ABAC President David Bridges spoke at the Agriculture Communicators of Tomorrow (ACT) Tuesday Speaker Series. The ACT hosts different guest speakers throughout the semester to discuss with students different topics pertaining to agriculture.
Bridges has been the president of ABAC since July 1, 2006. He has been remembered as the tenth president, the longest-serving president, and the first ABAC Alumnus to serve as president. Bridges was the main advocate for bringing four-year degrees to a school that only offered associates degrees for 70 plus years.
The topic of discussion was the Center for Rural Prosperity and Innovation and how it is necessary for the future of rural communities in Georgia. A key point Bridges made was the biggest threat that faces rural communities, which is in some rural counties, the death rate exceeds the birth rate.
Bridges used to speak at high school graduations, and he would explain the saddest night of the year in rural communities was high school graduation. How could high school graduation be a sad night for these communities?
Bridges meant graduation from high school means the town will lose their smartest and brightest young people. Some people will stay, but most will pack their bags and never return.
Another problem Georgia is facing is the number of counties our state has. Georgia has the second highest number of counties compared to other states, with Texas having the most counties. Georgia has 159 counties due to a historic rule set in place. When the counties were drawn up, they were designed so that citizens in every county could reach their town center in one day traveling by horse and carriage. Now that transportation has progressed, this rule has become dated
Bridges thinks the state has too many counties and with this many counties, it’s difficult to take care of them all. It would be tough to get enough counties to agree with consolidation, and most counties would want to absorb the surrounding counties rather than being absorbed themselves. This is just one of the ways Georgia is at a disadvantage when it comes to serving rural communities.
ABAC Dining Hall has recently ended a long contract with Sodexo. Bridges discussed how instead of using Sodexo, ABAC Dining hall would start using food that is grown locally in Georgia. The operation will begin is in January 2019. The initial goal for the dining hall is to serve 25 percent of their food from Georgia farmers.
Bridges encouraged the audience to tell farmers in the area that ABAC is looking for farmers to purchase fresh farm products from. The end goal is to be able to sustain a 100 percent farm imported dining facility at ABAC so students can find out exactly where their meals are coming from.
“It’s going to be hard for the urban to survive without the rural and it would be hard for the rural to survive without the urban,” said Bridges.
Rural communities depend on the urban communities to continue a high demand for farm products. The urban communities depend on these rural communities for necessary products in everyday life.