May 2008
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AFC produces new rural lifestyle TV series: Time Well Spent

By Kellie Henderson

In a new television series premiering Saturday, May 3, the unique appeal of rural Alabama will come to light for viewers across the state. A production of Alabama Farmers Cooperative (AFC), Time Well Spent is television Alabama families can enjoy together as they see the people, places and events that maintain some of the state’s most time-honored traditions and heritage.

"Time Well Spent is the show where rural Alabama celebrates itself and shows people outside rural areas what that lifestyle is all about, why it’s important and why it needs to be preserved," said the show’s producer Bobby Cole who is also Vice President of BioLogic.

Cole added the show has taken several years to grow from concept to television set.

"The whole idea really began three years ago when BioLogic merged with AFC. We had worked to grow the BioLogic brand through television and printed advertising, and from those efforts we had an understanding of television we wanted to translate into something bigger. We saw the opportunity for AFC to showcase the rural lifestyle in a way that’s never been done before - in Alabama, about Alabama," said Cole.

Hosted by Jim Allen, Director of Public Relations and Advertising for AFC, each 30-minute episode will contain four segments illustrating separate aspects of rural Alabama. Allen will bring to the screen each week a feature entitled "Rural Alabama…You’ve Got to Love It!" which will focus on special places and events that add a bit of distinctive charm to the landscape of the state.

Another segment will take a youthful look at rural Alabama, hosted by AFC’s Communications Specialist, Grace Smith, who knows first-hand what it means to grow up amid the state’s pastural scenery. "Young Folks in Action" will demonstrate just how young people are living and learning traditional values as they participate in rural and agricultural activities across the state.

Wildlife biologist Chuck Sykes, who viewers may recognize from his program The Management Advantage, brings out the state’s interest in wildlife in the "Outside Rural Alabama" segment. With the help of his camera operator Casey Shoopman, Sykes gives viewers the benefit of his lifetime of hunting and fishing experience as he teaches the wildlife management techniques that can maximize the sporting enthusiast’s time on the water or in the field.

The show’s fourth segment will bring out the green thumb in everyone as Dennis Thomas, general manager of Bonnie Plants, delivers "The Gift of Growing Things" to Alabama gardens. A helpful guide for people of all skill levels, Thomas will provide the tips and techniques to take gardeners from planting to pruning and harvesting.

According to Cole, selecting the hosts for the program was an integral part of making a quality television show true to the spirit of Alabama.

"We wanted a heartfelt message from people who have dirt under their fingernails, so to speak, not some purchased personalities with no connection to their segments," said Cole.

"Jim has an eclectic personality and he’s into the quirky side of what’s going on in rural Alabama, and that fascination gives him the ability to find unique happenings across the state. Grace is perfect for her segment because she has a real affection for kids and she’s passionate about telling young people’s story. Chuck and Casey are natural outdoorsmen at heart, and Dennis is genuinely fascinated by plants and loves explaining more about them. Nobody can tell a story like the people who eat, sleep and breathe it, and those are the hosts of Time Well Spent, people sharing their passions for rural Alabama," Cole added.

And the hosts said filming the show has already been a learning experience for them.

"I’ve never even been in a home movie before, so being on camera has been unnerving," said Allen.

"None of us know anything about the other segments," said Smith, who appears in some of Thomas’s gardening segments. "I know nothing about gardening and Dennis is an expert; we’re total opposites, so there’s an interesting mix to those episodes."

And it’s an overall mix the hosts say will appeal to a broad range of ages and residential backgrounds.

"From the oldest to the youngest, it’s a program everybody can watch and learn from. Whether it’s a child just catching the fever for hunting or an eighty-year-old woman looking to improve her gardening, it’s a show the family can watch together and all take something with them when the show is over," said Sykes.

"And rural Alabamians can see their stories, but Time Well Spent will also appeal to people in more metropolitan areas who are moving back to that sort of rural lifestyle. People everywhere are looking to rural traditions in the way they shop, feed their families and make their homes. There’s a real shift away from the hustle and bustle of busy living," said Smith.

"Record numbers of middle income and high net worth individuals are moving to rural Alabama, and large numbers of individuals who live in cities and suburbs are devoting increasingly larger portions of their time and money to ‘rural-based’ activities and hobbies like hunting, gardening, horse-back riding and fishing," according to Cole.

"Another way we all win with this show is that viewers will realize their nearby Quality Co-op has products they can buy and use even if they aren’t farmers," said Cole.

Sykes added many people may not realize the variety of goods and services available for hunters and gardeners at their local Co-ops.

"Making a television program is financially a big project, and sponsorship opportunities are still available for the show right now," said Cole.

"Because the show is still a new idea, it’s hard for people to come up with money for a project they feel is unproven. Sometimes people lack the vision to see the long-range benefits of a show like Time Well Spent, but for the right people, joining a work in progress can have huge pay-offs," Sykes added.

Time Well Spent will air on NBC and CBS affiliates across Alabama on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Consult local listings for show times. And for more information, visit www.timewellspenttv.com.