Sign up for email updates from Cooperative Farming News

Facebook Twitter Instagram
Home > Archives > February 2017

February 2017

4-H Extension Corner: Parents, be app savvy to keep your kids safe.

by Donna Reynolds

Pokémon Go is taking the world by storm. It has soared to the top of app charts as people engage in nostalgia for the original Pokémon games and play games in public.

In addition to Pokémon Go, teens are also online playing games, posting, commenting and sending images. While the internet can be a fun way to occupy time, there are some apps parents should be aware of to keep their children safe.

According to Dr. Adrienne Duke, an Alabama Extension specialist in Adolescent Development and assistant professor in Human Development and Family Studies at Auburn University, social media app gurus have found that Snapchat is one of the most popular apps for teens. Snapchat is a messaging app that lets users put a time limit on the picture and videos they send before the images disappear. It is popular because it’s a way to share moments through a video or picture without the risk of having them go public. Teens who send and receive Snapchats know they will disappear in seconds.

Unfortunately, Snapchats are data and data never truly disappears. The receiver can screen shot Snapchats and now there are apps to save Snapchat pics. Telling teens that data (pictures, video and text) can always be recovered will help them be more careful with what they post and send.

Another app called Vaulty will not only store photos and videos but will also snap a photo of anyone who tried to access the vault with the wrong password.

"Parents who find Vaulty on their teen’s phone can conclude there is something being hidden from them," Duke added.

Playing online games on the internet is an increasingly popular form of entertainment.

"While you may think youth are playing a game in isolation, many youth are gaming and chatting with friends and strangers online," Duke said. "It is important to remind youths not to give out personal information like their name, address, school they attend, phone number or social media names. Using initials in place of a name is always a better option. If youth are spending long hours playing games online, it would be ideal to get them to take a break and do something else to provide them with positive social interaction with others."

As teens go out with their friends this summer, Duke advises parents to discourage children from checking in through Foursquare, Facebook, Twitter or other apps that give others their exact location.

Even if your teens don’t use those apps, every phone has a geo tag option in the photo app. When teens take a picture and send it via text or post through Instagram, anyone can click and see exactly where the picture was taken. Turning the geo tag option off will protect your child so pictures and videos cannot be pinpointed through the phone’s GPS system by others.

Teens enjoy using apps and being connected through social media. Therefore, it is important for parents to be aware of ways to help teens stay safe as they enjoy staying connected with others.

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

A Journey to the FDA

by Baxter Black, DVM

I have never seen the Taj Mahal, the Vatican or Fort Knox, all monoliths wrapped in mystery, placed beyond politics, Google and the Rubix Cube. But I can now claim I have seen the FDA in the Land of Acronyms, Washington D.C., and survived. In my case, it was the FDA CVM ... Food and Drug Administration Center for Veterinary Medicine.

I was escorted by my friend, Dr. Jim, DVM, CEO, president and founder of SVC, a company that consults and guides pharmaceutical companies through the maze required to earn drug approval for use in animals. The mental picture I had before my visit was akin to the Supreme Court or a court-martial ... a line of wizened, beady-eyed, scowling geezers wearing robes and wigs looking down at the poor supplicant who is trying to present his case while strapped to a wooden chair with duct tape under a swinging interrogation lamp.


Ten of the most influential people in the world of veterinary drugs invited me to join them at a conference table that appeared to be borrowed from a high school teacher’s lounge. Two were wearing jeans, three wore a tie and all were wearing comfortable shoes. The attire was casual.

Each one took the time to explain their position and responsibility including livestock, equine, dogs, cats, minor species, legality, finance, practicality and impact. The subject on top of their pile is the possible resistance of organisms to antibiotics passed from animal to man. To date, there is no proof that it happens, but others think it might. It’s like the cause of global warming. Tough decisions.

To appreciate the scope of their job, imagine a list of all veterinary drugs in use from 1965 through today that have been approved by CVM. The process of approval is detailed and time-consuming. Their mission statement reads, "Protecting Human and Animal Health." They ensure the drug is safe and effective for the patient, and, in food animals, safe for people to eat. Talk about all-consuming! That is a huge promise. But they keep it and don’t back down. There are no loopholes. Rarely do we see such rock-solid commitment to the people’s benefit, especially from government. It is the gold seal, the guarantee, the third-party verification; it’s the law. Until CVM was instituted, medicine was CAVEAT EMPTOR, let the buyer beware. And that same warning exists today on drugs for animals and humans without the FDA CVM seal of approval. Just read the label on the back.

Being able to talk to those brilliant, dedicated people at that table helped me to realize they can see into the future of medicine. Genes loom large.

Hearing them talk amidst themselves was mesmerizing, sort of a cross between ESPN sports announcers and J. Robert Oppenheimer in Los Alamos speculating with his crew about their next atomic bomb.

It takes awhile for their profound contribution of protecting human and animal health to sink in. Think about it. The least I could do was to offer to buy’em lunch. They graciously declined.

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,

A Leap of Faith

A couple’s sacrifice turns difficulty into opportunity.

by Carolyn Drinkard

The Betheas are avid Alabama fans. Angie, Herbie and Tristan follow Alabama football and never miss a game from their home in Chilton.

Angie Bethea started to paint about 10 years ago, just to have something to do while she watched Tristan, her disabled son. Bethea painted in her sunroom, with Tristan in his bed, only six steps away. At first, she painted as a way to relax, but, soon, her incredible images caught the attention of others who were amazed to learn that she was not a trained artist. Incredibly, Bethea had never even had an art lesson.

"In school, I couldn’t draw a stick figure," she laughed. "Besides, I have had my family’s Brunson tremors since elementary school, and my hands shake so badly I can’t hold things. Sometimes I can’t even write my name for shaking!"

Nevertheless, when Angie Brunson holds a paintbrush in her hand, something miraculous happens!

"I get steady, steady as a rock," she stated. "It’s all for Tristan. It’s all for the love of our child. I know it’s God doing this through me."

Seasonal items such as wreaths are popular items at 1 Stroke at a Time. The Betheas create the wreaths for all seasons. This Christmas wreath was a big seller because no two were alike.

Tristan is the 19-year-old son of Angie and her husband Herbie. He was born with cerebral palsy that left him unable to walk or talk. At birth, Tristan’s doctors predicted that he would not live over two years, but he has defied the odds, primarily because of the dedicated care his parents have given him over the years. In fact, both have devoted their lives to watching and caring for their son.

"One of us is basically looking at him all the time," Angie said. "We have to watch for seizures, because these can sometimes last over four hours. Then when he goes to sleep, we have to watch him and wake him. He tends to have pneumonia easily because he has scoliosis that has made one lung smaller. He keeps a chronic cough, so we have to sit him up and suction him pretty often. We try to keep all sickness away from him. That’s why we are both pretty much confined to our home."

The Betheas had been able to manage Triston’s care with Herbie working outside their home; however, when Tristan’s weight reached over 130 pounds, Angie was no longer able to handle him alone. Because of Tristan’s fragile bones, the Betheas have never been able to use pulls or lifts; so, October 2015, Herbie quit his job and came home to help.

"We took a leap of faith," Angie explained. "We weren’t sure how we would make it but Tristan always comes first. We prayed and discussed it, but we both knew we had to do what was best for Tristan. His needs come before ours, so we just put it in God’s hands, and Herbie came home to help."

Since making their leap of faith, the Betheas believe they have witnessed many miracles in their lives. Needing a source of income, they decided to expand Angie’s painting pastime into an online business, 1 Stroke at a Time. Before this, Angie had drawn and used some saws to cut the images she painted. After coming home, Herbie practiced with the saws and, in a very short time, started to produce cuts that normally take seasoned woodworkers years to master. To keep from disturbing Tristan, Herbie worked on his back porch; cutting, sanding, priming and preparing the sketches and designs Angie had drawn. He would then bring the cutouts in to Angie, who painted as she watched Tristan, only inches away in his bed.

"Tristan lets us know what he thinks with his eyes and his smile. It’s a team effort with Tristan, who has become our supervisor!" Angie explained.

For Herbie, taking his leap of faith has opened a whole new world, one he believes Tristan made possible.

"I take pride in my work," Herbie said. "I like to make a good cut, because that means there is less sanding. I love doing fancy vine letters. Anyone who knew me before knows I was not very patient. Now, I take my time, because I want to get it just right."

Angie says Herbie has now become something of a perfectionist when it involves wood.

"It’s therapy for him, just like my painting is for me. Our work soothes us and helps us both relax."

Herbie gets all their supplies and delivers their finished products, as Angie rarely leaves their home. He also helps to market their business, handing out business cards in stores around Thomasville and Grove Hill and taking orders from potential customers.

The Betheas rely on Facebook for orders of their products. They make door hangers, baby birth announcements, wreaths and seasonal items. They paint mailboxes to each buyer’s specifications. They do specialty orders such as initials that are very popular now. Their crosses are customer favorites and sell rapidly.

School items are also in high demand. Angie does many sports-related hangers in team colors. In addition, she has designed hangers based on academic and extracurricular activities such as drama, music or art. Some of her most popular pieces are teacher-related, with designs based on the teacher’s subject, grade level or hobby. Many parents order gifts for their child’s teacher, based on the teacher’s favorite hobby or sports team.

Angie buys small ads on Facebook, hoping to get their name to a larger audience. To expand their outreach, she also encourages her customers to share their site and invite others to like 1 Stroke at a Time. She ships her orders, and most come from repeat customers.

"We are so appreciative of what people have done for us," she stated. "This is our way to watch Tristan and make a small living."

Painted mailboxes are very popular in South Alabama. Angie Bethea painted this one for a duck hunter. Customers describe what they want, and she works her magic.

The Betheas live in the Chilton community, southwest of Thomasville on Highway 154. Chilton is a farming community, surrounded by thousands of acres of pine forests. Since the Betheas are over 20 miles from a hospital, they have had to learn emergency procedures to care for Tristan. They own a specially equipped van for Tristan to travel, but his daily health needs make traveling an infrequent event, except for medical treatment.

The Betheas rarely have visitors, because of Tristan’s fragile health.

"All our friends understand, and they still help us," Herbie said. "Chilton is a great community to live in. Our church members at Oak Grove Baptist Church pitch in and help us with the T-Man. They support us in any way they can. I just can’t thank them enough!"

The Betheas took their leap of faith for the love of their child; however, along the way, they learned a thing or two about themselves.

"We have really been blessed because we have stayed busy, so far," Angie said. "Working with Tristan has taught both of us patience, and I think this has improved the quality of our work. We are so thankful for what God has done for us."

Herbie agreed.

"Tristan has taught me patience, but he has also taught me dedication and perseverance," Herbie explained. "He’s taught me so much more than I could have ever imagined. I thank God every day He gave me my T-Man!"

Angie and Herbie took a "leap of faith" and turned difficulty into opportunity. Their positive attitudes and selfless dedication to their child have inspired all who know them.

"Everything comes from the good Lord," Angie smiled. "We know things are going to work out, because we have put everything in His Hands!"

The Betheas’ handmade items can be seen on Facebook/1 Stroke at a Time. They can also be reached at 334-830-6300.

Carolyn Drinkard is a freelance writer from Thomasville. She can be reached at

A Rising Star

AFC’s Sharon Cunningham recognized at ARA Conference.

Sharon Cunningham

by Andrea Tarble

Agriculture Retailers Association is a nonprofit trade association that represents the interests of agricultural retailers and distributors across the United States on legislative and regulatory issues affecting the industry. Over 650 retailers and representatives of the agriculture industry gathered to discuss hot topics in agriculture today. Companies were able to nominate a staff member who exemplified the qualities of a developing leader in the industry as a Rising Star. ARA honored the Rising Stars at their annual conference in Orlando, Florida, Nov. 29, 2016.

The Rising Stars were honored at a reception sponsored by Yargus Manufacturing Inc. of Marshall, Illinois. Yargus Manufacturing engineers, manufactures and installs custom blending and conveying equipment for the fertilizer and industrial marketplace.

Sharon Cunningham of Alabama Farmers Cooperative Inc. was chosen to represent their company as a Rising Star.

Andrea Tarble is the marketing manager for Yargus Manufacturing Inc.

Ag Insight

by Jim Erickson

Updated plan adopted for Gulf restoration

The Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council has announced completion of an updated comprehensive plan to guide over $3 billion in investments to enhance the resources and economies of the Gulf Coast in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The five Gulf states (Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas); the Departments of Agriculture; the Army; Commerce; Interior; the Coast Guard; and the Environmental Protection Agency have unanimously adopted the revised plan.

The updated strategy commits to working with the public to devote funds from the Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast Act of 2012, known as RESTORE, to large-scale ecosystem restoration. It builds upon lessons learned from the council’s initial investments, establishes a 10-year funding strategy and refines the council’s process for making decisions based on public engagement and the best available science.

Since its establishment in July 2012, the council has worked on a number of fronts, including prioritizing over $183 million in restoration investments announced in December 2015. With resolution of the civil claims from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the council was able to revise its initial comprehensive plan to reflect lessons learned and the timing and amount of restoration funding.

RESTORE established the council and the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund. It dedicates 80 percent of Clean Water Act penalties resulting from the oil spill to the Trust Fund for restoration projects in the Gulf Coast region.

2017 farm exports prediction moves higher

U.S. agricultural exports in fiscal year 2017 are expected to reach $134 billion, up 1 percent from the previous forecast in August, largely due to expected increases in dairy and livestock byproduct exports.

U.S. agricultural imports in fiscal year 2017 are projected at $113 billion, down 1 percent from the August forecast. Reduced imports of horticultural, sugar and tropical products are leading this decline. As a result, the U.S. agricultural trade surplus is expected to increase to $22 billion in fiscal 2017.

The forecasted surplus is an increase compared with the expected $17 billion surplus in fiscal 2016, but nearly half the 2011 surplus of $43 billion. The U.S. agricultural sector consistently runs a trade surplus, benefiting the overall U.S. trade balance that has run a deficit every year since 1976.

USDA rule to protect producers raises their ire

In the waning days of the Obama administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture finalized a long-awaited rule that it says will protect a host of pork and poultry producers. But many industry groups are crying foul.

In releasing its Fair Farmers Practices regulations, USDA’s Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration said the new rules are intended to level the playing field for contract growers and the companies they supply.

The interim final rule sets standards for proving harm from an alleged violation of the Packers and Stockyards Act. USDA said the previous interpretation of the law was overly broad and required proof of harm across the entire market. The new rule says something can be in violation of the PSA without a legal finding of harm to competition.

Opponents of the rule say, by weakening the standards already in place, it will lead to a flurry of lawsuits because of lighter proof requirements for competitive injury. In response, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the new rules are about common sense and consistency, and now put the grower and the meatpacker on the same level.

However, Mike Brown, president of the National Chicken Council, criticized the rules, saying they could lead to rigid, one-size-fits-all requirements on chicken- growing contracts that would stifle innovation, lead to higher costs for consumers and cost jobs by forcing the best farmers out of the chicken business. He also predicted the interim final rule would open the floodgates to frivolous lawsuits.

The 2008 farm bill required the rules, but they hadn’t been implemented due to congressional appropriations riders blocking their funding. Public outcry after HBO comedian John Oliver criticized the contract-farming system on his "Last Week Tonight" program in 2015 led to that provision’s omission from the fiscal year 2016 appropriations bill, allowing USDA to proceed with the regulations.

U.S. dairy exports show upward trend

No matter how they are measured, dairy exports have grown significantly in recent years even with a recent downturn.

Dairy manufacturers separate and reassemble milk components to produce a variety of products. To analyze aggregate domestic and foreign demand for U.S. milk products, the products are often converted to a common milk equivalent. Two common measures are milk-fat and skim-solids bases.

Depending on the product, the two measures may differ by large amounts. Butter is very high in milk-fat and low in skim-solids, for example, while nonfat dry milk is the opposite. From 1995-2003, dairy product exports averaged 2.2 billion pounds per year on a milk-fat basis and 1.4 percent of total milk production.

Since 2003, milk-fat basis exports have grown, reaching 12.4 billion pounds (6.0 percent of milk production) in 2014, but then falling to 8.8 billion pounds (4.2 percent) in 2015.

Skim-solids basis exports have grown more, increasing from 5.2 billion pounds (3.4 percent of milk production) in 1995 to 39.0 billion pounds (18.9 percent) in 2014, before falling to 37.3 billion pounds (17.9 percent) in 2015.

While both metrics have grown significantly, the larger increase in skim-solids basis exports indicates that products such as nonfat dry milk, whey and lactose have been especially popular on the export market.

Cover crops popular in southern, eastern states

Farmers and ranchers in southern and eastern states are the most likely to use cover cropping as a practice to build or restore soil health, according to data analyzed by USDA’s Economic Research Service.

Farmers plant cover crops or cover-crop mixes between plantings of commodity crops (usually in the winter). Common cover crops include clover, field peas and annual ryegrass.

Cover crops are not harvested and do not provide revenue for a farmer, although sometimes farms get direct value out of a cover crop through grazing of livestock.

Regional differences in the adoption of cover cropping may be related to differences in climate, regional agricultural markets and state incentive programs. For example, Maryland has relatively high rates of adoption because of a program paying farmers to grow cover crops in order to improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay.

U.S. seeks WTO ruling on Chinese price supports

The United States and China have failed in bilateral consultations to resolve a U.S. complaint over Chinese domestic price supports for farmers, setting up the next stage of the dispute with the World Trade Organization scheduled to begin the long settlement process.

The U.S. Trade Representative officially launched a trade enforcement action against China late last summer over its artificially high prices for wheat, corn and rice. Those supports, the United States charged, distort world markets and cause billions of dollars in losses every year to U.S. farmers and exporters.

Almost immediately the two countries entered into consultations in a procedural attempt to settle the dispute. Those talks failed, according to U.S. government sources, and the WTO held – at the request of the United States – the first meeting of a panel under its Dispute Settlement Body in December.

"China is the world’s largest (wheat) producer and also the world’s largest (wheat) consumer. So whatever policies they have are magnified because of that status," said Dalton Henry, vice president of policy for the U.S. Wheat Associates.

When China joined the WTO in 2001, it agreed to maintain a 9.64-million-ton tariff rate quota for foreign wheat imports. That level has never been reached.

An Ounce of Prevention

When There Is No Cure

by Dr. Tony Frazier

I figure a fair number of you reading this article used to watch "The Beverly Hillbillies." If you did, you probably remember Granny’s Miracle Tonic. I remember, when people would get a cold, they could take a big dose of her tonic and that would cure the cold in seven days. If the patient didn’t take the magic elixir, they were destined to suffer with the cold for a full week. That always drove home two points. First, Granny was just looking for a reason to consume her tonic, which was mostly moonshine. The second point is that the cold virus was going to run its course if you treated it or not.

Things are not terribly different now than when that family from the hills of Tennessee struck it rich and moved to California. For the most part, other than a few antiviral drugs, there are no cures for viral diseases except letting them run their course. I don’t know if that qualifies as a cure. Certainly when we look at a viral disease like Eastern Equine Encephalitis, running its course can be deadly to its host. In fact, 50-90 percent of horses showing neurological signs are going to die. Let me say that a different way. If you own a horse and do not vaccinate it against encephalitis and it contracts the virus, there is a better than average chance it will die. If it doesn’t die, it may sustain such permanent brain damage that it will have to be put down.

I really like horses. I even have one I am trying to train right now. Of course, I think in the end she may be training me. But I enjoy the relationship we can develop with these fine creatures God put on this Earth. Because of that fondness and respect I have for horses, I feel it necessary to get up on as big a soap box as I can find and try to let people know how important it is to vaccinate a horse if you are given the responsibility to assure its well-being. There are a lot of things in life we have absolutely no control over. But preventing viral diseases in horses when a vaccine is readily available ain’t one of them.

One of the most frustrating and aggravating things I remember from my days in practice was when an individual or family would lose a pet, a horse or even a cow or calf for that matter – because they had failed to have the animal vaccinated.

There are laws governing rabies vaccination of dogs and cats, which is a good thing. Just back in the fall, there was a rabid raccoon that attacked a young child just outside Montgomery. The law does not mandate horses be vaccinated for rabies, but, depending where you live, that is probably a good idea.

Spring vaccination of horses should be a ritual practiced by every horse owner, period. What I do recommend is you get with your private-practicing veterinarian and together decide on the vaccination program best suited for your horse and your location; especially if you travel and co-mingle your horse with others. There is absolutely no reason for a horse in Alabama not to be vaccinated against EEE, West Nile virus and tetanus.

I realize tetanus is not a virus, but I am only aware of a couple of horses that made it to the other side of a bout with tetanus and lived to tell about it. And, by the way, those that lived through it had some very intensive and expensive care. The animals had to be tranquilized, kept in a quiet stall and given a lot of medication such as tetanus antitoxin and tube-fed fluids and electrolytes. I can’t even imagine how much that would cost. And you still don’t have a guarantee you will get your horse back alive. I hope I am making a good argument for vaccinating your horses.

In the year 2016 through the middle of December, Alabama had seven confirmed cases of EEE. And, yes, all of those horses were dead at the time they were confirmed positive. I realize seven horses out of the total equine population in the state may be just a speck on the radar screen, but you tell that to those seven horses or the owners. They may have represented only a fraction of a percentage of the equine population, but they are 100 percent dead now.

WNV has also been diagnosed in Alabama, just not last year. WNV got a lot of publicity when it was first diagnosed in the United States. The virus was first found in some crows in New York state back in 1999. Before that, the virus was mostly known to be only in Africa and the Middle East. Anyway, it has seemed to make itself at home here in the United States. And, while the virus is not usually as severe as EEE, it will claim a certain number of lives of equine friends over a period of time.

Just a couple of more things before I sign off. Vaccination does not always equal immunity. That means, just because you vaccinate, it is not a 100 percent insurance policy the disease cannot occur. However, when an animal has been vaccinated for the common equine disease, it sure stacks the deck in the animal’s favor. Second, if sometime down the road you see me somewhere and tell me you read this article and didn’t vaccinate and ended up losing a horse … that is not going to set well with me. The bottom line is to talk to your veterinarian and get those horses vaccinated …… NOW.

Okay, I think I am going outside to try to teach my filly to count to 10.

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

Another Bone-Up Story

by Nadine Johnson

My writer’s muse is evidently still on holiday (it’s Dec. 27). I’ve just completed a column that I consider unworthy and will not send to the publisher. I know what I’ll do. I’ll tell you my latest Bone-Up and horsetail story.

My friend, Virginia, began taking these two alternatives in early 2011. Soon afterward, she was told by her physician that her bones showed a marked improvement. She has continued to take the products.

Recently, Virginia suffered an unfortunate fall. She had severe trauma to her lower leg. However, she had no broken bones.

Shortly after her accident, my upstairs neighbor met and had a discussion with Virginia’s daughter and son-in-law.

During this discussion, the daughter said, "You’ll never guess what Mother’s taking that prevented a broken bone."

My neighbor quickly answered, "Bone-Up and horsetail."

The daughter was shocked and asked, "How did you know?"

My neighbor answered, "Because my neighbor takes this also and has told me how beneficial these two products are."

Virginia has recovered and is doing well. Of course, she takes her Bone-Up and horsetail faithfully. She has had excellent medical care.

Now, hear about my three falls, all the result of tripping on curbs. These days I’m watching my feet very closely – especially around curbs (which are everywhere).

I suffered aches, pains and bruises, but no fractures. The third fall happened to occur as I was entering the four-story building that houses my doctor’s office. Man! If you want attention, simply fall at the door of your doctor’s office! These kind people swarmed around me to help.

I said, "Please give me a minute. Nothing is damaged except my ego."

I was put in a wheelchair and taken to my doctor’s office.

He said, "Nadine, Sugar. (That’s what he calls me. We worked cardiac together a good many years ago.) Don’t you think I need to X-ray you?"

I answered, "No. Nothing’s broken. I’m simply embarrassed to death. An X-ray won’t prevent aches and bruises."

I hugged him and came home.

Most of you know my story in regards to severe osteoporosis that was turned around by me taking these products. For that reason, I’m not going to repeat the story. However, if you don’t know the story and would like information, please contact me.

I should tell you that there was a time when I wondered why God had me suffer as I did with osteoporosis. There was much pain and I almost lost my teeth. Finally, I came to the conclusion that God had me experience this so I could share my true story with others who are suffering. I have done so. Many have thanked me and benefited from the knowledge.

My writer’s muse is always on good behavior when the subject is Bone-Up and horsetail. For this reason, I’m very quickly sending these words to the publisher.

As usual, check with your doctor before taking alternatives.

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

Behlen Super Wind Vane Mineral Feeder

by John Sims

A good vitamin and mineral program is essential for maximum performance of your animals. This month, we are putting the spotlight on the Behlen Super Wind Vane Mineral Feeder (#28120002).

  • It all starts at the bottom … the hot-dipped galvanized bottom gives the most corrosive-resistant base in the industry against salt, mud, manure, etc.
  • Heavy-duty, 3/8" tow loops allow the unit to be pulled from location to location for rotational grazing.
  • Heavy-duty, sealed, plated bearing offers years of maintenance-free service and reliable spinning action.
  • Two-compartment poly feeder hood will not corrode.
  • Dimensions: 48" x 53" x 57"
  • Feeder capacity: 3 cu. ft.
  • Weight: 81 lbs.
  • Optional face fly attachment available (#28110080)

Try the Behlen Super Wind Vane Mineral Feeder to promote better mineral consumption, reduce mineral waste and provide years of service.

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

Best Memories

Opening day will never be the same.

BES loved to be in the woods. It didn’t matter what we were doing. She was an expert ATV driver/rider.

by Chuck Sykes

Opening day of the general firearms season has been something I’ve looked forward to with much anticipation throughout the years. As a young child in the mid-1970s, opening day meant meeting up with friends and family at the hunting camp early Saturday morning to saddle up the horses and turn the dogs loose for a deer drive. By the mid-1980s, opening day excitement had transformed to concentrating on the first sit on a winter wheat field that afternoon. By the mid-2000s, the excitement of opening day revolved around my little female miniature Australian Sheppard BES and her getting the opportunity to blood trail a deer. It’s amazing how priorities change as we grow older.

Since my wife and I don’t have kids, BES was basically my fuzzy, four-legged daughter. She went everywhere with me. She was my constant companion. It didn’t matter whether I was in Illinois, Ohio or Alabama doing a consulting job, she was with me. If she wasn’t welcomed, I didn’t go. It was just that simple. Despite the fact that she was a herding dog and was bred to work by sight, she had an incredible nose. When she was only 6 months old, she was with me one morning while I was on my hands and knees following a sparse blood trail through a pine plantation. She was so attentive to my needs that she figured out what I was doing, and eventually found the deer before I did.

She was scared to death of it, but she found it. So, from that point forward, I made a conscious decision to let her look for every deer I shot. By the time she was 5, she was a blood-trailing machine. She found countless deer for hunters that would have taken us hours, if not days, to find. She truly had found a job she knew would make me and others happy. Not only did she enjoy the track, she also enjoyed the hunt. I started taking her to food plots in the afternoons with me at first, then progressed to actually going and sitting in the woods next to a tree. Believe it or not, she would lie next to me with the wind in our faces and she would start shaking when she smelled a deer. I eventually learned to pay attention to her body language and start looking.

She was also an experienced truck, tractor and ATV driver/rider as well as TV personality. She spent countless hours in my lap traveling the country, planting food plots, hanging stands and assisted me while filming our TV programs. BES had more fans than I did.

She was a survivor and all-around tough old broad. At the age of 6, she survived a serious cancer surgery. One ACL was replaced at age 7 and the other at 8. Shortly after recovering from the second ACL surgery, her biggest challenge arrived – little brother Sydney.

BES and Syd posing in Cades Cove for Christmas cards (2016).

I agree with the famous writer Agnes Sligh Turnbull when she said, "Dogs’ lives are too short. Their only fault, really." I could see the handwriting on the wall and knew the day would come when I would eventually have to deal with her death, and I knew I would need some serious help coping. I was hoping Syd would be the Band-Aid my heart would need to make it through those tough times.

BES was a real trooper. Not only did she put up with an annoying little brother, she did what all good big sisters do and taught him the ways of the world. The three of us had several great hunting seasons together and this year was looking to be no different. Despite the fact that BES was 12, she was in incredibly good shape considering the previous surgeries. However, a new ailment arose the last week of October. When antibiotics didn’t fix the issue, an MRI on Nov. 3 revealed she had two tumors, one behind her left eye and the other completely filling her left nasal cavity.

Needless to say, we were devastated. Her vet suggested I take her to the hunting camp for the weekend, basically as one final hunt, then we would discuss a plan forward the next Monday. I took off work that Friday and drove to Choctaw County. She acted like a puppy all weekend. We hung stands, went to the farm and barked at cows, and even trailed a deer for a friend. How could this be her last hunt?

We were at the vet Monday to discuss a proper plan of action. We basically had two options, put her down in a month or two when the tumor in her nose ruptured or try surgery to remove the tumors. The doctor said he was confident that the surgery would be a success and she would be hunting by Dec. 1. Surgery went beautifully Wednesday 16. The plans were for BES to stay at the vet through the weekend for observation. The sinus packing would be removed Saturday, and we could bring her home Sunday when Syd and I got back from the hunting camp.

My world was turned upside down when the vet called around noon on Saturday 19 and said BES had passed away from an apparent heart attack during the packing removal procedure. I didn’t know what to say or to do. I’m quite sure many who read this will not understand, but fortunately many will. It’s hard to explain the emotions. I guess everyone handles grief in their own way. All I knew to do was to take Syd hunting. So, there I was opening day of the Alabama gun season sitting in a box stand overlooking a dirt food plot crying like a baby because my little girl was gone.

BES found this Dallas County buck for me in 2006. Left, BES was an accomplished fisherwoman.

A friend who was hunting with me shot a deer at last light with his bow and asked me to bring Syd. He had never trailed a deer by himself. He had never done anything without the supervision of BES. I put his orange jacket and lighted collar on him and explained the best I could that it was all up to him now. I was shocked and amazed to see how well he did. Then again, I shouldn’t have been, he was trained by the best! The day I lost my favorite hunting partner, my little boy found his first deer by himself. I was a bundle of emotions, proud for him and missing her.

I’ve had one week to try to process the life and times of BES. I still can’t believe she is gone. However, I know she made a lasting, positive impression on thousands of people across the country. The outpouring of support from friends and her TV fans has been overwhelming.

Sidney Jeanne Seward said, "Blessed is the person who has earned the love of an old dog." I can tell you today, my friends, I am a very blessed man!

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

Cooking With Herb(s)

by Herb T. Farmer

As we emerge from the tenebrosity of yet another cold January, the attitude toward life sparked by the anticipation of good things to come in the near future brings a bit of energy back to these old bones.

All of the seed orders have been placed and received. Plans for new garden patches have been scribbled on scraps of paper and filed in a folder nearby for easy access. Gardening tools oiled and winterized last fall have had their wood handles re-oiled with linseed oil. It looks like I’m ready for the season. Now I can feed the wild birds and mammals and enjoy my coffee.

Feb. 2 is the kickoff of springtime for me. Groundhog Day means there are only about six more weeks until spring and I can handle anything for only six weeks.

Cast-iron skillets make the best bake and fry pans there are.

Recently, I received an email from a reader who asked me about the types of pots and pans I use in the kitchen. Within a couple of days, I received another email from a different reader asking me if I ever used any cast-iron skillets and, if so, how did I season them?

I have already answered the emails, but I’ll share that information with the rest of you.

I primarily use cast iron and stainless steel. Cast-iron skillets make the best bake and fry pans there are. If you need to sear some meat or quick-brown a crusted meat pie, cast-iron skillets are the answer. They can easily handle 500 degree temperatures without damaging the pan. And, for cornbread, there ain’t anything better to bake it in … more about that later.

Copper-bottom, 18/10 stainless steel pots and saucepans make up the whole of my kitchenware of that type. There is nothing like the vintage, heavy-gauge Revere Ware for boiling up fresh purple-hull peas or making a raspberry- balsamic reduction. Most of my Revere Ware was made in the 1960s, but I found some older pots from the 50s at an estate sale a few years back that brought my collection to nearly 50 pieces of the cookware. Folks have asked me if I’m a hoarder, and I replied, "No." There are no lonely pots, pans, lids, skillets, knives or anything else that I own. Everything gets used either for a specific purpose or because it is in its regular rotation.

USDA-choice rib roast, cut and tied, dry aged for 14 days in a 32 degree refrigerator. The rib rack was cut off, fat was trimmed away and then the rack tied back on.

Rosemary, garlic chives and minced garlic are mixed with lemon-rosemary- infused olive oil to create the rub for the rib roast.

Olive oil and herb mix is rubbed onto the roast. Cover it tightly with foil and roast it in a 325° oven until the inner temperature reaches 120°. Remove foil and finish roasting at 425° until the inner temperature reaches 125°. Remove from oven and let rest for about 20 minutes. The roast will continue to cook. Serve when the inner temperature reaches 130°, medium-rare.

Teflon? Yes. I own one nonstick coated pan. It’s a crepe pan made by Calphalon before Rubbermaid (Newell Brands) bought the company and took down the quality. The only reason I own that particular crepe pan is because I haven’t yet acquired a cast-iron one.

All of my cast-iron skillets are virtually nonstick because of their continued use, proper prep and essential care.

You can even make food stick to a Teflon pan if you don’t prepare the surface properly.

Seriously, if you can’t fry an egg in a cast-iron skillet, then you aren’t a true cook. I have one cast-iron skillet that is designated as my egg pan and it resides on top of the stove. Only eggs get cooked in the pan, no exceptions. It is an 8-inch skillet made by Lodge Manufacturing in South Pittsburg, Tennessee; it is properly seasoned and impeccably conditioned.

Quickly, let’s talk about proper seasoning, use and care for cast iron. When you buy your cast iron, buy the brands manufactured in the United States. It is worth it. Buying seasoned vs. bare? All of my cookware was purchased bare, because seasoned cast iron wasn’t available when I got it. Nowadays, most cast-iron cookware manufacturers offer seasoned products as a choice. Some companies offer seasoned exclusively.

If your cast iron is bare, it can be seasoned in your oven; or, if you’ve messed it up, it can easily be re-seasoned. Strip down your messed-up pan by scouring off all of the caked-on food or carbon buildup using hot soapy water. Rinse well; then dry thoroughly with a dish towel. With a paper towel or soft cloth, coat the bare pans with vegetable shortening. Coat the whole pan, inside out, handles included. A thin coating rubbed into the iron is best.

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Place freshly coated pans, upside down, in oven on racks. Cover the bottom rack of the oven with aluminum foil to catch drips. Bake for one hour; then let the pans cool in the oven.

There. You have just seasoned your pans, and, if you use them often, they will most likely stay seasoned. Over time, your pans will probably become like mine: smooth and slick like black glass.

Here are a couple of tips to help you maintain your pans:

  • Always preheat your cast-iron skillets over medium heat before adding oil and food. About five minutes is usually enough.
  • Never use cast iron on ceramic or glass electric cooktops. This will damage your stovetop and replacements are expensive.
  • Always wipe your cookware clean after use. To wash your pans, use hot water and a natural or plastic bristle scrubber. With my egg pan, I just wipe it with a paper towel. If it has a lot of fat buildup or a stuck egg bit, I put salt into the pan and scour it with a paper towel. My egg pan rarely gets washed with water, never with soap.
  • Never soak your cast-iron pans because they will rust. Always wash then dry. If you have stuck on food, place the pan on the stovetop, put in hot water and simmer. This usually loosens anything stuck so you can scrub it away.
  • Never put your cast iron into the dishwasher! If you don’t get it, email me and I’ll draw you a little picture. Not much gets me going quicker than hearing somebody say they wash their pots and pans in the dishwasher!

My main pans stay on top of my stove. I use them daily. They include three breakfast pans and a cornbread pan. The other skillets stay in the oven until it’s time to bake something or use the pans for other cooking.

Cabbage wedges, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with red pepper flakes, sea salt and fresh black pepper. Roast in 325° oven until desired tenderness. Spritz occasionally with water while roasting.

Just the other day, I was admiring my egg pan, showing it off to a friend who stopped by early enough to have breakfast with me. I gave her my instructional on caring for the pan, cooked us some eggs, then I explained that cooking my eggs every day in that skillet is one of the simple pleasures in my life.

I promised you two recipes for this month. I’ve provided them in picture form. Enjoy!

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

Thanks for reading!

For more information, email me at I’ll answer your questions and I enjoy the emails!

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

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

Corn Time


Don’t go hungry ... when you’re on the hunt!

Cason called the breakfast casserole “pizza” and dipped his in ranch dressing. To make it more pizza-like, you can line your casserole dish with a pre-made pizza or pie crust.

These hearty breakfast ideas will keep you going all day.

by Christy Kirk

Did you know, depending on how physically active you are, you can burn anywhere from 100-340 calories an hour while you are hunting for your next meal? Burning calories on a quest for squirrel, duck, rabbits, hogs or deer can be great exercise, even if you aren’t trying to lose weight. But those calories represent energy used; so hunters, especially children, need to be sure they replace what they have lost during their hunt.

When you are deep in the woods or swamp, you definitely don’t want to have hunger distracting you, your friends or family from having a successful hunting trip. Even if you eat an early breakfast, by 10 a.m., a growling stomach may take over and get in the way of your goals. When planning your meals at the camp, make sure you don’t deprive yourself.

Meals need to be high in protein and carbohydrates. Fats don’t have to be excluded, but you should use them according to your own personal nutrition needs. The key is eating foods that will provide or restore the most energy you will lose while hunting. For meals, there are endless combinations of meat, potatoes, bread, pasta and cheese that are sure to create dishes to satisfy everyone. One of the easiest ways to combine these ingredients is by finding simple recipes for making casseroles or one-dish meals such as in a Dutch oven.

For us, we usually have bigger, heartier meals that will give us extra energy and keep everyone satisfied longer. The kids will still want something sweet, but they don’t snack and graze like they might at home.

During one of our last stays at the camp, we had a late morning meal of breakfast casserole, tater tot casserole, crispy bacon, pancakes, cereal and a mountain of monkey bread. Any one of these would be filling, but, if you are going hunting, you may not eat again until much later in the day. One of the great things about most of these foods is that leftovers can be eaten hot or cold and still be just as good as when they were fresh.

Whether you eat at home or at a hunting camp, here are a few hearty recipes to try. The casserole recipes are especially good to experiment with to create new combinations. It won’t take long to discover what high-energy recipes your family likes best and which ones will keep hunger from ending the hunt early.


Breakfast Casserole and Tater Tot Casserole

1 pound spicy deer or pork sausage
1 teaspoon mustard (or mustard powder)
½ teaspoon salt
4 eggs
2 cups milk
6 pieces bread, toasted and cubed
8 ounces mild cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350°.

In a large skillet, brown sausage. Drain.

In a large bowl, mix mustard, salt, eggs and milk. Add sausage, cheese and bread; stir together. Pour into a greased 9x13 casserole dish. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 45-55 minutes. Remove foil, lower temperature to 325°. Bake for about 30 minutes.

Lower oven heat to keep casserole warm until hunters return. Do not overbake it and cause it to dry out. Let sit for a few minutes before cutting and serving.

Note: I learned how to make this recipe while taking Home Economics in high school. Because of limited class time, we would prepare it one day and then bake it the next. You can do the prep a day ahead at home to save time in the morning. Just cover the casserole dish and place in the refrigerator overnight.


2 cups milk
2 eggs
½-1 teaspoon salt, to taste
½ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon onion powder
4-8 strips of bacon, cooked and crumbled
½-1 pound deer or pork sausage, browned and drained
About 2 pounds tater tots
¾-1½ cups shredded sharp cheddar (to taste), divided in half

Preheat oven to 350°.

In a large bowl, combine milk, eggs, salt, pepper and onion powder.

Coat a casserole dish with cooking spray. Layer sausage on bottom of dish. Layer tater tots and half the cheese. Pour milk mixture over entire casserole. Cook for 35 minutes. Add remaining cheese to top.

Note: This recipe calls for both sausage and bacon, but if you are serving it with the breakfast casserole, you can always leave the sausage out and double-up on bacon instead.


2 Tablespoons olive oil
4 wild hog pork chops
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 Tablespoons butter
2 cups seasoned bread crumbs
¾ cup water, divided
3 medium potatoes, cubed
1 can cream of mushroom soup

In a Dutch oven, heat olive oil. Season pork chops with salt and pepper. Place pork chops in heated Dutch oven. In a separate pan, melt butter. In a bowl, mix butter, bread crumbs and ¼ cup water. Pour mixture over pork chops and coat. Place potatoes on top of pork chop mixture. Pour soup and remaining water over top. Bake for 1 hour at about 350°.

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


February Lawn and Garden Checklist


  • This year plan to grow at least one new vegetable or vegetable variety that you’ve never grown before; it may end up being the tastiest thing in the garden! Go to for ideas.
  • Last half of the month, plant asparagus, onions, lettuce, spinach, potatoes, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and early peas.
  • Strawberries can be planted as soon as they become available.
  • Because cool-season annuals/biennials tolerate frost, they can be planted. Balsam, calendula, coneflower, four o’clock, hollyhocks, annual phlox, California poppy, nasturtium, lobelia, pansy, dianthus and snapdragon are good options.
  • Place a heating mat under your seed trays and begin planting your open-pollinated, tender heirloom and other hard-to-find seeds indoors. Keeping the soil warm will assist with faster germination and plants will develop a stronger root system. Use a good, sterilized soil to start the seeds.
  • Don’t be tempted to sow too many seeds this early in the season – they may become leggy due to low-light levels. Later sowings will catch up and grow just as fast.
  • Get roses in the ground so they’ll be established before hot weather arrives.
  • February is a good time to purchase trees and install them in your garden while they are still dormant, as long as the ground can be worked.
  • Repot your holiday cactus if needed, but remember they like to be pot-bound.


  • Get ready to fertilize everything! Let the staff at your local Co-op store advise you about the best fertilizer for the type of plants and lawn in your landscape and garden. Unlike many retail establishments, they actually know what they’re talking about.
  • Feed English peas, spinach, kale and onions.
  • If you have not soil-tested your lawn areas in the past 12 months, now is a great time. DON’T fertilize warm-season grass lawns in the winter; wait until they begin to green-up early to mid-spring.
  • Trees not fed last fall should be deep fed by punching a series of 1-2-inch holes 2 feet apart around the drip line and filled with an appropriate food.
  • For folks in the Florida panhandle and south Alabama, and you adventurous gardeners in north Alabama who have found hearty cultivars, fertilize palms late this month. Use a product labeled specifically for palm trees. It should contain manganese, iron, potassium and, possibly, a systemic pesticide.
  • Fertilize spring-flowering bulbs if not done in November. Don’t fertilize while they are blooming.
  • Continue feeding pansies every 10-14 days with liquid fertilizer. Fertilize perennials to supply nutrients. Feed iris with bone meal. Avoid getting fertilizers directly on foliage.
  • Give your potted herbs a dose of nutrition by replacing the top inch of soil with fresh compost.
  • Your houseplants may notice the longer days, and begin growing. You can begin feeding them again, but only use a half-strength solution of houseplant fertilizer until the growth is robust.


  • Now is a great time to prune most trees and shrubs. However, do not prune azalea, quince, Carolina jessamine, spirea, dogwood, Peegee hydrangea, forsythia, redbud and rhododendron – they should be pruned after they bloom, since they set blooms in the fall. Almost anything blooming after June 1 (except oakleaf hydrangea and late-flowering azalea cultivars) can be pruned safely now.
  • Always start your pruning by removing all dead, decayed or broken branches. Pruning should be done to improve the shape of the plant, as well as to open up the center of the plant to good air circulation and sun exposure.
  • When pruning limbs on a tree, never cut flush to the trunk; the collar or enlarged base of a branch produces hormones to help heal wounds.
  • Cut crepe myrtle branches that do not add to the beauty of the plant. NEVER top (or crepe murder) them; that will ruin their natural form forever. If someone has done this to your trees, cut the plant off at the base (near ground level) and, in a few years, they will regenerate themselves.
  • Blackberries should have all the canes that produced fruit last year removed.
  • Kiwis and grapes must be pruned by Valentine’s Day.
  • Prune established tea and floribunda roses around the 25th of the month. Cut ANY rose canes that are diseased, damaged or dead. Remember to place cuts about one-quarter inch above an outward-facing bud. Always wipe down your pruners with Clorox or Lysol disinfectant wipes or dip them into a mixture of Clorox and water before pruning the next rose bush.
  • Prune liriope (monkey grass) in February before new growth appears. Use a lawn mower to make quick work of this task, adjusting the height to remove old growth. Add a grass catcher attachment to eliminate raking. A string trimmer also works well.
  • Cut down ornamental grasses before wind and rain causes them to shatter and litter your lawn or planting beds.
  • Deadhead pansies periodically to ensure more blooms.
  • Turn and prune houseplants regularly to keep them shapely. Pinch back new growth to promote bushy plants. Many will root easily from the cuttings.


  • Your warm-season lawn might need a little water this month. If there is an extended dry period during the winter (four or more weeks), adding one inch of water (on a warm day, of course) will help the soil retain heat and may help prevent injury to cold-sensitive grasses.
  • Irrigate established trees and shrubs a few days before the arrival of a cold front, but not just before.
  • Once you plan your plantings, pots and beds, you can design an irrigation system to save you time and money by more efficient watering.


  • Apply a pre-emergent weed killer this month. This type of weed killer interferes with seed germination. Do not use it in areas where you plan to sow seed. Use it only around established planting areas.
  • Apply pre-emergent crabgrass control when soil temperatures have reached 55 degrees for four or five consecutive days.
  • If you haven’t yet applied dormant spray to fruit trees, DO IT NOW!! It should only be used on deciduous trees and shrubs such as fruit, flowering and shade trees. Apply before leaves appear, when the wind is not blowing and when temperatures will not dip to freezing within four hours of spraying. The oil smothers overwintering insects, eggs and disease spores.
  • Stay on top of any slug problem you may have! Baits can be used for effective control. If you have pets, look for slug baits safe to use around them.
  • Some of the extended-protection, broadcast, fire ant treatments require 2 inches of water to be activated, then a two-week period afterward to begin protecting your lawn. Applying those products mid-February will have them active and ready for the ants by the time they begin to pop up in March.
  • Check all houseplants closely for insect infestations.


  • There are many, many good reasons to start your own vegetable garden in 2017 – it’s healthy, you can save money, the taste of fresh vegetables is so much better than vegetables grown a thousand miles away and exercise just to name a few. Start planning and, when the time comes, make a short trip to your local Co-op store for the widest selection of seed and Bonnie plants.
  • First half of the month, if weather permits, prepare your vegetable garden soil by turning under your cover crops and/or tilling in compost or composted manure. This allows the weather to aid in breaking up the dirt clods.
  • Plan your vegetable plot to ensure good crop rotation to prevent problems in the soil. For example, don’t plant tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and potatoes in the same spot, year after year. They are all from the family Solanaceae (nightshade) and are affected by the same pests.
  • If you garden in heavy-clay soil but want to make an early start in the garden, build raised beds before the growing season gets under way. The soil will warm up faster and raised beds drain quickly, too.
  • If you’ve started plants in a cold frame, be sure to ventilate it on warm days.
  • Feb. 2 marks the official midpoint of winter, but, remember, in many years past, the coldest weather of the entire year occurs between Feb. 1 and March 1. If exceptionally cold weather is forecast, you can provide some protection to early-flowering or tender plants by covering them with some type of cloth material. Remove the covering as soon as the weather moderates again.
  • Check stored fruits and vegetables such as potatoes and apples for bad spots that may lead to decay. Remove and use those with signs of spoiling. Separate others into slotted trays or bins to increase air circulation and reduce decay possibilities.
  • Mulch fruit trees with well-rotted manure or garden compost, taking care not to mound mulch up around the trunk.
  • Refresh the mulch layer around azaleas to protect their shallow root systems from drying out.
  • Avoid heavy traffic on the dormant lawn. Dry grass is easily broken and the crown of the plant may be severely damaged or killed.
  • Bring lawnmower and other garden equipment in for repairs and tuneups, before repair shops are overwhelmed by the spring rush.
  • For the longest vase life, gather daffodil blooms for bouquets just as buds start to show color.
  • Valentine’s Day flower arrangements will stay fresher if kept out of strong sunlight.
  • Turn the compost pile!
  • Continue feeding the birds. You’ll want them to stick around to help in insect control when the weather warms again. Birds like suet, fruit, nuts and bread crumbs as well as bird seed.

FFA Sentinel: The Past, A Gateway to the Future

A Glimpse of FFA Chapter Activities in 1952

by Andy Chamness

County FFA presidents and state officers rest at the base of Vulcan in Birmingham after climbing to the top and back down in 1952.

As 2016 has now come to a close and as we, the Alabama FFA Association, look back on the past year and at all of the successes of the FFA members and teachers throughout our state, we are reminded that FFA does make a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education. To accomplish its mission, FFA develops competent and assertive agricultural leadership. The National FFA Organization is the largest student-lead youth organization in the country and can be found in almost all of the school systems across our state.

Alabama FFA experienced growth in the number of FFA events held at the district, state and national level in 2016. What will 2017 hold for Alabama FFA?

The future is bright for Alabama FFA with new and expanding leadership opportunities such as the Alabama Winter Alumni Conference, the Chapter Presidents Conference, Auburn University Spring Judging Clinics, our three district eliminations (Career Development Event contests) and all culminating in June at the annual Alabama FFA State Convention. All of the events mentioned, plus many more that Alabama FFA hosts or organizes, are centered on student leadership development. FFA is known for its ability to train young leaders and develop their talents in order that they may go out into the community and take part in local activities.

Reflecting is something that sometimes inspires me and, for this month, I thought it would be interesting to take you back in time and see exactly what FFA chapters were up to in the spring of 1952. My hope is that these short excerpts from Alabama Future Farmer will bring to former FFA members a little nostalgia and a sense of belonging and warmth or for current members to be challenged to help their chapters grow and complete projects inspiring the membership to get more involved at the local, county, district and state levels.

If you are interested in reading more of the Alabama Future Farmer magazines from our past, the articles can be found by visiting our website at and clicking on the FFA Reporter tab. Well, what were the chapters doing in 1952?

ALEXANDER CITY – Judging team won sec­ond in county elimination; have committees appointed to determine Program of Work; and ordered 36 FFA T-shirts.

ARAB - Purchased five pigs to top out; sold two top hogs; sowed 1.5 acres of school lawn; organized Dairy Judging team; ordered four FFA T-shirts; organized FFA quartet; bought a new rip saw and electric welder; plan to initiate new ag students; ordered Green Hand and Chapter Farmer pins; sold peanuts at football games; and purchased one registered Duroc gilt.

AUBURN – Quartet presented program at Sou­thern Regional Hamps Hire Banquet; put on weekly radio program over local station; quar­tet won tri-state contest; won first place with exhibit at county fair; gave program to hos­pitalized veterans in Montgomery; won third place in judging dairy cattle at county fair; and made an educational tour to points of interest in Florida.

BROOKWOOD – Purchased four pigs to be fed the leftovers from the high school cafeteria; planted 3 acres of crimson clover pasture to furnish winter grazing; and goal for 195x-52 is to plant 20,000 pine seedlings by FFA members.

CLANTON – Put on exhibit for Alabama In­dustrial Day; operating drink concession stand at football games; making plans to send Beef Judging Team to Kansas City; placing four pigs on Pig Chain; collected dues from every boy taking vocational agriculture; and making plans to enter several state contests this year.

CLEVELAND – Held FFA and FHA social; purchased total of 20 calves; and entered county and district Jersey cattle shows.

CULLMAN – Promoted legume contest in chapter; erected club signs; initiated new mem­bers; selected program committee; discussed contests; organized string band; planned activities to be carried out during year; and organized quartet.

EAST LIMESTONE – Added 3 gilts to pig chain; purchased new film strip projector; 100 percent of students have joined FFA.

EVERGREEN – Begun process for a Program of Work for 1951-52; planning Parent-Son Ban­quet to be held during National FFA Week; have 10 pigs to be added to Pig Chain; constructing a corn crib to be used for the pig chain; and have 26 new members.

GENEVA – Chapter member to play in the National Band; ordered 30 student notebooks; ordered four FFA jackets; organized quartet; and published two news articles.

KINSTON – Held meeting for officers’ train­ing; two boys entered hog stock show; and mem­bers plan to pay expenses of Adviser F.W. Wood to national convention.

LEROY – Held club meeting to set up activity program; ordered FFA paraphernalia; nine boys purchased beef show calves; had public speaker in tri-state meeting; all members entering one or more contests; and have several members attending state fair.

McADORY – 43 new members; two members feeding beef calves for Fat Stock Show; mem­bers selling subscription to Southern Agriculturist; working on contests; and all members pur­chased manuals.

McKENZIE – Have 71 members, largest in chapter history; put on an exhibit at state fair; and news article in paper.

MAPLESVILLE – Showed one dairy calf at county fair; added 10 new books to FFA library; appointed committees for the coming year; col­lected FFA dues; elected officers; and added three registered Duroc gilts to Pig Chain.

As a final note, all of the FFA chapters mentioned in this article are still currently active.

As I always do, I would like to encourage you to reach out to your local FFA advisers and FFA members; and for FFA members to reach out to your community and learn about your chapter’s history. As current FFA members move deeper into their programs of activities for 2017, reflect on 2016 and beyond, move toward the future, set new goals and meet new challenges such as developing a challenging program of activities, increasing membership and participation in your chapter, competing in new events, and meeting new friends head on.

My hope is for you, as a member of FFA, your FFA chapter and the readership of this column to have a bright, health-filled and prosperous New Year. We look forward to seeing you throughout the spring and, of course, at the 2017 Alabama FFA State Convention in Montgomery.

Andy Chamness is the Central District FFA Adviser and education specialist with the Alabama Department of Education.

From Rivalry to Rural Development

Ron Sparks leads an important mission to serve Alabama’s rural communities.

by Alvin Benn

Ron Sparks discusses important issues related to rural development in Alabama during an interview in his Montgomery office.

Just call them the "Odd Couple" of Alabama politics.

One is Gov. Robert Bentley, a second-term Republican who is defending himself as critics allege questionable conduct as Alabama’s chief executive.

The other is Ron Sparks, a Democrat who completed two terms as commissioner of the state Department of Agriculture and now directs the Alabama Rural Development Agency – a job made possible by Bentley, who defeated him in 2010.

Bentley and Sparks didn’t know each other that well during that gubernatorial campaign but they became friendly rivals as the weeks passed.

What began as good-ole-boy conversations to pass the time as they waited to debate or speak at political rallies leading up to the election eventually became a friendship neither man expected.

"Many people didn’t think (Bentley) would win the Republican nomination for governor, let alone become governor," Sparks said. "Well, it was much the same in my case."

Neither man had solid, statewide support because they had primarily served local or regional constituents and, when they began campaigning, it didn’t take long to realize just how expensive the challenge would be.

The two continued their friendship along the campaign trail from Huntsville to Mobile and the more they talked the more their mutual respect grew.

"He’d kid me about not being able to go anywhere during the campaign without seeing me at the same place," Sparks said. "Our discussions were always cordial and I never dreamed things would work out the way they did."

Voters made the final determination and, Nov. 2, 2010, Bentley, a Tuscaloosa doctor, defeated Sparks, a DeKalb County leader. The future governor received 58 percent of the vote.

As Sparks pondered what to do next, he was surprised to get a call from Bentley, who asked him to drop by his office for a chat and it didn’t involve postelection discussions.

"Both of us were happy the election was finally over and that’s when the governor approached me about taking over a new agency," Sparks said. "I was happy to have the opportunity to do just that because I know how important rural development is in Alabama."

Sparks did such a good job that he continues as director of the agency emphasizing use of new technology to help those in Alabama’s rural regions.

Telemedicine and Telehealth have similar programs offering ways to use computer science to reach people who might not have financial resources to drive to big cities for treatment.

Telemedicine, called "health care of the future," offers clinical health care from a distance, much like programs used by high schools and colleges to provide courses for students living far from campuses.

The program has been used to save lives in critical care and emergency situations across the country by providing medical imaging and health information from one site to another.

Sparks was fascinated by the program, but knew little about some of the specifics; so he drove to Waycross, Georgia, where he conferred with experts in the field.

"I didn’t know enough of it to scare me, but the more I thought about it the more I just knew we had to have a similar system in Alabama," Sparks explained.

He made it clear Telemedicine is not designed to put any local doctors out of business. Instead, Sparks sees it as a better way to serve people who live in rural Alabama, where those in country communities worry about basic health care.

"It’s had a snowball effect, moving faster today than we ever thought it would be in such a short period of time," Sparks recalled. "It’s not intended to hurt any medical professionals, either."

Telemedicine provides physicians with another tool in their tool box because it can be done from rural locations to big city clinics through the use of technology.

In the years since Sparks and Bentley formed their unusual partnership, they’ve continued to work together on issues directly involving rural regions.

"(Bentley) knows he’s the governor and I know I’m not," said Sparks, stating the obvious. "I’m not a member of his cabinet but he does ask me for reports from time to time, and he knows I’m not going to do anything that might waste his time."

The two friends occasionally reminisce about those hectic days of scouring Alabama for votes during the 2010 campaign. They also are aware that they’re in positions to do much to help the people they serve.

When Bentley picked Sparks to lead the rural development agency and they discussed their concerns about the need for improved rural health programs, he knew he had the right man for the job.

"This is an example of how we can put politics aside and work together for the common good of all Alabamians," Bentley said when he made his decision to establish the rural program. "I also appreciated his willingness to serve."

Sparks feels the same way and one of his first moves after he was appointed was to help improve the quality of life in some of our state’s poorest regions.

The uniqueness of their relationship today hasn’t faded since they first met on the campaign trail but Sparks still must pinch himself about a political development that’s one for the books.

"I don’t know of anything quite like this happening before," he said. "The winner usually hires somebody from his own party."

That’s been the case for decades in Alabama and many other states, but Sparks and Bentley have identical visions about how to go about improving health care in rural regions.

"Many times we’d be standing behind a stage waiting our turn to speak at campaign appearances and we’d say something that became almost a routine thing for us," Sparks said.

What they did was wish each other good luck.

Alvin Benn is a freelance writer from Selma.

Get Some Rest: Not As Easy As It Sounds

by Glenn Crumpler

Everyone who has ever owned and operated their own farm, especially when livestock or poultry are involved, knows that good rest is hard to come by! It does not matter what day it is, what time it is, what your plans are, what the weather is like or what everyone else is doing, there are some things that just have to be done and cannot be put off until another day or a better time. For our Cattle for Christ herds, this is especially true in the fall and winter months when the daylight hours are not only shorter but also when all of the livestock are totally dependent on us to meet their daily needs.

This is when our cows are calving and when we have to be there to handle the inevitable problems sure to take place – whether it be an improperly aligned calf (a leg stuck backward, a head turned sideways, breach presentations, etc.) or one that is just too large for the pelvic area. So far this year, we have had two breached calves (coming tail first that in itself is pretty rare), one set of twins (a tangled-up mess with the back leg of one calf and the front leg of another trying to pass through the birth canal at the same time) and three calves trying to come out with one front leg straight out like it was supposed to be but the other one looped over the top of its head making it too large to pass! Either we have to be there to intervene or will most likely lose the cow and the calf, which no good cattlemen or shepherd would let happen if they could prevent it. The prior year alone, we assisted deliveries at midnight, during a severe thunderstorm, during a birthday party, during a Saturday night dinner with friends and even on a Sunday when we had planned to be in church.

Wintertime is also when Jack has to hand-feed various groups of cattle on a daily basis. Mature cows can get by with just water, hay, mineral and a free-choice, liquid protein supplement. Younger mothers (2- and 3-year-olds) that are still growing themselves and nursing their calves need these same basics in addition to other protein and energy supplements such as cottonseed (because our winter grazing is so delayed due to the extended drought we went through from late summer until mid-December). The weaned heifers we are saving as replacements require a different ration to help them grow and be ready to breed in December and January. The bull calves we are saving need even more energy than the weaned heifers to grow and reach their potential so they can be put out with a few cows as yearlings. If you do it right, every group is given what they need for their age and their various nutritional requirements.

Jack and I were both once in the broiler house business back in the days when we had to fill water jugs and swinging feeders by hand twice a day. By the time you got finished with the third or fourth house, it was time to start over in the first house. And you know what? They all had to eat and drink seven days a week! Though technology has made the broiler industry much, much easier, it still cannot work without some qualified and dependable person being physically available at a moment’s notice.

Though neither of us have done it for a living, we both grew up around the dairy industry and it is not any different either! No matter what type of livestock is involved (especially in the numbers considered as a legitimate business), if you are a good shepherd, you have to be there to do whatever is needed to take care of them seven days a week to ensure they not only survive but they also reach their potential.

I have learned ministry is no different from running a cattle, poultry or dairy operation – except the task is more important and the consequences of not doing your job is much more costly and consequential! Instead of just your livelihood and a few animals being at stake, the health, lives and eternal destinies of human beings are at risk. If rest is hard to come by doing the day-to-day operations of a livestock operation, how much harder is it to rest when the needs of literally billions of men, women and children are lacking the physical and spiritual necessities to survive both now and in eternity?

I am comforted to find that Jesus and His disciples had the same dilemma. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke record the event when Jesus sent out the disciples two by two to minister to the needs of people. He gave them power to cast out evil spirits, heal the sick, raise the dead, call people to repentance and to preach the Gospel of Jesus the Messiah. Not only did He command them to go but He instructed them to leave everything behind when they went. He would work through others to meet their needs. Some would accept them and their message and would provide for their personal needs, but most would not. He had prepared them for this rejection and the persecution they would face by teaching them that even in His hometown, among His own friends and family, Jesus himself was received without honor and was rejected by those who should have known Him best and loved and believed in Him the most.

As He commanded them to go, they went. When they returned and told Jesus all they had experienced, He said to them, "Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while." (Mark 6:31 NKJV). There were so many people coming and going to be ministered to that His disciples had not even had time to eat. They climbed into a boat and headed for the quiet place where they would finally get some much-needed rest, but the multitudes saw Jesus departing with them and they came from all the surrounding cities and ran to where they were going to rest – arriving there before Jesus and his disciples reached shore. Verse 34 says, "And Jesus, when He came out, saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion for them, because they were like sheep not having a shepherd. So He began teaching them many things."

As the day went on, His weary disciples came to Jesus and suggested that, since it was late in the day and the people were hungry, He should send them away so they could go to the surrounding villages and get something to eat. Instead of the physical rest His disciples were needing, looking forward to and expecting, Jesus told them, "You give them something to eat." The disciples were already tired, as was Jesus. They too were hungry. They did not have any food for themselves, much less the money to buy enough food for the multitude of 5,000 men (not to include the women and children who were present); yet Jesus commanded them to do what they were not able to do and to give what they did not have to give.

They searched the crowd and found only five loaves of bread and two fish and brought them to Jesus. He took the loaves and the fish and looking up to Heaven, He blessed them and then divided the five loaves and two fish among the 12 and told them to feed the people. The disciples did what He said, not seeing any way possible to accomplish the task with only the few fragments in their baskets, yet when they were finished distributing and all the people had eaten, they gathered up 12 baskets of leftovers!

Jesus knew He and his disciples, who had been working so hard and faithfully, were physically and spiritually exhausted, but, like us, they too did not always find it easy to get away and get the rest they needed. The need is always overwhelming, heartbreaking and greater than we are capable of meeting on our own. Therefore, when we are facing seemingly impossible tasks and demands, we need to do all we can do and ask God to do the rest. He may just see fit to make the impossible happen. We may not always get the physical rest we need, but He will give us rest for our souls – the rest most needed and the rest He promised.

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

Give Your Kids a Healthy Start

High quality colostrum is essential in the hours after birth.

by Jackie Nix

Proper nutrition throughout pregnancy is critical for healthy kids. SWEETLIX Meat Maker supplements deliver essential nutrients needed by doe and kids.

This kidding season, the best start you can give your newborn kids is to make sure they all get access to colostrum soon after birth. Colostrum is so vital because it provides passive immunity to kids for the first three to five weeks via antibodies produced by their mother. Because kids are born without a functioning immune system, they rely on those antibodies provided in colostrum for those critical first months until their own immune systems begin to fully function.

However, all colostrum is not the same. The quality of colostrum can vary greatly from goat to goat and pregnancy to pregnancy. Unvaccinated, undernourished does will not have an adequate immune response needed to manufacture the essential antibodies for high-quality colostrum. Additionally, older does exposed to more pathogens throughout their life will yield better-quality colostrum than first-freshening doelings. Management during pregnancy is key in the production of high-quality colostrum. Here are some management tips:

1. High-quality mineral/vitamin supplementation. Proper mineral and vitamin nutrition is vital in antibody production. Minerals such as selenium, copper and zinc are key. Newborns are very dependent on copper acquired during the prenatal period because copper levels in milk are poor. Therefore, proper copper nutrition in gestating does is critical to body stores in newborns. Maternal copper deficiency has been scientifically linked to increased mortality and morbidity in lambs and calves. The same can be assumed of kids. Because mineral nutrition is so vital to the success of your future kid crop, providing a complete mineral/vitamin supplement designed for goats is good insurance. The SWEETLIX Meat Maker line of goat supplement products provides 100 percent of the daily-recommended levels of essential trace minerals and vitamins needed for proper immune function.

2. Allow does to acclimate. Does must be kept in the location they are due to kid for at least 14 days before kidding. This enables them time to manufacture the correct antibodies for their specific kidding environment to pass on to their kids. It is generally recommended that does be vaccinated against clostridium perfringens types C & D and tetanus toxoid. However, consult your local veterinarian for vaccination recommendations specific to your geographic area.

3. Get colostrum into kids within 12 hours of birth. The antibodies found in colostrum are absorbed whole through the lining of the stomach. However, the window in which this can occur is quite short. The efficiency with which a kid can absorb antibodies declines after just one hour of birth. This ability to absorb antibodies drastically decreases after 12 hours and is essentially gone by 24 hours of age. Therefore, if a kid doesn’t get colostrum within the first 24 hours of birth, its chances of survival are very slim.

4. Be prepared to bottle feed colostrum if necessary. The single most important component to successful transfer of antibodies from doe to kid is the consumption of sufficient amounts of colostrum. Kids must consume enough colostrum to provide the antibodies needed for passive immunity. This is normally not a problem as long as does accept their kids and have enough milk and teats to feed the litter. However, occasionally you will run into the problem of a doe rejecting her kid(s) or producing a larger litter than she is capable of nursing effectively. In these cases, you will be forced to bottle feed colostrum or risk losing the kid(s).

In order to be prepared for such a calamity, it is a good idea to have frozen colostrum on hand BEFORE kidding. In an ideal situation, freeze extra colostrum from several healthy older does. It is important to thaw only the amount of colostrum needed (once thawed you cannot refreeze). Thus it is best to freeze colostrum in small quantities. I would suggest ice cube trays (place the cubes into zip lock freezer bags after frozen) or pint zip lock freezer bags (frozen flat). These can be thawed quickly due to high surface area and allow you to use only the amount you need.

What is the best way to thaw colostrum? The main concern is not degrading the protective antibody proteins. This is best done by placing colostrum in warm (not hot) water (< 120 degrees) and allowing it to thaw. Alternately, colostrum can be thawed in a microwave with little damage to antibodies if it is heated for short periods on low power. Periodically pour off the thawed liquid to minimize excessive heating. It is also important to avoid hot spots inside frozen colostrum. The use of a turntable in the microwave can help to minimize this kind of damage. How much do you need to thaw? A good rule of thumb would be 8-10 percent of the kid’s body weight; however, it is best to feed according to appetite. For example, if the kid’s birthweight is 5 pounds, you need roughly half a pound of colostrum (5 pounds X 10 percent). This translates into about half a pint (1 pint roughly equals 1 pound).

In summary, antibodies found in high-quality colostrum protect kids for the first few months of their lives. Therefore, it is vitally important that kids receive adequate amounts of colostrum as soon after birth as possible to ensure survival. The quality of the colostrum will be dependent on how the doe is managed during pregnancy, especially during the last few weeks. The SWEETLIX Meat Maker line of goat supplement products provides the daily-recommended levels of essential minerals and vitamins needed by gestating does to produce high-quality colostrum at kidding. Contact your local Quality Co-op or visit to learn more about the selection of SWEETLIX supplement products for goats and how they can improve your herd performance.

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

Goat Production and Management in Haiti

Training for a Focus on Individual Animal Quality

by Robert Spencer

I have been volunteering in Haiti for 10 years. My previous work involved meat rabbit production and evolved into food security and meat-quality assurance. As a volunteer for Partners Farmer-to-Farmer Program (, Nov. 6-19, 2016, was my first assignment specific to meat goat production and management. This assignment was anticipated to help producers to evaluate/assess their current system of goat production management, including feeding, reproduction and overall maintenance (shade, ventilation, aeration, heat, etc.); and identify and reinforce best practices to improve the quality of their product.

Excessive rains and flooding were a serious constraint; we received over 36 inches of rain during our two-week stay. For the first five days, we had limited access to areas beyond the hotel, and our in-country colleagues were unable to access us. Myriam Pasternak, a volunteer from California, and I took advantage of this time to develop relevant training documents and a detailed presentation to be utilized for the final Friday of Week #1 and four days of the following week.

The first training group was Makouti Agro Enterprises technicians.

Utilizing alternating days of trainings with lecture one day and hands-on practicums the next day allowed us to optimize training for each group of farmers, technicians and students in the various villages. This strategy allowed us to better serve more groups with the same information. I provided trainings for three groups: Makouti Agro Enterprises field technicians at Hotel Christophe in Cap Haitien, farmers and students in Ferrier, and technicians and farmers in Robillard. Pasternak held a set of training sessions for farmers and technicians in Dilaire.

Both the lecture and hands-on training covered detailed information on nutrition (including continuous access to water), selection, production, management, reproduction, parasitism, FAMACHA, health, disease, shelter, confirmation, kidding, body-condition scoring, estimating body weight using a measuring tape, hoof trimming, castration, injection sites, ear tag application and deworming.

Left to right, trainees were taught how to estimate body weight using a tape measure. A technician looking into a microscope to assess fecal-egg count.

More recently, there has been a significant increase in veterinary medicines becoming more readily available in Haiti (from the Dominican Republic) and individuals can travel to the DR to pick them up and bring them back to use on their farms. Now there is the need for education on usage, dosage, disposal and withdrawal for meat and milk, although drinking goat milk is not that common.

The meat goat industry in Haiti has experienced significant advancement. Farmers and hosts have easier access to supplies (fencing wire, veterinary medicines and supplies, feeds, etc.) and the number of goat farmers and goat inventories have increased. What seems to be most needed is a strong interest in improving quality of individual animals and herds, providing adequate nutrition, including water, and quality of animal husbandry. While many of these farmers sincerely enjoy raising goats, they fail to take the initiative for improving various aspects of production quality. I have observed this for years with all types of livestock production in Haiti, and it is a common problem in the United States with novice livestock producers.

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

How's Your Garden?

Big and showy, forsythia is a spectacular, easy-care shrub.

by Lois Trigg Chaplin

Big, Easy Yellow for Spring

It’s hard to beat forsythia for ushering spring in the landscape. Every year this shrub blooms dependably, even surviving freezes that zap early flowers. Forsythia offers an inexpensive, drought-tolerant solution for landscaping an expansive area with a swath of color as the larger varieties will grow 8 feet tall and 10 feet wide. Give it space to spread and avoid planting where it would need pruning to control the size. Pruning ruins its natural fountain-like form. Smaller varieties exist for areas under windows or for narrow beds.

Get Ahead of Summer Weeds

Gardeners can control summer weed seedlings by sprinkling a pre-emergent herbicide before the weather warms. Trifluralin (Preen, Treflan) will keep many troublesome weeds from sprouting and save you a lot of work later. Apply cautiously according to label directions only in areas where the granules will stay put so they will eventually be broken down by soil microbes. Avoid any place where particles can wash into nearby streams or ponds as it is toxic to fish and other aquatics.

Factory Vegetables

Christy Wilhelmi of calls greens such as mustard, collards, leaf lettuce and kale "factory vegetables." This is because of their nature of continuing to produce if you harvest only the outer leaves, letting the center ones remain so they grow more. The more you harvest the more they produce. Plant lettuce and leafy greens now for a few quick harvests before the weather gets too warm. Bonnie Plants will give you a big head start with transplants already several weeks old.

Clean up Liriope and Mondo

Trim mondo grass and monkey grass plantings so they will be green and fresh this summer.

Liriope and mondo grass always need a mowing early this month to remove the old foliage before the new growth appears. Because of the drought, plants may look especially tattered this year. You may need to replant in places where plants died by either dividing healthy clumps or buying new starts. Set plants about 6 inches apart for liriope and 3 inches apart for mondo so they will fill out quickly. Fine pine bark makes good mulch for weed control on flat ground because it is easy to spread between the plants, but it will wash away on slopes.

Caution About Shipping Pallets

Shipping pallets are used by gardeners for all sorts of projects, but beware; they are often treated to prevent invasive pests such as emerald ash borer from hitching a ride in the wood. This means that some pallets really shouldn’t be used in the garden or home, or burned. Treated pallets are marked with the International Plant Protection Convention logo and letters indicating what type of treatment was used. Avoid pallets with MB in the logo; they have been fumigated with methyl bromide, a poisonous gas that has been phased out for most agricultural uses. Those with the letters HT were heat-treated or kiln dried, but, even so, you will need to use caution because wood is porous and may have been exposed to chemicals, bacteria or unsanitary conditions during shipment. For home and garden use, look for pallets that have not been used to ship toxic products or food.

Spring Garden Seeds and Supplies

Black Spanish, Watermelon and Green radishes will expand the idea of what a radish can look like.

What worked from last year’s garden? What seeds do you have leftover from last year? Are they still viable? Do you have enough seed starting trays? Do you need a new trowel? Seed starting mix? A mister nozzle? New gloves? Make your list of what you need now to get everything at one time. List making is the only way I can keep from frustrating myself with a forgotten item.

Radishes Are Worth Growing at Home

A sliced radish is like a cracker; it’s ready to hold dip, a slice of cheese or a favorite spread, but healthier than flour. Thank goodness, we still have a few in the garden. At the price of $4 for a package of fancy-variety seed, I can grow hundreds of radishes for about the same price of two small bags or bunches at the store. Radishes are so easy to grow; they sprout reliably and are usually ready to eat in a month. Even if the sow bugs, or roly-polies, nibble at their skins, you can just cut away the scarred part. Now is a good time to start sowing seeds. If you plant a few each week, they will mature in sequence until the weather gets hot and the plants bolt.

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

It’s Not Over Until It’s Over

by Stephen Donaldson

As we closed 2016, we can now reflect on several challenges we faced throughout the year. A terrible drought along with falling cattle prices made managing cattle operations especially difficult. These problems along with the normal hurdles can nearly push someone over the edge.

I have discussed strategies for the drought several times in this column and here we go again. This drought seems to never quit throwing us curves. It took on more regional characteristics as fall progressed and winter set in. Hay supplies are terribly low across the Southeast. Supplemental hay is hard to find and, if you find it, it is expensive.

By now, most of the available hay can only be found in the states north and west of us. Much of this hay is low to average in quality. Supplementing it with feed to provide adequate nutrition for your cow herd will be required. Many producers are beginning to calve, meaning the cow herd will require more nutrients than when gestating.

The most important consideration at this point is to not think that spring is only weeks away to provide abundant forage. Winter preceded by a drought has only added more than normal stress to your herd. This tends to be the time when feed and mineral supplementation is most important. This is the time to push that little extra bit.

As I have stated in the past, try to cull or sell all of the unproductive animals in your herd. Poor-performing stockers that will get culled by a buyer should be sold in order to maximize your current resources. The savings from not feeding and the revenue from selling these animals could be just enough to help get your productive animals through this tough season.

After you have sold the unproductive animals, consider grouping the rest of your herd into similar production groups. For example, group cows that have just calved in one group and cows with older calves in another. By doing this, you can creep feed the older calves and take some pressure off those cows and get more out of the supplementation given to them.

In stocker operations, consider grouping heavier cattle and lighter cattle together. This will give you an opportunity to catch the lighter cattle up and prevent the heavier ones from becoming too fleshy and unappealing to buyers.

If you are calving this time of year, try to stay ahead of the cow’s nutritional demands. Rebreeding will be more successful if you are able to maintain the cow’s body condition. Make sure your mineral supplementation is up to par because this will help the animal’s biological processes to function more efficiently.

Consider how much forage you have available and if you don’t have adequate supplies, by all means, try to locate additional forage. If supplies are hard to find, get creative. Fiber sources such as gin trash, wheat straw, corn stubble and bean stubble can all be incorporated into the cattle’s diets. Poultry litter, if fed properly, can help stretch hay stores to help survive the winter season.

There are many acceptable supplements available, but, as the season has progressed and feed supplies tightened, prices for commodities have increased. This is a good time to compare the costs of commodities with complete feeds. Many times, if the price is relatively close, you get more bang for your buck by feeding complete feeds. Complete feeds are formulated to provide complete nutrition to the animal. When these feeds are formulated, careful consideration is given to providing proper protein, energy, fat, fiber and mineral concentrations to maintain efficient production.

The end of the season is the most important time to pay attention. This is a time when you can squander all of the hard work of the past summer and fall. Pay attention to the animals and provide them the proper nutrition to help them perform and reproduce. The decisions you make today can affect the performance of your cow herd for the next several years. Make decisions that not only help you be profitable but also provide the best for your animals.

Keep pushing until it’s over. If we can help or just answer some questions, come by or call your local Quality Co-op store.

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

Opening Gates

by John Howle

“I am afraid that the schools will prove the very gates of hell, unless they diligently labor in explaining
the Holy Scriptures and engraving them in the heart of the youth.” ~ Martin Luther

Martin Luther was a powerful and controversial figure in the 16th century. His disagreements with the Catholic Church resulted in the Protestant Reformation. He felt strongly that the gospel should be made available to all people and not just select church authorities. His beliefs caused him to translate the Bible from Hebrew and ancient Greek into his native German to make the text more accessible to the common man.

Ironically, today we have a tremendous amount of translations of the Bible in every language and in various English forms; it’s even available on apps and in every media form. However, the information contained therein is rarely shared in classrooms across the nation at a time when young people need it most. If you have young adults in your life or in your sphere of influence, a great prescription for direction in life can be found in the book of Proverbs. The book of Proverbs is the best way to open the gates of wisdom not only for young people but any person.

Measure diagonals on both sides and adjust the gate until you get the same measurements.

Home-Style Gate Can be Strong and Save Money

Sometimes, you have an opening that needs a gate, and there isn’t a factory-made gate in the size you need. If that’s the case, you might find that a homemade gate works just as well and might even be stronger. If you have some saw-milled, white oak lumber, the gate can be made strong and will last for years.


1) 1 x 6 white oak lumber for all wooden parts of the gate including the bracing

2) Drill and 1/8-inch bit for drilling pilot holes into the planks for driving nails (white oak is hard and will bend nails if the wood is cured)

3) Three strap hinges, gate bolts and hardware for attaching strap hinges to gate planks and plenty of 16d nails

We had a cow go nuts inside our catch pen that joins a small log barn my great-grandfather built. During her rampage, she jumped onto the old gate and squashed the tubular steel making the old gate useless. This new gate had to cover a width of 86 inches to go from post to post at the entrance of the barn.

Bend the protruding nails over across the grain for extra strength.

Start the Construction

If you have a flat area such as a shop floor, layout of the gate planks is easier. First, lay out the two vertical side planks of the gate. We cut them to a length of 70 inches because we wanted the gate to be tall enough to discourage any cow from jumping it.

Next, space the cross planks of the gate evenly down the side braces to determine just how many cross planks you will need. Once you have laid out the cross planks across the end planks, attach each of the four corners with a 16d nail once you have the frame of the gate roughly in place.

At this point, determine if the gate is square. Take diagonal measurements on each side and adjust the frame until both diagonal measurements are the same. This will ensure the frame of the gate is square. Once the cross planks are evenly spaced apart and the frame is squared in, begin to drill pilot holes into the ends of each of the vertical side planks. Nail the 16d nails through the cross planks into the side vertical planks. We put five 16d nails into each end plank section. Once all the planks are attached, flip the gate over and bend the nails over across the grain of the wood.

Build the Bracing

One of the most important steps in building a gate is the bracing, which prevents the gate from sagging over time. When you see that X-shaped wood on the outside of a gate, it’s not just for looks. The full-length plank running from the upper section on the hinge side of the gate to the lower gate section is attached to each plank it contacts with 16d nails. This downward, diagonal plank supports the entire gate and keeps the gate from sagging on the end opposite to the hinges.

The completed gate turning on its hinges.

The second diagonal plank will be in two pieces. One piece goes above the first diagonal brace and the second piece goes below the diagonal brace making an X brace. Drill pilot holes and drive 16d nails through the X braces. Flip the gate to bend the nails over.

Attaching the Gate

Once the construction of the gate is complete, attach the three strap hinges to three side planks with bolts, washers and nuts. Set the gate on blocks or rocks and mark the three spots where the hinge bolts will be attached to the gate post. The top and bottom hinge bolts should have the shanks facing up. The middle hinge bolt should be facing down so an animal can’t lift the gate off the hinge bolts.

For the final touches, you will need a length of chain to allow you to open and close the gate quickly and effortlessly. The white oak lumber is strong and will last for years. If you want to add a layer of protection to the wood, red or black paint can add a nice touch – especially if the gate will be out in the weather.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.

PALS: A Cleaner, More Beautiful Cullman County

Holly Pond Middle School joins the Clean Campus Team.

by Jamie Mitchell

We would like to welcome Holly Pond Middle School to the Clean Campus Program! Located in Cullman County, Holly Pond is a quaint community less than 20 minutes from the city of Cullman. The school has decided to become leaders in their area for a cleaner and more beautiful community.

I went to visit the school recently and found a very enthusiastic group of sixth to eighth graders who are interested in keeping their school and community clean. We went through my 30-minute presentation on thinking beyond the trashcan, and I challenged the students to consider finding ways to recycle and reduce their waste. We also talked about very simple changes they can use to make a lasting difference. For example, switch to a reusable container instead of bringing a plastic water bottle to school every day. Just that act alone would save thousands of plastic bottles from going into their local landfill every year.

I also encouraged the students to consider organizing cleanup days outside of school with groups such as sports teams, church groups and school clubs. We talked about how they may even want to Adopt-An-Area in town to regularly keep clean!

We are so excited that Holly Pond Middle School has taken the first step to becoming an official Clean Campus school!

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

Jamie Mitchell is the PALS State Clean Campus Coordinator.

Pruning Trees for Safety

A tree that has just been topped.

by Tony Glover

Homeowners often start to worry about large trees near their home during the spring tornado season. In some cases, the fear is warranted, but the solution I often see employed is harmful to trees and may actually make the tree more dangerous in the long run. I am talking about tree topping, a ubiquitous practice across all Alabama. Tree topping is the practice of cutting large limbs back to stubs. Often a topped tree will have the majority of its canopy removed at one pruning event that can lead to several problems for the tree.

The ends of these stubs will do two undesirable things. First, they will develop numerous aggressive sprouts that may grow several feet in one season. These new water sprouts are poorly attached and very top heavy. They can get quite large in only two or three years. Second, the large stubbed limb will often start to decay because the wound is unable to seal up. When these two problems are combined it is a recipe for disaster after a few years of regrowth and rotting. These weakly attached, top-heavy limbs can easily break off and the rotting major limb exacerbates the problem. In addition, the excessive pruning from topping weakens trees by removing stored food reserves and reducing the trees’ abilities to make new food reserves. Once trees are severely weakened, they are subject to greater attack by both insects and disease.

You are likely wondering by now if there is a safe way to reduce the risk of a tree falling on your home? The answer is yes and no. I know this sounds like an answer from Hank Kimball, the county agent on the "Green Acres" sitcom (check him out for a laugh at

The way I like to explain how to make a large tree safer is to think of the canopy as a gigantic wind sail on a large boat. If you are out on the water and a storm is approaching, you may completely lower the sails to eliminate the chance of capsizing the boat. Removing all the foliage (such as is done in topping), however, is not practical or a good practice. Another option on a sail boat is reefing the sail. This practice reduces the area of a sail so wind resistance is lessened. In pruning, we can accomplish this by thinning the tree canopy with many small cuts, mostly on the outer edges of the canopy where the leverage is greatest for toppling a tree. We can also open up the canopy to allow wind to move through the tree rather than being trapped.

Previously topped pecan trees with large water-sprout growth after one year.

A trained arborist will know how to implement this practice to make your tree safer if it is possible to do so. If it is not practical or possible to make the tree safer, a qualified arborist may recommend tree removal, which is much preferred to topping. Because trees are long lived and require a significant amount of time to grow and become mature enough to provide benefits of shade, wind resistance, sound reduction and beauty, it is important to hire only well-informed professionals to work on them. For a tree, once damaged is always damaged. Unskilled work often results in damage or structural weakness the tree will keep throughout its existence. The skill level of the person hired will dictate the safety and longevity of your tree.

If at all possible, try to hire an International Society of Arboriculture Certified Arborist. This is more than just a credential. Obtaining a Certified Arborists’ license requires the applicant to pass an extensive examination about trees and tree care. Someone with this certification is more likely to be knowledgeable about tree biology, tree care and the best pruning methods to use. You can find a local certified arborist at

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

Remembering Two of Our Own

Ted Tindal, former AFC Board Director

Ted Tindal, 71, a resident of Greenville, died Monday, Dec. 12, 2016. Tindal was a board director for Alabama Farmers Cooperative for 23 years.

Tindal was born and reared in Greenville, and graduated from Greenville High School in 1963. He attended Auburn University where he was a member of Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity and graduated with a bachelor of science in Animal Science in 1967.

Tindal had a 50-year career in agriculture and real estate, the majority of which was in Butler County. Active in the local community, he was a member of Midway Baptist Church, Kiwanis, Rotary and the Midway Volunteer Fire Department.

He enjoyed fishing, hunting, spending time with family and friends, and sneaking off to the Alabama River when no one was looking.

He will be greatly missed.

He is preceded in death by his father, Cecil Tindal. He is survived by his wife, Judy Tindal; sons, Troy Tindal (Elizabeth) of Houston, Texas, Clay Tindal (Amy) of Tuscaloosa, Jarrod Tindal of Destin, Florida; grandchildren, Mason, Taylor, Bridget and Rachel Tindal all of Houston, Grant, Brett and Bryce Tindal all of Tuscaloosa; mother, Laura Tindal of Greenville; and sister, Mary Lee Hillelson (Howard) of Roswell, Georgia.

The family asks that donations be made to the National Kidney Foundation or the Lymphoma Research Foundation.

Joe Lovvorn, former AFC CFO

Joseph ‘Joe’ Louis Lovvorn Jr., 76, of Florence passed away Saturday, Dec. 24, 2016. Lovvorn retired from Alabama Farmers Cooperative in 2000 as the chief financial officer after 30-plus years of service.

The family asked for donations to be made to the Disabled American Veteran Society, 3313 Memorial Pkwy SW #104, Huntsville, AL 35801.

Responsible Ag

Congratulations are in order for five more Co-op stores!

by Sharon Cunningham

Calhoun Farmers Co-op, Piedmont: (from left) Zack Porter, Dakota Tidwell, Nan Thacher, Danny Hairrell, Andrew Maddox, Kevin Babbitt, Brady Hardin and (not pictured) Dalton Barber.

The group at Calhoun Farmers Co-op in Jacksonville had to almost be tied down for a photo, but I think it was worth it. Manager Tommy Thomas went above and beyond to complete the task for his Responsible Ag audit. Being located in an old military and college town, I know he gets some wild requests. It is with the same dedication to customer service that he meets all his goals.

Andrew Maddox, manager of Calhoun Farmers Co-op in Piedmont, had a busy year in 2016 – graduating, getting married and completing his Responsible Ag certification. He may be young, but he tackled this program with lots of experience and determination. Located out near Chief Ladiga Trail, it is the perfect place to plan a stop if hiking or rafting and just need to take a break.

He may joke around with Mr. West, a founder of the Responsible Ag program, but Chris Casey, manager of Jay Peanut Farmers Co-op, is serious about safety and compliance. Recently named Manager of the Year, he has taken those qualities and applied them to the RA program.

Ricky Aldridge, manager of Walker Farmers Co-op, and Cody King may look cold in Jasper, but they blazed a trail through the items from the RA program. King is working at the Co-op in the manager trainee program. If you are in the area, stop by and try to give him a question that might just stump him and Ricky. Just beware of the guard chicken that may be patrolling the yard!

Steve Lann, general manager, and company at Marion County Co-op may be almost in Mississippi, but, with everything available there, it is a must to stop by and see them if you are going anywhere near Hamilton. Located in town, they can handle anything from a flat or new tire to plants and shovels for planting season.

From top left, Walker Farmers Co-op: Ricky Aldridge, left, and Cody King; Calhoun Farmers Co-op, Jacksonville: (from left) J. Coheley, C. Galloway, K. Veal, T. Thomas, C. Key, A. Batey, (not pictured) Johnny Sams, Jace Panleey, Phil Walker, James Eillett, Allen Evans and Todd Drummond; Jay Peanut Farmers Co-op: Ronnie Moore, Eugene Harrison, Justin Godwin, Derrick Enfinger, Lisa Lane, Brent Wolfe, Mike Martin, Bae LaMastus and (not pictured) Chris Casey; Marion County Co-op: Richard Lucas, Steve Lann, Patricia Bickery and Johnny Shotts.

Sharon Cunningham is EH&S Coordinator for AFC and Agri-AFC. If you have any questions about the Responsible AG program or the audit portion, contact her at 256-303-4071 or If you are a manger who has received certification and has not had your picture in our magazine, please let Sharon know. Everyone is working hard, let us share your success.

Roland Roberts, former associate editor of AFC Cooperative Farming News, passes at 82.

by Jim Allen

In 1971, Roland Roberts was recognized as the associate editor and a writer for the first issue of the AFC Cooperative Farming News. He wrote for the publication for over 30 years.

I wanted to call Roland around Christmas to check on him, but I’d misplaced his phone number. When I went online to get information, I found he’d passed away back in September.

Roberts was born Jan. 5, 1934, in Taft, Texas. He was a 1955 graduate of David Lipscomb College where he met his wife of 39 years, Edith "Honey." He received his master’s degree in Biblical Studies from Harding University. He and his family made New Hope their home in 1963 where lifelong friendships were made and treasured.

Roberts taught school at Madison Academy and Owens Cross Roads Jr. High. He was also a gospel preacher and wrote a short history of the Church of Christ in central Tennessee and north Alabama.

He was a good guy and we will all miss him.

This is the first article Roberts had published in the AFC Cooperative Farming News.

Cooperative Efforts Great and Small Pulling Together for the Good of All

As a boy, I remember my father telling of harvest time on the farm where he was raised before the turn of the century. He would describe how the neighbors would come from miles around to gather the crops. It was a festive occasion with large tables of food spread at mealtime under the oaks in the yard. In the evening, the young people would sing while the older folk would sit about and reminisce of bygone days. Yet there was hard work to be done and it was done, although it seemed to me like Sunday dinner on the ground, the Fourth of July and Christmas all rolled up into one. When the work was completed on the Roberts’ farm, all would go to a neighboring farm and so on until all the crops were gathered.

With the coming of mechanization and the mobility of the migrant worker, the advantage of such communitywide cooperative efforts in the harvesting of the crop gradually vanished.

However, the advantages to be gained from cooperative efforts among the farmers of this nation did not cease but increased with more sophisticated means of farming. Many new advantages have been found.

When asked today what the biggest advantage to buying farm supplies through a cooperative, the first reaction of most farmers would be to say price. Could an advantage bigger than price be found?

It cannot be denied that price is important, but it is, by far, not the biggest advantage of buying farm supplies cooperatively. Of greater importance than price is the quality of the supplies and service a cooperative offers its patrons.

The need for a dependable source of consistently high-quality farm supplies is the reason for the establishment of most farm supply cooperatives.

John Ruskin, the noted British writer, once said, "There is hardly anything in the world that some man cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper, and the people who consider price only are this man’s lawful prey."

Farmers have been in the past, as no other group of people in this nation, the lawful prey of those who manufacture poor-quality merchandise.

There are perhaps several reasons for this. One reason is that no one can tell whether fertilizer is of high quality or woefully, inferior quality by looking at the outside of the bag or sifting its contents through one’s fingers. The farmers’ habit of trying to meet the cost-price squeeze by considering only price when they purchase their farm supplies has been costly.

The raising of the quality standards of farm supplies has been pioneered by farm cooperatives. The farmer can confidently buy co-op feed and fertilizer and know that he is getting the best quality obtainable, even though he cannot tell by sight, smell or feel whether it is of low or high quality.

The quality of farm supplies used by the farmer can often determine the difference between a profitable and an unprofitable year. The extra crops produced by top-quality fertilizers much more than make up for the marginal difference in the original cost. The cost for top-quality feeds is more than offset by the extra inch or two of milk in the pail or those extra eggs produced as a result of using co-op feeds.

The fact that top quality does not always come at a premium price is an added advantage of purchasing farm supplies cooperatively. It is true that top-quality, co-op farm supplies cost more than low-quality brands. The top-quality co-op products are usually found to be lower in price when compared with other quality brands.

Most farm cooperatives had as their original purpose the making available to their patrons a line of supplies that would ensure more profitable farming. Because the farmers own and control these cooperatives, they are never tempted to cut the quality in order to reduce the prices of their supplies.

In times past, it was a real problem for a farmer to find high-quality feeds, seeds, fertilizers and other farm supplies. Co-ops, with uncompromising standards of quality, have brought about a solution to that problem and have made their greatest contribution to a more profitable agriculture by solving that problem.

Southern Translation

SENTENCE USAGE: "What a mess them boys made in the house while we wuz gone. That really takes the cake!

What does cake have to do with an untidy house?

Take the cake is used to express incredulity or to be the most outrageous or disappointing.

It is widely supposed that this phrase originated with cakewalk-strutting competitions that were commonplace in the black community of the southern United States in the 19th and early 20th centuries. In those, couples would be judged on their style in the cakewalk. The winners were said to have "taken the cake," which was often the prize. This is recorded in U.S. newspapers from around 1870 onward; for example, The Indiana Progress, January 1874, has:

"The cakewalk, in which ten couples participated, came off on Friday night, and the judges awarded the cake, which was a very beautiful and costly one, to Mrs. Sarah and John Jackson."

The phrase is much earlier than that, though. As early as 5th century BC, the Greeks used take the cake as symbolic of a prize for a victory. In 420 BC the Greek Aristophanes wrote "The Knights" that was a criticism of the powerful Athenian politician Cleon:

"If you surpass him in impudence, the cake is ours."

Clearly, that phrase would have entered into English in translation. Although it may have been long used in Greece, there’s no evidence of any take up of it in English prior to the 19th century U.S. usage.

In the United States, the phrase is sometimes given as "take the cakes," although the singular is used elsewhere in the English-speaking world. That version is the earliest citation in print in English. William Trotter Porter’s 1847 work, "A Quarter Race in Kentucky," has:

"They got up a horse and fifty dollars in money a side, ... each one to start and ride his own horse, ... the winning horse take the cakes."

Thanks for Your Service

At the 2017 AFC company Christmas party service awards were presented by CEO Rivers Myres. From top to bottom and left to right,

5 years

Receiving awards for 5 years of service were (from left) Valarie Britton, switchboard; Emily Moran, payroll; Terra Tomas, Accounting Services; Wayne Taylor, Accounting Services; and (not pictured) Charles Jones, Grain. For 10 years of service were Lisa Graves, Feed, Farm and Home; Terrie Adams, Feed; Pam Mathis, Feed, Farm and Home; Matt Alexander, Computer Services; Pam Linville, Grain; and (not pictured) Ronald Widstrup, Feed, Farm and Home. For 20 years of service was (not pictured) David McGraw, Grain. For 25 years of service was Lowell Thatch, Feed. For 30 years of service were Glenda Knighten and Glenda Thompson, both of Accounts Payable. For 40 years of service was Jane Harrison, Accounting Services.

10 years

25 years

30 years

40 years

The Co-op Pantry

February already! 2017 is off to a fast start so far. Foodwise, we have two things going on this month: Valentine’s Day, which just about everyone celebrates, and Mardi Gras.

No one is positive just how Valentine’s Day started. Common legend has it that a Roman physician or priest ran afoul of a pagan emperor, Claudius II, and was executed for performing Christian marriages. Another story involves Valentine healing a young lady of blindness and being told to renounce Christianity, and, when he would not, he was executed. Everyone does agree that he met an untimely end.

If you live in the southern United States, we are also in the midst of Mardi Gras. In fact, Mobile claims to have been the first U.S. city to celebrate it. New Orleans has been known to argue about this! Mardi Gras began on King’s Day or Epiphany, Jan. 6, 2017, and will end on Fat Tuesday, Feb. 28. Lots of eating and general over-indulgence before Lent begins! Once Lent begins, sacrifices are supposed to be made and lives lived piously.

You can join the fun by getting your colored beads out and/or going to lots of parades and eating traditional Mardi Gras foods.

In 1872, the colors purple, green and gold were designated the Festival’s official colors and the first daytime Mardi Gras parade took place. In 1875, the governor signed a law making Fat Tuesday a legal holiday in Louisiana, and it remains one today. While we are used to seeing the Bourbon Street version of Mardi Gras, much of it is very family-friendly and a lot of fun.

What foods do we associate with these events? Well, for Valentine’s Day, we tend to think of chocolate, wine, honey and strawberries. The heart-shaped chocolate boxes we are familiar with began to appear in Victorian England.

For Mardi Gras, some traditional foods are King Cake, gumbo and red beans and rice or, in our case, red beans, sausage and rice.

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


2 ounces cranberry juice cocktail
1½ ounces freshly squeezed orange juice
3 ounces Brut Champagne, chilled (or one of the nonalcoholic Champagnes)

In case you have never tried this, chill Champagne15 minutes in the freezer or 2 hours in the refrigerator. The other juices should be cold as well. Pour juices into a Champagne glass and then top with Champagne. Very easy and delicious.

Want to do something with the kids? What could be easier than tomato soup and heart-shaped grilled cheese sandwiches?


4 garlic cloves, finely dice
1 cup Vidalia onion, finely dice
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
2 (28-ounce) cans diced tomatoes
3 cups chicken stock (vegan version use no chicken broth)
½ teaspoon basil
2½ Tablespoons sugar
4 Tablespoons half & half
2 Tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated
Pepper and salt, to taste

In a pan over medium heat, sauté first four ingredients for approximately 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and heat over medium heat for 15-20 minutes. Pour into blender and blend to desired texture.

Note: If you have time to make homemade soup, I applaud you for doing so. If you are like most Moms, rushed off your feet, canned soup will work nicely.


Oatmeal bread slices
Mozzarella slices

Grab your heart-shaped cookie cutter (one that will cut inside the crusts) and cut a back and front for each sandwich. Butter bread slices on one side. In frying pan over medium heat, place one slice of bread (butter side down), set cheese slice on top and top with second slice of bread (butter side up). Flip sandwich once first side is lightly browned. Lightly brown second side.


1 pouch Betty Crocker Sugar Cookie Mix plus ingredients from pouch
1 pouch Betty Crocker White Cookie icing plus ingredients from pouch
1 bottle red and pink heart sprinkles
1 heart-shaped cookie cutter

Prepare sugar cookies as directed on pouch. Following directions on cookie pouch, cut dough with the heart-shaped cookie cutter and bake as directed.
In a bowl, empty cookie icing and prepare as directed on pouch.

Once cookies are cooled, dip half the heart into icing. While the icing is still wet, sprinkle with hearts. Continue until all cookies are decorated, allowing them to cool for at least 1 hour before serving.

Note: I love all things Betty Crocker. I actually learned to cook using my Mom’s 1950s Betty Crocker cookbook.


3 (14-ounce) cans refrigerated sweet roll dough
Small plastic baby
2 (12-fluid ounce) cans creamy vanilla ready-to-spread frosting, divided
¼ cup milk, divided
2 drops green food coloring
2 drops yellow food coloring
1 drop red food coloring
1 drop blue food coloring
½ cup multi-colored sprinkles
Beads, plastic babies, curly ribbon and desired festive trinket

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a baking sheet. Open 1 can of sweet roll dough and unroll into 3 strands. Working on a clean surface, place strands side by side and gather them together to make one large strand. Fold in half; roll slightly to make a fat log. Repeat steps with each can. Place each log onto the prepared baking sheet and shape to make a ring, overlapping the ends and pinching them together to make a complete circle. Pat the dough in shape as necessary to make the ring even in size all the way around. Cover loosely with foil.

Bake until firm to the touch and golden brown, 50-60 minutes. Check often for doneness so it doesn’t overbake. Place on a wire rack and cool completely. Place cake ring on a serving plate. Cut a slit along the inside of the ring and insert plastic baby, pushing it far enough into cake to be hidden from view.

Divide frosting evenly into 4 bowls. Stir 1 tablespoon of milk into each bowl to thin the frosting. Use the frosting in one bowl to drizzle over cooled cake. In frosting bowls, stir yellow food coloring into one and green into another. In third bowl, stir the red and blue food colorings together to make purple frosting. Drizzle cake with yellow, green and purple frostings in any desired pattern. Dust cake with multicolored sprinkles and decorate as desired.


Yield: 12 servings
1 cup Champagne or other sparkling wine
2 cups chocolate graham cracker crumbs (about 14 whole crackers)
2 cups sugar, divided
½ cup butter, melted
1 cup fresh strawberries, sliced
3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
½ cup sweetened condensed milk
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 large egg yolks
20 fresh strawberries, hulled
1/3 cup milk chocolate chips
1 teaspoon shortening, divided
1/3 cup white baking chips
1 cup heavy whipping cream
¼ cup confectioners’ sugar

In a small saucepan, place Champagne. Bring to a boil; cook until liquid is reduced to about ¼ cup, about 8 minutes. Set aside to completely cool.

In a small bowl, combine the cracker crumbs, ½ cup sugar and butter. In a greased 9-inch spring-form pan, press crumb mixture onto bottom and 1½ inches up sides. Arrange sliced strawberries over the bottom.
In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and remaining sugar until smooth. Beat in milk, cornstarch and reduced Champagne. Add eggs and egg yolks. In blender on low speed, beat just until combined.
Pour over strawberries. Place pan on a baking sheet. Bake at 325° for 55-60 minutes or until center is almost set. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Carefully run a knife around edge of pan to loosen; cool 1 hour longer. Refrigerate overnight.

Remove sides of pan. For topping, wash strawberries and gently pat with paper towels until completely dry. Slice and arrange over cheesecake. In a microwave, melt chocolate chips and ½ teaspoon shortening; stir until smooth. Drizzle over strawberries. Repeat melting and drizzling with white baking chips and remaining shortening. In a small bowl, beat cream until it begins to thicken. Add confectioners’ sugar. Beat until soft peaks form. Serve cheesecake with whipped cream.

Note: Boiling the Champagne will remove the alcohol if you or your guests don’t wish to consume alcohol.


Yield: 8 servings (2¾ quarts)
1 pound dried red beans
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 pound fully cooked andouille sausage links, cut into ¼-inch slices
1 large onion, chopped
1 medium green pepper, chopped
2 celery ribs, finely chopped
3 teaspoons garlic powder
3 teaspoons Creole seasoning
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1½ teaspoons pepper
6 cups chicken broth
Hot cooked rice

Rinse and sort beans; soak according to package directions.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat oil. Brown sausage. Remove with a slotted spoon. To skillet, add onion, green pepper and celery; cook and stir 5-6 minutes or until crisp-tender.
In a 5- or 6-quart slow cooker, combine beans, sausage, vegetables and seasonings. Stir in broth. Cook, covered, on low 8-10 hours or until beans are tender.

In a bowl, place 2 cups of bean mixture. Mash gently with a potato masher. Return to slow cooker and stir. Heat through. Serve with rice.

Note: If you don’t have Creole seasoning, you can make your own: ¾ teaspoon each salt, garlic powder and paprika; add 1/8 teaspoon each dried thyme, ground cumin and cayenne pepper.

Slow Cooker Red Beans & Sausage,
“Taste of Home,” April/May 2014


1 Tablespoon oil
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
½ pound smoked sausage, sliced ¼-inch thick
1 medium onion, chopped
1 Tablespoon McCormick Perfect Pinch Cajun Seasoning
2½ cups chicken broth
1 (14½-ounce) can stewed tomatoes
1 cup long grain rice

In large heavy skillet on medium-high, heat oil. Add chicken and sausage; cook and stir 5 minutes. Remove from skillet. In same skillet, stir onion; cook and stir 2 minutes or until onion is softened. Stir in seasoning. Add chicken and sausage. Stir in broth and tomatoes; bring to boil. Stir in rice. Reduce heat to low; cover and cook 20-25 minutes or until rice is tender, stirring occasionally.

I am looking for cooks of all ages, cooking traditions and skill levels to feature in this column. I want to hear from those in Alabama as well as our out-of-state readers. The simple requirements for being a featured cook are to love to cook (and eat) and to share your story with us. Get those recipes coming! Any featured cooks during 2017 will receive a free copy of our new cookbook. -- Mary

Toss or Save?

A Handy Guide for Cleaning out the Kitchen Cupboard

by Angela Treadaway

Have you looked – REALLY looked – at the foods in your kitchen cupboards lately? Is it time to bid some foods a fond farewell? Should others be moved to a better location and/or storage container? Can you revive some aging foods so they still can be used?

Read on for tips to help you decide whether to toss, move or try to save common kitchen cupboard foods.

Storing Kitchen Cupboard Foods

The following storage tips are based on food stored at a room temperature of about 70 degrees. The times are those generally cited for maintaining best food quality. READ LABELS CAREFULLY – they often contain important storage information and recommended "use by" dates.

BAKING POWDER – Twelve to 18 months or expiration date on container

Storage Tip: Store tightly covered in a dry place. Make sure measuring utensils are dry before dipping them into the container.

Testing for Freshness: Mix 1 teaspoon baking powder with 1/3 cup hot water. If it foams vigorously, it still has rising power.

BAKING SODA – Twelve to 18 months or expiration date on container

Storage Tip: Store tightly covered in a dry place. Make sure measuring utensils are dry before dipping them into the container.

Testing for Freshness: Place 1.5 teaspoons in a small bowl. Add 1 tablespoon vinegar. If it fizzes, then it will still help leaven food. If it doesn’t fizz, use it as an odor catcher in the refrigerator.

SHORTENING – Three to eight months opened; eight to 12 months unopened

Storage Tip #1: Store in a tightly closed container in a cool, dark place.

Storage Tip #2: Shortening stored too long will go rancid and develop an undesirable taste and odor. If you haven’t used a shortening for a while, smell it before using it in a recipe.

CANNED FOODS – One to two years

Storage Tip #1: The Canned Food Alliance,, recommends eating canned food within two years of PROCESSING for best quality. Many cans will include a "for best quality use by" date stamped somewhere on the can.

Storage Tip #2: Avoid refrigerating OPENED canned foods in their can. Once opened, food can develop an off-odor from the can. Transfer to another storage container.

SPICES AND HERBS – One year for herbs or ground spices, two years for whole spices

Storage Tip #1: Air, light, moisture and heat speed flavor and color loss. Store them in a tightly covered container in a dark place away from sunlight such as inside a cupboard or drawer. For open spice rack storage, choose a site away from light, heat and moisture. Keep moisture out of containers by:

  • Avoiding storage above or near the stove, dishwasher, microwave, refrigerator, sink or a heating vent.
  • Always using a dry spoon to remove spices or herbs.
  • Never sprinkle directly from the container into a steaming pot.

Storage Tip #2: Refrigerate paprika, chili powder and red pepper for best color retention, especially in summer or hotter climates. Be aware herbs and spices can get wet if condensation forms when a cold container from your refrigerator or freezer is left open in a humid kitchen.

Give Spices and Herbs the Sniff Test: Depending on storage and quality of the spice or herb, some may stay fresher longer than others.

As a check to see if a GROUND SPICE is potent, smell it. If its aroma is immediate, strong and spicy, it should still add flavor to your foods.

For a WHOLE spice such as a clove or cinnamon stick, break, crush or scrape the spice before you smell it. DO NOT smell PEPPER or CHILI POWDER as they can irritate your nose.

For HERBS, crush a small amount in your hand and smell it. If the aroma is still fresh and pleasant, it can still flavor foods. If there’s no smell or an off smell, toss it.

Get in the habit of smelling your spices and herbs periodically. You’ll learn what fresh smells like so you can begin to detect if they are getting old.

For more information on food safety, food preservation or food preparation, call Angela Treadaway, your Alabama Cooperative Extension System Regional Extension Agent in Food Safety/Preservation and Preparation, at 205-410-3696.

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

“You got WHAT?!?”

by Suzy Lowry Geno

It was our 21st Valentine’s Day back in 1999 and Roy bought me the best gift ever: a HUGE roll of chicken wire from Blount County Farmers Co-op!

No, I’ve never been the perfume and flowers kind of girl and that gift is a really special memory!

Roy, who grew up on a farm and never ever wanted to do farm work again AND couldn’t understand my back-to-the-land homesteading tendencies, knew how badly I was wanting chickens of my own. I was actually building my very first chicken coop by myself. So when he pulled up in his truck and unloaded that special gift, my heart went pitty-pat!

Did you know that Valentine’s Day is not a public holiday in ANY country – although it is celebrated around the world?

According to Wikipedia, Saint Valentine was believed to have been imprisoned and later killed for performing weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry and for helping Christians, who were being heavily persecuted under the Roman Empire.

Later in the 14th century, the day began to be associated with romantic love. In 18th-century England, it evolved into a day where flowers, candy and then greeting cards (for the first time known as valentines) were given.

Now, every February, millions are spent on roses, candy, diamonds and other goodies.

But for some reason, the Wikipedia information didn’t have any mention of chicken wire as a preferred gift!

So as I pondered some of the more unusual gifts I have been given, I wondered just how close other folks stay to that candy/diamond line of thinking, not only for Valentine’s but for other holidays where gift giving is expected as well.

One other unusual gift was one I received from Marjoe Sanders at my bridal shower in 1970. While others gave fancy dish towels, dishes, and pots and pans, Sanders had outfitted a large shoe box with a hammer, screwdriver, ruler, nails, screws and other tools! It wound up being the gift I used the most as I set up housekeeping!

Facebook friends from across the United States joined me by explaining some of the more unusual gifts they had received.

Stephanie Miller received all four of these chicken houses as her first anniversary gift from her husband!

Lance and Stephanie Miller have received all sorts of honors in the agricultural world as they’ve worked tirelessly to promote agriculture through ALFA Young Farmers and so many other state, regional and national groups. They farm near the Blount/Marshall County line with Lance’s uncle, growing peanuts, cotton, soybeans and more.

When Stephanie married into that farming family, she wanted to work on the farm so they began to explore all sorts of options.

"I got four chicken houses from Lance for our first anniversary!" Stephanie explained.

Because the four houses are ultramodern and each is 43 x 510 feet. That may be the biggest gift, and one of the most unusual, I heard about!

Blount County’s Ronnie Jenkins received a very special gift one year.

"When I was very small, I wanted a small kerosene lantern that was in Mr. Weems’ store at Friday’s Crossing. It cost $1.25 and I never got it. When I got married and told my wife about it, she didn’t show any emotion. But, come the next Christmas, there was a small lantern under the tree," he recalled.

Rick Trescott also has a memory.

"One year I was at a loss for an idea about what to get Pat," he said. "I heard on a radio commercial that women always love and appreciate getting precious stones. So I bought her a truckload of crushed limestone for the parking lot in front of her grooming parlor!"

Dave Waid, a retired fire and police dispatcher, remembered Christmas 1963.

"My mama, a single parent, made $39 a week," he explained. "When Christmas morning arrived, I had a $1 set of cars and a 25 cent toboggan cap. My brother received a $1 bag of plastic army men and a similar hat. We had food, shelter and clothing. But we had something more special – love. My mama had given all she had. A lot of Christmas mornings have come and gone, and I don’t remember what gifts I got. But I will always remember that one. The year Mama gave me love."

Terri Wilson, one of my off-grid internet buddies, explained, "I don’t know how unusual it is, but my co-workers were surprised by my first anniversary gift from my husband. He got me a Browning 20-gauge pump shotgun. We like to shoot clay pigeons and his gun was too big for me; so he bought me a youth model that fit me perfectly. I still love it and still use it – next year will be our 20th anniversary."

Another off-grid friend, Heather Staas, explained, "My little nephew was given money to buy holiday gifts for relatives at one of the dollar stores. He took a long time choosing my gift. When I opened the package, he was beaming. It was a box of Band-Aids! He said, ‘It was because Auntie Heather works on the farm and that is hard work and she probably gets hurt a lot and she could really use these ...’."

Heather said, "I still get teary-eyed thinking about how precious that box of Band-Aids was. It was the most thoughtful gift ever!"

Judy Watkins has many fond memories of her late husband.

"Johnny was always looking for out-of-the-ordinary gifts for me," she said. "So, on our 10th anniversary, he got me a trampoline! We jumped on it til we hurt. Loved it!"

Judith Ashelin told of a gift from her husband.

"A tool kit, in a pink, plastic locking box!" she said. "I have bad carpal tunnel problems and he gave me powered screwdrivers and ergonomic hammer handles. Best gift ever!"

Blount’s Nancy Robertson remembered.

"For my birthday many years ago, hubby got me tin to roof the barn he had built!" she recalled. "It was either an unfinished barn OR tin for my birthday. I still have it – 45 years later. I was thrilled to get that stack of tin!"

Monica Calvert Howell remembered.

"I was about 12 years old and I loved dill pickles," she said. "Every time my Mom would buy a jar of pickles, I would empty it before anyone else would get any. So for Christmas that year there was a gallon jar of pickles under the tree with my name on it!"

Teachers get really unusual gifts sometimes as well.

"I had a student who gifted me the dental floss he got at the dentist the day before," noted Charlotte Tinsley Rouse. "He was so proud! His eyes were shining with pleasure as he handed me his special gift. I received it in the spirit it was given. Precious!"

Teacher Cheryl Green Salamone said you can never tell what you might get from students!

"A student gave me some used make-up one year," she said. "Love motivates these young ones to want to give and they truly give from the heart!"

Donnie King Gaines said, "I love, love, love the clipboard my then-3-year-old grandson (now 17) got from the dollar store and gave me. He wrapped it himself. I still use it to work crosswords and to write on. Best, most useful gift I’ve ever received."

Sara Cox was tickled when her husband gave her a pair of rubber boots!

"We had a pig farm and it was raining – a lot!" she explained. "My husband knew I needed them; so that’s what he gave!"

From out-of-state, Deb Batten Bettis remembered a special Christmas Eve gift in 1996.

"God gave me my son, Alan Michael Bettis," she said. "The significance of this gift was great to me because my due date was later. When we were children, my Mother would allow us to open our gifts on December 24 because we would usually get up early on Christmas morning and go to our Grandparents’ house for dinner. By having our gifts the evening before, we had time to play with them before going to see our Granny and Grandpa. I truly believe God allowed me to carry on that Christmas Eve tradition even though my grandparents have already crossed the bar by the time my son was born."

Terry Wood Jackson doesn’t particularly care for flowers, etc.

"So on Valentine’s Day, my husband bought me a set of ceramic kitties: a momma and two kittens" she said. "They’ve been on display in our living room for the last 35 years. That’s much longer than a flower arrangement would have lasted!"

Mickey Wood Gillespie McAlpine said, "I gave my husband a red-headed baby girl on his combination birthday and Christmas!"

Judy Gable Newborn noted, "One year my husband Larry and sons, David and Jonathan, got me an unusual array of gifts. I unwrapped flour, cornmeal, a Mountain Dew, a Pepsi and a Diet Dr. Pepper. After I had unwrapped all that, my real present was a serger that I had really wanted because I love to sew!"

Whatever the occasion, any gift given WITH LOVE is SIMPLY the best gift ever!

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

Back to
Tickets & Deals