I have attended many workshops, conferences, conventions, board meetings, and other ag-related events through my 20-plus years in agriculture. Some were big but delivered little educational value, while some were small but very informative, like this year’s Mississippi Agricultural Industry Council 59th Annual Convention where I was asked to speak.
Of all the information included in the welcome packet, the thing I most valued was a reprint of the association’s first convention program when the MAIC was called ‘The Mississippi Soil Fertility & Plant Food Council’.
A range of speakers covered everything from farming inputs used during that era, to market outlooks, and one speaker even provided a glimpse into Mississippi’s future. I wish I could get my hands on that script to see how clairvoyant that speaker actually was.
As the association evolved, its current name was eventually adopted. The MAIC mission statement reflects the association’s desire to support everything agriculture in Mississippi. “Represent all segments of the state’s agricultural industry and to provide educational opportunities, problem solving, and communication to ensure the viability of agriculture at every level.”
A central goal through the years has been to provide scholarship funding to Mississippi State University. In addition to maintaining that tradition this year, the council decided to extend support outside of the scholarship program. They recognized Mississippian Pat Woods and his family with a special award. The Woods family has been attending, supporting, and advocating on MAIC’s behalf for 36 years. Pat served as president in 2011 and has also served in other capacities. Four generations of the Woods family were in attendance this year.
Another special award was presented to Christopher and Laura Whatley, the parents of Ellie Whatley, a special needs child who attends the Project Impact Program at Mississippi State University’s T. K. Martin Center for Technology and Disability. The school’s goal is to ensure that children with disabilities are able to continually benefit from solutions and advances in assistive technologies.
Christopher has worked in agriculture his entire career and this year was asked to serve on the MAIC board. He and Laura have been attending the convention for as long as they can remember, and value the bonds of friendship they share with other members. Born in 2012, Ellie started working with the dedicated staff at the center in 2014 and has made so many advancements.
During the president’s reception the last night, Christopher and Laura were called to the podium. They had no idea why, and neither did most of the crowd. Board member Bart Bevell presented Christopher and Laura with a certificate which read: The MAIC honors The Whatley Family with a gift to the T. K. Martin Center — Project Impact Program at Mississippi State University in honor of Ellie Whatley. There was not a dry eye in the entire ballroom.