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Meet the crew behind the scenes at the Sunbelt Expo Farm

<p>The Sunbelt Expo Farm is a year-round working farm where large- and small-plot research is conducted to find solutions to the many farming challenges in the region. Pictured, left to right, Michael Chafin, Expo farm manger, Cali Mendoza, farm crew foreman, and newest member Cody Mitchell, farm site associate. Not pictured is farm site associate Tyler Boone.</p>
What&rsquo;s the most important variable on any working farm? It&rsquo;s the crew who works the land, maintains crop health and keeps things running smoothly.

What’s the most important variable on any working farm? It’s the crew who works the land, maintains crop health and keeps things running smoothly.  The Sunbelt Ag Expo Darrell Williams Research Farm is no different.

Here’s a peak behind the scenes at who keeps the 600-acre farm one of the region’s go-to places for on-farm research and educational outreach.

Farm Site Manager Michael Chafin: He was raised in Colquitt County, Ga., on a diversified farm that produced tobacco, corn, soybeans, cotton, and peanuts. Cattle were also a part of the operation for many years. He farmed on his own before coming to Sunbelt to lead the research operations. He is responsible for the day-to-day decision making for the farm and communicating with the many company representatives and technology development personnel to grow the crops and provide the educational tools that Sunbelt is known for. Chafin has been spearheading the farm since 2011. He and wife, Leanne, have one son, Charlie, and a second child on the way.

Farm Crew Foreman Calixto “Cali” Mendoza: Calixto, known to the Expo staff as ‘Cali’ for short, began working with the farm crew in 1998 under the leadership of long-time farm manager Darrell Williams, who the farm is named in memory of. Cali is second in command on the farm, guiding the staff in the absence of the Chafin when he may be away at conferences or speaking engagements. Cali is originally from Mexico but is proud to call Moultrie, Ga., his home. Cali does the majority of the planting and spraying on the Expo farm, but has a good working knowledge of all the equipment needed to make the operation go. Cali is married and has three children.

Farm Site Associate Tyler Boone: Boone is currently out on medical leave, but is expected to return to the staff in the near future. Boone came to the farm crew in Jan. 2013 after wanting a change in careers. Boone lives in Adel, Ga., where his family owns a farm and runs a fairly large herd of beef cattle. The oldest of three children, Boone loves the farm life and truly found his fit on the Expo crew. He is responsible for equipment repair and maintenance and other typical farming duties. His return to the crew is happily anticipated, Chafin says.

Get Expo farm tips, videos and highlights

Farm Site Associate Cody Mitchell: He is the recent addition to the farm crew, joining after getting a turf grass management degree at nearby Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College. During his time at ABAC , Cody worked for Stanley Culpepper, University of Georgia Extension weed specialist based at the UGA Tifton Campus.

“Cody enjoyed his time with UGA Tifton in the research role and we are proud that our paths crossed. Cody is a great asset to the team. Although he is new to us, he has fit into our team here perfectly,” Chafin said.

“There are countless others who make the Sunbelt Expo what it is. The farm staff expands to a group of as many as fifteen in late summer as the show approaches. It takes a team effort to do things that range from weed eating and mowing to painting benches and even sweeping floors in preparation for ‘North America's Premier Farm Show. … And I invite people to follow us on Facebook and Twitter and check out our website where we post videos, growing tips and other highlights of what goes on around the farm year-round,” Chafin said.

You can see the farm crew’s handy work firsthand at the 2015 Sunbelt Expo Field Day July 9 at the Darrell Williams Research Farm/Sunbelt Expo site in Moultrie, Ga. Learn about the latest agriculture technology from industry and university researchers and get up-to- date information on seed varieties, irrigation, crop protection, soil fertility, forages and precision ag.  Registration opens at 7:30 and farm tours depart at 8:00 a.m.

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