President Bridges announces big plans for ABAC

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.


Tiftarea’s season ends in devastating loss

“These boys came short tonight, but they will never come up short in life, that I am sure of,” said head coach Erik Soliday after the game Friday Nov. 23. The semi-final playoff game before the state championship was an emotional game to watch for Panthers fans.

The Panthers previously beat out Trinity Christian Academy in the second round of the playoffs. The Tiftarea Panthers beat out the Crusaders 49-7, advancing them to the semi-final game.

Soliday lined up across the field from John Milledge Academy football head coach, J.T. Wall, like two generals locked in a game of chess. The first half started as a defensive game, with no major offensive drives from either side.

The John Milledge Trojans received the first kick.  For the first time all season, a team was able to complete a first down against the Panthers’ defense in the first drive of the game. Despite receiving a first down, the Trojans fumbled the ball on the first drive and Adam McKinney recovered the fumble.

The Panthers’ offense came back to the field using two back-to-back quarterback sneaks. Logan Crossan, the Panthers’ quarterback, was able to receive a first down after running the ball. Spence Massey ran the ball 8 yards on the next down. Crossan completed a short pass to Dalton Jones, but the catch was short of the first down.

The special teams stepped on to the field in punting formation. Carter Stewart faked the punt and the team ran the ball up the middle. After fooling the Trojans on fourth down, Tiftarea received a new set of downs. Once Tiftarea special teams fooled the Trojans, Crossan threw an interception to John Milledge cornerback, Marcus Prestwood.

The Trojans sent their offense back on to the field, but Panthers’ sophomore defensive lineman, Jackson Hoover sacked John Milledge quarterback Brandon Bellflower for a loss of yards. The Panthers’ defense forced the Trojans to punt the ball away on fourth down.

McKinney was able to complete two short gains when the Panthers’ offense came back to the field, however, they were too short to gain a first down. The Panthers were forced to give up the ball again on fourth down when they punted.

Jones and Noah Copeland worked together on defense all night to bring down the powerful running back from John Milledge. The first quarter ended, and both teams had yet to score.

The second quarter started with the Trojans having control of the ball on fourth down. The team converted to first down with a successful drive from senior Trojan running back, Jared Prestwood.

The Panthers’ defense eventually made the Trojans punt the ball and the Trojan punter, Justin Lemme punted the ball to the 15-yard line. Bo Cummingham caught a first down pass from Logan Crossan. The Panthers failed to move the ball any further and had to punt the ball. Senior punter, Carter Stewart punted the ball to the 1-yard line.

With the horrible field position, the Trojans scrambled to move the ball. The team couldn’t run or pass the ball with the poor field position, so they punted. Trojan Punter, Lemme stepped out of the end zone before punting the ball, resulting in a safety.

The Panthers put the first score on the board with 2-0, Tiftarea in the lead.

The Panthers received the kickoff after the safety. The Panthers tried using all four downs for the first down but ended up turning the ball over instead with very little time left in the first half. The Trojans moved the ball as close to their end zone as possible and kicked a field goal. The score at halftime was 2-3, John Milledge winning.

The Trojans kicked off to the Panthers for the second half. Jones ran the kick to the 40-yard line and the offense got set-up on the field. Crossan started the drive off with a short pass to Cunningham. Render Robbins caught a short pass from Crossan. On the next down, Crossan set back in the pocket and locked on with Casen Royal. Royal caught the pass and gave the team a huge first down.

Crossan handed the ball off to Massey and it resulted in the first touchdown all game. Cunningham successfully kicked a field goal for the extra point. The Panthers didn’t celebrate long though, because the Trojan’s offense arrived at the second half ready to play.

In just a handful of downs, the Trojans easily scored a touchdown with a field goal. The score moved to 10-9 with John Milledge in the lead. When the Panthers re-fielded their offense, they couldn’t keep up the same pace they entered the second half with. The Trojan’s defense kept up the pressure on the Panthers until the game ended.

After the Panthers turned the ball over to the Trojan’s offense, they were able to put up another touchdown. The score moved to 9-17, John Milledge winning. Despite the scoreboard moving in the Trojans favor, Soliday and the Panthers refused to give up. The Panthers played every down trying to overcome the adversity John Milledge presented them with.

Tiftarea got the ball back, and Crossan focused his offense on moving down the field. Royal caught a first down pass from Crossan on the 35-yard line. Cunningham caught a short pass from Crossan to keep the ball moving forward. Next, Crossan handed the ball to Massey for another touchdown. For the two-point-conversion, the ball was hiked to Massey, who then threw a pass to Crossan. The switch-up on the field disoriented the Trojans.

Soliday tied the game up but knew the game was far from over. Wall sent his Trojan’s offense back on to the field to continue their fight to the state championship. The fourth quarter started with both teams tied, and 12 minutes to decide who the winner was.

The Panthers stopped the Trojans and forced a punt. The Panthers’ offense took the field but were also stopped for a turnover. When the ball went back to John Milledge, the Panthers started running out of time to make something happen.

Despite the best efforts made from the Panthers’ defense, the team couldn’t stop the Trojans from scoring another touchdown. The scoreboard moved to 17-24 with John Milledge in the lead.

The Panthers gave one final push at the end. Jones ran the kick to the 32-yard line. Crossan threw two incomplete passes but completed a first down pass to Stewart. Massey ran for another first down, but shortly after, Crossan threw an interception with one minute left on the clock. The Trojans kneed the ball until the clock ran out. The final score was 24-17 John Milledge with the victory.

It was a strong season to remember for the seniors on the field playing Friday night. Despite not making it to the state championship, they had a dominating season and defeated competitive teams from all over Georgia.

Frederica Academy beat Heritage Academy on the same night. The teams playing in the 2018 State Championship at Mercer University will be Frederica Academy and John Milledge Academy.


Detention visits and restless support: SGISN

People from all walks of life sit around a table once a month to find new ways to support local immigrants who await trial for deportation in places like the Irwin County Detention Center. The group calls themselves the South Georgia Immigrant Support Network (SGISN).

SGISN is made up of college professors, immigrants, immigration lawyers, ministers of faith and students from local colleges. Their goal is to provide a voice for the people who currently don’t know their fate in immigration court.

Fear from police forces like Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has brought these people together to find ways to legally and peacefully support families affected by the round-ups. For example, SGISN has acquired a house that they call “Casa de Libre” or house of the free.

When people are released from detention centers instead of being deported, members from SGISN pick them up from the center. They leave there and go to Casa de Libre to relax and experience a normal night like a human being.

After a good nights rest and a proper meal, the immigrants can be on their way to meet up with friends or family.

The conditions the immigrants face in detention are harsh. The only jobs available inside detention pay less than a dollar a day. Hygiene products and other daily necessities are over-priced and difficult for inmates to purchase. The food served lacks the nutrition that a human body needs to maintain health. Another burden is the separation from family outside detention.

Members from SGISN routinely write pen pal letters to inmates inside Irwin County Detention Center. They attend visitation hours for inmates who haven’t had a visitor for 6 months to a year.

“It might seem like it would be a little awkward talking to a stranger who you have never met,” said Ric Steward, a board member of SGISN. “But just having someone to talk to and get thoughts off their chest goes a long way for these people in detention.”

SGISN is looking for volunteers to help at Casa de Libre, and other jobs to find ways to support the people being affected by immigration laws. Jess Usher, Assistant Professor of History at ABAC can assist people interested in volunteering or donating to SGISN.


Tiftarea battles through season and playoffs

   The Southland Academy Raiders challenged the Tiftarea Panthers for the Regional Championship title on Friday, Oct. 2. Both teams were determined to go home with the trophy at the end of the night.

   Panthers received the kick and Adam McKinney ran the ball to the 29-yard line. Logan Crossan completed a pass to Colby Grant for a first down. The Panthers failed to move the ball for another first down and were forced to punt the ball on fourth down.

   The first play from the Raiders’ offense ended with a crushing sack from Panthers Linebacker, Casen Royal. The Panthers’ defense successfully shut down the Raiders’ offense and the ball was punted on fourth down.

   The Panthers struggled to move the ball up the field after receiving the punt. Crossan was able to run the ball for several yards, however, the team failed to receive a first down. The Raiders took the ball back and ran to the 12-yard line. The Panthers nearly recovered a fumble, but the referees declared the ball was down.

   Though the Panthers’ defense fought hard to stop the Raiders’ offense, the team successfully scored a touchdown along with an extra point. Head Coach Erik Soliday didn’t give the Raiders fans much time for celebration. Crossan completed a first down pass to Grant, then Crossan completed another first down pass to Dalton Jones.

   The first quarter ended before Crossan could finish the touchdown drive. When the ball reset, Crossan scanned the field for open receivers and locked on with Royal. Royal caught the pass in the end zone and scored a touchdown. Again, Crossan threw the ball to Royal for a two-point conversion. The Panthers took the lead from the Raiders at 8-7.

   Tiftarea kicked the ball off to the Raiders and Jones stopped the receiver. Brandon Mullis sacked the Raiders’ quarterback for a huge loss of yards. The Panthers’ defense forced the Raiders to punt on fourth down.

   When the Panthers’ offense took the field again, Spence Massey completed a huge first down run. Crossan, again, handed the ball to Massey for another first down drive. Next, Crossan threw a touchdown pass to Jones and completed a two-point conversion. The score moved to 16-7 Panthers’ leading.

   The Raiders failed to put any more points on the board before the second half ended. Defensive back Grant caught an interception from the Raiders’ quarterback. Grant has averaged one interception per game in the 2018 season. The first half ended with the Panthers beating the Raiders 16-7.

   When the game started back, Tiftarea kicked the ball to Southland Academy. Hunter Hartsfield sacked the Raiders’ quarterback for a loss of yards. Next, the Raiders’ quarterback threw an interception to McKinney and he ran the ball to the 25-yard line. Before the first quarter ended, Crossan handed the ball off to Massey who completed a first down run.

   The fourth quarter started with a touchdown drive from Massey. The Panthers failed to get any extra points after the touchdown, and the ball went back to the Raiders. The Raiders were able to score another touchdown, but they failed the two-point conversion. The score went to 22-13 with the Panthers still winning.

   The Panthers got the ball back, and Massey completed a first down for the offense. Crossan, unfortunately, threw an interception and the Raiders got the ball back. Determined for victory, Defensive lineman Mullis charged at the quarterback and sacked him for loss of yards. The Panthers’ defense stopped any advances from the Raiders’ offense until the ball was turned over.

   Crossan completed another touchdown pass to McKinney and failed the field goal attempt. The Raiders attempted to score one more touchdown before the game ended. Jackson Hoover sacked the quarterback who was attempting to find an open receiver. The game ended with the scoreboard reading 28-13.

   The game settled who the 2018 Regional Champions were. Rightfully so, the perfect season the Panthers worked towards earned the team the trophy. “I was really pleased with our defense to step up and challenge those guys like that. I thought our defense played really hard,” said Head Coach Erik Soliday.

   “We’ve had a really good season so far, but we really are just getting to where we want to be, now it’s time to really step it up,” said Soliday. The team ended the 10-game season with ten victories and the region trophy. The Southland Academy Raiders went home with the runner-up trophy.

   Now that the Panthers have moved forward in the playoffs, they have received a bye week for the first round. The team playing against the Panthers in the second round of the playoffs will be determined. The game will be held at a neutral stadium.


ACT Speaker Series brings Congressman Austin Scott

Congressmen Austin Scott spoke with the Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow at their speaker event before midterm elections about different topics in agriculture. Scott represents Georgia’s Eighth Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. His family has lived in the district for generations, and he is proud to represent the area.

At the event, Scott said, “I don’t have to tell anybody in this room how important agriculture is to our economy.” As Scott introduced himself, he recalled his memory of the debate in Atlanta over the name change of Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College to Abraham Baldwin College. He remembers it as one of the greatest fights in Atlanta he has ever seen.

After easing into his speech with historical context from ABAC, Scott discussed the challenges agriculture has experienced the past few weeks.

Hurricane Michael impacted farmers all over his district, and the storm affected the income farmers were expecting to make this year. He specifically talked about cotton farmers and the loss of revenue the cotton industry is facing.

Scott pointed out that seeing destroyed crops does more than just affect a farmer’s income. The sight of overturned trees or plants leaves a toll on the farmers and their families. After months and years of hard work, it’s devastating for everyone involved when situations like Hurricane Michael arise.

One of the challenges that Scott discussed with the ACT club was how to help farmers after the hurricane fairly. Some farmers experienced a 10 percent revenue loss while other farmers experienced close to 90 percent loss of revenue. He didn’t specify how to ensure fairness when relieving farmers.

Throughout the speech, Scott made it clear that he felt bipartisanship was happening more than what the media portrayed.

He said he has worked side by side with Democratic politicians when it came to helping Americans. Scott feels like the media paints a picture of two polarized parties, and he firmly believes the divide is not as severe.

Scott reassured the audience of students that Georgians have good people at both the state and federal level that are looking out for our best interests. He also believes the people at United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) are just as good as the ones representing our state in politics.

A keynote that Scott brought up was college students graduating and returning to their rural communities. Usually, when students graduate, moving back to their hometown seems undesirable, but the fact is, if students brought back skills and knowledge to rural communities that they learned in college, it could give these rural communities the boost they need.

Scott discussed with students opportunities in working with agriculture policy, and other places students could find work in the agriculture industry. Agriculture has been a part of Scott’s life since childhood, and he was eager to speak with students interested in agriculture.

The final thought Scott left the ACT club with was a piece of advice, “Go to a country that is truly poor.” Scott said, “You’re going to have so much more respect for the gifts and opportunities you have in the country.” Scott has gone on trips all over the world with fellow politicians, and some—if not most—of the countries he has traveled face extreme poverty.