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$158 million agricultural event center eyed for Jefferson County

Jefferson County may soon be getting a $158 million agricultural event center after the Alabama Farmers Federation on Thursday announced the purchase of Hallmark Farm, a roughly 500-acre property just off of I-65, north of Birmingham.

“This is something I felt like for a long time the state needed,” said ALFA President Jimmy Parnell in a video promoting the purchase. 

“Agriculture is the No. 1 industry in this state, and the agriculture people would love to have a place that they can go to and be proud of to have events; cattle shows, rodeos, all of those normal things that you would think about with something called a farm center.”

Parnell said that the site was selected after a competitive selection process that spanned across the state, and that the center would “create jobs, enhance tourism and bolster the economy.”

The center is planned to have an indoor livestock arena, a covered outdoor arena, two livestock barns and an exhibit hall. The center is also planned to host livestock expositions, educational events for children and teens and the annual state fair.

The announcement comes after previous plans for an Alabama Rural Economic Center, a joint effort between the city of Clanton, Chilton County and the Alabama Farmers Federation, fell through last year.

As of Thursday, approximately 70% of the funding has been “identified,” Parnell said, and that the remaining $47.4 million would need to be raised through as-of-yet undetermined means. The investigation and preparation phase is expected to be complete by June 2024, after which the project is expected to move forward with design and build phases.

“It’s been more than 70 years since Alabama invested in a regional agricultural center; current facilities are outdated and can no longer meet the needs of Alabama,” Parnell said. 

“We are excited to be part of the Alabama Farm Center, which will serve our residents and attract visitors from across the country.”

Founded in 1921, the ALFA is the largest farm organization in the state, and advocates on behalf of the interests of farmers and rural residents. The organization has grown from having 75,000 members in 1960 to more than 400,000 today.

Another large ag and event center in northwest Alabama has been in development since 2019. The Lauderdale County Agricultural Events Center will be a multi-use community facility on 167 acres.

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