quickly after Baldree began, the plantation proprietor rented an additional 1,000 acres of peanut allotment on the time on one other farm. He needed calcium samples taken from every acre of it. That was one among Baldree’s assignments. He and the proprietor met 5:30 sharp on the native restaurant every morning for extra ones. It was a studying expertise. After a brief stint on the plantation, he started on the lookout for different alternatives. His agricultural instructor, Charlie Majeski, advised Baldree if he needed one other job to name Milton Walker, a analysis agronomist again in Tift County. Baldree known as Walker.
“I knew row crops backwards and forwards, but you could say I got on-the-job training from Milton on conducting actual research-type plot work. I was young and found it interesting,” he stated.
Again in 2000, Baldree and a few native ag champions started speaking. Apart from the small proportion of children who grew up in agriculture, the vast majority of youngsters didn’t perceive in any respect the place their meals got here from, even many of the youngsters in south Georgia. (Brad Haire)
For years, he farmed fulltime and labored fulltime on what was again within the day known as the Coastal Plain Experiment Station in Tifton, Ga.
“People remember that back in 70s and 80s it was difficult times for farming, especially row crop. And as the old saying goes, ‘If you can’t figure it out on paper, you might not need to try it.’ I guess that’s where we kind of wound up. I at least had a steady income from the university work plus what I was doing with the farming. So, it worked out pretty good,” he stated.
He retired from farming in 1996 and commenced renting out his land. He retired from analysis work in 2006 however quickly returned as parttime technician. He’s been married to Linda for 49 years. Their daughter, Stephanie, is married to Allen Peugh. Stephanie and Allen have Bryce, who’s 21.
Again in 2000, the identical time grandson Bryce was coming into the world, Baldree ushered in one thing else he says is one among his proudest accomplishments. On the time, he and a few native ag champions started speaking. Apart from the small proportion of children who grew up in agriculture, the vast majority of youngsters didn’t perceive in any respect the place their meals got here from, even many of the youngsters in south Georgia.
Lots of planning and characters helped, however all who did within the early days and later would say Baldree was and remained the driving drive behind the UGA Agricultural Awareness Day, later to embrace Environmental within the title.
In April 2001, 60 or so third-graders from the native Omega Elementary Faculty got here to the UGA Campus in Tifton the place a small core of ag specialists stood by six or so ‘studying stations.’ They returned within the fall as fourth-graders to the identical stations. That set the plan and the sample for 20 years.
“The main thing we were trying to do was give the kids some idea of where their food and fiber came from. This business of agriculture is so fine-tuned but it’s also delicate. A lot of times, not only the kids but the adults take it for granted; that we can go run in the grocery store and get anything we want to whenever we want it, but that’s not necessarily the case,” he stated.
The ag awareness day grew to embrace dozens of faculties from greater than a half a dozen counties, all studying about agriculture and environmental lesson immediately tied to their in-classroom studying modules. At its peak, this system drew greater than 1,200 third-graders one April day. They returned as fourth-graders for the autumn present, often in November.
In complete over the 20 years, greater than 10,000 college students got here via the ag awareness program, and that is not together with the lecturers and oldsters who additionally tagged alongside.
“I guess you do think about it at times. I’ve been able to do things I like to do and do things that I’m proud of and that I was happy to do really. You could say I’ve been very blessed,” he stated.