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August 2015

4-H Extension Corner: Milk Masters

Winners announced in 2015 4-H Dairy Poster Contest.

by Donna Reynolds

The Alabama 4-H Dairy Poster Contest provides an opportunity for boys and girls to learn more about dairying and dairy nutritional facts. The contest encourages youth and others to take advantage of the benefits related to consumption of dairy products. While learning more about the dairy industry and dairy products, contestants can enjoy competition with others in local, county and statewide contests with valuable prizes.

"The program has been in existence for more than 25 years. The Dairy Poster Contest is an excellent way for 4-H youth to gain knowledge and present it in poster form," said Boyd Brady, a dairy specialist with Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

"This year it was coordinated by Jenny Isham, an undergraduate assistant in Dairy, who also is an Extension intern. She did an amazing job with this program and I would like to thank her for making this program a huge success," Brady added.

Blaid Williamson, St. Clair County, won the Junior Division of the Dairy Poster Contest.

Each contestant made a 14-by-22 poster about milk, milk products and/or milk production. Posters for 2015 were submitted centered around the theme of "Get More with Milk." Three state winners from junior and senior divisions were selected.

Junior Division Winners:

1st Place: Blaid Williamson, St. Clair County

2nd Place: Jordan Issac, Shelby County

3rd Place: Breanna Burson, Cleburne County

Senior Division Winners:

1st Place: Cailey Wright, Geneva County

2nd Place: Angel Green, Jefferson County

3rd Place: Heather Herbert, St. Clair County

Cailey Wright, Geneva County, won the Senior Division of the Dairy Poster Contest.

First place winners received a rosette and $75, second place winners received a rosette and $50, and third place winners received a rosette and $25, all courtesy of the American Dairy Association of Alabama.

"The participation in this contest was outstanding. There were more than 3,000 participants from 20 counties," Isham said. "I thoroughly enjoy seeing youth involved in any contest that shows their skills and lets their creativity shine.

"I want to congratulate every winner for their hard work and thank all other participants for their hard work and interest in the contest."

The winning posters were hard to narrow down. They were determined on the creativity, work and facts about dairy that were put into them.

Donna Reynolds is the communication editor of news and public affairs with ACES in Auburn.

A Dedicated Life

Mahlon Richburg makes his evening rounds to feed his cattle; some prefer to eat straight from the bucket in his hands.

A Day in the Life ...Mahlon Richburg

by Lacey Rae Sport

The red barn in the background is weathered, but picturesque. Its tin roof is discolored, but still hanging on. A late summer sun is shining, outlining the barn and its surrounding trees as the breeze ruffles through the branches.

His jeans are worn, but his light blue and green striped shirt is pressed to perfection. He pulls his sunglasses off to talk and places them on his head to reveal bright eyes, set in tan skin, slightly crinkled from sunny days and countless smiles.

Hearing his voice, the cows shift towards the fence waiting on dinner. Every morning and every afternoon, Mahlon Richburg makes the rounds to feed his cattle.

The 63-year-old leaps up onto a nearby trailer to fill a few 5-gallon buckets with feed. Cottonseeds are piled as high as Richburg is tall, but with one effortless swoop he fills each bucket. He walks through the gate to feed the cows, leaving it open behind him.

As the seed echoes in the metal trough, the cows eagerly push their way up to it. Standing comfortably in the midst of them, he casually reaches over to pat the bald spot on a heifer’s back. She has a soft, shiny, black coat like the rest of them except for one pink spot about the size of the hand petting it.

When she was a calf, Richburg explained, she was caught in a green briar bush. Not knowing what to do, the scared newborn got intertwined in the briars, scraping and scarring her back.

Richburg’s herd consists of Angus and SimAngus with a few crossbred show calves. As soon as his truck stops in the pasture, they all approach eagerly.

He rescued the calf when he found her the next morning and had to nurse her back to health. For weeks he would pick her up in the pasture, carry her to her mother and help her nurse. Although he claims no partiality toward any one of his cattle, this yearling is alive only because of Richburg’s care and dedication.

Not only is he dedicated to his cattle, but, for decades, he was dedicated to his students. Richburg, or "Burg" as they called him, taught agriscience education at Auburn High School before retiring in 2013.

He talks about his former students like most people talk about their grandchildren, with detailed descriptions and an air of pride.

Ethan Stanley, a former student, said that Richburg was the most memorable teacher he ever had. He was a stern instructor, but he was dedicated and caring.

"Burg had a way of making his students want to work hard at what they do," Stanley said. "[Hard work] is, I believe, a virtue that is very prevalent in agriculture and definitely was so in his classroom. He made you want to figure out how to do things right."

Another former student, Tiffany Godfrey stated that all of her fondest memories from high school involved Richburg and FFA.

"Burg is still to this day my biggest inspiration," Godfrey said. "He encouraged me to be the best I could be."

One of the things she remembers is how every morning, without fail, he went to Hardee’s for a cinnamon raisin biscuit and coffee. With $1.72, he still gets breakfast there every morning. Occasionally, he sees former students and, of course, remembers each one.

Driving through another pasture, he points out different cows and has a story or interesting fact about each one. They do not have names, only numbers. Nevertheless, Richburg can spot one from 100 yards away and immediately recognize its number, as well as know its mother’s number and calf’s number.

Richburg’s voice is gentle. His words, dripping in wisdom, come straight from years of experience. Although retired, he is still teaching.

Before starting his career as a teacher, he earned his degree in agricultural education at Auburn University. Richburg moved to Auburn in 1969 to attend the university after graduating from Luverne High School and never left the area.

While sitting in a freshman English class one day, he met his wife Mary. According to Richburg, he was trying to watch them fill in the horseshoe in the stadium through the window, but there was a girl in the way.

They were married in 1972. Today, with a girlish grin, Mary talks about her husband.

"He is very caring," Mary says. "He can find something to laugh about or something fun in everyday life."

Mary earned her undergraduate degree in elementary education and then earned her master’s in counseling. She was an elementary teacher for 17 years before becoming a counselor in Auburn public schools for 23 years. She retired in 2013 as well.

"I said, ‘Well, you know I’ll do this 4 or 5 years then do something else,’" Richburg says about his teaching career. "And as Paul Harvey said, ‘You know the rest of the story’; 40 years later we retired from education."

Passion for the children they taught for so many years is one of the many things the couple have in common. Both grew up on family farms in Alabama. The Richburgs raised cattle and grew crops in Crenshaw County and Mary’s family had cattle in Florence. She occasionally accompanies Richburg on his daily routines and takes care of the cattle when he is out of town.

Through an open patch in the trees, the sunlight shines through his truck windows as he entered the third pasture. Work gloves, tags and anything else he might need during his rounds lay on the floorboard along with stray pieces of hay. He approaches the treeline while talking about the two award-winning show heifers following his truck. He stops speaking, and squints his eyes toward a cow in the distance.

"Bingo," Richburg says as he drives up to her.

There is a newborn standing under its mother, only a few hours old. Of course, he knows the mother’s number before he walks up to her and prepares a tag with the calf’s new number. Holding the fuzzy, black calf between his legs, he quickly tags its left ear.

Surprised by the piercing, it bucks and bellows. Richburg holds on and talks to the calf until he calms down, then lets him go back to his mother’s side.

Exiting the fields, he locks the metal gate behind him. He drives back to the barn, a darker red now that the sun is setting. Tomorrow morning after breakfast at Hardee’s, Richburg will start his routine again.

As Paul Harvey said, "You know the rest of the story."

Lacey Rae Sport is a senior at Auburn University.

A National Honor

Robert Spencer, far right, receives two certificates from INCAP and Semillas.

Winrock International Honors Alabama Extension Specialist Volunteer with President’s Volunteer Service Award.

by Robert Spencer

Winrock Internationalrecently awarded 73 of its volunteers with the President’s Volunteer Service Award, a national honor offered in recognition of volunteer service. As an Urban Regional Extension Specialist from Alabama A&M University, I was recently one of such recipients for my previous international assignments in El Salvador and recent assignments Myanmar. My work in El Salvador focused on evaluating Extension methodology, and work in Myanmar focused on food security through improving small ruminant production practices and marketing opportunities.

As a volunteer, I found these assignments to be personally and professionally rewarding. Helping people help themselves is a contribution that makes sense to me. I was not only proud to be of service to people in need throughout the world but working with different cultures and languages improved my presentation and interaction skills with my Extension work in Alabama.

Post-training group photo of Robert Spencer , center back, with a group of field technicians and farmers.

DeAnn McGrew, Director of Winrock’s volunteer programs, explained, "Volunteerism is a core American value. It connects us to our neighbors, whether they are local or global, and gives us an opportunity to use our skills for a greater good."

Established in 2003, the Award is available on an annual basis to individuals, groups and families who have met or exceeded requirements for volunteer service and have demonstrated exemplary citizenship through volunteering. As one of thousands of Certifying Organizations participating in the Award program, Winrock International confers the award to recognize the outstanding achievements of its volunteers.

The Award is issued by the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation to recognize the valuable contributions volunteers are making to our nation. The Council comprises leaders in government, media, entertainment, business, education, nonprofits and volunteer service organizations, and community volunteering. For more information about volunteering for Winrock International, please visit their website

I received the recognition from my international colleagues while in Guatemala for two weeks working in rural areas expanding food security by promoting: quality meat rabbit production, consumption of rabbit meat and opportunities to generate additional revenues through sales of surplus animals. This multiyear project targets families in rural communities of Guatemala where over 60 percent of households are led by single mothers with multiple children and little or no income. And, over 60 percent of the children in these households suffer from malnutrition. Their diet consists of primarily starches in the form of tortillas, pasta and rice; with limited access to vegetables and fruits, and negligible quantities of meat as a source of protein.

As a volunteer through Partners of the Americas’ Farmer-to-Farmer Program and collaboration with in-country hosts Institute of Nutrition of Central Americas and Panama and Seeds for the Future (Semillas), I conducted two weeks of trainings with over 45 field technicians and farmers who interact with over 1,500 families. INCAP and Semillas focus on opportunities to increase family access to nutrition and educating households on recipes that provide better nutrition. In the short-run, this project should provide nutrition for single mother households who have limited access to proteins. And in the long-run should provide home-based revenue generating opportunities. Many of these households consist of women in their late teens to early 20s, with multiple children and, through previous training, they have begun to implement "square-foot gardening."

It just makes sense to integrate "square-foot small animal production" (rabbits and chickens) and utilize the animal manure as organic fertilizer. After all, these animals can consume readily available forages and garden scraps, in situations where grain-based feed is not readily available.

At the end of the two weeks, I received two certificates from INCAP and Semillas, one for sharing my time and the other for providing my expertise.

Receiving recognition was truly an unexpected and appreciated honor. This was emotionally touching. These people have little or nothing, while all I did was help them, and they show me all this appreciation. Being able to share of my time and expertise is the greatest gift I can offer!

I hope to go back in six months with some follow-up evaluations, address opportunities for improvement in existing situations, and conduct educational outreach in new communities who wish to pursue meat rabbit production.

Robert Spencer is an Urban Regional Extension Specialist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

Ag Insight

Program enrollment period now open

Eligible producers may now formally enroll in the Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage programs for 2014 and 2015. The enrollment period ends Sept. 30, 2015.

The outreach campaign conducted by USDA since the 2014 Farm Bill was enacted and extended deadlines are central to achieving an expected high level of participation, USDA officials believe.

Implementation efforts included working with universities to simplify the complex programs by providing online tools so producers can explore how program-election options would affect their operation in different market conditions. The tools were presented to almost 3,000 organizations across the country.

The Farm Service Agency also sent more than 5 million educational notices to producers nationwide and participated in some 4,880 educational events with more than 447,000 attendees.

The new programs, established by the 2014 Farm Bill, trigger financial protections for agricultural producers when market forces cause substantial drops in crop prices or revenues. More than 1.76 million farmers have elected ARC or PLC. Previously, 1.7 million producers had enrolled to receive direct payments (the program replaced with ARC and PLC by the 2014 Farm Bill). This means more farms have elected ARC or PLC than previously enrolled under previously administered programs.

Covered commodities under ARC and PLC include barley, canola, large and small chickpeas, corn, crambe, flaxseed, grain sorghum, lentils, mustard seed, oats, peanuts, dry peas, rapeseed, long grain rice, medium grain rice (includes short grain and sweet rice), safflower seed, sesame, soybeans, sunflower seed and wheat.

Upland cotton is no longer a covered commodity.

Sign-up in dairy program under way

Dairy farmers can now enroll in USDA’s Margin Protection Program for coverage in 2016.

Established by the 2014 Farm Bill, the voluntary program provides financial assistance to participating dairy operations when the margin – the difference between the price of milk and feed costs – falls below the coverage level selected by the farmer.

The enrollment period ends Sept. 30, 2015.

According to USDA officials, more than half of the nation’s dairy producers enrolled in the 2015 program, which exceeded expectations for the first year of the program.

The MPP gives participating dairy producers the flexibility to select coverage levels best suited for their operation. Participating farmers will remain in the program through 2018 and pay a $100 administrative fee each year.

Producers also have the option of selecting a different coverage level during open enrollment each year. MPP payments are based on an operation’s historical production.

A farm’s historical production will increase by 2.61 percent in 2016 if the operation participated in 2015, providing a stronger safety net.

Estate tax is hefty, but number of farms affected is small

The federal tax bite on farm estates can be significant, but only an estimated 2.7 percent of farm estates must file an estate tax return, with a much smaller share (about 0.8 percent) owing any federal estate tax. The figures are based on simulations using farm-level survey data from the 2013 Agricultural Resource Management Survey for the 2014 tax year.

On average, a farm estate that owed federal estate tax had a net worth of $11.1 million and a tax liability of $1.68 million, paying an average tax rate of 15 percent. Estates of small family farms (those with gross cash farm income below $350,000) faced the lowest average effective tax rate, while estates of large-scale family farms (those with GCFI of $1 million or more) were taxed at an average effective rate of 18 percent.

Since 1916, the federal estate tax has been applied to the transfer of property at death. Under present law, the estate of a decedent, who at death owned assets in excess of the estate tax exemption amount ($5.43 million in 2015), must file a federal estate tax return; those estates are subject to a 40 percent tax rate on the nonexempt amount.

Energy price declines lower crop production expenses

Oil and natural gas prices dropped in the latter half of 2014, with expectations that energy prices will remain lower than previously projected through 2016.

Lower energy prices affect crop production expenses, which in turn influence planting decisions and commodity prices. However, the estimated acreage changes due to lower energy prices are small, according to USDA projections.

The effect of energy prices on the cost of producing particular crops depends on the level and share of production costs for direct energy inputs such as fuel and oil, as well as for inputs such as energy-intensive nitrogen fertilizers and agricultural chemicals.

Rice, cotton and corn have high energy-related production expenses, so lower-energy prices are expected to reduce operating expenses for those crops the most. Lower production costs provide an incentive to plant additional acreage, so plantings of most crops are expected to rise from what they would have been without the decline in energy prices. The exception is soybeans, whose plantings are estimated to fall initially due to relatively small production cost changes and large cross-commodity influences from corn, as they often compete with one another.

Export demand boosts sorghum prices

A strong increase in demand has pushed U.S. sorghum prices higher, resulting in a premium over corn expected to persist for the second consecutive marketing year.

While not without precedent, the season average price of sorghum has exceeded the price of corn in only 4 previous marketing years since 1981/82, and only 18 times in the 96-year history of sorghum price reporting.

In recent years, the price of sorghum has been supported by unusually strong export demand, particularly from China. Sorghum is a common substitute for corn in feed rations and is also used for ethanol production in the United States.

Corn tends to be preferred over sorghum for livestock feed in most countries, so sorghum typically sells at a discount to corn in global markets. However, since sorghum does not face import quotas and other constraints that often delay or restrict shipments of corn and distillers dried grains from entering the country, China’s demand for U.S. sorghum has surged.

Imports by China were negligible before 2013, but that nation is now the principal buyer of U.S. sorghum and is expected to account for more than 90 percent of the 350 million bushels of sorghum the United States is forecast to export in the 2014/15 marketing year.

Report tells results of USDA research

A recent report tells of discoveries by USDA researchers that have led to new patents and inventions with the potential for commercial application and potential economic growth.

"USDA has a proven track record of performing research that has tangible benefits for the American public, and studies have found every dollar invested in agricultural research returns $20 to our economy," said Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.

According to the department’s 2014 Annual Report on Technology Transfer, USDA received 83 patents in fiscal year 2014, up from 51 patents in 2013. USDA filed 119 patent applications and disclosed another 117 new inventions, which may lead to future patents.

Helping drive these innovations, USDA has 267 active Cooperative Research and Development Agreements with outside partners, including universities, other organizations and more than 100 small businesses.

Highlighted discoveries from the annual report include:

Procedures to remove up to 98 percent of the allergens from peanuts without affecting the flavor;

A new process for pasteurizing shelled eggs using radio frequency energy 1.5 times faster than the current pasteurization process;

A portable method for identifying harmful bacteria in food that could improve the response to foodborne illness outbreaks; and

A new soil nitrogen test that rapidly and inexpensively determines the total amount of nitrogen in the soil available to a plant, reducing costs for farmers while benefiting the environment.

Alabama Hosts Southern Stocker Conference

Release from the Alabama Cooperative Extension System

Alabama will host the seventh annual Deep South Stocker Conference Aug. 6-7 in Montgomery. The conference is targeting cattle producers in Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi. Dr. Kim Mullenix, who is part of Alabama Extension’s beef cattle team, said that producers need to develop some specific management techniques to run a successful stocker operation.

"All three of these states are dominated by cow-calf operations," Mullenix said. "What works for a cow-calf operation may not translate well into a profitable stocker operation.

"Producers attending the Deep South Stocker Conference will learn management skills and strategies that will enable them to maximize their stocker program’s profit potential."

The two-day conference will be held at Auburn University at Montgomery. Thursday will feature a dinner and entertainment at the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association building in downtown Montgomery. A full day of educational workshops is slated for Friday at the Taylor Center at AUM. The conference will focus on the sustainability of the Southeastern stocker cattle industry during a time of high market prices. Find a complete schedule online at

Registration for the Deep South Stocker Conference is $75 per person and covers all seminars, meals and educational materials. Online registration via a secure server is available at A printable registration form can also be found there.

Duane Lenz, general manager of CattleFax, will be the keynote speaker Friday. In addition to Lenz, producers will hear from Extension professionals, university faculty, veterinarians and industry leaders. Key topic areas include regulations surrounding antibiotic use in the industry, and panel discussion focused on grazing management systems research, immunity and processing calves, loan acquisition and risk management strategies.

A trade show will be held in conjunction with the conference allowing stocker operators to network with industry professionals and to see products and services that can improve their profitability and product quality.

This conference is a joint effort of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, the Mississippi State University Extension Service and the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service.

For more information, contact Mullenix at 334-844-1546 or

An Idea Blossoms

The entrance to Thomasville’s Community Garden invites everyone to stroll and enjoy the beauty of the garden.

Thomasville’s Community Garden unites those who love gardening and makes the residents healthier, too.

by Carolyn Drinkard

What makes a community healthy? A friend once told Karen Dean that visitors to a community could tell if a community might be "healthy" or "lazy" by the number of walking trails, bike trails and community gardens in that city. Shortly thereafter, Dean visited her daughter at the Savannah School of Art and Design in Savannah, Ga., and the school’s garden caught her eye. Using recyclable materials, the students had made garden beds to grow fresh produce used in their cafeteria. They had also used recyclables to build benches and other attractive artwork to make the area inviting and comfortable.

Meeting at Gaston’s Grill for breakfast, Thomasville’s Karen Dean and Amy Prescott planned the Community Garden on napkins. They drew the original layout on their “napkin notes.”

Dean, who serves as the Artistic Director for the Arts Council of Thomasville, remembered her friend’s words.

"I knew that we already had walking trails in Thomasville, but, I thought, if we just added a community garden, at least we could be a ‘healthier’ city!" she laughed.

Ever on the lookout to make Thomasville a better place to live, Dean shared her idea for a community garden with her friend, Amy Prescott, the director of the Thomasville Chamber of Commerce. Prescott believed the garden could be a valuable educational and recreational opportunity that the community might support.

Prescott and Dean approached Mayor Sheldon Day, who also liked the idea. Day agreed to let the group use a plot of unused city land adjacent to Clay Park in downtown Thomasville. Prescott and Dean met for breakfast one morning and wrote their ideas on a napkin. The layout for the garden area was even drawn on Prescott’s "napkin notes."

The first step for the Chamber Board was to establish the Thomasville Garden Committee that set guidelines for the project and oversaw implementation. The group’s main goal was to get participants to work together to plant, harvest and enjoy the fresh produce. However, committee members soon realized the garden could provide many other benefits. First, it would give participants another way to exercise and eat better, improving overall health. Second, sharing planting and harvesting knowledge would be a way to bridge the generations working together in the garden. Third, the garden’s vacant lot would now become much more attractive with the addition of green plants and flowers, helping to improve the downtown Clay Park area.

The Thomasville Alabama Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors helped with building the garden. They also planted a plot and helped with the Grand Opening. TACC Ambassadors pictured here are (from left) Keandea Burroughs, John Tyler Megginson, Dakota Baswell and Rebecca Etheridge.

For the first year, committee members decided to build 20 raised boxes that would be rented for $20 and maintained by the gardeners. Many individuals, groups, organizations and businesses pitched in to help. Some gave money; others volunteered their time. Most of the materials for the raised beds were donated. City employees and workers from Life Tech, the transitional correctional center, supplied the labor. Thomasville High School’s Welding class made the plates to hold the arbor.

"The gentlemen, who work for the city, were down there every day working on the project," Prescott said. "They did a fantastic job! When they began to come up with ideas to help with the aesthetics, I realized this had truly become a community project. They really put their hearts into the project."

Prescott and Dean wanted the area to be appealing to all visitors. Their design called for spacious plots that would allow people to move easily throughout the area. They planned for a large fountain to serve as the focal point. Walmart helped by discounting one of its fountains and the Thomasville Arts Council purchased it for the garden. The Dravitan Club landscaped the area around the fountain. A lattice-covered entrance was built to welcome visitors into the garden area. The wooden crossties around the garden were laid so that draping plants could be added to enhance the decor.

Dean has visions of adding even more to the garden in the future. She hopes to hang a large wind chime to provide soothing sounds as people work in this peaceful area. She also plans to display some local garden art, created by Thomasville’s many talented artists.

Kevane Tucker and Kristin Woods brought along some fresh vegetables for customers to purchase.

One group that purchased a box was the Thomasville Public Library. Librarian Gina Wilson and her staff used the theme "Reading makes the mind bloom!" Their goal was to combine gardening with reading and art.

"Our garden is there to say, ‘Hey, slow down and feed your mind from time to time .... READ!’ Flowers were planted simply because they are beautiful and restful. Everyone involved voted to give the vegetables to the Thomasville Salvation Army Food Bank. We will replant in the fall and keep the garden going year round," Wilson noted.

Many children joined in to create the garden, shoveling rocks and dirt, laying mulch and then planting boxes.

"I have heard some of the kids who worked on the garden saying, ‘I helped with that. Doesn’t it look good?’ as proudly as they could," Prescott explained. "Having ownership in their community and being a part of growing their community instills a sense of pride and ownership in the minds of our children," she added.

"Our community garden is truly diverse," Wilson stated. "It doesn’t know age, gender or race. It’s just a bunch of folks sharing their love of gardening. Every time I am at the garden, I see others there and get to know them better."

The grand opening for the Community Garden was held on May 2. Al Benjamin, kneeling, who works for the City of Thomasville, cut the ribbon.

Another idea the Chamber tried was its first Farmers’ Market. Both local and area farmers and vendors brought their crops and food items to Clay Park, near the Garden area, on June 13.

"By having the Farmers’ Market in Clay Park, we wanted to raise awareness of the Community Garden," Prescott added.

The event was a big success, with visitors purchasing fresh vegetables, canned goods and home-baked items. Many visited the Community Garden for the first time, and their comments indicated that they were impressed. The Chamber decided to continue Market Day every two weeks during the summer growing season.

"We do plan to increase the garden area and, currently, we have a waiting list for boxes as they become available," Prescott added. "All and all, I feel like this garden has been a huge success, and I feel it will continue to grow along with our community!"

For more information about Thomasville’s Community Garden, contact the Thomasville Chamber of Commerce at

Thomasville Alabama Chamber of Commerce

P.O. Box 44

138 Wilson Ave.

Thomasville, AL 36784

Phone: 334 636-1542


(Also on Facebook and Twitter.)

Carolyn Drinkard is a freelance writer from Thomasville.

August Lawn and Garden Checklist


  • Plant a fall crop of peas. The roots of peas "fix" nitrogen into the soil for next spring planting. You can also plant some varieties of snap (green) beans for a fall harvest. Be careful to give extra water to these young plants while they are becoming established. The result will be excellent cool-season garden produce.
  • It is not too late to set out another planting of many warm-season annuals such as marigolds, zinnias and periwinkles. They will require extra attention for the first few weeks, but should provide you with color during late September, October and even November.
  • It’s a good time of year to divide congested clumps of chives. Dig them up and divide in small clumps of about five or six bulbs. Replant with a handful of compost.
  • Perennial and biennial plants can be started from seed sown directly into the garden this month or next.
  • By the end of August, select potted plants of perennials such as Autumn Asters (Aster oblongifolius) or ornamental salvias for excellent fall color. These will become permanent occupants of the flower bed, capable of extended color for several years.
  • Spring-flowering perennials can be divided and transplanted this month or next. Be sure to do this during the coolest part of the day and water the plants thoroughly after transplanting.
  • Plant spring wildflowers. They must germinate in late summer or early fall, develop good root systems and be ready to grow in spring when the weather warms. Plant seed in well-prepared soil, half-inch deep and water thoroughly.
  • Begin seeding new lawns or bare spots in established lawns in late August or, preferably, September. Fall is the best time to repair or start a new lawn.
  • Sow forget-me-not (myosotis) seeds for January blooms in the cool greenhouse.


  • Have soil tested for fall fertilization requirements if it has been 3 years or more since the last analysis.
  • Don’t fertilize woody plants now. It stimulates green growth that will not have time to harden off before winter.
  • Daffodils and tulips should be fertilized in early to mid-August. Apply 2 pounds of 5-10-10 or 6-12-12 per 100 square feet.
  • Stop feeding roses now. Feeding will encourage soft growth that won’t have a chance to ripen before the winter.
  • Continue to feed houseplants with a good-quality indoor plant food such as Osmocote (a slow-release granular).
  • Fertilize all water lilies and lotus once a month to keep the plants blooming continuously throughout the season.


  • Now’s the time to do one last shearing of the evergreen hedges. Growth will be tapering off soon, and they probably won’t need attention again until next spring. Don’t prune them in fall so you don’t risk encouraging new tip growth that’s susceptible to browning when the temperatures dip below freezing.
  • Prune out dead or diseased wood from trees and shrubs. Hold off on major pruning from now until midwinter. Severe pruning at this time will only stimulate tender new growth prior to frost.
  • Pinch off onion flower buds from the top of the plants to direct all of the plant’s energy into the developing bulb instead of seed production.
  • Pinch out the tips of the climbing shoots of runner beans once they reach the tip of their supports.
  • Pinch out tomato sideshoots.
  • Perennials and most woody plants can stand a tip pruning or even a heading-back trim.
  • It’s time to stop pinching your chrysanthemums.
  • Keep all faded flowers pinched off marigolds, zinnias, cosmos, salvia and geraniums.
  • Revive leggy petunias by cutting them back to a height of 6-8 inches. Then feed with a water-soluble 20-20-20 according to the label directions. The petunias should be flowering again in two to three weeks.
  • A late-summer pruning of rosebushes can be beneficial.
  • Prune out and destroy blackberry canes that bore fruit this year. They will not produce fruit again and could harbor insects or disease.
  • Trim off faded flowers on crape myrtles to encourage later re-bloom.


  • The first part of the month may be the hottest of the year and that is when the lawn may show the most stress. If the cause is just heat and lack of rain, irrigate deeply as early in the morning as possible.
  • If your grass is dry, do not mow until you have watered or until it rains. Mowing a dry lawn will further stress the turf and expose it to the drying effects of the wind and sun.
  • Evaluate the volume of water delivered from lawn sprinklers to ensure healthy, stress-free grass during the heat of the summer. One thorough watering that will deliver one inch of water at a time is better than several more shallow sessions. The amount of water available through flowerbed sprinklers may be checked by placing several shallow pans among shrubs or flowers.
  • Be sure to check the raised beds, hanging baskets and container-grown plants every day during hot weather and about every second day on moderate summer days. Don’t just check the surface ... push your finger an inch or two into the soil to be sure there is adequate moisture below throughout the root area. Water them thoroughly each time you water, but be careful not to overwater them.
  • Don’t forget to moisten your compost regularly.
  • Remember, camellias, azaleas and rhododendrons have very shallow root systems. Therefore, water them well in dry weather otherwise the flower buds for next year may not develop properly.
  • Before you go on vacation, try and arrange for a friend or neighbor to come round and water your containers.


  • If you do use chemicals, follow the label directions EXACTLY.
  • Kill or remove poison ivy from your property before it goes to seed.
  • Hand prune and destroy bagworms, fall webworms and tent caterpillars.
  • Fruit trees should be on a regular spray program. Check with your local Co-op store for suggestions.
  • To reduce the number of pests on your fruit tree for the coming year, pick up and destroy all fallen fruit.
  • If needed, apply a fungicide to the lawn to control turf diseases such as brown patch, dollar spot and others.
  • After you eat a melon, leave the hollowed-out rind turned melon side down in the garden with a small rock under the edge to prop it up a bit. Leave overnight. In the morning, the underside of the rind will be covered with slugs that you can kill at your leisure by sprinkling with diatomaceous earth or by sealing in an airtight plastic bag and tossing in the trash.
  • Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) is used by many gardeners to protect cole crops from chewing caterpillars.
  • Change the water in your bird bath regularly, and keep it filled. Standing water is less healthy for the birds and may become a breeding ground for mosquito larvae.
  • Clean up fallen rose and peony leaves. They can harbor disease and insect pests over the winter if allowed to remain on the ground.
  • Every weed that produces seed means more trouble next year. Control weeds before they go to seed. Weeds in the garden are harmful because they rob your plants of water and nutrients, harbor insects and diseases, and, on occasion, grow tall enough to shade your flowers and plants.
  • Remove old plants that have stopped producing to eliminate a shelter for insects and disease organisms.
  • White flies are attracted to yellow, so use yellow sticky boards to reduce their populations.
  • Do not add weeds with mature seed heads to the compost pile. Many weed seeds can remain viable and germinate next year when the compost is used.


  • Spade or till soil for fall bulb planting; add a moderate amount of fertilizer.
  • Establish a new compost pile to accommodate the fall leaf accumulation.
  • Cut strawflowers intended for dried flower arrangements when the blooms are only half open. Tie small bundles of the flowers together and hang them upside down in a well-ventilated place to dry.
  • Pick fresh flowers for indoors. This will also encourage more blooms on most perennials.
  • Raise the cutting height of your lawnmower during the hottest part of summer. The longer blades of grass will provide a little extra shade for the roots of the grass. Thick turf also acts as insulation, helping retain moisture.
  • Colorful plastic golf tees can be stuck in the ground to mark the location of dormant plants such as spring bulbs or perennials.
  • Wear safety goggles when using all portable power tools such as trimmers, blowers, chain saws, etc.
  • Harvest watermelon when the underside ground spot turns from whitish to creamy yellow; the tendril closest to the melon turns brown and shrivels; the rind loses its gloss and looks dull; and the melon produces a dull thud rather than a ringing sound when thumped.
  • It’s a great time to add a water feature to your landscape that you will enjoy not only this summer but all year round. Creative pools, fountains and waterfalls are on display at your local garden centers, in library books and on the web.
  • Clear pond water can be achieved with proper plant balance. If the pond is in full sun, 50-70 percent of its surface must be covered with foliage such as floating heart, water hyacinth, water poppy, water lily or lotus.
  • Hummingbirds will be migrating back through in August. Get the feeders ready.
  • When using an electric mower or hedge trimmer, always keep the extension cord out of the uncut area.
  • Pick beans, tomatoes, peppers and squash often to encourage more production.
  • Pears are best ripened off the tree. Harvest pears as soon as color changes, usually from a dark green to a lighter green, and when the fruit is easily twisted and removed from the spur.
  • Now is a good time to search online for African violets and to order the newest introductions.
  • Keep fresh feed in your bird feeders.

Battling Avian Influenza

Biosecurity is a crucial tool in keeping the virus at bay.

by Maggie Lawrence

While avian influenza has been confirmed in 20 states, Alabama remains free of the disease and Alabama poultry producers are doing all that they can to keep the disease at bay.

A poultry scientist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System said poultry producers are more vigilant than ever when it comes to sanitation and other biosecurity measures.

"All our Alabama poultry growers have biosecurity measures in place," Dr. Ken Macklin said. "Biosecurity measures are the first line of defense against avian influenza and other poultry diseases."

Macklin said that more than 43 million chickens and turkeys have either died from the disease or had to be euthanized because the flock tested positive for a highly contagious form of avian influenza in the first five months of 2015. The most severely impacted states are in the upper Midwest, including Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

"These cases in commercial poultry operations in the upper Midwest have mostly been linked to a failure of biosecurity," Macklin said. "Growers may have thought they were following biosecurity guidelines fully, but it seems there were lapses."

Macklin, who is also an associate professor of poultry science at Auburn University, said strong biosecurity measures take many forms.

  • Isolating the birds from other animals.
  • Minimizing access to people and unsanitized equipment.
  • Keeping the area around the poultry buildings clean and uninviting to wild birds.
  • Sanitizing the facility between flocks.
  • Cleaning equipment entering and leaving the farm.
  • Having an all-in, all-out policy regarding the placement and removal of the birds.
  • Disposing properly of bedding material and any mortalities.

Dr. Joseph Giambrone, an Auburn University professor of poultry science, called the losses to the national poultry industry staggering.

"The losses are in the hundreds of millions of dollars," Giambrone said. "We can expect a reduction of at least 10 percent in egg-laying production and a similar drop in turkey production nationally."

Macklin said the potential production loss is why Alabama producers are working hard to keep their flocks free of the disease. According to Auburn University research done in 2012, poultry and egg production and processing contributed more than $15 billion to the state’s economy and employed more than 86,000 people.

Giambrone, whose research focuses on viral diseases of poultry, said the disease is spread by migrating waterfowl such as ducks and geese.

"This outbreak began in Canada, and waterfowl spread it south along the migratory bird flyways," he said. "It was brought into the Midwest by birds using the Mississippi flyway. It has persisted so long there because of the heavy concentration of poultry producers in that region of the country."

Giambrone explained ducks and geese shed the virus in fecal material.

"Infected waterfowl shed the virus into ponds and lakes as well as onto the land they are grazing."

Macklin added that warmer weather may slow the disease’s spread.

"The virus can survive for days especially if it is in water. In water, the virus can survive up to 100 days with a water temperature of 63 degrees. But when water temperatures reach the 80s, the virus can survive for less than a month."

He said the virus has a reduced ability to survive on land.

"On land, the virus can survive for 30 days at 40 degrees and seven days at 68 degrees," Macklin said. "Once the outside temperature hits the 80s, the virus breaks down in hours."

While warmer weather may halt the disease’s progress in the United States, Giambrone emphasized that the disease can return next year.

"Even if we get control of the disease this year, wild water fowl in Alaska and Canada remain carriers of the disease and are a threat to bring it back to the United States when they migrate again next year."

Maggie Lawrence is the news unit manager for ACES.

Bextra Hay Saver Bale Feeder

by John Sims

The most costly practice associated with raising beef cattle is feeding stockpiled forages. Extra value and feed savings can be obtained with a Bextra bale feeder.

Indented uprights center the bale in the feeder for minimal waste.

Cattle eat from the bottom of the feeder in their natural grazing position and exit less.

Oklahoma State University research proved that using a Bextra hay feeder reduced hay waste by approximately 58 percent and 75 percent compared to a conventional skirted and open bottom hay feeder, respectively.

This feeder will pay for itself and also provide a return on investment from the amount of hay saved.

We offer two types of Bextra feeders. One is mild steel (black) and carries a 1-year warranty; the other is galvaneal (red) and carries a 5-year warranty. We also offer the Bextra basket that fits in the top of your existing hay feeder to make it a hay-saving feeder.

Talk to your local Quality Co-op about the Bextra feeder this fall and start saving more money and feeding less hay.

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

Blueberry Bounty

This child shows delight over the gallon of berries she and her dad picked.

Growers across the country report record crops this year.

by Maureen Drost

Blueberry farmers across the country are reporting a bumper crop this summer.

In this state, "the growing conditions were excellent except for the cool nights in the spring," said South Alabama farmer Tom McMillan. He and other farmers in the Escambia County Blueberry Growers Association, formed to help pack and ship blueberries across the country, sell the berries each June at the Brewton area Blueberry Festival.

Judy Crane, executive director of the Brewton Chamber of Commerce, said crowds of up to 8,000 come to the festival each summer. Arts and crafts vendors display their work, and visitors can listen to live entertainment as they check out antique cars and eat homemade blueberry ice cream. A new event this year – The Marketplace – was set up to acquaint festival-goers with local shops they might pass while in the area.

Around Alabama, there are plenty of farms where you can pick the berries yourself, including Pendley Farms in Lacey’s Spring. Lori Pendley encourages the public to sign up on a mailing list so they can have the latest information on picking dates and times. She and her husband Earl, who is retired from NASA in Huntsville as a contract manager, own the blueberry farm. They also have a booth each week at the Bailey Cove Farmers Market in Huntsville where they sell their produce.

Blueberry bushes at Pendley Farms in Lacey’s Spring are ready for picking by families. Farmers in the United States lead the world in the production of blueberries. In 2012 alone, 564.4 million pounds of cultivated and wild blueberries were harvested. Around Alabama, there are plenty of farms where you can pick the ripe berries yourself.

The evening of June 25, 26 different family groups visited the farm, Earl said. He and his wife bought plenty of water and popsicles to keep the guests cool as they picked berries until dark – about 250-pounds worth.

"We’re still waiting on some berries (to turn). The rain in April made them come in late this year."

Picking should continue through the middle of July, he said.

Pendley values blueberry farming as a means of being "a good steward of the land." As he grew up in north Georgia, he worked in "huge gardens" planted and tended by his parents who had lived through the harsh Depression years.

Blueberries can be consumed in so many ways – atop pancakes and waffles with whipped cream, on cereal, cooked and put up as jam for now and in the winter when fresh berries can’t be found, and, of course, just by themselves as a snack.

The health benefits are almost too many to name. In April, The Wall Street Journal published a story on recent research showing regular consumption of berries (two or more servings per week), leafy greens and fish may cut the risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease. This way of eating has been named the MIND Diet and is similar to the highly regarded Mediterranean Diet.

According to a Florida State University study, one cup of blueberries a day may help curb high blood pressure and stiffening of the arteries, both of which are linked to heart disease. Other research indicates that berries in the diet may lower the chances of developing certain cancers, increase bone mass and improve the functioning of the immune system.

Buckets in hand, a father and his two youngsters are ready for their blueberry-picking adventure.

Farmers in the United States lead the world in the production of blueberries. In 2012 alone, 564.4 million pounds of cultivated and wild blueberries were harvested. Michigan led the way among the 50 states with 87 million pounds of cultivated berries that same year. Maine was the top producer of "wild" berries with 91.1 million pounds.

A major problem in recent years for farmers is a flying pest that attacks berries, grapes, tree fruit and some vegetables, according to Auburn University researchers writing in July 2011. Called the spotted wing drosophila, it was first seen on crops in central California in 2008. Farmers found the insect here in Coosa County in June 2011.

Lori hasn’t seen the pest this year but agrees it’s devastating. It doesn’t appear until the fruit is fully formed, she said.

McMillan also hasn’t seen the drosophila this year, but his crop has suffered a bit from exo basidium, a disease appearing on fruit and oak tree leaves as white spots. He will use fly traps and sprays if he spots the flying pest.

For more details on the spotted wing drosophila, go to:

McMillan planted 20 acres in rabbiteye blueberries this year, with all harvesting done by hand usually from 7-10 a.m.

Maureen Drost is a freelance writer who lives in Huntsville. She was a career journalist for The Decatur Daily and The Huntsville Times.

Capture the Creative Within

George Washington Carver worked in his laboratory with products made from peanuts.

by John Howle

"I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in." – George Washington Carver

George Washington Carver arguably possessed one of the most creative minds of his generation until his death in 1943. He was a prominent American scientist, inventor, pianist and painter. His detailed drawings of plants ultimately led to his being accepted into Iowa State Agricultural College where he studied agriculture. He stressed crop rotation, agricultural education and developed over 300 uses for peanuts including shampoo, shaving cream, rubber, axle grease, hand lotion and insecticides.

In 1896, Booker T. Washington invited Carver to become Director of the Agriculture Department at Tuskegee Normal and Industrial School. In 1916, Carver published, "How to Grow the Peanut and 105 Ways of Preparing it for Human Consumption."

The boll weevil had ruined much of Alabama’s cotton crop and many farmers began turning to peanuts. Cotton oil mills were converted to produce peanut oil. Livestock could eat the peanut plant and sharecroppers could feed their families on the peanut crops that weren’t sold. Most historians agree that Carver and the peanut helped save the economy of the South during the early 1900s.

Are there other modern day creative thinkers among us today? According to recent research, the amount of creative thinkers is declining because of cell phone usage. According to Genevieve Bell, Ph.D., director of interaction and experience research at Intel, quiet times of musing are linked to creativity. Some of your most creative thoughts come when your mind is disengaged and not receiving information. Bell said examples of these creative times are when you go for a walk or run without an iPod blaring, or when you are gardening or painting a fence.

Bell said that, with smart phones, people’s minds are continually occupied doing things like checking e-mails, texting, Facebook or playing Angry Birds instead of giving the brain downtime to regroup. I bet there’s not a farmer out there who has not, in quiet moments of musing, figured out how to design an unusual gate for a catch pen, come up with a way to install fencing across a creek or developed a creative way to make green bean runners. Just remember when you were a kid in the days before home computers and cell phones, how creative you were in building forts, tree houses, dams in the creek or making huts out of discarded lumber.

The researchers in this study are now saying that time tends to slow down when we are quiet and musing (they call it being bored) that can create a discomfort or tension, but that is when your brain kicks in to entertain itself, come up with solutions to problems or develop goals and plans.

So what’s the takeaway? If we want our younger generation to grow up and demonstrate the same kind of creative genius as George Washington Carver, then we should make more time for musing and praying, and less for computers and cell phones.

Black, plastic bags tied around a piece of Styrofoam egg carton attached to a post or string will often fool crows into thinking you have a dead crow as a warning in your garden.

Fake Out the Crows

With a Styrofoam egg carton, black plastic and some old, hay baling twine, you can help keep crows out of your garden for that late planting of peas or corn. Cut a single egg compartment out of the carton, wrap black plastic around the piece representing the dead crow’s head, twist it and tie the neck portion to your post or string going across the garden.

Egg carton Styrofoam is light material in addition to the plastic, and the simulated dead crow will flap around in the wind easier. Using black plastic and egg cartons this year has kept crows out of my garden as well as genuine dead crows would have. Remember, crows can live to be up to 35 years old, so it’s hard to fool them unless the decoy looks real. Use scissors to trim up the black plastic to look like wings and a tail for more realism.

Calm Calves

When it comes time to convert your calves into replacement heifers, some quality sweet feed from your local Co-op will help the transition. Separate the calves from their mothers at weaning time in a different facility such as a catch pen. Use this time to document the calf, put in ear tags and address any health concerns.

An ideal time to train the calf for eating out of a bucket and becoming gentle is while she is in the holding pen. After about a week of isolation, the calf can be moved to a different pasture. Most times, the calf will continue to walk right up and expect to eat out of the bucket even in the open pasture. Once you have a few gentle heifers in the herd that are willing to eat out of a bucket, this makes it easier to round up the cattle and makes for a gentler, safer herd with which to work.

Stop and Smell the Roses

With hay hauling, garden tending, canning vegetables, and working around the weather and busy schedules, sometimes it’s good to literally stop and smell the roses. There’s a strong connection between your sense of smell and the limbic system of the brain that controls emotions and long-term memories. Aromatherapy makes use of this connection. Much of this research links smelling sweet flowers to uplifting mood, soothing anxiety, lowering blood pressure and even relieving headaches.

More important, stopping to smell the roses can allow us to pause and recognize the beautiful things in God’s nature that are often overlooked and give us opportunities to talk to him more. "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:6-7 NIV)

This August, spend some time off the digital grid and spend more time musing, being creative and praying. You’ll be amazed at some of the great ideas you can come up with.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.

Catfish to Cucumbers, Farm to Fork

The Abercrombies like to see vines that are hanging heavy with cucumbers – like ornaments on a Christmas tree.

Sweet Alabama Farms is a family venture that relies on premium products and natural, organic processes.

by Jaine Treadwell

Don Abercrombie graduated college with an accounting degree and became a certified public accountant.

Today, he could be pushing a pencil, crunching numbers from 9 to 5 and spending weekends at the beach.

But, Abercrombie’s passion was not in the world of finance. His passion was the farm.

Abercrombie grew up on a Barbour County farm, the youngest of nine children.

"I’ve spent a lot of long, hot days in the fields picking cotton and hoeing peanuts," he said. "Our family struggled at times, but material things aren’t everything. We had the love of a family and that’s what was most important."

The love of family and the freedom to be "proactive, aggressive and to think outside the box" were the factors that led Abercrombie and his wife Traci to form AquaSouth, a farm-raised catfish company, in Louisville in Barbour County in 1993.

Four years later, Abercrombie developed an off-peak power rate that stimulated the catfish industry in west Alabama.

The Abercrombies were soon well-established in the Alabama catfish industry and a chance meeting involved them in the shrimp industry.

Each house can hold 2,750 cucumber plants that are transplanted by hand on foot or from tractor seats. Traci and Averi did most of the planting. The eight greenhouses are in the same area where the Abercrombies plan to build another 24 greenhouses.

Abercrombie was delivering catfish to a customer near Bayou LaBatre and just happened to see a man walking his little girl home from school.

"The man had on shrimping boots. Seeing him and his little girl reminded me of my own little girl Averi and those long nights checking catfish ponds," Abercrombie said. "I could imagine how hard the man worked to keep food on the table for his family."

From that experience, Abercrombie incorporated shrimp into his company. He also sells peanuts through his company because his roots are in red clay peanut fields

As a result of Abercrombie’s ability to analyze agricultural industries and understand how to create more value for both the farmer and the end customer, AquaSouth is at the forefront of the catfish industry in Alabama.

Catfish, shrimp and peanuts, for good measure and for old-times’ sake, would seemingly have been sufficient to fulfill Abercrombie’s passion for farming. But it wasn’t. Abercrombie is an out-of-the-box thinker and a visionary.

And, out of the box and from his vision appeared those curious-looking "houses" located in the vicinity of Louisville and Texasville. From a distance, those greenhouses appear to be Quonset huts in the Arabian Desert, but they are actually the "foundations" of the Abercrombies’ Sweet Alabama Farms.

For now, Don, Tracie and their son Cass and daughter Averi Whitfield are growing organic cucumbers on their farm – tons of cucumbers in eight 60-by-204 greenhouses with 24 more greenhouses on the drawing board.

At the beginning of the season, the cucumbers grew low on the vines.

"There’s a future here," Abercrombie said. "This is the way we can grow cucumbers and other vegetables organically and profitably. When you can grow a crop ‘inside,’ you have some control on factors you can’t control outdoors. And, organically grown produce is what more consumers are wanting and demanding. Consumers want to know where their food comes from, how it’s grown and they want to know it’s safe."

Abercrombie’s family’s quest for having the absolutely best locally grown, value-added products led them to growing USDA "Certified Organic Crops" inside the greenhouses.

"The best way to explain the growing process is to look back in time," Abercrombie said. "Imagine growing a crop without modern synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and disease control options, and to do this during non-typical growing seasons. That’s the growing process."

And, he admitted right up front that growing 22,000 cucumbers indoors is a rather labor-intensive venture.

"We had to transplant every single plant. Traci and Averi did most of the transplanting," he said. "They put up ‘miles’ of strings for the cucumber vines to climb. That’s a lot of work and it takes a lot of time."

Traci and Averi did most of the tending of the plants and that included clipping the tendrils daily to keep the plants from tangling with each other.

"We have a drip irrigation system and a ‘feeding’ system that helps us manage the plants and we harvest every other day," Abercrombie said. "The organic fertilizers have to be injected daily, using two or three different nutrients separately."

Abercrombie Organics’ cucumber of choice is the Prima Vera cucumber used in the fresh market primarily for salads. The eight greenhouses produced about 150,000 pounds of organic cucumbers and, with the addition of 24 more houses, "that will be a lot of cucumbers."

Abercrombie said about 90 percent of the organic cucumbers grown for Abercrombie Organics are #1 cucumbers and measure from six to eight inches and weigh about two-thirds of a pound. Any cucumber that is too large or too small has to be sold as a #2 and at a lower margin of profit.

"You want your cucumbers to be long and straight and, for them to be, they have to be trained," he said.

Growing on a climbing vine, the cucumbers have space to stretch and grow, and gravity has a good pull on them.

The Abercrombie family plans to have three crops a year and will eventually add tomatoes and bell peppers to the organic farming operation.

At Sweet Alabama Farms, the family’s hope is to provide a model for others interested in this industry.

"Everything from greenhouse design, including using a tractor inside, to the crops being grown based on consumer demand has been incorporated into the production plan," Abercrombie said. "We have felt for years that there’s a better way to market crops through the distribution channel. In marketing our produce, we will be using the Abercrombie Foods model that tells the story of who we are and where and how the crops were grown from ‘farm to fork.’

"Our products must be available before the conventional produce and vegetables are ready in order to receive premium prices and justify the extra cost associated with growing organically certified crops."

The Abercrombie family’s collective involvement in the world of agriculture dates back 22 years when their premium-brand, farm-raised catfish and other 100-percent U.S.A. products were developed.

"Cass and Averi have grown up around ponds, flavor testing fish, cooking and leading catfish and shrimp demonstrations in grocery stores, and have recently been involved with our restaurant in Clayton," Abercrombie said.

The Abercrombie Organics venture requires a family effort. Cass is the farm manager and Averi handles the marketing. Traci does most of the trellising and picking of the cucumbers.

"There’s nothing as rewarding as developing a business with your family." They all agreed.

Jaine Treadwell is a freelance writer from Brundidge.

Cleaning Up After the Wreck

by Dr. Tony Frazier

One day as I was driving to work on I-65, all the traffic came to a complete stop and we sat there for a while. Finally, as we got to moving and crawled along at about the pace of a foundered horse, we came upon the scene of the accident. There on a roll-back wrecker was a twisted, mangled lump of metal that, earlier that morning, could have been identified as whatever make and model of vehicle it was. The vehicle on the wrecker was in such bad shape it made me wonder how anyone could have survived the accident. Later, I found out the occupant of that vehicle did not survive. As I drove by in the one lane they were allowing traffic to use, I noticed a couple of workers sweeping broken glass, pieces of metal and other debris from the wreck off the side of the interstate.

As I drove on into the office that morning, I became a little philosophical as I sometimes do. I thought about those workers cleaning up after the wreck and realized that we government animal health employees are not too different from the people cleaning up after the wreck and making the interstate safe to drive on again. I began to think about the highly pathogenic avian influenza that spread across the United States and has affected at least 21 states and has resulted in the loss of over 48 million birds according to the USDA’s website. The last detection was on June 17 in Iowa. I thought about the potential "wreck" avian influenza could cause if it comes into Alabama, considering the economic importance of the poultry industry to our state. I thought about how, if prevention, our first line of defense, against a highly contagious disease has been breached, then we follow the three R’s. No, that is not reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmatic. They are recognition, response and recovery. I would say we are as prepared as we can be to diagnose the disease. My concern is that over the years we have become smaller and smaller as a government entity. I am not sure we have the manpower for the rapid response that could be needed if avian influenza makes it to our state. That could leave us "sweeping the debris off the road" and making it safe for the poultry industry to travel the road again.

As I mentioned, the first level of defense against a foreign animal disease like avian influenza (bird flu) is prevention. There are two major areas we can prevent avian influenza from entering the state. First, we can make sure no wild waterfowl carrying the virus flies into Alabama. On second thought, there is only one major way we can prevent avian influenza from entering our state. We must do everything we can to prevent the virus being transported, either in birds, on people or on vehicles or equipment coming into Alabama. The legal requirements for poultry being brought into our state can be found on the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries website at Click on "Divisions" then click on "Animal Health." Remember, if you are ordering chicks through some mail-order hatchery, it is your responsibility to make sure all regulatory entry requirements are met. That includes that all such poultry, chicks or otherwise, must be accompanied by an official certificate of veterinary inspection, fondly referred to as health certificates, or other approved document. It is especially important now that, if you are bringing chicks in from other states, you make sure they are not coming from areas with avian influenza. Then, concerning bringing the virus in on people, vehicles or equipment, we must really stress biosecurity. It could be time to rerun an article about biosecurity. I think there is one around here somewhere.

Our next level of defense is rapid recognition of the virus or diseased birds in our state. The Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries, the USDA Veterinary Services, the poultry industry and Wildlife Services have, for quite some time now, been reasonably intense in our surveillance for avian influenza. Beyond that we depend on veterinarians, backyard poultry owners and people involved in National Poultry Improvement Plan to help be our boots on the ground to watch for any kind of unusual disease outbreak. And I believe our laboratory system is up to the task of helping identify avian influenza or other foreign diseases that might occur. It would likely stretch the labs pretty thin, but I believe our lab personnel are up to the task. And, if we strongly suspect we have avian influenza, we will assume positive until proven negative by USDA. Anyway, the final diagnosis has to come from the National Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in Ames, Iowa.

The next level of defense is what concerns me. Over the years, our work force to deal with such events as an avian influenza outbreak has become pretty small. The USDA Veterinary Services used to maintain a pretty formidable work force in each state. But as we have heard a call for decreasing the size of government, their work force has become a very mobile group that, when called into action, may go to California and work, come home for a short time, then go to Iowa for a while and work, return home for a short period, then go to Minnesota to help them respond to an outbreak. The USDA animal health employees in Alabama, like those in other states, have had to keep their suitcases packed and have spent a lot of time working these responses in other states for several weeks or even months now. Over the past couple of decades, the number of people, veterinarians and non-veterinarians, available to work these outbreaks has been reduced significantly. So, I sometimes wonder, "If Tennessee, Georgia, Mississippi and Alabama have to respond to avian influenza at the same time, where is the help going to come from?"

I spoke to one of my state veterinarian colleagues recently and he said that dealing with avian influenza in his state had really stretched their personnel and resources … and that was with USDA coming in to help. His last comment to me was, "And we don’t have a fraction of the poultry farms you do in Alabama." We have many issues to consider if an outbreak occurs. Carcass disposal will have to be dealt with in a way that does not spread disease and does not pose a threat to the environment. I know, from talking to friends from other states as well as USDA personnel from Alabama who have gone other places to help out, it is very labor intensive.

On a recent afternoon, I was headed home. On my way out of Montgomery, again I was on I-65. I happened to notice a lady who, on her way home from work, apparently had car trouble and had pulled off on the shoulder of the interstate. And even though her plans for the evening had been altered a bit, there was someone with a local wrecker service hooking up to her car to tow it somewhere. I just wondered to myself, "What if she had called the wrecker service and nobody came?" "What if she had called and there was nobody who could come because they were all busy elsewhere?" Then I wondered, "What if we have to clean up after the wreck and nobody comes because they are all busy elsewhere?"

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

Commissioner’s Visit

Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries John McMillan, center, AFC’s CEO Rivers Myres, right, and AFC’s COO Al Cheatham, left, all met in AFC’s home office to discuss agricultural issues affecting the state of Alabama. They also discussed ways to strengthen the relationship between AFC and the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries.

Corn Time



Fred Pringle Saw It All ... and He Wasn’t Just Watching

Fred Pringle with one of the many turkeys he helped trap, transfer and release. (Credit: Tes Randle Jolly)

Can you imagine holding in your hands over 4,000 live wild turkeys?

by Corky Pugh

In his over 43 years working for the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Area Manager and Biologist Aide Fred Pringle personally saw and did it all. He very likely held in his hands more live Eastern Wild Turkeys than any other man in history.

Pringle, named Fred by his father after Fred Stimpson, his father’s employer, is one of those people literally born to do what he did. As manager of the Fred T. Stimpson Wildlife Sanctuary and the nearby Upper State Sanctuary, Pringle spent a whole career restoring deer and turkey populations to sustainable levels.

This was the vision that Stimpson and others had when they established the Sanctuary as a source for restocking programs over half a century ago when deer and turkey had been extirpated from most of the state.

What a satisfying career it must have been to play such a pivotal role in bringing back our most popular game species to huntable levels! Stimpson and Pringle would be exceedingly proud.

A Man of Great Humility

Having had the opportunity to get to know Pringle, the word humble comes to mind when I think of him. Despite his key role in historically monumental wildlife restoration programs, Pringle is first and foremost a man of great humility.

His inordinate humility is characteristic of so many in the fish and wildlife profession. Because of their extreme passion for what they do, so many blush at any special recognition, and typically take an, "Aw shucks, there’s nothing special about anything I’ve done" attitude.

Recipient of the NWTF Joe Kurz Award

Pringle received the highly-coveted Joe Kurz Wildlife Manager of the Year Award from the National Wild Turkey Federation in 2003 for his extraordinary efforts in wild turkey work. The Joe Kurz Award is usually reserved for those with a biology degree. However, Pringle has taught a lot of biologists a lot about wild turkey management.

Can you imagine live trapping and holding in your hands over 4,000 wild turkeys? Wild turkeys that were then transported across Alabama and several other states and released, protected and allowed to reproduce in suitable habitats, resulting in the sustainable, huntable populations we enjoy today.

One of the reasons Pringle handled such a large number of turkeys was that Alabama was a leader nationally in establishing a restocking program. Another reason was that we had turkeys when nobody else did. The remnant population in the area around the river swamp in southwest Alabama, where the Sanctuary is located, was the source of turkeys stocked across the state.

A Jack-of-All-Trades and Master of All

Don’t get the idea that all Pringle did was trap and release deer and turkeys. In his spare time, he was a Jack-of-all-trades – heavy equipment operator, tractor driver, law enforcement officer, repairman, farmer, forest manager, prescribed burn technician, CDL truck driver and public speaker. This widely diverse range of responsibilities pretty much typifies what WWF personnel did on wildlife management areas. His responsibilities just encompassed all these things plus trap-transport-and-release.

Pringle saw the time when there were practically no deer or turkeys left in Alabama, an unthinkable thing to most people today.

He saw the perfection of trapping techniques that allowed for cost-effective methods to trap numbers of wild deer and turkeys without undue stress and damage to the animals themselves. And he saw the development of means to safely transport and release deer and turkeys far away from the source.

Pringle saw the results of the hard work he and his co-workers put into re-establishing and protecting populations of deer and turkeys. He saw the difficulty of enforcing game laws designed to protect emerging, growing herds of deer and flocks of turkeys.

Pringle saw the hunters and landowners of Alabama as they came to realize the wisdom of limiting harvest to allow reproducing populations to take hold.

Later he even saw the effects of inadequate harvest, particularly of does, and witnessed the slow, difficult process of educating hunters about the need to take does in order to keep deer populations in balance and within carrying capacity.

Pringle saw the eventual opening of the Sanctuary itself to limited hunting in the form of Youth Deer Hunts. Add to his list of responsibilities that of hunt manager.

He saw the eventual decline of turkey populations being experienced now. I haven’t talked with him about it, but knowing him he’s both sadly disappointed and optimistically hopeful.

As hunters and landholders, we all owe Pringle and those like him an immense level of gratitude for their hard work in bringing about the relative abundance of deer and turkeys we now enjoy.

Fred, my friend, Mist’ Fred and your daddy would be exceedingly proud of you indeed!

Corky Pugh is the executive director of the Hunting Heritage Foundation.

The Hunting Heritage Foundation is an Alabama non-profit organization established in 2011. To see what HHF stands for, go to the website at You can write to us at P. O. Box 242064, Montgomery, AL 36124, or email

Fresh From the Garden

Rolley Len and Cason love to help pick the vegetables in their grandparents’ garden.

by Christy Kirk

When Rolley Len and Cason go to my parents’ house in Florida, the first thing they do is hug their Nana and Pawpaw, but the second is to make a beeline to the backyard garden. On their last visit, the kids filled a basket with peppers, tomatoes, okra, squash and zucchini within a few minutes of our arrival. They have learned how to tell the ripe from the not-quite-ready and how to pop them off the plants without a grownup’s help.

By the end of summer, even my parents’ small garden is bursting with veggies. Can you ever have too many tomatoes in your garden? Personally, I don’t think it is possible. Of all the fruits and vegetables you can easily grow at home, tomatoes are some of the most versatile and the most sharable.

My parents share their bounty with neighbors, but have also decided they need to start canning or freezing some so the veggies will last all year. One of their neighbors has figs that reproduce as fast as Mom and Dad’s tomatoes. My parents love fresh figs, but decided to make preserves from them as well. Preparing all of their tomatoes and figs for canning or freezing takes time and space to work. Knowing they will have easy access to homegrown fruits or veggies all year is a worthwhile payoff.

During late August and September, a lot of meals at our house are mostly vegetables and possibly pasta. Jason and I love a veggie plate with cornbread, and even the children appreciate a colorful plate of veggies, especially if they are pan-fried. But I eagerly await the fall hunting season because that equals meat for the rest of the year’s menus. Unfortunately, just as hunting seasons start, growing season starts to come to an end and our access to fresh-from-the garden fruits and veggies dwindles quickly.

Whatever you grow in your garden during the summer months can make a perfect pairing with all of the wild game options we have in our area. From catfish to wild hog, there is a side or sauce to be made from locally grown fruits and vegetables that will enhance your next meal. Try canning or freezing your garden’s abundance to make it a treasure you can enjoy all year.

For more information on safely canning your garden bounty, visit

Fig Salsa

3-4 ripe black figs

2 Tablespoons red onion, finely chopped

½ Serrano chili pepper, minced with seeds removed (seeds will add heat if you desire it)

1Tablespoon cilantro, chopped

1 teaspoon olive oil

Soak onion in ice water. Dice figs into ½-inch pieces. Be careful not to squish them. Drain the onion by patting it dry with paper towels. Mix all ingredients in a bowl. If desired, sprinkle a little lemon juice or zest on top. Cover and let marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes before serving.

Note: For fresh grilled fish, try this salsa on the side or piled on top.

Roasted Tomato Sauce

1 large onion, coarsely chopped

1 Tablespoon butter or olive oil

Salt, to taste

2 cups roasted tomatoes

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 Tablespoon cider vinegar

Sauté onion in oil with salt until softened. Add tomatoes and stir (if using frozen tomatoes, heat until they thaw and separate). Add Worcestershire sauce and vinegar. Simmer to combine flavors. Seasonings can be adjusted according to your tastes.

Note: When I make deer burgers or meatloaf, I almost always add ketchup to the ground meat to add flavor and moisture. For me, it makes the difference between a good burger and a really good burger. This tomato sauce will work in place of ketchup for any of your recipes for ground deer meat, including sloppy joes and chili, but with a bit more flavor infused into the meat. Meat can be added to the mixture just after tomatoes are heated. If you want to save time and cleaning, cook it in only one skillet.

Easy Fig Stuffing

2 cups fresh figs

1 cup fresh dates

1 cup walnuts, lightly roasted and chopped

Mix all ingredients together and stuff into the leg of a wild boar and cook according to your boar recipe. Dress the leg with any remaining stuffing before serving.

Note: This is a very healthy recipe I found for stuffing a wild boar leg. I think it would easily adapt to other game such as duck if you do not care for wild hog. You could also serve it as a salad topping with balsamic vinaigrette dressing outside of hunting season.

Tomato and Fig Salad

3½ cups canned whole tomatoes

1½ cups canned figs

1 head lettuce

2 Tablespoons pecans, chopped

½ cup mayonnaise

1 Tablespoon chopped pimiento

Quarter tomatoes and figs and place on nests of lettuce. Sprinkle with pecans. Add a tablespoon of mayonnaise on top, or on side for dipping. Sprinkle pimiento on mayo.

Tomato Dumplings

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

4 teaspoons baking powder

¾ cup tomato juice

Pot of chicken or beef stew, with about 20 minutes of cooking time left

Sift flour, salt and baking powder together. Add tomato juice until a soft dough forms. Drop tablespoon-size balls of the dough into stew for the last 15-20 minutes of cooking. The pot should be covered with a lid, and the lid should not be removed until cooking is complete.

Tomato Scrapple

2½ cups stewed tomatoes

1 onion, chopped

1 carrot, chopped

1 cup corn meal

1 teaspoon sugar

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 cup roasted peanuts, chopped

Mix tomatoes, onion, carrot, corn meal, sugar, salt and pepper in a large skillet or saucepan. Cook slowly until thick, about 1 hour. Beat in peanuts. Pack into an oiled pan or a container such as a baking powder tin with a lid. Let it cool. Slice and fry in a little oil, drain and serve.

Aunt Donna’s Tomato Pie

1 (9-inch) pie crust

3 tomatoes, thinly sliced

2 teaspoons salt

3 cloves garlic, minced

¼ cup basil, chopped

½ cup cheddar cheese, shredded

½ cup mozzarella cheese

¼ cup mayonnaise

Preheat oven to 450°. Press pie crust into a 9-inch pie pan; prick bottom and sides with fork. Bake crust until lightly browned, 10-12 minutes. Cool completely. Reduce oven temperature to 350°. Place tomatoes in a single layer of a colander; sprinkle with salt. Let sit for about 10 minutes to release moisture. Blot excess moisture with a paper towel. Arrange 1 layer of tomato slices around the bottom of the cooled pie crust, overlapping the slices. Sprinkle half the garlic and half the basil onto tomato layer. Sprinkle half the cheeses over basil layer. Repeat layering with remaining tomatoes, garlic, basil and cheeses. Spread mayonnaise over the top cheese layer. Bake until cheese is melted and bubbling, about 30 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

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

Future Farmer

Landyn Rainer is 5 years old and loves anything to do with farming! He is fascinated by combines and all other equipment involved. He also loves visiting his mom Rachel at AFC’s grain elevator in Guntersville. The day this picture was made, Landyn was out working cattle with his dad Eric and a calf got loose in this wheat field. Eric stopped to take this quick picture with his cell phone. On a normal day, Landyn is busy helping his family with their small goat farm. Landyn is a future farmer of Alabama for sure.

Garden Art

This blue hydrangea has an intense blue color.

by Herb T. Farmer

When you look at your garden in the wintertime, what do you see? Dreams of fruits, vegetables and flowers probably come to mind. Dreams of what will be in just a few short months. But when you look at your garden in mid-summer … you can see all of the beauty you helped Mother Nature produce.

This time of year, when I’m pumping water almost daily to keep up with dry times on the farm, I like to stop and admire all of that "eye-candy" here. And I mean looking past that next ripe tomato or watermelon I’m about to pick. I mean studying the beauty of all of the colors and textures that make the whole project works of art.

Some days, when the sun is beating down on me so hard that I have to take frequent water breaks and sit down, I like to keep a folding chair and a jug of ice water flavored with lemon, lime, cucumber or watermelon rind with me and enjoy the respite and view. Of course, there’s a camera with me at all times.

The castor bean plant (Ricinus communis) has a fun texture to its seed pods.

A few weeks ago, a good friend of mine stopped by and joined me on a weeding expedition in a flower bed. We took a few breaks to rehydrate ourselves while we sat on low chairs and chatted about all of the beauty surrounding us.

"You know, HT? This is art here," he said.

I agreed.

"This is the stuff that artists paint and you are giving them work," he added.

I laughed and said, "But, nobody comes here to paint."

It was at that point I realized the reason I bought the camera in the first place was to capture things I like to see and hang on my wall. I also collect art that hangs everywhere.

Horsetail (Equisetum) is one of the oldest plants on earth, dating back nearly 500 million years from the late Paleozoic era.

My mind was suddenly set in motion by all of the flowers whose colors began to jump out at me and become categorized in a bizarre spectral order.

Over the next few days, I found myself organizing my edible garden bounties according to color gradation. I started cutting fresh flowers and organizing them according to color relationships for the folks I sometimes visit (elderly and otherwise shut-ins).

It has been fun and exciting finding new ways to enjoy the produce: veggies and flowers and all.

I have always said, if you’re going to prepare a meal for yourself and certainly for other folks, you should make it visually appealing as well as delicious.

While I’m on that subject, let me expound a little about dining alone. I have heard a lot of folks say that they’d rather eat out than cook for just one person. What? That’s nonsense! Is it less trouble to cook for two? No. You just have a little extra leftover for another meal or to share with a neighbor.

Making an excuse like that is like abbreviating a four-letter word such as in. instead of inch. If you are going to enjoy a glass of wine, you wouldn’t pour it into a Solo cup. No. Use the good stemware.

When I cook breakfast, everything is placed neatly on the plate and the presentation is better than most restaurants offer. Even if it’s just me, I pour my milk into a proper glass instead of a plastic cup.

Wasps. They are truly beneficial insects that come in a variety of colors, shapes and sizes.

You’re special, so make every meal special. Even if it’s just wine and cheese with crackers and a gherkin, make it presentable on a plate and enjoy the art of the meal.

Now, back to the garden art. The next time you wander around in your garden take notice of all of the color gradations. Look at all of the different textures and patterns every plant has. You will be amazed at the art you find in your own yard.

Then, take a trip to the closest art museum and study how artists used textures and colors, shadows and patterns to create their art. It’ll change the way you see your garden. It’ll change your life. It did mine.

All that talk about food made me hungry, so I cooked up something new (accidental). I had about a pound of sirloin I had ground up a couple of days ago, so it needed to be cooked.

I’ve had more pasta lately than I should have, so I decided to search for another recipe idea.

There was a half of a white onion, four small Ichiban eggplants and some pink-eye peas in the fridge. So I placed the beef in the mixing bowl along with the eggplants (peeled and diced), chopped onion, three sweet banana peppers (chopped), an egg, two minced garlic cloves, some crumbled saltines (about 10 pieces), a squirt of tomato ketchup and black pepper.

I made four baseball-size rounds. Then I took a pound of bacon (16 one-ounce slices) and wrapped each ball with four slices, completely covering the beef mixture. Then I basted them with a sweet barbecue sauce and cooked them in an iron skillet on 350 degrees for about 50 minutes. The temperature inside the meatballs was 170 degrees when I pulled them from the oven.

Barbecued Bacon Balls? That’s what I’m calling them for now.

The entrée was served with pink-eye peas, corn on the cob and sliced tomatoes. Guess what I’m having for lunch tomorrow? (And it won’t be eaten from the storage container either. Presentation!)

I hope you enjoy the pictures this month. It was a pleasure putting them all together. Maybe I’ll take an art class this winter and learn to paint my veggies.

Next month, it’s Boom Days in Fort Payne! I hope to see you there!

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 I’ll answer your questions and I enjoy the emails!

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

Gator Gander

Tim Wood, general manager of Central Alabama Farmers Co-op in Selma, was happy to allow the use of his business to promote the world’s largest alligator in July.

The world-record Stokes Gator visited Central Alabama Farmers Co-op in Selma.

by Alvin Benn

Alabama is known for famous authors and two of the best college football teams in the country, but giant alligators don’t seem to fit the mold – not until they are seen up close and personal.

For the second time in 4 years, hundreds of visitors at Central Alabama Farmers Co-op in Selma got a gander at the world’s biggest preserved gator – a 15-foot-9 specimen that topped the scale at just over 1,000 pounds.

It’s the Stokes Gator and it is a sight to behold. Those who examined the world-record catch from Mill Creek, an Alabama River tributary located in Wilcox County, can attest to that.

They were stunned and some admitted they didn’t want to get too close, especially when they gazed into the wide-open mouth that included several very large teeth.

"They must feed’em pretty good around here," said Joyce Bolin of Kansas. "I’d hate to meet him in the water, or on the land for that matter."

Bolin and husband Bill were among many fascinated visitors who arrived at the Co-op just off U.S. 80 West during July to take a look and have their picture taken next to something that looks downright prehistoric.

It took months to mount, but when it was unveiled at the Mann Wildlife Learning Museum at the Montgomery Zoo in May it drew expected oohs and aahs from amazed spectators.

Joyce Bolin of Beverly, Kan., takes a close look at the teeth of the world’s largest alligator while it was on display at Central Alabama Farmers Co-op in Selma.

Tim Wood, general manager of the Co-op, was anxious to put it on display in his store and was supported once again by officials in Selma and Dallas County.

"It’s estimated to be about 25 years old and that surprises some who thought it had to be much older, maybe 75 years or more," said Wood. "We’re just happy for the public to see something this size."

Records must be authenticated and that’s just what happened when the Safari Club International gave its stamp of approval following the catch by John and Mandy Stokes along with three others who helped haul in the world’s biggest gator last August.

It wasn’t a fluke by any means because the previous world record was set in 2011 when the "Fancher Gator" was caught in the Alabama River, not far from where the Stokes team got theirs.

The body of the world’s largest alligator on display recently at Central Alabama Farmers Co-op in Selma is much longer than the sign detailing its size.

Alligator hunting is relatively new in Alabama, less than a decade old, and Wood believes that’s the reason for the enormous size of Stokes’ gator and its "baby brother" that was a bit shorter and lighter.

"We haven’t had gator hunts in the past and, if you leave’em alone, they’ll grow to the size of those two caught in central Alabama," Wood said.

In addition to its size, the Stokes gator also revealed an added "bonus" when the taxidermy process began – an entire 3-year-old doe estimated to have weighed more than 100 pounds.

Gator hunters aware of the two records are anxious to get started on the next season during August in limited areas of Alabama.

In the meantime, the "Stokes Gator," caught on Aug. 16, 2014, will be making the rounds in Alabama with James "Big Daddy" Lawler of Wilcox County once again helping to put it on display.

An outdoorsman known throughout Alabama, Lawler did the same thing after the "Fancher Gator" was caught, and he’s happy to talk about both of them during his road trips and popular radio program.

As can be imagined, preserving something the size of the gator caught by the Stokes team after hours of exhausting late-night effort takes time, but the rewards can be worth it.

Financially, the gator may not be a million-dollar catch, but the positive publicity surrounding it is something that can’t always be measured in monetary rewards.

Pam Swanner, who directs Alabama’s Black Belt Alliance, said the Stokes catch shines a positive light on what the state has to offer in terms of outdoor recreation.

She said the two world-record alligator catches are testimonies to what Alabama has, especially when it comes to hunting and fishing in the Black Belt region.

Most of those who dropped by the Co-op in Selma to see the gator signed a registration book and, while most were from Alabama, several hailed from far away states.

"When we had the Fancher Gator on display, people were amazed and some doubted anything bigger could be caught," Wood recalled. "Now that we have the new world record set right here, there’s no telling how big they might get on the Alabama River."

Each time he’d walked by the huge alligator on display next to agriculture products, he couldn’t resist a quip or two about the size of the scale-covered amphibian.

"It would make a lot of belts," said Wood, who promoted the attraction on his Co-op’s huge electric outdoor sign.

He also knows that, as the old saying goes, records are made to be broken and, the way things are going in the Alabama River in Wilcox County, there’s no telling how big the next one might be.

Alvin Benn is a freelance writer from Selma.

General Thoughts on Mineral Supplementation

by Stephen Donaldson

As we get into the dog days of summer and forage quality continues to decline, we begin to look for every advantage to make sure cattle perform at acceptable levels. Cattle from spring calving herds are at the end of their breeding season and fall calving cows are in their last trimester and headed toward calving season. One of the most important areas of nutrition for these cattle and one of the most overlooked is a good mineral program.

Recently, the minerals offered by your local Quality Co-op were reevaluated to assure the correct mineral concentrations are present in our products. As always, the products offer chelated minerals supplied by Novus’ Mintrex line.

For a brief review of mineral nutrition, let’s consider mineral availability. Generally speaking, chelated minerals have the best bioavailability followed by sulfate minerals and the least bioavailable are the oxide forms of minerals. However, we must also realize that with increased bioavailability price also increases. So, as we formulate minerals, a combination of the different forms of minerals gives us the most bang for our buck. We must also remember that it is impractical to provide some minerals in chelated form simply due to cost.

Formax Minerals provide proper mineral nutrition to all classes of cattle, and formulations provide the proper minerals for every production demand. In the early spring, when there is potential for grass tetany, there are high-magnesium formulations; when it’s breeding season, there’s Breeder Gold. There is a formulation to fit every production scenario in every season.

All formulations contain calcium, phosphorous, magnesium and potassium as macro minerals. These are adjusted to provide the correct ratios when fed to cattle grazing Southern forages. These minerals are required for proper body development and all metabolic functions. They are needed in the greatest quantity as they are in the highest concentrations in biological systems. Micro minerals supplied include manganese, zinc, iron, copper, cobalt, iodine and selenium. These minerals provide nutrition for more specific bodily functions such as reproduction and muscle development.

In addition to providing proper mineral nutrition, Formax Minerals are also fortified with vitamins to supply the proper levels of vitamins A, D and E. The ruminal microbes produce adequate supplies of B vitamins for cattle. Vitamin E is the most expensive of these vitamins and is left out of or not included in many commercial minerals because of cost. Vitamin E is essential for proper muscle development and reproductive performance.

However, producers need to remember that the greatest mineral in the world is no good if it isn’t fed properly. If cattle don’t consume minerals at their proper level, then no advantage is gained. Producers should always monitor intake to be certain that cattle are consuming the desired amount of mineral. Salt is used both to supplement sodium and chloride in the diet as well as to limit intake. Many times cattlemen feel that too much mineral is being consumed. If mineral is supplied to cows nursing calves, those calves should also be consuming mineral. This could make cattlemen feel that their cows are overconsuming mineral when in fact this can be explained by the fact that calves are also eating the mineral.

Mineral should also be fed in the proper type of feeder and kept available to the cattle at all times. Mineral feeders should be covered to prevent exposure to wind and rain. Hard or crusty product should be cleaned from the feeder from time to time and fresh mineral added. To keep cattle consuming the proper amount, mineral should be fresh and available at all times.

Mineral feeders shouldn’t be in close proximity to water. This can cause overconsumption. It is very important to supply clean, fresh water so proper cattle health and appetite are maintained. An ideal location for mineral feeder would be close to loafing areas or near feed sources. Since mineral is one of the more expensive necessary supplements, proper care and feeding of mineral can prevent excess waste of a valuable resource.

As we have discussed in previous articles, it is extremely important to have a plan and follow it. This includes your mineral program. Strategically plan your program based on the production phase of your cow herd. By doing this, you can increase performance and save money.

All mineral-related products can be found at your local Co-op store. There are several different types of feeders; you can choose the one that best fits your production situation and budget. All Formax Minerals are available to help meet your production goals. Check out our minerals and equipment to get cattle performing optimally.

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

How I Got Involved in Herbs

by Nadine Johnson

The story I am about to write has been told many times. However, this is the first time it has been written. I’m writing this to answer the often-asked question, "How did you become involved with herbs?"

In late 1983, I became aware of a voice in my head that only I could hear. "Build a greenhouse and grow herbs." "Build a greenhouse and grow herbs." "Build a greenhouse and grow herbs." "Build a greenhouse and grow herbs." This clear message was there 24 hours a day. No one could hear it but me. It didn’t interfere with my everyday life in any way.

I told Richard, my husband, about the voice. At the time, he had very little to say. Time passed. One morning he stood up from the breakfast table and announced, "Now we will build the greenhouse." He realized where my voice had come from.

The greenhouse was built. I began to gather knowledge and plant seed. (One day I became aware that my voice had quietly disappeared.) Most of the seeds and plants had to be purchased from a mail-order source. Over a period of a few years, I probably grew over 200 different herbs.

I was already writing human interest stories that were being published in several small newspapers. My writing continued and gradually herbs became the general topic.

In 1990, Richard and I moved from Baldwin County back to our native Pike County and resided in Goshen. The greenhouse had served its purpose and was left behind. My new backyard became a very large herb garden which was visited by many.

A conversation with the manager of Southern Home and Gardens in Montgomery revealed the fact that I was an herbalist and a writer. Through him, I was soon contacted by Elizabeth Via Brown (The Home and Garden editor of The Montgomery Advertiser at that time) and I became the herb correspondent for that publication.

Several years later, new ownership of that publication ended our long and positive association. One door was closed. Another door opened. Soon my column began to appear in AFC Cooperative Farming News. (Mike Thomas of Goshen Farmers Co-op introduced me to Jim Allen, editor of the publication.)

In the 1990s, Richard’s illness began to demand my duties as wife, nurse and caretaker. His care came ahead of all my other involvements. Soon undesirable plants took over my much enjoyed, large, wonderful, fragrant herb garden. The area was mowed. My gardening days were over.

Another door opened. My large, enclosed front porch became an herb shop. I continued writing.

In 2006, Richard’s long illness ended and I became a widow.

In 2011, I moved back to Baldwin County to be near my children for the rest of my days. The spare bedroom in my apartment became, and continues to be, my office and herb shop.

I was very involved during the period when dried crafts arrangements were popular. I grew flowers and herbs. I gathered much material from the wild. I dried this and made many creations.

Along the way, some newspaper columnist referred to me as an "herb doctor." I am not a doctor and did not like being given that title. Somewhere along the line, another columnist dubbed me "The Herb Lady," a title I did appreciate.

I was a charter member of three herb societies: The Gulf Coast Herb Society in Mobile, The Old Alabama Town Herb Society in Montgomery and The Pike Pioneer Herb Society in Troy. I have been a member of The Herb Society of America.

When GOD gives us a command, HE makes sure we have no doubt of its origin. As nearly as possible, I have followed HIS directions.

Nadine Johnson can be reached at PO Box 7425, Spanish Fort, AL 36577, by calling 866-570-7302, or by email at

How's Your Garden?

Sweet autumn clematis fills the air with perfume in August.

by Lois Trigg Chaplin

Sweet Autumn Clematis

That whiff of perfume from the garden this month may be a secret sweet autumn clematis that has come up somewhere on your property. At this time of year, there are two very similar wild vines that often grow on fences or sprout up under shrubs and then cover the limbs with fragrant white flowers. One is native (Clematis virginiana) and the other is an introduced species (Clematis ternfolia) that has naturalized. If needed, give the vines a trellis next to them to tame them and enjoy their show. There aren’t many plants that peak in August!

Fall Beets

August is the month to begin planting beets in North Alabama, even though it seems mighty hot. Because beets need a couple of months to grow to full size, they are planted in late summer and early fall to mature in the cooler weather of October. However, the seeds will do better if you protect them from the heat with some cover. You can lay a board over the seeds to keep them cool, just check it regularly and remove the board as soon as sprouts appear. To keep a harvest of beets through the fall and winter, divide the plantings so that you sow a portion of the seeds every couple of weeks through mid-September. With the exception of Moneta, a monogerm variety, beets generally sprout two or three seedlings, so be sure to thin right away so the plants don’t grow in crowded. The easiest way to thin beets is to use fingernail scissors to cut away all but one seedling in a clump. Growing your own beets is a great way to shave a few dollars from your grocery bill. Roots are about $1 each at the grocery store, but you can buy a packet of 1,000 seeds for $4-$6.

Gray, adult leaf-footed plant bugs buzz around the garden often.

Leaf-footed Plant Bugs

Gray, adult leaf-footed plant bugs buzz around the garden, often feeding on flowers, okra and tomatoes this time of year. Be on the lookout for their young. The little red nymphs that hang out in clusters on stems and fruit look nothing like the adults they will grow to become, but learn to spot them and get rid of them as quickly as you can. Like stink bugs, they pierce fruit when feeding so that the fruit doesn’t develop properly. To control the pests, spray with an insecticide labeled for plant bugs on tomatoes or handpick and destroy them. Check the underside of the leaves for rows of brown, barrel-shaped eggs, often laid in a line near the midrib on the underside of the plants.

Succulents are Ideal for August

When you’re looking for something last minute for a container or garden bed this month, reach for a succulent. Designed to withstand dry conditions, succulents have modified leaves and stems with unusual and thick, fleshy geometric shapes in a mix of green, gray, blue or waxy red colors. They often have a waxy coating that gives the leaves and stems a unique finish, too. Some are covered with fuzz. Mixed pots filled with assorted colors and shapes are great for containers on patio shelves, wire plant stands or in whimsical containers.

Outdoor Alabama Mobile App

Have you discovered the Outdoor Alabama Pocket Ranger mobile app of the Alabama Department of Conservation and National Resources? It’s a handy tool for accessing useful information about hunting, fishing and wildlife viewing in the state. In addition to full sections for these, you can access rules and regulations, license and permit information, state parks, access to boat ramps and many other features. The app will update you with events, news and alerts, as well as being interactive during excursions with features such as GPS maps of hunting and fishing locations. You can even synch devices with a friend to keep track of each other while on location. Advanced GPS technology enhances any trek through the woods, allowing you to record trails, use waypoints and photo waypoints to mark spots. You can download the Outdoor Alabama Pocket Ranger for free from either the App Store or Google Play.

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

Keeping It Fresh

Selecting and Serving Produce Safely

by Angela Treadaway

Fruits and vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet. Your local markets carry an amazing variety of fresh fruits and vegetables that are both nutritious and delicious. However, harmful bacteria that may be in the soil or water where produce grows may come in contact with fruits and vegetables and contaminate them. Fresh produce may also become contaminated after it is harvested such as during preparation or storage. Eating contaminated produce (or fruit and vegetable juices made from contaminated produce) can lead to foodborne illness, often called "food poisoning." As you enjoy fresh produce and fresh-squeezed fruit and vegetable juices, follow these safe handling tips to help protect yourself and your family.

Buy Right

You can help keep produce safe by making wise buying decisions at the grocery store or farmers market.

  • Purchase produce that is not bruised or damaged.
  • When selecting pre-cut produce such as a half a watermelon or bagged salad greens, choose only those items that are refrigerated or surrounded by ice.
  • Bag fresh fruits and vegetables separately from meat, poultry and seafood products when packing them to take home from the market.

Store Properly

Proper storage of fresh produce can affect both quality and safety.

  • Store perishable fresh fruits and vegetables such as strawberries, lettuce, herbs and mushrooms in a clean refrigerator at a temperature of 40 degrees or below. If you’re not sure whether an item should be refrigerated to maintain quality, ask your grocer.
  • Refrigerate all produce that is purchased pre-cut or peeled to maintain both quality and safety.
  • Keep your refrigerator set at 40 degrees or below. Use a fridge thermometer to check!

Separate for Safety

Keep fruits and vegetables that will be eaten raw separate from other foods such as raw meat, poultry or seafood – and from kitchen utensils used for those products. Take these steps to avoid cross-contamination:

  • Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils and counter tops with soap and hot water between the preparation of raw meat, poultry and seafood products, and the preparation of produce that will not be cooked.
  • If you use plastic or other non-porous cutting boards, run them through the dishwasher after use.

Prepare Safely

When preparing any fresh produce, begin with clean hands. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water before and after preparation.

  • Cut away any damaged or bruised areas on fresh fruits and vegetables before preparing and/or eating. Produce that looks rotten should be discarded.
  • Wash all produce thoroughly under running water before eating, cutting or cooking. This includes produce grown conventionally or organically at home, or purchased from a grocery store or farmers market. Washing fruits and vegetables with soap or detergent or using commercial produce washes is not recommended.
  • Even if you plan to peel the produce before eating, it is still important to wash it first so dirt and bacteria aren’t transferred from the knife onto the fruit or vegetable.
  • Scrub firm produce such as melons and cucumbers with a clean produce brush.
  • Dry produce with a clean cloth towel or paper towel to further reduce bacteria that may be present.

What About Pre-Washed Produce?

Many pre-cut, bagged or packaged produce items such as lettuce are pre-washed and ready-to-eat. If so, it will be stated on the packaging. If the package indicates the contents are pre-washed and ready-to-eat, you can use the produce without further washing.

  • If you do choose to wash a product marked "pre-washed" or "ready-to-eat," be sure to use safe handling practices to avoid any cross contamination.

If you have any food safety or preservation questions, please call me at 205-410-3696 or your local county Extension office. You can find that number by going to and click under the "Offices" tab near the top. You can select your county and find out all the contact info there.

Resource: This information was taken partly from a handout from The U.S. Food and Drug Administration Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition Food Information.

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.

McMillan Elected President of SASDA

John McMillan

Release from the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries

Alabama Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries John McMillan was elected President of the Southern Association of State Departments of Agriculture at the conclusion of their annual meeting held in Atlanta, Ga.

"I am honored to have been selected by my fellow commissioners, secretaries and directors of state agriculture departments to serve as SASDA’s President," McMillan said. "I will work to ensure that all of the voices of Southern agriculture are heard in our efforts to grow agriculture and industry in the southern region of the United States."

SASDA is made up of 15 Southern states and the territories of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Tennessee Commissioner Julius Johnson will serve as vice president, Mississippi Commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith as secretary and Texas Commissioner Sid Miller as treasurer. During the conference, members discussed issues relating to topics such as avian influenza, waters of the United States, country of origin labeling and other important agriculture industry-related topics.

The annual SASDA conference will be hosted by Alabama in June 2016 in Point Clear.

One Tough Chick

Mid-State Farmers Co-op Manager Jamie Griffin enjoys having “Lt. Danielle” keep him company in his office in Columbiana.

Spunky Silkie survives and thrives.

by Alvin Benn

"Danielle" is one tough chick.

How else to describe the lone survivor of a brutal, late-night attack by a masked intruder intent on ripping her to pieces and then eating the evidence?

It happened last March on a Friday the 13th and has been the talk of barnyards across Shelby County where "Danielle" has become something of a celebrity for her ability to not only survive but thrive, thanks to "dad" Jamie Griffin.

A Silkie chicken with ancestry dating back to ancient China, "Danielle" was just a rambunctious 2-year-old intent on scratching her way through what life she had at Griffin Farm.

Then, "it" happened and she would be the last of her breed at the site, at least for a while. Her friends were less fortunate and Jamie was in mourning the next morning when he saw the toll left behind by the ravenous raccoon.

"Not much was left but feathers, skin and bones," said the popular manager of Mid-State Farmers Co-op along Highway 70 in Columbiana. "It was a sad sight to see."

Then, he laid eyes on the spunky survivor - down, but not out on the ground, covered in blood and appearing to be on the verge of uttering her last cackle. One leg was gone and there was a large hole just above what was left on that side of the brave bird.

Cricket Griffin, left, and older sister Sawyer love to play with “Lt. Danielle,” who has become a furry member of the family in Shelby County.

Jamie sprang into action, applying what first aid he remembered, knowing time was ticking away.

"I moved her feathers away from her most serious wound and put peroxide on it," he said. "Then I sprayed some ointment on it and wrapped her in a bandage."

In the days that followed, Jamie regularly changed the bandages and talked to her in a quiet fatherly way that seemed to bond the two. Soon, the fluffy, white fur ball with a black beak sticking out began emitting a sound like a cross between a gurgle and a purr.

Tender, loving care began to pay off with Jamie’s feeding techniques proving to be the answer as he held the bird in one hand and moved a small cup with seed to her beak.

"She was blind the first few weeks after it happened and couldn’t find water," he said. "I took care of that. Soon her appetite returned, followed by her vision."

A special treat really got her going. She loves mealworms and Jamie made sure she got plenty, feeding them to her during the day.

"She began to recognize my voice," Jamie said. "I can call and she’ll come to me. You wouldn’t think a chicken could bond that way, but she has."

Jamie and his wife Amy have transformed a dresser drawer into a "bedroom" for their favorite tenant and the bird even has a light inside, just like Motel 6. Before she goes to bed, "Danielle" watches some TV with her "parents."

It wasn’t long before the couple began thinking about a suitable name for their prized pet and soon remembered "Lieutenant Dan," the fictional Forrest Gump character who lost both legs during combat in Vietnam.

Since the chicken is a female, Jamie veered off course just a bit and, instead of naming her "Lieutenant Dan," chose "Lieutenant Danielle." He even made her a Facebook page and viewers flooded the site with kind words such as "It’s a hard life being a chicken princess."

Amy eventually got into the act and began giving "Danielle" pedicures, painting her claws pink, of course. Sawyer, 5 and Cricket, 3, became the bird’s attentive siblings.

"Danielle" can’t fly, but, then, most Silkie chickens can’t, either. What she can do is hop around like a champ after learning how to maintain her balance once she got her strength back.

The Griffins take "Danielle" everywhere, including the beach where she loves to stretch out the best she can on a large blanket. Other times she relaxes on Jamie’s stomach as he lies on his back catching some rays.

"She has been a great blessing to many and is living a great story that we love to share," Amy said. "Sometimes she even makes special appearances at Griffin Farm parties."

During the day, "Danielle" keeps "dad" company by sitting in a box pushed against a wall near his desk. Jamie and Amy filled the box with a comfortable kitty litter-like substance.

Now, what about that nasty raccoon that pulled Danielle’s leg through the chicken coop and apparently consumed it? Well, Jamie isn’t sure, but he thinks he may have taken care of it with his trusty .22 rifle.

"I shot several of ’em and think one could have been the one that got ‘Danielle,’" he explained. "In any event, the ones I got won’t be eating any more chickens around our farm."

"Danielle" may not be able to comprehend her good fortune at being alive and becoming the most famous bird in the neighborhood, but it’s obvious she has no plans to fly the coop, not with all the bennies she has these days.

The Shelby County Reporter has written about her and editors of an animal rescue calendar expect to include "Danielle" in their 2016 fundraising version.

Accustomed now to her unexpected fame, the brainy bird with an affinity for luscious worms, trips to the beach and her own bedroom would seem satisfied with all she’s got.

"She’s our mascot and we plan to see she gets whatever she wants or needs," Jamie added. "It’s the least we can do after what she went through."

He does stop short, however, when discussing their preference for biscuits in the morning – Jamie said they won’t be eating any chicken biscuits.

Alvin Benn is a freelance writer from Selma.

Pals: Taking the PALS Pledge

Parnell Memorial Library Youth Nature Camp really made learning about nature and keeping our environment clean fun!

Montevallo youth campers learn about nature and the enviornment.

by Jamie Mitchell

This summer, I had the unique opportunity to speak at Montevallo’s Parnell Memorial Library Youth Nature Camp. Camp Director Linda Cicero invited me to come speak to the campers about how littering affects nature and how we can keep our environment clean by recycling and reusing everyday materials.

The campers have also adopted the area around the library through PALS’ "Adopt-an-Area" program. They have pledged to keep the area around the library clean and litter-free all year long. This week-long camp is going to have quite a lasting effect on the Montevallo area! Each camper also received our Clean Campus Brochure to take to their schools in the fall so they can share how their schools can get onboard to become a part of PALS’ Clean Campus Program.

In addition to learning about reducing, reusing and recycling, the campers went canoeing one day, learned about weaving and other Native American traditions, and had several lessons on trees and animals indigenous to our area. This camp really made learning about nature and our environment fun!

If you think a school near you would be interested in joining the Clean Campus Program or might like to have me come present a 30-minute program on keeping Alabama more beautiful, have them give me a call at 334-263-7737 or send an email to

Jamie Mitchell is the PALS State Clean Campus Coordinator.

Risky Business

Statistics show that 75 percent of all farm fatalities are tractor or tractor-implement incidents. Rollovers are the most common type of tractor accident.

The majority of farm accidents are tractor related; youth supervision is a necessity.

by Michelle Bufkin

Farming is a dangerous occupation, especially during the busy seasons. Everyone thinks farm accidents will happen to other people, but the truth is farm accidents can happen to anyone, including you or someone you know.

Statistics about farm accidents can be broken down into two categories: incidents involving youth and incidents involving adults. A child dies in an agriculture-related incident about every three days. Thirty-eight children are injured every day in an agriculture-related incident. The Alabama Cooperative Extension System found that an estimated 104 children younger than 20 die of agricultural injuries on U.S. farms and ranches annually. Luckily, Alabama’s number of youth agriculture-related deaths is low, but, if it is your family affected, no number is low enough.

In 2012, there were approximately 1,854,000 full-time workers employed in production agriculture in the United States. The annual death rate for farm workers involving on-farm accidents is 20.3 per 100,000 workers nationally. Figures suggest there is an average of 12 farm-worker fatalities in Alabama annually. Statistics show that 75 percent of all farm fatalities are tractor or tractor-implement incidents. Rollovers are the most common type of tractor accident and can cost farmers an average of $1 million. Extension breaks down fatalities into genders and found that 53 percent of male fatalities occur in crop production. Female fatalities occur primarily in livestock production. From these statistics, we see the number of farm fatalities and injuries are lower than overall ag-related ones, but incidents are still occurring.

These statistics are not meant to scare; they are meant to remind everyone that farm safety is a necessity - especially when youth are involved.

"It is our responsibility as adults to provide appropriate supervision for youth who work on Alabama farms. All agricultural tasks must be deemed appropriate for the youth who are approved to perform that task," said Extension Farm Safety Specialist Dr. Jesse LaPrade in a press release.

Training young people in proper safety strategies for the farm and for machinery is a critical part of lowering these statistics. This not only includes driving but also recognizing and avoiding hazards. Having a pre-determined safety plan before an accident happens is the best way to be prepared.

Moving livestock can also be a danger to workers and cattle. Training workers, new and returning, in proper and safe cattle care can help prevent incidents.

There are multiple organizations that focus on teaching farm safety, for children and adults. Farm Safety For Just Kids was founded by an Iowa farm wife in 1987 after the death of her 11-year-old son in a gravity-flow grain wagon. Keith Algreen suffocated in a gravity-flow wagon of corn while helping with harvest on his parents’ farm. After his death, Keith’s mother Marilyn Adams helped her daughter with an FFA project on farm safety. After doing research, they discovered Keith was not the only child to die. Marilyn founded Farm Safety For Just Kids the following year in the hopes of preventing another tragedy. The organization serves to promote a safe-farm environment to prevent health hazards, injuries and fatalities to children and youth. The organization also produces award-winning farm safety and health resources that cover topics for all age groups, which are now available online. Today the organization is an international non-profit serving millions of rural youth and their families each year.

The Progressive Agriculture Foundation strives to provide education and training to make farm, ranch and rural life safer and healthier for children and their communities. Their vision is that no person would become ill, be injured or die from farm, ranch and rural activities. The Foundation sponsors Progressive Agriculture Safety Days that are fun and educational one-day events. These events teach children lessons to help keep them and those around them safe and healthy. Safety Days can be for the whole community or just for specific schools. At a Progressive Agriculture Safety Day, participants are divided into small groups of 10-15 people who rotate between stations where lessons are taught through educational, age-appropriate, fun, hands-on activities and demonstrations.

Another part of farm safety involves other drivers and pedestrians when equipment is being moved. A lot of farmers own a vast range of land that requires them to use the main roads to move equipment to finish their work. Moving large equipment can take up time and road space. Most farmers know it is an inconvenience to be stuck behind a slow-moving tractor, so they try to accommodate. Farmers who have land in urban areas move their equipment around 1 a.m. to avoid any congestion. Other farmers who live in more rural areas just tell their drivers to move over, off the road, around every two miles, or as often as possible. While being behind a tractor, combine or some other type of equipment can be annoying and slow you down a little, it really will not affect you in the long run. Being behind equipment for two miles is equal to hitting two stoplights in the city. Just remember, if you have to pass equipment, pass legally and make sure you can see all the way around it into oncoming traffic.

These statistics can help show how essential farm safety and proper training are to agriculture families and the industry.

Michelle Bufkin is is a freelance writer from Auburn.

Summer Minerals

Supplementing forages year-round is key to cattle nutrition.

by Jackie Nix

While the majority of cattle producers provide minerals and vitamin supplements during winter and spring, most do not provide mineral supplements once pastures are green and growing. This practice can cut production costs in the short run; however, it can be very costly in the long run.

Minerals and vitamins are a very small and yet extremely important part of cattle nutrition. Minerals and vitamins play vital roles in reproduction, immunity and growth. The end result is cattle that don’t grow or reproduce as quickly or efficiently as they could.

Minerals are loosely grouped into two categories: macro minerals and trace or micro minerals. Macro minerals include calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, sulfur and salt, and are needed in relatively large amounts in the body. The trace minerals include cobalt, copper, iodine, iron, manganese, selenium and zinc, and are needed in very small or "trace" amounts in the body. The vitamins typically supplemented are vitamins A, D and E. I will go into greater detail on a few key nutrients that are more likely to be deficient in summer forages.

Phosphorus is vitally important for growth, milk production and fertility. Cattle on summer pasture are often at least marginally deficient in phosphorus. Cow requirements for spring calving herds are much higher early in the grazing period through breeding. During this period, supplemental phosphorus is critical. Phosphorus supplementation should continue even after breeding since forage phosphorus levels decrease steadily as forages mature. Common deficiency symptoms include reduced average daily gains and breeding problems such as reduced conception rates.

Copper is vitally important for fertility and immunity. Many U.S. soil types are marginally to severely deficient in copper and thus most cattle need copper supplementation. Inadequate copper levels will result in decreased conception rates, early embryo deaths, decreased ability to respond to immune challenge and faded hair coats.

Selenium is also important for reproduction and immunity. Selenium supplementation can help prevent retained placentas, uterine infections and white muscle disease. Most of the soils in the United States are marginal to deficient in selenium, so selenium supplementation is also vital.

Zinc plays a role in the maintenance of skin, hooves, the gut linings and the lining of the reproductive organs. Deficiencies will result in decreased fertility, skin problems, hoof and joint problems, and decreased average daily gain due to decreased nutrient absorption.

Vitamin A. The precursor for vitamin A is typically abundant in green, growing forages, but is low in mature or drought-stricken forages. Also, cattle under stress (weaning, lactation, transportation, etc.) have a higher vitamin A requirement than normal and can benefit from supplementation. Inadequate vitamin A will result in stunted growth, reproductive disorders, runny eyes and increased susceptibility to diseases such as pinkeye.

While most cattle can survive on the levels of minerals and vitamins available in forages, the vast majority of cattle are not receiving what they need for high levels of production. An important point to remember is that the mineral content of forages is limited by the mineral makeup of the soils on which they grow. If it’s not in the soil, it can’t get into the plant. And, while soil types vary, no one soil type provides optimum levels of all the minerals needed by cattle. In fact, some soils are severely deficient in some minerals (selenium or copper, for instance) or have an overabundance of a mineral that interferes with the availability of another mineral (for example, high sulfur levels interfere with copper and selenium uptake and utilization). For this reason, it is commonly recommended to provide free-choice mineral and vitamin supplementation to cattle at all times.

You may think you are giving them what they need if using salt or trace-mineralized salt as a supplement during summer months. While cattle do need salt, salt blocks or trace-mineralized salt blocks will not meet all of the nutritional needs of cattle. Trace-mineralized salt blocks are mostly salt (typically 92-98 percent salt) and contain relatively low levels of trace minerals. Because of the high salt content, consumption of these blocks will be very low, resulting in poor intake of needed trace minerals. Additionally, these blocks do not contain the macro-minerals or vitamins needed by cattle. A complete mineral/vitamin supplement will provide necessary macro as well as trace minerals in addition to needed vitamins.

One should think of mineral and vitamin supplementation like an insurance policy. Just like you pay every month for car insurance "just in case" you get into an accident, it is best to provide a complete mineral/vitamin supplement "just in case" your cattle aren’t receiving adequate levels of minerals and vitamins from forages. The cost of auto insurance seems high until you think about how much an accident would cost; then it seems like a bargain. In the same sense, the cost of mineral/vitamin supplementation might seem high until you factor in the costs of lost profits and reduced production caused by inadequate mineral/vitamin nutrition. By maintaining high-quality pastures for your cattle, you can meet the majority of your cattle’s nutritional needs. However, by providing free-choice access to a complete mineral and vitamin supplement, you can make sure that ALL of the cattle’s nutritional needs are being met. For a cost of pennies per day, you can ensure your production objectives are not being hampered by inadequate mineral and/or vitamin nutrition.

There are multiple ways to effectively deliver self-fed mineral/vitamin supplementation to your herd as well as a wide variety of formulations to choose from. SWEETLIX CopperHead Supplements are an excellent source of high-quality minerals and vitamins. SWEETLIX CopperHead Supplements are fortified to exceed NRC recommendations and include highly available, organic forms of copper, zinc, manganese and cobalt. Your local Quality Co-op can help you choose the SWEETLIXor VMS mineral supplement that best fits your individual situation. Visit or call 1-87SWEETLIX for additional information.

Jackie Nix is an animal nutritionist with Ridley Block Operations ( You can contact her at or 1-800-325-1486 for questions or to learn more about SWEETLIX mineral and protein supplements for cattle, goats, horses, sheep and wildlife. References available upon request.

Teaching the ABCs of Farming

by Tony Glover

I recently took a call from a beginning farmer who had attended a Farming 101 series we taught in Cullman County. He just wanted to invite me out to see how he had implemented many of the principles and practices he had learned during and after the series of classes held in 2013. It is very encouraging to me to see and hear stories of how the information and resources we have provided are implemented over time and the difference they make in people’s lives.

The last time we offered this course in Cullman, we had a tremendous response. The class was made up of a mixture of young beginners, recent retirees, longtime farmers interested in new crops or livestock, and even retired veterans looking for new career opportunities in agriculture. It has now been over 2 years since that course ended and I am preparing to offer the course again. It takes some time to recruit a class and organize speakers and field trips so I have to start several months in advance.

Extension Director Dr. Gary Lemme said the Farming 101 program emphasizes a belief he has long held.

Phillip Garrison teaches a class on beekeeping.

"There is a large, unreached audience who are interested in what Extension has to offer, but often find it packaged in a way they can’t easily access," Lemme explained. "Programs in the past have been geared toward home gardeners or established commercial growers. Also, some events are held at times when they can’t attend. The Farming 101 program overcame these issues by targeting a specific group with the information they asked for and by holding evening classes enabling participants with jobs to attend."

David Beasly and his wife Ellen took the Farming 101 classes, traveling from Florence to Cullman to attend. Their acreage has increased from about 20 to almost 100 over the last few years. They are working to reclaim fields and pastures overtaken by brush and scrub trees. They have fences to repair and ponds to revitalize.

"We saw an advertisement about it and thought it sounded good," Beasly said. "It has just been great. It has given us options on what to do with our place. It has helped us firm up plans and set goals for the future."

While the Beaslys are considering beef cattle and small fruit options for their farm, another participant, DeWayne Jennings, is thinking about beef cattle and biodiesel.

Jennings, who is retired from the military, grew up around agriculture. His grandparents were farmers.

"I am looking for ways to be more self-sustaining. We are thinking about beef cattle. We have more land than we can use for just horses."

Jennings first got interested after hearing Extension Animal Scientist Darrell Rankins speak at several forage sessions.

"I loved Dr. Rankins. The thing that has been emphasized in all the sessions is that you have got to approach farming as something more than a hobby. It’s a business, and you need to make your decisions as you would for any business," Jennings stated.

Comments like these are the reason I want to offer this course again in the winter of 2016. The first time I taught this course, I spent several months collecting names of interested individuals and surveyed everyone to determine how they wanted the course structured. I have a pretty good handle on the topics beginning farmers want to learn more about, but every group is a little different; so I will be going through a similar process again once I have enough names to offer the course. Please let me know if you are interested in taking this course by emailing me at or giving me a call at 256-737-9386. Also, please let others know about this opportunity.

If you are too far from Cullman to take advantage of this course, I have a couple of options for you to consider. One, it may be possible to stream the indoor lectures online to your computer. If I have enough interest, I will pursue this option further. Two, there may be similar courses offered in other areas of the state; visit or call your local County Extension office to see what courses, classes or field day opportunities are available in your area. They may not offer a complete course like I have described, but they might offer classes that interest you.

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

The Co-op Pantry

Folks, I am sorry we did not have a Pantry for last month. I was very, very ill and just did not get back on my feet in time to do the column. Thanks for everyone’s concern and, hopefully, this column will more than make up for last month.

This month, we are truly honored to feature Betty Sims, an incredibly talented culinary artist located in Decatur. Betty majored in Foods and Nutrition at the University of Tennessee. Since that time, she has been involved in various aspects of the food industry. She has worn many hats, including caterer, restauranteur, cookbook author, cooking school owner and food consultant. She presently is owner of Scrumptious Inc., and has been in business since 1986. Having eaten at Betty’s restaurant, I can tell you she is incredibly talented!

Betty has trained at culinary schools throughout the United States and abroad, including the Cordon Bleu in Paris; the Culinary Institute of America in Napa, Calif.; and seminars by Martha Stewart in Westport, Conn.; Kathy Alex in Grasse, France; and Pam Sheldon Johns in Montepulciano, Italy, as well as others.

Betty Sims

She co-edited "Cotton Country Cooking" and has three cookbooks of her own, "Southern Scrumptious: How to Cater Your Own Party," "Southern Scrumptious Entertains," and "Southern Scrumptious Favorites."

As well as her very impressive food background, she is involved in just about every civic organization in Decatur! She has been very active as a founding board member of the Decatur General Hospital Foundation, Decatur School Foundation and Heritage Bank (now Renasant). She has served as president of Hospice and of the Hospice Foundation, on the board of the Chamber of Commerce, as President and Trustee of the Jr Service League, on the board of the Volunteer Bureau, and is past president of the Medical Auxiliary. She serves on the Board of Visitors for the College of Education Health and Human Services and the women’s philanthropic board for the University of Tennessee.

Betty has been honored as Small Business Person of 1992, DGH Foundation Gala Honoree in 1992, recipient of the coveted Athena Award in 1996 and was selected as Rotarian of The Year in 2010. In 2014, she and husband Bill were selected as Citizens of the Year, the first couple to receive such an honor.

The Sims raised four children (losing their son Bill to ALS in 2007) and seven grandchildren.

Betty has let us know that she, Sister Schubert Barnes and Nall Hollis have just published "Celebrations From The Heart." All proceeds from the sale of the books will be donated to charities, The Sims Family Foundation for ALS Research, Barnes Family Foundation and N.A.L.L. ART Association. What a wonderful thing to do!

Mary Delph is an associate editor with AFC Cooperative Farming News. You may email her at


½ cup butter, softened

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream

1¼ cups apples, peeled and chopped

½ cup pears, peeled and chopped


1¼ cups packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3 Tablespoons cold butter (sliced)

1/3 cup pecans, chopped

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla.

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; add to creamed mixture alternating with sour cream. Fold in apples and pears. Pour into a greased 13x9 baking dish. In processor, combine brown sugar and cinnamon.

Add cold butter to sugar and cinnamon; process until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in pecans. Sprinkle over batter. Bake at 350° for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. Yield: 12 to 15 servings


8 strips Applewood-smoked Bacon, diced

1 Tablespoon garlic, minced

1 Tablespoon shallots, minced

3 Tablespoons butter

White wine

2 pounds jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 portabella (or domestic white or shitake) mushroom
cap, sliced

¼ cup diced scallions

2 cups heavy cream

Salt, pepper and hot sauce, to taste

1 recipe cheese grits (included)

In large skillet, over medium heat, cook bacon 3 minutes. Add garlic and shallots. Sauté. Add butter and a couple splashes of white wine. When butter begins to melt, add shrimp. As shrimp begins to turn white, flip over and add mushrooms and scallions. Sauté for 2 minutes more. Remove shrimp and place on plate temporarily. Pour in heavy cream and let simmer while stirring. When reduced by one-third, add salt, pepper and hot sauce. Return shrimp to sauce and combine. Serve over grits.


4 cups whole milk

1 cup half and half

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

1½ cups quick grits (follow directions on package if using stone ground grits)

1 egg, slightly beaten

Salt and white pepper, to taste

2 cups Swiss or Asiago cheese, shredded

Heat milk, half & half and butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently. When boiling occurs, stir in grits rapidly; mix well. Allow to cook until creamy and thickened, on simmer, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Add beaten egg, whisking in rapidly. Stir in the salt and white pepper. Add cheese and mix well.


4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

2 pounds Brussels sprouts*, trimmed and halved

½ cup chicken broth

2 Tablespoons maple syrup, divided

1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced

1 Tablespoon cider vinegar

Salt and pepper, to taste

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add Brussels sprouts and cook until browned, 6-8 minutes. Stir in broth, 1 tablespoon maple syrup and thyme. Cook over medium-low heat, covered, until sprouts are nearly tender, 6-8 minutes. Uncover and increase heat to medium-high. Cook until liquid is nearly evaporated, about 5 minutes. Off heat, stir in vinegar, remaining butter and maple syrup. Season with salt and pepper, then serve. Yield: 8-10 servings

Note: Choose Brussels sprouts with small, tight heads, no more than 1-1/2 inches in diameter.


¾ cup pure maple syrup or maple- flavored syrup

1/3 cup orange juice

3 Tablespoons bourbon whiskey

4 (4-5 ounces) skinless salmon fillets (preferably wild salmon)

Salt and pepper, to taste

¼ cup pecans or walnuts, coarsely chopped

Preheat broiler. For syrup glaze, in a small saucepan combine maple syrup, orange juice and whiskey. Cook, uncovered, over medium heat while preparing salmon.

Lightly sprinkle salmon with salt and pepper. Place on a lightly greased broiler pan. Broil 3-4 inches from heat for 5 minutes. Remove 2 tablespoons glaze and brush on all sides of salmon. Turn salmon and broil 5 minutes longer or until salmon flakes easily when tested with a fork.

Stir pecans into remaining glaze; heat on high for about 5 minutes or until glaze reaches the consistency of syrup. Serve salmon topped with pecan syrup.

Of course, salmon could be grilled 4-5 minutes on each side, depending on the thickness of salmon and brushed with syrup before turning. Spray grill with oil before grilling and place skin side down first.


1 loaf stale French bread (or any leftover white bread)

1 quart milk

10 Tablespoons (1¼ sticks) unsalted butter, divided

4 eggs, divided

1½ cups granulated sugar

2 Tablespoons vanilla extract

1 cup pecans, chopped

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

¼ cup bourbon

Crumble bread into a bowl. Pour milk over it and let stand for 1 hour. Preheat oven to 325°. Grease a 9x13x2 baking dish with 1-2 tablespoons butter.

In another bowl, beat together 3 eggs, granulated sugar and extract. Stir mixture into bread mixture. Stir in pecans. Pour into prepared baking dish, place on center rack of oven, and bake until browned and set, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Cool to room temperature.

To make sauce: Melt remaining butter in the microwave, using 1 minute intervals, stirring in-between. Add confectioners’ sugar until sugar is dissolved and the mixture is very hot. Beat remaining egg well and whisk in into sugar mixture. Continue beating until sauce has cooled to room temperature. Add bourbon to taste. Yield: 8-10 portions.


3 ounces Parmesan cheese, shredded on

large holes of box grater (about 1 cup), divided

3 cups (15 ounces) unbleached

all-purpose flour

1 Tablespoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

4 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, cut into ½-inch cubes, or mild

Asiago, crumbled into ½-inch pieces (about 1 cup)

1¼ cups whole milk

3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1 large egg, beaten lightly

¾ cup sour cream

Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 350°. Spray 5x9 loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray, then sprinkle half the Parmesan evenly in bottom of pan.

In a large bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, cayenne, salt and pepper to combine. Using rubber spatula, mix in cheddar or Asiago, breaking up clumps, until cheese is coated with flour. In medium bowl, whisk together milk, butter, egg and sour cream.

Using rubber spatula, gently fold in wet ingredients into dry ingredients until just combined (batter will be heavy and thick). Do not over mix. Scrape batter into prepared loaf pan; spread to sides of pan and level surface with rubber spatula. Sprinkle remaining Parmesan evenly over surface. Bake until deep golden brown and toothpick or skewer inserted in center of loaf comes out clean, 45-50 minutes. Cool in pan or wire rack 5 minutes; invert loaf from pan and continue to cool until warm, about 45 minutes. Cut into slices and serve. Yield: 10 slices

I am looking for cooks of all ages, cooking traditions and skill levels to feature in this column. I want to hear from those in Alabama as well as our out-of-state readers. The simple requirements for being a featured cook are to love to cook (and eat) and to share your story with us. Get those recipes coming! Any featured cooks during 2015 will receive a free copy of our new cookbook.

The FFA Sentinel: Thinking Outside the Box

Colbert County High School FFA members and agriscience students who helped transform a standard trailer into an Eco Cold Unit.

by Abbi Green

The Colbert County High School FFA recently applied their newly attained skills in transforming regular box trailers to refrigerated transportation units. The project originated from Charlie Meeks with the RC&D. The purpose of refrigerating the box trailers is for local farmers to transport their goods from field to market while refrigerated. The activity did not have any concrete plans, so the FFA members had to combine their mathematical, carpentry, sheet metal, design and electrical skills to formulate and execute the project.

Upon stripping the trailers to the bare essentials, the students labeled each part so it could be replaced in the proper unit from which it was removed. After dismantling each 5-by-8 cargo trailer, the students then began the refitting process. The students installed insulation in each wall, ceiling and door. They used precise measurements in order to install new flooring and screws in the proper places. Finally, the walls were caulked to seal the inside so the trailer would be airtight.

Left to Right, Agriscience courses provide many opportunities for Alabama’s students and FFA members, including retrofitting trailers to ship across the state for farmers to keep their produce refrigerated for delivery to market. The inside of a retrofit Eco Cold trailer courtesy of the Colbert County Agriscience Department.

Each trailer features an insulated interior with four-inch-thick foam insulation, plywood sheathing, reinforced plastic walls and metal trim. A CoolBot was installed on the air conditioning unit to provide a source of refrigeration.

I feel this task taught our chapter leadership, the value and result of hard work, and allowed us to display teamwork and the ability to think outside the box.

In order for the project to take place, the National Resource Conservation and Development Council had to approve the plan and provide the grant money needed for completion. Upon completion, the trailers were placed in different areas of the state to be used by farmers to store products and later transport them to market. The Executive Director of the Resource Conservation and Development Council Charlie Meeks said one of the trailers will be placed in the Northwest RC&D region, consisting of Colbert, Franklin, Lauderdale, Marion and Winston counties.

Agriscience/FFA students provided the labor on this project for a total of 2-3 class hours each day.

"This project has been an awesome experience for each student who participated. From woodworking, sheet metal, carpentry and electrical work, it has all been a part of the project," Colbert County High School FFA Advisor Jeff McKinney said.

"This is the first project of this type in the state, and Colbert County Agriscience/FFA did a great job with it!" Charlie Meeks stated.

Abbi Green is a member of the Colbert County High School FFA.

The Stock Dog Demonstration

by Baxter Black, DVM

Pete was invited to put on a working stock dog demonstration at the agricultural fair in the nearby town of Perdue, Saskatchewan. He could have brought his own lambs that were "dog wise," but his hosts offered to furnish the sheep.

On arrival in Perdue that morning, Pete peeked into the dark trailer at the sheep. Six big black-headed Suffolk ewes glared back at him malevolently. It was like looking into a cave full of bank examiners! He stationed his wife Pam and his dog Jock at the back and opened the tailgate. The ewes charged in a flying wedge and bowled over the defense!

They made straight for the show barn then turned at the last second for a windbreak of willers. Jock was on ’em, snapping at their noses! In the melee, an abscess broke on one of the ewes!

The ewes holed up in the windbreak ... all save one who started down the highway to town! Pete sent Jock "away to me!" to fetch’er back. The two met three times on the centerline before she turned back for the bunch. She arrived with a bloody snoot and led the others down the road in the opposite direction!

Assuming control, Pete, Pam and Jock aimed for the intersection leading back to the fairgrounds. It was fenced on both sides except for one driveway that led to a nice country home set back on a beautifully landscaped lawn. The ewes took a hard right and made for the house!

As the flock rounded the corner of the house, Pete caught a glimpse of a well-dressed lady peeking through the curtain. They made 12 passes around the house trampling shrubs, lawn and manicured flowerbeds. They mangled four bicycles and knocked over six flowerpots before panting to a slippery stop on the front porch. The porch floor looked like the bottom of a dumpster!

The enraged homeowner opened the door to register her displeasure. The lead ewe broke for the living room! Pete followed, slamming the door behind him! They raced over sofas, coffee tables, potted plants, under the kitchen table, through the hall and back to the living room where the ewe paused to squat on the shag carpet (beige, of course) in front of the television set! Pete caught a hind leg and drug her across the rug toward the door. The helpful homeowner jerked open the door admitting Ewe Number 2!

In small towns like Perdue, news travels fast. It was standing-room-only for the working stock dog demonstration that afternoon!

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,

Three Killer Stand Approach Tactics

Besides being quiet on your approach, you also want to remain out of sight as much as possible. The “green strip” planted just in front of the box blind is BioLogic’s Blind Spot. It will grow above your head and help make it easy for you to slip to your treestand unseen. (Credit: Jesse Raley)

You’ve Got to Get There First

by Todd Amenrud

When it comes to hunting whitetails, much has been written about stand placement, playing the wind and thermal, and other major points; however, oftentimes it can be tiny details that mean the difference between "antlers on the ground" and a "white, hairy flag waving goodbye." Your arrow glancing off of a tiny twig, having your treestand squeak at the wrong time or accidentally transferring a molecular whiff of foreign smell to some nearby foliage can be all it takes for your plan to go awry. Among these details is stand approach. Most hunters don’t even think about it; however, it’s obvious that you must get there first! This one very important point can mean the difference between fried liver and a full quiver.

Stand approach is so important that, if not executed properly, you can destroy all chances before you ever make it to your treestand or blind. However, getting there is only half the battle, you also need to retreat out of your area without bumping animals.

Let’s say you have a pristine food plot at 100 percent "attraction power," it’s never been hunted and you’ve been glassing whitetails in the plot for days. So you decide to hunt the plot and plenty of animals show up, just not one of the bucks you were after. You get down from your treestand and head home at dark; however, there were still deer in the plot that you "blow-out" when you leave. You may not think so, but in one fell swoop you’ve cut the "attraction power" of that site in half, or thereabouts.

There are several things we can do to help prevent detection when traveling to and from our ambush locations. The top three most effective tactics are listed here and now is the perfect time to prepare two of the strategies.

1) Create quiet approaches. During late summer, quiet trails can be prepared with a pruner, weed whacker, brush shear (shrub trimmer), chainsaw or bushhog. It depends upon the medium (grass, brush or trees), how close you are to the ambush site, and whether you’re walking, riding a bike or driving an ATV.

Through thick grass or weeds, a weed whacker with a synthetic or steel blade works well. Most regular "yard trimmers" can blow through a mile of trimmer-line battling the tough woodland flora, but a sturdier blade can tackle most obstructions up to small saplings. By cutting the standing foliage you reduce the brush "slap-back" noise that is completely unnatural in the whitetail woods.

Remove all clutter from your trail, from large logs down to small branches. You want to make it easy to walk the path in the dark and you don’t want to snap a fallen branch at the wrong time. Closer to the hunt, take it a step further by raking the leaves and other debris from the trail, especially when you get within 100 yards of your site. When done right, you can sneak to your stand and have deer bedded very close. You don’t want whitetails to know you’re coming, you are there or that you’ve been there.

When originally creating your approach trail, keep in mind that whitetails will begin using it so it’s a good idea to lead it past your site for a distance and about 15-20 yards off to the side. Then go back until you’re perpendicular to your stand and finish a short path to the final yards. Otherwise you’ll have whitetails walking directly at you to the base of your tree without offering you any shot opportunities.

2) Plant screening cover to hide movement. Tall annual grasses are used most often for a quick fix. BioLogic’s Blind Spot is a great seed blend for an inexpensive, fast-growing visual barrier and can still be planted this year. It grows well in less than average soil. It’s simple to plant. It will grow tall enough to conceal a human in only a few weeks.

If you need to walk through a food plot, corn, sorghum or sunflowers will create a screen, but these options should be planted during the spring or early summer. If a more permanent fix is needed, native warm-season grasses or conifer trees can be used.

3) Use the "buddy system." Having a partner means you can help one another so as not to "burn-out" your spots too quickly. The buddy system works wonders, especially when you’re hunting the edge of a food source and you didn’t have a chance to plant the screening shelter mentioned above, so there isn’t any cover to obscure your movement.

Whitetails can’t count. In addition to this obvious fact, most farm vehicles are much less intrusive than a hunter on foot. These two facts combined means that when a friend drops you off and leaves, the whitetails perceive the danger leaves with them. When they come back to pick you up, they bump the animals off the food plot rather than you educating the herd to your ambush location meaning danger. You still want to be in and out as quickly as possible, but the idea here is to let the person in the pick-up/drop-off vehicle bump the animals so they aren’t educated to the hunter or ambush location.

Another principal ploy is creating more than one route in and out. We must always be aware of the wind and thermal, and having alternative approach routes insures we can hunt during more conditions. Do not approach a site if the conditions aren’t in your favor.

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.

Tilapia Import Refusals Soar

from The Catfish Institute, June 23, 2015

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is finding imported tilapia fishier than normal as FDA Import Refusal actions against tilapia increased from 62 to 82 last year.

Rick Oates of the Alabama Farmers Federation said U.S. farm-raised fish is the healthiest and safest option for American families.

"A 24 percent increase in FDA refusals is proof U.S. farm-raised fish is a superior product when compared to that from other countries," said Oates, Federation Catfish Division director. "Unfortunately, very low numbers of shipments are inspected, but this is something families should keep in mind before sitting down at the dinner table."

During 2014, total imports of tilapia increased by less than 1 percent, from 458 million to 461 million kilos. Import refusal actions stem from findings of residues of drugs illegal for use in the United States, food tainted with pathogens such as salmonella, or from potentially dangerous chemicals.

The overall trend continued during the first quarter of 2015, with import refusals advancing by 35.7 percent to 38 refusals from 28 refusals during the first quarter of 2014.

China is the largest supplier of tilapia to the United States, and the FDA only inspects about 2 percent of seafood imports. Only half of 1 percent is laboratory tested.

To the Rescue ... of Bassets & Bloodhounds


by Haley Wilson

My husband James and I started our rescue, Alabama Basset & Bloodhound Rescue, in 2003 because of a need in this area. As I would go by the shelter, I would notice so many great animals being overlooked and not adopted because many families in the area were relinquishing family pets due to unforeseen family circumstances.

As I delved more and more into the rescue world, I begin to see that not all animals were left at the shelter because they were "bad" dogs, but just for no reason other than pets had to go first, when the family fell on hard times and sending a pet to the shelter was the right thing to do instead of leaving him or her at the house or on the side of the road somewhere.

I opened ABBR with the intention to only take shelter dogs first and then, if we had a foster space or I could squeeze another into our home, I would take owner-surrender dogs. But shelter dogs are always first due to the space and time they are given.


As we pulled from our local shelters, we have always put vet care first. Each dog is brought in and goes through a full vet exam, including shots, heartworm test and treatment (if needed), and spayed or neutered.

After that, the dog will go into a foster home for evaluation on food aggression, how well he/she does with other dogs and just the basic house-training process. We want each basset or bloodhound going into a home to be ready to be a part of that home for the rest of their lives.

Our adoption process begins with an application and then a home study; afterwards, a family can meet the dog of their choice. We don’t always let a family adopt the first pet they choose: We work in the best interest of our animals to match them with a home where both family and pet will thrive.

I have included a couple of our recent additions, a Bloodhound named Otis and Basset Hound named Emmie. Both are great dogs and ready for a home!

Haley Wilson is president of Alabama Basset & Bloodhound Rescue, a 501(3)C.

Top Archer at Nationals

Miles Wilson takes home the top male archer title at the NASP National Championship.

After winning at the National Tournament, Miles Wilson takes aim at World.

Release from the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Sixteen-year-old Miles Wilson shot a near-perfect 298 of a possible 300 points to become the top-scoring male at this year’s National Archery in the Schools Program National Championship held on May 6-9 in Louisville, Ky. Wilson is a member of the Alma Bryant High School Hurricanes Archery Team based in Irvington. The Hurricanes placed seventh in the high school division during the competition.

"I was honestly surprised," Wilson said about his almost perfect score. "I focused on my form and everything else fell into place. The score wasn’t on my mind at the time."

Wilson, who will be a senior this fall, has drawn his bow for the Hurricanes since he was in fourth grade, but it was an archery expo that attracted him to the sport when he was a third grader.

"Coach (Roy) Richardson brought archery to our area in 2004," Wilson said. "Students from the Alma Bryant Archery Team put on an expo at my elementary school (Breitling Elementary) in Grand Bay. I was hooked, immediately."

Wilson’s dedication to archery has paid off. In addition to earning top honors at the 2015 NASP National Championship, he has won four state championship titles between 2010 and 2013 and was the top elementary shooter in the world in 2010. This year, Wilson was also chosen, for the second time, as a member of the National Guard All-Star Archery Team that competes in tournaments around the world. Wilson is the first Alabamian to be selected twice for the all-star team, once in 2013 and again this year.

Wilson’s accomplishments are even more impressive when put into context. With 12,045 of the nation’s best student archers from 763 schools in 42 states and Washington, D.C., the NASP national tournament is the largest of its kind in the world. During the championship, Wilson also placed fifth in the scholarship competition and took home a $2,500 college scholarship which can be used at the school of his choice.

Wilson and his fellow Hurricanes will attend the NASP World Championship in Nashville, July 23-25. He will draw his bow for the National Guard All-Star team in the same month. Wilson said he and his teammates have a lot to prove going into the competitions.

"I’m very driven and hope to maintain my title as top male in the nation," he said. "As the most winning team in the state (Alma Bryant), we look forward to competing against the best teams from around the world."

Alma Bryant Archery Coach Roy Richardson, who is also Wilson’s stepfather, said their program is thriving due to the dedication and enthusiasm of student archers like Wilson. Each summer, the school holds archery camps for students in grades three through eight, most of whom have never drawn a bow. Several members of the high school archery team volunteer as student instructors at the camps.

"Watching my older kids teach the younger ones is a highlight of the program," Richardson said. "As the older students pass on their archery knowledge, they also learn how to be mentors. They are teaching themselves through teaching archery."

Wilson agreed.

"Volunteering at the archery camps helps you learn something about your own shooting you might have missed," he said. "It’s very satisfying to help the younger archers grow on their journey."

The dedication and enthusiasm invested in the Alma Bryant archery program by people like Roy Richardson, Miles Wilson, and countless other student archers and parents is manifesting through the next generation of young archers at the school.

To learn more about NASP in Alabama, visit

NASP was founded in Kentucky in 2002 and has since spread around the country. NASP in Alabama is a joint venture between the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division and the Alabama Department of Education.

Weeds, Weeds, Weeds!

by Glenn Crumpler

It seems that every year our weed problem in the pastures gets worse and worse. Pigweed, ironweed, dog fennels, thistle, horsenettle, blackberry briars … you name it; if it plagues a pasture, we can grow it! Not only do they look bad, they absorb the nutrients and the water we need to grow grass for our cattle. Every good cattleman knows that to be a good cattle producer, you have to be a good grass farmer.

Some years we just bush hog a couple of times when the weeds get too big and interfere with the cattle grazing or when they just become too unsightly. It will take Jack several days to mow and it does not kill anything; it just keeps them knocked down and, without question, scatters seed that makes the problem worse. The next cutting and in every succeeding year, there will just be more weeds because we did not kill them – we just helped them to multiply by our efforts. The pastures look better to the eye after the mowing, but the problem is actually worse than before, though it is not immediately visible. The weeds we cut are coming back and all the seed we scattered will germinate at some point; it is just a matter of time!

Other years, like this one, we spray the pastures with herbicide to try to kill as many of the weeds as we can. We have found the problem with this, besides being time-consuming and cost-prohibitive for our ministry, is that the various weeds sprout, mature and seed out at different times of the year. Because of the costs, we try to insure all of the weeds we are trying to eliminate have sprouted and are large enough to absorb the herbicide. In doing so, when we do spray, some of the weeds are yet to appear while others have already seeded out and become so large they not only look terrible but have already robbed the grass of the much-needed nutrients.

Bush hogging makes things "look" better for a period of time. Spraying with expensive herbicide helps, but still does not fix the problem in and of itself. I am not an agronomist by any means, but I do know that if the grass is adequately fertilized and if the soil is rich and nutrients are plentiful, the grass will take care of most of the weeds by choking them out. Weeds just cannot compete when conditions are right for the grass to really grow. You may have to spray weeds for a season or two just to help begin the depopulation process, but it will not be something that has to be done every year.

My guess is that, if you have read this far, you must be asking yourself the question, "Well, if you know this, why have you not just put out the fertilizer to build up the soil so the grass will grow and the weeds will be controlled?" That is a good question and I reckon the only answer I have is because of the costs involved. It will initially cost us more than we are willing to pay, even though in the long run it would be our cheapest and most productive option. It would be less labor-intensive, would decrease equipment maintenance and fuel costs, would increase cattle reproduction and performance, the cows would stay in better condition and produce more milk, the calves would put on more weight, and the place would look so much more pleasing to the eye. If we were willing to invest in and focus on doing what we need to do to build up the soil, we could grow more grass and more pounds of beef, and our weed problems would be either irrelevant or eliminated!

This principle is true with pasture land, true with a home garden or even a large field of crops. It is also true with matters of the heart! Left unattended, our lives become full of weeds. We can call them worldliness, misplaced priorities, corruption, busyness, laziness, lust, greed, an angry spirit, idolatry, selfishness, addiction, deceitfulness, murder, slander, ungodliness, etc. ... or we can just call the weeds what they are: SIN in our lives!

If we are not careful to take care of the condition of our hearts, it becomes a breeding ground for the weeds (sins) in our lives to flourish. The more weeds there are and the longer they grow and mature, the more they reproduce to our detriment and the more they drain us of our time and energy. What may be just a seemingly little or insignificant sin here and there will soon spread and become overwhelming and unmanageable. The more the condition of our heart deteriorates, the more conducive it is to the growth of sin in our lives. One sin seems to open the door for others. It seems that sin in our lives is like the gnats I am swatting just now as I write this – you never seem to be fighting just one!

Like the fertilizer and soil relationship, we are more susceptible to weeds in our lives when we neglect to regularly put into our hearts what is needed to keep it healthy and able to produce good fruits. The more we replenish our hearts and minds by feeding on God’s Word and spending time alone with God, the stronger we become and the more we are able to identify and choke out the sin trying to take root in our lives.

The Word of God and the power and working of the Holy Spirit in our lives is like fertilizer to the soul – without both we are anemic, weak and unproductive. If we neglect the study and application of God’s Word in our lives, we limit or quench what the Holy Spirit will do. Not only do we need daily doses of God’s Word and the filling and empowerment of the Holy Spirit for the replenishment of our souls, we also need one another to bring encouragement and accountability in our lives.

So why are we still struggling with and being held captive by known sin in our lives? Why do we so often feel weak, tired, discouraged, defeated and powerless to change our situation and our bondage to sin? The answer is probably the same as our excuse for not fertilizing our pastures – we are just not willing to pay the price. Spending time alone with God, studying His Word, and growing in our faith and knowledge of God will take time, energy, humility and surrender. If we are not willing to pay the price, we cannot reap the benefits.

The truth is: God has greater plans for our lives than we realize and live out. He wants to do in us what we cannot do for ourselves, but we have to invite Him and allow Him to do it. We can try to beat sin down or cover it up, much like mowing weeds in the pasture. We can also try to "reform" our lives by just dealing with the outward issues of our sin, much like spraying with herbicide – we will defeat some, but others will escape. Or we can resolve the issue by allowing God to "transform" our hearts from the inside so sin can be defeated and choked out by His indwelling presence and power. Reformation is when we are able to make some changes or improvements in our lives. Transformation is God’s work changing us thoroughly and completely from the inside out.

Really, what acceptable choices do we have? In the long run, if we do not make a choice to live in peace with God, we will never be able to live in peace with ourselves!

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

Worst Turkey Season Ever, or Was It?

Chuck Sykes called in this bird for 10-year-old hunter Jack Utsey in Choctaw County just before a rain event.

Many hunters said the 2015 turkey season was the worst in the past 10 years, according to a recent survey.

by Chuck Sykes

For me, the spring of 2015 marked the worst turkey season I have had in almost 10 years. Typically, I call enough birds into shotgun range that I kill my limit each season, and that’s with me shooting backup. This year, I finished the season with two. I have been keeping meticulous records on my turkey seasons since 1995. Each year I record in a journal turkeys called in, turkeys killed, turkeys missed, days hunted and other miscellaneous information. Each year for the past 9 years, I have had a turkey shot at (not necessarily killed) every 2.3 days. This year the average was 3.3 days of hunting for each turkey shot at.

What was the reason? Were the turkeys just not as plentiful as in the past years? Had I killed all the easy ones and only the tough remained? Had coyotes eaten them all? Were the turkeys there, but just not gobbling and therefore harder to hunt? Was it due to inclement weather? Was this due to the fact that I had a "real" job and couldn’t hunt all day (that was my wife’s reasoning)? If you ask 10 turkey hunters, you will probably get seven different answers. And that is exactly what we did when we sent out the online survey to licensed turkey hunters.

According to the hunters’ responses, 73 percent said predators were the cause of the poor season, 40 percent said weather was the main cause, 24 percent said there were simply too many turkey hunters or too liberal of a bag limit. (Complete results from the survey are open for public viewing on the wild turkey page of the Outdoor Alabama website, In reality, I know there are several reasons why my season was the worst in many years.

Chuck Sykes, left, and 15-year-old hunter John Adams doubled on birds Chuck called up in Macon County on a cold and rainy morning.

First, the weather was not conducive to me killing turkeys this spring. Unlike in years past, I don’t have the luxury of hunting all day most days like I did when I was self-employed. I do have a "real" job requiring me to be in an office in downtown Montgomery, especially during spring when the legislature is in session. So, on most Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, all I could do was go to places close to Montgomery and basically listen to see if a bird was gobbling in an area where I thought I could kill him quickly and be back in the office at a decent time. Unfortunately, those were usually the only days during the week when it wasn’t raining. Since I’ve turned into somewhat of a weekend warrior, it was extremely detrimental to my turkey hunting success that it rained almost every weekend this season.

Second, the weather was not favorable for gobbling activity. It was almost impossible for gobblers to get into a routine. It would be rainy, cloudy, cold or all of them for several days in a row. The sun would shine for a day; then it would go right back to rainy, cloudy or cold. It has been my experience that turkeys need several warm, sunny days to really get fired up to gobble. Then, if a front comes in and it rains for a day or so, they will still gobble. But, I don’t like deer hunting for turkeys. If they aren’t gobbling where I can work one, I’m generally not going to get one. Sitting and ambushing a turkey so I can say I killed one is not enjoyable for me. I’m definitely not saying I haven’t done that before and may do it again in the future, but, if I have my preference, I’d rather call in a gobbling bird.

Third, it rained so much that many of my prime turkey hunting spots were inaccessible during a large portion of the season. Whether I was hunting in Lowndes, Marengo, Greene or Choctaw counties, rivers and creeks were out of their banks, preventing me from hunting some of my better locations. I hope everyone is beginning to see a strong correlation between weather conditions and my poor season. However, I’m not discounting any of the other reasons hunters selected on the survey. In addition to the survey, I have talked to many avid turkey hunters throughout the state. Some had tremendous seasons while others were more like me.

Throughout the Southeast, state wildlife agencies are reporting lower turkey numbers than they have had in previous years, so there was no reason to think Alabama was in a vacuum and not experiencing those same downward trends. Because Alabama lacked baseline data to determine the extent of the trend, except in isolated locations, WFF reached out to Auburn University for assistance. WFF entered into a 5-year contract with Auburn University to gather that much-needed data. The study began in February 2015. These data combined with observation data, brood data and the avid turkey hunter survey will give WFF biologists a solid foundation to develop a statewide management strategy for turkey.

The main point I want to make is this is a complicated issue. As with all issues dealing with wildlife, there is not going to be an easy or quick fix. Knee-jerk reactions to perceived problems are never good. Simply killing all coyotes will not fix the problem. Banning feeding corn, the "800-pound, yellow gorilla," will not fix the problem. Limiting the number of hunters or reducing the bag limit will not fix the problem. Several properties I am extremely familiar with conduct trapping efforts every year, have a well-monitored supplemental feeding program (corn and protein), and limit the number of hunters and birds taken on the property. A couple of these experienced a terrible season while others had a great season.

WFF is studying the turkey population of the state and will make recommendations to seasons and bag limits based on scientific data, not opinion. If anyone would like to assist WFF in gathering this data, please email Steve Barnett at or Joel Glover at

Chuck Sykes is director of the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries.

You Aren’t Here

Roy and his cat Sadie

by Suzy Lowry Geno

This morning I made blackberry jelly at 5 a.m. before the heat encircled my little kitchen - but you weren’t here to help me eat up the excess on toast while the little glass jars were water bathing ....

Blount County’s clear seed peaches are ripe! But you aren’t here to eat that first whole basketful with juice dripping down your chin ....

The swallows are back with their messy nests! Jannea is making sure they are safe and that all the babies get equal feed from the ever-busy parents! But you won’t be here to watch delightedly as they fledge - first flying to the edge of your ceiling fan on the carport patio and then racing out into the unknown ....

You’re going to once again miss Blount’s first ripe cantaloupes and you won’t be talking one of your farmer friends into letting you have a big batch of plain old field corn for me to cook for hours with flour and salt ....

You missed Shadow-Big Puppy’s arrival on the first week of June last year! How he moved in here after none of the rescue groups could catch him and treat his many ailments. One lop-sided grin on his big, old Great Pyrenees head and I know he would have captured your heart as well!

You’ve missed Nathan bending over the blueprint table in his office, pondering electrical jobs that I know he still wishes he could ask your advice about ....

You’ve missed Kori and Arthur having their own little Old White Oak Farm complete with chickens for Devin, Savannah, Kelsea and even Kayla to sometimes tend!

You weren’t here in April when great-nephew Peter was commissioned a Second Lieutenant!

And then there was my very first book - a collection of columns from these Simple Times articles! What a dream come true in my little world! But you were a part of it; the photo your Granny made of you when you were 6 years old standing barefooted in a Morgan County cotton field is on the cover. But you weren’t here to share my joy when that first printed copy was placed in my hands by my publisher.

You weren’t here to fuss when I got noisy guineas! And you weren’t here to complain about the 31 smelly chicks in the big pasteboard box brooder on the back porch. And you’ve missed the farm’s first turkeys and all the antics they’ve created!

I wish I could tell you that we’re all doing fine, because we are.

But it’s still sad that there have just been so many things and times where "you aren’t here ...."

The Center for Disease Control has statistics showing that 442,000 other folks in the United States died in the same year, 2012, as you, directly from smoking.

Dr. Miachel Roizen, an internal medical specialist often quoted on the Internet, says there were 4 million deaths from cigarettes worldwide, making it "the leading cause of death in the world, higher than infectious disease, greater than obesity, greater than guns."

And then there’s Dr. Mehmet Oz, cardiologist and TV star, who simply states that cigarettes "are one of the most preventable causes of premature death."

I still thank God every day I was able to keep you home here on the farm during your illnesses and you died peacefully here at home. That was indeed a blessing.

But with you being about 6 feet 5 inches tall and maybe weighing about 60 pounds when you died, it was not an easy illness or an easy death.

You fought bravely back from two heart attacks that damaged your heart so badly there was no surgery, no stent, nothing the cardiologists could really do to help. But you didn’t quit smoking.

Then you were gripped with esophagus and stomach cancer, COPD, deep vein blood clots and so much more ... but you never stopped smoking ....

Just this last month I had a major allergic reaction to poison oak. Somehow it affected my breathing and my throat and I had to rush to the emergency room gasping for air.

For two weeks it hurt every time I breathed and I’d wake up at night gasping and wondering if each breath might be my last. I was sicker than I have been in years. And I thought of you.

Those last few months you were so short of breath. There were inhalers and ventilators and breathing treatments. Eventually there was oxygen part time and then full time .... You experienced months of having breathing problems while I only experienced a few days. But I’m nearly well now. And you’re not here ....

Sometimes it makes me mad when I start to think about it. I still mourn the "what might have beens ...."

I ran into your old golfing buddy Jon in the grocery store. He hesitated, but then asked me how your cat Sadie is doing.

Sometimes I wonder what Sadie is thinking. She’ll look over to where your recliner sat in the corner and she gets a faraway look in her eyes ... maybe I’m imaging. But I’m wondering if she’s thinking of things where "you aren’t here" as well ....

I’m sorry you’re not here to enjoy the wonderful new church I’m now a part of ... the church just began around 2012, right about the time you were leaving us .... You’d know many of the folks that are there. It’s a Bible-based, Gospel-based church like we were seeking.

There are a lot of wonderful young families. But I’m one of a couple of widows there. That’s not a part I wanted to play at age 60 and I’m still not enjoying that part at age 63.

The first week in August of this year you will have been gone 3 years. You left us August 6, 2012; the afternoon before your 68th birthday.

Instead of a Bible verse on the program at your funeral, I had them print this simple message: "If you smoke, please stop. If you don’t smoke, please don’t start." That’s my wish for anybody reading this article.

I really wish I could let you know how well that I am doing. I am blessed. I am happy.

My little farm, my animals, my little general store, my life are doing fine.

I have true peace in my daily simple life.

But you aren’t here ....

Suzy Lowry Geno lives a simple life at Old Field Farm in Blount County. She can be reached through her website at

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