Isbell Farms hosts foreign visitors
CHEROKEE, Ala. (AP) — Bala M. Inuwa said Nigeria has the soil and skills to provide food for its people, but intense corruption in the government and business community has prevented that from happening.
Inuwa, the managing director and CEO of Kano Agricultural Supply Co., hopes that will change under President Muhammadu Buhari, who was elected in 2015.
“The people are changing,” Inuwa said. “The government is saying, change your attitude for good. We need to have a direction; we need to have a focus. We need to help turn around our country for better. The skills are there, the facilities are there.”
Inuwa was one of 18 visitors from 10 countries participating in an international training program hosted by the International Fertilizer Development Center.
The visitors came from Australia, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, South Sudan, and Tanzania. Most want to use what they learn in the U.S. to help farmers in their home countries.
The group spent about two days in the Shoals, touring Isbell Farm in Cherokee and participating in sessions at IFDC in Muscle Shoals.
The sessions tend to focus on technology and new farming techniques, precision agriculture, and fertilizer development.
Sunday Akinyemi of the Blessed Creator Consult in Ibaden, Nigeria, said he wants to learn about new technology. He said most farmers in Nigeria depend on rainfall to water their crops. Very few use irrigation.
“Nigeria is a small country, only 170 million people,” said Mohammed Salasi Idris, the Nigeria country representative for IFDC. “Most of our farmers are small farmers. We don’t have the technologies. My headquarters is one of the key players trying to improve the agriculture in Nigeria.”
For Idris, it was his first trip to the United States and to the IFDC headquarters.
Idris said his country suffers from government interference, lack of government involvement, subsidy issues, access to finance and lack of technology.
Inuwa is working to change that by providing seed and fertilizer to farmers at reasonable prices.
“We want people to own the activities they do,” he said.
Justin Elliott, a representative of Elders, an agribusiness company in Australia, said one of their biggest problems is mobile phone coverage in parts of the interior of the country.
Isbell Farm north of Cherokee is run by Neal Isbell and his sons, Todd and Shane. Shane Isbell said his son, Tyler, will be joining them, making the operation a six generation family farm. Todd Isbell’s daughter, Ellie, is an agricultural communications student at Auburn University.
The group spoke with Neal and Shane Isbell about their operation and how they utilize precision agriculture. Many of the questions pertained to managing fertilizer use and soil health.
Many of the foreign visitors were amazed the Isbells can farm 7,500 acres with only five to seven people.
Neal Isbell said he enjoys the annual visits.
“We do learn a lot,” he said. “We get to know what’s going on across the world, and how they’re doing things across the world. We have some visitors in here from countries that are very modern, that use some precision ag. We get to share information with them. The Australians are really, really on the cutting edge of what’s going on.”
“These other countries, it’s interesting to see how they do things, and I’m sure it’s interesting to them to see how we do things.”
“I’m blessed to be able to get up in the morning to work with my two sons and my grandson,” Isbell said.