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February 2009

Affordable Opportunity to Improve Pastures

By Robert Spencer

As a result of drought weather conditions for the past three years, pastures for livestock grazing may not be in the best shape. While we did receive more rain this past fall, it was sporadic and made it difficult to decide whether to re-seed pastures or wait for more suitable conditions. In addition, fertilizer prices were at an all-time high this past year causing many to forgo fertilizing. Also, farmers do not always have every piece of equipment or the financial resources they would like and often must adapt and improvise in order to accomplish certain tasks like re-seeding pastures. While this sounds like a serious predicament, let me be the first to say there is hope.

Number one, we know legumes are ideal forages to establish in any pasture. They are preferred grazing by most livestock, and they fix nitrogen into the soil reducing the need for fertilizer. Two, spring is a desirable time to plant legumes like clover, trefoil, alfalfa and sericea lespedeza. Three, the later part of winter facilitates an opportunity to add legumes of choice and makes it easier to improve pastures.

This method is known as frost seeding. The principle is quite simple but does require good timing. At the website, author Mike Rankin tells us: "Seed is broadcast on the soil in mid-spring, when daytime temperatures are above freezing but nighttime temperatures are below freezing. This daily freezing and thawing, which shrinks and swells the soil, works the seed into the soil. When temperatures become warm enough, the seed can germinate in the soil, and begin the process of establishment." Remember, the seed must work its way into the soil.

Timeliness is critical: seed too early and the seed may die, seed too late and there is no frost to do the work.

This seeding method is considered "low-tech" because all that is needed is some type of seed spreader, like a spin spreader, and a way to move it about. It is also very affordable because the only major expense involved is the seed and equipment. A spreader that attaches to a tractor, four-wheeler or large riding mower can be purchased for only a few hundred dollars; or possibly rented by the day or half day for less than $100, making the whole effort relatively affordable and practical for those operating with a limited budget.

Some things to remember: (1) This practice works best on pastures which have been grazed (or mowed) close to the ground. (2) It works best with legumes like clover, sericea lespedeza and alfalfa; trefoil has its limitations. (3) Timing is important, weather conditions must allow freezing and thawing, allowing the seed to settle into the soil, followed by warm enough temperatures allowing the seed to germinate. (4) Manage the newly established legumes by allowing the legumes to become well-established prior to grazing, do not allow animals to graze pastures below six inches in height, remove animals as needed, to allow pastures to regenerate growth, repeat process as conditions allow. (5) The new seedlings must be able to compete with the plants already in place. Birdsfoot trefoil can be used, but struggles to compete with other vegetation as a seedling, which reduces the likelihood it will be successful.

Based on several sources of information, frost-seeding does not appear to work very well for grasses. Most grass seed does not tolerate cold temperatures. If you are interested in adding a grass to a pasture or hayfield in the late winter/early spring, no-till seeding may be a more practical option.

Minimizing the need for costly equipment, fertilizer, labor and fuel suits most farmers. Legumes are ideal because they produce nitrogen, provide quality forages and fertilize existing forages; making for a win-win situation. In most of the country, mid-February to mid-March is an ideal time to utilize this method of pasture improvement. Every cost-conscious farmer should take advantage of this opportunity.

Master Meat Goat Herdsman Program Offered in 2009

The program is available on a statewide comprehensive training curriculum addressing the fundamentals of meat goat production including reproduction, nutrition, forages, health, management, marketing, economics, live animal and carcass evaluation, food safety, hands-on experience and other relevant areas.

The registration fee ($35 early registration/$50 late registration/scholarships available on a limited basis) will help supplement costs associated with implementing this program. Upon completing the course curriculum, participants will receive a vast collection of educational materials including acknowledgment of completing the program.

The entire program will require a commitment of 18 hours divided into several sessions. Each applicant must be willing to make this commitment in order to receive the course materials and certificate of program completion.

Tentative Schedule

Tentative plans for approximately six sessions throughout the state are as follows:
Spring (March-May) - West Central, Northwest Alabama & East Central Alabama; Summer (June-August) - South & Northwest Alabama; Fall (Sept. & Oct.) Central Alabama & other opportunities.

For more details please contact one of the following individuals to pre-register:

Robert Spencer
802 Veterans Drive
Florence, AL 35630
Phone: (256) 766-6223
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">

Tommie Teacher
701 Hall Street
Greensboro, AL 36744
Phone: (334) 624-8710
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">

Eddie Wheeler
Suite G21, 424 Blount Avenue
Guntersville, AL 35976-1132
Phone: (256) 582-2009
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">

Robert Spencer is a contributing writer from Florence.

Agriculture Seen at Intersection of Global Challenges

Michael Doane, Monsanto’s director of agriculture, economics and sustainability, stated the key to facing the global challenges facing agriculture is to develop a production agriculture that accomplishes more with less.

Ag Company Executive Says We Must Accomplish More with Less

By Jim Erickson

Agriculture today – both in this nation and worldwide –finds itself at the intersection of global challenges that one way or another will have a major impact on the industry in the years ahead. And one well-known agribusiness firm is staking its future on strategies to help farmers make sure they succeed in that upcoming environment and is partnering with other organizations to get the job done.

The key, according to Michael Doane of the Monsanto Company, is to develop a production agriculture that accomplishes more with less.

According to Doane, Monsanto’s director of agriculture, economics and sustainability, agriculture is facing an increasing demand for its products, upward trends in population and incomes that assure the rising demand will continue, pressures to curtail adverse impacts on the environment, and production constraints caused by the limited availability of production resources and greater competition for them.

Doane cited a number of statistics and trends to support his point, including:

· A world population of more than 9 billion is on the horizon, compared with today’s figure of 6.7 billion.

This chart illustrates the global factors challenging agriculture.

· Standards of living are rising in many developing countries, a trend that continues to mean greater demand for more and better quality food. As one example, annual demand for corn is expected to be 1.6 billion metric tons by 2050, compared with the current level of some 800 million metric tons.

· Only a comparatively small amount of additional land is available for "responsible" cultivation to achieve higher production.

· Agriculture, already a large user of water, faces increased competition from urban areas for available supplies.

· U.S. agriculture accounts for about 19 percent of the nation’s consumption of fossil fuels at a time when concerns are increasing about the impact of those fuels on climate change.

Monsanto believes agriculture must strive for sustainability, generally defined as development meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs. More specifically, the company’s "sustainable yield initiative" has these basic components:

· Helping corn, soybean and cotton farmers attain yields by 2030 double those achieved in 2000.

· Reducing the use of key resources by 1/3 per unit of output over the same period.

· Improving the lives of farmers by making agriculture more productive.

Doane said production increases will be achieved through better plant breeding, advances in biotechnology and improved agronomic systems. And while doubling corn, soybean and cotton yields may seem a lofty goal, current top U.S. corn yields of 442 corn bushels per acre, 154 soybean bushels per acre and 3,718 pounds of cotton per acre show the potential is there. Similarly, progress also is being made in reducing the use of key resources including land, irrigation water and energy.

The key, Doane said, will be to spread to those in other nations the information and practices that make such achievements possible.

Many current trend lines indicate progress made in recent years is on-target for the production gains that are part of the Monsanto initiative.

"Soybean yield increases are the big challenge and we’re running a bit behind in that area. But we’re still optimistic we can reach our goal there, too," Doane stated.

On the climate change issue, Doane said Monsanto believes it’s real, regardless of what’s causing it.

"Climate change will bring different growing conditions but that doesn’t necessarily mean yields will go down," he noted. "But it does mean we’ll need to build products for a changed environment."

Improving the lives of farmers will come through higher yields and improved income, as well as less exposure to pesticides. But the impact will go beyond those directly involved in farming, Doane believed.

"There are more than a billion people still on farms throughout the world, but there are many, many more in rural areas whose livelihood depends on a healthy agriculture," Doane asserted.

The ag economist said Monsanto firmly believes that partnering with other entities promises to be an important factor in reaching the sustainability goal.

"It would be arrogant of us to think Monsanto can do it all," he noted.

Among the organizations that have signed on in support of Monsanto’s goals and strategies are the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, conservation and environmental organizations like the Nature Conservancy, Conservation International and the Keystone Center, the Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, and the African Agricultural Technology Foundation.

How will anyone know when agriculture has reached the goal of being sustainable? Doane said the goal is not a fixed endpoint that can be quickly and easily defined. Rather, sustainability amounts to a moving target characterized by dynamic systems that maintain themselves over time.

As for the problems posed by opponents and critics of biotechnology, Doane believes proven achievements in the biotech field in recent years have changed many earlier attitudes.

"We haven’t turned all opponents into cheerleaders, but progress definitely has been made on that front," he said.

Once known as a chemical company, Monsanto has undergone major corporate change that has molded it into a corporation whose only business today is agriculture. Quoting Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant about the company’s current focus, Doane noted, "We succeed when farmers succeed."

Ain't Ranchin' Fun!

By Baxter Black, DVM

Well, it’s calvin’ season across the broad expanse of Bovamerica. Some, below the Little Ear Parallel, began a few weeks ago and others, north of Calgary, are still waiting for their pipes to thaw. I’ve always enjoyed calving season. It’s the equivalent of riding a combine across a sea of ripe wheat to a farmer or the quarterback calling his first play in the big playoff game.

As a columnist, I particularly enjoy calving season because it is a regular renewal of stories that keep me believing I cannot make up stuff worse, goofier or more frightening than what really happens!

Let me introduce you to Irvin. Good cowman in central Idaho. His heifer calving set-up was typical. A big lot with yard light, a small covered calving shed, a set of panels and stanchion to restrain the beast, a couple overnight ‘jugs’ and a bigger adjoining pasture to turn out the pairs. Irvin and his wife had sacrificed to afford their cow herd and it was a great source of pride to them. They love their way of life.

Irvin took his turn at the midnight heifer check. #132 had broken her water bag two hours ago. He pulled on his rubber boots since the lot was thawing and getting sloppy near the shed. He switched on the yard light and started through the heifers.

Back in the corner was #132. She was pushing but still nothing showed. Better bring her in and have a look, he decided. #132 roused but was reluctant to leave her spot. Irvin shooshed, waved and hollered as he sloshed around in the sticky mud trying to drive her into the shed. In one quick move, he dove to the right and the mud sucked off his left boot! She turned back! He dove to his left to cut her off and left his right boot in the mud!

Losing his patience, he grabbed his 16-foot bullwhip he kept coiled on the fence. He did a thrust and parry, faking out #132, then as his piece d’resistance to drive her under the shed, he reared back with his whip, caught the electric line, followed through with the cast, jerking himself out of his socks and pulling the line down! Which left him on his back, in the dark, his bare feet sticking up like two giant Tootsie Roll pops.

When his wife heard him crashing around in the bathroom, she went to check. He was squatted over the toilet, his coverall legs rolled up and both his bare feet in the water. He was scrubbing away at the muck with a wooden-handled bucket brush.

He looked up at her smiling and said, "Ain’t ranchin’ fun, Honey? Ain’t ranchin’ fun!"

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,

Alabama 4-H: Having an Impact on Tomorrow’s Leader

By Amy Payne Burgess

As "the 4-H lady," I frequently hear wonderful stories from adults about the effect 4-H has had on their lives. Many political leaders, attorneys and business people love to talk about their youthful experiences in 4-H public speaking. There are always inspiring stories about livestock projects, 4-H sewing activities and fond remembrances of 4-H summer camp or journeys to 4-H National Congress "once upon a time" in Chicago.

What stories will today’s young people tell in 50 years? You may be surprised to know young people can still do most of the things they have always done. There are dozens of superb learning opportunities and, if a child wished to be tested against others, our freestyle events could even cover such "old school" activities as Corn Club production.

But many kids may not be interested in our great animal science programs or in public speaking. Although many young people have cats and dogs (perfect for 4-H projects!), Alabama’s increasingly urban population doesn’t have the same opportunities to raise calves or lambs, and if you asked most kids where hamburger or milk came from, their obvious answer would be "the grocery store." Since the bright lights and big city also attract many rural kids, we constantly wonder: "What can 4-H offer that is both interesting and practical?"

Baldwin County’s 4-H Creative and Performing Arts Club had a cast of 50 – and packed the Loxley Civic Center — for its telling of the classic story of Willie Wonka.

We often say 4-H seeks to respond to the changing needs and interests of youth. We also note, "If it isn’t fun, it isn’t 4-H!" Those guidelines have led us into some terrific directions. For example, arts activities are a growing phenomenon in Alabama 4-H. The people of Alabama have always loved the arts. Our quilts and story tellers are known around the world. Our ancestors created great folk pottery, they carved furniture and wrought iron into lasting monuments to skill and creativity.

Nothing is more 4-H than the arts. They provide the 4-H core values of Belonging, Independence, Generosity and Mastery. Kids who engage in the arts learn self-discipline and imagination – and they do better academically. A successful volunteer-led theatrical production, like Baldwin County’s outstanding 4-H production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, also teaches teamwork and planning.

Young people across Alabama have developed new skills and become safer ATV drivers because of 4-H training.

But even rural young people face new challenges and opportunities. They are part of the FaceBook/MySpace generation, but they also love to explore the outdoors. But there can be downsides to that aspect of country life. Too many communities have tragic stories of young people pushing their limits through improper use of all-terrain vehicles (ATV). In response, Alabama 4-H instituted a world-class ATV training program. Did you know 4-H did that?

4-H and the outdoors have connections in many other ways. Alabama 4-H is nationally recognized for the caliber of its Wildlife and Forestry Judging Teams. Our 4-H Center near Columbiana is in the top tier of youth development and outdoor education centers in the United States. The Center and its Coosa River Science School have helped make Alabama 4-H the leading youth environmental education organization in our state.

Like this young man, many young people across our state are introduced to the outdoors through 4-H camps, workshops, and events. Parents can register their children for 4-H summer camp at

But there are other classic things Alabama 4-H has always done to help young people, programs that will surely do well for many years to come. For example, Alabama 4-H was strongly represented at the 2008 National 4-H Poultry and Egg Conference. We sent three young people and all three placed in their events! Anna Montgomery was third in the Turkey Barbecue competition, Nicholas McLendon was third in Chicken Barbecue and Mary Jo Melton was tenth in Egg Preparation.

The Houston County 4-H Livestock Judging Team recently represented Alabama in the National 4-H Livestock Judging event. In this highly-competitive event, youth evaluate breeding and market cattle, swine, sheep and goats; use performance data in making decisions; answer questions; and give four sets of oral reasons. The team traveled to major agriculture universities, visited livestock producers in eight states and commercial agri-businesses in preparation for the national event.

A great group of young people represented Alabama at the 2008 National 4-H Poultry and Egg Conference.

The 4-H National Livestock contest was held during the North American International Livestock Exposition in Louisville. Thirty-two states competed, with Alabama ranking as the top team in the Southeast. Nationally, the team finished in the top 20 and individual members scored in the top third of participants. The team visited the North American livestock shows, toured the cattle and sheep barns, and attended the trade show. Thank you to all the sponsors and producers who supported this team.

Many adults wish to bring the positive direction of 4-H to today’s young people. One way you can help is by becoming a 4-H volunteer, helping form a community club or sharing your knowledge and commitment with your county’s youth. Another way is to honor those who have led us to where we are. I would encourage you to visit our web site at You will be interested in events during our Alabama 4-H Centennial. April 20-24 is 4-H Centennial Blitz Week, with a goal of every Alabama county doing something special to celebrate the heritage and future of Alabama 4-H.

Houston County’s 4-H Livestock Judging Team of Ryan Clark, Robins Carothers, Patrick Andress, Kara Clark, Brad Baker with County Extension Agent Sheila Andreasen.

I would also encourage you to follow the links to the Alabama 4-H Wall of Fame. The Wall of Fame recognizes individuals and groups who have had an impact on 4-H in our state. Has a "4-H lady" or a "4-H man" had an impact on you or your community? He or she might be just the person we wish to add to the Alabama 4-H Wall of Fame!

For information on the 4-H Centennial or the Alabama 4-H Wall of Fame, contact Betty Gottler, Centennial Program Coordinator, at (334) 844-8840 or gottlte@

Amy Payne Burgess is a 4-H Regional Extension Agent for DeKalb, Marshall, and Cherokee Counties.

Alabama Chicken and Egg Festival Announces Music Line-up

Organizers for the Alabama Chicken and Egg Festival (AC&EF) are pleased to announce the music line-up for the 2009 event. The line-up includes emerging and established artists representing a variety of genres from bluegrass to banjo to a combination of rhythm and blues and rock ‘n’ roll.

Headlining the 2009 Chicken Stage is the Paul Thorn Band. His latest CD, "A Long Way From Tupelo," is a summation of blues, country, gospel, rhythm and blues, and rock ‘n’ roll. His distinctive voice and poetic lyrics have carried him from Tupelo, Mississippi, to across the United States. For more information, visit

Renowned for his saxophone and keyboard ability, Randall Bramblett is set to perform. Bramblett released a pair of acclaimed solo albums in the ‘70s, and then joined the jazz-rock band Sea Level as their principal songwriter and vocalist. He has also performed or recorded with the Allman Brothers Band, Bonnie Raitt, Atlanta Rhythm Section, Widespread Panic, just to name a few. For more information, visit his web site at

The line-up includes The Carolina Chocolate Drops, a group of young African American string band musicians playing fiddle and banjo music. Visit for additional information.

Representing the bluegrass field, David Davis and the Warrior River Boys will be performing on the new Bluegrass Stage. More information is available at

Also appearing on stage will be Moulton’s Robert Montgomery. His pre-WWII style country music earned him the 2004 National Old-time Banjo Championship along with placing or winning other numerous regional and national contests. For more information, visit

A crowd favorite from last year’s event is set to perform, Blue Eyed Grass and TomFoolery, an acoustic music trio from Tupelo. As additional artists are confirmed, a complete entertainment line-up will be available at

The 5th annual AC&EF is scheduled for April 18-19, 2009, at the Lions Club Fairgrounds in Moulton. Offering poultry-related food and entertainment, the AC&EF highlights include a chicken clucking contest, where the audience selects the winner; egg toss competition, a favorite among children; and eating contests where contestants stuff their faces with chicken wings and hard-boiled eggs.

Other activities scheduled for the AC&EF include: a live bantam chicken display, motorcycle chicken run, BBQ chicken cooking contest, Little Chick Beauty Walk, chicken bowling, Egg Drop for Future Engineers competition, a "Guitar Hero" competition and the Alabama Farmers Cooperative Agriculture Photography Contest. New for 2009 will be an Egg Roulette competition and the "Down on the Farm" area featuring a bluegrass music stage, agriculture exhibits, state of the art farming equipment, antique tractors, chickens, cows and southern folk life art exhibits like quilters, saddle makers, farrier, potters, blacksmith, and basket and broom makers. Admission to the festival is only $3 per person and free for those under five years old. Festival organizers are also allowing re-entry where attendees may leave and return on the same day during the 2009 festival.

For the latest updates or more information, visit the Festival’s website at www.alabamachicken To request a media kit or for an assortment of poultry-related photography, call Vicki Morese at (256) 905-0700.

Bovine Tuberculosis

A Disease That Just Won't Go Away

By Dr. Tony Frazier

My July 2007 column was titled "Taking Another Look at Bovine Tuberculosis." I was prompted to write that article because of a news item that had garnered much media attention at the time. At the time of the report a person who was reported to have had a multi-drug resistant strain of human tuberculosis exposed passengers on two international flights. Even more recently, a passenger tested positive for tuberculosis after sitting next to someone who had drug-resistant human tuberculosis on a flight from India. That occurred in April of 2008.

While the focus of this article is not exposure to tuberculosis while on international flights, it does serve to remind us that tuberculosis refuses to go away—in fact, in many areas it is on the rise. And while human tuberculosis and bovine tuberculosis are not the same disease, there are similarities in the rise of prevalence of these two related diseases.

Here in the United States, we are fortunate that human tuberculosis has been on the decrease since 1993. The rate of decrease has, however, slowed in recent years. Still there were 13,299 newly diagnosed cases of human tuberculosis in the U. S. in 2007. There were also 644 deaths caused by tuberculosis in 2007 compared to 1202 deaths in 1996. The slowing in the decline of the disease in our country can be attributed to many factors including increased international travel and an increase of people with compromised immune systems like HIV patients and organ transplant recipients.

Bovine tuberculosis, however, is on the rise here in this country. At a recent U.S. Animal Health Association Meeting, the State Veterinarians from each state met on Saturday afternoon. Several topics of current interest were covered. However, one topic kept coming up throughout the day. That subject was bovine tuberculosis. States like Michigan, Wisconsin and New Mexico reported on the disease in their state and how they were handling it. Dr. David Fly, New Mexico’s State Veterinarian, reported that in his state he had no field staff, so he and his Associate State Veterinarian along with federal USDA Veterinary Services personnel were doing the work. I made one of those off-the-cuff comments about "if you need any help, just holler." A couple of weeks after the meeting was over, Dr. Fly called to find out when I was coming out to help with their TB situation. I told him that if New Mexico would foot the bill, we would be more than happy to come out and help.

As they say, be careful what you wish for or offer. Actually, travelling to New Mexico was a great opportunity to work in a disease response detail. We have had several response exercises in Alabama, but I had rather do the real thing in someone else’s state. We were working with the New Mexico Livestock Board in partnership with USDA Veterinary Services in response to TB in the state’s dairy herd. The disease has shown up in cull dairy cows at slaughter and the state has received cows exposed to TB from other states.

Accompanying me on the trip to New Mexico were Dr. Chris Bishop, Veterinary Medical Officer from Alabama, and Joe Dickerson, animal health technician. Upon arriving in Albuquerque, we met Dr. Fly, who gave us a map and directions. We drove three hours to Roswell in the high desert part of the state. (No, we did not see any UFOs). The next morning at 6:00 we met a veterinary medical officer from New Mexico and ventured another 30 miles to a dairy in Artesia. The dairy milks 2,500 cows twice daily and is considered a small dairy for New Mexico. The average size dairy is 7-8,000, with the largest being about 14,000.

The protocol was to inject 0.1 cc of tuberculin into a skin fold at the base of the tail and in 72 hours to examine the injection site for any swelling. Those with any detectable swelling were considered to be suspects and blood samples were drawn to confirm if they were infected. After a brief orientation with the state and federal officials at the dairy, it was off to the races. We began helping with the injections. The cows were all standing side-by-side at open stations, divided into several pens. Bear in mind I am from Brewton, Alabama, and I had never seen a sight like this. It seemed like Holsteins and a few Jerseys as far as I could see.

One unique element was the use of RFID (radio frequency identification) electronic tags used in these cattle. The tags were read with a hand-held wand reader that immediately transferred the information about the cow to a small PDA (computer-type) device. This allowed information to be confirmed or entered immediately. I suppose there are still kinks to be worked out, but it’s a far cry from the days of wiping manure off tags and test charts to be able to check a cow’s identity. Dr. Fly also wanted a metal tag in each animal. Experiencing the use of this type of equipment will be very valuable if we ever find ourselves in a similar situation.

Our work detail was a complete success in all areas. We were able to observe and physically participate in a major disease response complete with an electronic ID database system. The experience will prove invaluable. My hat is off to Dr. Fly, his staff and the USDA folks that are getting the job done out there. And, at least for now, I can be thankful we were dealing with the disease in New Mexico and not in Alabama.

Brushin’ Up with Old-Fashioned Straw Brooms

Jack Ryals with a corn shuck scrub broom and a straw broom. Photo by J. Larry Smith, Tumbleton, AL

By Jaine Treadwell

Jack Ryals is not claiming that he’s got a remedy for some of the backbreaking housework. But, then he’s not saying that he doesn’t. All he’s saying is sweeping with a straw broom isn’t as hard on the back as sweeping with a stick broom.

Ryals admits there aren’t as many women swishing around the house with a broom in hand as there used to be.

"No, a lot of the straw brooms I make are just for decorations or sentimental reasons," Ryals said. "Straw brooms are kind of nostalgic. Some folks will say, ‘I can remember my mama or my grandmamma sweeping with a broom like that.’ And, then a lot of folks just want to stand them around. I say use them for the purpose intended and you won’t hurt your back near as much as sweeping with a stick broom."

Ryals said two hands are necessary to "work" a stick broom. You only need one hand to execute the sweeping motion of a straw broom.

"So you don’t have to do all that twisting you do with a stick broom," he stated. "And, too, you can lay a straw broom almost parallel to the floor, so you can get up under the beds real good. Get all those dust balls gone."

Ryals doesn’t claim to be an authority on straw brooms but he probably knows more about them than most folks. He’s been making them since around 1970.

James Ryals makes a scrubbing broom out of corn shucks. Photo by J. Larry Smith, Tumbleton, AL

"I was working at this little ol’ grocery store and met this woman from New York. She didn’t know the first thing about a straw broom," he said.

"So, I made her one and showed her the sweeping motion with it. Then, the manager’s wife wanted one because she had back trouble and sweeping was bad on her. I made her one and then another lady wanted one and another one and that set me off to making straw brooms," he added.

So, for nearly 40 years, Ryals has been making straw brooms at his house in Edwin in northwestern Henry County. Last year, he didn’t make as many as in the past but the year before he made the "ususal," between 140 and 150.

"Making straw brooms is not that hard," Ryals said. "The straw grows wild in untended open fields. Now, there’s two kinds of broom sage. One is too coarse and heavy to make brooms. The other is just right."

Wranging broom straw takes strong hands and a sturdy back.

"You get a bundle in your hand, down close to the ground, and ‘wrang’ it — twist it— till it breaks off. Then you take the straw home and get all the excess leaves or fodder off, up about half way. Then you take a dull knife —- a sharp one will cut the straw —- and clean it good, shake out all the excess and then get a handful of straw big enough to make a broom," Ryals explained.

In the good ol’ days, Ryals said cotton cords, strips of cloth or even narrow strips from an old inner tube were used to "tie" the broom.

Jack Ryals demonstrates how to make straw brooms during a Farm Day at Landmark Park. Photo by J. Larry Smith, Tumbleton, AL

"Mama always used cotton rags but they’d break easy," he said. "Now, I use nylon cord because it stretches and you can pull it real tight to wind the cord around the neck of the broom so it won’t come loose under normal use," he said.

The finishing touch on a straw broom is to trim or "wrang" the sweeping end of the broom to "uniform" lengths.

"Then you’re ready to sweep," Ryals remarked.

And, when the sweeping is done, it’s time to "scour" the floor and Ryals knows all about that because his brother, James Rufus Ryals, makes scrub brooms.

"Back in the good ol’ days, scouring brooms where necessary and they were made out of corn shucks," Ryals continued to explain. "First you need a block of wood with holes about an inch across bored in it. Then you take corn shucks — not the outside shucks — they’re too brittle but the inside shucks, good quality inside shucks. You get all the silks and debris out and soak the shucks till they’re good and wet so you can twist them and run them up through the holes, all in the same direction with the fine end on the top side."

Although a corn shuck scrub broom doesn’t appear to have a lot of shucks in it, Ryals said looks can be deceiving.

"It takes a whole lot of shucks to make a scrub broom," he said. "The handle is made out of a long, sapling pole – hickory’s good or chinaberry. You attach it and go to scrubbing."

Ryals said it took a strong back and strong hands to maneuver a scrub broom but women "back then" were strong gals.

"They’d use lye soap and white sand to clean those ol’ plank floors. The sand acted as an abrasive and the lye soap as a cleaner," Ryals said and added laughing. "That was the forerunner of Comet cleanser. They’d rinse the floor with clear water and sweep the water out through the cracks in the floor. If they didn’t have cracks, they’d bore a hole in the corner of the room to get the rinse water gone."

Ryals is not recommending either the straw broom or the scrub broom for regular household use but not discounting either. And, those who want to try the old-fashioned brooms can look him up in Edwin and he’ll be glad to demonstrate the workings of either or both.

Jaine Treadwell is a freelance writer from Brundidge.

Capitalize on Coyotes

Coyotes are a wary animal with shrewd senses. Calling is a favorite hunting tactic when pursuing coyotes.
By Todd Amenrud

Coyote hunting has its share of controversy. Some view these animals as furry and cuddly, while many see them as snarling, vicious carnivores. A number of influences have caused coyote densities to change significantly over the years. While numbers have been impacted, some of the old hunting methods used by the early settlers are still the best tactics.

The simple fact that humans have encroached on their turf has had a huge impact on predator densities. The way it was explained to me was before humans entered the picture an area would have one wolf, two coyotes, four foxes and on down the chain. Obviously, these numbers are fictitious, but the larger predators kept the others in check and on down the line.

In my view, one of the major problems that we have had in the past 30 years is the anti-hunting/trapping public. Although they are the minority, they are very vocal. Through the 1980s and 90s their push to ban trapping has caused fur prices to plummet. Back in the early 80s, when I ran my trap-line, I could get $120-160 for a prime "Christmas fox." Now fur costs are about ¼ of what they were 30 years ago. My suggestions to hunters and trappers are to be more vocal than the opposition and use your vote!

Many like to locate coyotes with the use of a "howler." This call will imitate their barks and shrill howls.

How you "feel" about predators is more than likely influenced by where you come from. If predators affect your livelihood or local economy like they may for ranchers, farmers, outfitter’s or a person trying to manage a property for other game animals (the predators’ prey) then you probably have a very negative view of them. If humans are "butting heads" with a predator species, guess who wins? Most folks in larger cities are neutral to the topic, but you do have a small amount of people who are totally against predator hunting, or any hunting for that matter. With people being more educated on the subject these days you find most people realize there can be, and should be, a balance - and hunting and trapping are about the only logical, economical way to help control populations.

Coyotes make up a high percentage of the predator hunting opportunities throughout the country. They can be found in all states (except Hawaii), Canada and Mexico. Clever and very adaptable, they can live almost anywhere including farmlands, forests and urban areas. Adult males have large territories typically ranging from 15-25 square miles; adult females typically occupy areas of 6-10 square miles. The availability of food affects the territory size.

Tracking, stalking slow, sitting over a carcass/bait or drives may all produce at certain times, but calling is by far the most popular method of hunting coyotes. Either with an electronic caller, a blown-into-call or by mouth, howling or imitating an animal in distress is a proven method no matter where you reside. They have uncanny eyesight, hearing and smell so certain steps must be taken if you wish to get close.

To begin, you first must find a spot where there are predators. Food is the biggest factor here. Look for areas holding a lot of mice, pheasants, rabbits or other smaller animals that make easy prey.

Alabama resident and expert predator hunter and trapper, Austin Delano, uses predator hunting to help regulate numbers. Austin is the Territory Manager for Mossy Oak BioLogic and he said, "I really like hunting predators, not only as a management tool but I also enjoy the challenge and learning the ‘ins and outs’ of calling and trapping one of the cleverest animals around."

He continued, "My favorite method of hunting predators is creating a set-up and then calling. In my part of the state, I have had the most success setting up over open cropland offering long shots. Watching the wind is very important when calling for coyotes, as they will almost always try to get downwind of your calling."

Some like to try and locate a coyote with the use of a "howler." This call will imitate their barks and shrill howls. Ideally, you want a response. Then, judging by the distance you either move closer or set up. Let me caution you, coyotes are very curious animals and they can cover a lot of ground fast. More times than I care to admit I’ve received a response to a howl and tried to move closer but end up being busted as the coyote runs into me.

Concerning calling, I could try to explain sounds to you all day and unless you could actually hear them it probably won’t do much good. Rent a CD or DVD and experiment on your own. When imitating an anguished animal (usually a rabbit in distress), I like to start off soft incase there’s something close. Call for a couple minutes and wait for several more. Build the intensity and volume with each series. If nothing shows up within 20-30 minutes, it’s time to change spots.

Their sense of smell is phenomenal. For all predators I suggest a strict regime of scent elimination - I use the Scent Killer system. Similar to the way you would prepare for a whitetail hunt; showering in Scent Killer Soap, treating your boots and clothes with Scent Killer Spray and paying attention to any foreign odor is of the utmost importance. If they circle downwind and smell you, the gig is up. The use of some coyote urine placed out crosswind from your position can aid as a confidence booster.

A coyote’s eyesight is exceptional, especially for picking up movement, so I suggest camouflage from head to toe. Match your camo to your background. Mossy Oak Shadow Grass or Mossy Oak Brush work great for most situations.

Decoys can also help. It gives them something to hone in on so it takes the attention off of you. Some will use animal pelts or mounted rabbits, or there are decoys specifically made for predator hunting. I have had luck with both commercial decoys and with my own homemade inventions. Movement is a big key with decoys. I used to tie fishing line to a rabbit pelt. It worked great; however, it was a pain having to deal with tangled fishing line when changing spots. A chicken feather tied to a string and then the string taped to your decoy will add plenty of motion with the slightest breeze.

Calibers and guns are much a matter of opinion. You’ll want something fast, flat shooting and that will knock them down to stay. I like a 22-250 but there are many acceptable calibers that will work. Accuracy is more important than the caliber. I use a Nikon Monarch 4-16 with a 50 mm objective lens. I love this scope! It is deadly accurate, takes a lot of abuse and still stays dead on. Every new Monarch riflescope is available in BDC to allow hunters to hold "dead-on" at ranges exceeding those previously thought possible. The BDC’s unique see-through ballistic circles offer an incredible advantage for long-range shooting — yet allow a normal sight picture for shorter-range shots where the crosshair itself is the aiming point.

With the recent cold temperatures throughout the South, it makes for the absolute perfect conditions to hunt predators. It’s fun, exciting, good exercise and gives you a reason to get outdoors after all the other hunting seasons have closed.

Todd Amenrud is the Director of Public Relations, Territory Manager & Habitat Consultant for BioLogic.

Consumers Can’t Miss “Buy Alabama’s Best” Program

Blount Co. Ranchers Like Healthy, Happy Stock

By Alvin Benn

The Department of Agriculture’s "Buy Alabama’s Best" campaign was launched five years ago, but it didn’t take long to move from the drawing board to statewide acceptance as well as a major success story at the same time.

Food producers, grocery stores and consumers have responded in such a positive way since the early months of 2004 that Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks, who came up with the idea, couldn’t be happier.

"I think if you ask people around the state what they know about this program, you’ll find they are well acquainted with it and do what they can to buy Alabama products," said Sparks.

Lauren Cole, trade and marketing specialist for Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries, displays several state-produced items involved in the “Buy Alabama’s Best” program.

Concern over foreign products, especially imported food and toys, has grown in each of the past five years, underlining the reason for the agriculture department’s program.

In addition to promoting Alabama-grown products, the program helps raise money for charitable enterprises, including the Janie Sims Children’s Foundation which is dedicated to helping boys and girls with cancer.

Consumers may not be aware of the importance of the program, but they can’t miss seeing it in grocery stores or farmer’s markets where large cardboard look-a-like posters of Sparks holding up the colorful "Buy Alabama’s Best" logo.

There’s one at the State Farmer’s Market near Garrett Coliseum in Montgomery and it’s only a few feet from a large display showing dozens of Alabama-grown or produced items.

After Gov. Bob Riley issued a "pardon" to "Clyde" the turkey just before Thanksgiving, turkey producer Bill Bates accompanied Sparks into the coliseum where they inspected the exhibit. Bates’ turkey booth was located in the same area.

"The more we can promote what we make in Alabama, the more people will buy them," said Sparks, who is halfway through his second and final term as agriculture commissioner and is frequently mentioned as a possible gubernatorial candidate in 2010.

The list of Alabama products promoted by the campaign is long and varied. It ranges from Golden Flake potato chips to Red Diamond and Milo’s tea.

Then, there’s Alaga Syrup, a Montgomery-based breakfast favorite for more than a century, and lesser-known items like Mamie’s Famous Cheese Wafers, a relative newcomer launched in Mobile in 2003.

They all add up to millions of dollars in sales around the state and region and Sparks wants them to be on even more grocery lists as the "Buy Alabama’s Best" program moves mid-way into its first decade.

A key to the program is helping shoppers find the products made in Alabama. Sparks praised Wal-Mart and other grocery stores for doing just that.

"It’s imperative stores have our products in plain view of shoppers," he said. "I’m very pleased when I see it in the stores I go into."

Sparks declined to list his personal favorites, saying that might get him into hot water with competitors, but he did mention his love of seafood "and when I visit a store I often go to the seafood section to see what they have and where it came from."

Fresh food can’t be topped or duplicated, he said, and that’s why he has been beefing up farmers markets around Alabama. At the moment, there are about 100 of them, supported either by the state or local governments.

"When you see all the recalls we’ve had in recent years, it’s understandable that people are going to be looking for fresh locally grown food," Sparks said. "The most important factor is timing. Our farmers produce fresh products and don’t have to ship them halfway around the world to consumers."

He mentioned luscious peaches grown in Chilton County as well as tomatoes grown in the Sand Mountain region and south to Mobile. Most popular fruits and vegetables are grown in Alabama. Sparks said bananas are exceptions and they have to travel long distances to Alabama consumers, meaning they tend at times to ripen en route.

Sparks praised the Alabama Food Manufacturers and Producers Association for helping to make the "Buy Alabama’s Best" program a success.

"We didn’t have that association when I came into office," he said. "It’s become very important to our program and I can’t thank those who have helped enough."

Sparks also has special praise for the Alabama Grocers Association (AGA) for its assistance in promoting the program.

The grocers association and the food manufacturers and producers group both sponsor a display contest for grocery stores across the state. The best displays are exhibited in the stores.

To get the program’s message across to people, Sparks’ department has been even more visible the past few years because of television appearances by Lauren Stone Cole during the noon hour.

Cole, a nutritionist with the agriculture department, demonstrates what can be made from Alabama-grown produce, vegetables and meat, and has become a popular addition to the home lunch crowd watching on television stations from Huntsville to Mobile.

She tries to use at least five Alabama-grown products during the television segments. During last year’s Thanksgiving show, she used a turkey from Kelley Foods of Elba, added some green beans, bacon from Zeigler’s and topped it all with a "little Alaga Syrup glaze."

Sparks said about the only thing that isn’t grown in Alabama for a Thanksgiving feast is cranberry sauce. Other than that, it’s all made in Alabama "and as good as you’ll find anywhere around the country."

The agriculture department headquarters near Garrett Coliseum has a little kitchen area and Cole uses it to prepare experimental dishes using Alabama fruits and vegetables. She said most of her creations work and they are taken to the television stations for the noon food programs.

An altruistic by-product of "Buy Alabama’s Best" is contributions to the Janie Sims Foundation which assists in pediatric cancer research. Contributions from the program are approaching $70,000 a year.

The money comes from a portion of sales derived by the companies taking part in the program and promotional assistance from state leaders like the governor and First Lady Patsy Riley.

Growing food in Alabama is only half the story, said Sparks, who likes to point to the jobs they produce and the raw farm products involved like paper, boxes and packages.

He said Alabama food product sales represent an economic impact of more than $2 billion annually, not to mention a fourth of all those employed in the state have some connection to the food and service industries.

"So, as we buy from our local producers, we are fueling the profits rights back into our state’s economy," said Sparks. "I want to thank all of those individuals who help make this a success including the manufacturers themselves, the grocers and especially the Alabama consumer who makes an effort to buy their food from local manufactures."

It is estimated about 250,000 Alabamians are employed in some aspect of food production in the state.

Members of the board of directors of "Buy Alabama’s Best" include Gerald Baggett of China Doll Rice and Beans, Johnny Collins of Barber’s Dairy, Johnny Fox, Jr. of Moore’s Marinade, Hugh Miller of Dean’s Sausage, Bill Seal of Kelley Foods, Julie Strauss of Golden Flake, Virginia Whitfield of Whitfield Foods/Alaga Syrup, Ellie Taylor of AGA and Lauren Stone Cole of the State Department of Agriculture.

Members of the Retailer Advisory Board are Tom Keller, Associated Grocers; David Davis, Bruno’s; Mac Otts, Greer’s; Jay Mitchell, Mitchell Grocery; Mike McShane, Southern Family Market; Scott O’Brien, Piggy Wiggly; Michael Musolino, Publix and Steve Mulford, Wal-Mart and Winn Dixie Corporate/Marketing.

Alvin Benn is a freelance writer from Selma.

Cow Pokes

Don’t Take Food redo

By Angela Treadaway

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Meat and Poultry Hotline encourages Americans to take the necessary steps this winter to ensure proper food safety when preparing meals in a slow cooker.

Home cooks are discovering many sophisticated dishes can be prepared in a slow cooker. While many people long for the inviting smells of classics like beef stew, chicken noodle soup and casseroles, there is a vast collection of slow cooker recipes for everything from regional and ethnic dishes to low-carb and vegetarian dinners. Even wild game recipes tailored for a slow cooker are available.

While slow cooking is a great way to prepare a home-cooked meal and have it ready at the end of a busy working day for your family to enjoy, don’t take any food safety shortcuts in the process.

The following recommendations are easy to follow and help reduce the threat of food-borne illness from meals cooked at lower temperatures for longer periods of time.

Is A Slow Cooker Safe?

Yes, it cooks foods slowly at a low temperature — generally between 170° and 280° F. The low heat helps less expensive, leaner cuts of meat become tender and shrink less.

The direct heat, lengthy cooking time and the steam created within the tightly covered container combine to destroy bacteria and make the slow cooker a safe process for cooking foods.

Thaw & Cut Ingredients

Always defrost meat and poultry before putting it into a slow cooker. Choose to make foods with high moisture content, like chili, soup, stew or spaghetti sauce. Cut food into chunks or small pieces to ensure thorough cooking. Do not use the slow cooker for large pieces like a roast or a whole chicken because the food will cook so slowly it could remain in the bacterial "Danger Zone" — between 40° and 140° F — too long.

Use the Right Amount of Food

Fill the slow cooker no less than half full and no more than two-thirds full. Vegetables cook slower than meat and poultry in a slow cooker so if using them, put vegetables in first, at the bottom and around sides of the appliance. Then add meat and cover the food with liquid like broth, water or barbecue sauce. Keep the lid in place.


Most cookers have two or more settings. Foods take different times to cook depending upon the setting used. Certainly, foods will cook faster on high than on low. However, for all-day cooking or for less-tender cuts, you may want to use the low setting.

If possible, turn the cooker on the highest setting for the first hour of cooking time and then to low or the setting called for in your recipe. It is safe to cook foods on low the entire time — if you’re leaving for work, for example, and preparation time is limited.

While food is cooking and once it’s done, food will stay safe as long as the cooker is operating.

Power Out

Slow cookers offer the convenience of allowing people to prepare meals while they are away from home. If for some reason the power goes out and you are not home, there is no way to tell if the food got fully cooked so it is best to throw the food away.

If you’re home when the power goes out, it is safe to finish cooking the ingredients immediately by some other means: on a gas stove, on the outdoor grill or at a house where the power is on.

When you are at home, and if the food was completely cooked before the power went out, the food should remain safe up to two hours in the cooker with the power off.

Handling Leftovers

Store leftovers in shallow covered containers and refrigerate within two hours after cooking is finished. Reheating leftovers in a slow cooker is not recommended. However, cooked food can be brought to steaming on the stovetop or in a microwave oven and then put into a preheated slow cooker to keep hot for serving.

Consumers with food safety questions can call Angela Treadaway Regional Extension Agent from the Alabama Cooperative Extension System at (205) 669-6763 or (205) 410-3696.

Don’t Take Food Safety Shortcuts with Slow Cookers

By Angela Treadaway

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Meat and Poultry Hotline encourages Americans to take the necessary steps this winter to ensure proper food safety when preparing meals in a slow cooker.

Home cooks are discovering many sophisticated dishes can be prepared in a slow cooker. While many people long for the inviting smells of classics like beef stew, chicken noodle soup and casseroles, there is a vast collection of slow cooker recipes for everything from regional and ethnic dishes to low-carb and vegetarian dinners. Even wild game recipes tailored for a slow cooker are available.

While slow cooking is a great way to prepare a home-cooked meal and have it ready at the end of a busy working day for your family to enjoy, don’t take any food safety shortcuts in the process.

The following recommendations are easy to follow and help reduce the threat of food-borne illness from meals cooked at lower temperatures for longer periods of time.

Is A Slow Cooker Safe?

Yes, it cooks foods slowly at a low temperature — generally between 170° and 280° F. The low heat helps less expensive, leaner cuts of meat become tender and shrink less.

The direct heat, lengthy cooking time and the steam created within the tightly covered container combine to destroy bacteria and make the slow cooker a safe process for cooking foods.

Thaw & Cut Ingredients

Always defrost meat and poultry before putting it into a slow cooker. Choose to make foods with high moisture content, like chili, soup, stew or spaghetti sauce. Cut food into chunks or small pieces to ensure thorough cooking. Do not use the slow cooker for large pieces like a roast or a whole chicken because the food will cook so slowly it could remain in the bacterial "Danger Zone" — between 40° and 140° F — too long.

Use the Right Amount of Food

Fill the slow cooker no less than half full and no more than two-thirds full. Vegetables cook slower than meat and poultry in a slow cooker so if using them, put vegetables in first, at the bottom and around sides of the appliance. Then add meat and cover the food with liquid like broth, water or barbecue sauce. Keep the lid in place.


Most cookers have two or more settings. Foods take different times to cook depending upon the setting used. Certainly, foods will cook faster on high than on low. However, for all-day cooking or for less-tender cuts, you may want to use the low setting.

If possible, turn the cooker on the highest setting for the first hour of cooking time and then to low or the setting called for in your recipe. It is safe to cook foods on low the entire time — if you’re leaving for work, for example, and preparation time is limited.

While food is cooking and once it’s done, food will stay safe as long as the cooker is operating.

Power Out

Slow cookers offer the convenience of allowing people to prepare meals while they are away from home. If for some reason the power goes out and you are not home, there is no way to tell if the food got fully cooked so it is best to throw the food away.

If you’re home when the power goes out, it is safe to finish cooking the ingredients immediately by some other means: on a gas stove, on the outdoor grill or at a house where the power is on.

When you are at home, and if the food was completely cooked before the power went out, the food should remain safe up to two hours in the cooker with the power off.

Handling Leftovers

Store leftovers in shallow covered containers and refrigerate within two hours after cooking is finished. Reheating leftovers in a slow cooker is not recommended. However, cooked food can be brought to steaming on the stovetop or in a microwave oven and then put into a preheated slow cooker to keep hot for serving.

Consumers with food safety questions can call Angela Treadaway Regional Extension Agent from the Alabama Cooperative Extension System at (205) 669-6763 or (205) 410-3696.


Entries Sought For ’09 AL’s Farm of Distinction

By Darryal Ray

The Alabama Farm-City Committee is seeking applications for Alabama’s 2009 Farm of Distinction competition, which recognizes outstanding farmers and rewards them with cash and other prizes.

Based on the applications submitted, division winners will be chosen from five areas of the state, plus one at-large winner. These six farms will then compete for the state title and prizes valued at more than $10,000.

SunSouth and TriGreen will again donate a new John Deere Gator to the 2009 winner. In addition, Alabama Farmers Cooperative (AFC) will present each division winner with a $250 gift certificate and the state winner with a $1,000 gift certificate redeemable at any of its Quality Co-op stores. The state winner also will receive a $2,500 cash award from Swisher International of Jacksonville, Florida.

Division winners will be judged by a panel of agricultural experts who will visit each farm. The state winner will be announced during a ceremony April 20 in Birmingham. Alabama’s winner will go on to represent the state in the Southeastern Farmer of the Year competition at the Sunbelt Agricultural Expo in Moultrie, Georgia, on Oct. 20-22.

"Agriculture is still Alabama’s No. 1 industry, employing about 20 percent of its total workforce," said J. Paul Till, chairman of the Alabama Farm-City Committee. "The Farm of Distinction program is one way we can showcase the best farms in our state, recognizing them for hard work, conservation, good management and innovative thinking."

Farms will be judged on environmental stewardship, overall appearance, accomplishments, efficiency and leadership of the farm owner. Any size farm is eligible. The Farm of Distinction Award is presented annually by the Farm-City Committee of Alabama.

Applications for the 2009 Farm of Distinction can be downloaded at

For more information, call 1-800-392-5705, ext. 5096 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it."> The deadline for applications is Feb. 16.

Excuse Me For Butting In, Kenn

By H.T. Farmer

I always read the Cooperative Farming News from cover to cover. Kenn Alan’s Home Grown Tomatoes articles cover a lot of landscape when it comes to gardening.

Last December, I read his article on pineapples (Ananas comosus) and it seemed to me a lot of information was overlooked. Please understand, I love the pineapple and I have studied them quite extensively…and I respect Kenn Alan’s review of my favorite fruit. I just think more could be said about this incredible edible!

For example: pineapples contain dietary fiber, calcium, iron, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, vitamins B-12, B-6, A, E, K, M (or B-9) and beta carotene. Wow! That doesn’t even list the trace nutrients!

Pineapples have negligible fat and sodium, and they have no cholesterol. The enzymes contained in this fruit help digestion, maintain ideal weight and balance nutrition.

Here are some interesting facts I found on the Internet and were corroborated by a nutritionist friend. Pineapples contain certain micro-nutrients that, so it is believed by some experts, help prevent cancer, break up blood clots (anti-coagulant) and are beneficial to the heart. Pineapple juice relieves intestinal disorders. It also acts as a diuretic, stimulating the kidneys and aiding in expelling toxins from the body. It is even noted it kills intestinal worms.

Pineapples contain an enzyme called bromelain which helps breakdown proteins among other benefits. The raw form of this enzyme is processed to make meat tenderizers.

Bromelain is present in all parts of the pineapple plant. It is an anti-inflammatory agent and can aid in the relief of athletic injuries, bruising, arthritis, gout and sinusitis.

Some pineapples contain higher levels of acid than others. Since most of us aren’t able to tell the difference from one variety to another, let your taster be the judge on how much to eat each time. I eat pineapple every day as a between meal snack, but some varieties have so much acid my mouth suffers. No matter, I still eat pineapple every day for the flavor and the health benefits.

Pineapples are fun to grow too!

I know there’s even more that could be said about the pineapple, but there’s just not enough room. E-mail me if you have any questions.

Thanks for reading!

If you have any questions about other uses for pineapples, email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it."> and I’ll tell you all I know. As always, check with an expert, like your doctor, before using this or any other herbal remededy.

February Lawn and Garden Maintenance Checklist


· Start seeds of summer perennials, annuals, vegetables and herbs indoors now.

· It is not too early to begin planting the spring vegetable garden. Cool-season crops like broccoli, cabbage, radishes, kale, turnips, Irish potatoes and onions planted now will yield their harvest soon.

· Container and ball-and-burlapped plants are in good supply and can be set out most any time this month. Winter and early spring planting provides an opportunity for good establishment before hot weather comes.

· Weather permitting and as long as buds haven’t yet begun to swell, you can still plant or transplant most deciduous trees and shrubs of all kinds.

· After the danger of frost has passed, you can sow seeds of poppies and larkspur directly into the ground.

· Buy new roots and tubers to begin in pots indoors so they’ll be ready for planting after the last frost.

· In fair weather, lift and divide perennials before they show new growth.

· Select and order gladiolus corms for March planting. Plant at two-week intervals to prolong flowering period.

· Plant dahlia tubers in late February and early March.

· Save transplanting houseplants for warmer weather, when houseplants have more energy to make a healthy move.


· Don’t fertilize newly set out trees or shrubs until after they have started to grow, and then only very lightly the first year.

· As the new green foliage of spring blooming bulbs pokes up in the garden, it is time to fertilize. These plants are dormant during the summer months when most fertilizer applications are made. An application of 10-10-10, or any general fertilizer, provides these plants with the nutrients needed to increase in size providing more flowers next spring.

· Apply a light application of fertilizer to established pansy plantings. Use one-half pound of ammonium sulfate per 100 square feet of bed area. Repeat the application every four to six weeks, depending on rainfall. Dried blood meal is also an excellent source of fertilizer for pansies. Don’t forget to water when needed.


· Fruit bearing trees like apples, peaches, plums, pears and grapes, unlike ornamental trees and

shrubs, need to be pruned every year. Opening up the canopy to increase air circulation is important to help reduce diseases and allow light penetration, which is important for ripening and fruit quality.

· When pruning shrubs, first prune out any dead or damaged branches; then thin out by removing about one-third of the canes or stems at ground level, removing the oldest canes only; and last, shape the rest of the plant, but do not cut everything back to the same height.

· Prune summer blooming shrubs like crape myrtle, butterfly bush, summer blooming spireas and evergreens, if needed. Summer bloomers produce flowers on new growth. Pruning in late winter gets the job done before the new growth begins and flowering is not delayed.

· Prune spring-flowering shrubs, trees and vines like quince, azalea, forsythia, weigela, dogwood, spirea and Carolina jasmine ONLY after they finish blooming.

· Hybrid tea roses generally bloom from late spring through late fall. Hybrid tea bushes should be pruned in late February just as new growth begins. Prune each cane back to 12 to 15 inches. Make cuts just above a bud pointing outward so new grow is directed away from the center of the bush and toward sunlight. To protect against the rose cane borer, treat the fresh cut with glue.

· Prune bush roses during February or early March. Use good shears to make clean cuts. Remove dead, dying and weak canes. Leave four to eight healthy canes and remove approximately one-half of the top growth and height of the plant.

· Climbing roses should be trained but not pruned. Weave long canes through openings in trellises or arbors and tie them with jute twine or plastic/wire plant ties. Securing canes now prevents damage from winds and contributes toward a more refined look to the garden when roses are blooming. Wait until after the spring flowering period to prune climbing or once-blooming shrub roses.

· Prune grapes. Trim oldest wood and leave only primary stems. Each stem should have four to six canes from last years growth.

· Before new growth begins, remove the old dead foliage of ornamental grasses in the landscape. Once growth begins this becomes almost impossible without damage, so put this gardening chore on the top of your to-do list. Even though not a true grass, the old foliage of liriope or Monkey grass can be removed. For large areas, use a string trimmer or lawn mower. Removing the old growth is not essential, but removing the old damaged foliage does insure the plants will look their best throughout the season.


· Once you plan your plantings, pots and beds, you can design an irrigation system that can save you time and money in more efficient watering for a maximum yield.

· Water containerized plants only when needed and not by the calendar.


· In the early spring, as temperatures rise above 40o for several days at a time, an application of horticulture oil will safely kill over-wintering soft-bodied insects like scale, whiteflies and aphids. Since horticulture oil is not a poison and works by coating insects, good cover is important. Make sure the spray covers both the upper and lower surface of leaves and gets into bark cracks and crevices. As with any spray, read and follow label directions.

· Check junipers and other narrow-leaf evergreens for bagworm pouches. The insect eggs overwinter in the pouch and start the cycle again by emerging in the spring to begin feeding on the foliage. Hand removal and burning of the pouches are ways of reducing the potential damage next spring.

· Spray camellias to prevent scale.

· Check your winter protection on your plants: deer netting, fences, straw coverage, burlap wraps, etc., and reapply where necessary.

· It may seem early to begin controlling summer weeds, but crabgrass and other warm-season weed seeds begin to germinate as soil temperatures rise. By applying pre-emergent or preventative herbicides mid to late-February, these weeds are killed as they emerge. Wait too late and these products are no-longer effective. Wait to fertilize until the lawn greens up to get the most efficient use of the fertilizer.

· Keep the upper hand with slugs and snails. Does it help to know each one may produce as many as 200 more?


· Begin spring soil preparation for vegetables. Make sure your soil isn’t too moist before you start to spade and till. (If a squeezed handful leaks water, it isn’t ready.) Mix existing soil with prepared manure and compost.

· When buying plants, the biggest is not always the best, especially when dealing with bare-root plants. The medium to small sizes (four to six feet) are usually faster to become established and more effective in the landscape than the larger sizes.

· Now is an excellent time to select and plant container-grown roses to fill in those bare spots in your rose garden.

· Make sure all your tools have been cleaned, sharpened and are ready to go. There is nothing quite as vexing as having a perfectly good weekend opportunity to mow the lawn only to discover the blades are dull or the mower otherwise needs service. It’s your last best chance to get your implements to the repair shop and in prime working order this month. Waiting could result in longer wait times as other procrastinators discover the same thing.

· It’s a good time to inventory your supplies including seeds. Seeds, if kept dry and cool, will often be just as good as they were last year. Use them up, but don’t rely on them.

· If the chilly winds don’t keep you under the covers, spend sunny February weekends doing building projects so you’re all ready when spring kicks in.

· If you have a garage or workshop, repair and repaint garden furniture this month.

· Now is the time to build the trellis for indeterminate tomatoes, squash and gourds, so purchase materials this month. Build frames for new raised beds.

· Set up flats for starting seeds. Full spectrum lighting and a heat mat can facilitate growing a variety of annuals, perennials and vegetables for this year’s garden.

· A potted plant, tree, shrub or cut flowers make excellent Valentine gifts for loved ones and shut-ins.

· Whether or not the groundhog sees its shadow on Feb. 2, this is the heart of winter. Tender plants and newly-planted or thin-barked trees can be threatened by wind, cold and even dramatic weather changes.

· If you’re still being zapped by cold snaps, it’s not too late to provide cover for tender and early-flowering plants. Place a circle of stakes around them and drape cloth covers so as not to touch their leaves. If you covered plants earlier and temperatures are now more moderate, remember to remove the wraps.

· If stored summer-flowering perennials are tricked into growth by a warm spell, move them to a cooler spot.

· Keep raking leaves to prevent them from smothering grass.

· If you’ve been feeding the birds this winter, don’t stop now – they’re counting on you!

Feeding Facts

By Jimmy Hughes

Livestock producers have long recognized the nutrient profile for forages and ingredients are different. While most producers consider the protein and energy level of a feedstuff, few ever consider the mineral levels in these feeds as part of the overall nutrition program. Over the past several months those who have purchased minerals have noticed a sharp increase in the cost. With the increase in price, several producers are becoming more aware of the fact their forages will provide livestock different levels of minerals. The minerals provided by these forages will allow you to select a mineral that might allow you to save money while coming closer to meeting the overall mineral needs of your animals. Let’s review some of the factors affecting mineral concentrations in feedstuff so you might make a better decision when selecting an adequate mineral for your herd.

Mineral concentrations in forages are affected by five different factors: 1) the genus, species or variety of forage, 2) type and mineral concentration of the soil, 3) stage of plant maturity, 4) climatic or seasonal conditions and 5) region of the country.

Legumes like clovers, alfalfa and peanuts are higher in calcium, potassium, magnesium, copper, zinc, iron and cobalt while grasses like fescue, bahia and bermuda tend to be higher in manganese and molybdenum. Therefore, if you are utilizing a legume as part of your forage program, you would consider a mineral higher in phosphorus, manganese and molybdenum while being lower in calcium, potassium, copper, zinc and iron. If your forage is predominantly grass, you would look at a mineral higher in calcium, potassium, magnesium and copper.

Another factor to consider is the type and mineral concentration of the soil. This is extremely important since forages will mimic the soils they are grown in. Grasses grown in under-fertilized soils will have inadequate levels of minerals. It is important to remember that just because a mineral is in the soil, does not guarantee the forage will uptake that mineral in adequate levels or in a form that can be utilized by the animal. Several companies recommend taking a forage sample and using these results to develop a mineral program. This can also cause problems because the minerals being in the forage does not mean the animal can utilize them.

Soil pH will have an affect on minerals. As soil pH increases, molybdenum uptake increases while zinc, copper, cobalt and manganese decreases. Also if you are growing grass on soils fertilized with chicken litter, you will elevate levels of calcium, phosphorus and potassium.

Stage of maturity will also have an affect on the mineral levels of forages. Generally, there is a rapid uptake of mineral during early growth and gradual dilution as the plant matures. Copper, zinc, iron, cobalt and molybdenum are the most common elements affected by plant maturity. Therefore, if you go by this, you should provide a product with higher levels of minerals in the late summer and fall over early spring and summer.

Climatic and seasonal changes play a role in mineral composition of forages. Leaching of soluble nutrients during wet weather is well-documented. Copper, zinc and manganese tend to be bound in plant tissues and are less susceptible to leaching than minerals like potassium and phosphorus. It is important to remember cool-season grasses have higher levels of potassium nitrate and lower levels of magnesium needed for the prevention of grass tetany.

A final consideration is the region of the country in which you reside. This is very important if you use a mineral coming from a plant outside the Southeastern United States. Minerals developed in these areas will not provide the levels of minerals required by cattle in the Southeast. Copper deficiencies tend to be along the East and West Coast, Upper Midwest and Florida. Zinc deficient areas include the Southeast, Texas and the West Coast. Signs of zinc deficiency include poor performance, foot rot and slowed wound-healing. Iodine deficient areas include most of the northern-half of the U.S. and parts of the Southeast. Plants along both coasts are known to be deficient in manganese. High levels of calcium and phosphorus also increases the requirement for manganese. Severe selenium deficiencies have occurred in the Southeast with deficiencies including white muscle disease, poor fertility and reduced immune response.

In summary, a lot of factors go into selecting the best mineral for your individual operation. One thing is certain, cattle need minerals provided on a daily basis to perform at their highest level. There is no way for each individual producer to have a mineral designed for their individual operation. Therefore, it is important to select a mineral best suited for your forage and feeding program along with the factors discussed in this article. While this method may not provide the exact levels of minerals, it will be your very best option when selecting a mineral.

If I can help you in this process or if I can answer any questions you might have concerning this or other nutritionally related questions, please call me at (256) 947-7886 or e-mail at
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">

Jimmy Hughes is AFC’s animal nutritionist.

Forage Attributes of Sericea Lespedeza AU releases

By Dr. Don Ball

Sericea lespedeza was introduced into the United States from Japan late in the 19th century and seed was made available to livestock producers beginning in the early 1920s. However, the first sericea lespedeza to which producers initially had access were tall-growing, stemmy types with tannin levels that made them unpalatable to grazing livestock.

However, plant breeding programs, especially the one at Auburn University (AU), have greatly changed this plant. Stem size has been reduced, root-knot nematode resistance has been developed and some varieties have reduced tannin levels. The most recent variety release, AU Grazer, is a grazing-tolerant type. The improved varieties actually bear little resemblance to the sericea types introduced nearly a century ago.

A result of recent increases in livestock production inputs, forage legumes in general are of more interest than used to be the case. However, sericea lespedeza especially deserves a closer look because it is a true low-input species.

Wide adaptation- Sericea can be grown on well-drained soils over a wide portion of the eastern United States, but it is especially well-suited to heavier upland soils like in North Alabama.

Perennial- Sericea is a long-term perennial forage crop. Once established, it will persist indefinitely with appropriate management.

Low fertilizer requirements- Sericea is a legume and thus does not require nitrogen fertilization. It responds to phosphorous and potassium in areas where these nutrients are in short supply, but it is much more tolerant of infertile conditions than most legumes.

Tolerance to soil acidity- Although a soil pH range of 5.8 to 6.5 is usually recommended, sericea tolerates soil acidity, including acid subsoils.

Good forage yield- On-farm hay production is often around three tons per acre in two or three harvests, but yields of up to five tons of dry matter per acre have been produced in research plots. Stocking rates for sericea pastures are only slightly lower than for tall fescue, bahiagrass or orchardgrass.

Drought tolerance- Sericea plants (even seedlings) are quite drought tolerant. This makes the crop particularly useful in areas where cool season species that are vulnerable to summer droughts predominate.

Good forage quality- On a dry matter basis, sericea hay normally contains about 12-14 percent crude protein and 55-60 percent total digestible nutrients. As compared to pasture forage, sericea hay has a reduced tannin content and increased digestibility, with the result being that intake of sericea as hay increases in ruminants in relation to fresh forage.

Pest resistance- Few disease and insect problems are associated with sericea.

Soil-building properties- Sericea tends to shed lower leaves, which enrich the soil. In addition, the roots penetrate the soil to considerable depths, thus improving soil structure.

Fast drying- Sericea hay can be baled quickly, reducing the risk of rain damage. Growers often are able to cut the crop one day and bale it the next.

Low cost- Once established, sericea costs relatively little to maintain compared to most forage crops. As a result, the cost-per-pound of gain is low relative to most other forage crops.

Parasite control- Research at several universities has revealed that sericea provides significant benefit in reducing the numbers of internal parasites in small ruminant animals.


No forage crop is perfect or right for every situation. Disadvantages of sericea lespedeza include

slow establishment, a fairly short growing season (although this can be lengthened by interseeding winter annuals) and lower palatability than many forage crops. However, objective consideration of the characteristics of this species seems to suggest, in many forage production situations, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. If you would like additional information about sericea lepedeza go and click on "Lespedeza."

Don Ball is an Extension Forage Crop Agronomist with Auburn University.

Happy Hunting Ground

By Ralph Ricks

Last month, I went "on a tear" about turning 50 this year and then went on to mention when life seemed simpler than it is now. I asked the question, "When did hunting become ‘hi-tech’?" Let me expand on that and ask the question, "When did hunting and fishing get not only hi-tech, but when did it get so darn expensive?"

I have started receiving all of the outdoor catalogues for the spring season and now I have made the mistake of letting my wife know I officially don’t need anything I can think of, all I can do is look.

I don’t need a fishing rod, but I was looking just the same and I couldn’t believe my eyes!

I grew up in an era where hi-tech was actually going to a bait shop and purchasing a cane pole. If you had a cane pole with a manufacturer’s sticker and varnish, you were "uptown." Sometimes we actually bought a red and white bobber that clipped to the line instead of a cork. I never bought a hook until the last few years. Usually when you needed a brim hook, we just rummaged around in Dad’s tackle box until we found one down in the bottom. You scrape the rust off, stick a piece of wire through the eye so you can get it tied onto the line and you were ready to go.

Now things are different. I actually turned a page in that catalogue and when I saw a rod and reel combo for close to $400 I think I actually heard the thump from Baldwin County as my dad turned over in his grave.

Look through your latest catalogues and check out not only the prices, but also what’s available now.

I saw a reel that is electronic and has a blinker and a beeper to let you know when you’ve got a bite!

I saw a spinning reel with a computerized brake on it to prevent backlash. Now what fun is that? The few times I have used one of these reels (I am a dedicated closed-faced reel guy), half of the challenge was untangling a thousand yards of fishing line while everyone else is catching fish and not killing someone.

I saw reels of various types that were in the $400-$500 range and rods that were in the $300 range and these were fresh water rods and reels.

I saw ultra-lite reels that will fit in the palm of your hand.

I saw one reel with "supermicro-pitch adjustment." Now I am nearly 50 years old, have a college degree and have been fishing for as long as I can remember, and I can’t even imagine what they are talking about and why I would need it, what I would do with it and how have I managed to get along all these years without it?

They won’t even leave camping alone. The last time I checked, people went camping to enjoy the outdoors, sit by a fire and roast marshmallows and hot dogs on a stick, and basically breath fresh air, sleep on the ground and get dirty and bug bitten. It was fun.

When I was a Boy Scout, it was a matter of pride to be able to start a fire without matches, cook on a campfire without burning everything to a crisp, sleep under the stars without a tent, bake a cake in a Dutch oven and come home with dirt so thick on your body your mamma would gasp and make you soak in the tub for an hour.

Now, you have camp ovens where you can prepare a gourmet meal, you can sleep in a tent that can withstand a hurricane and has several rooms, you can take either a solar shower or a propane-heated hot water shower, and, back in my day, a "pitch it yourself potty" had a totally different meaning than it does now.

Now we have game cameras that will shoot film or digital images and even send it to either your cell phone or e-mail; what ever happened to looking for tracks?

Now you have hi-tech hiking shoes with custom-fitted insoles; used to be we knew how to doctor blisters so they wouldn’t get infected and kill us (like "The Rooosevelt Boy," which I never understood but my mom used to tell us anyway).

We have electronic turkey calls the mere mention of which will infuriate most turkey hunters I know, so I’ll stop there.

We now have GPS to keep us from getting lost, whatever happened to being able to find the North Star at night and pointing the wagon tongue in that direction so the next day you know which way is north? Used to we knew that most rivers in the eastern U.S. flow south and, if you followed a river, you would eventually come to a town. We knew that in most cemeteries the tombstones face east and the last time I checked, the sun still sets in the west.

Where will it all end? Radar-guided, heat-seeking bullets and arrows? Hunting knives engineered not to cut you?

Did you know that you can subscribe to a website that allows you to watch a white-tailed buck’s travels via a camera strapped to his head? In real time?

Thankfully someone ended the remote-controlled hunting lodge. You remember, this was the place where they were trying to get to the point where you could log on to this website, punch in your credit card and you would pay for the type of animal you wanted to harvest, remotely control a rifle, shoot the beast and then they would recover the animal for you, bill your credit card for any trophy fees, have it stuffed and ship it to you!

I am for the life of me trying to figure out how our Native American brothers and the mountain men of the old days survived in a world without scent control, game cams, compound bows, GPS units, cell phones, text messaging, hunting buggies, four-wheelers, flat shooting rifles and all the other gadgets and gear we now have available.

I remember watching a hunting show where a guy had gone out West to harvest a bison on one of the reservations in Montana. They were heading to their hunting area when their Native American guide made them stop and get out. The video showed him standing on the Montana plains just watching the sky. Finally, the host of the show asked him what he was doing. He said that he was watching an eagle and waiting for him to tell him where the buffalo were. After nearly an hour more of watching this eagle, the bird stopped circling and flew in a certain direction. The guide hustled to get the hunters loaded up and headed in the direction the bird had headed. Wouldn’t you know it- that’s where they found the bison. I’m still trying to figure out how he did it without all of the hi-tech equipment. (I don’t think an eagle is considered hi-tech but I’ll check.)

I hate to get so wound up about this subject, but it bugs me. I’m teaching my daughter just to enjoy being out there, no matter what. To me a successful hunt is walking through the woods with my daughter, having her lean up against me in a shooting house or holding my hand going back to the truck like she did when she was five or six. And folks, there ain’t nuthin’ hi-tech about that!

Ralph Ricks is the manager of Quality Cooperative, Inc. in Greenville.

Haskel Adamson grows gourds, vegetables and a simple life

Haskel Adamson demonstrates his telescoping Martin/gourd assembly.

By Suzy Lowry Geno

Haskel Adamson knows two truths on widely different yet connected spectrums that have served him well throughout his lifetime: most folks are way too busy in their modern lives seeking wealth and in the process lose their family values. And what kind of sandy loamy soil AND what altitude grows the best tomatoes anyone has ever put in their mouths!

You might wonder how those truths are connected but it was actually simple when Haskel explained them.

"I was raised plowing mules when I was really too young to even hold up the plow," he recalled. "So Daddy traded the mule for a horse—a red horse with a star on her face named Dixie—so I’d have less trouble.

"We had that closeness growing up on the farm. We depended on each other. We worked from daylight til dark and then we went to bed. I never had time to fool around with drugs or even watch TV. We didn’t even have a television until I was a senior in high school.

"But it was a wonderful way of life. We didn’t have much money but we had plenty to eat. We had cows for beef, pork, eggs. Everybody had a smokehouse.

Haskel Adamson and some of last year’s gourd crop.

"We learned responsibility. We didn’t ask what work had to be done. We just knew what work was there and we’d better do it.

"I was born in 1941 but Daddy was still remembering the Depression. Nowadays, most kids don’t do anything but sit in front of the TV or in front of the Internet bringing all the things of the world into their homes. We just didn’t have time for any of that if we’d had it. There were just too many other things to do!"

Haskel grew up on Straight Mountain, the son of J.R. and Verdie, with his two sisters, Ernestine and Shirley.

Tomatoes and cotton were king, and the Straight Mountain and Chandler Mountain altitudes and cooler nights were the perfect atmosphere for both crops.

He attended Appalachian school until his senior year. Back then Blount County schools started in mid-summer, then got out a month for "cotton picking" and then resumed their studies later in the fall.

"The boll weevil had just about done in the cotton crops and we’d contracted to grow pimento peppers. Right when school started was when Daddy needed me. So I told him I’d stay out of school and help. Then when Oneonta school started (the more modern "city" school had split from the county system and adopted the more usual regular school term with no time for crop picking), I hitchhiked to school every morning and back home every afternoon, said Haskel. "After Christmas, I transferred back to Appalachian with my class and graduated in 1959."

Haskel married and began pastoring churches, primarily in Blount County (he now pastors West End Baptist in Cleveland), but he never stayed on a "public" job long. One stretch of eight years was the longest.

"I wanted to be available when my congregations needed me," he explained, although most were rural churches who could only afford bi-vocational pastors.

"I remember when I was growing up and there was a death in the community we simply took the mule to the barn and that’s where he stayed until that person was buried. It just seemed farming was more flexible for me."

When his first wife suffered heart problems in 1985, he made an even more concerted effort to spend quality time with her so they enjoyed farming and going to flea markets and farmer’s markets to sell and trade.

"We didn’t get rich but we made a living," he stated.

His first wife passed away and Haskel married Betty four years ago and the farming life continues.

About 40 years ago, Haskel moved to Ebell Mountain, now more widely known as Palisades Park Mountain, and he found the elevation almost the same as his much loved Straight Mountain.

While in the past he’s hauled and sold vegetables all over the Southeast and even to Michigan, he’s found growing and selling locally is just as profitable and he can grow vegetables that are much better to eat!

"I do it naturally," he explained. "These tomatoes aren’t fertilized too much and don’t have the water poured onto them like the commercial crops do now. I grow a garden variety instead of something that’s for commercial growing and would be shipped across the country. I just grow them the ole-timey way and sell them at Blount Farmer’s Market."

The wonderful climate and older growing methods are great for the peaches and strawberries Haskel also grows and there are always some pole beans and other goodies on his market table as well.

But it may be as the "gourd man" that Haskel is most widely-known. A few years ago, Mr. and Mrs. James Swann moved from Straight Mountain across the road from the Adamson’s farm, bringing their love of growing gourds with them.

Haskel wouldn’t grow gourds until Mr. Swann no longer could farm and then Haskel began growing them at James’ urging.

Now he grows just about every kind of gourd imaginable from bottle-neck to those used in making Purple Martin houses. He plants them in the spring and, unlike some other growers, allows them to dry in the fields until he’s ready to plant again. Then the past year’s crop is harvested and sold to crafts people all over the United States.

Haskel has even invented a telescoping Martin gourd pole about five years ago and he sells that easy set up, complete with gourds for the houses, for $125!

So if you want to talk vegetables, gourds or Martins, or you need a little more information on how you can have a simple but fulfilling life, you can just drop by the Adamson’s farm at 3455 Ebell Road off U.S. 231 between Oneonta and Cleveland—but you might want to phone them at (205) 625-5040 first.

You can just look for the two story house —- built by Haskel himself of lumber cut and planed from his property there —- the house with the gourds piled in the front yard!

Suzy Lowry Geno is a freelance writer from Blount County.

HorseNAround Farm Is a Paradise for Animals

Mark and Freida Burdette enjoy a light moment with stallion Promise Land.

Blount Co. Ranchers Like Healthy, Happy Stock

By Suzy Lowry Geno

Freida Burdette said of her husband Mark: "His horses are under the hood; mine are out in the pasture."

And while that statement sounds comical, at HorseNAround Farm, it’s really true!

Freida’s passion is her line of Spotted Saddle Horses descended from herd stallion, Patches Promise Land, and a group of mares she hand-picked specifically for their gentleness, their confirmation, and their smooth and easy-going gait.

Patches Powerstroke, Patches Promise Land’s three year old son, braves the rain for a bite of newly-green grass.

While Mark enjoys the horses (as well as the ranch’s pygmy goats, chickens, dogs, cats, swans, ducks, geese and more!), his heart is literally "under the hood" in the special barn filled with the classic cars and trucks he restores and has restored through the years.

He looks out over the cross-fenced pastures at a group of mares, Patches’ son and grandson, and the 200 Canada geese that have evidently decided to make the ranch their year-round home, and laughingly called the horses Freida’s "lawn ornaments."

The couple’s easy back-and-forth banter exemplifies the easy-going personalities of their ranch’s animals and their farm’s atmosphere in general.

Married about 12 years, Mark noted, "I saw her driving a Ford pickup and knew she was the one for me."

Freida Burdette and one of the tiny pygmy goat kids born in January.

In actuality, choosing the farm, like choosing each other, was a particular and painstaking process.

Mark was President of United Plywood and Lumber, Inc. for more than 42 years, overseeing operations in three states. He’d lived in Mountain Brook for more than 30 years and wanted a place to retire away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Likewise Freida had worked for the Birmingham Post Office for more than 30 years and had lived previously in Shelby County and then Center Point.

When Mark found the initial property off Ricetown Road in very rural west Blount County, he knew he’d found home. He bought the property in three stages: the original 80 acres with the house and rough areas which are now pristine pastures; then an additional 14 acres and finally more acreage which includes about 1,800 feet of frontage on the Mulberry River.

Mark Burdette and the special kind of “horsepower” he works on!

The ranch now includes 135 acres, about a mile and a half of vinyl fencing, the couple’s remodeled spacious home where floor-to-ceiling windows allow views of the pastures and barns, two small ponds whose water is carefully pumped by two windmills, the two larger barns, and several additional paddocks and outbuildings.

The couple is certain how they want things to look, how they want their animals trained, and the importance of quality in everything from the foals and pygmy goats they sell, to even the big brown eggs they sold until a predator "relieved them" of many of their chickens.

"I grew up on a farm in Shelby County and I ALWAYS loved horses," Freida explained. "But, when I moved out here originally from Center Point, I had no idea what I was doing in the country. Now you couldn’t PAY me to move back to town."

Likewise Mark noted: "I grew up outside of Meridian, Mississippi. We always had horses, dogs and cats. It really wasn’t what you’d call a farm; it was just a home in a country setting."

Freida makes certain her animals go to good homes.

"They don’t go unless ‘Mama’ says they go," she laughed.

"We were blessed a couple of years ago when a woman bought several mares and a stallion from us to start her own herd in North Florida," Freida stated.

"I want people to know that we put a lot into our horses (and goats). I’ve always tried to do more and take care of our animals. Even though it costs more, I like to see healthy and happy animals.

"We do a lot of hands-on when they’re born. I also check bloodlines and temperament.

"I had wanted a 100 percent homozygous stallion, but when I saw Patches and his temperament, I said I wanted him! Patches is a lot of horse, but he listens. I am truly blessed to have such a wonderful stallion. All of Patches’ foals have good temperaments as well and are willing to please.

"We’ve had a lot of compliments from previous clients on how well our animals look and act, and we’ve also had a lot of repeat buyers and made a lot of friends.

"All of our foals have been clipped, groomed, farrier and vet-checked, and loaded on trailers, both two-horse and four-horse.

"We want anyone, whether you’re experienced or a beginner with horses, to be able to buy a horse from us, load the horse, take it and ride it, or train it or whatever you want to do, with that horse."

The Burdettes have developed such a close relationship with vet Dr. Jason Coe and farrier Kenneth McCormack that they feature them on their website and enjoy family visits.

Freida noted, "Our training process is slow and easy. It makes it easier on the horse and handler, which I think gives you a better relationship with the horse. All the work is done without a bit as well!"

Folks often ask Freida the difference between a "spotted" horse and a "paint."

"The Spotted Saddle Horse has a more easy-going walking gait," Freida said. "The Paint is more of your Quarter Horse."

That easy-going nature is what Freida also loves about the playful Pygmy and Nigerian Dwarf goats she raises and sells. Some are sold as small dairy goats, others to begin breeding herds and some just as pets.

Mark laughed about the woman who visited the farm one day in a $80,000 Hummer and left with a Pygmy goat safely ensconced on the seat!

Both Freida and Mark, and their three ranch hands, scoff at the term "hobby farm," noting their ranch is a full-time job and responsibility. In fact, Freida spent much of the New Year’s holiday in the vet’s office trying in vain to save two small Nigerian Dwarf goats.

Freida noted it is the "many wonderful friends we’ve gained" through selling the horses and goats that really make life worthwhile.

Mark’s den has an entire wall featuring magazine articles and awards about the cars and trucks he has restored and you might find him at a national show or somewhere like the World of Wheels in February in Birmingham with one of his finest on display, but he makes sure everyone knows he is truly a "ranch hand" now.

Mark simply said, "This life in the country is just such peace and quiet. Although there’s an extraordinary amount of work to be done every day, our life now is lived not by the clock, but is set by the sun."

For more information on HorseNAround Farm, you can visit their website www.HorseNAround or call them at (205) 590-1070.

Suzy Lowry Geno is a freelance writer from Blount County.

Not all the horses at HorseNAround Farm are spotted.

How's Your Garden?

Lawns sown in fescue should be growing again soon.

By Lois Trigg Chaplin

Fescue Lawn Care

If you have a fescue lawn, it will be growing vigorously again. Remember, the optimum growing height for most turf-type fescues is 2½ to 3 inches. Don’t mow too low because it only weakens the grass and encourages weeds. Taller grass will also have deeper roots that will come in handy come summer! Fertilize lightly if the lawn looks too yellow and weak, but otherwise a very thin topdressing of composted manure (1/8 to ¼ inch) will probably suffice. The ideal time to fertilize fescue is in the fall.

It’s time to plants onions. Get your Bonnie transplants now at your Co-op.

Plant Onions Now

Get your Bonnie onion transplants in the ground now. Onions take up such little space in the garden, yet provide pounds of seasoning for months, particularly if you let them cure and then store the bulbs with good air circulation in a cool, dry place. If you like green onions, plant extras you can pull early or cut the tops without worrying about impeding development of the bulb.

Master Gardeners Meeting Open to Everyone in 2009

This year’s Master Gardeners conference is open to anyone—you don’t have to be a Master Gardener to attend. Take advantage of this opportunity to meet other gardeners from around the state and experience the camaraderie of the organization first-hand. The conference is April 2-4 in Huntsville. The agenda includes a number of garden speakers like Patricia Lanza author of Lasagna Gardening, numerous workshops, free admission to the Huntsville Botanical Garden (HBG) and lots of other gardening events. There are receptions and tours, too. You can get more information and registration information at the Alabama Master Gardener’s website, See "Conferences" in the menu bar.

Master Gardeners is a national gardening organization with state chapters. To become a Master Gardener you go through great training by horticultural professionals and then volunteer a number of hours with the Extension service in return for your training. Normally, the conference is for Master Gardeners only, but this year it is open to anyone, so take advantage of this great opportunity!

All-America Winners Mostly Vegetables in ‘09

Honey Bear buttercup squash is an AAS Winner for 2009.

Three of the four All-America Selections (AAS) Winners for 2009 are vegetables (the fourth is a Johnny Jump-Up).

Honey Bear buttercup squash scored high for exceptional sweetness and flavor.

"The best tasting butternut on the market," said AAS.

It is also compact enough for large pots and small gardens, requiring about the same space as a zucchini plant. Each bush-type plant should bear three to five very dark green fruit weighing 12 to 16 ounces. The plants are also tolerant to powdery mildew, which is a big plus as this is often the biggest threat to this crop in late summer.

Gretel eggplant is another AAS winner.

Gretel is an early-maturing, small-fruited, white eggplant that will make heads turn. The glossy, finger-shaped, white fruit are borne in clusters; they are sweet with tender skin even if they mature beyond the ideal fruit size of three to four inches long. This means you have a longer window to harvest. The plants are relatively small, about three feet wide and equally tall, so they also fit well in small gardens or large containers. White eggplant is a common ingredient in Asian cooking.

Lambkin is a new melon type to me. It is classified as a Piel de Sapo, or Christmas type, with the most important trait being its flavor. According to AAS, the oval shaped melon weighs between two and four pounds with a thin rind surrounding sweet, aromatic, white, juicy flesh. It comes from a breeder in Taiwan. Other gourmet melons of this type mature much later than the 65 to 75 days of Lambkin. Because of the early harvest, the vigorous vines can produce more melons. It also stores longer than other melons in the refrigerator. Sounds like an interesting one to try.

Proper Shade Lowers Summer Cooling Costs

Auburn University Professor David Laband in the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences reveals how much shade trees can reduce electric bills during summer. Compared to a house with no shade, electricity usage will be 11.4 percent less if a house has just 17.5 percent heavy shade coverage.

A third AAS Winner is the lambkin melon, which stores well.

"The keys are heavy foliage and late afternoon shade," Laband said. "We looked at the amount of shade in the early morning, early afternoon and late afternoon. If you have trees on the west side of your house, you will have a much lower power bill."

The year-long study of 160 houses in the Auburn area primarily focused on the months of May to September. Using local power company rates for kilowatt-hours per day, Laband said the 11.4 percent savings would equal $31 to $33 per month. The study, which categorized shade into light, moderate and heavy, also found a house covered with 50 percent of light shade would save 10.3 percent.

Thermostat settings were important as well.

"For each degree you raise your thermostat, you will save 3.3 percent on your power bill," he said.

Now is a good time to plant a tree! Choose long-lived, sturdy species like oak. They will grow faster than you think with proper water and fertilizer.

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

Jerry Brown Arts Festival Set for March 7-8

Pottery maker Jerry Brown shows one of face jugs for which he famous for making. He has two on display in the Smithsonian Institute.

Hamilton Festival Highlights Local Artisan

By Susie Sims

Jerry Brown doesn’t see what all the fuss is about. In his eyes he is just carrying on the family tradition of pottery making. To the art world, Brown motivates others to practice their art, whatever it may be.

Brown is the headline artist of the Jerry Brown Arts Festival, which is held each year the first weekend in March in Hamilton.

The festival will highlight artists mainly from the Southeast who have a uniquely Southern art form.

Jerry Brown is shown making a face jug for a client. He was given a picture of a man and asked to make the jug resemble him — a common occurrence for the artist.

In fact, the theme for the festival is "Reflections of the South." This theme sets the tone for the entire event according to Marla Mintor, public relations director of the Northwest Alabama Arts Council.

"‘Reflections of the South’ is our standing theme," said Mintor. "The festival offers a glimpse of the true Southern lifestyle."

That lifestyle is typically manifested in folk art. Mintor said the majority of the festivals exhibitors are folk artists.

All of the artists must submit examples of their work to the arts council before they are admitted to the festival as exhibitors.

"We pride ourselves on providing a quality show for our community," explained Mintor. "The festival has improved the quality of living in our community. It has changed the way people think about Hamilton, Marion County and Northwest Alabama."

Mintor said having a famous artist like Jerry Brown to headline the festival has added real substance to the event.

Jerry Brown digs clay for his pottery about once each year from local sources. He keeps the clay in old freezers to retain its moisture level.

"Jerry is our icon and we wanted to take full advantage of that," said Mintor. "And he works tirelessly to promote the festival and the arts without asking for anything in return."

This will mark the festival’s seventh year. And it has been growing by leaps and bounds since its inception.

Mintor recalled that the Hamilton Area Chamber of Commerce started the Jerry Brown Arts Festival in 2003 with seven artists. The show was held at the Bevill Business and Community Center in Hamilton.

"The chamber wanted some type of cultural event for the community," recalled Mintor. "And having Jerry Brown seemed like the perfect opportunity."

Within a couple of years the festival had grown so much it had to move to the town’s recreation center, which accommodated up to 34 exhibitors and vendors.

This year’s event will be held in the old Wal-Mart building just south of town on Military Street. Brown said they hope to have 75 exhibitors and food vendors.

This year’s dates are March 7 and 8. The hours for the festival are Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m..

Mintor said this year’s festival has been selected by the Southeast Tourism Society as a Top 20 event for March 2009.

Brown has received numerous awards and honors over the years for his artistry.

Among those awards are the National Heritage Fellowship in 1992 and the Alabama Heritage Award from the Alabama Arts Council in 2003.

Brown has some four or five pieces on exhibit in the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C., including his famous face jugs.

Brown is a ninth-generation pottery maker. The local arts council traced the trade back in Brown’s family to the mid-1700s.

"When I started I knew pottery went way back, but I didn’t realize it went that far back," remarked Brown.

His face jugs and mugs are what have made him famous even though the art came from very humble beginnings.

Brown said his father had explained to him that slaves originally made the face jugs to keep their poisons in.

"They couldn’t read or write," said Brown. "So they made faces to go on the jugs so they wouldn’t drink what was in them."

One of his best-sellers, besides the face jugs, is churns. Brown said churns are very popular for pickle making.

He guarantees that when making pickles the salt will not come through his churns. Not all churns are created equal, noted Brown. Many are made too quickly and cheaply.

He credits his high quality churns to his use of good thick glaze and high firing temperature.

A Dying Art

Brown is working hard to preserve what he considers a "dying art"—traditional pottery making.

Money raised by the arts festival is used to fund local art education programs. Brown hosts a pottery class of sorts for fourth-graders from around Marion County each year.

Mintor said that in conjunction with their Alabama history lessons, fourth-graders are brought to Brown’s facility to see him in action and get involved in the pottery-making process for themselves. Those students’ projects will be displayed at the arts festival.

Each year the program rotates among the county’s schools.

Mintor also noted many of the festival’s exhibitor’s volunteer to serve as guest artists at local schools.

‘The festival is wonderful for our community—a positive promotion," said Mintor. "It is truly unique in the area."

Contact Information

Persons interested in information about Jerry Brown or the festival may call him at (205) 921-9483. Mintor may be reached by calling (205) 921-3632. The official website for the festival is

Susie Sims is a freelance writer from Haleyville.

Looking for Time Well Spent in February

Episode 14: Saturday and Sunday, February 3 and 4

Jim visits D.A. Ray in Trinity and meets some of his unique gourd people creations.

Grace takes us to the small town of Meridianville where each fall one farm family opens its farm and invites North Alabama students to its pumpkin patch, but sends them home with much more than a pumpkin…more importantly, they teach them a deeper appreciation of agriculture.

Chuck discusses the benefits of working with neighboring landowners to form wildlife management co-operatives. He then travels to Ohio to hunt with a co-op that has been practices quality wildlife management with great success.

Episode 15: Saturday and Sunday, February 10 and 11

Jim goes to the Talladega National Forest and meets up with Ronnie Jones and the Alabama Wagon Train.

Baseball, cheerleading and soccer are popular activities for young people, but Grace introduces us to some young people whose interests have taken them away from the playing field and led them to the rodeo arena.

Chuck discusses the topic of cull bucks with Dr. Steve Ditchkoff of Auburn University and travels to Selma to hunt with good friend and General Manager of the Central Alabama Farmers Co-op, Tim Wood, at his hunting lodge, The WoodLands.

Episode 16: Saturday and Sunday, February 17 and 18

Jim heads to Springville in St. Clair County where he and biofuel expert Dave Bransby visits with Wayne Keith, who has revived gasification technology that enables regular vehicles normally fueled with gasoline to be powered with biomass materials like wood.

Grace introduces us to Brad Cox, an FFA student, whose character, knowledge and hard work has contributed to the success of the renowned Racking Horse operation near his hometown of Arab.

Chuck travels to South Texas to talk with Roy Hindes, Jr., about his family’s storied history of finding wounded deer for hunters.

Episode 17: Saturday and Sunday, February 24 and 25

Go bargain hunting with Jim in Scottsboro at Unclaimed Baggage Center where Brenda Cantrell will take us on a tour of one of the most unusual stores in the United States.

Join Grace as she introduces us to Kelly Alredge, a Chilton County teen whose visit to the lake proved to be a first-hand history lesson on Native Americans in Central Alabama.

Chuck and consulting forester, Leh Bass, discuss and innovative way for Alabama forest landowners to make additional revenue from their timberlands by selling carbon credits.

Episode 18: Saturday and Sunday, February 31 and March 1

Follow Jim to Chilton County as he talks to Ginger Duncan about all the hard work that’s done at her family’s Neely Farms Christmas Tree operation.

Grace introduces us to Speake student Zac Rutherford whose work on a local poultry farm has fulfilled the FFA organization’s aim of developing leadership, personal growth and career success through his agricultural experiences.

Chuck discusses proper food plot hunting techniques that can help hunters be more successful. He travels near Selma to hunt at Portland Landing on a late season deer hunt.

Loophouses Can Put Vegetable Producers in the Loop

By Jerry A. Chenault

Attention vegetable producers. What would you give to get a 50 percent boost in production? What about if that boost of 50 percent came with a marketable crop of 95 percent (rather than the usual 45-50 percent)? Interested? Let me tell you more.

When things sound too good to be true, well...they usually are; but in this case I want to give you the facts and let you decide. What we’re talking about here is not for any old crop; but rather only for high value crops like tomatoes. This crop would need to be one that would really benefit the grower if it matured a month or so earlier than usual.

The method to get this increase in yield is called a "loophouse" or a high tunnel. It’s simply an un-heated greenhouse that can help market gardeners extend their growing season and their profitability. But isn’t a greenhouse (loophouse) expensive? Dr. John Braswell at Mississippi State University said it cost approximately $0.75–1.50 per square foot. That included the plastic and the structure. You can expect to pay about 25 percent more for the end-walls, water lines, site preparation and other accessories.

Sure, there’s a cost to build a loophouse, but look what you get in return! Loophouses are used for a diversity of horticulture crops including vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers. This passively-vented solar greenhouse (which is covered with one to two layers of greenhouse plastic) gives the optimum environment for growing high value crops (like tomatoes) with a LOT less culls.

Dr. Lewis H. Jett, Horticulture Extension Specialist at West Virginia University, said you can expect to harvest more than 15 pounds of tomatoes per plant...and many growers routinely get 20-25 pounds per plant! And, as a bonus, you can grow varieties you can’t grow in a field (due to cracks and splits from uncontrolled rainfall volumes). You can also intercrop around tomatoes for more efficient use of space (utilizing lettuce and salad crops, etc.).

Most loophouses grow crops right in the ground, which are often made into highly-composted bed areas and are moistened by two drip-line irrigation lines per row. Pine needles are often used as mulch.

At least three cropping-cycles per year are realistic for loophouses (two warm season harvest cycles and one cool season). However, intercropping extends even this scenario.

What crops are commonly grown in loophouses? Topping that list would be tomatoes, peppers, melons, strawberries and cut flowers. Tomatoes and salad greens are the top two vegetables grown in them.

To put it all in a nutshell, loophouses modify the environment to enhance plant growth...which means they elevate temperatures at crucial times of the year a few degrees per day. They also provide wind and rain protection, and often help in the control of insects, diseases and predators like rodents and birds. They improve quality, increase yields, increase market opportunities and can reduce the use of pesticides.

Want to know more? Visit for a clearinghouse of information. Also visit Penn State’s Center for Plasticulture website at

Jerry A. Chenault is an Urban Regional Extension Agent.

MGH Arena Houses Therapeutic Riding Program

The “big white barn” on Alabama Highway 21 just outside of the Talladega city limits is a 39, 000-square-foot arena where 350 special needs children are provided physical therapy on horseback.

Disabled Children Benefit Physically and Emotionally

By Grace Smith

I’ve spent the last two years traveling up and down Alabama’s highways, and as a method to pass the monotony of passing mile markers and the never-ending asphalt, I often take note of the scenery around me. Whether it’s an unusual building or scenic farmstead, I have found myself taking interest in these scenes and structures.

One that always puzzled me is just outside the Talladega city limits on Alabama Highway 21. This "big white barn" surrounded by white fencing sparked my interest each time I passed. "What exactly goes on in that barn," I would wonder as I watched it fade in my rearview mirror. And then, without too much ado, I would forget about it until my next drive along Highway 21. Little did I know, I would soon find myself standing in that arena amazed by what I saw.

While riding is the predominate activity at the arena, students are introduced to many other areas of horsemanship like helping in the barn: saddling, tacking and brushing the horses.

In November 2008, I was asked to call Tim Greene as a contact for this story. We set up a time to meet and as he began giving me directions, I realized his instructions led me to the "big white barn" I’d pondered so many times.

A few days later, I made my first visit to the "barn," better known as the Marianna Greene Henry Arena, or MGH Arena. I was met by Tim, the arena coordinator, and as he began to explain the purpose of the arena, I realized there was so much more to this building than I could have ever imagined simply seeing it from the highway.

In the early 80s Tim’s sister, Marianna Greene Henry began volunteering at Special Equestrian Inc., a therapeutic horseback riding system in the Birmingham area. With her love of horses and a desire to help special needs children, Henry was an asset to the program. Although a job took her and her husband to Kentucky, Henry never lost her foresight to help these children.

The MGH Arena features an ability room which is much like a tradition therapy room with a “horse-oriented” theme. This room helps loosen the childrens’ muscles so they’re ready for horseback therapy.

A few years later, Henry convinced her father, who was nearing retirement and anxious to begin farming, to start a therapeutic horseback riding program, or hippotherapy program, on his Talladega area farm to accommodate the special needs children of the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind (AIDB).

But before the program was established, Henry was diagnosed with a heart disease called cardiomyopathy, which can only be cured by transplant. Sadly in the spring of 1989, she passed away during the transplant operation.

Her parents, Pat and Marilyn Greene, decided to honor their daughter’s wishes and develop the therapeutic riding program. Although the program had humble beginnings serving just eight children with a few horses and a small riding ring, it quickly grew to become more than they could have imagined.

"We realized we either needed to drop this idea or make it huge," Tim, Henry’s younger brother, said. "We decided to follow through with it and the program just got bigger and bigger. Now we’re the largest in the world that services deaf, blind and multi-disabled children."

The friendly folks at Talladega County Exchange are always available to provide product knowledge and a variety of supplies to help make the arena a success. Products like feed, supplements, tack and fertilizer help keep the horses fit and healthy so they’re ready for the children each day.

The program is now housed in that "big white barn," a 39, 000-square-foot arena where 350 AIDB children are provided physical therapy on horseback. Using this form of therapy, these special needs children are provided recreational activities like horseback-riding classes and trail rides.

Tim was quick to point out that for most of these children, traditional physical therapy was a dreaded part of their day. But, through the riding programs available at MGH Arena, they’re able to get their therapy in a way both enjoyable and effective. He added he’s seen many of the children make improvements in balance, motor skills, self esteem, verbal skills and confidence while exercising static muscles. While riding is the predominate activity at the arena, students are introduced to many other areas of horsemanship.

"They’re able to participate in all aspects of horsemanship," Tim said. "Many of them are able to help in the barn: saddling and tacking their own horses, brushing the horses down and feeding them after they’ve finished riding."

At MGH Arena, special needs children are provided recreational activities like horseback-riding classes and trail rides which improve balance, motor skills, self esteem, verbal skills and confidence while exercising static muscles.

Another interesting feature of the arena is the Ability Room which helps prepare the children to ride the horses.

"We’ve also built an ability room, which is much like a traditional therapy room, but we’ve made it very horse-oriented," Tim said. "Everything in there is all about horses—balancing, pretending they’re on a horse. This loosens them up before they get on a horse because many of them are very stiff. They think they’re playing, but with the help of a therapist they’re actually stretching those muscles preparing them for hippotherapy."

Tim also mentioned the friendly folks at Talladega County Exchange are always available to provide product knowledge and a variety of supplies to help make the arena a success. Products like feed, supplements, tack and fertilizer help keep the horses fit and healthy so they’re ready for the children each day.

As Tim told me about the arena and the services it provides, I watched the children riding the horses and I realized even though they were doing physical therapy, they were enjoying every second of it. Through the programs, these amazing children are receiving the therapy they need, but in their minds they’re doing nothing more that horseback riding.

Watching the children laugh and giggle while pushing themselves to maintain their balance, or stretch a little higher and reach a little farther, and watching the therapists and volunteers love and encourage these children, I realized this "big white barn" I’d noticed so many times was making an incredible difference in the quality of these children’s lives.

It makes me wonder what goes on in some of those other interesting establishments I’ve noticed along Alabama’s highways. Perhaps I’ll stop in sometime, but one thing is for certain –I’ll never forget my visit to MGH Arena.

For more information on MGH Arena or to make donations, visit or call Tim Greene at (256) 761-3364.

Grace Smith is an associate editor for AFC Cooperative Farming News.

News from an AFC Affiliate:

Noah Vick (center) was Alabama’s state winner of the 2008 Bonnie Plants’ Third Grade Cabbage Program. Noah is a student at Robert E. Lee Intermediate School in Satsuma. He is picture here with (from left) Commissioner Ron Sparks; his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Ted Vick; and Ellis Ingram, Bonnie Plants cabbage program director.

KIDS CAN: Little gardeners get big results!

The best kinds of lessons are those that make learning fun and exciting. This year, more than 1.5 million third graders across the United States have gotten hands-on, enjoyable lessons about plants, patience and perseverance as they compete to grow the biggest cabbage in their state.

Thanks to Bonnie Plants’ Third Grade Cabbage Program, students from participating classrooms across the country will receive a free Bonnie O.S. Cross, or "oversized," cabbage plant they can cultivate, nurture and watch grow bigger than a basketball and often over 40 pounds.

At the end of the season, teachers from each class will select the student who has grown the "best" cabbage, based on size and appearance. A picture of the cabbage and the student entry is submitted to Bonnie Plants by mail or online. That student’s name will then be included in a statewide drawing to receive a $1,000 scholarship towards education. The winner of each statewide drawing is selected by the Commission of Agriculture, state by state, via random drawing.

The program was started in 2000 in Alabama and, this year, Bonnie Plants gave 1.5 million students the opportunity to experience the joy of gardening through planting and nurturing their very own cabbage plants. One child winner, per state, from 45 participating states, is awarded a savings bond for education.

This year, Alabama had 633 schools who received cabbage plants, this was 2,229 third grade classes that had 47,015 students. There were 70 third grade class winners who entered the state contest, from which Noah Vick was selected as the winner by random drawing by Commissioner Spark‘s office.

"It’s good for the students to get out there and grow their own plants," said Melody Witt, principal of Alto Elementary School in Alto, Texas. "It helps them learn about nature, soil composition and the parts of plants, but it also shows them where things come from. So many young people take for granted the fact we can walk into the store and buy whatever we want. It’s a good history lesson for them to learn it wasn’t always like that, even in this country."

"The cabbage program is our way of sharing our love of gardening with children," said Bonnie Plants General Manager Dennis Thomas. "Because we believe so deeply in the joy and peace gardening can bring to the soul, we want to afford the opportunity to children to experience this same joy and sense of accomplishment, as well as encourage them to continue gardening throughout their lives."

Growing a giant cabbage may seem like a big undertaking for little kids – but it’s easier than you may think. To get started, all kids need are:

• Sunshine: Cabbages need at least six hours of full sunlight, more if possible.

• Space: Bonnie O.S. cabbages need at least three feet on each side to spread out. If you don’t have that much space, use a large planter.

• Soil: Work some compost into the soil – cabbages love nutrient-rich soil.

• Food: Start your cabbage off right with an all-purpose vegetable fertilizer, then fertilize it every 10 days to keep it growing strong.

• Water: Your cabbage will need at least one inch of rainfall each week. If it doesn’t rain, use a watering can or a garden hose with a sprinkler to gently water your plant.

• TLC: Keep weeds out of the cabbage patch – they compete for the food and water your cabbage needs. Be on the lookout for brown or white moths – these come from worms that love to munch on cabbage. If you see any, get rid of them right away.

• Time: In just 10 to 12 weeks, you should have a huge head of cabbage you can be proud of.

Green thumbs can pay off big time– providing participating children with pride for a job well done, a humongous cabbage and, for the lucky state winner, the beginning of an educational fund for college.

For more information on the 2008 winners and the 2009 Bonnie Plants’ Third Grade Cabbage Program, visit

News from your AFC Family:

Riley Thompson Finds Bella in a Basket

Riley Thompson, 3, found a cozy basket to snuggle up with his aunt’s puppy, Bella, at Christmas. Riley is the son of Mary and Todd Thompson and nephew of Joy-Catheryn Harper, product manager for Agri-AFC’s Seed Department.

Peanut People

Retained Ownership Can Help Cattle Producers Evaluate Their Herds, but Risk Remains

By Joshua B. Elmore

Do you want to know how your cattle perform after they leave the ranch? Do you want carcass data to strengthen your marketing program? Do you want to potentially capture additional revenue from calves?

Although not without risk, retained ownership provides producers with post-weaning and harvest information on cattle not readily available to producers marketing calves at weaning. Benefits of retained ownership include post-weaning data on calves like feed efficiency, muscling, quality and yield grade, and overall health performance. This information is valuable to producers when evaluating overall herd performance, making culling decisions and improving breeding programs.

There are disadvantages with retained ownership. Cattle not performing as expected can have serious impacts on revenue. Maintaining cash flow throughout the feeding phase and tax implications of receiving payment the following year must also be considered.

The longer any product is held, the more price risk you incur. Risk assessment is paramount to making the decision to retain ownership. Hedging, futures and options are all useful tools to manage risk. Consult with your Ag Economist or broker to find the program best fitting your situation. Another alternative is the Livestock Risk Protection (LRP) insurance policy. LRP is a single peril insurance policy intended to provide protection against a price decrease. Contact your crop insurance agent for evaluation of your situation.

Success in retained ownership begins at the ranch. Cattle must have an excellent herd health program, be weaned 30-45 days, and know how to eat from a bunk and drink from a trough. Consulting with your veterinarian and the feedyard, you should inquire their recommendations of suggested products and vaccination protocols that are successful. Keeping sickness and death losses to an absolute minimum is critical.

Alabama cattle are fed throughout the U.S., primarily in the plains and cornbelt states. Retained-ownership cattle are mainly fed in custom feedyards. As the cattle grow and finish in the feedyard, the feedyard managers must accurately assess and market the cattle. They must also manage any health issues quickly. By doing their job well and communicating back to producers, positive relationships and trust are built. Most custom feedyards are willing to partner on a pen of cattle. This allows for some cash flow and since they now own a portion of the cattle, increases confidence the feedyard will manage the cattle effectively. If you enter into a partnership arrangement with the feedyard, you will both share in the profits or losses of the cattle based on the percentage of ownership.

Feedyards will either market pens of cattle in its entirety (all in, all out), taking one or more cuts in the pen or individually. Another option is choosing a feedyard that can sort cattle into different harvest groups. Research has shown cattle with a 50 pound weight spread going into the feedyard will have a 200 pound or more spread at harvest. If the weight variation is greater going into the feedyard, obviously the spread will be larger at harvest. There are only a few feedyards in the U.S. that market cattle based on their individual weight, backfat thickness and cost of gain.

Feedyards can market cattle based on live-weight, hot-carcass-weight (in-the-beef) or a carcass-grid. Some feedyards offer all three options. Others do not. If you know very little about the cattle’s background and history, marketing on a live-weight basis or in-the-beef may the best option. Marketing on a carcass data grid allows you to capture value for higher quality and high yielding (USDA 1 and 2) cattle, but it also allows you to potentially lose value for lower quality grades and low yielding (USDA 4 and 5) cattle.

There are numerous costs associated with retained ownership. Cattle will be charged yardage, peril insurance, processing, feed costs and medicine. If the feedyard you choose markets to a specific alliance or program, there may be additional alliance or marketing fees.

Retained ownership is not without premiums. By retaining ownership, producers can receive value for keeping records regarding age and source of the cattle. These premiums can add value or help reduce costs like transportation.

If you are just starting out, no matter why retained ownership is important to you, start small. The Alabama Pasture to Rail program allows producers to send three or more calves to the feedyard. This gives a snapshot of health, growth and carcass characteristics of the herd along with costs. Many breed associations also have retained ownership programs. These programs can allow you to see if retaining ownership is the right decision for your ranch. If you are interested in retaining ownership and collecting post-weaning data on your cattle, feel free to contact me or your Regional Extension Agent.

Joshua Elmore is an Advisor III with Alabama’s Agriculture and Natural Resources Animal Sciences Department.

Saving Battleground: Fighting Deterioration in an Historic School

By Keith Johnson

On a cold, wet January night in the old Battleground School in Cullman County, I sat across the table listening to three women describe their efforts to save the historic old building. In their beautiful, soft Southern accents, Linda Humphries, Patty Allcorn and Wendy Mann told me how they and several others were fighting the deterioration of this landmark. Perhaps most importantly they told me why they were doing it.

The Battleground community got its name from a major skirmish fought between Generals Forrest and Streight in 1863 during the War Between the States. Before the Union forces were forced to retreat followed by the pursuing Confederates, a great deal of ammunition was fired and several young men on both sides never left the field. Today, several Indiana farm boys lie under oaks and hickories at the forgotten site of a makeshift Union hospital about a mile or so from the school building.

Sixty-nine years after that battle, the main part of Battleground School was constructed in 1932 with a major addition coming a few years later. Electricity came to the area in 1939 and the power bill was a whopping $3 a month. Of course, that only covered the lights since heat was provided by pot-bellied coal heaters placed in the middle of the classrooms. On frigid mornings, students huddled around the heaters until class began, but by afternoon the enormous windows had to be raised to let out the heat from the fire.

The wooden floors creak with each step just as they did so many times before as students walked across the room to turn in an assignment, to ask a question or occasionally to perform some childish act of mischief. There was no air-conditioning in those days so the amazingly high ceilings and the huge windows had to serve as the only method of cooling on hot, sticky September afternoons as school started back up. Of course, none of the students had that luxury at home either so it was not missed. In fact, after enduring the brutal August sun in the fields where most of the children had been working before the school year started, the large airy rooms may have seemed like an oasis of comfort.

During the years of World War II, the school was used to show movies since travel to town was difficult due to rationing of gas and tires.

Former students of that time told me about some rather unpleasant combinations of food items served in the cafeteria when many staple items were unavailable. Green beans with oatmeal is one that sticks in my mind since I had been threatened as a child with that one by a mother who attended school there during those difficult days.

The building sits high off the ground and until recent years was open underneath. Mrs. Humphries said under the school was a favorite play area for the children where roads were constructed and housekeeping set-up in what surely must have been a "teacher free" zone. She observed there are still probably numerous children’s treasures buried in the sandy dirt under the school.

Mrs. Humphries, as well as her father and her children, attended school in the building and it means a great deal to her that the building be saved. Mrs. Allcorn and Mrs. Mann were not schooled there, but they want to preserve the building for what it means to their community. They can see this is much more than just an old building out of place in the modern world of cell phones and iPods. It is a reminder of what small, locally-based schools mean to a community and to the children who were schooled there.

At schools like Battleground, teachers were a part of a child’s life outside of school, and teachers were intimately familiar with the child’s family and situation. They were the neighbors and friends of the students’ families. Teacher and child were tied together in a web of connections in which the school, like the church and the general store, was a hub of the community life.

This stands in sharp contrast to the modern school miles away from the student’s home and often very much like a manufacturing plant with the students as interchangeable parts. Virtually every study done shows the community-based small schools like Battleground are the most effective.

But right now, the concern of these women involves the practical matter of how to keep this reminder of the past from being lost forever. They regularly have suppers, gospel singings, turkey shoots and other fund raisers to take care of the maintenance of the building. Putting a new roof on pretty well wiped out their fund and the cost of a true restoration is staggering. Talking to them one gets a sense of the enormity of their task and the frustration they have not been able to do more, but they seemed determined to carry on and protect this heirloom, no matter how difficult the task may prove.

Meanwhile, the playground is silent at Battleground and memories of what a truly local school is like are fading as those educated there grow older. The women of Battleground remind us it is up to us to protect our heritage and pass it on to future generations, for there is a great deal to be gained by it. If Battleground is saved, it will by the determined efforts of the people with the most at stake in its preservation.

If you are interested in helping restore this precious relic, please contact Patty Allcorn at (256) 747-6585, Wendy Mann at (256) 747-6613 or Linda Humphries at (256) 747-6676.

Keith Johnson is a freelance writer from Morgan County.

Schofield Wins “Best in Beef” in Statewide Cook-Off

Lyna Schofield, center, with Alabama Cattlewomen’s Association President Nancy Dickerson and President-Elect Debbie Carpenter.

Lyna Schofield was recently selected as the overall winner of the 2009 State Beef Cook-Off in Montgomery January 10.

Schofield was one of 36 students to compete at the state level. The students were split into four divisions based on their age and region.

As the Lauderdale County representative, Schofield was chosen as the winner in the Senior North division. She also received the Best in Beef award which was selected from the four regional winners across the state.

As part of the "Best in Beef" prize package, a large capacity microwave oven and $100 was donated to the Family and Consumer Science classroom at Florence High School for instructional purposes.

Pictured here are the 36 contestants in the 2009 State Beef Cook-Off. Students from across the state traveled to the Alabama Cattlemen’s Building in Montgomery to compete for cash prizes.

Dishes were judged on appearance, ease of preparation, nutritional value and taste. Schofield’s winning recipe was Spicy Vietnamese Beef.

The State Cook-Off has been a major beef promotion project for the Alabama CattleWomen’s Association since 1972. The State Beef Cook-Off not only educates students about the nutritional value of beef, but also familiarizes them with various cooking methods and emphasizes safe food handling.

Lyna is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Roger Schofield of Killen. She is a 10th grader at Florence High School.

Southern Translation

SENTENCE USAGE: "I was surprised to see Joline in this neck of the woods. I thought she’d moved off for good."

Do these people live in the woods and what does it have to do with a "neck"?

"Neck" had been used in English since around 1555 to describe a narrow strip of land or woods, a meadow, usually surrounded by water, based on its resemblance to the neck of an animal. But the Americans, during colonial times, were the first to apply "neck" to a narrow stand of woods or, more importantly, to a settlement located in a particular part of the woods. In a country then largely covered by forests, your "neck of the woods" was your home, the first American neighborhood. This colloquial term is today used more loosely for regional, urban as well as rural, locales.

The Co-op Pantry

With more than 100 cookbooks in her Pike County home, Jo Harris doesn’t have to look very far to find almost any recipe.

"I can sit down in the den at night, especially if (husband) Russell is watching a ballgame on television, and read through a cookbook like most people can a novel," said Jo, who has been cooking since she was a young girl.

"I learned cooking with Mama. I’ve been making biscuits since I was 11 years old. I used to get up in the morning and cook breakfast for Daddy and get him off to work, and I remember those as such special times," Jo said.

Jo explained that in addition to helping her working mother with household duties, she also kept busy with her younger twin sisters, Mary and Ann.

"I was six when they were born, so I did boss them around a little," Jo admitted with a laugh, adding her sister Mary also shares her love of recipes and cooking.

"Ann doesn’t like to cook at all, but now, she’s a fantastic cook. The Chicken Pie recipe I use is hers, and everybody wants that recipe when they eat it," said Jo.

Married for 54 years, Jo said she and Russell share a love for the outdoors.

"He’s always loved hunting, and I used to go with him all the time when we were first married. And we both love to go fishing," Jo said.

In addition to hunting and fishing, the two have a large vegetable garden and look forward to the arrival of spring.

"I always look forward to the seasons changing, and I think the Lord planned it just perfect, the way each season feels special and how we’re always ready to enjoy it," Jo said.

Jo explained Russell has been gardening for more than 30 years and his efforts are very successful.

"I’ve always said the reason he’s so prosperous is because he’s generous with what he grows, and I really think so. We’ve been able to share a lot with our friends and family," said Jo.

Russell and Jo have two children and three grandchildren. Their daughter Shannon lives in Augusta, Georgia, with her husband Victor and son Rusty. Their son Russ also lives in Pike County with his wife Sharon and their children Dalton and Savannah.

"All my grandchildren are honor students, and we’re really proud of them," said Jo.

Many of their garden seed and supplies come from their local Quality Co-ops, and they are well into planning for spring planting.

"Russell was just saying he thought he might only plant half a row of cucumbers this year, but I told him to go ahead and plant a whole row so we have plenty for pickles to share," said Jo, whose Easy Sweet Pickles are a favorite among family and friends.

"I don’t have any secret recipes, and I never mind sharing a recipe with anybody who asks," she said, and she generously shared some of her favorites from her extensive recipe library.

Kellie Henderson is a freelance writer from Troy.

Cinnamon Ring

1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese
2 (10 count) cans refrigerated buttermilk biscuits
½ cup (1 stick) butter, melted
1 cup pecans, chopped

Coat a bundt pan with nonstick spray.
Stir sugar and cinnamon together in a bowl. Cut cream cheese into 20 cubes. Flatten each biscuit and top with a cube of cream cheese and 1 teaspoon of sugar mixture. Roll each biscuit into a ball around cream cheese.

Place 1/3 cup pecans in bottom of pan along with a sprinkling of cinnamon sugar. Place half of the rolled biscuits in the pan; repeat with another 1/3 cup pecans, cinnamon sugar and remaining biscuits. Top with remaining pecans and cinnamon sugar. Pour butter over all. Bake for about 30 minutes at 350o. Cool 10 minutes in pan; invert onto serving plate, but leave pan in place to keep warm until serving.

Chicken Pie

1 whole chicken or 6 chicken breasts
4 boiled eggs, chopped
1 (10 oz) can cream of chicken or cream of mushroom soup
½ cup (1 stick) butter, melted
1 cup milk
1 cup flour

Boil chicken in salted water until tender. Reserve 3 cups broth. Debone chicken and place in the bottom of a greased 9 by 13-inch baking dish. Place egg over chicken.

Stir together 3 cups chicken broth and soup. Pour over chicken and eggs. To make crust, combine butter, milk and flour. Pour over other ingredients; do not stir. Bake at 350o for 1 hour.

Note: cooked and drained carrots and early peas may be added with chicken if desired.

Pink Passion

1 (20 oz) can strawberry pie filling
1 (20 oz) can crushed pineapple, drained
1 large container non-dairy whipped topping
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup pecans, chopped

Gently stir all ingredients together and refrigerate until serving.


1 (1 pound) box light brown sugar
4 eggs, well beaten
2 cups biscuit mix
2 cups pecans, chopped

Combine all ingredients and blend well. Pour into a greased and floured 9 by 13-inch baking pan. Bake at 350o for 30 to 35 minutes. Cool thoroughly before slicing into bars. Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving if desired.

Blueberry Bread

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups sugar
3 eggs, well beaten
1 ¼ cups butter or margarine, melted
2 cups blueberries
1 ¼ cups pecans, chopped

Preheat oven to 350o.

In a mixing bowl combine all dry ingredients, then add eggs and butter. Stir together just until moistened. Gently fold in blueberries and pecans. Spoon batter into two 4 by 8-inch loaf pans coated with nonstick spray. Bake 1 hour or until done. Let stand to cool slightly before slicing. Cool 10 minutes, then remove from pan.
Broccoli Soup

1 onion, chopped
½ cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
1 (10 oz) can cream of celery soup
2 (10 oz) cans cream of mushroom soup
3 soup cans milk
1 (8 oz) loaf Mexican Velveeta, cubed
2 packages chopped frozen broccoli
Salt and pepper

Sauté onion in butter or margarine. Add soups and milk and stir until smooth. Add cheese and broccoli and simmer 30 minutes. Be careful not to overcook.

Almond Butter-Crusted Pound Cake

Crust: 1/3 cup butter, softened
½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 cup toasted pecans or almonds, finely chopped

Grease a 9 by 5 by 3-inch loaf pan. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Stir in flour and pecans; blend well. Press evenly into bottom of prepared pan.

: 1/3 cup butter, softened
1 (3 oz) package cream cheese, softened to room temperature
½ cup sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup milk

Preheat oven to 325o. In mixing bowl, cream butter, cream cheese and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each. Blend in vanilla.

Sift together dry ingredients. Add alternately with milk to creamed mixture, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Pour batter into crust-lined pan. Bake 1 hour 10 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes. Turn out onto wire rack to cool crust side up.

Dried Beef and Bacon Chicken

1 (10 oz) can cream of chicken soup
½ soup can milk
1 cup sour cream
1 chicken, cut up
Salt and pepper
1 jar dried beef
Sliced bacon

Stir together soup, milk and sour cream. Line large baking dish with dried beef. Salt and pepper chicken pieces then wrap with bacon slices and arrange in pan over beef. Pour soup mixture over chicken and bake uncovered at 325o for 1 hour 40 minutes. Turn heat up to 350o and bake 15 to 20 minutes more.

Old-Fashioned Oatmeal Cookies

1 (18 oz) spice cake mix
2 cups uncooked oats
2 eggs
¾ cup cooking oil
½ cup milk
2 cups raisins
1 cup pecans, chopped
¼ cup brown sugar

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350o for 12 minutes.

Easiest Sweet Pickles

Wash and dry whole cucumbers and pack into a 1 gallon jar. Pour in enough apple cider vinegar to completely cover cucumbers. Cover opening of jar with plastic wrap and secure with a rubber band. Date container and leave on counter for six weeks.

Pour off and discard vinegar. Wash and dry cucumbers and slice. Return to jar and cover with 4 pounds sugar, 3 to 4 drops oil of cloves and 3 to 4 drops oil of cinnamon. Toss. Keep covered until sugar dissolves completely, stirring occasionally. Pickles are ready when sugar is dissolved.

Does not have to be refrigerated. Place pickles in the food processor to chop for relish.

The FFA Sentinel

By Philip Paramore

Do you ever wonder how the government obtains its various statistical data? Maybe not, but I do. Nonetheless, most of you can probably recall the vast media coverage in October 2006 when the United States population reached its 300th million citizen. In 1972, the U.S. population was more than 209 million persons, which is approximately a 30 percent increase during this 34-year period.

But to answer the opening question, the following formula or derivation is used to determine the U.S. population: the most recent enumeration of resident population (example: 2000 census), plus births to U.S. resident women, minus deaths to U.S. residents, plus net international migration, plus movement of U.S. Armed Forces and civilization citizens.

Anyway, the November 2008 Sentinel article featured FFA highlights from the 1970-71 school year. As stated in that article, for about 40 years the official title of the Alabama FFA Association newsletter was The Alabama Future Farmer magazine, which was published every other month. Sometime after 1966 the name was changed to The Alabama FFA News and it was published on a monthly basis. During the 1971-72 school year and from available printed material, the name was changed to The Alabama FFA Reporter (known hereafter as Reporter) and was printed like the original The Alabama Future Farmer magazine on an alternating monthly basis. Today, Reporter is printed quarterly, four times per year.

September 1971’s issue of the Reporter stated the immediate past state president, Bill Cofield of the Woodland Chapter, not only was the state prepared public speaking winner but was also the Tri-State (Alabama, Georgia and Florida) public speaking winner. This was the second year in a row an Alabama FFA member won the Tri-State Contest. Cofield would advance to national competition.

In the same issue, the State Convention winning results were also published. The Enterprise Chapter won the string band competition and the dairy judging contest. West Point FFA won the land judging contest, J.U. Blacksher (Uriah) won the livestock judging contest and the champion corn grower was Kent Bouldin of the Crossville Chapter.

Tommy Price, Fayette County Chapter, was named the State Star Farmer. Price was one of 497 FFA members to receive his State Farmer Degree. Price specialized in the production of row crops – mainly cotton and soybeans. Patsy Davenport of the Maplesville FFA Chapter was the first girl in Alabama ever to receive her State Farmer Degree since the founding of the state association in 1929. (The November Sentinel article reported girls were admitted into the FFA in 1969.)

The new community action program called BOAC (Building Our American Communities) Awards, whose main objective was to make rural communities better places in which to live and work, were presented. BOAC was divided into three categories of recognition: gold, silver and bronze, with gold being the highest, silver and bronze awards following respectfully. Sixteen chapters qualified for the award with the Section Chapter (Jackson County) being named the top gold winner.

Elected to lead the State Association for the next year were Carl Shewbart, president, Speake Chapter; Johnnie Wood, vice president, Wetumpka Chapter; John Patterson, secretary, J.B. Pennington Chapter; Joel Ellis, reporter, Enterprise Chapter; Randall Smith, treasurer, Crossville Chapter; and Ernest Gabel, sentinel, Fairhope Chapter.

October’s 1971 Reporter announced trumpet player Michael Smith, Samson Chapter, would be a member of the National FFA Band at the National Convention later that month. Also, four vocational agriculture instructors, as they were known then, were to receive their Honorary American Farmer Degree at the National Convention. The Honorary American Farmer Degree, now called the Honorary American Degree, is the highest honor the organization can bestow upon non-members.

The Alabama teachers who received the award were M.E. Ekstrom, Curry High School; J.C. Horton, Haleyville High School; M.D. Thornton, Montevallo High School and W.D. Strickland, West Point High School.

Sammy Peebles a member of the East Brewton FFA Chapter was elected a national officer as vice president of the Southern Region at the 1971 National FFA Convention said the November 1971 Reporter. Peebles served as the 1969-70 State FFA President. He is now living in Colorado where he practices law.

Other national winners from Alabama were Bill Cofield, whose speech was entitled "A Miracle In Our Time," won the national prepared public speaking contest; John Crum Sessions, Evergreen FFA, national winner of the Placement in Processing Award; Van Smith, Billingsley FFA, second-place national award for Forest Management; and Robert Gossett, Pell City FFA, second-place national winner of the Agricultural Electrification Award. Twenty-five Alabama FFA members received their American Farmer Degree.

(The purpose of the Forest Management Award was to recognize members who adopted and used forestry practices conserving and increasing the productivity and economic value of a forest. The Agricultural Electrification Award’s purpose was to recognize members who had a knowledge of basic electricity used in agriculture and the home, and had gained preliminary experience needed for an electrical career. The purpose of the Placement in Processing Award was to recognize members who developed occupational competencies needed by individuals who planned to enter the field of agricultural processing.)

The January 1972 Reporter publication highlighted new state staff member Cecil Gant. A Jackson County native, Gant taught at Section for nine and a half years. While at Section he had 92 State Degree recipients, two State Star Farmers (1968 and 1970), one Alabama Future Farmer of the Year (1969), three National Proficiency Winners and numerous other FFA successes. The Section FFA Chapter as previously mentioned was the state’s first top winner in the BOAC program. Gant was selected for the position of Public Information Specialist and would work out of the Auburn Agribusiness Field Office.

Also in the January Reporter was an article about the Alabama FFA Association assisting the Lonicera Garden Club of Montgomery in co-sponsoring a beautification project at Garrett Coliseum in connection with the Keep Montgomery Beautiful program. The two organizations were responsible for the planting of 50 cherry trees on the Coliseum grounds during December 1970. The State FFA purchased the trees and the garden club supervised the arranging and planting of the trees. FFA members from Montgomery and surrounding counties participated in the project.

The remaining issue of the 1971-72 Reporter appears to be a spring quarter edition. President Carl Shewbart put out the call for members to attend the 43rd State Convention. Shewbart said the theme for the convention was "Youth with a Purpose."

Six young men were named contenders from their respective districts as candidates of the 1972 Star Farmer. They were Neil Outlaw, Hartford FFA, Southeast District Star Farmer; Billy Williams, Centre FFA, Northeast District Star Farmer; W.M. (Wesley) Patterson, III, Cullman FFA, West Central District Star Farmer; Roy O’Neal Young, Beulah FFA, East Central District Star Farmer; Jimmy McNeil, Evergreen FFA, Southwest District Star Farmer; and Phillip Hammock, Red Bay FFA, North District Star Farmer.

Foley youth Edward (Eddie) E. Woerner was named Alabama’s Future Farmer of the year for 1971-72. Woerner had a 40 percent interest in a father-son partnership Reporter said. The article stated Woerner and his father pursued a balanced system of agriculture where hogs and beef cattle complemented a large-scale soybean, wheat, corn and sweet potato operation. The production enterprises included 225 head of beef cattle, 300 head of swine, 450 acres of wheat, 705 acres of soybeans, 100 acres of corn and 20 acres of sweet potatoes. Woerner’s agribusiness teacher was Troy Newton, former agriscience state staff member. Woerner, the son of Edward J. and Lillie Woerner, are today known for the corporation, Edward J. Woerner & Sons, Inc., as a producer of turfgrass.

Shelby County Agribusiness Education was spotlighted in the Reporter’s last issue for 1971-72. As a result of a survey of Shelby County Agribusiness teachers, information obtained said there was a need for semi-skilled, skilled, semi-professional and professional labor. Shelby County Agribusiness students had the opportunity to receive training in horticulture, welding, small engines, masonry and wood working. The Shelby County teachers were doing their part in preparing a workforce stated the Reporter.

And finally, the top ten FFA chapters as related to FFA membership were reported. Centreville led the state with 209 members. Coming in a close second was Wetumpka with 207, followed by Prattville in third with 204 members while the fourth chapter, Jacksonville, had 188. Rounding out the top five was Leroy with 172 members.

The sixth place chapter was Leighton with 167 members. Hokes Bluff had 166 and was ranked seventh. Northport of Tuscaloosa was eighth with 162 members and Fairhope was ninth with 160 members. There was a tie for tenth place between Centre and Dadeville. Each chapter had 156 members. These 11 chapters collectively had almost 2,000 members or 7.5 percent of the total state membership. Alabama, which ranked second nationally behind Texas, ended the 1971-72 school year with 25,762 members.

Philip Paramore is an Education Specialist with the Alabama Department of Education.

The Right to Dry

The author’s clothes blow in the breeze as freerange chickens roam underneath.

By Suzy Lowry Geno

I didn’t know I was a part of a national, perhaps worldwide, movement.

I didn’t know something I do just about every single day is being considered acts of "civil disobedience" in several parts of the United States.

I didn’t realize in some cities or neighborhoods I could face hefty fines and even jail time if I continued this.

Wow. And I have been doing this for years and years and years simply because I love saving money and the outdoors.

Who would have thought the simple act of hanging one’s laundry on a clothesline would create such havoc across the country?

I can remember as a little girl practically everybody in the rural South hung their clothes out to dry. We have pretty enjoyable weather here and few folks had clothes dryers —so why not?

When my first baby was born those many long years ago, my tiny mobile home had no spot for a dryer. I remember lovingly hanging out her cloth diapers on the short clothesline and standing back proudly to watch them flap in the breeze.

I eventually had more kids and "moved up" to a house AND a dryer, but I still loved hanging the clothes on the line. Can you think of a better experience than climbing into bed after a hard day’s work and slipping between sheets fragranced with nothing more than the sun and the wind?

So when our dryer quit about 14 years ago, I simply didn’t replace it. I haven’t missed it one bit.

We live about three miles from our area’s small county seat and nobody seems to care if I hang out my raggedity towels, worn farming blue jeans and cozy flannel shirts on the lines stretched between metal tee-posts in the backyard that my dad had fabricated more than 40 years ago.

But what do you do when it rains? Well, I don’t wash on those days. Simple enough.

And if it’s something that just HAS to be worn the next day, in the winter it will dry overnight if hung anywhere in the vicinity of our wood-burning heater.

I haven’t calculated how much I’ve saved throughout my lifetime by hanging our clothes out to dry but it has to be in the thousands, starting with the close to $500 I saved when I didn’t replace the blown-up dryer. I’ve probably spent $10 total on wooden clothes pins and maybe another $5 on the wire I sometimes have to restretch between the metal posts. But that’s it.

Plus there’s the added benefit that our clothes seem to last much longer AND I’ve had the benefit of those sweet-smelling sheets all these years, something no amount of fabric softener could equal!

Now I’ve discovered I’m part of a bigger movement called the "Right to Dry."

With more folks becoming energy conscious (no matter where you stand on the Global Warming argument there’s scarcely ANYBODY who doesn’t want to SAVE money), many folks are rebelling against town and city restrictions, covenants in private neighborhoods and rules set out by Homeowner Associations saying you can’t even dry your own clothes in your backyards!

There have been "right to dry" initiatives either passed into law or considered in numerous states and some foreign countries including California, Connecticut, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Ontario, Canada and more.

The North Carolina law, which passed, "invalidates any city or county limitations on energy devices based on the use of renewable resources;" namely clotheslines!

The legislation in Florida and Utah prohibits "state or local laws or regulations or private contracts from limiting the ability of dwellers to erect and use clotheslines for the drying of clothes."

According to the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, in 2005 there were 88 million clothes dryers in the United States. Annually those same dryers consume about 1,079 kilowatt hours of energy PER HOUSEHOLD.

The Real Estate Journal said "…clothes dryers account for 6 percent of total electricity consumed in the United States."

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see hanging clothes on a clothesline will save you money!

But the Christian Science Monitor estimates there are 60 million people living under the auspices of 300,000 Homeowner Associations, which mostly bar clotheslines saying they look unsightly and can decrease property values.

That’s one reason I live in the country, so I’m not governed by such rules and regulations. If someone wants to live somewhere like a gated community and adhere to all those restrictions, that’s their right.

But there seems to be a lot of folks who feel the clothesline ban is not in sync with the new call to preserve our natural resources.

Thus grew a group called "Project Laundry List" ( who publish a regular newsletter called "Hanging Out" and provide sample letters you can send to your legislators or to your homeowner’s group trying to regain the right of hanging your laundry.

Some from Europe who have posted comments on the Project Laundry List message boards think it’s funny any government or group in the U.S. even considers banning the hanging of laundry, since they say it is common place in most of their areas. They say it just "makes sense" to use free solar power to dry the clothes we wear.

I plan to just try and stay out of the controversy.

I also plan to continue to hang my clothes on the line just about every day.

To me it just seems like common sense. A "simple" thing to do to save money and energy.

And if you don’t agree, well, I’ll think about you when I lay my head on that sweet-smelling, sun-dried pillowcase tonight.

Suzy Lowry Geno is a freelance writer from Blount County.

These Boots Were Made for Talking

Bud Jones with boots.

By John Howle

In college, I wore cowboy boots. I didn’t need to, I just wanted to. I found myself gravitating toward people who wore them and didn’t have to either. Among my cowboy-boot-wearing comrades was Neal Lankford. Like myself, Neal liked the simple life reflected by the boots.

Whether it was John Wayne making the straight forward statement, "Talk low, talk slow and don’t talk too much," or Andy Griffith wearing his plain, black ropers on the Andy Griffith Show relating a simple truth to Opie, the cowboy boot reflects honest, hard work, the loyalty of riding for the brand and just being tough when times require it.

As I was growing up, I also learned the cowboy boot could be associated with pain. Not the lonely isolation of the cowboy’s pain expressed in cowboy poetry or of the sad lyrics in cowboy songs, but actual physical pain. My uncle wore cowboy boots with toes sharp enough to kill cockroaches in corners and lift young boys off the ground when they became disobedient or lacked industry in the hay field.

I always looked forward to a new pair of cowboy boots as a youngster. We had an elderly farmer, Doyle Martin, in our community who would sell produce during the summer and boots during the winter. It didn’t matter what style you bought, they were all $25 a pair. Most were factory seconds, hence the price, however, the smell of new leather always compensated for any third-shift blemish.

One year, Mr. Martin didn’t come through. Somebody must have gotten in trouble at the boot factory for putting out too many blemished boots, because there weren’t any for Doyle to pick up and sell. That year, I went to an actual store to buy Western boots.

These squared-toed Western boots by Rocky Boots have the nostalgia of the past and hi-tech comfort and light-weight of the present.

After picking a pair, I told the sales woman one boot was much tighter than the other. She said they just needed breaking in. When I got home, I discovered one boot was two sizes smaller than the other. When I returned the boots, she couldn’t offer the correct sizes because she said another man came in and bought the mixed pair and wore them off. All I could think of was there was some poor fool out there walking around with boots two sizes apart and didn’t know it.

The cowboy boot, as we know it today, underwent many changes to address the needs of cowboys on the trail drives. Before the cowboy days, leather riding boots with stacked heels were worn by military commanders in the 17th and 18th century. According to some reports, after the first Duke of Wellington whipped Napoleon in 1815 at Waterloo, the pull on "Wellington" boot became popular.

During the era of the cowboy, the boots were more for function than fashion, although fashionable boots quickly became a status symbol. The original boots worn during the Civil War weren’t suitable for long rides through rough country. The styles began to change to a more pointed toe for fast entry into the stirrup and a higher, under-slung heel so the foot would stay in the stirrup. In addition, a taller shaft gave more protection against briars, snakes and barbed wire.

The bottoms of the Rocky Boots provide sure traction and comfort.

To begin with, the original Western boots had to be custom-made by a cobbler, but eventually, mail order boot companies began meeting the need. When Justin Boots had their mail order business in the 1920s, the sizes for men ranged from four to nine, and they considered size nine to be a large foot. Obviously, many of today’s teenage boys would have quickly put Justin out of business because of the additional required leather for sizes 14 and 15.

Today’s Western or classic boot maintains the original design. The later style that followed was the roper. These boots have a low profile heel, rounded toe and the shaft stops near the calf muscle. George Strait helped make this style popular today, but before George, Andy Griffith and Santa Claus knew the value of a comfortable, black roper.

Once the early Western movies came out, cowboy boot styles took on a fashionable trend with ornate decorations. The common stitching we see on the toes of many of the boots today, called the toe wrinkle, began around the early 1900s, and came to its heyday during the 1940s and 50s with the popularity of Western personalities like Gene Autry, Roy Rogers and Hopalong Cassidy. Oddly, the ornate designs didn’t appear until well after the actual cowboy era.

Renown book author, museum curator, former TV personality and taxidermist, Bud Jones, is an avid fan of all things Western. He currently has old and worn Western boots shipped to his Tallapoosa, Georgia, taxidermy shop and museum from Colorado. The boots are cleaned and put on display in many of the Longhorn Steakhouses.

Santa Claus, AKA Ed Parton of Ohatchee, knows the value of comfortable, black ropers.

"There’s a lot of character in these old boots," said Jones as he grabbed a pair of vintage cowboy boots from a stack of hundreds. "The older and more worn the boots are, the better when it comes to decorating a Longhorn Restaurant."

In addition to the Western boots, Jones also mounts longhorn bull heads and provides old Western hats, saddles, chaps and spurs for the restaurant chain.

If you want Western boots for function or fashion today, the choices are limitless. The biggest advantage we have today over the original cowboys is comfort. Rocky Boots carries a line of Western boots that give the traditional look with hi-tech foot comfort.

I recently had a chance to try a pair of Rocky Boot’s "Sage & Bronco Cactus Rocky Ride Square Toe" boots. The internal heel stabilizer provides a stable work platform and the soles can be resoled.

The boots are considerably lighter-weight than past models and there’s virtually no foot fatigue from heavy boots. The cushioned polyurethane foot bed also provides comfort and fatigue-free wearing combined with attractive, Western stitching straight out of the Old West. For information on these and other fine footwear, visit your local Quality Co-op or visit Rocky Boot’s website (, and you can get a feel for the Old West everyday.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.



By Joe Potter

I entered The Flat Rock General Store at full high noon on this dreary Friday. There was a full nestin’ of store regulars plus several other community and area Flat Rock huddled close to the old potbellied heater.

Ms. Ida and the widow Cora owned the floor and had just called "Truth" winner in the "Writin’ My Feelins’ to My Sweetheart" ought nine Valentines Day contest. Ms. Ida was a readin’ "Truth’s" winnin’ "Heart Words" as she prepared to pencil ‘em down on white butcher paper in red marker along the back wall of The Store.









As she finished, Ms. Ida summed up "Truth’s" "Heart Words" with her own words "enough said," "story told" —-the way she believed God intended for a couples love to be, "always, anywhere and with a happy ever after," two people "perfect for each other…"



Joe Potter is a former vocational agriculture teacher, FFA advisor and retired county agent (Colbert County).

What I Did On My Holiday Vacation (While Under the Weather)

By Kenn Alan

I spent most of December and January in the kitchen experimenting with different recipes using different berries, citrus and tropical fruits.

I canned (pickled) the remainder of my green pear tomatoes with the last of the hot peppers and baby carrots. I had a bunch! I put up 12 pints and 11 half-pints to give away as kitchen gifts. After a month or so in the pantry, I used some of them in one of my favorite bread recipe. I chopped some and added them to my hushpuppy batter along with some fresh garlic chives and onions.

At the end of November I purchased some Japanese persimmons from my buddy Jason Powell at Petals From the Past in Jemison.

Wintertime is a perfect time to go to your local farmers market. I found some mangos at a great price! Also, there were raspberries and blackberries from Mexico that were super sweet!

I love batter-fried mangos! While I was frying the hushpuppies I prepared some mangoes too. To go along with those, I made a dipping sauce using some of the Japanese persimmons, those big-honking mango pits with mango meat still attached, a few fresh Serrano chilis and some Golden Eagle table syrup. Yum!

With the raspberries and blackberries, I made a balsamic vinegar reduction to use as a condiment on everything from cheese and crackers to deviled eggs.

The kumquats started coming in, so I made my usual marmalade.

The Meyer lemon tree produced great numbers this year! I zested 30 of them and made four liters of limoncello to enjoy in the summer. With the juice and pulp of 10 of those, I made lemon curd. I juiced the rest for fresh lemon juice. If you have never tasted the juice of a Meyer lemon, you should.

Now that the days are getting longer, I’ll spend more time getting the garden ready for spring. It’s time for me to take soil samples here at the Tomato Tower. It has been a little over three years since it was last done.

There were several Knockout roses getting too much shade, so I took advantage of the season and moved them to a happy place. Winter is the best time to move trees and shrubs.

Get ready for springtime, folks! I’ll see you all in March. Happy Groundhog Day!

E-mail me at if you would like any of the recipes mentioned here.

Friend me at and watch HGT on our video feeds at

I hope you’ll all tune in to Home Grown Tomatoes every Saturday from 8-10 a.m. Central Time for the most accurate garden talk! Go to and follow the links to listen live!

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