The Sunbelt Agricultural Exposition, which takes place in Moultrie during the third week of October each year, is known as “North America’s Premier Farm Show.” The largest event of its kind in the country, the expo attracts thousands of farmers and exhibitors from all over the United States and brings in millions of dollars in economic benefits to south Georgia.
Founded in 1977, the expo provides a forum for more than 1,100 farm industry executives to showcase the latest agricultural equipment and crop management innovations. The expo’s venue, Moultrie’s Spence Field Air Strip, provides visitors with more than 100 acres of outdoor exhibitions and another 117,000 square feet of indoor displays. Additionally, the expo produces 600 acres of peanuts, corn, cotton, and soybean products that are harvested during the fall farm show.
The expo’s goal is to unite agricultural sellers with buyers. Consequently, on-site demonstrations of farming technology are paramount to the expo’s continued success. Harvesting and tillage machinery operates in expo fields to give potential buyers the opportunity to compare competing brands. Livestock demonstrations involving cattle, dairy farms, horses, goats, and alpacas are also conducted. Additionally, visitors have the opportunity to test drive all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), tractors, and trucks.
Another expo tradition is the yearly announcement of the Lancaster/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year. The award honors agricultural excellence among farmers from Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.
In an effort to appeal to a broad audience, expo activities also include the Progressive Farmer Auto Show; antique tractor displays; electrical safety, ATV, hunting, fishing, and forestry presentations; and family living programs. The expo grows steadily each year, in the number of both exhibitors and attendees. In 2003 expo officials reported that 1,193 exhibitors participated. Numbers tabulated by expo officials in 2005 reveal that more than 200,000 people entered the gates of Spence Field during the three-day show.
South Georgia now depends on the event for regular and sizable income, and the expo is credited with bringing an additional $30 million annually to the area, with an estimated $10 million spent in Colquitt County, home of the expo. During the farm show, hotels fill in Colquitt County and within fifty miles of Moultrie. Additionally, southern Georgia restaurants and stores experience a strong increase in revenue.
As of 2005 the expo employed more than 200 people. Ten employees worked full time throughout the year, and one worked part time year-round. The remainder were seasonal workers, including farm laborers and security officers.