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January 2018

2017 Agricultural Retailers Association Rising Stars


by Alec Sheffer

Agri-AFC had eight employees selected to participate in Agricultural Retailers Association’s Rising Stars 2017 Program! Six were able to attend ARA’s Conference in November in Phoenix, Arizona.

We are very proud of our guys!

ARA is a trade association based in Washington that advocates, influences, educates and provides services to support its members, comprised of companies such as Agri-AFC from across the United States.

From ARA’s website: "The Rising Stars program, sponsored by Yargus Manufacturing, offers member organizations an opportunity to recognize, reward and develop high achievers and emerging leaders within the agricultural retail field. The purpose of the program is to provide a vehicle for member organizations to introduce a young or emerging leader to the Agricultural Retailers Association, its activities and programs, including the ARA Conference and Expo."

Mike Malone, president of Agri-AFC, had submitted nominations for the 2017 Rising Star Class.

"We, as a company, should be very proud of the people who were considered and accepted into this select group," Malone said.

They are Heath Hughes, Lee Dickerson, Charles Armstrong, Rob Dowdy, Trae Stewart, Zach Limbaugh, Jeffrey Bloodworth and Paul Dawson.
Invitations were extended to them for ARA’s Conference. While there, they were recognized and introduced to the membership, and gained valuable professional development through an excellent lineup of speakers, industry leaders, educational sessions, exclusive networking events and a first-class trade show.

Please join me in congratulating these employees and let them know how proud we, as a company, are to have been represented by them.


Alec Sheffer is director of retail sales for Agri-AFC, LLC.



4-H Extension Corner: Staying Connected

Alabama Extension program’s children and fathers attend their first Auburn football game.


by Jeff Shearer, reprinted from AuburnTigers.com, Nov. 22, 2017
Auburn Athletics partnered with Alabama Cooperative Extension System to provide tickets for children and their families to go to their first college football game. 
From their view in the east stands at Jordan-Hare Stadium, the fathers and children who attended Auburn’s 42-14 win over the University of Louisiana-Monroe created lifelong memories.

"One of the girls was telling me she had never been in a place this big," said Dr. Katrina Akande, an Auburn University assistant professor and Alabama Cooperative Extension System specialist. "She said, `I’ve never seen this many people before.’ Just giving them that exposure is really good."

Akande coordinates Staying Connected, an Alabama Extension program designed to better connect Head Start dads with their children.

Auburn Athletics hosted 125 guests from the fatherhood program for the Ole Miss and ULM game.

"One of the aspects of our inclusion program is trying to use athletics to improve the community campus and surrounding area," said Dr. David Mines, senior associate athletics director for internal operations. "I couldn’t think of a better way to do that than to partner with Katrina on a program like this, to be able to influence lives."

One foster mom attended the Ole Miss game with her husband and their foster children.
"She was saying that for some of the kids, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime event," Akande said. "We take it for granted that kids go to games, but some kids don’t get the opportunity to attend games. Coming to an Auburn game is really exciting for a lot of kids because, for one, their parents couldn’t really afford the tickets."

Staying Connected seeks to educate dads about why they are important to their children.
"We are really trying to pull fathers into their children’s academic readiness," she said. "Because a lot of fathers don’t really know what to do, they don’t know how to engage their children’s teachers because traditionally they’ve always been at work during school hours."
Taking their children to Auburn football games also provided fathers opportunities to manage logistics.

"One of the positive things we’re seeing is that families are trying to work out these dynamics," Akande said. "Seeing fathers talk to the mothers to figure out how they can manage the kids because some fathers have never been to a big event with their little kids. They were a little nervous about attending alone with two small kids in such a big crowd. Getting more conversations about the parenting role and how to manage when you’re out with your kids is very important."

For the program’s participants, the benefits may extend beyond a fun, fall Saturday. Akande and Mines hope it will plant seeds that may start the children on the path to a college education.

"For some of these fathers, and some of the mothers, too, they may have never been on a college campus before," Akande said. "This is also an opportunity for kids to come to a college campus and see what it looks like. For some kids, it’s like a mysterious place. Maybe it will have kids asking their parents, `Will I go to college someday?’ It can start the conversation."

Mines and Akande will evaluate the program’s success and may expand it to include other Auburn sports such as basketball, baseball and softball. They may also add academic components.

"Auburn Athletics gets to hopefully improve the lives of people in the community," Mines said.
"But we also like being able to partner with Dr. Akande’s Extension program to provide an outlet for fathers to have quality interactions with their kids.

"Hopefully, by being on a college campus, it will spark an interest in parents and kids alike to think about attending college themselves if they haven’t already."

Attending sporting events as a group is a good way for fathers to network with each other, Akande added. Many of the fathers’ children attend the same Head Start center, but most had not previously met.


Jeff Shearer is a senior writer at AuburnTigers.com.



Ag Insight

by Jim Erickson

U.S. Ag Exports Hit $140.5 Billion in 2017


U.S. agricultural exports were $140.5 billion in fiscal year 2017, climbing nearly $10.9 billion from the previous year to the third-highest level on record.

As it has done for well over 50 years, the U.S. agricultural sector once again posted an annual trade surplus, reaching $21.3 billion, up almost 30 percent from last year’s $16.6 billion.

"U.S. agriculture depends on trade," U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said. "It is great to see an increase in exports and we hope to open additional markets to build on this success."

China finished the fiscal year as the United States’ largest export customer, with shipments valued at $22 billion, followed closely by Canada at $20.4 billion. U.S. agricultural exports to Mexico reached $18.6 billion, a 6-percent gain from last year, and exports to Japan grew 12 percent, to $11.8 billion.

Rounding out the top 10 markets were the European Union ($11.6 billion), South Korea ($6.9 billion), Hong Kong ($4 billion), Taiwan ($3.4 billion), Indonesia ($3 billion) and the Philippines ($2.6 billion).

U.S. bulk commodity exports set a volume record of 159 million metric tons, up 11 percent from FY 2016, while their value rose 16 percent to $51.4 billion. The surge was led by soybean exports, reaching a record 60 million metric tons, valued at $24 billion.

Exports of corn, wheat and cotton all grew as well, with the value of cotton exports climbing 70 percent, to $5.9 billion. Wheat exports were up 21 percent, to $6.2 billion, and corn exports rose 6 percent, to $9.7 billion.

A number of other products saw significant export increases as well. U.S. dairy exports grew 17 percent, to $5.3 billion; beef exports were up 16 percent, to $7.1 billion; and pork exports rose 14 percent, to $6.4 billion.

Overall, horticultural-product exports increased 3 percent to nearly $33.9 billion; largely driven by an 8-percent increase in exports of tree nuts, reaching $8.1 billion, the second-highest total on record.

Exports are responsible for 20 percent of U.S. farm income.

Technology Drives Increase in Farm Output


Technological innovations in animal and crop genetics, chemicals, equipment and farm organization have enabled continuing output growth in U.S. agriculture while using less inputs.

As a result, even as the amount of land and labor used in farming declined, total agricultural output more than doubled from 1948 to 2015. During this period, agricultural output grew at an average annual rate of 1.48 percent, compared to 0.1 percent for total farm inputs (including land, labor, machinery and intermediate goods).

The major source of output growth is the increase in agricultural productivity, as measured by total factor productivity, the difference between the growth of aggregate output and growth of aggregate inputs.

From 1948 to 2015, TFP grew at an average annual rate of 1.38 percent, accounting for over 90 percent of output growth.

USDA Offers Help to Veterans


Perdue has announced the U.S. Department of Agriculture will offer resources to provide comprehensive and timely support to veterans interested in opportunities in agriculture, agribusiness and rural America.

The resources include a new website and a USDA-wide AgLearn curriculum to allow all employees to understand the unique opportunities offered to the nation’s veterans.

"Through these resources, USDA is committed to helping veterans in agricultural areas so we can strengthen the American economy and provide assistance for those who have served," Perdue said.

USDA supports veterans in the areas of the three E’s – employment, education and entrepreneurship – and pulls together programs veterans can use from the department’s 17 agencies.

Veterans interested in learning more about opportunities through USDA can visit www.usda.gov/veterans or visit their local USDA Service Center.

Broadband Service More Limited
in Nearly 800 Rural Counties


Internet service providers have been increasing access to broadband in rural areas by expanding DSL and cable technologies, wireless platforms, satellite systems and, to a lesser extent, fiber-optic systems.

Despite a slower growth rate in broadband subscriptions since 2010 compared with the previous decade, county-level data indicate that rural household connectivity continues to improve and expand geographically.

From 2010-2016, the number of rural counties with wired broadband subscriptions exceeded the rural average (60 percent or more of households) increased from 281 to nearly 1,200.
Rural counties newly above the 60-percent threshold for broadband are concentrated in the Northeast, Upper Midwest and the Intermountain West. Extensive parts of rural Appalachia also saw improvement in broadband access to above 60 percent.

Broadband service remains more limited in two types of rural regions: isolated, sparsely settled counties in the Great Plains, Nevada, New Mexico, Alaska and elsewhere; and high-poverty, high-minority regions such as on tribal lands in the West and stretching from southern Virginia to east Texas in the South.

School Meal Programs Affected by New Rule


The recently published School Meal Flexibility Rule makes targeted changes to standards for meals provided under USDA’s National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs and asks customers to share their thoughts on the changes with the Department.

The interim final rule reflects USDA’s earlier commitment to work with program operators, school nutrition professionals, industry and other stakeholders to develop strategies to ensure school nutrition standards are both healthful and practical, said Perdue.

"These flexibilities give schools the local control they need to provide nutritious meals that school children find appetizing," Perdue noted.

The interim rule gives schools the option of serving low-fat (1 percent) flavored milk.
Currently, schools are permitted to serve low-fat and non-fat unflavored milk as well as non-fat flavored milk.

States also will be allowed to grant exemptions to schools experiencing hardship in obtaining whole grain-rich products acceptable to students during school year 2018-19.

In addition, schools and industry will have more time to reduce sodium levels in school meals. Instead of further restricting sodium levels in SY 2018-19, schools that meet the current Target 1 limit will be considered compliant with USDA’s sodium requirements.

The rule will begin in SY 2018-19. USDA will accept public comments on these three flexibilities via www.regulations.gov before developing a final rule addressing the availability of these provisions in the long term.

Pear Production, Consumption Trending Down


USDA has forecast the 2017 U.S. pear crop will decline for a fourth consecutive year to 1.41 billion pounds, down 4 percent from the previous year.

If realized, production will be the smallest reported since 1980, pointing to stronger pear prices during the 2017/18 marketing season (July-June).

Due in large part to a long winter and cold spring, expected lower production (down 20 percent from the previous year) in Washington, the largest pear-producing state, is driving the smaller overall U.S. crop.

Declining production and higher prices also have translated into reduced per capita pear consumption, trending downward for most of the last 20 years except for a temporary resurgence in the mid-2000s.

Higher prices from lower pear output in 2017 are expected to diminish demand, leading to a projected per capita use of just over 2.5 pounds per person. This would be the lowest since 1984.




Ag Outlook Meetings Scheduled Across Alabama

Farmers, producers and agribusiness owners will be updated on the current agricultural situation in the state, as well as the outlook for 2018.


by Katie Nichols

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System will hold a series of Alabama Agriculture Outlook meetings across the state. The Farm and Agribusiness Management team will update farmers, producers and agribusiness owners on the current agricultural situation in the state, as well as expectations for 2018.

The meetings will look at key elements of the state’s agriculture and will provide information and guidance on business management and tax implications. Topics include:

  • Row Crops Overview
  • Livestock Outlook
  • Economic Overview
  • Farm Insurance
  • Farm Finances and Taxes
Alabama Extension economist and team leader Max Runge said multiple meetings will be held to make attendance convenient for producers across the state.

"The farm outlook meetings are a great opportunity for producers to interact with others involved in agriculture," Runge said. "The presentation will provide information that can be used in producers’ overall risk management strategy for the 2018 year and beyond. Winter is generally a slower time on the farm, so we are hopeful these meetings will allow producers to break away from the farm and gather new information they can take back and implement."

Meeting Dates


  • Jan. 10 Lauderdale County Extension Office, Florence
  • Jan. 11 Tennessee Valley Research and Extension Center, Belle Mina
  • Jan. 18 Talladega County Extension Office, Talladega
  • Jan. 19 Sand Mountain Research and Extension Center, Crossville
  • Jan. 24 Wiregrass Research and Extension Center, Headland
  • Jan. 25 E.V. Smith Research Center, Shorter
  • Jan. 31 Alabama Power Conference Center, Clanton
  • Feb. 1 Gulf Coast Research and Extension Center, Fairhope
Registration begins at 8 a.m. at each location and a light breakfast will be available. Runge said attendees can expect the meetings to last about 2.5 hours.

The meetings are free. For additional information or to RSVP, email farmoutlook@aces.edu.


Katie Nichols is a specialist II in the Comm & Marketing department of Alabama Cooperative Extension System


Closing the Deal

Stimuli combinations bring whitetails close.


by Todd Amenrud
When presenting a setup to the deer, you need to give the specific deer a reason to close the distance. Maybe the reason is competition or maybe it’s breeding. Think about the sights, sounds and smells present with that scenario and duplicate them. 
The big buck stood at the edge of a picked corn field about 200 yards away. Even at that distance I could see he was a definite shooter. Rather than skirting the field and coming by my stand just off the corner, he cuts straight across the middle. What to do!? I picked up my rattle-bag and cracked it as hard as I could. He stopped and turned his head in my direction. I hit the rattle-bag a second time and he came at a steady trot. Once he reached 100 yards he slowed to a fast walk and started to swing downwind of where he had heard the sound. Long story short – he stood 100 yards downwind of me hardly moving a muscle for almost five minutes. The only movements were his ears searching for the two bucks he had just heard and his nose waving in the breeze scanning for other supporting evidence. He turned and slowly disappeared over the ridge.

What makes a set of circumstances seem real to you? If you can see it, hear it, smell it, touch it – the more senses we satisfy, the more that situation will seem real. It’s also true for whitetails and other animals! By using multiple techniques at once a hunter can appeal to a variety of the whitetails’ senses. On that day, I sure wish I had some scent set-up or a decoy placed out to draw his attention and coax him into bow range.

Does, fawns and young bucks will often ramble straight into a well-placed decoy, scent placed out properly or a vocalization sounding authentic, but a mature buck almost always needs confirmation from more than one sense before it enters the unknown. They do trust their sense of smell entirely, but if they see or hear something and aren’t sure, they’ll almost always wait for confirmation before proceeding further.

Whitetails trust their sense of smell completely; if you can fool it, you have it made. Just like sight is our most believable sense. After all, "You’ve got to see it to believe it." For whitetails, their entire lives revolve around their sense of smell. That doesn’t always mean using scent to draw them in; it also means practicing a strict routine of scent elimination. In fact, it’s probably most important to keep foreign smells completely out of the picture. Scent Killer Gold is one of my most important tools. For instance, if a mature buck smells the sweet odor of estrus, but there’s also a danger smell, their instinct for survival outweighs all else and all your work will be for naught.

Decoying can appeal to their sight, calling can deceive their hearing and scent, or the lack of it, can con their sense of smell. Why not do something to appeal to more than one of their senses at a time? After having success with scent and with calling, I’ve been experimenting more with decoys. Obviously, decoys are not something most people use every time they venture afield but using scent and calling (or rattling) are tactics I often use.

I find, when using decoys, adding scent, calling or a combo of both will almost always help, but you have to pay attention to a few details.

First, you have to start with the correct decoy. I believe that decoy posture and movement are particularly significant details we need to get right.

Some decoys are in an alert posture. This typically brings other deer in ready to act and edgy.
You’ll often get them to come to within 40-60, snorting and stomping the ground at your decoy … or maybe it’s at whatever has the decoy so alert. Sometimes I may want an alert, more intimidating posture, but for most deer throughout most of the season you’ll be better with other, less-intimidating postures.

When is it natural for a standing deer to be totally motionless? When it’s alert, when something is wrong or out of place, or just before it’s about to bolt?

I’ve done a number of different things to add motion to decoys from tying a string to a chicken feather or white hanky, taping the string to the hind end or ear and letting the wind move it to tacking a real whitetail’s tail to the hind end and operating it with monofilament line. Granted, in a 15-mph wind the chicken feather starts fluttering so fast it looks like the decoy will soon take flight, but I believe even that extreme motion is better than no motion at all. There are decoy kits on the market to help convert standard decoys into motion decoys and decoys with moving parts so hunters have many options, but motion is a definite key.

Sometimes an alert posture will work. In fact, sometimes I want a ready-to-act, aggressive posture. For instance, if I’m after a mature buck, playing the competition card and using aggressive tactics has worked great for me. When after younger bucks or any deer, success depends on many other factors. The biggest detail to keep in mind is – you must give that specific deer a reason to interact with your setup.

What time of year is it? Are you after a buck, doe or will any deer do? What age-class buck are you after?
Part of the fun of hunting is trying new and different techniques, trying to make something happen. Here the author poses with a buck lured in by calling and scent. 
My best advice would be to think about what the specific deer wants at that particular time of year and give them a reason to close the distance. For any deer at any time of year, I feel a decoy in a feeding, greeting or bedded posture is best.

When using scent with your decoy, start by eliminating foreign smells. After the decoy is cleaned in Scent Killer Soap, only touch it while wearing gloves and make sure it’s stored in a place where foreign odors are not going to transfer. If you have to transport your decoy, place it in a garbage bag or something that will seal out foreign odors.

When choosing lures and scents, again, think about what the specific deer you’re after wants at that specific time of the season. For instance, early season I might use plain buck or doe urine … just something to add realism to the scenario. Closer to the rut with a buck decoy, sometimes I’ll use a combo of Active Scrape and Mega Tarsal Plus. One gives a full-spectrum-scrape aroma and the other is a territorial/intrusion scent. I’m trying to create the illusion that my fake buck is moving into his breeding territory. Think about how and why a buck might interact with your setup. Try and make it seem as natural as possible and, again, give them a reason to close the distance.

When dispersing the scent, I prefer to put the scent on a Key-Wick near the decoy rather than placing it on the decoy. Simply because a week later the decoy smells like last week’s pee. This way I don’t have to constantly scrub my decoy. Keep the decoy clean!

Calling is another weapon in your arsenal. Every situation is unique. It might be adding some soft, social grunts during early season while using a buck decoy or maybe adding an estrus bleat in combination with some estrus lure during the rut.

One of my favorite tactics just before and after the peak of the rut is to set up a small buck decoy standing over a bedded doe decoy. Then I’ll do my best imitation of an intense buck fight. In between rattling sequences, I might imitate an estrus bleat. I try to create the illusion that two bucks are fighting over my fake doe in estrus. The smell of some Special Golden Estrus should also aid in pulling off the gag. This worked to bring in two mature bucks for me a couple of years ago.

Taking the decoy out of the picture and using scent and calling/rattling together happens much more often than adding a decoy to the list of tools. But, even minus the decoy, the combination of calling or rattling and the use of scent can work great. They hear deer sounds, circle downwind and smell deer smells. It gives them a reason to come closer.

Where a decoy needs some forethought, the tools you’ll need to effectively use calls or scent can easily be carried at all times in your pack.

When I specifically venture in an attempt to rattle in a buck, I almost always use real antlers.
Their true-to-life resonance and the extra-subtle sounds you can create with them such as scraping a tree or smacking the ground can’t be done with a rattle-bag or any of the manufactured plastic gadgets. However, I have rattled in more bucks with my rattle bag simply because I carry it with me all the time.

Decoys are fun to use, but it’s really that one-two punch of calls and scent that produce the most consistent results. Some hunters think by trying to appeal to more senses you’re leaving yourself open to making more mistakes.

Details are important whenever hunting whitetails. If you use common sense, keep human scent out of the picture and present things as naturally as possible, results will follow.

Answer the question, "Why would that specific deer want to interact with my setup?" And if he does, "How might he interact with the scenario?" Maybe to be social or maybe it’s for competition.

The more realistic you can make the setup, the better it will work.


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



Corn Time



Cowpokes



Creating a Hunting Club

Reap what you sow.


by Thomas Allen; courtesy of OutdoorHub.com
Keeping track of what seed you sowed in which fields will serve as a record for the next season. If you notice certain types didn’t take well or actually did very well, you’ll be able to make adjustments the next time around. 
A club is all about the membership, the friendships, and combined dedication and work ethic to produce results benefitting all. There just aren’t many things in this life as rewarding as fruitful work.

As a club, we’re living that reality right now.

When we started back in August and September, we knew we had a mountain to climb, and favorable results would require work and a little bit of luck.

As is typically the case, Alabama was very dry late in the summer. Combined with our limited time, it was obvious some uncontrollable factors would have to fall our way if we were to be successful. We got together with some of the guys at Mossy Oak BioLogic for some advice, and they nailed it.

As I mentioned in the previous chapter, we decided to go with BioLogic’s Winter Grass Plus as the bulk of our forage. Due to our timing and budget, we elected to forgo the lime
application this fall – we’ll hopefully get that done next spring and summer. The Winter Grass Plus grows very easily under various conditions and soil types.

With the whole crew on-site, we divided duties and tackled each field in a fraction of the time it would have taken one or two people. We did learn that disking right after mowing was a futile objective. Letting the dead grass sit for a week or so made it easier for the disk to cut through.

We also planted BioLogic Maximum on two of the smaller fields, BioLogic Non-Typical Clover and a few locations with BioLogic Deer Radish.

In an effort to test these different seeds in our dirt, we were advised to not overlap planting – to keep everything separate to clearly determine the effectiveness of each seed in each location … sound advice.

The Time Crunch


Available time was in very short supply as it was, but Hurricane Nate was forecast to bring a significant weather system to the Alabama coast – and straight over the club’s food plots – during the weekend of Oct. 7-8. We knew we had a window of time for either eminent success or failure.

We chose success.

As a group, it became an all-hands-on-deck call, and we did everything we could to meet that objective. Not everyone was available at all times, so whatever work we could muster was utilized and appreciated. Many hands make light work.

Friday morning, Gary, my son, and I managed to get three of the plots fully prepped and planted.

Here’s how I kept track of what we planted where:

  • Acquired a large aerial photo of the property (unlaminated)
  • On front, outlined area(s) to be planted and numbered
  • On back, wrote:
  • Planting date ­­_____/_____/_____
  • Field #___________ (for each field)
  • Fertilizer: Concentrate and No. of bags)
  • Seed: (No. of bags) (type)
After all the results have been noted for each field, the map can be laminated to help preserve it. This information will prove highly valuable next year as we evaluate how each seed took in each food plot. If changes need to be made to better the outcome, we’ll be able to refer to the previous year’s results … a simple memory enhancement.

My wife’s parents were in town that weekend – all the way from Fargo, North Dakota – and I was able to talk them into an afternoon of seeding. Their time and effort commitments were critical to meeting the deadline set by the impending weather system.

They don’t hunt but were quite interested in the effort required in building a food plot. They eagerly participated and helped plant two fields that have turned from dusty-brown to brilliant-green. Even without a drive to hunt like I have, they were very proud of the seeds sowed that became food. Good family time.

During the second day of planting, most of the guys were on-site to contribute. We managed to finish the final field. As we were pulling out of the club, the rain began to fall. It was literally the perfect storm for our new club.
One of our best-looking fields had BioLogic Maximum sprouted in just days after planting. Talk about a beautiful sight! There will certainly be crimson sprayed on this field at some point. 

Dirt Into Bright Green


It took only a few days of optimal growing conditions after the saturating rain from Hurricane Nate to have food growing on every field. In fact, we were very impressed with how well things looked after such a short period of time.

Obviously, we’re super jacked about our decision to plant BioLogic and very grateful for the support they provided us in making our seed selections. They were right. We now have food growing for a club established just two months ago – something I’m already very proud of – we all are.

Bow season started in Alabama Oct. 15 and rifle season Nov. 18 and runs through Feb. 10. We are in a good position to enjoy some fantastic hunting this year.

I’m grateful for the chance to partner with such a great group of men to make it happen.
Hard work, preparation, patience and dedication had a large part in our club’s success. During the first evening of Alabama’s Youth Firearm Season, Taylor, my young daughter, killed her second deer ever, but her first on our new club property. An achievement we celebrated as a group. But none were as proud as I was. 

Early Success


Alabama’s youth deer season was Nov. 10-13. Last year, my then-9-year-old son Tommy killed his first deer and his 7-year-old sister Taylor also shot a deer a week later. Fast forward to this year; I was able to negotiate with my son to let his sister go first.

With an ideal wind, we sat over a lush BioLogic Maximum field that she and her grandparents helped plant just a month earlier. As plans rarely do, ours came together and she made a perfect shot on a big doe – an emotional moment between father and daughter.

The very next evening, my son shot a nice doe as we sat over a BioLogic Winter Grass Plus field.

Two perfect evenings, and more unforgettable moments etched into our memories.


Be sure to watch the videos of both hunts on OutdoorHub.com.
The following evening, Tommy, my son, made good on a great opportunity and killed the club’s second deer of the season – a fine, mature doe. This was his second deer, too. 
Mission accomplished!

Author’s note: This is the fourth installment in a 12-part, comprehensive series about building a hunting club with buddies from nearly the ground up. I openly share what I learn as I learn it. My hope is that anyone who reads this series can learn from my successes and failures, and apply them to a future, fruitful hunting club. You can find the previous installments at OutdoorHub.com, search "club."



Thomas Allen holds the senior editor desk for Bassmaster publications and produces freelance hunting content for OutdoorHub.com. Follow Allen on instagram: thomasallen4; Twitter: ThomasAllenIV; and YouTube: search “Thomas Allen Hunting.











Dirt Road Girls

Captivating jewelry pieces crafted from leather, metal and stone by Alabama designer Sara Smith.


by Jade Currid
Dirt Road Girls’ owner Sara Smith gazes into the distance while modeling stunning, custom-jewelry pieces she crafted herself.? 
A farmhouse view of a dirt road and meaningful song lyrics sparked uber-talented Alabama jewelry maker and artist Sara Smith’s vision for her shop, Dirt Road Girls, featuring captivating jewelry pieces crafted with leather, metal and stone materials; hand-stamped with uplifting phrases and charming expressions; and influenced by faith, adventure, music and wanderlust.

"I’ve always loved creating and making things, so I bought a $20 stamp set from Hobby Lobby and DRG was born," Smith recalled. "I started doing it almost six years ago, I guess.

"The name was kind of inspired by a song that said, ‘I was born a red dirt girl,’ but I would sing the words, ‘I was born a dirt road girl.’

"The first bracelet I ever made for myself says ‘dreamer’ and I wear it all the time."

Dirt Road Girls began as a small jewelry shop in an extra room inside her Blount County farmhouse, overlooking a symbolically special dirt road and previously owned by her grandparents, but has expanded through its strong social media presence and appearances at shows and venues. It has shipped pieces all around the United States, as well as to Canada and New Zealand.

"I am currently in Ohio at a show [Quarter Horse Congress] and I can’t decide what I like more: someone who admires/compliments my jewelry pieces without knowing I am the creator, or someone who says, ‘I came here just to shop with you,’" she relayed.

Smith thrives upon clients challenging her to step out of her comfort zone with custom requests. She appreciates the prospect of having to learn a new skill while fulfilling a client’s custom order and expanding her knowledge and professional tool set as an artisan.

"That’s how I started making rings, a great customer wanted one and was so encouraging and positive about the other work I had done for her," she explained. "I thought, ‘Why not? I can figure out how to do it.’ And I did. It’s still one of my favorite things I’ve made. It really increased my ability to do all kinds of soldering and silver work."

Smith derives a lot of inspiration for her work from her favorite pastimes: music lyrics, and book and movie quotes. She finds it rewarding when she sees a complete stranger in public wearing something she made.

"I was at a music festival in Atlanta and noticed the person sitting next to me was wearing something I made," Smith recalled. "I told her I liked her bracelet. She said, ‘Thank you so much! I got it from this cute little etsy shop called Dirt Road Girls.’ I then said, ‘I know, that’s my shop!’ Things like that happen quite often. And that’s cool.

"There are also experiences where I’ve been wearing something I made and had someone compliment it. When they learned I made it, they end up buying it from me."
Dirt Road Girls jewelry features metal, stones and leather designs. They are inspired by faith, adventure, music and wanderlust. 
Smith is currently collaborating with country music singer and songwriter Drake White, a Hokes Bluff native, to create custom-merchandise pieces for him to sell at his shows. Drake White’s drummer, Adam Schwind, wore DRG pieces while appearing on "Good Morning America."

Other celebrities who don DRG’s one-of-a-kind pieces include Jessica Robertson and the other Duck Dynasty wives, Kid Rock, musician Julie Roberts, Adam Hood, members of The Cadillac Three and rodeo star Trevor Brazile, who holds the record for the most National Finals Rodeo World Champion titles by a large margin of 23 titles.

The National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas is one of the large venues where DRG has set up a booth for the past several years.

"Everyone always says, ‘Wow, Vegas for two weeks,’" she said. "That sounds awesome, but it’s hard work. We set up with Lagrange Leather, the boot company I also work for. We bring in over 1,000 pairs of boots and other accessories, as well as my jewelry. We have it down to a science and can almost complete our setup in 4-5 hours. Tearing down is even faster. We are usually done in about an hour."

One memorable year, Smith’s sister Mary-Glenn Miller, who also works for Lagrange Leather and is a DRG dreamer, formed an ingenious idea of creating back-number jewelry for the NFR contestants, and it caught like wildfire.

"The top 15 contestants in each event who make it to the NFR are numbered by overall money winnings and they each have a unique back number," Smith explained. "It’s a pretty big deal. So we decided we could make bracelets so friends, family and fans could support their favorite contestants. I figured we would maybe sell 30 or 40 the first year. "

Instead, DRG sold over 400 bracelets through the power of social media, Mary-Glenn’s marketing skills and the right connections sharing Facebook posts.

"The time frame between finding out numbers and the start of the finals isn’t very long," Smith said. "Throw in Thanksgiving and the postal service not running every day and it really gets tight."

She had to reorder supplies for most of the bracelets and some items were lost in the mail.

"I picked up my package from the post office on my way to the airport and ended up making about 300 of those bracelets in my hotel room once we got to Vegas," she said. "That was a very stressful year. But one of the most rewarding experiences ever."

Smith divulged a story from the year DRG created NFR back number bracelets regarding rodeo royalty, husband and wife Trevor and Shada Brazile.

"We had been talking about how it would be so cool if Trevor Brazile and his family would order some stuff," she recalled. "Everyone was like, ‘Oh, they don’t buy anything.’"

One day, Smith received a pivotal call from Shada to order some of the bracelets.

"The last name is Brazile and he’s No. 1," she said.

"Yep, I got it," I replied.

"Everyone knew Trevor was always No. 1."

In addition to owning a successful business and working for LaGrange Leather, Smith serves as a part-time 4-H agent. She meets with fourth- and fifth-graders at Blount County schools once a month throughout the school year and engages youth in a variety of summer workshops.

"I usually take the lead on our Chick Chain Project and have jokingly come to be known as the ‘Chicken Lady,’" she quipped. "We do all kinds of projects, from ag to arts and crafts to 4-H yoga. I love it all. I also love that 4-H provides so many opportunities for our youth. I hope I can help kids see and accept that they don’t have to fit into a certain type of box. I want to be able to encourage them to take their creativity and wacky little ideas and develop them into something that could be rewarding, just like DRG is for me."

Through faith, determination and lots of hard work, Smith has built a blossoming creative endeavor and beautiful life many dream of. Embodied by Miranda Lambert’s "Airstream" lyrics, "Sometimes I wish I lived on a mountain, drank from a stream instead of a fountain. I’d stay there, on top of the world, but I was born a red dirt girl."

"I couldn’t be happier with where I have gotten to at this point in my life with the boot company, 4-H and DRG," Smith revealed. "I’m kind of like an actual, real-life gypsy. I do odd jobs and travel around and sell things to make money. And, I love it."

You can check out Dirt Road Girls jewelry at etsy.com and on Facebook.


Jade Currid is a freelance writer from Auburn.



Earl



FFA Sentinel: What do you do with time?

Winston County High School FFA members construct handicap-accessible ramps and sidewalks for the visitor’s side of the football stadium. 
by Andy Chamness

Recently, I was asked a question, "What do you do with time?"

My reply was simple, "Who has time?"

As we are now through the holiday season and starting a new year, many of us set resolutions for ourselves. Maybe these include: lose some weight; get into shape; stop drinking soda; quit a bad habit; be a better spouse, parent, son or daughter, boss, employee …; and the list goes on. What do you do with time? Maybe retirement has just kicked in, as is the case of our dear friend and former FFA Executive Secretary Philip Paramore.

When asked, "What are you going to do with your time?"

He replied, "Watch my cows eat grass."

But we all know better.

Regardless of your resolution or the depth of your plans for the coming year, remember the FFA motto, "learning to do, doing to learn, earning to live and living to serve." Would it be cliché to say that is a metaphor for life?

FFA is a student-led organization, but, throughout its long and storied 90-year history, those students have been led and advised by many a wise old owl. The adult guidance and leadership through FFA advisors, parent involvement, FFA alumni and Young Farmers groups, the past officers and a host of others who guide our FFA chapters are too precious a commodity to price.

Think back to the FFA motto and how it is a part of our lives. We never stop learning to do, even if now it is through a YouTube video and by trying those new things we inevitably learn.
Maybe in all that doing we find purpose and something that earns our living. Maybe we find a hobby that takes our mind off what makes our living. Finally, at some point in our lives, in different measures for different individuals, we figure out how to serve.

All across Alabama, FFA chapters are serving our communities through service-learning projects such as Adopt-A-Highway or Adopt-A-Mile, Renew Our Rivers, local civic projects, safe driving and crime prevention campaigns, and the list is infinite. Through 90 years and several changes, FFA remains an organization of service.

In agriculture education, we use many terms such as "project-based learning" and "experiential learning," but recently new educational jargon was introduced to me in detail at the 90th National FFA Convention. "Service learning" caught my attention. This term refers to a type of learning by doing centered on service. As I thought about this term and exactly how it relates to FFA, a notion kept rolling around in my brain. Just as when the term "project-based learning" was coined, I thought, we already do this in FFA.

FFA members, family and friends, how do you serve? As a challenge to us all, how will you take the knowledge you have gained in FFA and your agriculture class and use it to serve others? The Alabama FFA Organization has brought back to life a recognition award area for FFA chapters who are willing to serve. The Building Our Alabama Communities award application is a recognition award for outstanding community service and dedication to the FFA motto. This awards and recognition program can involve every FFA member in the local chapter, as well as the entire community. Information regarding Building Our Alabama Communities can be found on the Forms and Applications page of www.alabamaffa.org.
Recognition such as this is vital to an FFA chapter because it creates a direct link between the community and the local high school in a setting other than athletics. A service project can be the catalyst for positive change and support to an FFA chapter. These activities expose the students to a world outside of their own living situation and offer enrichment in the sense that service is its own reward.
Winston County FFA members serve the community by completing landscape projects for different individuals and civic groups. 
I remember as a teacher one of my favorite community-service projects was to take a group of students to a local soup kitchen or food pantry. This event took place around the Thanksgiving holiday and the FFA members would prepare the food both for folks who came in and for delivery in the community. The FFA string band or quartet would sing Christmas carols and assist in decorating the tree. The members would sit and share a meal they helped to prepare with the folks and get to know them a little. Afterward, we would clean the dishes.

Here is the magic part. On the ride home, without fail, someone would say something along the line of, "I didn’t know people were in that bad of shape" or "I had no idea there was so much need in the world."

Please, don’t take that as harsh. It is the teenage brain coming to grips with the revelation that there is always someone in worse shape than he/she is.

I would always let it sink in with them and follow up with the question, "What did you learn from this?"

Much to my surprise, the answers given were insightful and very pointed about what else we can do to help.

One of the sayings I used with the students was and is, "There is always a plan." My plan for them was to see that they can have a positive impact in the lives of others and others, in turn, can have an impact on them.

FFA members and supporters, "What do you do with time?" Live to serve. Live to serve through your FFA chapter, high school, church and community.

Is your new year going to contain service learning?

FFA advisors, alumni and friends, will you help to provide the avenue for service learning for our members? Through FFA, members can have the opportunity to serve their communities and make a difference.

FFA chapters, have you planned in your program of activities the community service you will be conducting?

Good luck this year in all your FFA contests, projects, applications and service projects.

The greatest among you will be your servant. (Matthew 23:11, NIV)

Recently, I was asked a question, "What do you do with time?"

My reply was simple, "Who has time?"

As we are now through the holiday season and starting a new year, many of us set resolutions for ourselves. Maybe these include: lose some weight; get into shape; stop drinking soda; quit a bad habit; be a better spouse, parent, son or daughter, boss, employee …; and the list goes on. What do you do with time? Maybe retirement has just kicked in, as is the case of our dear friend and former FFA Executive Secretary Philip Paramore.

When asked, "What are you going to do with your time?"

He replied, "Watch my cows eat grass."

But we all know better.

Regardless of your resolution or the depth of your plans for the coming year, remember the FFA motto, "learning to do, doing to learn, earning to live and living to serve." Would it be cliché to say that is a metaphor for life?

FFA is a student-led organization, but, throughout its long and storied 90-year history, those students have been led and advised by many a wise old owl. The adult guidance and leadership through FFA advisors, parent involvement, FFA alumni and Young Farmers groups, the past officers and a host of others who guide our FFA chapters are too precious a commodity to price.
The West Morgan FFA Chapter annually looks after a cemetery in their community by raking leaves, clearing debris, and trimming grass and shrubs. 
Think back to the FFA motto and how it is a part of our lives. We never stop learning to do, even if now it is through a YouTube video and by trying those new things we inevitably learn. Maybe in all that doing we find purpose and something that earns our living. Maybe we find a hobby that takes our mind off what makes our living. Finally, at some point in our lives, in different measures for different individuals, we figure out how to serve.

All across Alabama, FFA chapters are serving our communities through service-learning projects such as Adopt-A-Highway or Adopt-A-Mile, Renew Our Rivers, local civic projects, safe driving and crime prevention campaigns, and the list is infinite. Through 90 years and several changes, FFA remains an organization of service.

In agriculture education, we use many terms such as "project-based learning" and "experiential learning," but recently new educational jargon was introduced to me in detail at the 90th National FFA Convention. "Service learning" caught my attention. This term refers to a type of learning by doing centered on service. As I thought about this term and exactly how it relates to FFA, a notion kept rolling around in my brain. Just as when the term "project-based learning" was coined, I thought, we already do this in FFA.

FFA members, family and friends, how do you serve? As a challenge to us all, how will you take the knowledge you have gained in FFA and your agriculture class and use it to serve others? The Alabama FFA Organization has brought back to life a recognition award area for FFA chapters who are willing to serve. The Building Our Alabama Communities award application is a recognition award for outstanding community service and dedication to the FFA motto. This awards and recognition program can involve every FFA member in the local chapter, as well as the entire community. Information regarding Building Our Alabama Communities can be found on the Forms and Applications page of www.alabamaffa.org. Recognition such as this is vital to an FFA chapter because it creates a direct link between the community and the local high school in a setting other than athletics. A service project can be the catalyst for positive change and support to an FFA chapter. These activities expose the students to a world outside of their own living situation and offer enrichment in the sense that service is its own reward.

I remember as a teacher one of my favorite community-service projects was to take a group of students to a local soup kitchen or food pantry. This event took place around the Thanksgiving holiday and the FFA members would prepare the food both for folks who came in and for delivery in the community. The FFA string band or quartet would sing Christmas carols and assist in decorating the tree. The members would sit and share a meal they helped to prepare with the folks and get to know them a little. Afterward, we would clean the dishes.

Here is the magic part. On the ride home, without fail, someone would say something along the line of, "I didn’t know people were in that bad of shape" or "I had no idea there was so much need in the world."

Please, don’t take that as harsh. It is the teenage brain coming to grips with the revelation that there is always someone in worse shape than he/she is.

I would always let it sink in with them and follow up with the question, "What did you learn from this?"

Much to my surprise, the answers given were insightful and very pointed about what else we can do to help.

One of the sayings I used with the students was and is, "There is always a plan." My plan for them was to see that they can have a positive impact in the lives of others and others, in turn, can have an impact on them.

FFA members and supporters, "What do you do with time?" Live to serve. Live to serve through your FFA chapter, high school, church and community.

Is your new year going to contain service learning?

FFA advisors, alumni and friends, will you help to provide the avenue for service learning for our members? Through FFA, members can have the opportunity to serve their communities and make a difference.

FFA chapters, have you planned in your program of activities the community service you will be conducting?

Good luck this year in all your FFA contests, projects, applications and service projects.
The greatest among you will be your servant. (Matthew 23:11, NIV)


Andy Chamness is the Central District Specialist with the Alabama FFA Association.



Formax Stocker 13 With Bovatec

by John Sims

Formax Stocker 13 with Bovatec is a pelleted feed with the flexibility to be used in many different applications. It can be fed free choice as a creep feed or by hand to preconditioning calves. It can be fed by body weight to developing heifers, growing bulls or lactating beef cows.

Stocker 13 has the proper protein (13 percent) and energy levels for the top performance of your cattle. Added vitamins and minerals, consistency and availability make it a better alternative than commodities.
It contains less fines or dust than other forms of feed and has better conversion rates than commodities.

Bovatec has been added to promote growth, increase feed efficiency and reduce the incidence of coccidiosis.

Do not feed to horses, sheep or lactating dairy cows.

Feeding rates :

Nursing Calves(Creep Feed) Free Choice
Weaned Calves (preconditioning) free choice, or 1-2 percent of body weight
Developing heifers up to 1.5 percent of body weight
Growing bulls 2 percent of body weight
Cows 5-10 pounds per head per day (with Forage)

Formax Stocker 13 with Bovatec is available in bulk or a 50-pound bag.

If you want a high-quality, high-energy, fortified, pelleted feed for any class of beef cattle, Stocker 13 is the feed you need. Pick up some at your local Quality Co-op.


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


How's Your Garden?

by Lois Trigg Chaplin

Black Gold From the Trees


January usually presents the last chance to collect an abundance of leaves freshly fallen from nearby trees. These are free soil builders for garden beds and the vegetable garden.

Every fall and winter, my husband and I collect leaf bags around the neighborhood. We stash the bags in a pile, chopping the leaves for mulch throughout the growing season.

This fine mulch is especially helpful around flowers and vegetables where it quickly breaks down or returned to the soil by earthworms as black, nutrient-rich earthworm castings.

After a few years of this, our garden soil is a rich black and drains well, yet holds moisture effectively. Only the heaviest feeding crops such as tomato need light, supplemental fertilizer.

Gather the gift of leaves for your garden.

Nurture Fruit Trees


Some of the latest soil findings show the roots of many fruit tree species thrive in association with networks of fungi, or mycorrhizae, involved in nutrient uptake and other beneficial functions that are not completely understood. Holistic orchardists encourage this network of underground fungal threads by mulching around fruit trees with chipped branches less than 2.5 inches in diameter.

Don’t pile the mulch next to the tree trunks. Spread it around in a doughnut shape so none is touching the trunks. You can do this under existing trees or in the area of expected spread of newly planted ones.
The waxy flowers of hoya vine come as a nice surprise after a few years. 

Hoya Lasts a Long Time


If you remember a thick-leaved, vining plant hanging in the windowsill at grandma’s house, chances are it was a hoya, or wax plant. The plants are so named because of their waxy leaves that stand up well to indoor conditions.

Similar to Christmas cactus, hoya will live for decades with just a little care. It likes indirect light and water only when the soil dries out.

After several years in the same container, a plant will become rootbound and surprise you with a cluster of waxy blossoms that live for several weeks.

Depending on the species, some of the hoya flowers can be very fragrant. However, when shopping for plants, it may be hard to find them identified so precisely that you can pick out which will have fragrant blossoms.

In the summer, you can move hoya outdoors on a porch where they will enjoy the tropical-like warmth, but avoid direct sun. Bring it indoors in the fall to protect it from freezing weather.

Birds Like the Local Menu


Birds depend on many of our endemic plants for sustenance.

Oak, willow, maple, goldenrod and milkweed host caterpillar species that are a crucial source of protein for birds, especially when they are breeding. Elderberry and serviceberry offer fruit during the breeding season, too.

Dogwood and spicebush help sustain songbirds flying south in the fall.

Cedar, dogwood, wax myrtle and holly provide berries for local birds through winter. The nuts of oak, hickory and beech provide protein and fat.

Native sunflower, aster and coneflower have tiny seeds for finches and sparrows.

Take a look around your house. Are there varieties of native trees, shrubs and perennials to sustain a diverse population of native birds? Have privet, honeysuckle, kudzu or other invasive plants choked out the plants that would naturally grow there?

Winter is a good time to clear out unwanted plants and items, and add new ones to the garden. If you want to encourage a variety of year-round and migratory birds, plant a variety of native plants.

The Audubon Society lists native plants for birds by ZIP code under the "Featured" menu at audubon.com.
Camellia blossoms are beautiful all by themselves. 

Cutting Camellias


Elegant camellias – all they need for display is a simple vessel to hold water. Bowls or other shallow containers are perfect.

To gather blossoms, cut the flowers in the morning when they are the freshest. Shake the stem before cutting to eliminate blooms that are about to shatter. Leave the flower stem below the bloom long enough to reach well down below the water level of your display vessel, removing any leaves that would be below the water.

Keep the water replenished and freshly cut blooms will last for days.


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








Insights into Autism Spectrum Disorder

Dr. Temple Grandin discusses her research on the connections between animals and the ASD community.


by Rebecca Oliver
Dr. Temple Grandin is a renowned animal scientist and autism advocate. 
Dr. Temple Grandin, renowned animal scientist and autism advocate, spoke at the Marriott Grand National Hotel and Conference Center in Opelika Nov. 30.

An audience of animal lovers, autism advocates and families of those with autistic spectrum disorders gathered to hear Grandin discuss the connection between animals and autism as well as how those with autism can follow a path to a successful life.

The event was hosted by Mosaics, a nonprofit organization whose goal is to equip young adults in the ASD community with the necessary skills to achieve maximum levels of independence for improved quality of life.

ASD includes a wide range or spectrum of symptoms, skills and level of disability. Grandin explained this spectrum’s different levels and provided advice for coping with symptoms by referencing how her work experiences with animals enabled her to become more functional.

Grandin explained that, along the spectrum, individuals will exhibit characteristics of a particular learning style. This learning style often reveals the individuals gifts and can be utilized in finding a career path.

"I learned that there is a whole continuum of thinking styles, from totally visual thinkers, like me, to the totally verbal thinkers," Grandin said. "Artists, engineers and good animal trainers are often highly visual thinkers, and accountants, bankers and people who trade in the futures market tend to be highly verbal thinkers with few pictures in their minds."

Grandin described her own path to success as one of hard work. She recommended that the best thing for those suffering with autism as teenagers and young adults is to gain job experience.

"If we want to keep kids off the couch in the basement, we have to create real job experiences," she said. "I started working on my aunt’s ranch and it saved me."

From working with animals, Grandin discovered she was more inclined to know what animals were thinking and feeling than most people were.

Grandin said it was through working with animals that she began to observe the likenesses between how animals view the world and how people with ASD view it. She realized the thought processes of animals and those with ASD are similar in the way they process fear.

"People with autism have emotions, but they are simpler and more like the emotions of a vigilant prey-species animal," she said. "Fear is the main emotion in a prey-species animal because it motivates the animal to flee from predators."

Grandin noticed cattle calmed down once they were inside the squeeze chute and, knowing that firm pressure is also calming for children with ASD, she came up with the idea for her invention of the squeeze machine.

Grandin’s squeeze machine is designed to calm those with ASD as they overcome problems with oversensitivity to touch.

Grandin suffered from oversensitivity as a child, but later found comfort through using the squeeze machine.

Observing animals helped Grandin relieve her own stress and she wanted to help animals relieve theirs.

Grandin has designed livestock-handling equipment for corporate giants such as Cargill and consulted on animal welfare with fast food industry leader McDonald’s.

Grandin obtained most of her business clients by showing her design drawings from a portfolio. She recommended young adults with ASD show their work, whatever their passion may be, to gain confidence, social skills and work experience.

"You never know where a conversation showing your work to someone may take you," Grandin said.

During her talk, Grandin encouraged the young people with ASD in attendance to take advantage of the networking opportunities presented to them and speak with the business owners about acquiring jobs.

Grandin’s own work experiences range from working on her aunt’s ranch caring for horses to her tenure at Colorado State University where she has served as a professor of animal science.

Grandin’s research in innovative livestock-handling technology is used to handle over half the cattle in the United States today.

To learn more about Temple Grandin, visit templegrandin.com.


Rebecca Oliver is a freelance writer from Auburn.


Is your farm a Farm of Distinction?

Applications are open now for the 2018 Alabama Farm of Distinction award, to include a $20,000 prize package


.Press release from Alabama Farmers Federation

Alabama farmers have until Jan. 26 to apply for more than $20,000 in cash and prizes to be awarded for the state’s 2018 Farm of Distinction.
Alabama Farm-City Chairman Jeff Helms said the contest honors farmers who excel in production, management, stewardship and innovation.

"Our state is blessed with diverse agricultural operations – from catfish and cotton to peanuts and poultry," Helms said. "The Farm of Distinction program recognizes Alabama’s best farming businesses and chooses one to compete for Southeastern Farmer of the Year at the Sunbelt Ag Expo in October."

Helms said this year’s prize packages are the largest ever, thanks to Register Barns.

"Jeff Register started building pole barns while in high school as a project for 4-H and FFA in 1990," Helms said. "Twenty-six years later, he operates one of the most respected custom-building companies in the Southeast.

"Last fall, he contacted the Alabama Farm-City Committee about sponsoring the Farm of Distinction program and has committed to build a 40-by-60 pole barn for our winner."

The Alabama Farm of Distinction also receives a John Deere Gator, courtesy of AgPro TriGreen and SunSouth dealers; a $1,000 gift certificate from Alabama Farmers Cooperative; an engraved farm sign from Alfa Insurance; and $2,500 as the state’s representative in the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Ag Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year contest.

Up to six contest finalists will be selected and honored April 5 at the Alabama Farm-City Awards in Birmingham where the winner will be announced. Finalists each receive a $250 gift certificate from AFC and an engraved plaque.

Farm-City Week began in 1955 and is officially observed the week before Thanksgiving. In addition to administering the Farm of Distinction contest, the Alabama Farm-City Committee sponsors student poster, essay and multimedia contests, and honors county volunteers for their work with county Farm-City Week observances. Farm-City volunteers also will help celebrate National Ag Day March 20.


Farm of Distinction applications are available under contest forms at AlabamaFarmCity.org.



January Lawn and Garden Checklist

PLANT


  • Start seeds for lettuce, snap peas and other early crops you’ll be setting out in March.
  • Bonnie Plants onion and cabbage transplants will be available at your local Quality Co-op soon.
  • You can plant dormant, bare-root perennial vegetables such as asparagus this month. Follow planting instructions.
  • If you are thinking of adding any fruit, flowering or shade trees to the garden, this would be a good time to select and plant them. Do your research; just because a plant looks good in a catalog doesn’t mean it will survive in your area. One factor to consider when selecting a peach variety is its number of chill hours.
  • Do you have daffodils that you forgot to plant? As long as the bulbs are still firm, they are good and will come up in the spring. They may not bloom like they would if planted earlier, but they will be there next year.
  • Plant container-grown or bare-root roses this month. Keep mulched and watered.

FERTILIZE


  • Next item on the gardening to-do list in winter is to prepare the beds for spring by amending the soil. You may want to take a soil sample at this time. To do this, take several random samples with a garden trowel, down about 6 inches deep. Mix the samples together in a clean, nonmetal bucket and then pour 1-2 cups into a soil sample bag or box. Send this to the local cooperative Extension office for analysis; the bag or box can be obtained from them as well. The results will tell you what additional soil amendments, besides a good dose of compost, should be added.
  • Feed winter-blooming pansies with a bloom-boosting fertilizer.
  • Think about which areas you’ll be using for which crops and consider their needs. Potatoes, for example, like more acid soil than tomatoes or beans, so leave off the lime where you plan to grow them. On the other hand, asparagus plants prefer more lime to make the soil pH higher.
  • Don’t fertilize newly set out trees or shrubs until after they have started to grow, and then only very lightly the first year.

PRUNE


  • Hold off on pruning spring-flowering shrubs until after they bloom.
  • If you have blueberries, prune the old canes (five years or older), leaving five to seven younger fruiting canes. You’ll have fewer berries come spring, but they will be larger and sweeter.
  • Now is the time to prune fruit trees. Cut any diseased or damaged wood and prune out vertical water spouts. Try to encourage strong horizontal branching and a strong central leader for apple and pear trees. Peach trees, on the other hand, like to be pruned into an urn or vase shape without a central leader.
  • When pruning large limbs, always undercut first. This means to cut from the bottom up, one-third of the way through the limb; finish by cutting from the top. The undercut keeps the limb from splitting and breaking off, damaging the trunk and become an entryway for insects and diseases. Do not cut flush to the trunk; the collar or enlarged base of a branch produces hormones that help heal wounds.
  • Now through mid-February is the time to cut winter-damaged, unattractive liriope (monkey grass) foliage. Avoid tipping the new growth or there will be brown edges for the year to come. If you do it now before growth begins, you can use a string trimmer or the lawn mower set at its highest setting.
  • Ornamental grass tops should be trimmed now. On old, established clumps, prune to 2 feet or so, with the younger plantings simply tipped back to remove the brown foliage.

WATER


  • Don’t forget to turn off your irrigation system and/or reset the timer. Flush the system out and let it drain to lessen the chance of freezing and potentially damaging the hose or drip system.
  • Keep watering trees and shrubs planted in the fall if rain doesn’t provide. They are growing roots and hydrated plants withstand hard freezes better than ones stressed from lack of water.
  • When watering houseplants, which should be minimal during the winter, do it just enough so water saturates the soil and comes through the drainage holes; at this time of year, plants left in standing water can suffer root damage.
  • Water outdoor plants in the absence of rain and especially when freezing weather is expected. Well-hydrated plants are more likely to survive severe temperatures.

PEST CONTROL


  • Always read and follow label directions on all pest control products.
  • Apply postemergence weed control to actively growing broadleaf weeds in the lawn. Now is the time to control them while the weeds are young. Ferti-lome Weed Free Zone has been proven for cool-weather performance.
  • Continue applying dormant spray to fruit trees. Don’t spray during wind, rain or freezing temperatures. Hi-Yield Dormant Spray is available at your local Co-op.
  • Of primary concern when cleaning gardens over winter is to rake any leaves or other litter. Some people wait until spring to do this, which can be a big mistake. Many fungal spores and insect eggs can overwinter in this debris and infect the spring plantings.
  • Keep ahead of winter weeds. Most such as henbit are relatively easy to pull or hoe while still small. It is easier now to untangle honeysuckle vines from leafless shrubs or root out invasive exotics such as elaeagnus, cherry laurel, privet and English ivy.
  • Check for pests in the greenhouse and on houseplants; when possible, treat with organic products so kids and pets aren’t endangered.
  • This is a good time to eliminate slugs. Every one left to roam the garden will reproduce 200 offsprings this spring, summer and fall. In addition, the offspring will also reproduce young. You can make a major reduction in the slug population in the garden by eliminating them now.
  • Use an all-purpose spray (not dormant spray) on evergreen ornamentals to protect against red spider mites, thrips and scale. Check the label for temperature restrictions and plant sensitivity.
  • Rake fallen rose leaves and discard them as many disease organisms persist through the winter. Covering them with new mulch will not solve your disease problems.

ODD JOBS


  • Start a gardening journal or, better yet, a blog! A journal can be very rewarding and full of useful information. And if you’d rather do it online and publicly, start a blog. Take photos of everything. In years to come, you will look at the older photos and be amazed at how things have changed!
  • Check with your county agent to see when the next Master Gardener’s class is offered.
  • Bring spring-flowering branches indoors for forcing. Good choices are forsythia, jasmine and flowering quince.
  • Check stored tender bulbs every couple of weeks. Discard any rotten ones. If they look withered or dried out, mist the packing medium very lightly with water. Also, inspect stored fruits and vegetables such as apples and potatoes for decay. Throw away any that look spoiled and increase air circulation to reduce further damage.
  • Inspect stakes and wires on newly planted trees to make sure they are still straight and not damaging the bark.
  • Pansies and violas are amazing plants. They are able to withstand freezes and bounce back with happy faces when the weather warms up. They do this by withdrawing water from their aboveground parts and sending it down into the roots. When temperatures warm, the water is released back into the leaves and flowers.
  • Remember not to walk or drive on frozen grass.
  • If the ground is workable at all (not too wet), now is an excellent time to turn the soil in existing beds. Not only will this expose insect eggs to winter and hungry birds, the freezing will help to break apart heavy clods of dirt.
  • You can force hyacinth, paperwhite narcissus and lily of the valley bulbs to bloom indoors in a shallow bowl or pots of water this month. If you can’t have spring yet ... fake it!
  • Turn houseplants every two weeks for balanced foliage as they seek sunlight.
  • Apply antidesiccants to newly planted evergreens.
  • Take hardwood cuttings of deciduous ornamental shrubs and trees for propagation.
  • Any machine repair you have done now will spare spring headaches – or at least a long wait in line at the repair shop that begins to form in February. Consider mowers, chain saws and other power tools.
  • Could the wheelbarrow, garden wagon or hand trucks use a fresh coat of paint?
  • Don’t haul that Christmas tree out to the curb just yet. The full tree can be staked near a feeder to shield birds from cold. (Place far enough away to avoid accidents with cats.)
  • Dust on the foliage of houseplants can clog the leaf pores, so clean them a little with a damp cloth or a quick shower under the tap. Always use room temperature water when watering or misting houseplants!
  • For easier lawn maintenance, eliminate the hard-to-mow spaces. Eliminate acute angles in beds and borders. Combine single trees or shrubs into a large planting connected with ground cover. Put the bird bath in a flower bed or surround it with ground cover.
  • If an unexpected warm streak fools bulbs into thinking it’s springtime, help protect them with an extra-light layer of mulch.
  • If you heat with wood, keep a pot of water on the stove. The added moisture will be healthier for you as well as houseplants.
  • Make sure houseplants have sufficient humidity by putting them on a tray filled with moistened, clean pebbles or simply sitting a cup of water nearby.
  • On cold nights, it is a good idea to close the curtains or blinds between the window and houseplants. NEVER place houseplants between the curtain and the window!
  • To clean crusty clay pots, add 1 cup each of white vinegar and household bleach to a gallon of warm water and soak the pots. For heavily crusted pots, scrub with a steel wool pad after soaking for 12 hours.
  • The natural summer and fall food supplies have been eaten, died or frozen, and insects have produced a new generation of larvae inactive until spring. Feed the birds and provide them with some unfrozen water. Just a few dollars spent on wild bird seed can go a long way.


Keeping Score

by Ken Kelley

Most folks I know in Alabama like sports, in some form or fashion. Football fanatics dominate fall, winter is basketball season and then the boys of summer throw the baseball around. Golfers golf, tennis players serve it up and there are even a few in Alabama who enjoy the game of soccer (although, for the life of me, I can’t figure out why). There are differences in all of the sports I just mentioned, but the one similarity is the competition factor. (For those out there who like to hunt and fish, the same principle applies … you versus the fish, deer, duck or whatever.)
Competition drives us to get up early, work hard and give everything we have in us to achieve our goals.

Competition without a winner or a loser is like a book without words. Winners and losers are part of the competitive nature of sports and, as such, we must have some way to declare winners and losers. (As a side note, I am familiar with the fairly recent concept of "everybody’s a winner" and we "all get a trophy." My comment to that is – seriously? Come on now.) Anyway, we need winners and losers in sports and in life. When we win, it is gratifying and fulfilling. When we lose, it makes us hungry for success, it inspires us to do better and it incentivizes us to get off our rumps and take that next step to success.

So, in sports we keep score. There are many different ways to keep score and evaluate the game. Some sports are judged based on points scored in a given amount of time, while others might be based on accumulation of pounds of fish or who can pick up the heaviest object. I even know soccer keeps score, although I’ve never been able to stay with a match long enough to know how … I suspect one must eventually kick the ball through the little net after an excruciatingly long time.

So, what does this have to do with agriculture and, specifically, the business side of agriculture? I contend that what we do in business (and especially agricultural business) is very akin to the nature of sports competition. Producers must overcome many levels of competition to be successful. There are obstacles all around, folks who want your place in the game and factors stacked against you to make it more difficult to be successful. The last thing you want to do as a producer is hear the buzzer sound and look up at the scoreboard to find you are on the losing side. The key to the game is keeping score, knowing where you are and using your resources to maximize the potential to be on the positive side of the financial scoreboard.

Another similarity in keeping score in sports and farming is the fact that there are numerous ways to do it. Football has touchdowns, basketball has free throws and baseball has runs. These all do the same thing – they help you know who is winning the game. The formats are different, but the results are the same.

The same concept applies to record keeping in business. There are multiple ways to keep books and any of them can be used successfully to know where you are in the game. Record keeping can be accomplished with a pencil and a notebook, with some kind of advanced record keeping software or with some combination of systems that work for you.

The important thing is for you to be keeping score; that you have a system in place to determine if you are ahead or behind, so you can make adjustments.

There are a lot of resources available to Alabama farmers who are interested in keeping score for their operation. The Alabama Cooperative Extension System Farm and Agribusiness Management Team offers numerous trainings related to record keeping (aka keeping score) throughout the year in a variety of formats and locations.

If you are interested in learning how to keep score for your farming operation, contact your local Alabama Cooperative Extension System Farm and Agribusiness Management Agent or check out the team at www.aces.edu/agriculture/business-management, our Facebook site www.facebook.com/AUAgBiz or on twitter at https://twitter.com/auagbiz.


Ken Kelley is a regional farm and agribusiness management agent for Alabama Cooperative Extension System.


Kim’s Kickin’ Creation

Locally produced pimento cheese dip is a surprise hit in Selma.

by Alvin Benn

Kim Peake holds a container of her pimento cheese spread that has been attracting customers throughout the state.

Regional food favorites can stir passions from Maine to California, but the South generally is considered the pimento cheese capital of America.

It’s easy to understand because the cheesy dish seems to have captured the South almost as fast as Sherman took Dixie.

Recipes usually are closely guarded familial secrets, handed down from generation to generation along with bragging rights claimed by those who take top honors in culinary competitions.

Kim Peake doesn’t worry about such things because she prefers to make her own pimento cheese from scratch. Personal accolades aren’t that important to her.

Praise comes from customers who file into Mark’s Mart to buy Kim’s Kickin’ Pimento Cheese. Once they taste her creation, it’s almost a given they’ll return for more before long.

Her dip wasn’t an overnight sensation by any means because she began making it about 10 years ago as a homemade favorite for friends.

She never thought about turning her creation into a marketable product until Phillip, her son, took matters into his own hands and used the store, Mark’s Mart, where he works as a testing ground. It soon became an instant hit.

Kim has a degree in Human Resource Management from Troy University and currently has a full-time job at the Dallas County Courthouse where she helps to direct the Alabama Children’s Policy Council program.

In addition to that job, she also helps out at the Blue Jean Church in Selma when she’s not filling plastic containers with cheese dip.

She began making her dip at the church, but needed more room and that’s how she began using Mark’s Mart, a popular business that’s been around for decades.

Now she has the space she needs as her dip takes its place along with other popular items in coolers.

She made and sold so many containers at first that it got to the point she needed a helping hand. It came by way of a $300 mixer that eased elbow stress and enabled her to produce even more.

Those who became quick customers were hooked from the first bite. It’s a reaction from others with similar experiences.

"My parents ate it all the time when I was young, but I wasn’t much of a fan," said Kim, who eventually came around and started making little cheese balls and dips.

When she began going to community functions with other guests carrying their favorite food items, Kim chose her cheese dip. She pronounces it "dee-up" with her Southern inflection.

Appearance is important when it comes to food and labels. So, her hinged plastic containers have a bright-red pepper with a green topper to draw attention.

She uses sharp cheddar cheese as well as cream cheese along with paprika, onions, garlic powder and, of course, lots of pimentos.

Customers have found ways to use the cheese dip in just about everything including mashed potatoes, hamburgers and omelets. As busy as she is already, Kim always seems to find ways to market her product.

A chili pepper is on the label designed by Sarah Wagoner promoting Kim’s Kickin’ Pimento Cheese.

Kim credits Sarah Wagoner, her best friend, with designing the labels. The last line is "kpeake1965@charter.net."

It represents not only the year of her birth but is also a reminder of the year Selma was in the middle of a negative, national spotlight focused on what would become something positive – the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Inventors and investors usually need support – financial or moral – and Kim found it in the person of Rodney King, who owns and operates Mark’s Mart.

His store is unique because of its layout as well as the food items it offers customers.

Wine and cheese just seem to go together and Kim’s pimento cheese dish has fit in nicely since its arrival a year ago.

Name it and King probably has it on his shelves where homemade creations such as Kim’s Pimento Cheese dip find their way into the cooler section of the store.

"Home of the Original Chicken Swirl" is displayed on his company’s business cards and it’s for good reason because customers come from near and far to buy it and take it back home, often along the Gulf Coast.

Built in 1938 during the waning period of the Great Depression, the store has had loyal customers throughout the decades. The business may have changed owners and appearances from time to time, but the bottom line has always been the same.

"We believe in local products and do all we can to give them a chance to succeed," King said. "That’s why we added Kim’s pimento cheese dip."

It was a business boost made to order for Kim because she had found a permanent place to display her creation. Hers was the first of its kind added to Mark’s Mart’s extensive lineup of homemade items including tuna and egg salad dishes.

The best part of the arrangement is a policy that gives food creators a place to display them if they meet King’s approval.

Phillip Peake works at Mark’s Market in Selma where his mother’s pimento cheese dip is popular with customers.

What it also affords potential businesses is a store front for those looking for ways to cut corners and overhead costs during important formative periods.

Phillip suggested to King that he try some of his mother’s cheese dip. It wasn’t long before a culinary marriage in heaven was about to be made.

"Well, bring me some," King told Phillip. "I knew right off it would be a winner at our store. That’s how it all started and we’re happy to have it here."

The result meant Kim’s creation had found its own niche along with other Mark’s Mart products neatly displayed in the cooler section of the business.

The store is located at 1022 County Road 44. Visitors may view it is as being out in the boondocks, but it’s only about 3 miles from downtown Selma.

"Some of our customers come in specifically asking for Kim’s cheese dip," said employee Mike Sexton. "What she has is special and we’re happy to have her cheese dip here."

Kim prefers Melba toast to scoop out her pimento cheese, but some fans use other methods. Any way you choose, her creation goes fast and she’s off to make another batch.

Her cheese dip sells for $7.49 in a 12-ounce container. It may seem like an odd figure, but it doesn’t really matter because the price is right for loyal customers.

Alvin Benn is a freelance writer from Selma.




Medicine Disposal

Are you following the recommended practices?

by Nadine Johnson

This article is not about herbs or alternatives. It is about a problem created by the disposal of prescribed and over-the-counter medicines. Until recently, we either threw them into the garbage or flushed them down the toilet. This has changed.

It has been determined that these medications are infiltrating our ground water and possibly our entire ecological system.

Some communities are setting up a special disposal area. However, you can simply deliver them to your local police station or take them to your pharmacist. This will be the most convenient for me. After all, I go there at least once a month.

Not long ago, my primary physician prescribed amiodarone hydrochloride tablets for me. He hoped this drug would convert my heart from atrial fibrillation back to a normal sinus rhythm. This didn’t happen but it almost converted me to my Home in the Sky. I have never been sicker and definitely would not want this to infiltrate my drinking water. The remaining tablets went to my pharmacist for proper disposal. (I still have AFib and expect to for the rest of my life. I do not feel it and my life is not interrupted in any way.)

My husband died in 2006. His hospice nurse flushed all his remaining medications down the commode. This was routine at the time. The routine has changed.

Now, here is a little story from my nursing days. When my nursing career began in 1948 at Beard Hospital in Troy, I absorbed all the information my brain could handle. I distinctly remember how pain medication was controlled. The charge nurse of the day carried a container in her pocket. This container had possibly five sections. One section contained morphine. Another contained codeine. Another contained pantopon and so on. All these meds were in tiny pill form.

When we gave pain medication to a patient, we used tongs to remove a glass syringe and metal needle from boiling water. We drew 1 cc of water into the syringe. It was OK for our fingers to touch the tiny pill as we dropped it into the water. (Plastic gloves were not in existence. In fact, very little was disposable in those days.) When this was dissolved and cooled, we gave our patient the injection for pain. Of course, the administering nurse signed for these meds.

Time passed and I became Dr. Jane Day’s office nurse. (Yes, I know I worked for a legend.) She had bought a retiring doctor’s practice when she came to Montgomery to begin her own practice. Among many other items, there was a container for pain meds like I had seen at Beard’s Hospital. It was well-stocked. However, this method of giving pain medication had become obsolete.

I never gave a single one of those shots. Demerol and other liquid pain medications were then available in vials and much easier to administer.

We kept the obsolete pain meds in a safe place, of course. Time rocked on.

"Dr. Jane, don’t you think we should destroy these?" I finally asked, holding the container in my hand.

"Yes, flush them down the commode and give me the empty container," she quickly answered.

I did so. That was the way it was done.

Just think of what I put into our eco system that day.

Let’s all work together to try to keep our wonderful world wonderful.

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




Miles of Memories

Harry Harrell restores a 1946 Chevy and a piece of his own history.

by Carolyn Drinkard


Harry Harrell restored the 1946 Chevrolet purchased by his grandfather in 1948.

A rusty, old farm truck that had seen better days: this was what most people saw when they looked at the truck. But to Harry Harrell the old truck was a part of his family; a priceless treasure that had made miles of memories through the years.

In 1948, Thomas McZingo, Harry’s grandfather, purchased the ‘46 Chevrolet truck to use on his farm. Harry grew up, riding with his grandfather and sharing special moments. After McZingo suffered a stroke, his daughter, Willie Grace (Harry’s mother), drove the truck for many years. Again, pictures of his mother driving the old truck brought special memories to Harry. After his mother died, Harry’s wife, Barbara, used the truck to buy groceries and run errands.

Happy times were associated with the truck … times that were a special part of Harry’s life. As time passed, however, newer models replaced the old family truck, and it was eventually stored in a metal building for over 30 years.

Harry always dreamed of bringing his family’s old Chevy truck back to life. He would often tell Barbara that one day he was going to build his own shop and restore his granddaddy’s beloved truck. However, raising his three girls and holding a full-time job left little time for anything extra.

After retiring in Boise in 1999, Harry felt the time had come for him to begin the restoration. His plans hovered in the "talking stage" for 10 more years, before Barbara finally gave him an ultimatum.

"I told him to build that shop or be quiet!" she laughed.

He took her advice and the couple built their shop. Then they began to take the old truck apart, piece-by-piece. Since Harry had grown up in his Dad’s one-man garage, he was well-acquainted with automotive work.

The Harrells worked as a team in every phase of their journey. Harry stripped down the old truck and cleaned it to remove the rust. Barbara meticulously tagged every part, identifying where each piece had been.

"We had parts with little tags on them all over the shop and everywhere else we could put them," she laughed.

She took pictures, placing them in a book to create a timeline that helped Harry immensely.

Barbara and Harry Harrell worked as a team to restore their family treasure. The old farm truck that belonged to Harry’s grandfather is now a part of the family again.

One of the biggest problems Harry encountered was finding parts that would fit. Even though he was able to use some original parts, many others had to be replaced. He was lucky to purchase an old "parts truck" he could use. He also found a business in Missouri that supplied many of his needs. Some of the new parts he ordered, however, would not fit properly, so he often had to work with them to get them in.

"One friend told me I would have to put every part in four times before it would work," Harry stated.

The differences between a 1946 truck and modern trucks presented even more challenges. The transmission and gears in the older truck were straight, causing them to make more noise. The drive shaft was enclosed, as were the universal joints. It was hard to get into these areas to work. The emergency brakes, gear shift and light dimmer were all on the floor. The gas tank was inside the cab and the windshield rolled outward. Many friends advised the Harrells to change the truck to look more like a newer one, but they both wanted to maintain its originality as much as possible.

Harry replated the original grill himself, but he took parts needing rechroming to Florence. He also purchased reproductions for the bumpers. Wiring the truck proved to be difficult because he could not find a schematic. Nevertheless, Harry persisted, putting his beloved truck back together, piece-by-piece.

Choosing the color of the truck was another major decision. While the Harrells were in Shelbyville, Tennessee, for a horse show, they spotted an older 1937 truck with colors they liked. The lights were the only difference between the trucks: that one’s were on the hood where theirs are on the fender. Even though the colors were not original Chevy colors, the Harrells found what they wanted.

"Nothing about restoring Granddaddy’s truck was easy," he recalled. "I thought about giving up a lot, but Barbara was always telling me I could do it."

Harry also had help from some good friends. When the black knob on the gearshift did not match, his friend, Bud Rodgers, fashioned a special knob out of zebrawood to match the color of the truck. Another friend, Sloan Marx, helped with the body work and painting.

There were, however, some mishaps along the way. While backing out of his shop one day, Harry hit his lawnmower and bent one fender. Marx straightened and repainted the damaged fender. On another occasion, Harry accidentally backed into a disk. Fortunately, the damage was minimal.

For 4.5 years, Harry and Barbara labored on their dream, but both say it was worth it. Now, they enjoy their rides through the countryside on Sunday afternoons. So far, the farthest they have driven is 50 miles along backroads. They have shown their work at local antique car shows in Jackson, winning "Best of Show Pre-War" in 2015 and "Best of Show Post-War" (out of 120 entrants) in 2016.

Harry looks through the album, created by Barbara, containing the photos establishing the timeline of the restoration. Barbara carefully recorded each step of the process so they could share this experience with their family.

"I don’t know if I’m finished with my truck or not," Harry laughed. "Even after you get through with a truck, you still have to work on it. I can always find something else to do."

That "something else" has been to build a climate-controlled garage to house his beloved treasure.

Harry has many talents. He is an accomplished wood worker, building his own woodworking shop. He proudly shows all the den furniture he built with Barbara’s help. He is also a dedicated outdoorsman. He grew up hunting with his father and mother, and he still loves to hunt today. For years, he favored deer and hog hunting, but, now, he prefers squirrel hunting.

Until a few years ago, the Harrells rode their horses on local trail rides. In addition, Barbara bred and showed walking horses. Together, they built a barn for her horses, as well as all the fences for their pastures. The barn is a showcase for Barbara’s horse tack, hundreds of ribbons and trophies, and beautifully sequined show outfits. She also keeps a wall display, honoring great walking horses and their owners. The Harrells still own three horses, but rarely ride anymore.

Both the Harrells now enjoy a quiet life on their farm, just north of Jackson. The Double H Farm sits only a short distance from the old garage where Harry grew up, helping his father.

Harry may have waited later in life to fulfill his dream, but the wait has been worth it. When asked why he wanted to restore his granddaddy’s old truck, Harry spoke softly.

"It was his," he said, "and now, it’s a piece of me."

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




New Year’s Resolution:

Prepare Food More Safely

by Angela Treadaway

Food safety is not something we usually think about when we are making our New Year’s resolutions. In fact, it is likely you will promise to lose weight, exercise more, read more, spend less, stop smoking, start spending more time with family, plant more vegetables, etc., etc., etc.

A resolution is simply a course of action you have decided on that you are determined to complete. Why not try making a food-safety resolution? Most of these options are MUCH easier than losing 10 pounds. Follow these few simple steps and everyone in your family will thank you because they avoided an unnecessary foodborne illness.

Buy (and use) a food thermometer.

It is important to ensure foodborne pathogens, microorganisms that cause disease, are destroyed during the cooking process. This makes a food thermometer an essential food-safety tool. There is no other way to determine if a hamburger, roast or piece of salmon is sufficiently heated.

Buy the thermometer and follow these temperature guidelines for cooking:

  • Roasts and steaks to a minimum of 145 degrees
  • All poultry should reach a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees
  • Ground meat, whether it is sausage, fish or hamburger meat, to at least 155 degrees (color is not a reliable indicator of doneness)
  • Whole pieces of fish as well as steaks and chops need to reach 145 degrees
  • Bring sauces, soups and gravy to a boil (212 degrees) when reheating
  • Reheat other leftovers to 165 degrees

Wash your hands before preparing food.

Sometimes when we do things routinely, we can get complacent. We may think a quick little rinse under some tepid running water will do the trick. It will not. Scrub your hands for at least 10-20 seconds under running water WITH SOAP. The soap helps to break up the soil hiding the microorganisms on your hands. Then the running water can do its job and flush the soil and bacteria away.

Be sure to wash again after handling raw meat, poultry, fish, eggs or produce; between handling different foods; after coughing, sneezing or handling garbage; or after contaminating hands in any way.

Don’t cook for others when you are sick.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, ill food workers are often the source of foodborne illness outbreaks. In some cases, restaurants have closed due to lack of business resulting from a well-publicized outbreak.

While you may not work in food service, if you are preparing food for family members, friends or housemates, it makes sense to heed this advice: Do not prepare food for others if you are sick particularly with vomiting or diarrhea. Even if you are suffering from a really bad cold or flu with extensive coughing and sneezing, it may make sense to let someone else do the cooking.

Wash your fruits and vegetables before eating – all of them.

It is as simple as that. Wash all fruits and vegetables just before preparing and/or eating them. Wash under running water and use a scrub brush on hard rinds. Wash the rinds even if you do not eat them.

Washing will not guarantee all raw produce is germ-free, but it will reduce your risk.

Think twice about eating raw animal foods.

Most foodborne pathogens come from the intestinal system of animals (animal feces). When animals poop out the pathogens, they can contaminate soil, water, plants and other sources of the food we eat.

It makes sense that eating animal foods that have not been cooked sufficiently to destroy the pathogens is risky. Therefore, it is best to eat them cooked and cooked enough to destroy the pathogens.

If you are a healthy adult, you may choose to take the risk and eat raw clams, raw milk or raw beef (carpaccio), but children and immune-compromised individuals should avoid raw animal products altogether.

Buy (and use) a refrigerator thermometer.

Refrigerator thermometers are important to make sure foods are being kept at the right temperatures. Inside the refrigerator should be 40 degrees or lower. The thermometer should be near the door, maybe on a side wall so it can been seen every time you open the door.

It is obvious to most of us that refrigeration is essential to keep food from spoiling. But the cold also keeps the bacteria causing foodborne illness from multiplying. Temperatures above 40 degrees can support faster growth of bacteria such as salmonella, E. coli, campylobacter and other microorganisms that can cause foodborne illness.

Freezer temperature should be O degrees to keep food solidly frozen.

Learn how to cool foods safely.

Cooking to the proper temperature is one way to make foods safe. But if there are leftovers involved, it is only part of the story. To keep food safe after cooking, it is important to chill the food quickly.

Break the food down to small amounts, no more than 2-3 inches thick. Either put it in ice water to cool down quickly or leave uncovered for about 30 minutes for it to cool enough to freeze or refrigerate.

If foods are not cooled to below 70 degrees before being placed in the fridge, make sure, if covered, you do so loosely. If not, it will take forever to cool when the lid is tight.

Also, don’t overload the refrigerator. Air needs to be able to circulate to keep items cool.

Throw out leftovers if they are over six days old.

During food preparation, perishable food travels in and out of the danger zone several times: from the processor to the store, to your car, to the kitchen, to the refrigerator or freezer, to the counter for preparation, to the oven, to the table and to the refrigerator, again.

Each trip through the danger zone, or through several pairs of hands, can increase the number of microorganisms on the food. In addition, some pathogens such as listeria can grow and multiply even at 40 degrees in the refrigerator.

Use your leftovers as soon as possible. Date them if you cannot remember when they were first served.

Teach others how to handle food safely.

Many folks simply do not know how food makes people sick. They do not understand that food can look and smell perfectly fine, and still be contaminated.

At your church supper, the soup kitchen, a neighborhood picnic or wherever you see or share food-preparation duties, be sure to share your knowledge of how to prepare food safely so you do not have to share a foodborne illness.

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.



Nixon Knife

The Greatest Form of Flattery ...

by Suzy Lowry Geno

Derek Weyand working on a knife blade.

"Carrying a maker’s knife is the greatest form of flattery you could give that maker," Derek Weyand explained. "I love when my knives are purchased to give as gifts, but I love even more when they are purchased to be carried and used. Just because you have it – my knife – on your hip or in your pocket doesn’t mean it’s not appreciated."

Weyand, who lives with his wife LeeAnn and four young children in Piedmont, Missouri, is partners with Irondale’s Chris Nixon in creating Nixon Knife.

While the men both work separately, their brand together is becoming known in the knife world … not just the continental United States!

Weyand started making railroad spike knives back in 2013. His work progressed to fixed blade knives made from repurposed steel and 01 tool steel. Just this year, he has added slipjoint pocket knives to those he enjoys making.

"Although a knife can be made with different types of steel, Weyand and I focus on making the blades from repurposed farrier’s rasps," Nixon explained. "Quality rasps make excellent blades so we are always on the lookout for them. Derek travels all over southeast Missouri in search of local farriers.

"The texture in the steel of a rasp lends to an awesome detail on the blade, giving it attitude. There is no denying that it is made from repurposed steel."

Weyand added, "I not only enjoy taking something that has been cast aside or regarded as junk and turning it into something of beauty but the high-carbon content in the rasps makes an excellent knife that will sharpen easily, yet hold a good edge."

Nixon chimed in, "We don’t like to rush the process. Anything worth doing is worth doing right. If the process is rushed, you will always be operating with blinders on.

"That being said, some knife designs have many more features than others and take longer to make. I don’t ever tell myself the knife has to be done in a certain amount of time. It will be finished when it is finished. One of the details I spend the most time on is the flow and ergonomics of the handle. If you are not comfortable with the way it feels, you will not use it.

A knife made from a repurposed farrier’s rasp.

"These knives are for all walks of life. I don’t want to just make a nice knife for a certain niche; I want to make a knife anyone would be proud to have.

"There are three things we strive for when completing a knife: simplicity, beauty and function. If all three of those factors can be achieved, I know the knife will find its home, whether it be a collector, an outdoorsman or a chef."

Nixon has always had a passion for knives. Although he dabbled in knife-making for about a decade, it wasn’t until about two years ago that he decided to make it his life’s full-time work.

"I started making knives because I’ve always loved them," Nixon said, "and I like to build things with my hands. It’s very rewarding to hold a finished piece in your hand and reflect on how it didn’t even exist a week ago.

"I have a tendency to want to modify everything, but it seemed to me that, out of the millions and millions of knives out there, there should be a knife I didn’t feel the need to modify. I just couldn’t find it.

"Inspiration can be fickle, it can come from anywhere. You can take something negative and turn it into something positive. Unfortunately, my father isn’t here anymore for him to see any of our knives, but imagining his face light up with a smile while looking at a finished piece makes me strive to make each one special."

Nixon grew up just outside of Birmingham in Vestavia Hills, not your typical country boy knife owner. He moved out West after high school to attend Colorado State University.

"That was an adventure in itself," he recalled. "But it was sure nice to move back to Alabama, to move back home.

"After moving back, I did everything from remodeling homes to bartending, but I knew I wanted to create things. I began working an odd job that was only supposed to be a two week gig. Those two weeks came and went … and so did the years. That’s how I developed my skill for woodworking, working for that same family.

Chris Nixon working on a knife.

"With woodworking comes patience and with patience comes quality. When it came time to pick the knives back up again, I could really appreciate what I had learned. Now all those skills have rolled into one. It is all concentrated on our knife making."

Weyand has always been very skillful. Through the years, he has had several hobbies such as making fine, custom furniture and custom duck calls.

Weyand started forging in order to make custom hardware for a piece of furniture requested by a customer. Once he started forging, he started experimenting with knife making and he was hooked! He continues to stretch his skill and challenge himself with every knife he makes!

While he has always admired and collected knives, Weyand is now passing this love for knives and knife making on to his son; even his daughters are showing interest in collecting knives and one day working in the family business.

Weyand was born and raised in Fredericktown, Missouri, and lived there until he joined the U.S. Navy after graduating high school. He spent four years serving, but returned home in 2001.

Nixon says he tends to like the larger blades, but "we have made some smaller ones. Hearing somebody quote Crocodile Dundee when they see one of our knives never gets old!

"The future seems bright, but there’s no way to predict it. This is an adventure for us. I hope, in five to 10 years, it has only brought blessings to everyone involved … wherever the wind blows!"

You can contact Nixon Knife at www.facebook.com/nixonknife or phone Chris Nixon at 205-516-9897.

Suzy Lowry Geno is a Blount County freelance writer who can be reached through Facebook, Old Field Farm General Store, or her website, www.taitsgapstore.com.




No Fear for the New Year

by John Howle

"Cowards die many times before their deaths;
the valiant never taste of death but once."
~ William Shakespeare, "Julius Caesar"

This quote by Shakespeare means that the brave face the challenges of life and sometimes difficult and dangerous situations by standing up for what they believe in. It can literally mean in warfare or battle, but it can also mean facing daily challenges. In contrast, when the quote states cowards die many times before their deaths, this is more of a metaphor meaning running away when faced with an obstacle. In summary, the regret a coward would face each day for backing down is worse than the fear of being killed in battle.

As we enter into a new year, it is wise to equip ourselves with tools that allow us to face challenges valiantly instead of with fear. Here are a few verses to speak out loud when dealing with fear. "When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, for the Lord will be at your side and will keep your foot from being snared." (Proverbs 3:24-26, NIV) "The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do unto me?" (Psalm 118:6, ESV) Here’s my favorite, "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." (2 Timothy 1:7, KJB)

Remember, fear is a master spirit. It can even paralyze people emotionally and/or physically. Now that terrorist attacks are becoming more frequent around the globe, we see all types of reactions to fear. Sometimes we see people cower, even while the gunman calmly swaps out clips. However, in some instances, we have seen extreme courage in these attacks.

In 2015, you might remember the three friends from the United States who traveled in Europe and stopped a terrorist from opening fire on passengers on a train headed to Paris. The three men, along with a French citizen and a Briton, charged the terrorist. They tackled and subdued him.

The Briton stated, "My thought was, ‘OK, I’m probably going to die, anyway; so let’s go.’ I’d rather die being active, trying to get him down, than simply sit in the corner and be shot."

Even though this example is an extreme case, fear can be a motivating factor or a liability. Anyone who has lived or worked on a farm and hears the words "Look out!" knows to duck, run or dodge quickly. However, if fear manifests itself in worry and lack of action, it can prevent us from making sound business decisions for the farm. The best way to counteract fear is with faith.

When you buy a group of heifers to expand your herd, have faith they will breed and have calves. When you plan out the construction of a barn, have faith it will be built to fit the image in your mind of the final product. When you plant seeds, have faith the plants will bear fruit and won’t be stopped by drought or flooding rains.

Farm-raised greens and corn, and grass-fed beef.

Farm Fresh Living

People who grow up or live on farms have always known the food they produce is the healthiest and safest in the world. Many of our city-folk counterparts have come back to what we’ve known all along, whether it is purchasing fresh vegetables, grass-fed beef or fresh milk products from the farm. It’s a satisfying feeling to pull a glass jar of canned vegetables from the pantry and farm-raised beef from the freezer during the cold, unproductive month of January.

I recently prepared a meal with food taken entirely from our family farm. I pulled quart jars of green beans and corn, and two packs of grass-fed beef. The gravy used to top the hamburger steak was the only thing that wasn’t farm raised.

Make Some Gravy

Once the hamburger steak has been cooked in a black iron skillet, remove the meat and leave the browned remains. In an 8-ounce cup, mix warm water with about 2 tablespoons of self-rising flour. Stir until the flour is dissolved. Finish filling the cup with milk. Slowly pour this mixture into the skillet, adding salt, pepper and a small amount of ground red pepper. Mix until the gravy reaches a moderately thick consistency. Pour this over the hamburger steaks. Wash it down with a glass of sweet tea … because you grew up in the South.

Keep a sharpened chain saw in your truck during January for clearing away fallen trees and limbs.

Meet the Challenge With a Chain Saw

During January, you may simply be driving and see a tree fallen across the road. Many times you might find an ice-laden limb broken off and it has torn down the fence. Keeping a sharpened chain saw handy is essential this time of year. Make sure you keep the saw full of gas/oil mix, and the bar and chain oil full. Finally, take a few minutes to keep the teeth of the chain sharp and ready to cut.

This January, approach the New Year with courage as you face the challenges of 2018. Boldly make your decisions and put your plans into action with faith.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.



One Year AB (After BES) … A Sydney Update

It’s been a difficult year for both Syd and me. But, we are going to make it.

by Chuck Sykes


Chuck Sykes and Syd with the quail they harvested and retrieved during their quail hunt.

As most of you know, my baby girl, BES, passed away Nov. 19, 2016, after almost 13 years of making my life better. I penned an article in December, "Opening Day Will Never Be the Same," that hit the shelves in February. The responses I received from readers were overwhelming, to say the least. It’s amazing how a good dog can impact our lives in such a profound way.

It was by far the hardest article I’ve ever written. There was so much I wanted to say about how much she touched not only my life but the lives of others. I had no clue how I would ever be able to capture her positive impacts in 1,000 words or less. I was also afraid people wouldn’t "get" it. Boy, was I wrong! I received calls, letters and emails for months from complete strangers after the article was released. All of us "dog people" share a special bond with our furry critters as well as others like us. I have been writing articles for various publications for almost five years now, and the response from that one article was greater than all my others combined.

I would like to thank everyone who reached out to me. Many tears were shed as were many laughs. One common statement in all of the correspondence was, "Thank goodness you have Syd. Y’all can work through it together." So, on the one-year anniversary of her death, I felt it appropriate to give everyone an update on how Syd has progressed one year AB.

It has been a year filled with ups and downs and many, many firsts. Syd had been a follower his whole life. His mother was BES’s grandniece and the resemblance was uncanny. When he came home from the breeder, he looked on BES as his mother. He blindly followed her wherever she went and did whatever she did. He never had to think on his own. When she was no longer there, he had to think for the first time in his four years of life. Where BES was my "Doodle Bug," Syd was always my "Goofy Little Man." I really didn’t think he would ever have the mental capacity BES had. During the first six months after her death, I was convinced!

One of the many things BES taught me was to let her and, now, Syd progress at their own pace. Don’t push and be supportive. Talk to them like a human and explain things well, and eventually it would all click. As with most things, she was absolutely correct. I never had to teach her anything; all I did was expose her to a multitude of activities and allow her to figure out what I was doing and what I needed her to do. I was hoping during Syd’s first four years of bumbling around behind BES that he’d picked up a few things. But to be honest, I was not counting on it.

Syd with two of the ducks he retrieved.

The first few months were tough on us both. Neither of us knew what to do. Deer season was a complete bust. My heart wasn’t in it.

The couple of blood trails I put him on, he couldn’t care less about finding a deer. Trailing wounded deer was BES’s specialty. She was a master at it. I’d grown accustomed to having her find deer for me and, especially, others. So deer season was a huge disappointment.

Where BES was focused specifically on deer recovery, Syd had shown signs of liking other things such as squirrel hunting and retrieving. Taking BES’s advice, I let him progress on his own and choose his own path. I just carried him on as many hunts as possible and exposed him to as many different things as I could.

Although he didn’t impress me during deer season, he did seem to enjoy going wood duck hunting. He retrieved a couple, but, FYI, he’s not a big fan of feathers in his mouth.

During squirrel season things improved some more. Not only did he like retrieving the squirrels when they fell but he was now paying attention to the other dogs and learning to smell and tree the squirrels. So, maybe Syd was going to be the proverbial "Jack of all trades and master of none." Not what I was hoping for, but if he was happy I was, too.

February was a full month of firsts for Syd. He went on his first rabbit and quail hunts. He enjoyed both hunts and retrieved my rabbit and several quail. One big first for Syd, and something BES had never done, was accompanying me to a Conservation Advisory Board meeting at Lake Guntersville State Park. He wasn’t too impressed with the function and politely slept under my chair the whole time. He also participated in his first prescribed burn.

The next few months Syd and I spent quality time together building our relationship. He had always been my No. 2. BES was my pride and joy. I now had to treat him like No. 1. That was my job, building up his confidence and placing more responsibility on him. I had never given him any responsibilities; I just let BES take care of everything. His lack of progress was my fault, not his. I needed to step up my game.

Chuck holds the first rabbit Syd retrieved for him.

These dogs thrive on having jobs and I started giving him the opportunity to step up and be "The Man." Needless to say, he didn’t disappoint. When hunting season came around this year, he was ready. I carried him on a dove hunt opening day just to be my companion. I picked up the first bird I killed and, after that, he was a machine – marking birds, blind retrieves, water retrieves … the whole 9 yards. By the way, he still doesn’t like feathers but he powered through. The folks who laughed at me for having a miniature Aussie on a dove field were now eating their words!!!

I may not have the blood-trail specialist I was hoping for but who else could say they have a dog that will retrieve ducks, doves and quail, and tree squirrels? That answer is simple, "Nobody." I carried him with me on a bow hunt in Illinois the first week of November. A friend shot a big deer the second afternoon and asked if we could come help him find it. I wasn’t expecting Syd to show much interest based on last year’s performance, but I was wrong. We trailed the deer for over 3 miles. He was incredible. He made one more extremely impressive trail while we were there. Where BES was wide-open, basically a maniac until she could find it, Syd was very slow and methodical. They were two polar opposites, but with equally impressive results.

We will never forget BES and what she accomplished in her life or try to replace her. She was and will always be my baby girl. But Syd has stepped up and is carrying on her legacy. I wouldn’t hesitate to say she is very proud of her protégé. During the first year AB, Syd dropped the "Goofy" from his name. He is now just my "Little Man," Master of All Trades!!!

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




PALS: Hoover High School Green Team

Whether it’s promoting recycling at school or volunteering in the community, this student group is making a difference.


by Jamie Mitchell

Last school year, Hoover High School started a new Green Team on campus. The Team has grown this year, and they have decided to join the Clean Campus Program! The Green Team is off to a great start this year as they plan several cleanup and recycling events.

I recently visited the Green Team to present my 30-minute program on littering, recycling and reusing our resources. It was easy to see this group takes its role on campus seriously and has the desire to make a big impact in the community.

The school at large provides recycling bins, but many of the Green Teamers were disappointed to see students still throwing plastic and paper into the trash. The Team decided they would work on signage and other announcements to encourage students to always put recyclables in the proper receptacle.

Additionally, they have made a commitment to recycle water bottles from the band during next football season. This will prevent over 500 plastic bottles from heading to the local landfill each week!

The Green Team additionally plans to volunteer during some of the Jefferson County cleanups coinciding with the Don’t Drop it on Alabama Spring Cleanup in April.

As a part of the Clean Campus Program, the Team also received bags from PALS for regular cleanups around their campus.

Way to go, Hoover High School Green Team!! We are so excited to see their progress this year!

To learn more about how schools near you can join the Clean Campus Program, visit our website at www.alpals.orgor give us a call at 334-263-7737. The Clean Campus Program is FREE to all Alabama public, private and county schools.

Jamie Mitchell is the PALS State Clean Campus Coordinator.




Protein is the Key

Maximizing Forage Utilization

by Jackie Nix


Protein supplementation helps cattle better digest lower quality hay. SWEETLIX EnProAl poured tubs provide a labor-free option to get needed protein to cattle.

Ruminants (cattle, sheep, goats, etc.) have the unique ability to utilize materials inedible by humans (grasses, forbes and other roughages) and convert them to highly nutritious meat products for human consumption. This is made possible by the symbiotic relationship between rumen microbes and the ruminant. The ruminant’s ability to convert inexpensive, underutilized roughages to high-quality meat and milk is its main advantage over other commercially raised livestock (pork, poultry, etc.). Given that forages are among the least expensive feeds available, it goes without saying that anything we can do to maximize forage intake and/or utilization is going to positively affect economic returns.

Unfortunately, not all forages provided to ruminants are going to be of the highest quality. Unfavorable weather can set back hay harvests resulting in overmature or rain-damaged forages. While species variations exist, in general as a plant matures, it converts from a vegetative (leafy) state into a reproductive (stemy) state. When a plant is in the reproductive state, the plant’s nutritional resources are focused on producing reproductive structures (flowers, stem, seeds, etc.) instead of leaves. Nutritional quality decreases due to an increase in indigestible fiber (stem) and decreased nutrient content (less leaves). The total loss of quality is dependent on the type of forage. Grasses mature faster than legumes such as clover or alfalfa. Thus nutritional quality of grasses such as Bermuda grass, orchardgrass, prairie grass or fescue drops faster than legumes such as clover or alfalfa. Indicators such as stem size and stem softness as well as the presence of seed heads or flowers can help to gauge forage maturity. Hay containing large amounts of mature seed heads will be of low quality.

Low-quality forages don’t always come in the form of low-quality hay. Cereal grain crop residues such as corn stover are another source of forages utilized readily by ruminants containing high fiber, but they are relatively low in other nutrients. Additionally, pastures and rangeland also often offer low-quality forages for grazing due to various conditions. These conditions include, but are not limited to, forage overmaturity due to rapid growth spurts or insufficient stocking rate, excessive presence of low-quality plants (i.e., weeds) and poor environmental conditions such as drought.

When it comes to bulky, high-fiber, low-quality forage, intake is limited by the amount that can fit in the rumen at one time. The faster the bulky forage can be digested and moved out of the rumen into the lower gastrointestinal tract (rumen turnover), the faster more forages can be consumed. Quicker rumen turnover time is advantageous in that more nutrients can be processed by the animal in the same amount of time. More nutrients mean more building blocks, thus improving overall animal performance.

Protein is a key to optimal fiber digestion and intake. Ruminally available protein is a limiting factor in fiber fermentation. Remember, the reason low-quality forages are lower in nutrition is because they contain higher amounts of fiber. Recall that, in feeding a ruminant, one is actually providing nutrients for the rumen microbes. Protein is a key component for microbial adhesion to fiber needed to begin the fiber digestion process. Protein is also needed for the enzymes responsible for breaking down fiber. Additionally, inadequate dietary protein depresses animal performance; in turn, depressing appetite and further hindering animal performance. For all of the stated reasons, protein supplementation improves forage digestion and increases forage intake.

Just as you and I like three regular meals and between-meal snacks throughout the day instead of one huge meal, rumen microbes respond better to small regular doses of protein rather than slug feeding once a day or less frequently. Research repeatedly shows that regular daily supplementation of protein yields better results than less frequent protein supplementation. Studies conducted at Kansas State University reflect this. In one study, reducing supplementation frequency resulted in cows losing more weight during the winter. In another, daily supplementation was shown to improve forage intake and digestibility as opposed to twice a week supplementation.

Research shows that it doesn’t take much protein to have a positive influence. Supplementation with limited amounts (less than 2 pounds) of a high-protein supplement increased digestibility and intake of lower quality forages in numerous studies.

When it comes to providing supplemental protein to cattle for the purpose of stimulating forage utilization and intake, there is no better method than the use of self-fed SWEETLIX EnProAl poured blocks.

SWEETLIX EnProAl technology results in high-quality supplement blocks with consistent hardness and intake. This results in cattle consuming small, regular doses of ruminally available protein throughout the day, every day. This continuous delivery of protein to rumen microbes results in optimum fiber utilization and helps improve rumen turnover.

SWEETLIX EnProAl weather-resistant blocks can be used under even the harshest winter conditions. These blocks don’t require special feeders and will not blow away or spoil as opposed to commodity supplements such as soyhull pellets or dried distillers’ grains. Just roll them off the truck bed or trailer and forget them. These highly palatable protein supplement tubs are also an excellent source of magnesium to aid in the prevention of grass tetany in early spring pastures.

In summary, dietary protein is a key factor in the digestion and intake of low-quality forages. Research confirms a regular, daily intake of even a small amount of protein helps aid forage digestibility and increase rumen turnover rate. SWEETLIX EnProAl self-fed poured block supplements deliver 1-2 pounds of supplementation daily in a convenient, weather-resistant, no-waste form. SWEETLIX EnProAl offers a wide variety of protein supplement products in multiple product sizes to allow the greatest amount of flexibility for cattle producers.

For more information, contact your local Quality Co-op or SWEETLIX at 877-933-8549 or visit www.sweetlix.com.

Jackie Nix is an animal nutritionist with Ridley Block Operations (www.sweetlix.com). You can contact her at jackie.nix@ridleyinc.com 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.



Responsible Ag

Central Alabama Farmers Co-ops in Selma and Demopolis achieve certification.

by Sharon Cunningham


Welcome to Selma, the county seat of Dallas County in the Black Belt region of south-central Alabama and extending to the west. It was a trading center and market town during the years of King Cotton in the South. It was also an important armament manufacturing center during the Civil War. The city is also known as Alabama’s Butterfly Capital.

However, once you venture into Central Alabama Farmers Co-op, you can find what you need for the hunting season. They can equip you with what you may need before, during and after the season. As Mother Nature likes to adjust the temperature on a moment’s notice, you can find the right clothing. Did you make it into the woods and run short on ammo? Just follow the camo to the back. Have a field where you would like to see more wildlife? They can supply plot seeds, houses, treestands, seats and more.

Central Alabama Farmers Co-op in Demopolis is a hidden gem. Demopolis is the largest city in Marengo County, named to commemorate the battle fought by Napoleon against the Austrians in the village of Marengo June 14, 1800. King Cotton was coming into its own as the Southern money crop and the area prospered.

The Co-op has a small, helpful crew. They have a wide selection of farming items you may need.

If you have a horse, this is a must stop. Their resident horse man can help you with any question.

Sharon Cunningham is EHS coordinator for AFC. If you have any questions about the Responsible AG program or would like to learn how to join, you can contact her at sharon.cunningham@alafarm.com.




Southern Translation

SENTENCE USAGE: "I know it ain’t right to talk about nobody but, bless her heart, that baby girl of the new preacher is just plug ugly!"

What is the difference in being plug ugly and just regular ugly?

Plug ugly means to be extremely ugly and usually refers to people.

The Plug Uglies were a street gang operating out of Baltimore, Maryland, in the 1850s. The notorious Know Nothing Riot, in which political and gang rivalries flared up into mob violence, took place in Baltimore in 1856. Gangs called the Rip Raps, the Know Nothings and the Plug Uglies fought pitched battles in the streets, and these events were widely reported at the time. A contemporary newspaper report also puts the gang in Washington in the following year. The New York Daily Times, June 1857, printed a report from a correspondent in Washington:

"A gang of organized, desperate rowdies, some 50 in number, called the ‘Plug Uglies’ arrived here this morning from Baltimore for the purpose of defeating the Democratic ticket and keeping naturalized citizens from the polls."

Later reports, notably Herbert Asbury’s account "Gangs of New York," 1927, placed the Plug Uglies in New York. This is now disputed and some historians regard Asbury’s account as semifictionalized. Newspaper reports of New York City riots of 1857 only described the Plug Uglies as being rivals of the participants rather than being participants themselves. However, the appeal of the Plug Ugly name was too much for Martin Scorsese to resist when he made the film "Gangs of New York" in 2002, and he also located them in New York.

"Plug ugly" is an expression mostly found in the United States. In other parts of the English-speaking world, you are just as likely to hear "pug ugly" with the same meaning.

Pugs aren’t the most attractive of animals and many might say that only their mother could love them. "Pug ugly" seems as intuitive a coining as "crystal clear" or "bone dry." It seems reasonable to assume (and there’s dangerous etymological talk) one of these phrases derived from the other, either as a deliberate play on words or via a mishearing. Taking that assumption on, which came first, plug or pug?

It appears that plug ugly came in first, although pug ugly ran it a close second. Even in some early reports of the Plug Uglies in the Baltimore riots, the term "pug ugly" was included in the text.

The Milwaukee Daily News, June 1857, described pug ugly as a person with a brutish, swollen face that was the result of being plugged, that is punched, by a member of the Plug Ugly gang.

This leads us to look at the various explanations of how these expressions were derived. Pug ugly is straightforward. It isn’t a reference to the breed of dog, ugly though they are, but to pug as a shortened form of pugilist. Boxers were often battered and disfigured. As to plug ugly, frankly, no one knows.

As is always the case when a verifiable derivation isn’t known, people like to make up guesses. Here are a few theories; there are others:

The plugging = punching derivation given in the 1857 newspaper.

That the Plug Ugly gang wore plug hats, the name for headgear stuffed with paper and pulled over the ears as protection.

That the gang wore spiked boots they used to kick at victims; thereby, plugging them.

As is usually the case with derivations where, in truth, nobody knows, the list goes on.

Despite not knowing where it came from, we do know what it means and the expression has been in figurative (that is, lowercase) usage since the 1920s. P.G. Wodehouse, possibly as a consequence of his frequent visits to the United States, used the phrase frequently, as here in "Bill the Conqueror," 1924:

"As plainly as if he carried a sign, this man wore the word ‘plug ugly’ written all over him."

www.phrases.org




Taking Off the Hobbles

by Glenn Crumpler

Cows were everywhere!

Some were zebu-type cattle (white, tan or brownish colored cows with horns, a hump on their back and a lot of ear – what we would typically refer to as a Brahman-influenced cow). In southern India, most of the cattle were a variety of water buffalo and they looked a lot better than the zebu-type did. They were bigger boned, had much better udders and teats, produced more milk, had a lot more meat, and just looked a lot healthier and more productive.

When I say cows were everywhere, I literally mean they were everywhere! They were in the streets and highways, doorways of businesses downtown, walkways … wherever they wanted to hang out and nobody seemed to care. All the vehicle and foot traffic just adapted to the cattle, yielding to them and being very careful not to disrupt their activity or lack of it. The cattle always had the right of way whether they were crossing the road or lying down right in the middle of it.

I do not claim to be an expert on Hinduism. In fact, I know very little and am just now beginning to study it to see how we can best reach Hindus with the Gospel message of the one true God. What I did not know is that (depending on who you talk to or what you read) there are from 300,000 to 330 million gods and goddesses in Hinduism.

Honestly, it is difficult for me to grasp how anyone could understand or know what to worship in Hinduism when practically everything is or could be a deity at any given moment.

Additionally, there is really no proper or prescribed way of corporately worshiping these gods and goddesses. Though there are many temples throughout India (often several in one block) and many public and roadside shrines, most is individual worship. Hindu worship involves offerings, prayers and rituals to the idol(s) of the deity considered most suitable for the individual’s needs and desires.

I knew when I went to India that cows were a deity and most animals are respected (or revered) because of the Hindu belief in reincarnation. Every living thing could be someone’s ancestor or predecessor. The cow, however, is the highest idolized and worshipped animal because of what it gives: milk, cheese and butter; and it pulls the plow – all critical to the people’s survival. Therefore, the cow is the ultimate representation for all animal life.

Perhaps that explains why hundreds are lynched every year in India for butchering cows to feed their hungry families!

Consider these quotes from Gandhi: "Mother cow is in many ways better than the mother who gave us birth. Our mother gives us milk for a couple of years and then expects us to serve her when we grow up. Mother cow expects from us nothing but grass and grain. Our mother often falls ill and expects service from us. Mother cow rarely falls ill. Here is an unbroken record of service which does not end with her death. Our mother, when she dies, means expenses of burial or cremation. Mother cow is as useful dead as when she is alive. We can make use of every part of her body – her flesh, her bones, her intestines, her horns and her skin. Well, I say this not to disparage the mother who gives us birth but in order to show you the substantial reasons for my worshiping the cow." (H, 15-9-1940, p. 281)

"I would not kill a human being for protection of a cow, as I will not kill a cow for saving a human life, be it ever so precious." (YI, 18-5-1921, p. 156)

Wow! That is hard for us to imagine, isn’t it? However, there were several observations I made regarding the worship or the association of deity with cattle in Hinduism that are very self-contradictory.

The first is how the try to control the cattle. Most of them spend their entire lives hobbled so they cannot walk a full stride or completely stand upright. Their front feet are tied together and another rope attaches the hobble to a halter, keeping their heads down. In some cases, the back legs are also tied together and connected to the front hobbles – the cow actually limps or moves in a short, awkward, often painful-looking cadence. I have no doubt that, even if the hobbles were removed, many of these cattle would never be able to move properly.

Another striking contradiction is that India (> 80 percent Hindu) is the largest exporter of beef products in the world, comprising 23 percent of the world’s beef export market! Brazil, Australia and the United States follow at second, third and fourth, respectively. Though most of India’s beef is carabeef (water buffalo), it seems counterintuitive that, in a country and a religion where beef is seen as a deity and illegal to kill or eat, the same people would be the world’s largest exporter of dressed beef!

As U.S. cattlemen and ranchers, we also love and value our cattle. We treat them humanely. We take great care and great pride in the fact that we provide the safest and most desirable beef and beef products in the world. We surely promote the eating of beef and using every part of the animal we can to make a profit. The difference is that, for most of us, cattle are not considered a deity or object of worship.

However, if we are not careful to keep our priorities in order, cattle or anything else can become idols. In fact, anything we elevate to the level that it comes between us and a right, intimate and personal relationship with God has become an idol, whether we admit it or not. I certainly see a lot of that in our culture today! Cattle, cattle breed associations, sports teams, money, houses, vocations, church buildings, political power, social standing, material possessions, travel, family – you name it and you can see it today as an idol, elevated to the level of deity and worship in the lives of many in our culture today. I saw a lady last week in a t-shirt that read, "Football is the reason for the season" and it surely appears that for many, this is true.

Excluding the billions spent on church buildings for our own comfort, what is actually given and spent to take the Gospel and the love of Christ to the world doesn’t even register in comparison to what we spend on just sports alone in America! We can save that discussion for another day.

On the surface, the Hindu’s view of cattle as a deity seems strange and self-contradicting. However, it has striking similarities to how we sometimes view, treat and use God in our Christian culture. How often do we knowingly or unknowingly replace Him on the throne of our lives with other gods and idols to suit our own purposes and desires? How often do we put our own desires above the basic needs of others?

How is that we have gotten to the point where we so easily and readily try to hobble or limit God’s power and authority in our lives and culture? (A true God cannot be hobbled – but we can limit what we allow Him to do in our lives and our culture.) I am old enough to remember when the Church took primary responsibility for the care of widows, orphans and the needy instead of the government! We all prayed in school. We learned the 10 Commandments and the Golden Rule, and even memorized Bible verses in school. Everybody honored and participated in prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance at football games and all other public events. A preacher delivered an evangelistic message at the baccalaureate service. We even had evangelistic guest speakers and presentations during the school day. One regionally local visitor I remember was Geraldine, a lady ventriloquist who shared the Gospel through her wooden partner Ricky.

Today, society says God has no place in our public lives, the Bible has no authority in governing morality; there are no moral absolutes, and even Christmas trees and nativity scenes are being prohibited. We are told it is no longer acceptable to have a Bible on our desks; to say, "God bless you" or "Merry Christmas"; and we better not talk about Jesus at work or school! Some want God removed from all our founding documents, the Pledge of Allegiance and currency. Every religion has rights and protection except for Christianity. It is being silenced and becoming more and more irrelevant in influencing culture. Yet we sit silently by and let it happen! We have hobbled God by basically disinviting Him from every aspect of our lives and culture, and we wonder why all the evil is happening!

Don’t you think it is time we take the hobbles off God and invite Him back onto the throne of our lives (publicly and privately)? This will require confession that we have sinned against Him. It will require we turn away from our sin and follow Him. It will require we eliminate our idols. Many will oppose us and it will cost us! But what will the costs be for our future, for the future of our children and grandchildren – and even for the world if we do not turn back to the only God who loves us and can bless us and is the One who will one day judge us?

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




The Co-op Pantry

by Jena Klein

Wow – ask and you shall receive!! We asked for healthy recipes for this issue and did we ever receive them! The response was overwhelming!! If you don’t see all of your recipes, please don’t be upset. We received so many that I am holding some back for future issues! This does not mean that I want you to stop sending them; it just means I didn’t have room for all of them in this issue!!! I want to send out a huge, huge thank you to everyone who has sent in recipes. You are phenomenal!

A special hats off to Tony Becker, fitness manager and trainer for Fitness Together, who shared several recipes he gives to the people he trains and to Holly Brent & Eatables (her Facebook group page!). If you join any healthy recipe group on Facebook, make sure it is this one!! Absolutely the Best!! Members share heathy recipes, pictures and information on a healthy diet and life style. This page is awesome!! I joined and am totally hooked!

Just a quick note: once again, I will stress that what makes recipes fun is that they can come from cookbooks, magazines, handed down from person to person and group to group, posted on web sites … the list goes on and on where we find them. Recipes get tweaked, changed or remain the same, but they become your recipes!! Very few recipes are actually the original and that is what makes them so much fun if you like to cook.

I have been a recipe gatherer for years now and it still amazes me how versatile recipes are. Sometimes all it takes to make a recipe healthy is to cut back on certain ingredients or substitute a healthy form of an ingredient!

Hope you enjoy making some of these healthy recipes!!

In Health and Wellness.

From the editor: February is Heart Healthy Month and, as everyone knows, has Valentine’s Day. We would love to have you share the recipe(s) you prepare to help keep your heart … and sweetheart … healthy and happy (these recipes may not be very healthy!).

The monthly ingredients we will be featuring are cabbage, chocolate (of course) and sweet potatoes. We would also like recipes for or using home-canned foods.

We look forward to hearing from you.


CREAMY TOMATO SOUP …
IN A FLASH!

1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes with basil
½ cup plain nonfat Greek Yogurt
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
Garlic salt and pepper, to taste

In a microwave-safe bowl, mix all ingredients. Heat in microwave. (Or pour into a saucepan and heat on stovetop.) Add more or less stock if needed for desired thickness. Enjoy garnished with Parmesan cheese and chopped chives or scallions.

Note: I like to add hot sauce and substitute Braggs Liquid Aminos instead of salt for a more depth flavor.

Jamie Bowling

PALEO OMELET MUFFINS

8 eggs
8 ounces cooked ham, crumbled
1 cup diced red bell pepper
1 cup diced onion
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 Tablespoons water

Heat oven to 350°. Grease 8 muffin cups or line with paper liners.

In a large bowl, beat eggs together. Add ham, bell pepper, onion, salt, black pepper and water. Into prepared muffin cups, pour egg mixture evenly.

Bake until muffins are set in the middle, 18-20 minutes.

Tony Becker, Fitness Together

CREAMY CAULIFLOWER ALFREDO
(DAIRY-FREE, NUT-FREE)

1 teaspoon coconut oil or butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
12 ounces cauliflower florets
1 cup water
½ teaspoon fine Himalayan salt, or more to taste
Black pepper, to taste

In a small saucepan over low heat, sauté garlic in coconut oil or butter. Allow to cook for a few minutes, until garlic is tender and fragrant, but not browned.

Add water and cauliflower. Bring to a boil. (The water will not cover cauliflower; that’s OK.) Once water is boiling, reduce heat to a simmer and cover pot for 8-10 minutes, until the cauliflower is fork-tender and very soft.

Into a blender or food processor, transfer entire contents of saucepan. Season with salt and pepper. Process until very smooth and creamy, with a texture similar to traditional cream sauce. (Always be careful when blending hot liquids – steam pressure can blow lid off blender!)

Season with additional salt and pepper, if desired, and serve hot.

Note: This sauce will need additional salt if you serve it over plain pasta or steamed vegetables, as the flavor will get diluted.

This sauce is delicious on its own, but it can be extra tasty with a few add-ins. Here are a few ideas, but feel free to get creative!

  • A generous topping of freshly grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan, for an authentic-tasting Alfredo sauce
  • Sun-dried tomatoes and fresh spinach
  • Sautéed mushrooms and roasted broccoli
  • Nutritional yeast, for a dairy-free cheesy flavor

Enjoy!

Holly Brent – Eatable Group Facebook page

CROCKPOT CRUSTLESS PIZZA

Servings: 10 servings
2 pounds ground beef
Garlic, salt, pepper and dried minced onion, to taste
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 (14-ounce) jar pizza sauce
2 cups shredded pizza blend cheese
Favorite pizza toppings

In a skillet, mix beef and seasonings. Cook on stove over medium-high heat. Drain. In a bowl, put beef and mozzarella. Mix.

Spray crockpot lightly with cooking spray. Evenly add beef mixture. Pour pizza sauce over top and spread evenly. Top with pizza blend cheese and toppings. Cover and cook on low for around 4 hours.

Kerri Pennington

SPICY PIMENTO CHEESE

1 (8-ounce) block sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 (8-ounce) block Monterey jack cheese, grated
1 small jar pimentos, drained
1 Tablespoon chopped jalapenos, or to taste
Fat-free Greek yogurt, enough to make smooth

In a bowl, mix all ingredients until well blended (may be a bit chunky). Serve with favorite crackers or chips.

Robin Moore

ICED COFFEE PROTEIN SHAKE

2 cups of ice
¾ cup almond milk
1 cup cold brewed coffee, unsweetened
1 chopped frozen banana
1 scoop of chocolate or vanilla
protein powder (can be vegetable or whey protein)

In blend, place all ingredients. Blend until smooth. If too thick, add a little more milk or coffee. If too runny, add more ice or frozen banana.

Add other ingredients you like such as unsweetened cocoa powder, Greek yogurt, flax meal, coconut milk, oatmeal, chia seeds, peanut butter and the list goes on!

If you find the protein powder is too much for you, cut it back to a ½ scoop and use some plain Greek yogurt!

Calories: 115

Denise J. Sosnowich – Eatable Group Facebook

PROTEIN POWDER MUFFINS

A friend of mine posted these muffins made with protein powder.


Servings: 21 mini muffins or 7 regular muffins
Serving size: 3 mini muffins or 1 regular muffin
1 cup vanilla protein powder (mine is plant-based pea protein but I don’t see what different types could matter)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
½ cup egg whites
2 Tablespoons coconut oil, melted
1 Tablespoon maple syrup (the real stuff, not pancake syrup)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Heat oven to 350°.

In a bowl, put all ingredients. Mix. Fold in ¾ cups frozen blueberries. Bake in muffin tin for 20-25 minutes.

Ashley McCulloch – Eatable Group Facebook

BROCCOLI AND CHEESE PIE

Servings: 4-8
4 large eggs
½ cup unsweetened cashew or soy milk
¼ cup fat free cottage cheese
1 cup low fat shredded cheddar cheese
1-2 cups chopped broccoli
¼ cup chopped turkey bacon, optional
1/3 cup chopped green onion
Salt and pepper, to taste
1-2 fresh tomatoes, sliced (optional)

In a bowl, combine all ingredients well. In 10-inch pie pan, sprayed with nonstick cooking spray, pour mixture. Top with tomato slices. Bake at 350°for 45-60 minutes until golden brown.

Nutritional information for ¼ slice: 108 calories; 13 g protein; 2 g carbs (I used Kraft’s skim milk cheese slices).

Note: For less calories, substitute half or all the whole eggs with egg whites/Eggbeaters.

Jamie Bowling

EASY 4 INGREDIENT
BAKED OATMEAL CUPS

2½ cups large flake oats
¼ cup EGG Creations whole eggs original*
1½ cups milk
½ cup pure maple syrup
Optional: finely chopped apples, bananas, cinnamon, fresh or frozen berries, peanut butter (warm it up a little before stirring in!), mini chocolate chips, nuts, dried fruit, etc.

Heat oven to 350°. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with liners (I like to use the silicone ones!). Set aside.

In a medium bowl, stir together oats, EGG Creations, milk and maple syrup until combined. Stir in optional ingredients.** Divide evenly between muffin cups (make sure to get equal liquid in each cup so none are dry).

Bake for about 25 minutes, until light golden brown on top and completely set. Let sit for 5-10 minutes before removing from liners.

Oatmeal Cups can be stored in refrigerator for up to 1 week or frozen for up to 3 months. They reheat beautifully! Serve alone or with milk and additional maple syrup if desired.

Note: * ¼ cup EGG Creations is equal to 1 large egg

** If you add more ingredients, you may want to leave a little extra space in muffin cups and may get 16 instead of 12. I’ve done apple and cinnamon, banana and peanut butter, and raspberries and chocolate chips.

These easy-baked oatmeal cups use only FOUR basic ingredients and they're perfect for breakfast, school lunches or snacks! Naturally sweetened and packed with protein. You can make ahead three variations that are freezer friendly: raspberry chocolate chip, peanut butter banana and apple cinnamon.

Tony Becker, Fitness Together

EASY, HEALTHY CHICKEN SALAD WITH QUINOA, TOMATOES,
LEMON AND BASIL

1¾ cups uncooked quinoa
3 cups quartered grape or cherry tomatoes (from about 1½ pints)
1 (6-ounce) bag baby spinach, chopped
2 cups diced, cooked chicken breasts*
1 cup finely chopped fresh basil
¾ cup coarsely chopped walnuts
¾ cup shredded parmesan
3 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup lemon juice
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon lemon zest
½ teaspoons kosher salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper

Prepare quinoa according to package directions. After cooking, allow to cool, then fluff with a fork. (If serving as a warm, main-dish salad, allow cooling just enough that basil and spinach won't wilt when added and cheese won't melt.)

In a large bowl, combine cooled quinoa, tomatoes, spinach, chicken, basil, walnuts, parmesan and garlic. Stir well.

In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, lemon zest, salt and pepper. Pour over quinoa mixture. Stir thoroughly. Serve immediately or refrigerate, covered, until serving.

* Chicken: Nearly any boneless, skinless chicken breasts will work in this recipe, as long as they're not overly flavorful from spices or marinades. A store-bought rotisserie chicken is an easy option. Or you can plan ahead and cook a couple of extra chicken breasts whenever you're making chicken, so you have extra cooked chicken for this recipe without any extra work.

Make-Ahead Tip: This recipe can easily be made in advance and refrigerated until serving. It makes a large bowl of salad – perfect for sharing at a party or for storing leftovers in the fridge for lunches and snacks throughout the week.

For a Vegetarian Version: You can simply omit the chicken completely, especially as the quinoa offers so much protein. Or you can offer the diced chicken on the side and diners can mix some in if they choose.

Tony Becker, Fitness Together

EASY SOUTHWESTERN VEGGIE WRAPS RECIPE

Servings: 6
1 can (15-ounce) black beans, rinsed and drained
2 large tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 cup frozen corn, thawed
1 cup cooked brown rice, cooled
1/3 cup fat-free sour cream
¼ cup minced fresh cilantro
2 shallots, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
2 Tablespoons lime juice
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon salt
6 romaine leaves
6 (8-inch) whole wheat tortillas, at room temperature

In a large bowl, place all ingredients except romaine and tortillas. Toss to combine. To serve, place romaine on tortillas; top with bean mixture and roll up, securing with toothpicks if desired.

Note: Wear disposable gloves when cutting hot peppers; the oils can burn skin. Avoid touching your face.

Tony Becker, Fitness Together

PESTO CHICKEN SANDWICHES

4 ciabatta rolls (or similar sandwich rolls - ciabatta are my favorite)
2 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded*
2 Tablespoons mayo
2 Tablespoons Greek yogurt
⅓ cup pesto (homemade or store-bought)
4 slices provolone or Swiss cheese

In a large bowl, put chicken, mayo, yogurt and pesto. Mix well.

Cut ciabatta rolls in half horizontally. Place one slice of cheese on bottom half of each roll.

Spread pesto chicken mixture on top of cheese. Top with other half of roll. Serve warm, chilled or at room temperature. If you have a panini press or a George Foreman grill, you can grill the sandwich in a flash (my favorite way to serve these!).

* Rotisserie chicken works well or you can cook chicken breasts on stove over medium heat for 3-5 minutes on each side - then shred. Another great way to make shredded chicken is in the crockpot. Add chicken breasts and about 1 inch of water to crockpot. Cover and cook on high for 1-2 hours. Drain crockpot and shred chicken with two forks.

Tony Becker, Fitness Together

EASY SHRIMP STIR FRY

Servings: 4
Serving size: 1 cup
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
¾ cup cold water
2 Tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon ground ginger
2 cups fresh broccoli florets
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 medium sweet red pepper, julienned
3 green onions, chopped
1 pound uncooked medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 cup frozen oriental vegetables, thawed
3 garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup chopped peanuts

In a small bowl, combine cornstarch and water until smooth. Stir in soy sauce, garlic powder and ginger. Set aside.

In a large nonstick skillet or wok, stir fry broccoli in oil for 2 minutes. Add red pepper and onions. Stir fry for 2-3 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender. Add shrimp, oriental vegetables and garlic. Cook 3 minutes longer.

Stir cornstarch mixture, Stir into shrimp mixture. Add peanuts. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened.

Nutritional information per serving: 273 calories; 13 g fat (2 g saturated fat); 129 mg cholesterol; 593 mg sodium; 18 g carbohydrate (4 g sugars, 4 g fiber); 23 g protein

Diabetic Exchanges: 3 lean meat, 2 vegetable, 1 fat, ½ starch

Tony Becker, Fitness Together

SHRIMP, SAUSAGE
AND QUINOA JAMBALAYA

Serving Size: 1 (364 g)
Servings: 8
4½ cups low-sodium chicken broth, divided
2 cups quinoa
1 Tablespoon olive oil
½ pound smoked kielbasa, sliced in ¼-inch rounds (use turkey kielbasa)
1 large onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 cup vegetable juice, spicy
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved

In a medium saucepan, combine 4 cups chicken broth and quinoa. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook 15 minutes.

In a skillet, heat oil. Add kielbasa, onion, bell pepper and garlic. Sauté about 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Add remaining broth and vegetable juice. Bring to a simmer. Add shrimp. Simmer 5 minutes or until done. Add peas, tomatoes and cooked quinoa. Toss.

356.5 calories per serving.

Tony Becker – Fitness Together

SERIOUSLY, THE BEST
HEALTHY TURKEY CHILI

Servings: 6
Serving Size: 1/6 of recipe, about 1½ cups each
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
1 pound extra lean (99 percent) ground turkey or chicken
4 Tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes or crushed tomatoes
1¼ cups chicken broth
2 (15-ounce) cans dark red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15-ounce) can sweet corn, rinsed and drained
For topping: cheese, avocado, tortilla chips, cilantro, sour cream

In a large pot, pour oil. Place over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic and red pepper. Sauté for 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently. Add ground turkey and break up meat. Cooking until no longer pink. Add chili powder, cumin, oregano, cayenne pepper and salt. Stir for about 20 seconds. Add tomatoes, chicken broth, kidney beans and corn. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30-45 minutes or until chili thickens and flavors come together.

Taste and adjust seasonings and salt as necessary. Garnish with anything you'd like.

Note: Healthy – Gluten Free

I've gotten a few comments about the chili being too spicy - I used McCormick's Chili Powder, which is very mild. If you're using something else, I would start with 2-3 tablespoons instead of 4.

To make in slow cooker: Reduce chicken broth to ½ cup and brown turkey and onions before adding. This is an awesome tailgating or football party recipe!

Nutrition information per serving: 336 calories; 3.7 g fat; 46.7 g carbohydrates; 9.5 g sugar; 17.4 g fiber; 31.8 g protein

Tony Becker, Fitness Together

ENCHILADA CHICKEN SOUP

3 precooked chicken breasts, shredded
2 cups chicken broth (reserve 1 cup as needed to thin down after cooking if desired)
½ cup enchilada sauce
6 garlic cloves, diced
½ chopped onion
4 Tablespoons salsa
1 (8-ounce) block cream cheese
1 package taco seasoning
½ cup heavy whipping cream

In slow cooker, place all ingredients. Add additional water per cup as needed during cooking. Cook on low for 4 hours or high for 2 hours.

With hand-held mixer, beat mixture until liquid is smooth. Serve with shredded cheese, sour cream, chives or cheese crisps.

Kerri Pennington

SWEET POTATO NOODLES!

2 medium sweet potatoes, spiralized
1-1½ Tablespoons oil, just enough to coat spirals
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon onion powder
About 1 teaspoon oregano
About 1 teaspoon basil
¼ cup Parmesan, grated

Heat oven to 400°.

In a bowl, place sweet potatoes. Slowly add oil. Add just enough oil to lightly coat spirals. Add remaining ingredients and toss thoroughly.

On baking sheet, evenly spread potatoes. Cook for 10 minutes, check. If potatoes are cooked to your liking, enjoy! Otherwise, cook for 2-3 minutes longer.

Note: Spiralized sweet potatoes make a healthy addition to any meal. Recipe can be adjusted easily to cook’s preference! Also, when spiralizing sweet potatoes, you feel like you’re eating more because of the amount of noodles, but you may actually only be consuming half a sweet potato and half the calories!

Katie Klein

HONEY PUMPKIN
CORNBREAD MUFFINS

(These go perfect with chili!)
Servings: 12 muffins
Serving size: 1 muffin
1¼ cups yellow cornmeal
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup canned pumpkin
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/3 cup honey
2 Tablespoons melted butter or coconut oil

Heat oven to 400°. Grease 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray or line with paper liners. Spray the inside of liners to ensure muffins do not stick.

In a large bowl, mix flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.

In a separate large bowl, mix pumpkin, egg, almond milk, honey and butter/coconut oil. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients. Stir until just combined. Divide batter evenly into muffin tins. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean or with just a few crumbs attached.

Note: A twist on the traditional cornbread with pumpkin to keep the muffins moist and honey for a touch of sweetness. Everyone will love these muffins!

Nutrition information per serving: 141 calories; 3.2 g at; 26.6 g carbohydrates; 7.7 g sugar; 2.6 g fiber; 2.8 g protein

Tony Becker, Fitness Together

CHICKEN & QUINOA
STUFFED PEPPERS

1-1/3 cups unsalted chicken stock (I prefer Swanson)
2/3 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
1 pound 98 percent fat-free ground chicken breast or 99 percent fat-free ground turkey breast
1 clove garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 (10-ounce) package chopped frozen spinach, thawed and well drained
1 (10.5-ounce) can Campbell’s Healthy Request Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
4 medium red bell peppers, seeded and cut in half lengthwise

Set oven to 350°.

In a 1-quart saucepan, place stock and quinoa. Heat over high heat to a boil. Reduce heat to low. Cover and cook for 13 minutes or until quinoa is tender.

In a 12-inch nonstick skillet, place chicken, garlic and onion. Cook over medium-high heat until the chicken is cooked through, stirring often to separate meat. Add spinach, soup, quinoa and 3 tablespoons cheese.

On a 11x8x2 baking dish, place pepper halves. Spoon chicken mixture into peppers. Bake for 30 minutes or until hot. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake for 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted.

Tony Becker, Fitness Together

CROCKPOT LOW-CARB TACO SOUP

2 pounds ground pork, beef or sausage
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese
2 (10-ounce) cans Rotel
2 Tablespoons taco seasonings
4 cups chicken broth
1-2 Tablespoons cilantro, fresh or dried (optional)
½ cup shredded cheese, for garnish (optional)

In a skillet, brown ground meat till fully cooked.

While meat is browning, in crockpot, place cream cheese, Rotel and taco seasoning.

Drain any grease from meat. Put meat in crock pot. Stir. Pour chicken broth over meat and cheese. Cook on low for 4 hours or high for 2 hours.

Before serving stir in cilantro. Garnish with shredded cheese.

Kerri Pennington

FAT HEAD PIZZA - THE HOLY GRAIL

Servings: 6 slices
Serving size: 1 slice
½ cup (6-ounce) preshredded/grated cheese (mozzarella is the best or Edam/mild cheese)
¼ cup (3-ounce) almond meal/flour
2 Tablespoon cream cheese
1 egg
Pinch salt, to taste
½ teaspoon dried rosemary, garlic or other flavorings, optional
Choice of toppings such as pepperoni peppers, cherry tomatoes, olives, ground/mince beef, mushrooms, herbs, etc.

In a microwaveable bowl, mix cheese and flour/meal. Add cream cheese. Microwave on HIGH for 1 minute. Stir. Microwave on HIGH for another 30 seconds. Add egg, salt, rosemary and any other flavorings. Mix gently. Place between 2 pieces of baking parchment/paper. Roll into a circular pizza shape. Remove top baking paper/parchment. If mixture hardens and becomes difficult to work with, pop it back in the microwave for 10-20 seconds to soften, but not too long or you will cook the egg. Make fork holes all over the pizza base (crust) to ensure it cooks evenly.

Slide baking paper/parchment with crust on a baking sheet or pizza stone. Bake at 425° for 12-15 minutes, or until brown.

To make crust really crispy and sturdy, flip the pizza over (onto baking paper/parchment) once the top has browned. Once cooked, remove from oven and add toppings. Make sure all meat is already cooked as this time it is just to heat toppings and melt cheese. Bake for 5 minutes.

Note: Low Carb

Fat Head pastry can also be made by replacing the almond meal/flour with ¼ cup (4 tablespoon) coconut flour.

Nutrition information per serving (for crust only; toppings will vary widely): 203 calories;

151 calories from fat; (percent daily value*) 16.8 g (26 percent) total fat; 4 g (1 percent) total carbohydrates; 1.6 g (6 percent) dietary fiber; 1 g sugars; 11 g (22 percent) protein

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet

Kerri Pennington

HEATHY BAKED CHICKEN NUGGETS

Servings: 4
Serving Size: ¼ nuggets

Old Points: 4 pts
Points + 4 pts, Calories: 164.9

Olive oil spray
2 teaspoons olive oil
6 Tablespoons whole wheat Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
2 Tablespoons panko
2 Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
2 (16-ounce) large skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into even, bit-sized pieces
Salt and pepper, to taste

Heat oven to 425°. Spray a baking sheet with olive oil spray.

In one bowl, pour olive oil. In second bowl, put breadcrumbs, panko and parmesan cheese.

Season chicken with salt and pepper. Put in bowl with olive oil. Mix well to evenly coat chicken. Put a few chunks of chicken at a time into breadcrumb mixture to coat. Place on baking sheet. Lightly spray top with olive oil spray. Bake 8-10 minutes. Turn nuggets over. Cook another 4-5 minutes or until cooked through.

Nutrition information per serving: 4.6 g fat; 22.14 g protein; 7.7 g carbohydrate; 0.9 g fiber; 0.1 g sugar

Robin Moore

110 CALORIE CRUSTLESS
VEGGIE QUICHE

Servings: 6 large
1½ cups (2 small or 1 very large) sliced yellow squash
1½ cups (2 small or 1 very large) sliced zucchini
1 large orange (or any color) bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves roasted garlic, chopped
1 Tablespoon ground thyme (or fresh chopped)
3 large eggs
3 large egg whites
¾ cup milk
¾ teaspoon salt, divided
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
2/3 cup shredded cheese
2 Tablespoons grated parmesan cheese

Spray a large skillet with nonstick spray. Place over medium-high heat. Add squash, zucchini, pepper, garlic and thyme. Add a little pinch of salt and pepper. (The rest of salt and pepper called for in egg mixture, don’t need much now.) Stirring frequently, cook for 6-7 minutes or until veggies are tender. Spoon into a bowl and allow to cool as you prepare egg mixture.

Heat oven to 350°. Spray 9-inch pie pan or square pan with nonstick spray. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk eggs, egg whites, milk, salt and pepper until thoroughly combined. Arrange veggies in prepared pan. Top with shredded cheese. Pour egg mixture on top. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

Bake for 45 minutes or until filling is set and no longer jiggles. Cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack before slicing and serving.

Make ahead: Baked quiche freezes well, up to 2 months. Thaw overnight and, to warm, bake at 350° for about 20 minutes.

Notes: This quiche makes great leftovers! Store tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

I’ve made this recipe with both skim milk and unsweetened plain almond milk. Any milk is OK.

I used a blend of reduced-fat shredded cheddar and mozzarella. Use your favorite such as goat cheese, feta, gouda, etc. If you aren't watching your calories too much, increase to about ¾-1 full cup.

Serving: 110 calories

Robin Moore

SIMPLE SOAKED
WHOLE WHEAT HOTCAKES

Servings: 12-14 pancakes
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups cultured buttermilk, yogurt or milk kefir
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 eggs
2 Tablespoons olive oil

In a large bowl, combine flour and buttermilk. Soak covered in a warm place overnight. (A soaking time of 24 hours yields fluffier pancakes.)

After soaking, add baking powder, salt, eggs, and olive oil. Mix until well-combined, but do not overmix.

Cook on a hot, oiled cast-iron skillet or griddle until pancake is puffed and browned.

Jena Klein

EASY PORK AND KRAUT SOFT TACOS

Servings: 4-8 tacos
4 Tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, diced fine
1 pound pulled pork
1 teaspoon chili powder
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes, crushed
Pinch oregano
½ teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 small bell pepper, diced
1 cup fresh, crunchy sauerkraut
6-8 corn tortillas (or 4-6 whole wheat tortillas)
Low-fat sour cream

In a skillet over medium heat, heat oil. Add garlic, onions and bell pepper. Sauté until just fragrant. Add pork carefully. Lower heat and fry pork slightly.

In a small bowl, mix together chili powder, pepper flakes, oregano, paprika, cumin, salt and black pepper. Sprinkle mixture over cooking pork and stir to coat thoroughly. Once pork is seared in places and hot through, turn off heat and cover skillet.

Prepare corn tortillas by slathering them with sour cream. Fill with pork. Top with sauerkraut (spicy kraut is excellent on these). Serve hot.

Jena Klein

PESTO CHICKEN CRESCENT RING

3 boneless skinless chicken breasts (from 20-ounce package), cooked and chopped into ½-inch pieces (about 2½ cups)
1/3 cup plus 1 Tablespoon basil pesto (from 7-ounce container or make fresh – we do!), divided
1 cup (4-ounce) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
2 cans (8-ounce each) Pillsbury Reduced Fat crescent rolls

Heat oven to 375°. In medium bowl, mix chicken, 1/3 cup of pesto and cheese.

Unroll both cans of dough; separate into 16 triangles. On ungreased large cookie sheet, arrange triangles in ring so short sides of triangles form a 5-inch circle in center. Dough will overlap. Dough ring should look like the sun.

Spoon chicken mixture on half of each rectangle closest to center of ring.

Bring each dough triangle over filling, tucking dough under bottom layer of dough to secure it. Repeat around ring until entire filling is enclosed (some filling might show a little).

Brush remaining pesto on top of dough ring. Bake 18-22 minutes or until dough is golden brown and thoroughly baked. Cool 5-10 minutes before cutting.

Note: Cooking chicken breasts in advance saves time. Any leftover chicken will work as well. If you’d rather not have browning on crescent ring, skip brushing dough with pesto before baking.

Jena Klein

HOMEMADE BASIL PESTO

Serving size: 1 cup
2 cups fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup pine nuts
1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
3 cloves roasted garlic
1/3 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (optional, but recommended)
½ teaspoon each salt and fresh ground pepper

In a food processor or blender, put basil, pine nuts, cheese and garlic. Blend. Pour oil in slowly while still mixing (or a little at a time, mix, add more oil, mix, etc.). Scrape sides. Add lemon juice, salt and pepper. Pulse until everything is blended and relatively smooth. Taste and add more salt/pepper if desired.

Make ahead/storing: Store leftover pesto in a jar, tightly sealed, and refrigerate for up to a week. Freeze pesto for up to 2-3 months. You can freeze it in greased ice cube trays and thaw small portions at a time.

Pesto Variations: Instead of basil, try other greens such as spinach or arugula.

Instead of pine nuts, you can use other nuts such as walnuts, pecans, pistachios, or almonds. Or for a nut-free pesto, try edamame, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds or sunflower seeds.

Pesto variations: You can add your favorite herbs - cilantro, mint or parsley and/or add your favorite spices such as cayenne, ground ginger or paprika. Or a dash of hot sauce.

Jena Klein

WHITE BEAN AND EDAMAME HUMMUS

1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1½ cups shelled, cooked edamame, thawed if frozen
2 medium garlic gloves, coarsely chopped
¼ cup water, plus more as needed
3 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 2 medium lemons), plus more as needed
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
¼ teaspoon toasted sesame oil
Freshly ground black pepper
2 Tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
Taro Chips, for serving (optional)

In a food processor fitted with a blade attachment, place cannellini beans, edamame, garlic, water, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and sesame seed oil. Season with pepper. Process until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. If dip is too thick, pulse while adding more water, a tablespoon at a time, until the desired consistency is reached.

Transfer to a medium bowl. Add cilantro. Stir. Taste and season with more salt or lemon juice as needed. Serve with Taro Chips.

Note: Shelled edamame are sold two ways - cooked or uncooked. If you buy cooked, frozen ones, all you have to do is thaw them. If you buy uncooked ones, follow cooking directions on package.

Kate Klein

ROASTED BRUSSELS SPROUTS, CINNAMON BUTTERNUT SQUASH, PECANS AND CRANBERRIES

3 cups Brussels sprouts, ends trimmed, yellow leaves removed
3 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
Salt, to taste
1½ pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes (makes about 4 cups of uncooked cubed butternut squash
2 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
3 Tablespoons maple syrup
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups pecan halves
1 cup dried cranberries
2-4 Tablespoons maple syrup, optional

Roasted Brussels Sprouts:

Heat oven to 400°. Lightly grease foil-lined baking sheet with 1 tablespoon olive oil.

Make sure Brussels sprouts have been completely trimmed. Slice all sprouts in half. In a medium bowl, combine sprouts, 2 tablespoons of olive oil and salt. Toss to combine. Place On prepared baking sheet, place sprouts, cut side down. Roast for about 20-25 minutes. During last 5-10 minutes, turn them over for even browning. Cut sides should be nicely and partially charred, but not blackened.

Roasted Butternut Squash:

Heat oven to 400°. Lightly grease foil-lined baking sheet with 1 tablespoon olive oil.

In a medium bowl, combine butternut squash, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, maple syrup and cinnamon. Toss to mix.

Place butternut squash in a single layer on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 20-25 minutes, turning once halfway through baking, until softened. You can roast both Brussels sprouts and butternut squash on 2 separate baking sheets at same time and same rack in oven – that’s what I did.

In a large bowl, combine roasted Brussels sprouts, roasted butternut squash, pecans and cranberries. Mix to combine. For more sweetness, add 2-4 tablespoons maple syrup, if desired – do not add all maple syrup at once, start with 2 tablespoons then add more, if desired. Toss with salad ingredients to combine.

Holly Brent – Eatable Facebook Group

Jena Klein is AFC’s Wellness Program Coordinator. You may email her at jenak@alafarm.com.

The Dog and the Rabbit

by Baxter Black, DVM

Have you ever been embarrassed by yer good dog? Me, either! I’ve got a good dog. An Australian shepherd with one blue eye and I believe he loves me. I believe I love him. He’ll go with me anywhere. When I say, "You wanna go?" he don’t ask, "Where you goin’? Goin’ to the game store?" No, he don’t care; he just wants to go.

And did you ever notice that it don’t matter whether you been gone five minutes or five days, yer dog is so glad to see ya. Can you think of a single human being that is that glad to see ya? Yer fixin’ to leave, walk out to the pickup and forget somethin’ so you run back inside. Yer dog licks yer hand. Your spouse says, "I thought you left!"

I’ve got a neighbor … a good neighbor. And when you live on the outskirts, a good neighbor is someone who lives just the right distance away. Close enough to circle the wagons, but far enough away to allow that privacy people like us seem to value. ("I believe those are Kansas plates, mother," he said, sighting through his binoculars.)

Anyway, she gets home ‘bout a quarter after 5 every day. Goes through the house and comes out the back door wearin’ her coveralls. In her backyard, she has a long line of rabbit hutches and she spends, what is to me, an inordinate amount of time messin’ with them rabbits ... talkin’ to ‘em ... singin’ ‘em little rabbit songs.

Now, I’m sittin’ out on the back porch one afternoon in my porch swing. It’s about 2:30. I’m done workin’. I’ve already thought up somethin’. I look out in the driveway and there’s my good dog and he has got a ... and you know how you can tell it ain’t a jackrabbit? They aren’t black and white, and they don’t have them big floppy ears. He has got this rabbit between his teeth and he’s thrashin’ him like a shark with a ham hock! There’s dirt and leaves and brush and gravel flyin’ all over. I jumped up and grabbed that rabbit!

"Go git in the pickup you *#@^...!"

That rabbit looked bad. Looked like he was caught on fire and somebody put him out with the weedeater!

I ran in the house and run the tub full of warm water. Tested it with my elbow. Then I got some of my wife’s good shampoo. She gets it at the Holiday Inn; it ain’t that big a deal. I sudsed him up twice then moussed him with my daughter’s mousse. Made him sticky. You could thwack him on the tile, peel him off like Velcro. Then I run upstairs to the laundry and put him in the dryer. When he came out he was fluffy, looked like an electrocuted porcupine!

I carried him to my neighbor’s house. Sure enuf, the last hutch on the end was cocked open and it was empty. I took that rabbit and folded him ... into a rabbit position. Put a smile on his lips. All three of ‘em. Gave him a camel filter and leaned him up against the wire.

I went back to the house and commenced to rockin’. ‘Bout a quarter after 5, I saw my neighbor drive up, she got out, went through the house and came out the back wearin’ her covies. She started down that long line of rabbit hutches. Talkin’ to ‘em. Singin’ ‘em little rabbit songs. "Here comes Peter Cottontail, hoppin’ down the bunny trail ..." All of sudden I heard her scream!

I ran over there, bein’ the good neighbor that I was, "What’s wrong? What’s wrong?"

"My rabbit," she cried.

I looked in the cage and the poor little duffer had fell over. One ear broke off. It didn’t look good.

I stroked him gently and said, "Ma’am, I b’lieve he is dead."

I was a veterinarian, I could tell.

"Yes," she said, "But what bothers me is I buried him three days ago!"

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




The Feeding Challenges of Winter

by Jimmy Parker

As we transition from fall into early winter, we see many changes in the needs of our livestock and the quality of the feeds normally naturally available. So truly, it is a time of many changes in our animals’ daily lives. We as producers need to be fluid enough to change our daily routines with the seasons. These changes will be much more noticeable in grazing livestock. The vast majority of their needs are met by forages.

For the next six to 12 weeks in the majority of the state, cold temperatures and shorter days will inhibit grass growth. Our animals will either graze stockpiled forages or get the majority of their nutrition from stored forages, hay or haylage. (For those of you living far enough south that your livestock can graze winter annuals all winter; you have a great advantage during the worst of the season.)

Sometimes, when we use well-cared-for stored forages baled in a timely manner, we will actually see an uptick in the nutrition provided – compared to overly mature, late-fall grazing. Because many of us had trouble getting forages stored in a timely manner in 2017, I don’t think that will be the case. The forages we feed our livestock this winter will likely provide less nutrients than fall grazing and much less than the animals will need.

A number of the state’s producers will have cows that calved in the fall. These cows will be reaching their peak stages of lactation within the time they will be offered stored forages. This can be a problem, especially in years when the forages are lower in quality. Even with the best of forage conditions, it is difficult to truly meet these top-producing cows’ needs.

Providing supplements such as STIMU-LYX tubs will help them get more out of the hay or dry grass and help the fall calvers wean heavier and healthier calves come late spring.

Other options are available and often cost effective. Feeds containing a high-energy and moderate level of protein will help your brood cows. They will milk harder and wean heavier calves, most of the time.

There are also other advantages to providing some form of supplementation. Cattle receiving more nutrients are far more likely to rebreed and calve within an acceptable interval.

Any time we can spend a few extra dollars on feed or supplements and be able to cut down on the number of young cattle culled because they failed to breed back in a timely manner is well-spent money. Replacing good, young cattle is an expensive process.

Not all of Alabama’s cow herds calve in the fall and the farther north you get the less prevalent that is. For those that calve through the winter, January will often be a telling month and one of the harder months to manage. Too much supplemental feed may cause you to pull calves or have cattle producing more milk than small calves can handle, and udder problems will follow. If you feed too little, your calves can be small and weak, making them much more susceptible to cold, wet weather maladies.

I hope you had your forages tested and will use these numbers to decide how much to feed for the correct nutritional range to fend off both of these issues.

When additional supplementation is not provided, these are normally the cattle we see waste away as February progresses and are often buried in March. Replacing cows that calve in the winter is a costly process and one that can most often be prevented with a small amount of supplementation.

For cattle that don’t calve in the fall or early winter, January feeding will be simpler. You can rely more on forages to meet their lower nutritional demands.

You will still need to monitor body condition and their changing needs, and offer what they need. Often, a STIMU-LYX tub with decent forages will meet their needs.

If the weather is wetter or colder than normal, you should consider offering a higher energy feed in moderation to help overcome added stress.

It is up to you, as the producer, to know what stages of production (late pregnancy, raising a calf, etc.) the cattle are in, and watch their conditions and the weather to make good feeding decisions. Good feeding practices may cost a few dollars, but will almost always pay back more than they cost.

Maintaining good body conditions and preventing wild swings in their health and body conditions will extend the average life of your individual cattle and reduce the expense of culling young and otherwise healthy animals.

Jimmy Parker is AFC’s animal nutritionist.




The Quiet Solitude of Open Spaces

Spending time at the hunting camp in winter is a perfect opportunity for relaxing with family and serving simple and comforting meals.

by Christy Kirk


The quiet solitude and open spaces of the woods along with quality family time makes staying at the camp a reassuring reminder of what the holidays should be all about.

As early as Thanksgiving weekend, Jason began making our family plans for the upcoming Christmas holiday. He announced we needed to plan on being at the hunting camp for most of the break. We usually spend a lot of time there throughout the winter, but, because of work schedules and having animals to feed, it has been only a few days at a time. This year, Rolley Len and Cason were excited to hear we were going to try to be there longer than just overnight. There is something about living at the camp that is both nostalgic and comforting.

When Jason was growing up, he and his family stayed at the camp for most of the winter break. He, his brother and dad went hunting in the mornings and returned to the camp late, before lunchtime, to rest, eat and warm up. In the afternoons, they left out again to wait for the sun to start going down. Returning after dark, hunger and cold made warming up and eating the first priorities.

What they ate at the hunting camp when he was younger is similar to what we cook now when we take Rolley Len and Cason. Because everyone burns so many calories walking and staying warm, high-calorie dinners and suppers with plenty of carbohydrates and proteins are a necessity. No one in my family comes in from the cold wanting just a sandwich. Whatever we eat has to be satisfying and provide lasting energy.

During hunting season, one of the best meals at the camp or at home is when Jason brings in a deer and we have fresh backstrap. We like it so much we could eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It is good with everything from biscuits and eggs to cabbage and cornbread. But if you already have ground deer meat prepared, you can’t go wrong with hamburgers, chili, tacos and nachos, or deer sausage. And, of course, kebabs are a fun way to get your veggies in, too. All of the recipes we use are easy enough that Rolley Len and Cason can help with everything.

Although it takes a lot of work and planning to get the hunting camp ready for us to stay for several days, it is definitely worth it. Once we get there with our food and supplies, including many extra-warm layers of clothing, being at the camp can be as relaxing as being at the beach. The quiet solitude and open spaces of the woods along with quality family time makes living at the camp a reassuring reminder of what the holidays should be all about.

Even if you can’t get away for the winter break, you can still spend time with your family sharing food and fellowship, just enjoying one another’s company. Here are a few recipes to try this season at your next gathering. They are nourishing, yet simple to make, so you can have a low-stress, comforting meal with your family and friends.

DEER STEW

In a crockpot, place deer meat you have on hand. Add cut-up potatoes, onions, celery, corn, tomatoes, water, salt and pepper. Stir. Add any other spices, as desired. Turn it on low. Cook until done.

FRIED DEER BACKSTRAP

1 (2-pound) venison backstrap, cut into ¼-inch thick slices
2 cups milk
2 Tablespoons hot pepper sauce
Vegetable oil, for cooking
2 eggs
½ cup milk
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 Tablespoons salt
1 Tablespoon ground black pepper
3 cups vegetable oil, for frying

In a shallow bowl, place venison slices. Pour in milk and hot sauce. Stir to coat. Cover and marinate for 1 hour.

In an electric skillet, heat vegetable oil to 325°. In a shallow bowl, whisk together eggs and milk. In a separate bowl, combine flour, salt and pepper. Dip venison slices in flour mix, then in egg mix, then back in flour mix. Shake off excess flour. Fry in hot oil until lightly browned on each side, about 3 minutes. Remove with tongs. Drain briefly on paper towels before serving.

STEAKHOUSE STYLE VENISON BACKSTRAP

3-5 pounds venison backstrap
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 Tablespoon peanut oil
For pan sauce
3 Tablespoons butter
½ cup beef stock
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon minced garlic

Heat oven to 375°. In dish or pan, place backstrap. Set on counter to bring to room temperature. Pat dry just before seasoning well with salt and pepper. Heat a cast-iron skillet on medium-high to high until it just begins to smoke. Add peanut oil and evenly coat surface. Place meat in pan. Sear for 3 minutes on each side, to allow a nice crust to form. Immediately move pan to heated oven. Cook for an additional 10 minutes.

SEARED AND BAKED DEER TENDERLOIN

1 pound deer tenderloin
Salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
1 Tablespoon butter

Heat oven to 350°. In a bowl or pan, place tenderloin. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes.

Bring a large pan to high heat. Add butter and melt. Sear tenderloin on each side for 2 minutes. Transfer to oven. Cook an additional 7-10 minutes. Meat should reach a temperature of 145°. Let the meat rest for about 15 minutes before serving.

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



Tidying Up For the New Year

by Herb T. Farmer


There are hundreds of young ferns popping up in the mossy areas of the property.

Anybody who knows me knows I send very little stuff to the landfill. People even bring me things to upcycle, freecycle or repair.

Friends bring me their old computer parts when they fail. Printers get stripped down. There are several metal shafts, motors, screws and other fasteners in a printer. Some of the components of PC boards are reusable such as resistors, capacitors, etc. The leftover shell is sent to the recycler. It’s made from #6 polystyrene.

Old washers, dryers and dishwashers folks drop off are either repaired to give to someone in need or stripped down. Motors are mostly used in my shop or given to an artist friend who uses them in his works. Side panels are cut into sheets of metal and used as roofing for various outdoor structures. The rest of the parts of the machines are separated into categories. All of the fasteners are sorted, copper wire is stripped and prepared for smelting, and the remaining scrap metal is saved for a scrap collector who stops by every few weeks to visit.

Very little garbage is produced here at the farm. Paper and most plastic is recycled, as are tin cans. Most glass gets hauled to a recycling station north of here, when they are taking glass. Wine bottles, however, are used on the farm as decorative planting bed borders.

Aluminum cans and cast or extruded aluminum are made small enough to fit into a crucible and smelted in my small furnace. The molten aluminum is then poured into cut-off tin cans to cool and shape into ingots. I give those to my artist friend as well. He uses them to cast aluminum sculptures.

I mentioned that "most" plastic goes to the recycler. I save plastic #2 (high density polyethylene) for making into parts I use around the shop. Milk jugs, detergent jugs and some medicine bottles have this number. It’s the same stuff in plastic decking. I use it to turn wheels, idlers and pulleys on the lathe. (Note: If you try this, be sure to sweep up all of your wood shavings first. Otherwise, you won’t be able to recycle the plastic shavings and the wood shavings will become useless as compostable material.)

Even in the wintertime you can find interesting fungi growing on fallen trees like this happy little growth.

This is the time of year I like to gather all of the fallen tree limbs and branches and chop them in the chipper shredder, along with leaves and pine straw. This makes an excellent browns addition to the compost pile.

On composting, browns are mostly carbon-rich and come from dead branches and leaves. Greens, on the other hand, are made of green hedge trimmings, grass clippings and kitchen scraps. Do not add animal fats or meat scraps to a compost pile. Citrus scraps and peels are OK. They just take a little longer to decompose.

Cleaning up the property is top priority in January. That gives me a clean canvas for the new year. It’s much easier to imagine the possibilities of your property (or rooms in your home) without clutter.

It’s also time to load up the truck with useful items we no longer need and take them to a charitable group. After all, how many salad spinners and pop-up toasters does one person need?

Recycling, freecycling, upcycling and giving things away that I don’t need make me feel good. It’s one of my simple pleasures in life.

While walking around the property a couple of weeks ago, I found some interesting stuff growing in sheltered areas that hadn’t been bitten by the frosts or cold temperatures. Tender plants such as begonias have usually turned to mush by now. I’ve included some photos of a few of the surprises I found.

In the wintertime, unwanted creatures come into the house. Mice, rats and big scary flying cockroaches! Those kinds of pests really get me going!

Here’s a nice stand of turkey tail mushrooms growing from an oak log.

I will leave you with a sure-fire recipe for ridding your home of cockroaches. I call it Lou’s Roach Bait because my late friend, Lou, invented it and it works … even in Florida!

Lou's Roach Bait

4½ ounces boric acid
1 small onion, minced
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
¼ cup plain flour

Combine all ingredients. Add just enough water to make soft dough balls. Roll out small dough balls in your hands. (The boric acid will not harm you.) Make the balls about ¾- to 1-inch diameter. Place the bait under the refrigerator, dishwasher, stove or in other places where you have seen those buggers. The balls will dry and will not have an odor.

Clean up the yard, kill the roaches and have a productive, Happy New Year!

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

Thanks for reading!

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

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




Tools and Training for New Farmers

AAMU launches a new project to assist Alabama’s beginning farmers.

Public Service Announcement from Alabama A&M University

The Small Farms Research Center in the College of Agricultural, Life and Natural Sciences at Alabama A&M University is proud to launch a USDA/National Institute of Food and Agriculture-funded project to assist agricultural producers in Alabama. The project will provide education and training to all producers, with a special focus on new and beginning farmers and ranchers. The project is led by Dr. Duncan M. Chembezi, who also directs AAMU’s SFRC. Chembezi will be supported by Ms. E’licia L. Chaverest, program manager within SFRC, and Mr. Robert Spencer, a small animal specialist with Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

"AAMU will implement the project with the goal of establishing targeted and specialized training, education, outreach and technical assistance initiatives addressing the needs of beginning farmers," Chembezi emphasized. "The project’s long-term goal is to grow and assist the next generation of farmers, ranchers and rural entrepreneurs who will use the experience, skills and land stewardship to improve and enhance sustainability, productive capacity and profitability of farms and ranches."

Chembezi acknowledged that the project builds on AAMU-SFRC’s existing resources, successes and effective partnerships with nonprofits, community-based agricultural organizations and experienced farmers to provide beginning farmers and ranchers with easily accessible tools and practical, experience-based training in farm production, marketing, land management, business planning and financial resources.

Key project partners collaborating on the project include the Alabama Agricultural A+ Marketing Association, Booker Farm in Toney, Federation of Southern Cooperatives, Staysail Group, LLC in Bessemer/Birmingham, Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group and Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

Through this project, new and beginning farmers and ranchers will be able to:

  • Access critical resources, advice and useful information through a web-based and online resource center for effective and timely production, marketing and financial decisions.
  • Explore farming options, understand the components of a successful farm operation and make decisions about what enterprises best fit their interests.
  • Refine participant’s farm interests, understand the requirements and strategies of different, new or alternative farm enterprises and begin developing plans for assessing resources needed to implement a farm plan.
  • Develop specific farm production and business plans, and obtain needed resources to begin a farm enterprise.
  • Provide targeted, technical assistance and outreach training to expand production and access niche markets for specialty crops and livestock, especially small ruminants (goats, sheep, rabbits and pastured poultry).
  • Implement farm plans, start new or alternative agricultural enterprises and continue as successful beginning farmers, ranchers or rural entrepreneurs.

The project is currently recruiting new and beginning farmers and ranchers, in Alabama, who are interested in gaining a better appreciation of the art and science of farming before they start their own farming operations. A beginning farmer, by definition, is an individual who has been engaged in production agriculture or agribusiness for less than 10 years. If you meet this eligibility criterion and would like to find out more about the project and its services, please call Project Director Duncan M. Chembezi (duncan.chembezi@aamu.edu) or Assistant Director E’licia L. Chaverest (elicia.chaverest@aamu.edu) at 1-866-858-4970 or 1-256-372-4970.




We’ll miss Mike!

Mike Martin retires from Jay Farmers Co-op.


Mike Martin, left, upon his retirement was presented with a plaque by Chris Casey, manager. "Presented to Michael Martin for 15 years of hard work, loyalty and leadership at Jay Peanut Farmers Cooperative. Enjoy your retirement!"




What does winter do to landscape plants?

by Tony Glover


Extreme cold can injure Illicium floridanum.

If you are a gardener who likes to push the hardiness zone to extremes, Alabama winters can sometimes break our hearts. Alabama goes all the way from zone 7a in the north to zone 9a along the coast. I have lived in every zone in Alabama and can tell you from experience we can have 7a weather in a 9a zone and vice versa in any given Alabama winter. To learn more about what these zone designations mean, check out this USDA link: www.usna.usda.gov/Hardzone/index.html, but remember these are averages over time.

If you grow mostly cold-hardy species of woody plants, you seldom have severe winter damage. However, we can occasionally cause damage to them by our care and maintenance activities.

Under normal conditions, fall and early winter cool temperatures initiate the accumulation of sugars, modification of proteins and changes in plant cell membrane permeability – all of which increase the plant’s cold-hardiness. While most plants require both short days and lower temperatures to develop full cold hardiness, other plants harden only in response to low temperature regardless of the day length.

Once leaves and stems of evergreens harden enough to withstand freezing, becoming frozen makes them even hardier. Note, the freezing response is strictly localized and is not general to the whole plant. In other words, if lower leaves are acclimated to freezing that does not necessarily mean the upper leaves are also hardened. That is why plants will sometimes burn back from the youngest leaves while the interior has little or no damage.

For woody landscape plants, low-temperature injury, often called freeze damage, can be caused by intra- or extracellular ice formations within the plant.

When intracellular ice is formed, crystals originate inside plant cells. This type of ice formation would be extremely rare in Alabama’s hardy plants and it is unlikely to occur during most cold spells, but is does happen in extreme cold.


Crape Myrtle is susceptible to injury from extreme cold.

The most likely type of freeze damage occurs when extracellular ice forms during normal, cold winter conditions. The water moves out of plant cells as temperatures approach 32 degrees to prevent freeze damage and then back into cells for hydration when the temperature rises above freezing. It is not lethal to most woody plant species properly acclimated and cold hardy to at least zone 7a. Injury can occur, however, if the cells are dehydrated for relatively long periods of time or subjected to very low temperatures they cannot tolerate.

Now, here is the bad news for those of us in the Deep South. For the more cold-hardy woody plants, the freezing and subsequent rapid thawing can actually be more damaging than a sustained cold period. It would be better for the plants to thaw slowly to avoid bark splitting.

If you have newly planted shrubs or young trees with exposed trunks you may consider wrapping them with some sort of reflective material. You may have seen tree trunks whitewashed before and this can serve a similar purpose by reflecting light and slowing down the thawing action.

Normally, we don’t have a problem with root damage, but a little extra protection may be useful if we have prolonged cold temperatures. Apply a layer of mulch, 2-3 inches deep, after the soil freezes to keep the soil cold rather than protect the soil from becoming cold. Mulch maintains a more even soil temperature and retains soil moisture as well. This practice will reduce injury from plant roots heaving (coming out of the soil) because of alternate freezing and thawing. Plants benefitting from this practice include perennials, rock garden plants, strawberries and other shallow-rooted species.

Apply bark products, composts, pine needles, straw, hay or any number of readily available materials from a local garden center. Also, pine boughs or Christmas tree remains can be propped against and over evergreens to help protect against the damage from rapid thawing. Place this cover on the southern-exposed side of the plant where the sun strikes the tree and causing rapid thawing.

After cold winter weather, only time will tell how much, if any, damage to plants was sustained, but keep an eye on marginal woody plants in the spring because they will be more susceptible to borer and beetle attacks.

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



What’s planted in your pasture this winter?

by Robert Spencer


Rye planted at the end of October.

At the time this article was written (mid-November 2017), we had established five plots of winter forage/cover crops for a few goats, sheep and cattle at the Winfred Thomas Agriculture Research Station in Hazel Green. While our best intentions were to have the seed in the ground by mid-September, they ended up being planted late October. As of now, they are coming up well. We will not allow any of the livestock on the paddocks until late February for our field day.

What we wanted to plant versus what was available was a determining factor in varieties chosen. Our priority was to have a well-established winter/cool-season cover crop that could be grazed by our livestock during the latter part of winter, if not sooner.

As mentioned, we have mixed species grazing the pasture: approximately five adult wethered meat goats (mixture of Kiko and dairy), five adult wethered wool sheep (Gulf Coast Native) and two first-time cows (Angus mix). They share one barn and rarely stay inside except for naps or rain. We rotate them in six paddocks of mixed forages (fescue, Bermuda grass and clover). There are four 4-acre paddocks and two 1-acre paddocks. All pastures receive full sun.

Our decision on what to plant was based on Natural Resources Conservation Service and Alabama Cooperative Extension System recommendations. We considered planting rye grass, but it tends to remain too long and shades out other vegetation. Therefore, it is not always recommended. We developed a list, but had to narrow our selection down to four varieties. The final decision on what to plant was based on availability, price per pound, cost per acre and nutritional quality for the livestock.

Our initial options were: Abruzzi rye, HAAS Wheat, tillage radish, Dixie Crimson Clover, Whistler Winter Peas and Cosaque Oats.

Our chosen four varieties, seeding rate and cost/acre:

This is the layout we used for planting.

Cover Crop

lb./acre

$/acre

Abruzzi rye

100

31.00

HAAS Wheat

100

28.00

Dixie Crimson Clover

25

28.50

Whistler Winter Peas

35

27.99

We wished tillage radish had been more available and not so pricey. We chose the clover and peas because they are legumes and added nitrogen to the soil.

Keep in mind this same practice can be implemented in gardens or row crops. Now the ultimate question is, how did everything work out? Ask me the end of February or come to our planned field day to find out.

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



Who is the WHO to suggest animal agriculture eliminate antibiotics?

I get a handful of emails every day with a sampling of headlines from all over the country that have to do with animal agriculture. I figure that, as the State Veterinarian, I should be at least a little knowledgeable about issues concerning animal agriculture. I will have to admit that most days I do well just to look at the headlines and pick out those I need to read most. A while back, one of the headlines sort of caught my attention. I thought I had misread it, so I did a double take. The title of the article was, "WHO calls to eliminate antibiotic use."

When I looked further, I found the World Health Organization was encouraging the United States to eliminate the use of antibiotics in animal agriculture. It further reported that many of the European countries had already banned the use of antibiotics in food animals.

The move away from antibiotics is one of the actions to reduce a growing concern of antibiotic resistance. After looking deeper at eliminating antibiotic use in food animals, I figure it is a good time to use this forum to get on my soapbox.

First, I want to ask a few questions that need to be addressed. Is antibiotic resistance a serious concern? Does antibiotic use in food animals contribute significantly to antibiotic resistance? Would following the example of Europe by eliminating antibiotic use in food animals significantly reduce the threat of antibiotic resistance? And, finally, are antibiotics inherently bad?

I would say that, at the very least, antibiotic resistance is a serious concern. Then it becomes like the old saying about the economy. "If it affects your neighbor, it is a recession. If it affects you, it is a depression." So, if antibiotics affect someone else, it is a serious problem. If they affect you, your friends or family, it is a life-threatening disaster. Either way, it is an issue that will not go away. We in animal agriculture have a role in minimizing the threat.

For years, we have heard of the "super bugs," simply bacteria resistant to our arsenal of antibiotics. When I looked at the WHO’s Top 10 emerging diseases, I find most have some animal component. However, they are all viral diseases. That means the antibiotic question doesn’t even come into play because antibiotics have no effect on viruses.

Then I looked at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to find out what they considered the most-threatening antibiotic-resistant microbes. Of their 18, only three or four were related to animals.

Let’s look a little closer at the bacteria the CDC lists as significant threats because of antibiotic resistance. The two most common are salmonella and campylobacter, both foodborne illnesses. Some of the other bacteria can affect animals. And certainly, there are a lot of salmonella infections that do not originate from food animals.

Anyway, our laboratories see several salmonella infections in animals, but most are not resistant to every antibiotic we use to test for effective treatment. There is certainly resistance to some antibiotics. That is the reason our laboratories perform those tests. That allows for more judicious use of antibiotics, by using the one most likely to work. Still, it would be the old ostrich with its head in the sand to think the use of antibiotics in food animals plays no role in the resistance issue.

Every time any antibiotic is used for anything on food animals, pets or humans, there is the potential for the bacteria to develop a resistance. As a survival mechanism, bacteria have a couple of ways that allow them to develop resistance to antibiotics they are exposed to. As the bacteria reproduce every 30 minutes under ideal conditions, they can develop the resistance gene and pass it on to their kids … grandkids … great-grandkids … on and on and on.

There are many reasons for antibiotic resistance. I think a huge contributor to the problem is us, you and me. Right now, I want all of you to put down this magazine and go to your medicine cabinet and see if you find some old bottle(s) of antibiotics such as amoxicillin, doxycycline, ciprofloxacin, Septra, Bactrim or Keflex/cephalexin. Actually, you can do it after you finish reading this.

My point is that we often get to feeling better and stop taking the antibiotics our doctor prescribed. By doing that, the bacteria that are down but not out could develop resistance.

Another factor is simply the widespread use of the standard antibiotics we have in the United States. I believe both physicians and veterinarians are becoming more aware of the great deal of responsibility of prescribing antibiotics.

Additionally, educating clients and patients on the importance of finishing prescriptions and not taking antibiotics if the disease is viral will contribute to reducing antibiotic resistance.

In 1950, life expectancy in the United States was 68 years. Today, our life expectancy is a little less than 80 years. There are several factors contributing to that increase, including clean water, vaccines, better medical care that includes the development of newer and better antibiotics, seatbelts, pasteurized milk and remote controls for TV … well, maybe not remote controls but they help improve those extra years, especially for those of us trying to watch more than one football game at a time.

Would eliminating the use of antibiotics in food animals be a positive move for the general health of the population, both here and around the world? I am not sure why we are even addressing that question. The WHO indicated that we are falling behind Europe in that area. Somehow, when I think of feeding the world, Europe doesn’t come to mind. If we eliminate the use of antibiotics in food animals, I do not believe we can feed the world. If a person wants to buy organically raised chicken, turkeys, beef or pork, that is his or her business. However, we cannot feed the world without using every tool in the tool box.

As I have often said in this column, the prediction is for the world population to reach 9 billion by 2050. And we are not turning more acreage into farm land. It is quite the opposite. A New York Times article in 2002 stated that the United States was losing 2 acres of farm land per minute. That scares me much more than the use of antibiotics in farm animals. As a veterinarian, I feel it is cruel to not treat sick animals.

Who is the WHO to tell us not to use antibiotics in food animals?

Stay tuned for more on this issue!

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






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