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April 2017

"Have Another Cup"

by Suzy Lowry Geno


One recent morning I awakened inside a camper outside Whitehorse, Alaska, where the temperature was a brisk MINUS 20 degrees! The water jugs and the coffee pot were frozen; so the propane line had to be warmed to get the tiny trailer’s furnace blasting warm air again.

It wasn’t long before my friends and I were taking a swim in the naturally heated waters of the Takhini Hot Springs. Throwing snowballs around the pool was fun, but my hair froze every time my head popped out of the water!

Just a few days later, I celebrated Easter just after midnight with the aging congregation of the Rogozhkiy Church of Old Believers in Moscow. There were no seats in the church, and worshipers stood for the entire service, squeezed tightly together, the four of us among them.

Then the patriarch went outside and led a small procession of servers around the church. After they had made one trip, the worshipers joined them, symbolizing the search for Christ’s body at the tomb. At one point, the main minister announced "Khristos Voskres," meaning "Christ is Risen," one of the few things we understood clearly.

Although a couple of us spoke Russian, we understood little of what was said because the calls and responses were in Church Slavonic, not modern Russian.

But then we traveled thousands of miles back to north Alabama and celebrated Easter in an entirely different way ... sleeping in sleeping bags in the floor of Valentina, my old VW bus. Rising on Easter morning (dressed in our overalls) to shovel nearly 1,000 pounds of black dirt into a trailer and digging up four small dogwoods to make an elderly relative’s day complete.

Those of you who know me personally may be quite baffled because you know I no longer travel, can’t swim, don’t drink coffee and certainly can’t speak Russian.

But I have been able to do all those things through a wonderful book, "Have Another Cup – Morning Essays," by my longtime friend and fellow retired newspaper reporter Darrell R. Norman.

The book is a collection of the weekly Sunday columns Norman wrote for the Gadsden Times, continuing those musings even after he retired from over 20 years of covering court, disasters, law enforcement, commission meetings and so much more.

But his retirement from the Times was actually his second retirement. He’d already retired as a Russian linguist with over 20 years in the Air Force. And spaced in between those two careers was a time of reflection when he, his wife and child went back to the earth trying to make a living with ideals in their hearts and the old Mother Earth News magazines as their guidebooks.

Norman explained that he never really knew what he intended to write for his Sunday column until he sat down at his computer or word processor Thursday morning.

Something might happen such as his younger brother gifting him with a Red Ryder BB gun that immediately took him back to their growing-up years in the coal-mining camps near Jefferson and Blount counties.

Or a reunion with some of his Air Force mates might bring back the tears and memories of losing a planeload of those souls in the Bering Sea. He logged just over 2,000 hours in C-130s and 4,000 hours in KC-135s.

The back blurb on his book notes: "We row with him across a lake in Finland on the day Elvis died. We sing with him as he celebrates the natural world parading outside his window. We dig with him through the remains of homes and lives left by deadly tornadoes and rejoice with him in his unabashed love affair with his vintage VW bus, Valentina.

"We share with his reverence for the written word and his literary heroes, including E.B. White, Ernie Pyle, Joan Didion, William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway. We ramble with him among the ruins of gas stations and tourist courts along U.S. Highway 11, the road that once took a Southern boy north to New York. The most consistent feature of this varied collection is the author’s voice. His easy manner always conveys warmth, affection and respect for the intelligence of his readers, and we feel good in his company!"

Of all the hundreds of columns Norman wrote, the ones featuring Valentina may have been some of his most popular and most remembered.

He explained his fascination with the vehicle that claimed his heart and delighted his readers and that came into his life on a Valentine’s Day (thus her name!).

"Valentina is a red and white 1968 Volkswagen bus – a boxy, blue-eyed hippie mobile with faded paint, worn-out seats and the characteristic hum-click engine that turns heads and invites questions," he wrote.

With his longish hair and long beard flowing in the wind, folks throughout the Fort Payne area soon came to expect to see him and Valentina gliding by and they delighted in his tales of picking antiques and other goodies along the Highway 11 Yard Sale long before picking became a national pastime and password!

But after Valentina was destroyed in August 1998 when two young men in a new pickup truck on a wet road crashed into his lovely parked between two trees, it seemed the entire area mourned! (The two young men were OK.)

"People were constantly telling me when they’d see another VW bus somewhere," he said. "They kept urging me to buy a replacement."

But, like a perfect lover, Valentina was not replaced (although it wouldn’t surprise me if one day I see him chugging down the road with his now white hair and beard blowing in the wind from yet another rusty, boxy sweetie).

I loved the columns now chapters such as "Yard sale had good junk, good stories" or "Sowing spring seeds, an act of faith."

As he wrote his columns from his remote mountain cabin, there were always tidbits I could enjoy.

"We can usually count on a full six months without frost here on the mountain. When I hear the first whippoorwill calling his mate at dusk, usually about the second week of April, I log it down. I know we won’t see frost again until about the same date in October," he wrote.

While Norman holds a bachelor’s in English from the University of Alabama in Huntsville and grew proficient in Russian through intensive study at Syracuse University and a tour in the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, it is his everyday-man moments that will grab your heart.

"Have Another Cup – Morning Essays" by Darrell R. Norman is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Outskirts Press, outskirtspress.com/haveanothercup.

Suzy Lowry Geno lives on a small homestead in Blount County and can be reached through Facebook or by emailing slgt@yahoo.com.




1818 Farms

A Mooresville farm preserves history and honors tradition with sustainable practices, products and public events.

Sugar, a Southdown Babydoll sheep, is part of the flock at 1818 Farms. Early each spring, Gary Lawson, a sheep shearer from Kentucky, demonstrates his craft at the farm. Also on the farm are four varieties of hens, a Nubian goat and two Great Pyrenees to guard them all.

by Maureen Drost

It all began with a little boy’s wish.

"We were at a … petting zoo. It became his dream to have a sheep," said Natasha McCrary, the mother of then 8-year-old Gamble.

To be exact, he wanted a Babydoll sheep.

Natasha started researching where to buy lambs. Meanwhile, Gamble’s plans grew larger. He wanted to sell the wool, design a Nativity scene featuring the sheep, sell the manure to garden shops and charge for photographs.

Natasha had her own dreams of developing a profitable farm where she and her husband Laurence could teach their children to appreciate the animals and the land, and understand the concept of being self-sustaining.

Natasha and Laurence have three children. Besides Gamble, now 13, there are Waggoner, 16, and Eliza, 10. They live in Mooresville, the first town incorporated by the Alabama Territorial Legislature on Nov. 16, 1818.

Today, the couple manages a three-acre operation near the Wheeler Wildlife Refuge. The farm features a small flock of Southdown Babydoll sheep, four kinds of hens, a Nubian goat, a miniature pig and two Great Pyrenees to guard the animals. Tony McGehee, employee, is in charge of school field trips and three-day summer camps held for two weeks in June.

The McCrarys named their Limestone County operation 1818 Farms in honor of the year the town of Mooresville, population 53, was established. She sees the farm as a way to teach her kids.

"We broke ground in 2011," Natasha said. "In 2012, we had our first birthday party [for the public].

"[Now] we do (up to) one field trip a day by appointment from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 or 12."

The students learn about daily life on the farm. They meet the hens and gather eggs; get to see the sheep, learn the animals’ histories and what the wool is used for; and greet the miniature pigs and the Great Pyrenees. The tour includes a visit to the garden when it is in bloom.

At summer camp, youngsters 8-10 years are also taught about life on the farm. They arrive at 8:30 a.m. and gather produce, work on a craft incorporating wool, write letters and mail them at the Mooresville Post Office, take hikes on the wildlife refuge, learn about seed starting and using compost, and build mini-greenhouses to take home.

"On the last day," Natasha said, "we pop popcorn from corn we’ve grown. The children always look forward to that.

"We usually sell out with the camps."

Left and below, a boy holds one of the hens during a 2015 summer camp. The three-day camps for children 8-10 are held annually in June. Activities for the youngsters include visiting with the sheep and learning what wool is used for, gathering produce, taking hikes nearby on the Wheeler Wildlife Refuge and popping popcorn from corn grown on the farm.

Children are curious and often ask some intriguing questions. "Are you the farmer?" is a question often asked of Natasha. She now has a book to read to the youngsters featuring a female farmer, and relating that story helps break the stereotype.

Farm-to-table dinners attract adults to the farm. The dinners feature food from top chefs in North Alabama and are held outdoors under a covered pavilion overlooking the creek on the wildlife refuge.

Classes draw others to the farm. Those include making terrariums, designing herb and succulent gardens, flower arranging and, in December, wreath-making.

Opening day for the public was scheduled for March 25, weather permitting. Gary Lawson, a sheep shearer from Kentucky, was to travel to the farm.

"He has 90 sheep," Natasha said. "He’ll bring different fleeces. They’re not all the same."

1818 Farms is open to the public from March 25 to the first of October, but in December people do come to make Christmas wreaths.

Visitors travel to Mooresville from all over the United States after sampling some of the products made with lavender and other herbs grown on the farm. 1818’s shea cream, for example, was named a top face cream by Southern Living beauty editors in October 2016.

"The product line is a way of reaching beyond our tiny farm," Natasha explained.

Some of the other items are Farrah Fawcett’s Bath Tea (named for one of the goats), Clover’s Lip Smack, Lavender Goat’s Milk Bath Tea and, for men, shave and beard oils.

These and other products are sold in North Alabama and across the country in 250 stores. In Decatur, The Cupboard carries them. U.G. White in Athens has them. Shoppers in Madison County can visit four stores to buy the products. They are Daisy Lane Gifts in Madison and in Huntsville Harrison Brothers Hardware, Terrame Salon and the gift shop at the Huntsville-Madison County Botanical Garden. You can also visit their website, 1818farms.com, to see all the products and services they offer.

The growth of the farm amazes Gamble. His mother quotes him as saying, "I can’t believe it’s because of that one sheep."

Maureen Drost is a freelance writer who lives in Huntsville.




A Learning Experience

by Robert Spencer

In December 2016, my wife unexpectedly passed away. While loss of a spouse or family member is very traumatic, dealing with all the financial, legal and other obligations is extremely stressful. Add a farm into the mix and there is more to consider. I am about to share some of my experiences in hopes readers will learn from this.

Computers and Cellphones: Make sure someone very close to you knows how to access your computer and cellphone. I had no idea what my wife’s password was for either device. After three days of guessing passwords, my son finally accessed her laptop computer. We never were unable to access her smartphone, despite my explanation of the situation and, due to privacy laws, the service provider could not disclose it. Three weeks later, I canceled service to the phone.

Bank Accounts: Make sure each bank account has a designated beneficiary. This includes checking, savings, money market and even certificate of deposit accounts. Designating a payable-on-death account prevents the money from going through probate court where an attorney and court get a portion of these funds. With a POD designation, the money legally and directly goes to the person named as a beneficiary.

Probate Court: Wikipedia tells us that "probate court deals with matters of probate and the administration of estates. Probate courts administer proper distribution of assets of a decedent, adjudicates the validity of wills, enforces the provisions of a valid will, and provides for the equitable distribution of the assets of persons who die intestate (without a valid will). It does this by stipulating a grant of administration giving judicial approval to the personal representative to administer matters of the estate."

I ended up going through probate on a savings account, small stock market investment and very small checking account. Even though the value of these combined funds was less than $10,000, fees from probate court were about $500 and attorney fees were $1,500.

Will: Seek legal counsel when it comes to having a valid will. It is in the best interest of your family. My wife thought she had one (through an online service), but, a few weeks after her passing, a lawyer looked at it and informed me her will was invalid. She had signed as witness to her own will, which cannot be done. What bothered me most was the notary had not caught this and specified someone else to sign as witness. Despite all this, I was very lucky in that most of the bank accounts were in my name and most investments had me listed as beneficiary.

Investments and Life Insurance Policies: Be prepared to contact all financial institutions and insurance companies to see if you are listed as beneficiary on every account. If you are verified as beneficiary, be prepared to provide a death certificate and fill out lots of paperwork in order to have investments transferred into your name and process life insurance policies for payment. These can be mailed, faxed, scanned and emailed.

Death Certificate: Situations will vary whether you receive a pending or final death certificate. If you receive a pending death certificate, it is because final cause of death has not been determined and more than likely requires an autopsy. My wife was thought to be in relatively good health and there was no obvious cause of death; so her body was sent off for autopsy. The state medical examiner’s office told me at the very beginning that an autopsy can take four to eight weeks or more; eight weeks later and I am still waiting. Luckily, most financial institutions have accepted the pending copy, while insurance companies may or may not.

And then there is the matter of the farm. I work full time and farm part time on a small scale. Anyone who has a farm knows there are certain responsibilities. I remain dedicated to my job, take care of the farm and try to resolve all these legal issues; not an easy task.

By no means does this article cover everything I have had to deal with during this process and I am not an expert in these matters. This has been a learning experience for me.

Now is the time to make plans for dealing with the loss of a loved one or yourself. There are resources for information. Make sure to ask lots of questions and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Robert Spencer is an Urban Regional Extension Specialist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. You can contact him at rds0002@Auburn.edu.




AFC Annual Meeting – Spouses Program

AFC’s 80th annual meeting Spouses Program was a tremendous hit! Floral arranger Jess Margeson of Frou Frou demonstrated how easy it was to make creative and beautiful arrangements for any occasion. Everyone had a wonderful time making their own arrangements that were also used that night as table centerpieces at the Awards Banquet.



Ag Insight

by Jim Erickson

Changes in eating habits add to health risks worldwide

Worldwide changes in eating habits and poor nutrition are contributing to a global rise in obesity and chronic noncommunicable diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and stroke, putting all income groups and ages, as well as both genders, at risk of these diseases.

Noncommunicable diseases are particularly problematic in developing countries, where they have been shown to negatively affect economic growth and development potential, and are more likely to result in premature deaths.

In recent years, a number of international meetings and reports have focused on promoting policies (1) to reduce the availability and consumption of saturated fatty acids, high-sodium prepared and processed foods, and added sugars in food and nonalcoholic beverages; and (2) to increase the availability, affordability and consumption of fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods.

Although international organizations have encouraged healthier diets through pricing and income policies, their effectiveness could differ among countries by income levels and regional preferences, as well as within countries by gender and age subgroups.

Spending on food shows large variations

Despite often-heard complaints about high food costs, data shows U.S. consumers still spend less of their income on food than other nations.

Countries vary in how much their citizens spend on food at home as a share of consumption expenditure. Consumption expenditure includes all household spending, but not savings.

High-income countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom have higher food spending in absolute terms, but their food-spending share is low. These two countries spent less than 10 percent of their consumption expenditure on food purchased from supermarkets and other food stores in 2015, while the share approached 50 percent in low-income countries such as Kenya.

Per capita calorie availability follows the reverse pattern. According to the most recent available data, United States per capita calorie availability was among the highest at 3,639 calories per day, while Kenya’s was estimated at only 2,206 calories.

Organic food sales, small but growing rapidly

While U.S. organic food sales still account for a relatively small share of total U.S. food sales, they have exhibited double-digit growth during most years since 2000 and the organic share has been growing rapidly.

In 2015, the Organic Trade Association estimated U.S. organic retail sales at $43.3 billion. Along with natural food supermarkets, restaurants and direct marketers, most major U.S. food retailers – including Costco, Walmart and Target – have expanded their organic food offerings in recent years.

Rapid expansion in consumer demand continues to provide opportunities for U.S. organic producers to enter high-value markets in the United States and other countries. Although this nation and the European Union are the two biggest markets for organic products, most countries have growing domestic markets.

Organic products have shifted from being a lifestyle choice for a small segment of consumers to being consumed at least occasionally by many Americans. In 2014, Gallup included questions on organics in its annual food consumption survey for the first time and found that 45 percent of Americans actively tried to include organic foods in their diets.

Fresh fruits and vegetables were still the top selling organic category, but organic sales in all the other food categories also grew from 2005 to 2015.

The U.S. organic dairy sector is the second largest category of organic sales, and organic dairy production is also expanding.

According to the Organic Trade Association, organic food purchases accounted for approximately 5 percent of total U.S. at-home food expenditures in 2015, more than double the share in 2005.

Since setting national organic standards in 2000, the United States Department of Agriculture has streamlined trade arrangements with multiple foreign governments to expand international markets for U.S. organic producers, and has also widened access for organic producers to risk management, conservation and other farm programs.

Orange juice shows large price drop

Average retail prices for orange juice were above long-term averages for 2015 and most of 2016, but a surprising drop in October brought prices back in line with prior years.

Retail prices increased because of declining domestic production that has been below long-term averages since 2013.

The United States also imports a large amount of orange juice with the majority coming from Brazil. Forecasts for Brazilian orange juice production are 30 percent higher for the 2016/17 marketing year compared to the prior year, and will likely lead to more robust exports from the country.

October 2016 imports were more than double the previous year and likely signaled to retailers an increase in supply for the upcoming year.

Soybean acreage increasing, could exceed corn

Don’t look now, but it’s possible that U.S. farmers will plant nearly as much, or perhaps even more, soybean acreage than corn this year.

The close acreage race comes as soybean prices in 2016 recorded their first increase in four years and have been up early this year as well. With soybeans now more profitable, 2017 may see the world’s largest grower harvest a record crop for the second consecutive year.

Corn remains the largest U.S. crop by volume and value, but farmers are saying they will increase their soybean acreage this year while cutting back on corn. Bloomberg Markets has predicted a 5.8 percent boost in land planted to soybeans, the third increase in four years, and an acreage total of 88.27 million.

Corn acreage could fall 3.6 percent to 90.77 million, the largest decline in three seasons, Bloomberg said.

However, an earlier survey by Farm Futures and AgriSource Inc. indicated farmers would plant more land with soybeans than corn for the first time since 1983. Based on responses from more than 2,000 growers in six Midwest states, the survey predicted an 8.1 percent increase in soybean acreage, totaling 90.2 million acres. Corn acreage was projected to be 89.7 million.

The increase in cash soybean prices has created the widest premium over corn in some 29 years. In addition to being cheaper to grow, soybeans also are benefiting from increased world demand for animal feed, cooking oil and biofuel.

Rising global consumption of meat, poultry, eggs and dairy has doubled the amount of soy-based meal in animal feed since 2000. Most of that growth occurred in China, the biggest pork producer, where soybean imports have doubled in the past eight years.

High fructose corn syrup usage declines

Domestic use of high fructose corn syrup has been in a general decline since 2006, according to figures from the USDA’s Economic Research Service.

With the exception of marketing year 2013/14 when there was a slight uptick, usage numbers generally leveled off since 2012/13. However, data from the 2015/16 marketing year indicates domestic HFCS use may still be trending lower.

HFCS is marketed in two primary compositions – HFCS-55 and HFCS-42. HFCS-55 contains 55 percent fructose and is used primarily in soft drinks, while HFCS-42, containing 42 percent fructose, is used in a broader range of goods, including other beverages and baked foods.

The long-term decline in HFCS consumption has primarily been the result of a reduction in HFCS-42. The cause of this decline has been driven by consumer demand for healthier alternatives, rising exports and greater availability of substitutes.




Alternative Treatments for a Yeast Infection

by Nadine Johnson

Mr. Ward has a story to tell and I have the pleasure of telling it. I don’t think I’ve ever written about this type of health problem before. As a rule, we homo sapiens seek our doctor’s advice when we develop a health situation. This is exactly what Ward did when he developed a bright redness on his lower abdomen with itching, stinging and burning.

First, Ward consulted a dermatologist. She didn’t seem to know what the problem was (this surprises me) and referred him to his primary doctor.

His primary doctor was unavailable. However, a nice, new, young, lady doctor was seeing his patients. She took one look at Ward and said, "Oh, Mr. Ward, you have a yeast infection." She prescribed nystatin pills and cream. This is an antibiotic used primarily for yeast infections.

For several years, he was apparently free of the problem. Then he began feeling fatigued, as though every step he took was his last. His doctor checked him thoroughly – thyroid, glucose, vitamin levels and others. All tests seemed normal. Every morning he awakened to feel as if he had not slept. This continued for a while. Then one morning his abdomen was red, itching and stinging. He knew what his problem was. Actually, he has experienced four episodes of this ailment since 1994.

When these symptoms occurred in September 2016, he considered a different treatment – alternatives. His research in this respect led him to take a product called Candida Clear and apply Pau D’ Arco cream topically. He almost eliminated sugar, starches, bread, noodles, soft drinks and sweet tea from his diet. (To this day, he consumes a limited amount of these foods.) He also took probiotics to replace the good bacteria in his colon. A few days later, he was feeling well again and has had no recurrence of yeast infection. His energy level remains normal.

Candida (yeast infection) is an overgrowth of fungus in the body. It’s normal for a certain level of bacteria to be in the body. We normally have both good and bad bacteria in our intestines. Often the good bacteria are destroyed by taking antibiotics. It is wise for a person to replace good bacteria by taking probiotics after taking antibiotics. In fact, it is beneficial to take probiotics on a regular basis. (Buttermilk, cottage cheese and unpasteurized yogurt will probably provide a certain amount of good bacteria.)

Wade had taken a good bit of antibiotics without being informed of the need to replace the good bacteria. He knows now to do this. He continues to take probiotics and Pau D’ Arco daily and is experiencing no unpleasant symptoms of yeast infection.

Candida Clear helps your body maintain the normal balance and colonization of Candida albicans, support the immune system and support the intestinal tract.

Pau D’ Arco (Tabebuia heptaphylla) is a very effective immune building and antifungal herb. The tree resists fungus growth even in the middle of the rain forest. The lotion is both soothing and healing for some topical issues.

Your plants will also strongly benefit from a regular watering of a weak Pau D’ Arco tea.

For a good many years, I have taken a Pau D’ Arco capsule each day. I firmly suspect this is the reason I have not been bitten by a mosquito for a long, long time. (I have no way to confirm this.)

As usual, check with your physician before taking alternatives.

Nadine Johnson can be reached at PO Box 7425, Spanish Fort, AL 36577, by calling 251-644-5473, or by email at njherbal@gmail.com.



Another Great Year

AFC President and CEO Rivers Myres recaps a year of transition and casts a vision for future growth.


AFC President and CEO Rivers Myres addresses the company at their 80th annual meeting.

by Mary Catherine Gaston

For Alabama Farmers Cooperative Inc., its members and leaders, 2016 was a year marked by change. After an encouraging keynote address on just that topic, AFC President and CEO Rivers Myres took the stage at AFC’s 80th annual meeting in Montgomery, Feb. 22. Continuing the theme established by opening speaker Nate Booth, Myres recapped a transformative year and cast a vision for AFC’s progress through an uncertain near future.

"AFC’s willingness to embrace change over the past 80 years has been a fundamental key to our growth and success," Myres shared. "Our readiness to change and reinvent ourselves has been instilled in our culture."

Having just returned from the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives’ annual meeting, Myres described the current atmosphere of change as widespread, due, in large part, to the arrival of a new administration in Washington. He reassured members, however, that agriculture is positioned well politically as the time approaches to draft the next Farm Bill.

Myres transitioned to brief summaries of the progress of AFC’s divisions in 2016, highlighting the changes taking place throughout the organization.

"The fantastic grain storage facility we built in Florence resulted in a record amount of grain handled by AFC," he explained. "It made for a challenging year for our Grain Division, but I am excited about where we are headed."

With 26 million bushels passing through the facility, Grain experienced its fourth best year ever in terms of volume.

On the heels of the SouthFresh Aquaculture’s sixth consecutive year of profitability, Myres predicted that division would experience another successful year in 2017. The addition of a new storage freezer and upgrades at the Eutaw processing plant will help increase efficiency and decrease costs, he said.

Calling the Feed, Farm and Home Division’s reorganized warehouse in Decatur "amazing," Myres commended Eddie Roberts, division vice president, on the reorganization and inventory control updates made during the past year.

Likewise, Myres recognized Ron Bailey, vice president of Frank Currie Gin, for leading that division through another strong year, marked by gin improvements and increased customer cotton acreage.

"We’ve simply got the best gin manager in the business," Myres said.

Agri-AFC’s 2016 earnings contributed heavily to patronage AFC was able to pay this year, Myres reported. By continuing to streamline operations and improve efficiency, the division produces benefits for all AFC members.

Finally, Myres noted that perhaps the biggest change AFC underwent in 2016 was the establishment of the partnership between Bonnie Plants and ScottsMiracle-Gro.

"There is no substitute for a great start in farming," Myres said. "And we’re off to a great start in this partnership with ScottsMiracle-Gro."

Myres added that the leadership of SMG communicated their shared confidence in the relationship and amazement at what has been accomplished in a short period of time so far.

In 2016, Bonnie experienced record sales of $258 million. The new partnership also allowed AFC to retire 19 years of equity, a total of $40 million, that was passed on to cooperative members.

After Myres’ remarks, brief videos featuring each of the division heads gave attendees a look inside the various operations and details on earnings and events of the past year.

AFC Secretary-Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer Tricia Arnold echoed Myres’ positive outlook for the future of AFC in her financial report. With a slight increase in total sales, from $541.7 million in 2015 to $542.4 million in 2016, AFC enjoyed the third highest sales year in the cooperative’s history.

In all, 2016 ranked in the top ten most profitable.

"We truly strive to meet and exceed our members’ expectations on a daily basis," Arnold said, referring to AFC’s Customer Service Creed.

Before introducing the cooperative’s senior leadership, who answered a variety of questions submitted by members via video, Myres repeated sentiments voiced earlier in the business meeting by AFC board member Bill Sanders and Chairman Mike Tate. While much of the change that happened in 2016 was positive, Myres acknowledged the pain felt at the loss of a number of AFC members and leaders during 2016.

"Change can be gut-wrenching," he said, mentioning that, in particular, the loss of AFC Board Member Ted Tindal in December was one such loss.

"Ted was never self-serving," Myres added. "It will be extremely difficult to fill his place. He is certainly missed."

Board members Sam Givhan, Ben Haynes, Bill Sanders and Mike Tate, all of whose terms expired this year, were nominated for re-election and re-appointed by acclamation. The 81st annual meeting was set for Feb. 20-22, 2018.

Mary Catherine Gaston is a freelance writer from Auburn.



Anything That Can Go Wrong

by Baxter Black, DVM

"By gosh, that’s a new twist," thought Terry as he tightened his collar against the biting wind and stared at the heifer. She was trying to calve standing up! He eased up on her and dropped a loop over her horns.

She stood atop a swell on the high plains of eastern New Mexico. Terry reached her and tied 100 feet of polyethylene water skiing rope around her horns, as well. A safety line so he could at least get within 100 feet of her if she decided to take off in the 300-acre pasture.

Terry was unsuccessfully tugging on the calf’s protruding legs when his father-in-law cautiously drove up behind him.

"Got any O.B. chains?" Terry asked.

"Nope, but we could make a slip knot in that poly rope," suggested Dad, owner of the ranch and resident wiseman.

Terry soon had the yellow plastic clothesline attached to the calf’s leg. The remainder of the poly rope lay coiled ominously behind these two obstetrical wizards. It snarled and gaped like a rhino trap.

"Lemme grab some gloves outta the pickup," were Terry’s last vertical words.

He started toward the truck, but stopped when he heard the sound of thundering hooves. He glanced back over his shoulder to see the heifer sprinting towards the Colorado border! He felt something move underfoot and looked down to discover his boot dead-center of the discarded coils. A microsecond of his life flashed before his eyes just as the nest of yellow plastic snakes tightened around his ankle and jerked him off his feet!

Down the other side of the swell they sailed, Terry tobogganing like a 200-pound ham tied to a runaway buffalo! Dirt pounded up his pant legs as he scooted and skittered along trying to avoid straddling the brush and yucca that lay like land mines in the obstacle course!

Dad, ever the quick thinker, ran to the pickup and took up the chase! He had a plan. He raced alongside the dynamic duo and, at just the right moment, swerved between the heifer and Terry!

Folks. Pause for a moment and consider the possibilities. The pickup tire could have stopped on the rope. That, in fact, was the plan. But a cowboy’s fate works in mysterious ways and Murphy was waiting in the wings.

Dad did slam on the brakes, but the rope flipped over the hood and slid down behind the black iron grill guard. Terry, too, came to a stop when his foot wedged between the headlight and the grill guard. His boot came off and the heifer trotted on no worse for wear.

As Terry stood at an angle emptying 20 pounds of New Mexico soil out of his boxer shorts, he pointed out the flaws in Dad’s plan.

"Well," said Dad, "heifers that good are hard to come by and you’re just my ... well, heifers that good are hard to come by."

Baxter Black is a former large animal veterinarian who can be followed nationwide through this column, National Public Radio, public appearances, television, and also through his books, cds, videos and website, www.baxterblack.com.




April Lawn and Garden Checklist

PLANT

  • Be sure to plant enough vegetables for canning and freezing.
  • Direct sow hardy annuals outside or in pots or modules.
  • Forced flower bulbs such as hyacinths and daffodils, which have now finished flowering, can be planted outdoors in garden borders.
  • Grow a bowl of salad greens. Sow seeds or plant transplants of leaf and head lettuce in containers (or in the garden). If you stagger the planting dates, you’ll continue to enjoy fresh lettuce until the hot weather arrives.
  • Hardwood cuttings taken last year may need planting or potting now.
  • It’s time to plant warmer-season Bonnie crops such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, squash and cucumbers.
  • Lift and divide perennial plants now to improve their vigor and create new plants for your garden.
  • Make a second planting within two to three weeks of the first planting of snap beans, corn and squash. Within three to four weeks of the first planting, plant more lima beans and corn.
  • When planting corn install at least three rows. Corn is pollinated by air circulation, not by insect or animal pollinators. Planting this way will help provide more corn.
  • Now is the time for direct seeding annual flowers such as amaranth, asters, cleome, coreopsis, cosmos, flowering tobacco, marigold, petunia, sunflower, Tithonia (Mexican sunflower) and zinnias (all types).
  • Plant summer-flowering bulbs such as lilies, gladiolus and dahlias into beds, borders and containers.
  • Put in a Bonnie herb garden this month. Start your herb garden with basil, rosemary, mint and parsley.
  • Sow lawn seed now on well-prepared soil and keep the soil moist while the seed is germinating. For an instant lawn, lay new turf and ensure it is kept moist until established.
  • Grow an Easter lily. If you plant the potted houseplant in the garden after it’s bloomed, you won’t see any more flowers this year but you’ll be rewarded next summer.

FERTILIZE

  • After blooms fade, fertilize spring-flowering shrubs and trees. Azaleas, rhododendrons, dogwoods and camellias will benefit from a good application. Always carefully read and follow package directions for the proper application rate.
  • Apply a high-nitrogen fertilizer to your lawn now for a boost to start the season.
  • Apply a slow-release fertilizer around the base of blackberry canes, fruit bushes and fruit trees to encourage good crops this season.
  • Feed trees, shrubs and hedges with a balanced, slow-release fertilizer by lightly forking it into the soil surface. Roses are greedy plants and will greatly benefit from feeding as they come into growth.
  • Fertilize fall-planted garlic and other alliums with a nitrogen source, blood meal or fish fertilizer.
  • Improving soil is different from simply adding fertilizer. Although fertilizer contains key nutrients, it won’t do anything for soil structure. For that, you need to add organic matter. With a shovel, to a depth of at least 6 inches, turn in (or till) two to 4 inches of composted farmyard manure, garden compost, leaf mold (decayed leaves) or milled peat. This will give the soil the ability to hold moisture, but not so much that it becomes soggy; a texture that roots can grow into easily; air spaces, so roots get enough oxygen; and a balance of nutrients for the plants growing in it.

PRUNE

  • Continue to remove any faded flowers from the winter pansies to stop them setting seed. This will encourage flushes of new flowers throughout the spring.
  • If you haven’t done so already, finish cutting back any dead foliage left on your perennials and ornamental grasses to make way for new growth.
  • Prune spring-flowering shrubs and trees immediately after they bloom to avoid removing next season’s buds.

WATER

  • Make sure your garden is receiving at least one inch of rainfall/irrigation a week from now until fall.
  • Measure the rainfall with a rain gauge posted near the garden, but not near a building or tall plant for an accurate measurement so you can tell when to water.
  • As you do your spring planting, be sure to plan how you will water this summer. Place those requiring the most water closer to the house.
  • Remember the pots planted this spring will need to be watered daily this summer. Consider how much time you will have for watering each day before planting. Hanging baskets may need to be watered as often as twice a day in the heat of summer.

PEST CONTROL

  • Do not plant your tomatoes, peppers, potatoes or eggplants in the same place year after year. They’re all kin to one another and diseases can easily built up in the soil, so make sure to rotate your crops, even on a small scale.
  • Do not work in your garden when the foliage is wet to avoid spreading diseases from one plant to another.
  • Get rid of snails and slugs any way you can! Some ideas include hand-picking, lures and traps, beer, yeast or honey mixtures, dry dog or cat food traps, copper deterrents, scratchy things like eggshells or diatomaceous earth, ducks or snakes, predatory decollate snails, organic or chemical baits, coffee grounds, vinegar or herbal repellent/barrier.
  • Keep an eye out for pests and diseases on trees and shrubs. Be especially on the lookout for azalea lace bug on azaleas. Look on the undersides of leaves for evidence of this small sucking insect.
  • Keep on top of weeding now that the weather is warming up. Run a hoe through beds and borders. Apply weed killer to perennial weeds in paving and patios.
  • Not sure what’s bugging your plants? Your local Co-op store can help identify garden pests, as well as offer recommended controls for your area and situation. As always with crop protectants, read and follow all label directions carefully.
  • Stay on top of garden maintenance tasks. Get rid of weeds the second they’re noticed in the garden. You can help prevent weeds from popping up during the growing season by applying mulch to clean beds.
  • Use a pre-emergent herbicide (weed killer) to control grassy weeds such as crabgrass in the lawn.

ODD JOBS

  • Apply a layer of mulch around your perennials, trees and shrubs before the hot weather arrives. Use organic matter such as well-rotted manure.
  • Apply mulch to landscape beds and borders. Mulch helps conserve soil moisture and eliminate weeds, as well as provides a finished look to your property. A 2-inch layer is all you need. Keep mulch several inches away from the crowns of plants.
  • Build raised beds to take the bending out of growing vegetables.
  • Check any tree ties to make sure the tie is not cutting into the trunk. Loosen any that are tight to allow the trunk room to expand.
  • Check compost bins to see if there is any compost ready to use.
  • Clean up the patio furniture and outdoor accessories, and prepare containers for planting so you’ll be ready to enjoy the garden this spring!
  • Clear compost bin(s) by the end of the month to make room for your own garden debris and all the grass clippings you will pick up from the curbs of your neighborhood!
  • Cultivate to control weeds and grass, to break crusty soil and to provide aeration.
  • Dig in a 2-inch (or more) layer of compost, well-rotted manure or green waste into beds to prepare for the growing season.
  • Harvest cool-season crops regularly; keep them watered and weeded.
  • Honeysuckle and clematis will be putting on growth; tie in new stems to train the plant along its support.
  • If any garden plants need supporting this year, put the supports in now so the plants grow up through them. Adding supports afterward is difficult and may damage the plant.
  • If you haven’t already, give the greenhouse a thorough scrub with hot soapy water to get rid of pests and diseases, and to let in more light.
  • Keep adding kitchen scraps and grass clippings to your compost pile.
  • Let the foliage of spring-flowering bulbs fully ripen before removing them. Allowing the leaves to naturally yellow and wither helps bulbs store needed energy for next year’s flowers. Unattractive, yellowing foliage can be tucked around other emerging perennials, or plant annuals in the flower bed to keep the garden looking neat and pretty.
  • Maintain mulch between garden rows to keep down weeds.
  • Make sure birdbaths and bird feeders are kept full to encourage birds to your garden.
  • Mulch around the base of cool-season crops to keep their roots cool and moist.
  • Mulch fruit trees with well-rotted manure or garden compost, taking care not to mound mulch around the trunk. Top-dress patio dwarf fruit trees with fresh compost and a slow-release fertilizer.
  • Recut lawn edges to straighten them up. Try installing lawn edging to make future maintenance easier.
  • Remove dirt from your paths and paving before summer arrives. Use a pressure washer or special patio cleaner.
  • Replenish your mulch!
  • Select new azalea and rhododendron bushes while they’re in bloom to make sure the color complements your landscape.
  • Tie in climbing and rambling roses to supports.
  • Top up raised beds with compost and good-quality topsoil.
  • Use a garden journal to keep track of which seeds you are sowing and when they were sown and planted out - it really helps later in the year.
  • Winter is finally over and everywhere you turn in the garden there is so much to do you can’t decide where to start. When you finally get in gear, don’t overdo it! Unless you’ve been exercising inside, it’s probably been a few months since you gave those muscles, joints and bones a good workout. Start slowly to avoid a serious injury.


Azaleas of Alabama

Be on the lookout for the native varieties of this beautiful landscape jewel.

by Tony Glover

A Florida flame azalea at Callaway Gardens in Georgia.

Native azaleas, often called wild honeysuckle bushes because of their incredible fragrance, are starting their annual appearance across Alabama. As a group, they are called deciduous azaleas. There are several native species found from the mountains of North Alabama all the way to the Gulf Coast. Native azaleas such as the pink Piedmont Azalea, blooming now in much of its Alabama range, are at least as beautiful as their non-native evergreen cousins and, as mentioned, are much more fragrant. They are greatly underused in the Southern landscape. Some such as the Florida flame azalea have unusual yellow to orange and orange-red flowers. Most are either native to Alabama or will grow well in most areas of our state. The individual florets are trumpet-shaped and usually borne in large terminal clusters. Identification of native azaleas can be difficult because of the similarities among species. Natural hybridization has complicated the matter by producing many intermediate forms with unusual flower colors.

Many Southerners first encountered native deciduous azaleas while walking in the woods. They may have spotted the pink, fragrant, delicate flowers of the Piedmont azalea (Rhododendron canescens) or the orange-yellow blooms of the Florida flame azalea (R. austrinum). Maybe it was the white, yellow-blotched and lemon-scented flowers of our namesake Alabama azalea (R.alabamense). Alabama azalea may not have the showiest flower, but may be the most fragrant of all the native azaleas.

A more recently discovered native Alabama azalea is the Red Hills azalea (R. colemanii). It is somewhat like the Alabama azalea, although it blooms a month later, has a wider color range and is found in drier soils.

However, the latest blooming of all the deciduous azaleas is the beautiful Plumleaf azalea (R. prunifolium) that shows its bright-orange to deep-red flowers in late summer all the way through to Labor Day in most years. The flowers attract hummingbirds, but they are not very fragrant.

Although these azaleas are generally found in well-drained but rich, moist soils, you may find one species growing in nearby swamps, hence the name swamp azalea (R. viscosum). To view some beautiful examples of these native jewels, visit www.aces.edu/go/671.

In addition to the aforementioned soil conditions, deciduous azaleas do best with morning sun and afternoon shade to enhance blooming and reduce stress. Add a 3-inch layer of mulch to protect the shallow root system. A light application of slow-release azalea fertilizer just after blooming should be sufficient to keep them growing and blooming. If your soil is not well-drained, consider planting in a raised bed or individual mounds or try the swamp azalea for these sites.

As woody-area landscape specimens, deciduous azaleas are a wonderful addition. They do best when left unpruned and allowed to maintain an open natural habit. Deciduous azaleas are not always available in nurseries but ask for them. This will encourage nurseries to stock a wider selection. Some plants that may be more readily available are named cultivars and native hybrids, developed or selected for some superior quality.

If you can’t find these wonderful plants at a local mom-and-pop nursery, be on the lookout for spring plant sales at your nearest botanical gardens or native plant society, and support them by purchasing plants from them.

Tony A. Glover is a County Extension Coordinator in Cullman County.



Big Buck Blend Deer Feed

by John Sims

If you want that big buck this fall, you have to grow him and his new set of antlers this spring and summer. Big Buck Blend Deer Feed is formulated for Southeastern deer, consuming our unique forage and browse. We offer two products in the BBB feed line: 16 Point and 20% Rack Developer.

16 Point is a pelleted feed with twice the protein (16 percent) of corn and the correct calcium-to-phosphorous ratio for proper antler growth. It has a full vitamin and mineral package, including chelated zinc, copper and manganese. This is a high-energy feed for promoting weight gain as well as milk production. We added persimmon flavoring to attract deer and boost the palatability of the feed.

20% Rack Developer is a pelleted feed with a very high protein for building big racks, strong bones and muscles in your deer. Rack Developer has the same basic features of 16 Point feed (vitamins/minerals, high energy, persimmon flavor and low fiber levels), but has a higher protein level.

Whether you are growing antlers, growing big bodies or supplementing lactating does, you can boost your deer performance with Big Buck Blend Deer Feed. Don’t forget to check out the great selection of deer feeders at your local Quality Co-op store.

John Sims is a products specialist for AFC’s Feed, Farm & Home department. He can be contacted at 256-260-3433 or johns@alafarm.com.




Brazilian Plantations to Alabama Hay Fields

Sisal baler twine makes a long journey to your farm.

Figure 1. Sisal plant leaves are considered mature when they fall to a horizontal position.

by Rusty Woy

Legend tells of a Mayan prince traveling through the Yucatan Peninsula when he was spiked and severely injured by a native agave plant with long, sword-like leaves. In his rage, he ordered the plant flogged as punishment! The executioner literally beat the plant to a pulp revealing the long, sinewy fibers, making famous what is known today as sisal.

Hernan Cortez, on his way to conquering the Aztec Empire in 1521 and winning Mexico for the Spanish Crown, paved the way for exportation of agave and other goods from what became the Spanish Colonial Port of Sisal in Yucatan – thus the name SISAL.

Agave sisal naturalized to various parts of the world; however, it was not until the 19th century that sisal cultivation spread to Florida, the Caribbean Islands, Brazil, Asia and Africa, notably Tanzania and Kenya.

Sisal plants grow in arid land with medium-quality soil and, because plantations are independent of irrigation, it is important for Mother Nature to supply adequate amounts of moisture. It takes five or six years for plants to mature. Leaves are considered mature when they fall to a horizontal position. (Fig. 1) Only four to six leaves become horizontal at the same time on each plant. They are promptly cut and it takes another month or two before the next four to six leaves fall.

Consequently, about 15-16 leaves per plant are harvested annually. If leaves are not cut at the proper time, the plant throws up a stalk instead of leaves. This is the death of the plant and will affect others in the vicinity if not removed immediately.

The first commercial plantings in Brazil were made in the late 1930s and the first sisal fiber exports from there were made in 1948. Not until the 60s did Brazilian production accelerate and the first of many spinning mills were established making Brazil the leading producer of sisal fiber and twine.

Advancement in methods of production has been slow. Harvesting of sisal fiber remains labor intensive and is most often conducted on large plantations in hot, dry conditions using machetes, pack mules (Fig. 2), wagons and a dangerous (non-OSHA approved) machine called a decorticator. (Fig. 3) This portable device was developed to grind pulp off the leaf and expose the fibers. Needless to say, you don’t want to get your hand caught up in this bad boy!

Figure 2

Figure 3

At the factory, fibers are hung over fences and rails to dry out before grading and processing. (Fig. 4) Upon inspection, operators position fiber inside the mill to begin four stages of combing, spinning, twisting and winding. (Fig. 5)

Figure 4

Figure 5

Figure 6

The three basic sizes of sisal baler twine – 7,200, 9,000 and 16,000 – are then packaged, stacked, wrapped and strapped onto skids (Fig. 6) and loaded into 40-foot ocean containers. Transit time from this point at the factory in Brazil is anywhere from 30-60 days before landing at a U.S. port; hence, the reason your local Quality Co-op requires orders months in advance of delivery. In fact, it is quite possible the twine you bale with this summer was a sisal leaf cut with a machete 12 months earlier!

Due to its supply instability, sisal has always been susceptible to wide fluctuations in price from year to year. This presents risky challenges to those in the game and makes the case as to why the Co-op system benefits YOU, the farmer, through its strong dealer network by spreading that risk across the board.

Most recently, Alabama Farmers Cooperative Inc. partnered with Tytan International, a leading supplier of not only sisal baler twine but also poly twine and net wrap with factories overseas and in the United States.

Stop by your local Quality Co-op store and discover the full range of crop packaging products it stocks.

Looking for something unique? Additional twine and net is located in the Decatur warehouse for backup access. Weekly truck routes deliver products to all Co-op locations. Simply ask one of our trained associates and visit us online at www.alafarm.com.

Rusty Woy is a sales rep with Tytan International.



Corn Time






CowPokes







Diagnostic Laboratory Accreditation - Who Needs It

by Dr. Tony Frazier

Before I really get into this article, there is a word I need to define. The word is necropsy. Most of you will associate the word with autopsy. In the world of veterinary medicine, we use the word necropsy because when you break the word down it has two roots. The first root is "necr," meaning dead. The second is "opsy." It means to examine or observe. Thus necropsy means to examine the dead. If you look at the origin of the word auto, it comes from a Greek work meaning self. So when you break down the word autopsy, it means to observe or examine self. I think that is a pretty fair challenge if you are dead. Therefore, veterinarians use the word necropsy. Now, I can begin my article.

When I was in veterinary practice, it was not uncommon for me to perform a necropsy on a client’s animal that died from some unknown cause. Sometimes, I could make the diagnosis right there on the spot when a calf died from blackleg or a horse died from a twisted intestine. But there were other times that when looking at the deceased animal’s carcass didn’t yield a diagnosis, so I would collect tissues and send to the lab at Auburn for further testing. And while we didn’t always get a diagnosis, we usually ruled out several possibilities. Either way gave my clients valuable information and it was a learning experience for me. And did I mention that my laboratory was usually in the middle of somebody’s pasture?

I still believe in the value of a private practicing veterinarian performing necropsies on a farm. But there are at least a couple of reasons that using our diagnostic laboratories may, at least sometimes, be a better option. First, there is an economic aspect for the veterinarian. If I had to drive 30 minutes to your farm, do a necropsy that took an hour and drove another half hour back to my clinic, I would need to charge you a fair chunk of change for my two hours. Personally, I didn’t charge what the time was actually worth because usually one of my clients had lost economically and maybe emotionally, so I generally absorbed some loss myself. The second reason to use one of our diagnostic laboratories is that they are able to be consistent in not only performing necropsies but on all the tests they perform. The field necropsy still has a place in the food chain, but consistency is often a challenge. Often the pasture environment makes it easy to contaminate samples being taken for microbiological or virology testing. In addition, I might have performed the necropsy on your prize bull and then got four other farm calls before I could get back to the clinic to prepare the tissue samples for shipping to Auburn.

As I said, the field necropsy has its place in veterinary medicine and I encourage any veterinarian who wishes to do them to go right ahead. It has value to both you and your client. (Now, here’s the big transition in the article.) However, when someone uses one of our diagnostic laboratories, you should expect and we should provide a much higher standard. That is why, for the past few years, we have pursued and continue to pursue accreditation for our diagnostic laboratories.

In 2011, the lab at Auburn was granted accreditation by the American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians. That was the culmination of a vision Dr. Fred Hoerr had for the lab. It was the result of hours and hours of work by the lab personnel to ensure the quality and consistency of the work done by the laboratory. The AAVLD review committee makes sure the lab has a set of written Standard Operating Procedures for everything they do and that they adhere to those Procedures.

You have probably heard the definition of insanity is to continually do the same thing and to expect different results. We take a variation of that principle and say that if you do the exact same thing the exact same way every time, your results should be consistent. In other words, we try to take as many variables out of the equation as possible. That way, we have tremendous confidence that, if a test for a disease is negative, the disease is not present. And the same goes for positive results. In a state where animal agriculture and companion animal veterinary medicine is so important to our economy, we can’t afford to provide inconsistent results.

Maintaining accreditation requires not only consistency in every step of diagnostic process, from how we receive carcasses or tissue and serum samples to how we report the results, but also how we maintain equipment and handle reagents and chemicals. The whole process can be very tedious and the amount of recordkeeping is formidable, to say the least. But, in the end, we can stand behind the diagnostic information we provide to our clients.

This past November, the AAVLD accreditation committee reviewed the lab at Auburn and the branch lab at Boaz. Both were granted full accreditation. Because of some needed facility updates and recent changes in staff, our branch labs at Elba and Hanceville were not included in the November review. However, both of those labs are working toward accreditation as soon as possible. The accreditation at Auburn and Boaz was not something that could be done without all the personnel being onboard and dedicated to making it happen. It was almost like having two full-time jobs. One was to prepare for accreditation and the other was to continue to do the day-to-day work at our diagnostic laboratories.

Finally, I know some of you who are reading this article want to ask me about the long turnaround time experienced by some of our clients in the past. My answer is that we have been able to improve our turnaround times and continue to focus on getting our results back in the hands of our clients as soon as possible. Many of you may remember back in spring 2011 that we experienced some deep budget cuts. The Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries lost about a fourth of our employees, with several of them being from our diagnostic laboratory system. We have been able to replace some of those positions and continue to work to add key personnel at the lab that will shorten the time from submission to when you get your final results. But, because of the accreditation process, you can know the results that come out of our laboratory system are backed up by a strict quality assurance program.


Dr. Tony Frazier is the State Veterinarian for Alabama. You can contact him at 334-240-7253.




Do You Fight or Embrace These Weeds?

Notice the landing strip on the henbit flowers, signaling the beneficial insects where to land.

by Herb Farmer

Most of the last 30 days of winter were spent processing certain edible plants. A couple of those plants are considered by some folks to be

weeds. Other folks call them ephemeral wildflowers. I call them all three. Oh, the third description is food.

Chickweed, henbit and dandelion are three of my favorite winter wildflowers in that they offer a welcoming splash of color when the ground is still brown and gray.

Although most folks think of these plants as weeds, they are truly beneficial in many ways. When they are young and tender, these plants are at their peak of flavor for salads. When the plants flower, they provide food for beneficial insects – bees and parasitic wasps feed on their nectar. When allowed to mature and finish their lifecycle, the plants benefit the soil.

Let’s take chickweed (Stellaria media), for example. Combine with baby mesclun, julienned mustard leaves, dandelion greens and a few chopped stevia leaves, and you have a mouth-watering salad that needs no dressing.

OK, so the edibles I processed were mustard, chickweed and dandelion (both greens and roots).

The mustard is so in abundance this season that I shared all I could as fresh leaves, then I decided to preserve some in the freezer. For short-term preservation, it is OK to freeze without blanching. By short term, I mean a month or less.

Wash your mustard leaves thoroughly, then cut away the large part of the center stem. Pat the leaves dry and lay them out in a single layer on wax paper. Stack each layer of leaves on wax paper on baking sheet and place in coldest part of the freezer to flash freeze. When frozen, place the stacked layers in a large sealable freezer bag. Remove as much air as possible. Store them in the freezer and remove the layers of leaves as needed.

For longer-term storage, it will be necessary to blanch your mustard leaves. Wash the leaves and remove the large stems. Place the leaves in a large stockpot of boiling water for two minutes. Remove the leaves and immediately place in an ice water bath for two minutes. Squeeze out (wring out) the water and pat the leaves dry. Place in storage bags and remove the excess air. Freeze them right away.

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) greens are a bit more labor intensive. You have to treat them like pokeweed. Well, the blanching process is the same as any other vegetable. But you have to soak the leaves in boiled water for 5-10 minutes three times, changing the boiled hot water each time in order to cook them. Dandelion greens are very bitter unless you do this first.

Although I have not tried this, dandelion roots can be roasted, chopped and stored in airtight containers. There are mentions of dandelion root coffee on the internet, but it doesn’t sound exciting enough for me to try it. Should you decide to make some, please email me and let me know how you like it.

Chickweed is an underestimated and underappreciated edible wild plant.

Now, how about some tea? Chickweed tea, that is. Chickweed tea is made by boiling water and adding the herb to the teapot after the water is poured for steeping. Use two tablespoons of dried chickweed or three tablespoons of fresh. Steep for five minutes; then pour through a strainer into teacups. Steep with parched yaupon (Ilex vomitoria) leaves for a caffeine lift and stevia (Stevia rebaudiana) leaves for natural sweetener. That gets me going every time!

Here’s a quick note in response to an email I got from John, a veterinarian from Dadeville.

Dear John, (sorry, doctor, I’m sure you’ve heard that one before) your return email address was kicked back, so here is what I wrote. Yaupon holly is simply Ilex vomitoria. Most landscape centers and garden shops stock some variety or another of the plants. In fact, I believe it grows wild in your neck of the woods. It seems like the northernmost region of occurrence is Tallapoosa, Lee and Montgomery counties, as I recall. The native yaupon is an upright variety of shrub or tree. It’s evergreen and can reach a height of over 20 feet. Nurseries carry the dwarf varieties and sometimes weeping yaupons that are tree types like the natives. Weeping yaupons have downward-turning or weeping branches. Both weeping and dwarfs make nice landscape plants. Moore & Davis Nursery, a nursery in Shorter, specializes in trees and shrubs. They are a wholesale nursery, but will probably be able to direct you to a place where you can purchase the plants. Also, Southern Growers in Montgomery usually stocks these plants.

Now it’s time for lunch. I think I’ll have some vegetable soup and a bologna sandwich. Those are two of the simple pleasures of my life.

Don’t fight those weeds, embrace them! Eat your yard! I eat mine.

Until next time, remember to watch your salt and sugar, drink plenty of pure water and breathe in and out!

Thanks for reading!

For more information, email me at farmerherb@gmail.com. I’ll answer your questions and I enjoy the emails!

Be sure to find me on Facebook at Herb Farmer-The Herb Farm.

As always, check with an expert, like your doctor, before using any herbal remedy.




Earl







Extension Corner: Live Well Alabama

Encouraging Healthy Lifestyles Through Social Media

by Brittany Dobbs

Live Well Alabama is a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – Education initiative developed by the Alabama Cooperative Extension System at Auburn University. The new initiative was launched in early 2017 to better reach residents across the state with research-based education. Live Well Alabama that focuses on nutrition and physical activity can now easily be found on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

"Our goal is to raise awareness of healthy lifestyle choices through the more readily accessible avenue of social media," said Sondra Parmer, Alabama Extension specialist with the Nutrition Education Program. "Through the campaign, we hope individuals with limited budgets will make healthy food choices and choose physically active lifestyles."

The initiative features educational and research-based content developed by Alabama SNAP-Ed. Alabama residents will find budget-friendly recipes; how-to videos; tips for nutrition, fitness and food safety; and other content as the initiative continues to grow. Innovative childhood-obesity-prevention measures, social-marketing campaigns and community-health strategies will also be featured across social-media platforms.

NEP, synonymous with SNAP-Ed, is commonly known as food assistance (formerly food stamps). Considerable efforts have been made to target SNAP-Ed to food-assistance participants and other individuals with limited resources in all Alabama counties.

To magnify SNAP-Ed’s impact, social-media efforts will encourage four specific outcomes: making better food choices, engaging in physical activity, preparing food safely and planning meals ahead.

"It is now with the introduction of Live Well Alabama across social media that the information provided by NEP will be more accessible for those across Alabama," said Barb Struempler, Alabama Extension nutrition specialist and program leader.

To follow the initiative, visit facebook.com/livewellalabama, twitter.com/livewellalabama and pinterest.com/livewellalabama. Contact your county Extension office for more information.

Brittany Dobbs is with Alabama Extension NEP.



FFA Sentinel: Telling Our FFA Story

Will Jordan, Central District FFA President, conducting opening ceremonies at the 2016 FFA Central District Fall Eliminations.

FFA Member Spotlight – Will Jordan

by Will Jordan

From time to time, it is important for us closely associated with the National FFA Organization or for those of us who were FFA members to remember who the FFA organization is for. Every once in a while it is important for our members to tell their FFA story in the hopes it sparks an interest in those younger and a sense of pride for those who are older. An organization that believes in premier leadership, personal growth and career success, and, in this edition, the story comes from the 2016-2017 Central District FFA President Will Jordan, Central High School of Clay County FFA Chapter. This is his story thus far:

When I was little, I would go to my Pop’s (grandfather’s) house and we would watch RFD-TV. I remember seeing people on stage wearing the iconic blue corduroy FFA jacket. I did not know who those people were, but I did know I wanted one of those jackets. As I grew older, I learned what the National FFA Organization was. However, there was a problem. I went to a private school that did not offer FFA.

After a lot of praying and some hard decisions, I transferred to Central High School of Clay County and started eighth grade in public school.

Although changing schools was hard, the rewards of being able to compete in FFA Career Development Events were worth the adjustment period I had to endure. It was while competing in the Central District CDE Eliminations in eighth grade that I learned about District FFA Officers. Right then, I knew I wanted to be president of the Central District.

The whole idea of being an officer for the FFA was alluring and ignited a passion within my very soul for FFA. The journey was just beginning for me and what an exciting ride it would become in a very short period of time.

Confirmation about my desire to become not only an FFA officer but a state officer rang clear when I heard William Norris, state president in 2014, speak at the first FFA Convention I had the privilege to attend. His words and watching the state officer team really excited me and reaffirmed my decision about wanting to run for office. It was while watching that state officer team’s enthusiasm on the convention stage that I was reaffirmed of my goal of becoming a FFA officer above the chapter level.

When I was in the 10th grade, I met William Norris and he helped me prepare for district officer interviews. At last, interview day came and I was named Central District FFA President! While William may have helped my get a spot on the team, my daily life helped me be ready for it.

Will Jordan, right, had the opportunity to meet the National FFA Officer Team at the national convention.

I have always lived on a farm, and some of my earliest memories are of horses and cattle. This lifestyle and my family heritage of agriculture is what set me up for success, not only in FFA but life thus far. Through raising and showing cattle I have learned responsibility and work ethic, traits that have been vital while serving the Central District. Also, I have gained interpersonal skills through the founding and operation of my business, Jordan Livestock Feeders. If it were not for agriculture and the FFA, I would not be who I am today. I have found, through FFA, I have become more confident in public speaking and more assertive in my decision making.

Often I find myself in conversations about agriculture. Usually I try to highlight my three priorities in life: faith, family and farming. Without my savior Jesus Christ, and the wonderful family He has given me, I would not be as successful as I am.

If I have learned anything while being a servant-leader in the FFA, it is that it takes a team effort. I have been blessed with many friendships through this great organization; friendships that will truly last forever. FFA has forever impacted who and what I have become and plan to be in the future.

FFA members across the state share Jordan’s passion for the traditions of the national blue and corn gold. It is important for FFA members to share their FFA stories and their passion with other members and our communities. The district and state officers are charged with sharing the vision and mission of FFA, and acting as advocates for agriculture. FFA members like Jordan inspire other members to see FFA as an opportunity to grow as leaders and agriculturists.

Will Jordan is the Central District FFA President.



Florida’s Little Miss U.S. Agriculture & Future Little Miss U.S. Agriculture

Sisters Win State Titles

Lexie Smith, Florida Future Little Miss United States Agriculture

Leah Smith, Florida Little Miss United States Agriculture

Lexie, 6, and Leah, 7, Smith both won titles in their age groups for Santa Rosa County and then won the state pageant. They both finished first runner-up in the national pageant. Although they have won these and numerous other titles, they’re especially proud of their Florida Future Little Miss United States Agriculture and Florida Miss United States Agriculture, respectively.

Their father is a farmer and their grandfather, Lewie Joe Smith, is a board member of Jay Peanut Farmers Co-op. Their grandmother, Lisa Lane, is the bookkeeper at Jay.

"It’s a wonderful pageant system that helps to promotes agriculture," Lisa said.




Future AFC Leader Chosen as Manager of the Year

He may be young, but Quality Cooperative’s general manager has proven he’s got the right stuff to lead in challenging times.

AFC’s President Rivers Myres, left, presents the 2016 E.P. Garrett Manager of the Year plaque to Ryan Williams, general manager of Quality Co-op, during AFC’s 80th annual meeting.

by Mary Catherine Gaston

"Loyal." "Innovative." "Progressive." Ask folks who know him to describe Ryan Williams, general manager of Quality Cooperative Inc. in Greenville and recipient of the 2016 E.P. Garrett Manager of the Year award, and these are a few of the words you’re likely to hear.

"When I hired Ryan, I noticed there was something special about him," said Chris Casey, general manager of Jay Peanut Farmers Co-op and the award’s 2015 recipient.

Williams got his start with Alabama Farmers Cooperative Inc. as a management trainee working for Casey, then general manager of Altha Farmers Co-op in Altha.

"Ryan has a good head on his shoulders. He’s even-keeled," Casey said. "I’d tell him to do something, and he’d go get it done – and he’d do it right."

Furthermore, Casey said, he often didn’t even have to tell Williams what to do, because the young man showed initiative, taking it upon himself to complete tasks he knew needed doing.

That’s why, after just a few weeks under Casey’s supervision at Altha, Williams was sent to take over as branch manager at Altha’s store in Marianna. Casey said he needed someone there he knew he could trust.

By his second year at Marianna, Williams had turned that location into a profitable one. Under his leadership, the store’s gross margins improved every year.

When the opportunity to become a general manager presented itself, Williams was ready. In 2010, he took over the struggling Greenville location.

"It was a bleak picture," AFC President and CEO Rivers Myres said.

According to Myres, by embracing change and bringing positive energy to his team, Williams was able to transform Quality Co-op into a store that’s not only profitable but thriving. Within five years, sales at the location had risen 178 percent, gross margins had nearly doubled and working capital had improved by $820,000. Moreover, patron equity had grown 175 percent to $1.3 million.

As impressive as all of this is, do not expect to hear Williams boast about the work he does day-in and day-out. Instead, he gives credit to those who helped him achieve the success he’s now enjoying.

"Thanks to Chris Casey for giving me a job 10 years ago – for seeing something in me I didn’t see in myself," Williams said after receiving the surprise honor at AFC’s 80th annual membership meeting in February. He also thanked Ashley, his wife of a little over a year, who he calls "a great listener and supporter."

Ryan was surrounded by his family at the annual meeting when he was announced as Manager of the Year. From left are Jimmie and Becky Jones, Ashley Jones-Williams, Ryan, Nancy and Ronnie Williams, and Megan Williams.

Williams thanked the Quality Co-op Board of Directors, a group he said has been "nothing but supportive" of him, giving him the reins and trusting him to do what needed to be done to turn the store around.

One Quality board member who was not able to attend the February event was Ted Tindal, who passed away in December.

"I was so grateful Mrs. Judy [Tindal] was able to be there at the banquet," Williams said. "This award would have meant the world to Mr. Ted. When I looked out and saw Mrs. Judy there, I started to get choked up."

Williams was able to recover and did not stop thanking folks before giving credit to his staff, who he describes as a great team. A former Alabama Southern Community College basketball player himself, Williams knows the value of teamwork.

"We have a good working environment, and each person knows his responsibilities and does them," he said. "They deserve this award as much as I do."

Not a product of an agricultural background or an ag school, the Conecuh County native and son of two lifelong educators described himself as an "underdog" when he entered AFC’s management trainee program.

"I had a lot to learn when I started out – still do," Williams said, explaining that, though he considers his degree in business administration and marketing from Troy University an excellent foundation for what he now does, he entered an ag-related career with very little knowledge about agriculture.

So, he set about educating himself the best ways he knew how, reading as much as he could about farming and AFC in his free time, asking lots of questions and listening carefully – both when his customers were talking to him and when they were conversing with each other.

"I just picked up as much as I could early on," he said.

The knowledge he’s gained has certainly paid off. Truth be told, attaining AFC’s highest honor was a goal he set the day he landed his job as a general manager.

To be eligible for the award, one must have been in a general manager position for a minimum of five years at the same location and have recorded a profit for five consecutive years. 2016 was Williams’ first year of eligibility for the award.

"I knew it was the first year I was eligible, but I didn’t think there was any way I’d win it," he said.

One reason for that is the unique market his Quality Co-op serves. Although the surrounding area was once dominated by agriculture, that is no longer the case. Williams and his staff serve a customer base that is predominantly suburban nowadays – not your typical Co-op crowd.

The market he’s in has forced Williams to think outside the box, offering more products that appeal to the gardener and homeowner than you’ll find at the usual Co-op. He has introduced popular brands to the store and seen them prove quite appealing to his customers. He’s also made effective use of Facebook to promote the store; a move Myres commended him for in his remarks before announcing the recipient of the award.

"Ryan is going to be one of our future leaders in AFC," Myres said.

As such, Williams offers a few pieces of advice to those who, like him, have their hearts set on excelling at what they do – especially if that’s leading an AFC retail location.

"Treat people right. Be a man of your word. Be personal with people. That’s more than half the battle," he said. "Once you gain someone’s trust, everything else will take care of itself. If you treat people right, service what you sell and stand behind your word, that goes a long way."

Mary Catherine Gaston is a freelance writer from Auburn.




Hooked on Longhorns

2016 Texas Longhorn Breeder of the Year Nancy Dunn is leading the charge to increase the popularity of this unique cattle breed in the Southeast.

Nancy Dunn checks in on her heifers.

by Rebecca Oliver

Texas Longhorn cattle aren’t common in the Southeast but that didn’t stop Nancy Dunn, the 2016 Texas Longhorn Breeder of the Year, from becoming hooked on the breed at her Rolling D Ranch in Eclectic.

In 1989, Dunn decided to purchase a few longhorn heifers to practice with for roping competitions and fell in love with the cattle. Since then she’s been fine-tuning her breeding program to develop the best in the breed.

Dunn was voted the 2016 Dave Evans Breeder of the Year by Texas Longhorn Breeders Association of America for her positive promotion of the longhorn breed by the association’s members.

The cattle Dunn produces have developed a reputation for dominating shows across the nation and bringing top sellers to breed auctions.

"I’m always surprised when my cattle do well," Dunn said. "I do my best to make sure they look good, but you never really know how you’re going to do until it’s over."

Dunn has broken breed show history twice by sweeping first, second and third place honors with her cattle at major futurity shows.

"The first time I did it the announcer said he’d never seen it happen before and would never see it happen again; then he had to take that back when it did happen again," Dunn laughed.

The cattle are rated by a panel of judges who score the cattle individually. The scores from the judges are combined and averaged after eliminating the highest and lowest score to eliminate the possibility of any favoritism.

Dunn has brought several awards back home to Alabama, but the awards aren’t your typical trophies.

Nancy’s longhorns are home on the range at Rolling D Ranch.

It’s a tradition for winners at longhorn breed shows to be awarded something more fitting of the Wild West background of longhorns – a shotgun.

"I’ve won quite a few shotguns with my cattle," Dunn said. "It’s become a thing among the people I show with that I’m going to take all the guns home at the shows I come to."

She attributes her success to simply breeding the cattle the way she likes them best.

"I don’t breed for any single characteristic," she explained. "I breed for a full package."

Dunn breeds not just for the iconic horns the breed is known for but also for body confirmation, milking ability and wild color patterns.

There’s no way to predict what coloring a calf will have from the pairing of its parents.

"It’s just a gamble you have to take," she remarked.

Dunn has manipulated other characteristics of the cattle over the years to perfect her stock.

"What you miss in one breeding season you try for again in the next. I’m always looking to improve," she said.

There are many variances in longhorn traits from their horns to color patterns. Dunn’s personal favorite trait is Texas Twist horns that curl back towards the animal’s body on the ends.

Most people mistakenly believe longhorns are dangerous because of their horns, but the docile nature of longhorns is one of the things that prompted her to keep the first set of longhorn heifers and start a breeding program.

Dunn’s show cattle are not lead on halters. Longhorns are viewed by judges at shows as they walk by them in a pen, but that doesn’t mean her cattle aren’t gentle.

Longhorns are known for their wild color patterns and horns.

"I spend a lot of time with my cattle every day," Dunn said. "They all act like pets."

Another common misconception about the longhorn breed is that they don’t carry as much weight as English breeds of cattle. Dunn takes pride in the extra meat her cattle have.

Dunn credits the conditioning on her cattle to the feed purchased at Elmore County Co-op.

"It’s a good, consistent feed," Dunn said. "When I travel to shows, I need my cattle to eat so there can’t be any changes in the feed mix from week to week."

Dunn has developed friendships with breeders at the shows she attends and has become known as a source of information for new breeders.

Dunn recommends that those looking to become first-time longhorn buyers should always visit more than one farm to see as many cattle as possible.

"You’ve got to figure out what you like," Dunn explained. "You won’t know what a good longhorn looks like by just looking at one set of cattle because there’s so many different traits people focus on in their breeding programs."

Dunn sells replacement heifers and bulls to other longhorn breeders and has developed a reputation as a reliable source for proven longhorn genetics among her peers.

Dunn has served on the TLBAA Board of Directors and is working to make longhorns more popular in the Southeast.

"They’re a hardy breed and do well in this climate," Dunn said. "I hate to see people not take advantage of what this breed has to offer."

Dunn’s ultimate goal is to continuously improve her herd with each breeding season to contribute to the progress of the longhorn breed.

"These cattle hold a special place in my heart," Dunn concluded. "There’s no better way to start and end the day than by feeding my longhorns."

Rebecca Oliver is a freelance writer from Auburn.



How's Your Garden?

by Lois Trigg Chaplin

Made with Cake Flower

Try clean, fresh flowers for decorating a cake.

One quick way to decorate a cake is to carefully place a few fresh flowers atop the frosting. Just be sure to use flowers that aren’t harmful and haven’t been treated with pesticides. This is not to suggest that you eat the flowers, they are primarily for decoration, but you would want to choose some that aren’t harmful. Some edible flowers include lavender, rose, pansy, nasturtium, daylily, dill, chives, chrysanthemum, bachelor’s button, dandelion, citrus blossom, bee balm and marigold. Simply clip them from the garden and place them at the last minute so the cake is cut before the blossoms wilt without stems in water.

Pots Are Easy When Set Up Correctly

Plants growing in containers are easy to manage and keep handy near your door, but remember they do depend on you for soil, food and water. Give them the best so they will grow well. Always use a premium potting mix for whatever you plant in the pot because potting mixes are especially blended to provide the proper balance of air and water, critical for good root growth. A container doesn’t hold water as long as the ground and will need to be watered more often. One way to simplify watering is to set a pot up on a drip system with a timer so it takes care of itself. Because nutrients are often washed out of a pot by frequent watering include timed-release fertilizer in the soil when potting.

Stretch Out Tomato Season

Plant early-, midseason- and late-maturing tomatoes for a long harvest season.

Enjoy tomatoes the longest time possible by planting early- and late-maturing varieties, including determinate and indeterminate types. You’ll know you’re doing well if you stretch your harvest to the point where you’ll feel guilty leaving plants for vacation. Mix it up with early-bearing varieties such as Early Girl, Celebrity or Better Bush for the first harvests, and Better Boy, Big Boy and Bonnie Original or Super Fantastic, Black Krim and Roma types for the main season, followed by the biggest tomatoes such as Cherokee Purple, Brandywine and German Queen that need two or three weeks longer to produce the first ripe fruit. If you spray to protect against diseases and water steadily with drip irrigation to prevent fruit cracking, you’ll be in tomato heaven from June until nearly Thanksgiving. You may also have a big harvest of green tomatoes to bring indoors before the final killing frost.

Citrus Trees Need Special Food

Whether you are growing citrus in the ground in South Alabama or in a container elsewhere, now is the time to fertilize your trees with citrus food if you have not already done so. Citrus needs a special fertilizer containing magnesium, manganese, zinc and iron, as well as the more common nutrients found in most complete fertilizers – nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. Without these extra nutrients, the leaves will be yellow and the plant will not thrive; so go the extra mile and give these little trees what they need to produce a good crop. One great thing about citrus is that they hold their quality on the tree for weeks, getting sweeter and more flavorful. Our 3-year-old kumquat in a 20-inch pot offered 6 pounds of delicious kumquats last December and January. Our satsuma yielded 27 very sweet, delicious fruit last year in a 20-inch pot. The fruit was so much more flavorful than store-bought because it stayed on the tree until I was ready to eat it. Meyer lemon will load up with blossoms and then drop many of them naturally, so don’t be spooked by that. Finding citrus in nurseries is getting easier these days, especially in early spring. Look for full, healthy trees with a good leader or main stem that will grow into a small trunk. With good care your tree will live for years and just get bigger and better. At some point you may even need a hand truck to move it into the garage or greenhouse for the winter. That is success!!

Save Yourself a Big Hassle

Are you taking on a new landscaping project? Do you know where your underground utilities lie? Digging holes in the ground near utilities can be dangerous or require costly repairs if the lines are disturbed or broken. Before you start work, call 811, the national Call Before You Dig number, or make a request online at call811.com. This service notifies local utilities to send a locator to the requested site to mark the position of underground lines.

Lois Trigg Chaplin is author of The Southern Gardener’s Book of Lists and former Garden Editor of Southern Living Magazine.




In Papa's Footsteps

Luke Stephens, right, with the help of his grandfather, Jack Jarmon, purchased Lena, a dairy cow, for a new venture – Clarke County’s first Dairy Cow Project.

For Luke Stephens, farming teaches valuable life lessons.

by Carolyn Drinkard

Jerry and Jack Jarmon (back) play a big role in the lives of their two grandsons, Cole, front left, and Luke. The Jarmons believe that growing up on a farm teaches invaluable lessons about life.

Since he was old enough to walk, Luke Stephens has followed in the footsteps of his grandfather, Jack Jarmon. Jarmon is known throughout southwest Alabama as a skilled farm trader. To Luke, however, Jarmon is Papa (pronounced "Pop-uh" by Luke). Jarmon has always taken time to show Luke how to do things. Even more important, he has helped Luke develop a deep love for farm life.

When Luke entered the fourth grade, he joined the Clarke County 4-H. Even though he had been working with farm animals for years, Luke showcased his animals in the 4-H animal events. One that caught his attention was the Pig Squeal. For the past three years, he has won the Book Award, along with numerous other ribbons. The Pig Squeal was a learning activity in another way for Luke. It gave him the opportunity to build a pig pen to house his pigs Willie and Jase, named after the Duck Dynasty brothers.

"Papa always wanted me to learn everything about the farm," Luke explained. "He let me build the pen for my pigs. I cut every board with a handsaw because he wanted me to know how to use a saw. I nailed the boards, but Papa helped me put up the heavy wire."

To make a floor for the pen, Jarmon used his tractor to move concrete slabs that had been discarded by the City of Fulton. The twosome then filled in the cracks with Quikrete to make the footing more secure. The first year, Luke carried water to his pigs, but, after that, Luke and Jarmon added a gravity-flow water system.

After the first year’s competition, Luke netted $1,034 from the sale of his hogs. For Jarmon, Luke’s wise use of his earnings was worth all the hard work.

"The proudest I have ever been," Jarmon said, "was when Luke took that money he got for his hogs and gave 10 percent to his church and put the rest in savings. I was so proud of him and what he had decided to do!"

The Pig Squeal helped Luke learn a valuable lesson: Pigs have minds of their own! He said he had some catastrophes while showing his pigs. Once, while he was in the ring, one pig bit a hole in his pants’ pocket, looking for treats inside. He quickly covered the hole with his brush and continued to show the pig. At another judging, however, he completely lost control of the animals.

"I was working with them, when they just went crazy on me," he said. "I just stood and watched as they ran around the pen. The judges started counting how many times they went around. I was so mad at the pigs, but there was nothing I could do. I just took it in stride and went on. I guess all this just taught me some patience."

Left to right, Luke Stephens holds a black Silkie rooster he raised. He also has a white and splash Silkie rooster, as well as some hens. Luke and Doon, a Katahdin ram, are big buddies. Luke has trained Doon to play chase. Seeing the youngster and the sheep romp and play together is amazing.

In fall 2016, Luke also participated in Clarke County’s first Dairy Cow Project. On the local level, his cow Lena won first in Winter Heifer Class. At State, Luke placed second in the Jr. Dairy Quiz Bowl.

Even though he had enjoyed all the other events, the Chick Chain was his favorite.

"I’ve always liked to fool with chickens," he said. "When I was two, Papa got me some big blue chickens. I would walk into the chicken house and feed them and get the eggs, even though I didn’t even eat eggs. I talked to them and played with them. I just like chickens because they are really smart. I have had just about every breed, except exotics."

In the Chick Chain, Luke placed first with Buff Orpingtons in 2015 and first with Dominiques in 2016. While he was raising these larger breeds, he conducted his own scientific feed-test experiment with five bantams he owned. He was able to prove his bantams ate the equivalent of one larger breed; a fact he pointed out to Wendy Padgett, his 4-H sponsor.

Padgett had nothing but praise for Luke.

"He is very passionate about everything he does," she stated. "He is also very knowledgeable. He serves on the Clarke County 4-H Youth Council and has been a part of our Chicken Chain and Pig Squeal three times. I am proud of the fact that he’s so responsible in everything he does. He also has amazing family support, and that is so important."

The Stephens family members are very close, and they support every activity Luke participates in. Pictures are (front) Jennifer, Russell, (back) Luke and Cole Stephens.

Luke Stephens lives in Fulton, a small town located between Thomasville and Grove Hill. The Stephens family, Jennifer (mother), Russell (father), younger brother Cole and Luke, live in a subdivision, but Luke keeps his many animals at his Papa’s JLC Farm, just a short distance away. The boys often ride their four-wheelers to Papa’s farm.

Jarmon said his grandsons are his life. He and his wife Jerry spend many hours with the youngsters. Jarmon even named his farm after his grandsons. JLC stands for Jackie, Luke and Cole, and Jarmon proudly displays the logo on the farm trailer he pulls around South Alabama. Many times, the boys travel with Papa to other farms to swap and trade farm items or animals.

Like his grandfather, Luke has always had a very special connection to animals. He told an amusing story about Be-oink-er, a pot-bellied pig he rescued. It seems the pig had a knack for getting out of her previous owner’s yard and roaming. Luke and Papa caught her twice and returned her to the owner. After the second escape, the owner offered the pig to Luke.

Later, he traded Beoinker for a Katahdin ram he named Doon. He has now trained Doon to play chase. The youngster and the big white ram often engage in good-natured romps.

Recently, Luke purchased a Dorper ewe he named Dolly. He hopes to raise some black-headed lambs with her.

He also keeps a flock of Red Star hens, as well as white, black and splash Silkies. He had been reading about Golden Laced Wyandottes, and, with the help of Papa, he had ordered some baby chicks.

Luke said he could never have too many pets, but his mother disagreed.

"He already has too many pets!" Jennifer laughed. "He does not have enough room for any more. He has to get rid of something to get something else."

Fortunately, Luke has learned the art of swoppin’ and tradin’ from Papa; however, Luke has added a modern twist. With help from Jennifer, Luke posts his chickens in various groups on Facebook. This has brought many prompt sales for the youngster.

Jarmon has always felt it was important to teach Luke the basics of farm life. Luke has learned to plow with the family mule Pearl and to plant crops, especially potatoes – his favorite.

"Papa has always told me the potatoes do good just because I touched them," Luke smiled proudly.

Luke may be only 12 years old, but he is wise well beyond his years. An honor student at Thomasville Middle School, he was named "Student of the Month" in September. He plans to attend Auburn University to become a veterinarian. This decision has raised a few eyebrows among some of his relatives. The Stephens family members have been longtime Alabama fans, having sent three sons to play football for the University of Alabama. In addition, Luke’s father, Russell, played for the University of North Alabama and now serves as an assistant football coach at Thomasville High School. Nevertheless, Luke is unfazed. He still plans to go to Auburn to be a vet, even though he is a dedicated Alabama fan.

Luke has learned many important life lessons while following in his Papa’s footsteps. He has acquired a work ethic that will help him in all walks of life. But most importantly, he has learned faith and family and values, the important things that will guide his footsteps wherever he goes.

Carolyn Drinkard is a freelance writer from Thomasville. She can be reached at drinkardcarolyn@gmail.com.




Leading Through Change

Keynote address at AFC’s 80th annual meeting encouraged members, leaders to deal effectively with the inevitable


by Mary Catherine Gaston

The ability to prepare for, respond to and capitalize on change is vital to the success of any organization or individual, said author and speaker Nate Booth, who opened AFC’s membership meeting with a keynote address about how to effectively handle change.

Booth himself is no stranger to change. A former dentist, he made a major career modification when he chose to go back to school for a master’s degree in counseling after years of medical practice. Since then, he has spoken to hundreds of organizations and hundreds of thousands of individuals on strategies for dealing with – and benefitting from – change.

Following on the heels of a year filled with changes for AFC – from Bonnie Plants’ partnership with ScottsMiracle-Gro to the construction and expansion of facilities to the loss of long-time leaders and friends – Booth’s address was timely and encouraging for AFC members and leaders alike.

"Farmers had a very challenging year in 2016," said Chairman of AFC’s Board Mike Tate. "One thing we can learn from it is that we need to not only anticipate change but also appreciate it."

Approaching Change


"I got my master’s degree in counseling because I wanted to know how to help individuals who are doing well to do even better," Booth explained at the outset of his address.In the years since, he determined to learn how these individuals dealt with the inevitable ups and downs of life and career.
Through decades of work with countless individuals and organizations, Booth noticed six approaches to change – three negative and three positive. He urged listeners to develop the skills necessary to approach change positively, by reacting to, anticipating or creating it.

In reacting to change, Booth explained, one can be quick or slow. Regardless, chances are good that this approach will result in the individual – or organization – suffering a fall, but that’s better than avoiding, passively observing or fighting change.

Better still, individuals can learn to anticipate change, affording themselves the luxury of choosing to alter their course even before it is necessary to do so.

"Pay attention to the news items that are not on the front page," he urged. "These are the trends that will soon make waves."

These are ones that AFC leaders must help identify from a distance, just as a surfer begins paddling long before a big wave arrives.

According to Booth, the best way to approach change is to create it, forcing others to respond. Sharing the example of Apple, the world’s top tech company, he encouraged AFC members and leaders to imagine ways they can drive industry changes instead of being driven by them.

Finding Opportunity in Change


Regardless of the timing or nature of any change, Booth reminded meeting attendees that all changes have one silver lining in common: opportunity.

"Changes happen on purpose to teach us lessons," he explained. "It is up to us to figure those lessons out."

He encouraged AFC members and leaders to use every change to some advantage and to enjoy the journey through a constantly changing world.

"The last step in all change is a beginning," Booth asserted. "Celebrate your wins, big or small. Inevitably, change will come again, and you must be ready to approach it with strategy and passion."

Nate Booth holds both a doctor of dental surgery and a master’s degree in counseling from the University of Nebraska. He spent a decade working closely with well-known businessman, speaker and success coach Tony Robbins before following in Robbins’ footsteps to become an author and speaker himself. Booth has presented more than 1,600 workshops and training programs around the world and is author of nine books.


Mary Catherine Gaston is a freelance writer from Auburn.



Misplaced Aggression

by Glenn Crumpler

When Jack called me while I was working out of town for a few days, I was sure it was not just to say hello, especially when he knew I was already on my way home. He would not want to risk interfering with a meeting I might be in just to have a trivial conversation. So when I saw I had missed his call, I knew something was up that needed my attention and I immediately called him back.

Sure enough, after our usual greetings and a brief catching up, he said, "I hated to bother you, but we have a problem. That heifer we thought was open has had a calf this morning, but she had it under the electric fence and now she is trying to kill it. Every time the calf tries to get up, she just bellers and rams it into the ground." (We know the word is bellows, but we say "bellers.")

"I was able to get them penned up and separated, but we are gonna need to do something with it when you get home tonight because it hasn’t nursed and it is a good calf," he continued.

Now, this is not the first time this has happened on our farm. In fact, this is our second experience with this problem this year and probably our fifth in eight years, despite the fact we had disconnected the lower fence wire during calving season just for this reason. For some reason, these heifers chose a spot right beside the four-strand, high-tensile electric fence to give birth. As soon as the calf is born, the mama gets up and begins to clean the calf off. This is important in the bonding process and stimulates the calf to get up on its feet to nurse. As the newborn calf tries to get up on its feet, it staggers around on its awkward and trembling legs, stumbling and falling time and time again, until it eventually makes its way under the electric fence.

The shocking of the fence does not appear to have an immediate reaction on the baby calf like it does on an older calf or cow. In fact, it shows little if any sign it is being shocked. However, when the mama cow continues to lick the calf and bond with it, the charge of the fence is now passing through the calf directly to the cow and it is eating her lunch! The shock does not bother the calf nor does not change the calf’s attitude toward its mama but it totally changes the mama’s attitude toward her new baby. Every time she touches her baby, she gets shocked and apparently thinks it is the calf hurting her. In a matter of seconds, the bonding process is reversed. The cow that instinctively would defend the calf at any cost, and still may be trying to do so, now will not stop her attack until she kills the calf unless there is someone to intervene like Jack did.

You probably would have to have some experience with calving and would have to have seen this experience firsthand a few times to reach the hypothesis I have reached, and I am not sure I have it figured out but here is what I think: The problem appears to be that there is now a real conflict between the mind and the maternal instincts of the cow. If the cow was just trying to get away from the pain of being shocked, she would just run off and leave the calf alone. The problem is that all of her natural maternal instincts and the hormones in her system associated with calving cause her to stay with the calf and to continue trying to care for her new baby. She does not seem able to run away and leave her baby without cleaning it up and taking care of it, but, at the same time, she cannot stand the constant surging of electricity coming to her from the calf. While it appears that she is initially taking her pain out on her baby because she hates it and wants to kill it, I think, in the first several minutes anyway, her intent is to attack the electricity she thinks is attacking her baby. In other words, I think her initial aggression is not at the baby itself but is an attempt to attack the electricity and get it off and away from her baby – if not, she would just run away and escape the threat.

After a few episodes of being repeatedly shocked by the baby, I think the cow/calf bond is eventually broken and she does want to kill or reject her calf because she now sees the calf itself as a threat to her own welfare, but it does not begin that way. The constant pain and the relentless getting hurt over and over again leads to the rejection and aggression. However, with a lot of care, wisdom, attention, time and effort, even that can most often be reversed and the cow will eventually learn to accept the calf over a period of days or weeks.

What I also find interesting is that, if the calf is able to survive the initial aggression, it will continue trying to pursue its mama to nurse, until it gets injured, killed or too weak to do so. If it gets kicked repeatedly in the head or run into the ground enough times, it will shy away, but only after relentless attempts and getting hurt. Even then, if you restrain the mama and give the calf access to the teat without being kicked and attacked for a number of days until it gets enough strength to either dodge or flee its mama’s aggression when it needs to, it does not hesitate to bond with its mama – though the mama will take a lot longer to come around. The calf needs the mama, but the mama does not need the calf; and that seems to make all the difference.

As I reflect on these on-the-farm experiences, I think about all the relationships in our lives affected by intentional or unintentional hurt and rejection. How many people do we no longer have proper relationships with because we have been hurt by them? How many relationships are not what they should be because we are the ones who inflicted the pain?

Many times the pain or rejection is caused just by a misunderstanding or misinterpretation of what was said or done. Just like the cow that thought the calf was trying to hurt her when that was not the case at all, it was the electricity the calf was tangled up in that caused the pain. The cow was indeed being hurt, but it was not the calf hurting her. Many times the hurt is because we thought someone was trying to hurt us; when, in fact, they were trying to protect us – just as the mama cow was causing the calf pain while trying to protect it from the electricity. The calf was indeed being hurt, but it was not the mother’s intent to hurt the calf but to fight off the electricity hurting her baby.

I have met a lot of people around the world who feel angry, hurt and rejected by God because bad things have happened to them or to others they loved. In their hurt, they think, if God is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving and an ever-present God, He would not have allowed them to be hurt the way they were. If God really loved and cared for me, I or my loved one would not have cancer. If God really loved me, I would not have lost my spouse. If God really loved me, He would not have taken my child. If God really loved me, I would not feel so rejected and alone. If God really loved me, how could He have stood by and allowed this terrible thing someone did to me. If God really loved me, ... ... ... ..!

I do not know the answers to any of these questions except that we are sinful people living in a sinful world where bad things happen – for a time. It is not that He is distant, uncaring or has rejected us. In fact, just the opposite is true. He loves each one of us so much that He would exchange the life of His only Son to give us life! Jesus suffered and died in our place so we can not only be forgiven and one day inherit eternal life but also to give us hope and peace in the midst of suffering in this life. There is no greater expression of love and acceptance than that!

He is not angry and does not reject you. In fact, He calls and longs with outstretched arms for you to come to Him! All you have to do is accept what Jesus did for you, confess and turn from your sin, and stop rejecting Him. He is waiting and He loves you with an unconditional and unending love. He does not need you. You, on the other hand, are hopeless without Him and that makes all the difference!

Glenn Crumpler is is prewsident of Cattle for Christ International, Inc. He can be contacted at 334-393-4700 (home), 333-4400 (mobile) or www.CattleforChrist.com.




PALS: Leading the Way!


John P. Powell Middle School Science Club is energized to go green.

by Jamie Mitchell

John P. Powell Middle School in Chambers County has decided to join the Clean Campus Program. The students from the Science Club at JPMS are leading the way for the school to become a litter-free example for the community.

I recently had the opportunity to speak with JPMS’s Science Club, and they are energized to help their campus go green! We talked about how PALS can provide them with bags to help with their regular campus cleanups. We are hoping the Science Club can energize the rest of the school to strive to be litter-free!

Because recycling is limited in their area, we discussed some online opportunities for recycling such as www.terracycle.com. Terracycle is a great way for rural schools to participate in recycling even when there is not a facility nearby. Terracycle accepts items like baby food pouches and personal care/beauty product packaging, and the school gets points for everything they send in!

The students also heard about the Alabama PALS poster and recycled art contests. The entries for these aren’t due until April 21, so there is still time to enter! The statewide winner of these contests wins $250 and will be recognized at our annual Governor’s Awards.

PALS is ecstatic to have John P. Powell Middle School join us in the Clean Campus Program.

The Clean Campus Program is FREE to all Alabama public, private and county schools. If a school near you would be interested in joining the program or participating in our poster and recycled art contests, please have them call me at 334-263-7737 or email me at Jamie@alpals.org to set up a presentation. Schools may also sign up for the Clean Campus Program online at www.alpals.org.

Jamie Mitchell is the PALS State Clean Campus Coordinator.



Pounds and Pounds of Pecans


Bob Whaley, president of Whaley Pecan Company, is proud of the business his grandfather helped launch in 1937.

After 80 years, Whaley Pecan Company is still going strong.

by Alvin Benn

Family businesses often face decisions that can make or break a promising enterprise, but that’s never been the case at Whaley Pecan Co. in Troy where success is a given.

President Bob Whaley and his offspring are still going strong 80 years after the company was established in 1937 when the Depression still had America in its grip throughout that decade.

What started as a fruit stand with a future has become an important part of Pike County where the little nut has helped sustain hundreds of family members for many years.

Since April has been designated as National Pecan Month, this is a good time to reflect on an Alabama success story, one likely to continue growing and prospering.

"They’ve been in the pecan business for a long time and have always been very straightforward and honest in their dealings with people," said Alabama Rep. David Sessions of Mobile. "I’ve always respected the way they run their business."

It’s been that way ever since Lester Whaley helped launch the business and served as an inspiration for relatives who followed his lead.

Lester’s grandson Bob, 71, earned his spurs at the pecan plant as a teenager when he swept the floors and did whatever else he could to help.

A University of Alabama graduate, Bob also spent four years in the Air Force where he advanced to the rank of captain and could have made a career out of it.

Instead, he headed back to Troy where he was welcomed with open arms by family members who knew it was the right time for him to come home.

He wasn’t quite sure he had done the right thing, however; especially during his first few days at the plant when one of his assignments left a lot to be desired.

"My first job was to make little boxes to put the pecans in," he chuckled. "I asked myself, ‘What the heck have I done,’ but things got a lot better the longer I was with the company."

Bob’s pride in his ancestral roots is evident in a biography he has written for those interested in learning how the family came to be held in such high esteem within the pecan industry.

He wrote about the company’s humble beginnings, one that included a pair of platform scales, a counter, a typewriter and some fruit tables.

Sisters Marsha, left, and Melissa hold bags containing a variety of pecans at the company’s gift shop.

A shrewd businessman who stretched his assets as much as possible, Lester got his company off to a fast start by buying pecans and then reselling them.

Nuts were hauled from Troy to handlers in Georgia, where they were sold to users and shellers throughout the country

In the fall of 1937, Lester bought 95,000 pounds of pecans. It wasn’t long before his business had firmly established itself within the industry.

The first orders for shelled pecans exceeded 100 pounds and, in order to fill the requests, two electric cracking machines were bought, but there were problems. Some of the pecans were cracked while others were smashed.

The machines were soon remodeled, resulting in significant improvement and production. Increased orders were the result and that eventually led to a larger production facility before the company moved to a new building.

Lester’s son Ed joined the business in 1952, making it a second-generation company that continued to modernize production. It wasn’t long before the plant was shelling over a million pounds a season.

Ed soon became well-known throughout the industry and it wasn’t long before he served on many national pecan committees. In 1992, he was honored by the National Pecan Shellers Association for over 50 years of service to the organization.

Bob’s wife Mary serves as vice president of the company and is office manager; so she’s as busy as the couple’s two daughters who represent the fourth generation.

Sisters Melissa Boatner and Marsha Meeks have important jobs at the plant and provide the energy and experience to keep the wheels turning at Whaley Pecan Co.

Their dad hasn’t lost a step as president and they marvel at his ability to put in long hours now that he’s in his 70s.

"I’m never bored," he said. "What we do here is not like selling shirts and I look forward to coming to work every morning."

Georgia and Texas generally lead the pecan producing states, but Alabama isn’t lagging at the bottom by any means.

Bob stands with daughters Melissa Boatner, right, and Marsha Meeks outside their headquarters building.

Alabama growers have produced millions of pounds of pecans in recent years and the state currently ranks eighth in pecan production according to Catherine Browne of Auburn University’s College of Agriculture.

Commercial pecan harvesting began in Alabama in the early 1900s and, by the 1940s, became a significant industry in the state.

Harvesting of pecans is around mid-October and the trees are said to produce edible seeds for over 300 years.

Two of America’s most famous founding fathers took a liking to pecan trees and planted them around their plantations.

Thomas Jefferson planted them in his nut orchard at his home in Monticello, Virginia, while George Washington did the same thing at Mount Vernon.

Texas Gov. James Stephen Hogg had an unusual request before his death, asking that a pecan tree be planted at his grave instead of a traditional headstone so its seeds could be distributed throughout the state to make Texas a "Land of Trees."

Hogg’s request was carried out, bringing even more attention to pecans. In 1919, Texas bestowed its blessings and made it the official state tree. One Texas town even began calling itself the "Pecan Capital of the World."

At last count, 22,000 acres were planted in pecan orchards in 39 of Alabama’s 67 counties. They are most abundant in Baldwin and Mobile counties.

Pecans in Alabama currently are in a dormant state, waiting for a change in the weather for a reawaking of the crop later this year.

Browne said Alabama families view pecans as the perfect topping or filling for pies, especially during holidays when they are given away as gifts to friends during Christmas.

Alvin Benn is a freelance writer from Selma.



Rabbit and Squirrel: A Fun Hunt and a Great Meal

by Christy Kirk

Older kids enjoy using dogs to hunt for rabbits and squirrels because they don’t have to stay quiet and still. (Front row) Brody DeLee, Sully Hornsby, Rolley Len Kirk (with squirrel), (back) Caleb Laro and Cason Kirk after a recent hunt.

Rabbit and squirrel hunting are probably Rolley Len and Cason’s favorite type of hunting. Whenever they go with their father, my husband Jason, they always come back with plenty of stories about their trip. Their vivid descriptions about tracking rabbits and squirrels with the dogs tell that they were never bored, even if they have been gone for hours. Whether they are talking about walking what seemed like miles to the constant sounds of the dogs barking, their senses have been enveloped by nature.

According to Jason, the sound of the dogs is one of the best things about rabbit hunting. Their consistent barking and wailing once they strike out is music to the ears of hunters. Rolley Len agreed with his assessment of the barking chorus, but had a much different description than her Daddy.

"It sounds like babies crying, but in a good way," explained Rolley Len. "And they keep getting louder and louder. It’s like a bunch of howler monkeys howling their heads off together, but barking."

Once they strike out, the chase is on. After that, the hunters spread out and wait for the rabbit to come back their way. Walking the property through the brush and briars to stir up rabbits is challenging, but necessary. Thick briar pants, jacket and wader boots are essential if you don’t want to get hooked. For smaller children, it can be hard to keep from falling into the briars if they aren’t careful.

On Rolley Len’s last hunt, she was not wearing a vest to put the rabbits in so, instead, she took a rabbit over to the ranger where the cooler was. She discovered quickly that to make this route safely, not only did she have to negotiate the unruly brush but she also had to keep ahead of the dogs once she got it in hand.

"I carried the rabbit that Daddy got, and Little Ringo was on the move. He tried to get it out of my hand, and I just kept holding it higher and higher," she said.

When Jason was growing up, hunting rabbits was a little easier and faster. They would run in smaller circles, which meant a shorter hunting time. With the increased number of coyotes, rabbits have had to get smarter. Rabbits run longer because they have to find more ways to escape the coyotes. Rolley Len and Cason don’t seem to mind that it sometimes it takes a while to catch our next meal.

Cason says hunting for squirrels and rabbits is fun because you can hunt, play and eat at the same trip. After he and Rolley Len went hunting with some friends in February, they brought home three rabbits and a squirrel. Jason put them in a crockpot in the morning and, by the time I got home, it smelled amazing.

If you have rabbit or squirrel in your freezer, try one of these recipes that are sure to awaken your senses of sight, smell and taste for your next meal.

Slow-Cooker Squirrel and Rabbit

SLOW-COOKER SQUIRREL AND RABBIT

2 squirrels, dressed
3 rabbits, dressed
Salt, pepper, garlic powder and red pepper flakes, to taste
½ cup water

In a large bowl, place squirrel and rabbit meat. Coat with seasonings. Place in the slow-cooker, add water, and cook on low all day, about 10-11 hours.

ROAST RABBIT WITH STUFFING

Poultry Stuffing
1 small onion, sliced
3 Tablespoons butter or other fat
3 cups soft breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning

In a pan, sauté onion in butter until light brown. Add breadcrumbs, salt, pepper and poultry seasoning and mix well.

Roast Rabbit
Young rabbits, drawn and cleaned with hearts and livers re- served (¾ pound rabbit = about 1 serving)
Poultry stuffing (recipe above)
Flour
Butter, melted, or drippings for basting

Preheat oven to 350°.

In small saucepan, boil hearts and liver until tender. Chop fine and mix with poultry stuffing, adding some giblet water to moisten mixture. Stuff rabbit with mixture. Sew opening and tie or fasten legs close to body with skewers. In a large roasting pan, place on side. Roast for 15 minutes. Turn once and baste frequently with butter or drippings from pan. Reduce heat to 350° and roast for 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes. Baste every 15 minutes.

Make gravy by adding flour mixed with some water to pan drippings, stir well.

Note: Squirrel may also be used, but rub the meat with butter or oil before cooking. One squirrel will provide about two servings.

BRUNSWICK STEW

8 cups water
1 Tablespoon salt
2 grey squirrels, dressed and cleaned
4 potatoes, pared and cubed
1 cup canned corn
2 onions, diced
1 cup lima beans
2 cups canned tomatoes, diced
¼ pound salt pork, diced
1 Tablespoon flour
1 Tablespoon butter, melted
½ teaspoon pepper

In a large pot, put water and salt. Bring to a boil. Add squirrels, potatoes, corn, onion, beans, tomatoes and salt pork. Cover and simmer 2½ hours, stirring every 30 minutes. In a small bowl, mix flour and butter to a smooth paste. Add to pot. Mix well. Cover and cook 15 minutes. Season with pepper and stir until slightly thickened.

Note: Rabbit can also be substituted in this recipe for squirrel.


Christy Kirk is a freelance writer who lives in Little Texas.




Riding Out the Storm

Economist Terry Barr predicts agriculture will weather uncertain times well.

by Mary Catherine Gaston

Terry Barr, senior director of CoBank’s Knowledge Exchange Division, delivered the closing address to Alabama Farmers Cooperative Inc. members during breakfast Feb. 23, the last morning of AFC’s annual membership meeting.

Terry Barr delivered the closing address to members at AFC’s annual meeting.

Utilizing a series of graphs, charts and figures, Barr painted a picture of the near future for U.S. agriculture that could be summed up in one word: uncertain.

"Agriculture will face some challenges in the next year or so," Barr said, calling the country’s current political situation "dynamic," and advising farmers and farm-related business owners to "expect the best, plan for the worst and prepare to capitalize on the new reality."

His words echoed those of keynote speaker Nate Booth, who kicked off the 80th annual meeting with insight for dealing effectively with change – a fact of life with which every farmer is well acquainted.

"What he [Barr] told us was, it’s all uncertain," said Goshen Farmers Co-op board member and AFC board member Bill Sanders.

Sanders, who’s been farming more than 40 years, said he’s yet to see an average year, but Barr is correct in characterizing the current environment of change as exceptional.

"The changes we’ve seen in the past few years in agriculture have been amazing," Sanders said. "And there will be more changes in the next five years than we’ve seen in the past 10."

Among those adjustments Barr forecast will be the yet-unknown effects of an aging population in the world’s advanced economies. This demographic shift will force major political changes, and half the world’s gross domestic product is tied up in economies struggling with the transformation.

The United States is at the epicenter of the current uncertainty due to the recent administration change and the new priorities and attitudes that accompany it. Recovery from the worldwide economic recession continues, but as Barr pointed out, the dip was deeper than expected and recovery has been slower than in a typical business cycle.

Still, Barr predicts continued, steady growth in the U.S. economy – at 2 to 2.5 percent – with the U.S. consumer in the driver’s seat. At the same time, the Federal Reserve will likely continue to move away from their former zero interest rate policy, and U.S. business will react accordingly. In the midst of these adjustments, the 2018 Farm Bill debate has begun and will continue, affected largely by the nation’s budget deficit.

The good news for U.S. farmers is that the demand side of their economic reality has been strong and will continue to be so. The supply side, according to Barr, is where problems may arise. This imbalance will drive much of what happens globally in agriculture over the next year or so, causing a potential shift in 3.5 million acres of U.S. farmland, with, Barr predicts, increases in soybean and cotton acreages and decreases in wheat and corn.

At the same time, the rebuilding of the U.S. cattle herd is ongoing and all animal protein prices are falling as a result. Increased global milk production continues to push dairy prices lower as well, making export markets a critical component of the industry’s success.

Overall, Barr said ag prices will continue to adjust as crop prices stabilize and, for farmers, this will mean one thing: A farmer’s ability to control costs will contribute significantly to his success over the next year to 18 months.

"In short, I believe agriculture is well positioned to adjust to the dynamic period we are in," Barr said in closing.

Ricky Cornutt, DeKalb Farmers Co-op, agreed wholeheartedly.

"He was spot-on. He told it like it is," Cornutt said after hearing Barr’s outlook. "We are in volatile times. We know that times can change, but maybe some good things will come out of this new administration."

Bringing the discussion full circle, Sanders applied Barr’s forecast and advice to the future of AFC.

"We have 80 years of experience to know that you cannot stand still and expect to succeed," he said. "You have to have a forward vision and a plan. We have exceptional leaders with just that sort of vision, and I’m very optimistic about the future of AFC and our stores."

A nationally recognized expert on agricultural economics, Terry Barr served the National Council of Farmers Cooperatives in Washington as chief economist for 24 years. His time with NCFC followed a 14-year career within the U.S. Department of Agriculture, where he served within the Office of the Secretary of Agriculture as director of economic analysis. He has been with CoBank, a $125 billion cooperative bank serving the needs of rural America as part of the Farm Credit System, since 2009. Barr holds a doctorate in economics from Washington State University.

Mary Catherine Gaston is a freelance writer from Auburn.



Simply Southern Television Show Now on RFD-TV

A new partnership with national network RFD-TV will expose people across the country to "Simply Southern TV," a show produced by the Alabama Farmers Federation and Alabama Farmers Cooperative.

Tune in to RFD-TV Tuesdays at 6 p.m. Central Time to relive the first season of "Simply Southern TV." Each 30-minute episode introduces viewers to unique and interesting parts of the state with segments on rural tourism, educational and community events, agriculture and gardening.

"This show has been one of the most effective public relations projects the Federation has initiated in the last 20 years," said Jeff Helms, Federation Communications director and "Simply Southern TV" executive producer. "By offering a mix of stories, we hope to entertain and educate viewers while still appealing to the core membership bases of the Federation and AFC. We’re really looking forward to the new partnership with RFD-TV so we can share the story of farming and rural Alabama with people across the country."

Over three seasons, the "Simply Southern TV" crew has ventured from Orbix Hot Glass in the foothills of the Appalachians to the Gulf Coast Zoo near the state’s southern beaches. Reports have covered browsing goats uncovering Birmingham’s mining history, a single mom poultry farmer and students benefitting from the state’s dual enrollment program.

AFC Public Relations Director Jim Allen plays a dual role with the show as executive producer and co-host.

Allen has been attacked by police dogs trained at AMK9 Academy in Anniston, had knives thrown at him while at Old Town near Dothan and been used as a prop for a whip-cracking demonstration by Cowboy Bruce Brannen of Montgomery.

"I’m fired up to be promoting Alabama on television again," Allen said. "I’ve worked closely with the Federation through the years and, believe me, ‘Simply Southern TV’ is a perfect union of two of the most respected agricultural organizations in the Southeast."

Samantha Carpenter of AFC is responsible for the community and educational reports, and Sidney Phelps handles gardening reports sponsored by his employer, Bonnie Plants. From the Federation staff, Kevin Worthington serves as director and reporter, Matt Wilson serves as producer and Mary Johnson is co-host and reporter.

The partnership with RFD-TV started Tuesday, March 7, when the first episode of "Simply Southern TV" aired at 6 p.m. It included segments on the Vulcan statue in Birmingham, teaching students about dairy production, one of Alabama’s Outstanding Young Farm families and a cooking demonstration using fresh herbs.

Find out more about the show at SimplySouthernTV.net. Follow the crew’s adventures on Facebook, Simply Southern TV, and on Instagram, @simplysoutherntv.




Southern Translation

SENTENCE USAGE: After doing less than expected on his first pop quiz, Zack’s father warned him, "Son, if you expect to get a scholarship to go to college, you better knuckle down or you’ll be stuck workin’ at the mill with me!"

What do knuckles have to do with making better grades?

"Knuckle down" means getting sincere about something; applying oneself seriously to a job.

The origin of this expression is not certain, but one of the popular theories alludes to the game of marbles as being responsible. The game of marbles has evidently been enjoyed by children and even adults for a very long time. In fact, archaeologists have found examples of marbles that apparently date back thousands of years from ancient Egypt.

How does one play with marbles? Well, it’s a simple game involving two things: aim and precision. The goal is to hit your opponent’s marble with your own from a set distance. This is done either by throwing or rolling. For instance, one might decide to roll the marble along the ground like a bowling ball, while others choose to flick it with their thumbs. Some might even make silly attempts and toss the marble between their legs. The style of throw is up to the player.

Anyways, when things got serious, a person would apparently want to knuckle down by literally placing his or her knuckles against the ground in a fist. This would help steady the aim and help the person to more effectively direct the shot. Thus, the "getting serious" tone the phrase carries today might possibly derive from the game of marbles.




Spending Time With Replacements

by Stephen Donaldson

Spring is finally here and, hopefully, warm weather and ample precipitation have pastures growing at their maximum. Hay fertilization is just around the corner and the battle to control weeds is upon us. Also, the weaning of fall calves is just around the corner.

For purebred operations, this is a time to select bulls to be grown for breeding stock and heifers to fill the bill as replacements. Selection is always a grueling task requiring careful evaluation of several traits. Combine this with evaluating each animal’s EPDs and pedigree, it is a task that seems nearly impossible. After making selections based on animals’ phenotype and genetics, operations have to wean, vaccinate and get the cattle on feed. Thus, more stress for the manager.

Let’s at least try to simplify the latter. Weaning is a crucial time and can dictate the success managers will have getting animals adjusted to feed. After calves are pulled from the cows, it is imperative to get them on some good quality hay as soon as possible. These calves have been eating hay throughout the winter. Their rumen bacteria are acclimated to this type of feedstuff. If the calves have been on creep feeders, the same feed can be fed during this process as they will already be accustomed to this ration. Because of the stress of being separated from the cows, I recommend starting weanlings on free-choice hay and 1-1.5 percent of their body weight in feed.

If the calves have been on creep feed, keep them on the same feed. If the calves haven’t been on creep feed, start them on a feed like CPC Jump Start. Again start them on about 1 percent of their body weight. The cattle need to stay on this program for approximately 14 days to acclimate them to their new way of life. If the cattle seem adjusted after this 14-day period, it’s time to start gradually increasing their feed. During this process, remember hay is your friend; so keep plenty of free-choice hay and clean, fresh water in front of the cattle at all times.

After 21 days, it is time to start progressing the cattle to the diet they will be fed during their growing phase. This diet should be around 12 percent protein and 65-72 percent TDN. This is a good, moderate energy diet with adequate protein. Make sure the feed contains proper amounts of macronutrients and trace minerals to support proper development. I also recommend it to contain an ionophore because it seems to help with digestive maladies.

Feeds such as CPC Grower and CPC Developer will fit this phase of animal development. Grower works quite well after the 21-day adjustment. It has a nice balance of protein, energy and fiber, and works well when fed free choice to cattle up to about 800 pounds.

For heifers, it provides enough nutrients for them to grow, but generally not enough energy to get them too fat.

For bulls, however, Grower can lack enough energy to push them to weights above 800 pounds. To push bulls to higher yearling weights, managers need to switch to Developer. Developer fed at 2-3 percent of body weight can produce nice growth for higher weights. Feeding bulls based on their body weight can help compensate for their increasing maintenance needs as they reach higher weights and still provide added nutrients for growth.

Feeding replacement bulls and heifers requires constant evaluation of growth and body condition. Heifers that get too heavily conditioned during the growing phase tend to not breed as readily and usually don’t milk as well as cows. On the other hand, studies have shown that undernourished replacement heifers tend to have less longevity in the herd and problems rebreeding.

The same can be true of developing bulls. Those that grow too fast and get too heavily conditioned stand a greater risk of having structural and foot problems. Both of these problems can affect their ability to breed and decrease their longevity as herd sires.

So in a nutshell, bringing cattle along at moderate growth rates seems to be the ticket when producing replacement cattle that perform and remain in the herd for longer periods of time. As you start the next replacements out, plan to spend time monitoring their development. Also plan to feed them properly with a quality ration. Your time and money will be repaid with proper replacement development.

As always, if we can help during this important time, give us a call. We’ll be glad to help navigate you through this time and help you develop some quality replacements.

Stephen Donaldson is AFC’s animal nutritionist. If I can help any of you, please get in touch with me and let’s succeed together. You can reach me at 256-476-5272 or Stephd@alafarm.com.



Starting a Food Processing Business?

What You Should Know Before You Get Started

by Angela Treadaway

As a regional Extension agent in the food safety and quality areas, I get several calls a week from people asking what they can do to get a food product on the market. They have an idea for a great food product that everybody insists they should be making and possibly getting on store shelves. This is how many big businesses such as Sister Schubert, Wickles Pickles, Chicken Salad Chick and others got their start.

The entrepreneurs who started these businesses had great ideas and products and were very passionate about their ideas. If you want to be just as successful, you will definitely need to do your research. Developing a product and marketing it take work and determination. Many people have done it, but you may be surprised to find that starting a food business is not as simple as it might sound. Like any business, food enterprises require careful planning, dedication and skilled management to be successful.

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System is here to help in any way, and one way we do this is by joining with the Auburn University Food Systems Institute to offer an annual Food Entrepreneur Conference to help those wanting to start their own food business. This year the conference will be Wednesday and Thursday, April 26-27, in Auburn.

In the meantime, here are some important things to know about starting a food business. A food business is different from other kinds of businesses because the food or product you prepare has a direct effect on your customers’ health and safety. In fact, a food product that has been improperly processed could cause serious illness or even death. Consequently, a business that makes or sells food products must comply with a number of complex and often confusing federal, state and local regulations.

In addition, competition is intense in the food business. Getting a product accepted by a major grocery chain or nationwide food establishment is extremely difficult. Owning your own business also requires a lot of commitment, hard work, time and technical knowledge about food.

Should you start your own business?

To turn your great idea into a successful business, the first thing to do is to evaluate your personal characteristics to decide if you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur. Then write a business plan, making sure to explain how the consumer will benefit from your product. Next, evaluate the competition before redefining and improving your idea, examine market conditions, and design the smallest possible viable business unit. Then act on your idea!

Getting help

Many resources are available to help as you plan and start your food business. The Alabama Small Business Development Centers serve as focal points for the coordination of federal, state, local, university and private resources to aid small businesses. These services are offered through regional and affiliate centers located at state universities, community colleges and technical institutes. Contact the nearest office for assistance in various business areas such as writing business plans or seeking answers for financial assistance. You can find these office listings and contact numbers by searching the internet.

Many technical resources are at your disposal as well. Extension personnel at the state and county level are eager to help you and are available at no charge. Go to www.aces.edu to find the office nearest you. Other excellent resources are the Alabama Department of Agriculture at www.agi.alabama.gov, the Food and Drug Administration at www.fda.gov, the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs at www.adeca.alabama.gov and the Alabama Department of Public Health at www.adph.org.

Planning the facilities – Your business’s location

In the initial planning stages, you should check the legal zoning ordinances to determine if you can carry out your food business in the chosen geographic location. Local zoning regulations may restrict the kinds of businesses allowed or prohibit food businesses entirely. If zoning laws are confusing or you have questions, ask local officials to clarify the rules. Do not make any plans until satisfied that your business will fall within the bounds of the current laws. If you plan a business with the idea of getting local zoning ordinances and laws changed, you may be in for an unpleasant surprise. You may need to rent or build a suitable facility.

Other things to think about

There are a whole host of other things you will need to think about, too many to give all the details here. You will need to determine your expenses and develop a budget; then set prices for your products while estimating profits. You will need to get necessary permits and training as well as understand the requirements for packaging and labeling your product. You will need to develop a marketing, promotion and advertising plan.

If this all sounds intimidating, don’t give up. It is definitely possible to develop a food product and start your own business, because many people have successfully done so. Let’s face it, we all have to eat. Most of us go to the grocery store, sometimes many times a week, to buy food products. For every product we buy, someone at one time had to say, "This is a great product! I wonder if I could make a go of it by introducing mine or my mother’s favorite cookie, cake, salsa, etc."

As noted, the Food Entrepreneur Conference is a great place to learn about all of this in one place. You’ll also get to hear stories from other entrepreneurs who will talk about what they’ve done right – and what they’ve done wrong.

For more details about the conference and registration information, go to the Alabama Cooperative Extension System website at www.aces.edu/foodsafety/. Look under the tab on the left hand side of the page titled "Entrepreneurs." You can also go to the Auburn University Food Systems Institute page at www.aufsi.auburn.edufor more information and to register.


Angela Treadaway is a Regional Extension Agent in Food Safety. For any questions on food safety or preparation of vegetables, contact her at 205-410-3696 or your local county Extension office.



Thanks For Your Service


AFC’s Board Chairman Mike Tate, left, and President Rivers Myres, right, presented Service Awards at the annual meeting in Montgomery.

45 years – Wayne Gilliam, Manager of Tuscaloosa Farmers Co-op

40 years – Steve Hodges, General Manager of Marshall Farmers Co-op

35 years – Marie Cook, AFC Safety Director

30 years – Ricky Aldridge, Manager of Walker Farmers Co-op

30 years – Jim Allen, AFC Director of Public Relations and Advertising

20 years – Vicki Paradise, Manager of Jackson Farmers Co-op, Stevenson

15 years – Ron Bailey, Vice President of Currie Gin

15 years – Al Cheatham Jr., AFC COO

15 years – Chris Duke, General Manager of Talladega County Co-op

15 years – Steve Wellman, Grain Division; Tim Brown, Manager of Randolph Farmers Co-op (not pictured)

10 years – Leah Chadwick, Office and Accounting Manager of Grain Division

10 years – Robert Pittman, Manager of West Geneva County Co-op

10 years – Ryan Williams, Manager of Quality Co-op

The Co-op Pantry

by Mary Delph

The foods nationally associated with April are soyfoods, grilled cheese and garlic. I had never realized just how many fantastic recipes using these ingredients there are. Cook with your family, enjoy the beginning of spring and let us know how you like the recipes! ~ Mary

SOY ………… YUCK!!! That is the common thought in most people’s minds when you talk about soy products! It was in mine! Short story long – my daughter attended an alumni ag get together and came home raving about the ways soy was being used for food products and how delicious it was. She wanted me to try it. Told her, "Sorry, I don’t get into soy and I don’t like those products." She told me, "Taste it and give it an honest try and if you don’t like it – you don’t have to eat it." (Don’t you hate it when you hear what you told your children 20-some years prior comes out of their mouths). I tried it and it was delicious – I couldn’t believe I was eating soy and not chicken! Took some to work and no one knew they were not eating chicken!!

Since then, I have made chili with the soy beef crumbles, fajitas with the soy steak strips, spaghetti with the soy meatballs, chicken salad with the soy chicken pieces and more – including the recipe for this month’s Healthy Recipe … try it – you will be amazed!!

Just a note: Not only did we find it at our local health food stores – Earth Fare and Whole Foods – but also at Walmart, Publix and Kroger. Many stores have their own brand names, but we really like Gardein, Morning Star, Beyond Meat and Field Roast. Again, there are many, many brands … you just have to find the ones you like best!! ~ Jena

The national foods for May are barbecue, egg, hamburger, salad and strawberries, and for June are candy, dairy, fresh fruits and vegetables, and papaya. Please send your recipes to maryd@alafarm.com or samanc@alafarm.com and healthy recipes to jenak@alafarm.com.

Simple Garlic Bread

1 loaf Italian bread
6 Tablespoons salted butter, softened
6 large cloves garlic, finely minced
½ cup Italian parsley, chopped

Preheat oven to 375°.
Slice bread lengthwise. On a baking sheet, place both halves open-faced.

In a medium bowl, combine butter, garlic and parsley. On bread slices, spread butter mixture in thick, even layers.

Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool slightly before slicing and serving.

Garlic Roasted Potatoes

1/8 cup good olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
2 cloves garlic, minced
1½ pounds small red or white potatoes
1 Tablespoon fresh parsley, minced
Additional seasonings, as desired

Preheat oven to 400°.

In a large bowl, combine olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic. In same bowl, cut potatoes in half or quarters. Toss until potatoes are well-coated. Transfer potatoes to a baking sheet and spread to 1 layer. Roast for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until browned and crisp. Flip twice with a spatula during cooking in order to ensure even browning.

Remove potatoes from oven, toss with parsley, season to taste and serve hot.

Note from Mary: Our Editor-in-Chief Jim Allen contributed this one and it is GREAT!!!

Vegan Grilled Cheese

2 slices sandwich bread (½" thick), Cobblestone or other vegan brand
1/3 cup vegan cheese shreds (mozza + cheddar blend), plus extra
1 Tablespoon vegan butter, divided
2-4 slices vegan bacon, fried until crisp, optional

For classic grilled cheese: Sprinkle cheese on a slice of bread. Top with second slice of bread.

Bacon grilled cheese: Sprinkle half of cheese on a slice of bread. Add bacon. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top. Top with second slice of bread.

Preheat cast iron or non-stick skillet over medium heat. Melt half butter in a hot skillet. Add sandwich and cook until golden brown and crispy. Use a spatula to lift sandwich and check progress as needed. Add remaining butter to pan and use a spatula to carefully flip sandwich. Top cooked side with a light sprinkle of cheese. Continue cooking until underside is golden brown. Quickly flip the sandwich once more, cooking just long enough for the cheese on the outside to get fried and crispy. Remove and put on plate. Slice on a diagonal and let the sandwich rest for a couple of minutes before eating.

Note: Serve with your favorite condiments – ketchup, hummus and vegan ranch are great options.

Mexican Style Tofu Wraps

1 Tablespoon soy oil
1/3 cups onion, chopped
¼ teaspoon garlic clove, minced
¾ cups black beans, not drained
¾ cups salsa, medium heat
Cumin, to taste
1 Tablespoon water, if needed
8 ounces White Wave Baked Tofu Jalapeno Mexican Style, cut into ¼-inch slices
1 teaspoon cilantro, chopped
6 8-inch whole wheat tortilla, warmed
6 Tablespoons Lisanatti Lite Soy-Sation Cheddar Style, 97% fat free cheese alternative, grated
1½ cup lettuce, shredded
1½ cup tomatoes, chopped

In medium saucepan, in oil sauté onions until tender; add garlic. Sauté for ½ minute more. Add beans, salsa and cumin; heat for 1 minute. If sauce is too thick, add water.

Add tofu; simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in cilantro. Divide tofu mixture evenly between tortillas. Top each with cheese, lettuce and tomatoes; fold and serve.




Easy Microwave Soy Lasagna

1 pound lean ground beef
32 ounces spaghetti sauce
10½ ounces lite silken soft tofu
1 egg
½ cup water
10 lasagna noodles
2 cups part-skim milk mozzarella cheese, shredded

In microwavable colander, crumble ground beef. In microwave on high power, brown beef for 5-6 minutes. (This should be drained well.)

In a bowl, pour spaghetti sauce. Add beef. Set aside.

In a small bowl, combine tofu, egg and water; beat well. In a 9x13 microwave-safe dish, spread a small amount of the sauce mixture to keep noodles from sticking. (Noodles do not have to be cooked.) Break noodles into dish to fit, making one layer. Pour half tofu mixture over noodles and top with half sauce mixture. Sprinkle half cheese on top. Repeat layers. Cover dish tightly or use plastic, wrapping dish in both directions. In microwave, cook on high power for 8 minutes. Continue to cook an additional 32 minutes on medium high. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.


Baba Ganoush

2 large eggplants
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more to garnish, divided
1 Tablespoon Greek yogurt
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
Juice of half a lemon
1 teaspoon salt
Parsley and cayenne pepper, to garnish

Rub eggplants with a tablespoon of olive oil.

In oven, broil eggplants until soft and mushy. Be sure to turn them as needed so they cook all over and don’t burn.

Remove eggplants from broiler and put them directly onto exposed flame on a gas stovetop or grill. Keep your eye on it as a couple of minutes will do for a nice smoky char.

Allow to cool enough to handle, cut open and scoop out flesh, getting rid of as many seeds as possible. In a food processor or blender, add eggplant and rest of ingredients except garnish. Blend until almost smooth with a little bit of chunkiness.

Serve cool and garnish with parsley, olive oil and cayenne pepper.

Tip: If you don’t have a gas stovetop or grill (or simply what to save some time), slice eggplant into ¼-inch slices before broiling. This will still allow it to have a good roasted taste.

Easy Garlic Kale

1 bunch kale
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic, minced

In a large bowl of water, soak kale leaves until dirt and sand begin to fall to the bottom, about 2 minutes. Lift kale from bowl without drying leaves. Immediately remove and discard stems. Chop leaves into 1-inch pieces.

In a large skillet over medium heat, heat olive oil. Add garlic. Cook and stir until sizzling, about 1 minute. Add kale and cover. Cook, stirring occasionally with tongs, until kale is bright green and slightly tender, 5-7 minutes.

Garlic Shrimp

25-30 large shrimp, raw and peeled
3 Tablespoons fresh garlic, chopped (see tip) or 3 Tablespoons from jar (see tip)
1 cup fresh parsley, chopped
2 teaspoons paprika
Fresh ground sea salt, to taste (see tip)
Fresh ground pepper, to taste
¼ cup olive oil
2 Tablespoons butter

In a large resealable freezer bag, mix everything except butter. Swish it around good to coat all of shrimp. Or in a large bowl, mix everything and cover TIGHTLY with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

On medium, preheat large heavy-bottom pan with butter. Add shrimp. Stir shrimp for about 10 minutes, until pink and lightly browned.

Serve with loaded baked potato.

Tips: Do not substitute with garlic powder OR dried parsley! Sea salt is stronger than table salt so use less than normal.

Note from Mary: Jim Allen contributed this one as well!




Thinking Big

by John Howle

"You have to think anyway, so why not think big? ~ Donald J. Trump

Whether you like or dislike our new president, one thing is for sure. He thinks big. Certainly, one would have to think big to beat the Clinton Machine. One would have to think big to go against the establishment on both the left and the right in an attempt to drain the swamp. And finally, one would have to think big to build a wall on the southern border of the United States.

Of all the promises to Make America Great Again, the vision I would like to see is an America where Christians aren’t demonized for expressing their love for the Father who has protected this country since its inception. I would like to see law enforcement respected instead of attacked and lured into ambushes. I would like to see patriotism praised instead of persecuted. The next four years promise many things. One thing you can be sure of, however, is the next four years will not be boring.

Spray the Splatters

It’s April and bugs are beginning to appear. They always seem to collect across the front of our vehicles driving down the road at night. When you wash your car or truck, the most aggravating part is scrubbing until the bug splatters are gone. After you wash the vehicle, simply spray WD-40 on the bug splatters. Let it set for a minute, and the bug splatters easily wipe off.

Mind Your Minerals

This time of year, the grass is growing rapidly. It’s a great feeling to look across lush, green pastures; however, behind that beautiful green is possible danger. Because the grass is growing quickly, and we often have cloudy days, the root system may not absorb enough nutrients from the soil to keep cattle from getting grass tetany. Fortunately, this is a problem you can guard against. Your local Quality Co-op can get the right mix of minerals for your cattle including magnesium and calcium to guard against this preventable malady.

Forget Golf: I’d Rather Fish

The lucky Co-op cap and a long stick helped me to retrieve the ball.

My family and I went to Jackson, Mississippi, to visit my sister and her family. While we were there, my brother-in-law invited me to go play a round of golf. First, I’m no golfer, but I decided to make the best of it. Because I like to drive golf carts and be outdoors, I thought I would give it a shot. The one time I was able to get the golf ball on the green, an 8-foot alligator decided to make an appearance on the edge of the green.

I wasn’t about to let him ruin my only good shot, so I got the longest stick I could find and raked the ball away from the gator as he was turning. After this episode, I decided to stick to fishing. At least with fishing, the only thing I have to worry about biting is the fish.

I didn’t realize my brother-in-law was taking photos, but I did hear other golfers yelling for me to get away from the gator. Besides God’s hand of protection, I was also wearing my lucky Co-op cap.

From Predator to Plate

Try preparing the snapping turtle as a freshwater dish.

The common snapping turtle infests many farm ponds in Alabama. They will eat a considerable amount of fish. Often, if you are fishing for catfish, you may end up pulling a turtle onto the bank. Instead of panicking and running away, leaving the turtle to drag your fishing pole back into the water, try this delicacy in the pot. One of the most common ways to butcher and clean a common snapping turtle is to remove the head (the dangerous part) and drop the entire dispatched turtle into boiling water and let it boil for at least eight minutes. This makes it easier to actually skin and remove the shell once it has cooled. Using a sharp knife, remove the lower shell, remove the intestines and cut away the meat from inside the top shell. Make sure you skin and remove all the leg and tail meat, which is considered some of the best meat.

There is both white and dark meat on the turtle. This meat can either be battered and fried like gator meat or you can use the chunks of meat to make a delicious turtle stew much like chicken and dumplings, but, instead, you are using turtle meat.

In 1981, Ronald Reagan became the 40th U.S. President. Known as the great communicator, Reagan was best known for cutting taxes and increasing military spending. His motto was "Peace through Strength." Reagan won re-election in a landslide in 1984 with a campaign slogan of "Morning in America." He had the largest Electoral College victory in history.

The year of his re-election was 1984. I was a junior in high school, and all seemed right with the world. There was a strong sense of patriotism in the country, I was on top of the world driving a 1965 baby blue Ford Fairlane, and I was spending every available moment fishing after the farm work was done.

When Donald Trump was elected, my children asked me if times were similar to the 1980s. I thought for a long time about that. I guess the similarities were that both men rode into office on the ideals of patriotism, putting God back at the center of things and getting government out of the way so we can live the American Dream. As far as similarities between the two presidents, Donald Trump seems to be Ronald Reagan on steroids. I’ve never seen a president who seemed to never sleep and work continuously on their agenda for the country. One thing I think the two men truly share is a genuine love for the country we call the United States of America.


John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.




Timing in Turkey Hunting

When the Occasion Calls For It

by Todd Amenrud

So many other things besides timing influence gobbling and how well a bird might respond to you. Weather and pressure are two other huge influences. Here’s the author with a Missouri tom harvested just before quitting time.

Timing is important in so many things we do - from a musical beat to hitting a baseball to timing the stock market. The better you can anticipate the pulse, peak or sweet spot the better you’ll do. This holds true in turkey hunting possibly more so than when hunting other game. From knowing when during the season the gobblers will respond to your tactics best to knowing when to call on a specific hunt. As they say, "Timing is everything."

Just as the fall hunting season catches whitetails during the rut, spring is breeding season for turkeys. While the decreasing amount of daylight induces whitetails to rut, the increasing photoperiod indicates it’s time for turkeys to begin the rituals and process of propagation. Depending on the region of the United States you plan to hunt, certain parts of the season are better than others. Knowing approximately when the different stages of breeding will happen can help you know which season to apply for, when to take your hunting vacation or which tactics to use for the time you’re given to hunt.

Gobblers may vocalize early during the spring, especially during warming trends. However, just because toms are gobbling doesn’t mean breeding has begun. They may gobble at times all year long. We typically will require more evidence than sparse gobbling to guess when breeding has actually begun, like strutting toms and increased vocalizations from the rest of the flock.

As most of you know, toms gobble to tell hens where to find them. By calling to them and expecting them to come to us, we’re kind of going against Mother Nature. They also add the visual appeal of strutting for the ladies – so it’s kind of backward to the way humans do it.

When the tom breeds the hen, sperm is stored in the hen’s oviduct and fertilized eggs may be laid up to four weeks after mating. One mating is typically adequate to fertilize an entire clutch, but hens may be bred over and over again.

Hens begin to lay eggs as spring begins and she will lay an egg nearly every day until her nest contains anywhere from eight to as many as 16 eggs. Normally, you’ll find an average of about a dozen and you’ll see smaller clutches from younger hens. Hens nest on the ground; thick cover is a must. You’ll often find nests near food and water sources so hatching poults will have bugs, plants and seeds to eat when hatched. Hens will begin sitting on the eggs after they’re all laid and incubation will take about 25-30 days.

From my experience, it’s easiest to call in a tom when the real hens aren’t cooperating very well. So taking in the big picture of the entire season, your best luck should come before breeding actually gets going heavy or later in the season when the hens are sitting on their eggs.

Pressure can also come into play. Early during the season it may be easier to call in a tom because they haven’t been called to yet by other hunters who might suck at the craft. I’ve heard people say that gobblers get "call shy." I don’t believe turkeys get call shy; I believe they become stupid hunter shy. When turkeys want to get together with other turkeys, they make noise, no matter when it is during the season.

In some states, turkeys might not start nesting until the last few days of the season. In other states the birds are already nesting when season opens, but the best hunting, or should I say one of the easiest times to call a gobbler to you, is when the hens are nesting. The problem is that this time will probably come later in the season and it’s possible 10 other hillbillies may have buggered the birds before your turn. So just because they should come to the call doesn’t mean they will. Pressure may also play a big role in how easy it is to draw a bird into your setup.

OK, so let’s narrow it down to the time of day – in my view the best times are right off the roost, then again from about 8:30-9:30 a.m. when more hens start to leave the gobbler to go lay an egg, and again from about 11 until noon.

It’s somewhat obvious why gobblers respond off the roost – it’s a new day and they’re not necessarily with hens yet. However, if they’re roosted with hens, your odds decline precipitously. But if you have located the bird(s) the evening before or have an idea where he’s roosted and you can sneak close, it’s possible to call the entire flock your way. Just make certain you don’t get too close and bump the birds off the roost. Better yet, if you have scouted and have an idea of their daily patterns, you can often anticipate where they’re going to next.

After the gobbler breeds his original harem, about 8:30-9, he’ll begin looking for more willing females. Oftentimes just staying put and waiting will work – it’s amazing how a bird with a brain the size of a pistachio seems to remember where other yelps were coming from earlier in the morning.

I hear a lot of hunters say they haven’t called in many birds after 10. I’m not sure if it’s because they just stop trying or just give up, but I’ve had fair success during this time. I’ve killed my fair share within minutes of the season ending for the day in states such as Ohio or Missouri where it ends at noon or 1 p.m. I’ll admit my favorite times are listed above, but don’t throw in the towel too soon.

Todd Amenrud is the Director of Public Relations for Mossy Oak BioLogic, Editor-in-Chief of Gamekeepers, Farming for Wildlife magazine and a habitat consultant.



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