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Effingham shows off for the annual state farmers tour
kid looking at bees
Jonathan Watkins takes an up-close look at an observation bee hive at Studiers Honeypot. The Studier family maintains more than 4,000 bee hives, and their biggest business nowadays is renting bees to farmers around the country to pollinate their crops. - photo by Photo by Paul Floeckher

It was the first official weekend of summer, but Marvin Kersey got chills Saturday.

Kersey was one of about 200 people seeing the sights of Effingham County on the Georgia Young Farmers Association’s annual summer tour, hosted this year by the organization’s Effingham chapter.

Kersey couldn’t believe his eyes when the tour reached the Effingham Museum and Living History Site. He described the Seckinger-Bridges House, a model of a typical turn-of-the-century farm house in Effingham County, as "identical" to the home his maternal grandparents had in Johnson County.

"It gave me chill-bumps," Kersey said, "because it brought back memories of my grandfather’s house."

That was music to the tour organizers’ ears. Farmers and educators from across the state take the Georgia Young Farmers tour each summer, and Effingham County chapter advisor Freddie Waltz said his group jumped at the chance to host it for the first time in about 20 years.

While the Effingham tour did include a visit to one agriculture production operation, Shiloh Farms, the organizers wanted to show the participants the type of locales they’re not accustomed to seeing on a regular basis. The tour stops included Butterducks Winery, Studier’s Honeypot and the Mary Kahrs Warnell Forest Education Center.

"We looked at the more unique kinds of things that they couldn’t find everywhere else," Waltz said. "We wanted to show off as much and do as much as we possibly could."

One of the locals on the tour, Lamar Allen, was hopeful that showcasing local treasures such as the winery, Studier’s bee hives and museum and living history site could give a tourism boost to Effingham.

"When you have people from all over Georgia that see this, they can go back and maybe tell somebody and get the word back to other places," Allen said.

As Kersey walked through the Seckinger-Bridges House with his son Wallee, he pointed to the old stove in the tiny kitchen and recalled the days when his grandmother "used to get up about 4:30 in the morning and cook biscuits here."

Allen added, "Can you imagine in the summertime how hot it was in here with that (stove) going all the time?"

As Kersey boarded the bus for the next tour stop, he was still shaking his head in disbelief at how much the house looked like his grandparents’ home — "the bedrooms, the kitchen, the breezeway and everything, even the well."

"That’s amazing, because I’m just 41 and I think about how far we’ve come in a short time," said Kersey, a farm owner and agriculture teacher in Emanuel County.

Butterducks Winery co-owner Bill Utter explained that only Georgia-grown peaches, blueberries, grapes, blackberries and muscadines are used in their fruit wines. Butterducks purchased about 150,000 pounds of fruit last year, which equates to about 3,500 cases of wine.

"We see hardly any wineries out there making real Georgia peach wine," Utter said.

Butterducks can bottle about 50 cases an hour and has the capacity for about 40,000 liters of wine, Utter said. The tour participants saw the equipment Butterducks utilizes, including the large, stainless-steel tanks used for fermentation.

What they didn’t do was sample any wine. After all, the tour groups began arriving just after 7 a.m.

"I’m still drinking coffee," Utter said. "It’s a little early for wine."