Chilton County is a small county located in the heart of Alabama. Agriculture is a large part of life for its 43,631 residents, with 33% of its total workforce employed in agriculture, forestry, and related industries, which in 2010 brought in $385.5 million to the local economy. Chilton County has nearly 100,000 acres of farmland and over 70% of its surface land area is currently in timberland. Fruit production is the county’s largest agricultural commodity, contributing $14.6 million, which ranks first among all Alabama counties. Cattle is the county’s second largest agricultural commodity, followed by greenhouse, nursery, and floriculture. Forestry production alone accounts for 46% of the county’s agricultural and forestry production. Peaches are arguably Chilton County’s most notable symbol, with the county producing 75% of the state’s leading commercial fruit. Each June, the county celebrates its peach industry with the Peach Festival in the shadow of its iconic peach water tower, one of only two in the entire country.
Chilton County was formed in 1868 out of portions of Autauga, Shelby, and Bibb counties, under the name of Baker County. In 1874 it was renamed Chilton County in honor of Supreme Court Justice William P. Chilton. Clanton is the county seat, with a 2010 population of 8,619. The county is home to six elementary schools, two middle schools, six high schools, a career technical center, and the Clanton campus of Jefferson State Community College.
Some of the county’s recreational attractions include Lay and Mitchell lakes, on the scenic Coosa River, Jemison’s Minooka Park, and two Piedmont Plateau Birding Trails. In addition, Alabama’s Confederate Memorial Park and various seasonal fruit and vegetable markets are within short driving distances of Clanton.
The county is in a unique position, with I-65 connecting it to both Birmingham and Montgomery with short commutes. State Highway 82, which also runs through Chilton, easily connects residents to Tuscaloosa and Montgomery. Additionally, five major universities are located within an hour and a half drive of the county. Entrepreneurs in the food production industry have a valuable resource in the Chilton Food Innovation Center (CFIC) located in Clanton. The center is an FDA and ADPH-approved facility with state-of-the-art equipment available for rent to produce various food products. In 2016, St. Vincent’s opened St. Vincent’s Chilton, a 30-bed hospital complete with full-service in-patient and out-patient services, in Clanton.
The Chilton County Extension Office located in Clanton employs four full-time and five part-time employees. In addition to 4-H, which involves hundreds of youth throughout the county, the Extension Office offers Master Gardener classes, ServSafe and Cottage Food Law training, diabetes education, animal science and forage programs, annual peach production meetings, Private Pesticide Applicators testing, soil and plant testing supplies, Chilton Food Innovation Center training, and various other workshops throughout the year.