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Farm City Week
ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- (R) Debbie Valerio rides a John Deer cotton picking machine on a Robbins Farm during a tour as part of Farm City Week Nov. 3. Jackson County is Oklahoma's number-one county in cotton production with a value of more than $58 million. Farm City Week aims to highlight the importance of agriculture to the economic base of Altus and Jackson County and focuses on the partnership and exchange between the base and the local farming industry that surrounds it. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Christopher Toon/97th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs)
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Farm City Week unites Altus, Airmen and agriculture

Posted 11/4/2010   Updated 11/4/2010 Email story   Print story


by 1st Lt. Kathleen Polesnak
97th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

11/4/2010 - ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- Every fall, Altus Airmen have the chance to switch out combat boots for cowboy boots and kick up the dirt alongside their neighbors during the city of Altus' annual Farm City Week.

Farm City Week, held Nov. 1-5 this year, aims to highlight the importance of agriculture to the economic base of Altus and Jackson County. The week's events focus on the partnership and exchange between the base and the local farming industry that surrounds it.

This year marks the 33rd year the city has hosted the event, which boasts the theme "Farming, Flying and Community."

"The city has two things that keep it going - agriculture and the Air Force base," said Renae Bracken, Altus Chamber of Commerce information specialist. "It's important for farmers to know what the base does and for the base to know what the farmers do. It's important for the two sides of the house to know we're a big team."

To kick off the week, local farmers invited base members to see their work first-hand during farm tours Nov. 4. About 150 Altus Airmen visited Robbins' farming operation, the Cotton Growers Cooperative Gin, the Altus Peanut Warehouse and drove tractors at the Jackson County Expo Center.

About 60 local farmers and community members will take a break from harvesting Nov. 6 to join the 54th Air Refueling Squadron on two KC-135 Stratotankers during a refueling mission.

Local farmer and Senator Mike Schulz, R-Oklahoma, served as a guide for two of the farm tours, and talked about the significance of Farm City Week in the Altus community.

"It's an opportunity in agriculture to show what we do and the importance of it," he said. "People come to the base from all over the country, so we get to show off what we do not just to people from here, but from all over - and that's unique."

Maj. D.W. Schmidt, 58th Airlift Squadron director of operations, and his wife, Leah, both grew up in farming communities in Nebraska and Kansas, but said they were interested in learning about the cotton industry here.

"It was nice to have a hands-on experience of what some of the primary economic drivers are in the community," Mrs. Schmidt said. "You kind of get tunnel-vision of what we do on base - it's nice to get together and share."

And the Schmidts got their hands directly on the local agriculture business, as they drove tractors, felt freshly-packed cotton at Oklahoma's largest cotton gin and touched the spiky spokes industrial cotton pickers use to extract the crop from plants.

"I really enjoyed it. It was a lot of fun - farming is big industry and it was neat to get to see how it works," Major Schmidt said. "I would encourage anyone who heard about it this year and didn't go, to do it next year."

Since Farm City Week kicked off 33 years ago, more than 4,600 Airmen have participated in farm tours and more than 2,500 local farmers have seen their fields from a bird's eye view during air refueling flights.

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