Monday was a day I think will stay with me a very long time. The Atlanta area was shut down. Although many of the farmers attending the Farm Bureau’s annual meeting are very familiar with snowy weather, the reality of a major difference in a Southern city was striking. The state of emergency even led to changes in plans for the oath of office for the state’s new governor Nathan Deal.
I started my day getting work emails done and drafting blogs about the previous day (sounds like this morning but I also have conference calls today). And as I looked out my hotel room window, I saw buses. I didn’t realize quite how bad it was til freezing rain hit me in the face when I walked out of the hotel. It could have well been a tough reality if not for Southern hospitality.
First, last week as friends who were here for Beltwide began leaving town. My dear friend Marjory who works at theNational Cotton Council left me her new leather coat. You cannot begin to imagine how much I appreciate this! I had been in Atlanta several days and when I packed, packed for some cold temps but not icy snowy conditions. I’ve given that coat one heck of a work out and now ordered one just like it online!
Second, as I tried to leave the hotel, I found buses were no longer running. My hotel is several blocks, a couple of hills, etc from the convention center so I could be stranded in this hotel while all the farmers had made it to the convention center. Sounded boring and lonely so I started looking for options. That’s when I stumbled on a great guy from west Georgia in a pickup who had dropped off a farmer friend & while he didn’t know where the congress center even was, he and his 17 year old daughter took me over in time for the sessions I was hurting to see. And food service people were doing all they could to stay up with the growing lunch crowd as the nearby food court had closed down at 11 am.
For several hours, I was able to totally forget about the weather and enjoy the Farm Bureau meeting. I got to see a lot of people I know through social media at the grassroots advocacy session. And in what may be the most popular photo I’ve ever tweeted or posted on Facebook, not only did I attend the great Mike Rowe presentation Monsanto sponsored, but thanks to fellow guest blogger Tricia Braid (agchick) I have a photo to show for my brush with the man who gives dirty jobs a good name.
The third moment of hospitality will be grouped as getting back to our hotel. It took lots of people and lots of hospitality. It also took a very long time to go those 8 blocks! The Atlanta police department did what they could to keep us moving but on a small hill, our bus got stuck. We waited a long time, finally another bus came, carpets were laid and we moved from one to the other. There was such a relief to get back, even though restaurant reservations were a nightmare, the team at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis’ High Velocity did an incredible job! Some of them had basically been working 24-36 hours on 4-8 hours of sleep, but they tried to keep us in a good place slowly moving through the long list of stranded farmers & friends. As we had drinks and looked for a bite or two, the trade show peanuts picked up from the Georgia Peanut Commission came in handy!
That’s when we met another farmer and Monsanto customer who had snacks enough to share. Kevin Deal is a farmer in Statesboro, Georgia who has a company called Deep South Concessions. I don’t know if I’ve ever turned down pralines, especially chocolate ones, but there was NO WAY IN THE WORLD I could have turned those down! And you can see in the photo at right that he certainly made friends with some of the AFBF staff!
The hospitality is being extended for me and plenty of others as flights are being cancelled. Luckily we will continue to enjoy the hospitality of the fine folks of Atlanta and Georgia. They certainly are doing everything they can to be sure we enjoy their hometown/state!