Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture Gary W. Black joined the Rodgers family Saturday morning in Dearing to cut the ribbon at Hillcrest Farms.
Hillcrest Farms is a fouth generation dairy farm and has become the first robotic dairy farm in Georgia. Recently, the farm launched farm tours and the ribbon cutting was centered around the new agritourism opportunity.
“It’s a great day for the town of Dearing to see everybody here and to have this facility open,” said Sean Kelley, Dearing mayor. “We love this country way of life and this dairy is symbolic of it. We look forward to the tourism that’s going to be coming with this facility. Spread the word. Tell people to come to Dearing.”
Mark Rodgers, one of the Hillcrest Farms owners, introduced Commissioner Black as a longtime friend of the family.
Black said the Rodgers are a model family and provide an example of what people should do.
“A proud Georgia grown dairy family is just something good to see,” Black said.
He thanked the family for taking a chance with innovation in farming.
“There are thousands, thousands of folks that have yet to come but will come. I think we may run into a time when those people are passing out on I-20. There might just be two (kinds of) people passing by — those people who stop and those people that wish they had stopped,” Black said.
The commissioner said this farm will mean something special to Georgia agriculture as well as American agriculture as the farmers reach out to touch a hungry world and a confused world.
He said many consumers are terribly confused about where their food and fiber comes from.
“They like farmers, they’re just not quite sure about farming and this is going to be a great platform to be able to translate the proper things about farming, from a respected farm family. I think we will all benefit from that,” Black said.
Black said through the years he has made many speeches about agriculture and often would ask what will happen one day when shelves are bare. He said he never foresaw the impact of COVID-19 in 2020.
“I hope that one of the positive experiences that is going to come out of COVID-19 is that we understand that food and fiber production in this country is just as important as any other component of national security we have,” Black said. “If we’re a fed country, we’re a safe country. We’re a healthy country. We’re a secure country.”
He said the hiccup experienced in the food supply in April and May left many fellow Georgians not knowing what to do.
Antique tractor owners paraded to the farm and displayed a wide variety of tractors for the event.
Mark Rodgers and Black presented painted milk bottles to two antique tractor owners. Black selected his favorite and Gladys Rodgers had picked her favorite.
“It’s a great opportunity to show people where the food comes from and all the technology we’re using here at Hillcrest,” said Mark Rodgers, in talking about the new farm tour program.
Tour groups will first visit the robotic observation room, which also includes many educational displays. Then visitors will tour all aspects of the farm by wagon.
Mark Rodgers, an enthusiastic tour guide, displays a love of educating people about the farm.
“I work for the consumer, I’m not self employed. I want you to know where your food comes from, how it’s produced, and all the work and love that goes into it,” he said.
“Mark Rodgers has been a CVB board member for five years, so I’ve been able to see the tourism part of this project go from an idea to fruition. I’ve enjoyed helping him along the way, and am pleased to see them getting such a good response,” said Elizabeth Vance, director of the Thomson-McDuffie Convention & Visitors Bureau. “This is going to be a great attraction for our community.”