In rural Alabama, quality products spring to life

In rural Alabama, quality products spring to life

Alabama’s rural counties are the source of some of the state’s most distinctive products, from handcrafted, all-natural items for health and home to innovative technologies that are charting the future for business and industry.

“Rural Alabama is making a remarkable impression both at home and beyond our state’s borders,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“There is a strong commitment to quality, craftsmanship and creativity that runs through the workforce in these towns and communities. There is also a sense of pride that is evident and impressive,” he said.

Brenda Tuck, rural development manager for the Alabama Department of Commerce, said the diverse mix of products originating from the state’s rural areas transmits a clear message about the capabilities found there.

“Rural Alabama is a go-to place for unique, high-quality products, made with care and sold in state, regional, national and world markets,” Tuck said.

“Alabama’s rural communities are home to skilled artisans, talented creators and enterprising business owners who are making a lasting difference with their inspiring labors.”

Commercial bamboo

Resource Fiber plans to produce engineered bamboo products in Lamar County. The company, which in January announced plans for a $3.6 million, 111-job plant in Sulligent, has done extensive research and development involving bamboo products, such as bamboo nail laminated timbers used in the construction of multistory buildings. Other products include bamboo railroad ties and a laminated timber system to replace steel roof and floor decks in commercial buildings.

Goat milk skincare

In the Dallas County community of Marion Junction, Laura Spencer has been crafting goat milk soap and skincare products for more than a decade. What started as an endeavor toward more sustainable living has since grown into a small business called Simply Making It. The products include lotions, lip balms and “bath bombs” made from natural ingredients, such as milk from the goats at Spencer Farm, herbs from Spencer’s garden and pure essential oils.

Sweets and other treats

Rural Alabama is responsible for some of the state’s tastiest snacks.

For nearly 75 years, Conecuh Sausage has been a staple on Southern plates, and it has developed a cult-like following far beyond Alabama as restaurants, cookbooks and social media fan clubs sing its praises. The company makes the hickory-smoked sausage in its Conecuh County hometown of Evergreen and offers nationwide shipping.

Another savory treat hails from Pike County, where Wickles Pickles are processed and bottled in Brundidge. With a unique flavor that blends heat and sweet, Wickles have built a loyal following over the past 20 years and are sold in supermarkets across the U.S. In 2018, production of Wickles Pickles moved from North Carolina back to their roots in Alabama.

Other snacks are made by Priester’s Pecans, a handmade gourmet candy company that’s been operating in Lowndes County since 1935, selling pecans and all kinds of treats made with them. The company’s retail store in Fort Deposit is a familiar sight and favorite stop for travelers on Interstate 65 to eat lunch, sample the merchandise and watch the candymakers in action.

And in neighboring Crenshaw County, one of the top employers is Sister Schubert’s Homemade Rolls, which produces frozen breakfast and dinner rolls that are sold in stores across the U.S. Using her grandmother’s recipe, Alabama native Patricia “Sister” Schubert built the Luverne-based company into a baking industry juggernaut that generates more than $60 million in U.S. sales.

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