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July 2013

Youth Matters

4-H Extension Corner: The Impact of Alabama 4-H

Worried about today’s young people? Don’t be! State 4-H Council Member Sydney Hubbert is a great mentor for younger kids. Here she’s helping with a Montgomery Health Rocks Day Camp at Maxwell Air Force Base. It’s one of the many ways she serves.

by Chuck Hill

Every day, 4-H touches hundreds of young lives throughout our state. Cooperative Extension staff and 4-H volunteers work together to provide kids with opportunities and training to strengthen them as well as our Alabama families and communities. Here are just a few things we do.

Military Programs

Alabama was on the ground floor in developing national 4-H programs for military youth. During the past 12 years, our Operation Military Kids program has served thousands of Guard and Reserve families. That is in addition to our long-standing links to Fort Rucker, Redstone Arsenal and Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base. Although the American presence in the Middle East has changed, our program for Guard and Reserve youth alone served more than 2,300 military youth in 2012.

Alabama 4-H has wonderful resources for our state’s great military kids. Canoeing on Lay Lake is one of the ways the Alabama 4-H Center helps young people develop belonging and independence, key ingredients in the 4-H experience.

Social Media

A century ago, 4-H went where the kids were - Alabama’s family farms. Today, our young people are on Twitter and text and Instagram, so that is where 4-H has gone. The Alabama 4-H presence on Facebook is skyrocketing, growing by 71 percent in the past month alone. Our state 4-H Facebook presence links county, club and interest Facebook groups. It currently reaches 2,500 people per week with a base of 126,000 "friends of friends," a number increasing exponentially. We are out front with new media such as Instagram where we have a growing following.

BodyQuest

In health criteria such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and life expectancy, Alabama trails the nation. To respond to this crisis, Alabama 4-H provides the Nutrition Education Program BodyQuest. Youth become BodyQuest warriors who fight poor eating habits and encourage healthy lifestyles. Youth are encouraged to teach their families BodyQuest warrior habits.

Alabama 4-H builds Belonging, Independence, Generosity and Mastery. And as this club member in Loachpoka seems to know, “If it isn’t fun, it isn’t 4-H!”

Data suggests 4-H BodyQuest warriors have increased their consumption of fruits and vegetables, directly improving quality of life for them and their families. Over 1,700 4-H youth participate in this program and the numbers are growing.

Youth are more likely to grow up healthy when they can resist negative peer pressure and dangerous situations. The 4-H Health Rocks program teaches youth what’s important to resist and what’s not.

Over 4,200 4-H youth have participated in Health Rocks.

Ninety-one percent of youth surveyed agree they are able to refuse drugs provided by peers, family members or other people.

Ninety-one percent of youth agree, before making a decision, they need to think about what effects their choice will have on their future.

What kind of teeth does a predator have? Does a skunk’s fur feel different from a bobcat’s pelt or that of a rabbit? Through 4-H science education programs, young people are able to have a “hands-on” learning experience with a variety of animals living in our region – something previous generations may have taken for granted.

Just Move Alabama!

Being overweight and inactivity are consistently linked with increased incidence of chronic illnesses such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure and colon cancer. Alabama 4-H developed Just Move Alabama!, a fun, food and fitness program to help 4-H youth adopt the habit of regular exercise and healthy eating. Over 3,500 youth participated in Just Move Alabama! in 2012. Over 90 percent of participants say, because of the experience, they choose activities that make them healthier and make healthier food choices.

The Alabama 4-H Center

The 4-H Center’s camping program allows youth to master new skills, gain confidence and be a part of a larger, more diverse state community. 4-H camping offers classes and experiences in over 15 subject areas. The biggest impact of 4-H camps can be measured in the relationships, natural environments and carefully planned programs.

The Center’s Coosa River Science School provides year-round, hands-on learning in science and in outdoor and adventure-based programming. It provides live animal outreach with raptors and reptiles. Our primary goals are to encourage youth to appreciate Alabama’s natural environment and increase awareness and excitement about the outdoors.

Nothing has a greater impact on youth development than the link to caring, committed adults. 4-H volunteers and staff provide extraordinary support to young people. During our Alabama Volunteer Spring Training, this group got together to share knowledge and have fun.

The Alabama 4H Center also operates as a full service conference center. We are earning the reputation as a great place for business and family events. Money from conference activities helps keep youth programming affordable.

4-H Innovators

Youth in the United States are falling behind other countries in science, technology, engineering and math. In response, Alabama is developing 4-H Innovators or 4-Hi. 4-Hi is a hands-on, inquiry-based approach to science, engineering, technology and math. The program helps young people identify real Alabama problems in areas like irrigation, auto design and safety, and find technological solutions to those problems. Learning and engagement mirror the real-world processes used in engineering. The program has received a gift of $110,000 from the Barbara D. Thorne Fund.

Volunteerism

The safety of our youth and our volunteers and staff is our first priority. Over 2,627 volunteers help Alabama 4-H provide educational opportunities and activities through teaching and mentoring. These volunteers gave $2.1 million in volunteer time to support educational programs in 2012. New Alabama 4-H volunteer safety and protective measures were also developed in 2012. These new measures allowed the program to run full background investigations on 1,100 volunteers – helping assure the well-being of both our youth and our volunteers.

Chuck Hill is a 4-H Youth Development Specialist.

Farm & Field

A Boost to Rural Economic Growth and Opportunity

23 High Poverty Counties in Alabama Receive $1.75 million

Press Release from the United States Department of Agriculture

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service State Conservationist Dr. William Puckett announced May 24, 2013, that Alabama has received an additional $1.75 million in Environmental Quality Incentives Program and Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program funding to implement conservation practices in 23 high poverty rural counties in Alabama through USDA’s StrikeForce Initiative.

“The StrikeForce Initiative is helping us direct additional resources to better serve producers in Alabama’s persistent poverty counties,” said Puckett. “The additional EQIP and WHIP money will allow us to fund the backlog of applications from previous signups in those 23 counties.”

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack started the “StrikeForce” initiative as a pilot project in 2010 in selected regions in three states: Arkansas, Georgia and Mississippi. In 2011, it was expanded to include Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada. In 2013, Vilsack announced new efforts to bring the StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity to Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Virginia.

Participants in StrikeForce include the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Rural Development, the Farm Service Agency, the Food and Nutrition Service, and other USDA offices and state agencies.

The StrikeForce team will focus on creating jobs, improving quality of life, expanding business and community development, and building partnerships in the following 23 persistent poverty counties in Alabama:

Barbour
Bibb
Bullock
Butler
Choctaw
Clarke
Conecuh
Crenshaw
Dallas
Escambia
Greene
Hale
Lee
Lowndes
Macon
Marengo
Monroe
Perry
Pike
Pickens
Russell
Sumter
Wilcox
Farm & Field

A New Information Age Currency?

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack headed the United States delegation at the recent G8 Open Data for Agriculture Conference.

by Jim Erickson

You may not be able to buy a cup of your favorite morning brew with it, but agricultural data is now being viewed by some as the new currency in the current information age.

Emphasizing that point was the recent G8 Open Data for Agriculture Conference held in Washington, DC. The conclave’s stated goal was to "obtain commitment and action from nations and relevant stakeholders to promote policies and invest in projects that open access to publicly funded global agriculturally relevant data streams, making such data readily accessible to users in Africa and worldwide, ultimately supporting a sustainable increase in food security in developed and developing countries."

That is, to be sure, a lofty objective. But in the everyday world where death and disabilities caused by starvation and malnutrition are commonplace in many countries is the goal practical and achievable?

Dr. Catherine Woteki, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief scientist and under secretary for research, education and economics, thinks so.

Noting open data is information that should be freely available without restriction or charge, she stated, "In the food and agricultural realm, open data is an essential piece of finding the answers we’ll need to feed the world.

"Right now, most of the cutting-edge scientific research being done on agricultural issues is being done in developed countries. The countries can, and often do, share their findings with researchers in other countries by way of collaborations and educational opportunities. Opening that data without restriction to every scientist in the world would democratize access and accelerate innovation."

What is the G8 and what is its impact on major world issues?

The Group of Eight or G8 refers to a group of eight highly industrialized nations – France, Germany, Italy, Great Britain, Japan, United States, Canada and Russia.

The group’s yearly summit meetings are intended to foster consensus on global issues ranging from terrorism and crisis management to economic growth and energy.

According to the nonpartisan Council on Foreign Relations, the G8’s limited membership and inability to force its members to comply with policies and objectives cause some experts to question its overall effectiveness.

The fact that some of the world’s fastest growing economies such as China, India and Brazil are not included in the group’s membership often is cited as a major shortcoming.

However, others maintain the G8 never was intended to decide policies on development or to have much political impact. Instead, its primary role is to provide a forum where leading nations can focus and work toward consensus on a variety of issues.

Closing the gap of scientific achievement between developing and developed nations will enable farmers "from Uganda to Bangladesh" to become as fruitful and productive as producers anywhere, Wotecki observed.

In a video presentation, Microsoft founder Bill Gates also addressed the conference and emphasized the importance of open data to entrepreneurship and innovation.

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, who headed the U.S. delegation at the conference, declared that data "is among the most important commodities in agriculture" and sharing such information openly increases its value.

According to Vilsack, the U.S. is committed to an action plan including these steps:

– A partnership to support plant and microbial genebank collections that make genetic resources available via the Germplasm Resources Information Network or GRIN-Global.

– Assuming a leadership role in the United Nations’ global strategy to improve agricultural and rural statistics.

– Maintaining actions already under way to develop national policies and implementation plans ensuring that results of federally funded scientific research are made available and useful for the scientific community, industry and the general public.

As part of that commitment, Vilsack announced the launching of a food, agriculture and rural data community atwww.data.gov, a website to catalog agricultural data generated and held by the federal government and to make that information more readily available.

"The digital revolution fueled by open data is starting to do for the modern world of agriculture what the industrial revolution did for agricultural productivity over the past century," Vilsack said.

"The fact is, we are making new advancements in agricultural technology every day," he added. "But, as important as the technological advancements themselves are, we also recognize that data in isolation is not as powerful as data shared."

While the concept of open data may seem relatively new in the agricultural sector, the concept of openly exchanging information, practices, technologies and teachings is a centuries-old practice that laid the foundation for modern agriculture, Vilsack asserted.

In the News

Alabama Cattleman Wins Grand Prize in SWEET STEAKS Promotion

Joe Womble, left, oversees Baxter Black grilling the steaks on his new Weber grill, compliments of SWEETLIX.

by Jackie Nix

This winter, SWEETLIX sponsored the Baxter Black SWEET STEAKS promotion where livestock producers from across the United States entered for the chance to win a new Weber grill and have Baxter Black, cowboy poet, grill beef steaks at their home. When all was said and done, Joe Womble of Wetumpka was chosen winner of the grand prize.

As promised, Baxter Black traveled to Alabama to grill steaks with Joe Womble’s family and friends. However, before doing so, Baxter kindly agreed to speak to the Board of Directors of the Elmore County Cattlemen’s Association and, of course, stopped by the Elmore County Co-op where Joe is a customer. That evening, Baxter and his lovely wife Cindy traveled to the Wombles’ home to help break in Joe’s new grill. Baxter, being Baxter, entertained the crowd with his unique wit and charm. A great time was had by all!

From left: Dan Dhuyvetter, SWEETLIX Marketing; Chet Matthews, President of the Elmore County Cattlemen’s Association; Joe Womble, winner of Sweet Steaks; Baxter Black; and David Allen, SWEETLIX Account Manager. Baxter Black visits Elmore County Co-op. From left are David Allen, SWEETLIX Account Manager; Ashley Tolar, Baxter Black and Dustin Harris, Co-op manager.

Jackie Nix is a nutritionist for Sweetlix.

Homeplace & Community

Alabama Chicken & Egg Festival Photo Contest Winners

For the past several years, Alabama Farmers Cooperative has sponsored the Alabama Chicken and Egg Festival Photo Contest. Congratulations to the winners in the four themed categories and to everyone who participated!

Agriculture Families:
1st – Amy Stanford, Ashville, above
2nd – Garland Bailey, Anderson
3rd – Gary Mullins, Wetumpka
Life on the Farm:
1st – Kim Masterson, Town Creek, above
2nd – Denetiza Jones, Cordova
3rd – Kaci Cage Randolph, Lynn
Crops:
1st – Ben Evanko, Madison, left
2nd – Amber Sewell, Ohatchee
3rd – Jacob K. Poole, Andalusia
Livestock:
1st – Karen Norwood, Moulton, right
2nd – Karen Getchel, Boaz
3rd – Robbie Brown, Madison
Homeplace & Community

Antler Art Fills the Void

DuRhonda Lamb holds one of her “HART” Antler Creations.

by Jaine Treadwell

God gave DuRhonda Lamb antlers.

That might seem a strange thing, but antlers were just what Lamb needed to help fill a void in her life.

For 15 years, DuRhonda Lamb had very successfully managed the music ministry of her children. The Lamb Family Violin Ensemble of Tuscaloosa, composed of "three lambs and a ram," received regional and national acclaim. The Lamb Family was in great demand. They played for many different events including inaugural festivities for Alabama Governors Bob Riley and Robert Bentley.

But, because of the demands of college, school and other obligations and interests, the four siblings decided to perform on a very limited schedule.

DuRhonda had no Lambs to shepherd.

"I had dabbled in arts and crafts for about two years previously with a friend who is an Angel Artist and enjoyed traveling and meeting people," Lamb said. "I thought arts and crafts could be something I could do to fill the void. But I didn’t really know what I could do."

Wes Bundy demonstrates how handy the antler backscratcher is.

Lamb has a deep and abiding faith. She knew God would show her the way if she would just wait patiently.

The answer came when a friend showed her a pen made from a deer antler.

"It all started with a writing pen," Lamb said of her "HART" Antler Creations that "opened on the road" in January.

Lamb’s arts and crafts endeavor is biblically based: "As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul longs for You, O God."

"That scripture is from Psalm 42:1," Lamb said. "In Old English, ‘hart’ means deer. I was inspired by the uniqueness of deer antlers and the creative ways they could be used. No two deer antlers are alike. It is exciting to find so many ways that deer antlers can be crafted."

Lamb’s "HART" Antler Creations include authentic, handcrafted roasting forks, key chains, plaques, jewelry, bottle corks, toothbrushes, letter openers, crosses and a variety of knives including those with Damascus steel blades.

"The Damascus steel blades have unique patterns and, like deer antlers, no two are alike," Lamb said. "A man recently bought one of the knives with the Damascus steel blades as a gift for his son. It will be his first knife and his dad said he wanted it to be special. A knife with a unique deer antler handle and a carbon steel blade should be very special because no two are alike so, there will never be another one like it."

Most recently, Lamb has added walking sticks and canes to "HART" Antler Creations.

"The antlers are used for the handles or knobs," she said. "We go to the woods to find the ‘sticks’ and I like the ones vines have grown around. That makes them unique."

Some of the creations DuRhonda Lamb makes from antlers include jewelry, key chains, knife stands, knives, letter openers, pens and toothbrushes

Lamb’s creations range in price from $6 to $100 and are sold at arts and crafts shows across the state.

To create her art, Lamb has to have a stockpile of antlers.

Although her husband Bill and a son and daughter are deer hunters, Lamb is not.

"I can’t stand to see a deer go down," she said. "Most of the antlers for my creations come from friends and people who know about my art. I’ll even find antlers left on my doorsteps."

Lamb’s husband, laughingly, refers to her as the "lady antler hoarder" and she really doesn’t mind because she has to have antlers for her creations.

"I don’t use any kind of preservative on the antlers," she said. "I wash them, but they are as natural as can be."

Lamb continues to travel to arts and crafts shows all across the state with her friend. She has plans to build on her itinerary to include parts of Georgia and Florida.

"The shows in the small, quaint towns are as interesting as those attracting 30,000 people," she said. "No matter where we go or the size of the show, the people we meet are so interesting and have so many stories to share."

Lamb also has stories she is willing to share. The stories of an incredible musical journey, the transition from managing her children’s music ministry to a new and exciting venture into the arts, her passion now for antler art, and the blessings and joys she has received along the way.

"God did give me antlers," Lamb said. "I’m using His gift and it brings me such great joy. ‘As the hart pants for the streams of water,’ it blesses my heart."

Jaine Treadwell is a freelance writer from Brundidge.

Through the Fence

Chicken Diapers

by Lisa Hamblen Hood

Whoever invented disposable diapers deserves a medal. Despite the enormous toll they take on the environment and the vast amount of room they take up in city landfills, they are a great improvement over their predecessors. For the last few decades, they have spared mothers countless hours of washing cloth diapers.

However - not to state the obvious - but diapers are for humans. You couldn’t prove that to some well-intentioned pet owners. I’ve seen some pretty miserable-looking pooches in dog diapers, either because they were in heat, incontinent or because their owner couldn’t or wouldn’t take them outside to do their business. I’ve even seen a pet monkey wearing a little diaper. As incomprehensible as it seems, some genius brought their pint-sized primate on a trail ride. I figured at that point I’d literally seen or heard it all … I was wrong.

Last week at the lunch table at school, I overheard a snippet of a conversation between two other teachers. Feeling certain I had heard them wrong, I interrupted and asked for clarification. I could have sworn she mentioned she had seen a website advertising chicken diapers. She had indeed. Apparently, some lady is parlaying this unmet need into a profitable online business. There’s even a video on the site demonstrating how to put them on.

"What will they think of next?" I said, not really expecting an answer. The lady continued, "Oh, yes, they have rabbit diapers, too, and disposable duck slings for ducks raised in captivity on slick concrete floors that develop foot problems." I’m sure my open-mouthed stare conveyed my incredulity. I never have obeyed that internal voice telling me to quit while I’m ahead. I was scared to ask her what else they sold, but I did.

"They also carry a full line of little jackets for hens in a variety of colors and designs," she continued enthusiastically. She was so excited; I started to wonder if she was a representative of the company. I just couldn’t stand it anymore and laughed out loud. "I’m gonna have to call BS on that," I answered when I finally got a breath. "Oh no," she said with conviction, "it’s true." She described the jackets as looking like cute, little toddler outfits.

By this time, everyone seated within earshot was listening to the bizarre conversation. We had to ask what purpose the jackets served. She continued with the matter-of-fact directness of a science teacher. "You know," she said, lowering her voice, "chicken mating can be pretty brutal." She had our attention. "It’s quick and without much fanfare beforehand. Those roosters just hop on the hens’ backs and get the job done. But not without digging their sharp spurs into the hen’s back. By the time he’s bred her several times, she can be in pretty rough shape and missing lots of feathers. So the jackets cover the hens’ bald backsides until their feathers can grow back. In the meantime, they look pretty snazzy."

She told us all the name of the website, as if we were all going to rush out and order a case of chicken diapers and matching jackets. We were jarred out of a dazed state of disbelief by the bell’s rude reminder that our brief lunchtime had come to a close. Otherwise, we might have sat there in shock another 15 minutes and been late to our afternoon classes.

That enlightening conversation will definitely make it onto my list entitled, "You can’t make this stuff up!"

Lisa Hamblen Hood lives near Priddy, Texas, where she teaches English, Art and Spanish. Email her at lisa25@centex.net.

The Herb Lady

Comfrey

by Nadine Johnson

In the early 1970s, a popular monthly magazine printed a short article about comfrey (Symphytum officinale) as well as a picture of the herb. I had never heard of this plant. In fact, I had no interest in the culture and use of herbs at that time. However, I clipped the comfrey article and still have it with a large collection of herb-related literature.

In the 1980s, I developed a profound interest in herbs. Naturally I obtained a comfrey plant. One supplier advertised comfrey with these words: "A poultice made of crushed leaves from this herb is thought to heal cuts and sores. Plants grow to about four feet with large purplish foliage. Easy to grow. Likes full sun. Ornamental enough for flower beds."

A health-related monthly publication printed these words in February 1976: "Comfrey has so many medicinal uses that people tend to forget what a nice addition to salads it makes. A perennial that takes little work once it’s established, it yields some of the first greens in spring and the last greens of the fall.

"Comfrey leaves contain vitamins A, C, E and the B vitamins – not only the usual B complex found in green plants but B-12, the anti-anemia vitamin usually found in meat products. Because its roots go deep it is full of trace minerals. And, if all this were not enough, the protein content is high.

"One or two comfrey plants will supply an average family. Animals understandably love this green. For human use, it can be drunk as tea, used in stews, or the leaves can be eaten raw or cooked."

Once an elderly member of the Herb Society of America wrote, "I have used comfrey like spinach for years and I am as healthy as a horse."

She advised using leaves, but not the roots.

I have collected much evidence of the wonders performed by the use of comfrey. Much of this evidence comes from personal use. Much more has been given to me by others who learned of my interest in herbs.

A young girl could not regain her natural, healthy coloring following a bout of bleeding ulcers. (Bleeding was controlled by her doctor’s prescriptions.) Someone suggested she drink comfrey leaf tea. After drinking three or four cups of this tea daily for several weeks, she became a bright-eyed, vibrant young lady with glowing cheeks. This beautiful, apparently healthy, young woman told me her story several years after the related event.

An elderly gentleman reported he drinks this tea regularly and has done so for a good many years to control arthritic-type pain. He has experienced no negative reactions to comfrey.

Another elderly gentlemen’s lower leg was amputated. Time went by, but his "stump" just would not heal properly, so he could not begin to wear his artificial limb. Finally, comfrey poultices were applied to the wound. He healed. Now he enjoys walking with his brand-new lower leg.

My son sprained his ankle. The next morning his injury was painfully swollen. I applied a comfrey poultice and elastic bandage. That night he reported that all swelling and discomfort had subsided. In fact, he had forgotten about his sprained ankle.

My husband was bitten on his lower body and legs by approximately 100 fire ants. He immediately applied the fresh sap of comfrey leaves. For several days, the tiny red spots were visible. However, he didn’t experience itching or other discomforts usually associated with fire ant bites.

Occasionally I have an ulcer in my mouth. I chew a small piece of comfrey leaf, hold it in place on the affected area, and eventually swallow the herb. My ulcer usually disappears with only one treatment of this sort.

I could write a book about the wonders of comfrey, but now I must tell you about its negative side. In other words, I must warn you of possible dangers of using this great gift of nature. There are confirmed reports that excessive use of comfrey can be bad for your health. I am forced to accept this fact even though not one of the many people I have interviewed has ever reported any health complications due to their use of comfrey.

It has been determined that some comfrey contains a substance which can cause severe health problems. The reports I have received state these health problems are more common in Jamaica, Africa and India.

I continue to use comfrey in ointments and poultices. I don’t hesitate to have a cup of comfrey tea whenever I desire. I never consume a large amount at one time.

(As always, I advise you to check with your doctor before taking herbal products.)

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

Simple Times

Deacon Blue

by Suzy Lowry Geno

Switching channels on the radio in my truck immediately transported me back 35 years as the song "Deacon Blue" by Steely Dan mellowed the airwaves.

Once again, in my mind, I was driving that little sporty tan and dark brown Nova back and forth daily to Samford University in Birmingham.

I could smell the pages of those thick, heavy textbook tomes. Feel the cool stone walls as my sandals pitty-patted down the reverent hallways. Swished my jean-clad bottom across the ebony stool as my sweaty hands touched the ivory keys of the massive Yamaha grand piano that made me both dread my hours in the piano lab, BUT revel in all I was learning.

I was a single mama with two little girls with what seemed to be my whole life of promise and excitement and more than a little fright stretching out before me.

It seemed then there were always a couple of butterflies in the bottom of my stomach. There were so many unknowns in my life. But, while the future was uncertain, it was MY future to mold with my hopes, dreams and ideals.

As the song on the radio ended, the butterflies in the pit of my stomach remained. Even though I’m no longer that bright-eyed, dark-haired young mother, now I’m at a similar life-altering position.

That little Samford student got married the next winter and a much-cherished baby boy was born a couple of years later.

But I’m so thankful there was no crystal ball of the future because I wouldn’t have wanted to know I’d be a widow at age 60. (As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t have even wanted to THINK about turning 60!)

But here I am … stomach butterflies and all.

Once again, plotting and pondering my future.

The women on my mother’s side of the family often live well into their golden years. An aunt recently died in her late 90s, as did my Granny before her.

When I paid a routine visit to my family doctor recently, he just looked at me and said (after saying, of course, I needed to lose some weight!), he "didn’t know what I’d been doing, but to keep doing it!"

Tending goats, chickens, ducks, rabbits and the rest of the things that go along with running a small homestead farm keep me much more than just "active," so I could possibly be around for at least another 35 years!

What will I do? Can those next years be as exciting, rewarding and productive?

Once again, there are so many exciting choices!

I have an education (both book-learned and hard-scrabbled-fought!), I have experience and I have my wonderful little farm (well - it’s ALMOST paid for!).

So - what will I do???

The last few months have been months of healing. Now I feel like I’m on the verge of a wonderful adventure.

I don’t plan to leave my farm. I plan to even further explore living life as simply as possible.

A sign on a farm in a recent magazine proclaimed "Dirty hands - Clean Heart" and I plan to keep my hands in the rich soil - a lot!

But I think it’s time to share. I’m not exactly sure in what all ways yet.

People sometimes are surprised to learn I am basically an extremely shy person. If during all these years I hadn’t had a reporter’s notebook, pen and camera in my hands, you might have never ever heard me say a word!

So my sharing may continue a lot by simply putting words on paper.

I’m certainly not an expert at anything.

I’ll likely never write a best-selling book or write a concerto heard around the world (or even a country song heard on local radio!).

I’ll never mesmerize crowds with heart-stirring speeches or win the adulation of thousands for my good deeds.

But I can keep telling stories.

Stories about small family farmers who homeschool their children and work for the good of their communities and churches.

Stories of many older farmers who see the way to feed this nation must be through local farmers’ markets and direct contact with the men and women who raised that grass-fed beef or ear of corn.

Stories of those who live in small towns or big cities and house a few hens in their backyards for fresh eggs, and grow more than half their family’s vegetables in raised beds, fruits from dwarf trees and berry bushes planted in their flowerbeds instead of conventional shrubbery.

Stories of couples who leave their corporate jobs to make delicious cheeses from nutritious sheep milk or who even serve their communities by answering needs like handcrafted wooden caskets.

I can flip a switch and be instantly connected with folks around the world.

But, in spite of all the technology that is almost overwhelming our lives, so many folks like me are realizing the simple things - faith, family, hard work and even juice running down your chin from that first warm homegrown tomato - are really what matters most.

So I plan to continue my journey’s adventure -writing about the joys and rewards of living the simple life.

And I thank all of you, the readers, for your patience, your support and your outpouring of love during my family’s time of healing these past few months.

In closing, I’d like to share some verses that have meant a lot to me as I’ve kept my fingers busy during the past few months as my mind bounced to and fro:

"Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody." (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12)* n

*Scripture taken from the Holy Bible; New International Version; Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984; International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

Suzy Lowry Geno is a freelance writer from Blount County. She can be contacted through her website at www.suzysfarm.com.

Farm & Field

Derry Bone Knows Catfish

Derry Bone holds up a plaque awarded to him as Alabama’s Catfish Farmer of the year.

by Alvin Benn

When Derry Bone shifted from cattle to catfish 18 years ago, he knew the transition wouldn’t be easy, but he never thought he’d begin by digging ditches.

That’s just what happened and, as he toiled under a hot April sun to help lay water lines for an irrigation system, he wondered if he had made the right decision.

"I dug most of those ditches by hand and I didn’t know what I was in for," he said, breaking into a big smile. "Then David told me things would get better."

As it turned out, Bone not only learned something new, he also created a national reputation through hard work and dedication to a vastly different form of farming.

It all paid off a few months ago when he was named Alabama’s Catfish Farmer of the Year – a recognition bestowed on him in Little Rock, Ark., where he and two other state winners were honored. Bone was nominated for this honor by the Alabama Catfish Producers, a division of the Alabama Farmers Federation.

Derry Bone inspects one of his catfish pond aerators in the Browns community of Dallas County.

"Derry is far and away the best manager in the industry," said David Pearce, whose promise to Bone all those years ago certainly has paid off. "He’s really good at what he does."

Pearce, former director of one of Alabama’s leading catfish farms, has watched Bone mature in his new surroundings after somewhat of a shaky start with that ditch-digging assignment.

Bone didn’t know it at the time, but it was part of a test by Pearce to see if he could handle a job requiring considerable effort.

That ditch-digging assignment, by the way, was to help Pearce’s wife Fran with her flower-growing projects at the farm and she couldn’t have been happier with the way the ditches took shape.

"David could see the discouragement in my face, but said things would get better and it sure has," said Bone, 44. "The hours are long, but it’s all part of a job that has become an important part of my life."

Derry Bone, right, chats with catfish collector Randy Hobson at the Pearce Catfish Farm in the Browns community of Dallas County.

Long hours are enough to make most people look for other lines of work because catfish farming requires only the most committed individuals.

It’s not unusual for Bone to put in 16-18 hour days to make sure the fish are properly cared for and harvested.

He didn’t become general manager overnight. It took awhile as Pearce watched him learn the ropes and move from one responsibility to another.

"David felt I needed to know how to do everything," said Bone, who grew up on a cattle farm nearby in Marion Junction. "He also told me, ‘You take care of me and I’ll take care of you.’"

Buying and selling cattle was all Bone knew as he grew up, but his family business eventually played out and he began looking for something else to do.

"You could just call it a good string of bad luck and I decided to give it up and move on," he said. "This job came along at the right time."

It couldn’t have worked out any better, either. Bone and his wife Annabelle and their two sons moved to the little west Dallas County community of Browns several years ago and built a house on 10 acres of land they bought from his mentor.

"David has always been more like a father to me than a boss," said Bone. "As I got to know my job better, he kept giving me raises. I couldn’t have asked for more."

As the manager of 16 employees, Bone often works from dawn to dusk making sure the farm bearing the Pearce name is managed to the best of his abilities. There’s no doubt in Pearce’s mind that it is.

It’s a huge responsibility because the farm includes 121 ponds containing 1,387 watery acres located over a four-mile area – up from the 500 acres when Bone started.

According to an economic impact study, Alabama’s 200 catfish farmers raise fish in just over 19,000 acres of ponds. The result is an industry providing more than $150 million to the state’s economy along with about 6,000 jobs.

"We try to raise about 10,000 pounds of fish an acre and harvest year-round and work 50 weeks out of the year and that includes weekends," Bone remarked.

Harvesting requires special skills for the crew because they wind up in waist-deep water beginning long after the sun sets. By the time they are finished, it might be approaching midnight.

At times, freezing temperatures leave thick coats of ice covering catfish ponds, only adding to the demanding job already required.

"I remember the time we had to go out into the ponds and jump up and down to crack the ice," said Randy Hobson, whose company helps to harvest catfish at Pearce Catfish Farm.

Hobson admires Bone’s dedication to his job because he sees it every night the harvesting begins.

"I get days off and get to go home late at night, but he’s still here when I leave," said Hobson. "He works hard. No doubt about that."

Catfish farming has had a unique history, dating back half a century in Kansas, Oklahoma and Arkansas before moving into the Mississippi Delta region where that state became the major provider of the fish. Alabama is a close second.

Bone said the United States once produced about 700 million pounds of catfish annually, but it has dropped to about 300 million in recent years.

Catfish competition from Vietnam and China has become a major problem for U.S. producers who feel they aren’t operating on an even playing field.

Imported catfish, in Bone’s opinion, fall far below the quality of fish grown domestically.

"Foreign catfish filet, for instances, is thinner than ours," he said, adding that federal inspections fall far below where they should be "and we’ve been lobbying for years to tighten up restrictions."

He said "Country of Origin" laws require labels to identify where the fish were raised, but it’s become pretty much of a guessing game as far as some restaurants are concerned.

"You can ask a waitress about that and you’re likely to get an ‘I don’t know’ answer," Bone explained. "It’s become a big problem for us, but all we can do is push for changes."

He has no doubts, of course, that U.S.-grown catfish more than pass the taste test with consumers and is confident operations in Mississippi, Alabama and other producing states will survive the latest challenges.

"We have our own little niche market including mom and pop fish houses and other buyers," Bone said. "People in the South demand American catfish and we’re doing our best to provide it for them."

Alvin Benn is a freelance writer from Selma.

Youth Matters

Don’t Drop it on Alabama

Almost 1,000 Pine Level Elementary School Students

by Mary Stanford

Pine Level Elementary School in Deatsville wanted to make a difference in their school and community. They are now members of the PALS Clean Campus Program, a program that raises awareness about litter and discourages littering. It encourages classes from kindergarten through fifth grade to join against litter by taking a pledge to keep their environment clean.

Kathy Hill, a counselor at Pine Level, invited PALS to come to their school and implement a litter education program. Almost 1,000 students from Pine Level Elementary School helped fight litter by participating in the 2013 Don’t Drop It On Alabama campaign.

Pine Level Elementary students, teachers and custodians along with their principal Mrs. Lofton were encouraging more recycling and less waste and trash in the school and lunch room. PALS supplied recycling boxes and encouraged students and faculty to use them for their plastic and paper items. Experience has shown that keeping the litter-free message in the schools and community is essential to addressing litter problems. PALS also supplied bags for their clean-up projects.

Litter Facts:

Did you know?
– Decompose: To break down, disintegrate or totally go away,
– Plastic bags take 10-20 years to decompose.
– Aluminum cans take 200-500 years to decompose.

The message PALS drove home was to think before you let the next piece of litter get out of hand. Do a litter check of how you live.

PALS has a Poster and Essay Contest for students from K-6. The theme is "What Makes Alabama A Clean And Beautiful State." The first place winner receives $250 and is invited to the annual Governor’s Awards. PALS also has a State Scrapbook Award giving $1,000 for first place, $750 second place and $500 third place.

Does your school promote a litter-free environment? Those interested in the PALS Clean Campus Program, email mary@alpals.org or call 334-224-7594.

Mary Stanford is the PALS State Clean Campus Coordinator.

Farm & Field

Elkmont’s Maples Farm

Tommy Maples is the seventh generation to live and work on Maples Farm. He and his family live in the house his great-grandfather built.

Where Farming Has Always Been a Family Business

by Anna Leigh Peek

If you stop the average American on the street and ask them how many of the farms here in the United States are still owned and operated by families, the answers you get would surprise you. You may get answers ranging anywhere from 2-70 percent. Most are shocked and many will not believe it when you tell them, of the 2.2 million farms dotting our country’s landscape, 97 percent are still operated by families - individuals, family partnerships or family corporations - according to the American Farm Bureau. In our country, most consumers are so removed from the farm that they are under the impression corporations own most farms or believe them to operate in a factory setting, which cannot be further from the truth.

At the Maples Farm in Elkmont, farming is a family business and always has been. Currently, there are three generations working on the family’s registered Angus cattle farm. The Maples family is well known for their cattle across Limestone County and Alabama.

Sara Maples is pictured bottle feeding a calf. She will be a freshman in college in the fall at Mississippi State. “I am majoring in Agriculture Information Sciences. I feel, since I have already experienced agriculture in my everyday life, it will help me decide my future job and help with schooling.”

William and John Maples were granted land on February 11, 1818, before Alabama was even a state. Prior to Alabama becoming a state in 1819, north Alabama was inhabited by the Chickasaw Indians and was part of the Mississippi Territory. The brothers worked the farm together until William sold John his portion and went to Mississippi. The farm has been added to over the years. Their success can be credited to hard work and selecting good animals for their herd.

According to Billy, "One of the main reasons we have been able to keep the farm in the family is that family members have typically given other members of the family who are interested in staying on the farm a first chance to buy their portion if they are moving."

Tommy is living in his great-grandfather’s house and his son Ben is living in his great-grandfather’s house working the same land their forefathers have worked over the last 195 years.

Originally, the Maples Farm was a row crop operation, just like the majority of farms in north Alabama. It was not until 1937 that the Maples bought into the cattle business. Billy’s father Mack bought four heifers, one at a time for $50 each, and in the first 1.5 years had purchased 10 heifers total.

They still have descendants from the original herd on the farm today.

When Mack bought his first cows, his friends and neighbors thought he was crazy. After all, Limestone County was cotton country. At that time, it seemed like a waste to have land being used for anything other than cotton.

Billy grew up working on the farm and showing cattle with 4-H. He had the State Championship Steer in 1948 and the money he made off his steer is what allowed him to establish his herd and start paying his way through Auburn. Billy finished up at Auburn in 1958 and, after a brief service in the military, came back to the farm in 1959 in a partnership with his father Mac. During this time, they focused on row crops and continued growing their cattle herd.

The Maples Family, Nancy, Dianne, Billy, Tommy and Dave, was named the Outstanding Young Farm Family in 1963.

The diversification of the Maples Farm allowed them to endure 2 rough years for cotton growers - 1967 and 1968. These 2 years caused a lot of growers in the area to rethink their crops and during this time the Maples went from having five families sharecropping to having two families hired to work on the farm. The beef cattle operation was something the Maples Farm was able to fall back on. The row crop operation was still a major component of the Maples Farm, but Billy enjoyed the livestock more than the crops.

Billy and his wife Nancy’s kids Dave, Dianne and Tommy were all involved in the operation growing up. Like their father, they showed in 4-H and were very successful with their steers. Their friends were interested in what the Maples kids did and started coming out to the farm wanting to learn. Before long, kids from town even began coming out. Nancy enjoyed having the friends come to the farm.

"You really get to know your children’s friends, and as a parent, that is a good thing," Nancy said.

"The good thing about living on the farm is you get to spend a lot of time working and playing together. It is farther out from town, but the memories you have make up for that," Billy added.

Currently Billy and Tommy are responsible for the day-to-day work on the farm and the grandchildren work when they are home from school. The grandchildren Ben, Josh, Will and Sara are the eighth generation to live and work on the farm. Ben has recently returned home from college at Western Kentucky and is the agri-science teacher at Tanner High School; he now works daily alongside his father and grandfather. Josh, the second child of Tommy and Melanie, is working on his master’s degree at Mississippi State University and, though he is not on the farm on a daily basis, still appreciates his rearing on the farm.

"Though I have lived away from the farm for nearly 5 years, it will always be the place I call home. I look forward to every opportunity to visit even though I know that visit will entail early mornings and long afternoons working with the cattle," Josh remarked.

Family is always involved in the work on the farm, regardless of whether they reside there or are there for the weekend. But it is not dreaded work, it is time well spent with family. Sara, who is bound for Mississippi State this fall, shares the same sentiments.

"I wouldn’t trade growing up on a farm for anything. It has taught me the value of working together as a family," Sara said.

The Maples Farm has grown from four heifers in the 1930s to 350 head of cattle today. Like most farms, it has taken time and a lot of hard work, but family has been the core of their operation since its beginning.

Family farms across the nation are not only growing healthy and quality food for our world but are also instilling values in our nation’s youth. Values like responsibility, appreciation of the land, compassion and good work habits. All of our nation’s farms today are producing the food and fiber fueling our nation, and 98 percent of our farms are operated by families just like the Maples, growing food and growing strong families. n

Anna Leigh Peek is a freelance writer from Auburn.

Howle's Hints

Fine When Fried, Take a Siesta and Get a Handle on Things

A scrape blade is all that is needed to keep firebreaks maintained for wildfire protection and controlling prescribed burns.

by John Howle

Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.” Henry David Thoreau

Fishing has been a part of man’s make up since the beginning of time. Fishing was such a way of life during Jesus’ time on Earth that he used fishing analogies to share his messages with the common man. All his listeners could relate because many of the occupations centered on the fishing industry at that time. Matthew 4:19 says, "And He said unto them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.’"

To be a successful fisherman, you need to have patience and be the type of person who is not easily discouraged. Fishermen in Jesus’ day had to be able to work long, hard hours, also. This could be why Jesus chose fishermen to help spread the gospel.

When Jesus was asked to pay the temple tax, Jesus had Peter cast a hook into the sea and the first fish he caught had a shekel in its mouth. Wouldn’t it be great if we could catch fish and pull money out of the fish’s mouth to pay our taxes? Today, the fish remains the symbol for the Christian faith. In addition to being the Christian symbol, fish are just plain fun to catch, and they make a fine feast when fried.

Scrape the Breaks

Fire breaks serve not only as access roads around your wooded property but can help prevent out-of-control wildfires and help in the control of regular prescribed burns. When the fire breaks become full of leaves, pine needles and debris, they don’t do much good in containing a fire. Using nothing more than a tractor scrape blade will have your fire breaks in clean shape. If you do this just before hunting season, you will be able to walk in silence on bare ground instead of crunching leaves.

Go to the woods for a straight hickory sapling for your next broken handle. For new tools, go to your local Co-op.

Foiled Again

If you are using a lantern around the campsite, you have light projected in all directions. If you need to project light in one direction in the campsite or use the lantern as a flashlight, line half the inside of the globe with aluminum foil. This not only projects the light in one direction, it concentrates that light for a brighter beam. When you are finished, you can use the foil for a hobo dinner or baked potato around the campfire.

Time for Lime?

Much of the pastureland in Alabama was once cultivated for crops such as cotton and corn. Even on mountaintops, if you could hang on to a gee whiz plow behind a mule, that land was plowed and planted. The problem on many of these hilltop pastures, however, is that much of the nutrients washed off the tops, down the hills and into the creeks.

It is not uncommon for newly cleared land to need as much as three tons of lime per acre to neutralize the soil. If the soil pH isn’t correct, it doesn’t matter how many seeds you plant or how much fertilizer you apply, the nutrients will remain locked up in the soil particles and they will be unavailable to the plant. This greatly adds stress to the forage there, especially in July when the weather gets dry and grazing pressure is already stressing the plants.

Now would be a great time to get soil samples in your pastures and have a lab analyze the results. This will let you have the soil conditioned in time for fall planting. Once you get the soil test results, your local Co-op will have everything you need from lime and fertilizer to seeds and equipment to apply them.

Get a Handle on Things

Seems like I’m continually breaking the handles on tools around the farm. For instance, a set of post hole diggers has two handles. All you have to do is break just one of them and you’re out of business for the rest of the day. The price for a new, heavy-duty post hole digger had me thinking about another option. I then priced a new, wooden handle to replace my old one. Surprised at the cost of a single post hole digger handle, I went with option number three. I went into the woods and found a straight hickory sapling.

Once I cut the hickory handle to length and drilled two bolt holes for mounting to the digger head, I was in business and finished digging the post holes for my muscadine vine posts. I then skinned the rest of the bark off and coated the handles generously with linseed oil.

Now if you want the best price for a brand new set of post hole diggers, visit your local Co-op. For that matter, they will also have plants that will run on your brace posts once you have them in the ground.

Siesta Anyone?

It’s July and it’s hot. If you are working outside this time of year, the middle of the day can be an oppressive time to dig postholes, fix fences or hoe in the garden. The middle of the day is also when we are at greater risk for heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Instead, get most of your work done in the early mornings and late afternoons to avoid the heat of the day.

This will give you a chance to eat a slightly earlier lunch, take a siesta and be recharged for the work that can be completed later in the day. You might even have time to do a little fishing at the end of the week. Don’t feel guilty. Even Jesus took time out to help people do a little fishing.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.

Youth Matters

Focus on Family Fun and Educating Youth

The “Build a Better Burger” contest allows AJCA members to have fun with food during the annual Round-Up.

AJCA Round-Up 2013, July 26-28, Garrett Coliseum

by Maggie Walsh

The winds of change will be blowing across the grounds of Garrett Coliseum in Montgomery during this year’s Alabama Junior Cattlemen’s Association Round-Up.

Youth from across the state will come together July 26-28 to compete in various endeavors during this 7th annual event.

Cobie Rutherford, AJCA director of industry relations and youth activities, described the Round-Up as a "family-oriented, fun event that focuses on educating youth about the beef industry."

The Round-Up boasts a variety of contests ranging from the traditional cattle-showing competitions to creative contests for each of the three age divisions - junior, intermediate and senior.

Rutherford said the wide range of contests is an inclusive endeavor to get as many junior cattlemen participating as possible.

The Morgan County team was presented the first place ribbons and awards for the team grooming contest by the 2012 AJCA President.

"We realized there were a number of youth who were interested in beef and cattle production that don’t necessarily have the time or facilities to commit to a livestock project," Rutherford said. "That’s why we have those different contests available to them."

For example, AJCA members can compete in photography, poster, record book, career development and "Build a Better Burger" contests in addition to cattle showing, judging and grooming.

A non-owner showmanship class has been added to the schedule of events in order to give willing AJCA members as much experience handling cattle as possible.

Other new competitions include ad design, essay and salesmanship categories.

"The contests are a perfect venue for juniors to showcase the knowledge they possess, while the cattle shows allow them to demonstrate their work ethic and cattle," Rutherford added.

Kylie Elrod, Cullman County, won Supreme Heifer at the 2012 AJCA Round-Up. The award was presented by judge Shane Bedwell (center) and AJCA officers and board members (from left) James Robert Parnell, Shelby Windham, Morgan Graham, Kendall Jones, Brooke Roberts, Will Graves, Hannah Goodson, Cole Wakefield and Madison Tew. (Credit: Morgan Moser)

An additional goal of the diverse competitions is to help participants develop beneficial career skills and abilities.

"You can’t really put a value on the number of times you get up in front of an audience to give a speech or you write an essay and have it judged," Rutherford said.

Rutherford has been working directly with an "outstanding junior cattlemen board [of directors] and officer team" to breathe fresh life into this year’s proceedings.

One result of their efforts is a hospitality area to be assembled in the Homer Lewis Barn. This addition will have the simple pleasures such as drink stations and large fans and be manned by volunteers.

"We’re really hoping the hospitality area gives kids a chance to get out of the heat and the families can go … and relax," Rutherford said.

Also new to the Round-Up, the judges will be asked to give feedback to each contest participant in an effort to help competitors learn and grow in their skills.

This emphasis on nurturing members into adulthood is exemplary of the character of the AJCA.

The Saturday night awards banquet will have added significance this year, as the top 10 members in each age division will be recognized according to their rank in participation points.

"We’re going to be able to recognize those youth who have worked really hard in several contests and placed," Rutherford explained.

This new points system encourages the junior cattlemen to branch outside of their comfort zones to try to win that overall participation award.

A novice division will be another original feature of the 2013 Round-Up. This category will provide members under the age of 9 a "positive learning experience that will … give them an opportunity to have fun while being recognized as the future of [AJCA]," according to the 2013 AJCA Round-Up Rules.

The AJCA board of directors emphatically affirms the merits of the Round-Up.

"It’s a really good time to enjoy with friends and family across the state and to be more involved in the AJCA," said Clay McGuire, AJCA secretary and District 3 director.

While McGuire has attended and competed in multiple Round-Ups, this will be his first time going as an officer.

"I’m most excited about getting to help out with the behind-the-scenes work," he said. "I know it’ll be a good experience with my fellow board members."

The board of directors arrives at the Round-Up two days early to help with setup and preparations.

Shelby Windham, AJCA president and District 4 director, has participated in every Round-Up since its inception and has nothing but positive opinions about the event.

"It’s a good experience that you can get in-state without having to travel to a junior national’s competition," the Dale County native said. "It’s also a good event for your animals to go to. It gets them not afraid of people and used to showing."

Windham said the Round-Up is about more than just showing cattle. The event also teaches young people important life skills such as teamwork through the different competitions.

"We have anything and everything and you don’t have to show cows to participate," Windham remarked.

Vice President and District 1 Director Will Graves echoed Windham’s statement, stressing "anybody can be involved."

For Graves, who is in his third year as an officer, the added responsibility of being a director is taken on as a service position.

"We’re there to help any adult, young person … anyone with any questions or anything they need," he said. "It’s an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything."

Interested young people won’t want to miss what McGuire calls "the event I look forward to most in the summer."

For information about rules, scheduling or how to become involved in AJCA, visit www.bamabeef.org and click on the AJCA link under the partner organizations tab.

Margaret Walsh is a freelance writer from Troy.

Outdoor Life

Game Cameras Can Increase Hog Trapping Success

by Chris Jaworowski

Every year in Alabama, hunters and wildlife managers use motion-activated game cameras to monitor wildlife populations on their properties. Game cameras are available in a variety of configurations and costs. Some models use a standard camera flash while others use infrared to illuminate wildlife species at night. Older models utilized a 35-mm film camera, but virtually all current models use a digital camera to take and store pictures or short video clips. The use of game cameras allows 24-hour surveillance of wildlife and the ability to monitor wildlife species throughout the year on a property.

Though game cameras most often are used by deer hunters and managers, landowners with feral hogs are increasingly using game cameras to improve hog trapping success rates. Game cameras allow users to tell how many hogs they are dealing with, how big their traps need to be and where to install traps as well as when it is time to set traps.

To control a nuisance species such as a feral hog, the scale of the problem must first be determined. To accomplish this task, install game cameras at sites baited with whole kernel corn or soured corn. Check the game cameras in two weeks. Checking the game camera pictures will provide photographic evidence of the number, size and frequency of hogs visiting the bait sites.

After identifying the size of the hog problem, use this information to determine how large the hog traps need to be. If small sounders of three or four hogs are being seen, a box-type cage trap should be large enough to eliminate the problem. On the other hand, if there are pictures of large sounders with 10 or more hogs, larger corral-type traps constructed using three to five 16-foot horse or goat panels will need to be built in order to increase the chances of catching the entire sounder in one night.

Using the time- and date-stamped pictures from the game cameras, construct traps in areas where bait sites were visited often by hogs. After constructing the trap, tie the trap door open and then bait heavily. Install a game camera to monitor the trap and return in a week or two. Bait the trap again and check the pictures for hogs utilizing the trap. Identify the size of the sounders visiting the trap based on number, coloration and gender of the pigs. If there are pictures of all of the hogs in the sounder entering the trap, it is time to set the trap door. If some of the hogs are not entering the trap or just walking around it, install the camera again and be patient. The goal should be to catch all the hogs in the sounder, so continue to monitor the trap until there are pictures of all the hogs inside the trap. When that happens, it is time to set the trap.

Using game cameras to monitor the hog traps will decrease the number of times the traps must be visited, which saves time and money. The ability to identify the size and number of hogs visiting a trap, as well as when to set the door on the trap, teaches the trapper the most important aspect of hog trapping – patience. By using a game camera and learning to be patient, hog trappers will increase their trapping success rates.

For more information on the use of game cameras while hog trapping, contact Wildlife Biologist Chris Jaworowski at chris.jaworowski@dcnr.alabama.gov, or contact your local Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries district office. Instructions for building a hog trap, as well as additional resources relating to feral hogs, may be found at www.outdooralabama.com/hunting/feral_hogs.cfm.

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through five divisions: Marine Police, Marine Resources, State Lands, State Parks, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR, visit www.outdooralabama.com.

Chris Jaworowski is a Wildlife Biologist with the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries.

For What It's Worth

Get Ready to Watch Feed Prices Rollercoaster

by Robert Spencer

Those of you who rely heavily on grain-based feeds for your livestock are well aware feed prices have not declined significantly this past year, and you are probably wondering what to expect this year. We all know, at one time this past year, soybean hull and corn gluten pellets hovered around $300 per ton. In late spring of 2013, grains and grain-based feed prices did not lower to give us some reprieve as traditionally expected. They normally decline as situations stabilize in spring and expectations for a hardy, summer-growing season ease concerns over shortages. Based on conditions we have seen this spring and are already hearing via USDA and other resources, I suggest those who rely on grain-based feed for livestock get ready for a feed price rollercoaster the remainder of this year and into 2014. Keep in mind this article was written in May 2013 and variables can do what they do best, so keep an open mind, and plan accordingly and efficiently.

My opinion is based on the following. Many areas throughout the U.S. have experienced an exceptionally abnormal cold and wet spring. I am referring to the Great Lakes, Midwest and Southeast regions. We all know the Great Lakes and Midwest regions are our corn and grain belt for feed-based production. Due to aforementioned conditions, all three regions have been late planting relevant crops and the same crops have been slow to emerge.

I have been watching USDA and industry-related reports and they all say the same: late planting and emergence due to climate and soil situations, grains and grain-based prices are reasonable at this time, drought is anticipated in many regions, and nobody knows what to expect. The "sunshine" in all this? States in the North-central and along the Great Lakes regions are getting their crops established and experiencing emergence ahead of everyone else, including the Southeast.

What to do, what to do? By the time you read this article, all we can do is accept what happens with every attempt to plan ahead, determine how our farms can best cope with this situation through 2014, and put forth our best efforts. Assuming you manage livestock, consider the following suggestions: (1) Have a rotating and stockpiling forage plan in effect. (2) Reduce herd inventories if necessary; better too few than too many. (3) Accumulate sufficient quantities of hay to get your animals through fall, winter and spring. Remember, fresh forage availability generally takes place in late spring in most regions. Quality hay is more affordable than grain-based feeds. (4) Shop around for quality, affordable feeds.

With a plan like this, your farm is more likely to sustain itself. The good news is more corn has been planted this year due to high expectations. The bad news, less cotton has been planted due to ever-increasing cost of production. For those who use gin trash and cotton seed in their feeds because it is less costly and a good source of protein, it will be less available and feed prices more costly.

Other bad news: demand for grain-based feeds is expected to increase this year.

The good news is inventories of beef, goats and sheep are not sufficient to drive up demand, but the bad news is pork and poultry numbers are on the rise.

There is little or no control over these situations. Everyone wants to bemoan the fact how unfair it is and try to point fingers. Sometimes people want to blame the feed companies; but, trust me, they are a business and trying to keep prices affordable. It all comes down to whether climatic conditions are favorable or unfavorable to production and yield situations, and then how simple supply and demand situations affect prices. Plan and prepare, evaluate and adjust, and learn and adapt efficient and productive methodologies.

Resources:

http://farmdocdaily.illinois.edu/2013/05/corn-soy bean-prices-retrace-2012-rally.html

http://www.thecropsite.com/reports/?id=2110

http://www.thepigsite.com/reports/?id=2044

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

Your Next Meal From the Wildside

Going Whole Hog on the 4th

by Christy Kirk

The Fourth of July is traditionally one of the biggest barbecuing days of the year in the United States. For our family, it is definitely a tradition to fire up the grill whether we are at the lake or the beach. Jason usually brings some meat from the freezer such as deer steak or wild hog, but in the last few years wild hogs have become so prevalent throughout the South that you don’t have to rely on freezing the meat for later. Because there are so many available, a sow can be caught or killed easily whenever you want one. Try to catch a hog in a pen about 2-2½ weeks before your big event. You can then feed it corn and leftovers from home until you are ready. Before butchering the meat for barbecue, Jason hangs the hog for two or three days to age it before dressing it.

Jason has found it is easier to trap hogs in the summer than during the rest of the year. During the summer, there is a lack of acorns; so, if you bait an area, they will be sure to return for the food you put out. With less movement, trappers can more easily bait and watch an area set with traps. Also, hogs will usually become nocturnal if they are exposed to outside pressures such as the sound of guns and presence of humans.

The hog traps are either 4x8 or 4x16 cages built out of cattle panels (available at your local Quality Co-op). Permanent traps can be made out of 16-foot panels. To bait each trap, Jason fills a five-gallon bucket half-full with corn, then pours water over it almost to the top, and finally he adds a can of beer. Stir the ingredients thoroughly. This inviting mixture then sits in full sun for seven or eight days until it sours. If you have never smelled this before, I can only describe it as a corn-mash-brewery kind of stink that makes you wonder how anyone could drink beer or even eat corn after smelling it. But the hogs love it. Also, this special mix is less likely to be eaten by deer, so you are more likely to attract the prey you want.

The goal for a hogger is to kill as many sows as possible for food and to thin the sounder; however, finding and killing the dominant boar hog can provide a nice trophy. A dominant boar hog is a lot like a whitetailed buck. He is smart, so you have to be clever to keep him around the pen so you can catch him. One way to keep him interested is setting up a "scratching post." Put a wooden fence post into the ground near the trap. Then take an old towel and soak it in burnt motor oil and wrap the towel around the post down low to the ground. Hogs will rub on the post to keep off ticks and flies.

Always remember that transporting live hogs is illegal in Alabama. Transporting hogs for hunting is one of the ways wild hogs became such a widespread problem. Keeping them in a pen prior to killing them is legal. Be sure to set up your traps under large trees out of the sun and the coolest place you can find. Set up an automatic feeder over the pen and tie coolers of water to the fence or a tree where the hogs can’t turn it over. Setting up your trap properly ahead of time means the hogs will be okay if you can’t check on them for three or four days.

Wild hogs are scavengers, eating food such as grubs, roots and acorns. That means they are leaner, so there will not be as much meat. Because of this, the bigger the sow is the better. Jason tries to find one that is 120-150 pounds. A hog this size will feed up to 30 people.

For your next barbecue, one wild hog may be exactly what you need to feed your family. Try cutting it into large chunks and putting it on the grill to cook slowly on low heat. It has little fat, so you don’t want to get in a hurry. Season with salt and pepper and you can also wrap it in bacon to add flavor and juices. Baste the meat often with your favorite liquid to keep it moist. Once the meat is cooked, add your own jezebel sauce or try an Alabama-made product like Berdeaux’s Sweet Island Dipping Sauce. Jason ran into the owner of the Berdeaux brand recently and, after trying the sauce, he brought home two bottles. This summer, experiment with local recipes and even your own concoctions. Add side dishes like Zesty Summer Vegetables (recipe below), baked beans and slaw, and your next meal will be something your family will remember throughout the year.

Vinegar Barbecue Baste

5 cups water

1 cup white vinegar

Juice of 2 lemons squeezed and save lemons

¼ cup salt

Add all ingredients to a large pot and bring to a boil. Use to baste meat often.

Zesty Summer Vegetables

4-5 yellow squash, cut into chunks

4-5 zucchini, cut into chunks

1 large can whole tomatoes, chopped with juice

2 Vidalia onions, chopped

Olive oil, enough to be able to gently coat vegetables

Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning (if you like spicier) or Lawry’s Seasoning Salt (if you like milder flavor)

Preheat oven to 350° or get grill started. In a deep roasting pan, place squash, zucchini and onions. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with seasoning and toss to spread seasoning. Add tomatoes and stir. Place pan in oven or on the grill for added flavor. Cook about 30-40 minutes until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally.

Note: Thickness of chucks will determine cooking time. Check them with a fork as they cook.

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

On the Edge of Common Sense

Grammar Lessons

by Baxter Black, DVM

Stew and I were talking about the world we grew up in. A time when family had a much greater influence on children than they do today. We grew up before cable television, texting, iTunes, unavoidable soft porn, misogynistic vulgar rap, instantaneous news, a sense of entitlement and electronic isolation. Both of our folks were Bible Belt believers and played music.

I’ll let you decide whether it was better or worse, we all have our own stories. But I think we’d agree it was a simpler upbringing. In both our growing up, cussing was not allowed. Stew was raised in the bootheel of Missouri and his family were farmers. Grandpa was the patriarch, stern but compassionate. Grandma’s pride was her bountiful garden. She would not allow a tractor or rototiller in her garden for fear of oil or gas contaminating the soil.

Grandpa kept a full-grown Poland China boar to breed his sows. He (the boar) weighed twice as much as Grandpa, who himself was 6’5" and 250 pounds! One night, the boar got into the garden and tore it up! Grandma commanded, in no uncertain terms, that the boar must go!

It was traditional to castrate boars at least two days before slaughter so the meat wouldn’t be rank. A plan ensued. Grandpa instructed 16-year-old Stew to rope the boar’s hind feet and hold ‘em till he got a hog snare around his nose.

Stew walked into the pigpen with his catch rope and snagged one of the boar’s hind legs. Six hundred pounds of pork exploded like a Funny Car at a drag race! Stew was jerked over in a Forward Headfirst Horizontal Olympic Ballistic Dive and hit the ground like a skipping rock! When the boar made the first corner, Stew, in a skewed twist, somehow bounced off the boards, flipping him onto his back, where they then caromed through the hog wallow, throwing a wall of water that blocked out the sun in Cape Girardeau 40 miles away for a full three minutes! Hanging on for life, Stew plowed a furrow in the pig pen soil slush like someone dragging a ham hock through 20 feet of biscuits and gravy!

It was ugly to watch when Stew flopped to a stop empty-handed. Grandpa walked over to his favorite grandchild. He politely waited for his uncle and Grandma to quit laughing, which took several minutes. Stew stood, wearing his porcupine stucco-covered shirt and jeans. He looked like a chocolate bunny.

As in all our upbringing there was always a lesson to be learned.

"Better catch him again, boy," said Grandpa not unkindly.

"If you want that @%&*!#..." was as far as Stew got.

"We don’t use that kind of language on this farm," Grandpa said. "Here, let me help you up."

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.

Farm & Field

Growing Hogs for Meat or Profit

by Tony Glover

Recently my daughters were out in the front yard when a black, potbellied pig walked up to them apparently searching for a meal. It took me back to my youth when we would keep a few hogs around to eat scraps and for 4-H projects. It really got me to thinking that my kids have never had the interesting and rewarding experience of raising a hog. We recently completed a beginning farmer series of classes that have taught me that not only hog production skills can be quickly lost but basic agriculture skills in general can be lost in only one generation if we don’t make a concerted effort to teach them to others.

We covered many topics in our beginning farmer series, but we could not cover every topic of interest to the class. Therefore, I plan to add a few special interest classes over the next few months. On July 18, we will host a "Beginning Farmer – Small Scale Hog Production" seminar featuring Auburn University’s Swine Specialist Dr. Frank Owsley. This event will be held in Cullman County and registration details can be found at this web link: http://goo.gl/4B7Ug or by calling 256-737-9386.

This meeting will be an attempt to meet the growing demand for information concerning small-scale hog production. Small, diversified farm owners, weekend farmers and youth are showing interest in alternatives to the large confinement facilities dominating "modern" production. Also, consumers are interested in buying meat that did not come from the large-scale confinement operations.

Raising hogs may seem like a messy, difficult proposition so you may be asking, "Why would anyone want to raise hogs?" A program called "4-H Pig Squeal Project" allows youth to produce feeder pigs to gain a sense of responsibility and accomplishment. Others may simply enjoy observing this intelligent creature and like to keep a hog or two around just to have a more diversified farm or to make better use of waste products. A growing number of farmers want to produce a highly nutritious, tasty pork product for their own use or for a specialty market.

With a minimum of investment in facilities, you can market labor, management, land value, homegrown grains and forages, and other assets in the form of market hogs (or feeder pigs). The downfall of many small swine operations has been in trying to substitute borrowed capital for some of these assets. Another is the dependence on a traditional market rather than specialty or niche markets. You want to tap into the "Buy Local" mentality or to those who have "animal welfare" concerns. You will need to get a premium price due to the economy of scale disadvantage of small-scale production.

Just as with any farming enterprise, the small hog operation must be based on sound economic principles. Budgets, cash flows and markets must guide the establishment or expansion of any hog operation. Medium-sized producers trying to compete with large confinement operations have not been successful, but very small producers who find a market niche may find this enterprise can help spread their risk and be a profitable part of a diversified farm plan.

To be successful, small pork producers must work and think harder than the established, larger operator. Their competitive edge lies in lower fixed costs, the creativity to find a more economical way of raising hogs and the ability to tap into specialty markets.

To learn more make plans to attend the "Beginning Farmer – Small Scale Hog Production" seminar. To learn about other upcoming classes, visit www.aces.edu/cullman and click on the "Meetings and Events" link. We also have a goat production meeting and a farm recordkeeping program planned for later in the month.

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

Farm Fresh Memories

He's The "Big Apricot"!!!

He Owns The Knobs And Is Always Tellin’ Other Folk How Many Knobs He Has – It Sure ‘Peers He Don’t Know or Care Much ‘Bout Other Folks or Nothin’ Else …

by Joe Potter

It was Tuesday near on eight in the comin’ on dark evenin’ time as I parked my pick-up under the security light directly in front of The Flat Rock General Store. I removed myself from my pick-up and wandered through the old, double, front doors and landed a case of number 10 brown paper pokes on the counter. Slim had wanted me and Lynn to collect a case for him durin’ our afternoon trip to town.

I howdied at Slim standin’ all alone at the end of the counter. He howdied back, moved to the cash drawer and handed me the money to cover the cost of the pokes. I questioned him as to the location of any recently gathered Store regulars or other folk. Nextly, I asked him weren’t it near ‘bouts closin’ time. (Closin’ time varies dependen’ on Mr. Slim, the proprietor’s feelin’s, accumulated store folk, food, church, community events, horse feedin’ time, the weather and so on; course there are always seasonal changes in closin’ hours.)

Just now this here well-to-do fellar, wearin’ a fancy Red Steagall-replica cowboy hat and some pure fancy, hand-stitched lookin’, reptile skin-type boots, entered The Store. He walked straight to Slim and laid down a $50 bill. Here he commented, "I’m gonna pump $50 worth of diesel into the front tank on my new Kings Ranch Ford crew cab pick-up." Then he turned before Slim could offer any type howdy or appreciation words and exited.

Slim looked at me and commented, "He’s the ‘Big Apricot,’ I guess you noticed. Calls himself a cattleman and shows up ‘bout quarterly from up-round Lauderdale County or the Tennessee line. Mostly checking on his money investments in construction industry, truck-haulin’ stuff, etc., cross northwest Alabama. Farlow and Willerdean know of him. He don’t talk much ‘septin’ ‘bout himself and usually got his prissy, well-to-do woman with him. She’s snootier ‘n him.

"Them two don’t seem nothin’ like our folk ‘round here or common-country folk I know of, even from over cross the Tennessee River, especially like your friends Ed Loveless, Carl Parker, Jim Humphries and even Brown Noland. The ‘Big Apricot’ and her are too highfalutin for me. Must be transplants from off yonder other places. They know lots ‘bout themselves and ‘peers to me they want other folk to know such. I’ll just bet he may not know much ‘bout agriculture or cattle either."

Here Slim offers, "You know my motto: ‘Big Apricot’ or ‘Little Turnip,’ us Flat Rock folk gonna try to treat you some way you’ll like, take your money, say ‘Much obliged,’ ‘Come back soon,’ and with you and me both it is always ‘bout the more, the merrier." Here The Store phone started ringin’. Seems it was Essex with late-evenin’, supper-eatin’ instructions. Slim thanked me for the number 10 paper pokes, then he ask me to wait while he locked up. He further offered I sure hope folks never think or look on you or me as either one bein’ the "Big Apricot" type, would druther just be common, ordinary, ever day carin’ folk with it bein’ as much ‘bout them more so than us.

Somethin’ tells me lots of you Farm Fresh Memories readin’ folk just now carry recollection of a "Big Apricot" or two in your lifetime, past or present … Now ....

REMEMBER YOUR HERITAGE!!!
ALWAYS, THINK GOOD MEMORIES!!!

Joe Potter, Potter’s Mud Creek Farm is located at 5840 County Road 339 (County Line Road), Russellville, near "Our" Flat Rock, in Lawrence County; email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">joepotter50@msn.com.

How's Your Garden?

How's Your Garden?

by Lois Trigg Chaplin

Hibiscus Need Lots of Sun

Sometimes friends ask me why their hibiscus isn’t blooming. "It was loaded with blooms and buds when I bought it," they said. The answer is often simple - how much sun does it get? This is a tropical plant that loves full sun, at least eight hours a day. Sun and regular fertilizer (either a timed-release like Osmocote or regular liquid feedings of soluble plant food), and an occasional watering are all it needs. In the right place, this is an easy, carefree plant.

When large trees come down, transform the trunks into chairs to enjoy for several seasons.

Give Old Trunks a New Life

When beloved, big trees come down, either by accident or intention, one way to hold on to at least a part of them is to make the trunks into chairs! Take a look at these clever carvings made into garden seating that will last for several years. After that, I guess it will be rotted or bug-eaten enough to go into the compost pile and back to the garden in a different form!

No Rain? Don’t Mow!

If you’re not getting any rain, it’s best to leave your lawn alone. The taller the grass, the deeper the roots. For folks with an automatic watering system, you, too, can at least cut back on water use by turning back the dial to encourage deep rooting. When the weather breaks and the lawn turns green again, you can resume mowing, but not all at once! The rule of thumb to prevent shocking grass is to never cut more than one-third of the leaf blade at one time. So trim it down a bit at a time over a period of two or three weeks.

Daylilies Like a Little Clean Up

Keep up the grooming of your daylilies this time of year. The plants are beautiful, but once they fade and the stalks start turning yellow, they appreciate a little clean up. Clip off the old stalks. This also helps the rebloomers such as Stella put on a good second show. It won’t hurt to water and fertilize the rebloomers, either. They respond with a better second and third show.

This life-size, outdoor chessboard is sure to invite a lot of fun.

Outdoor Chess

When I saw this life-size chessboard and handmade game pieces at the Raleigh Botanic Garden in Raleigh, N.C., it struck me as a fun item to share with readers, especially folks who have a big enough property for outdoor games. This board is big enough to invite whole teams of friends in a friendly match on a day when it’s too warm to do much else. Use your creativity to fashion the playing pieces and carpentry skills to build the board. Chairs and lemonade would be a good accompaniment.

Eggplant and Squash Don’t Sit Well

Even if you don’t need all the eggplant or squash that prolific plants are producing, they want to be harvested. These plants will stop producing if you let the old fruit just sit on the plant. When on vacation, get a friend or neighbor to come over and pick from your garden so it will continue producing when you return. Squash usually succumbs to squash vine borer in the summer, but well-tended eggplant will last until the fall. Ichiban types are most prolific. One year I harvested more than 80 from only two plants. Eggplant should still be dark and shiny when you pick them. If they start fading or turning yellow, they are way overripe. Overripe squash and zucchini just get bigger and tougher to the point where they taste bad and are full of big seeds. Of course, one way to use extra zucchini is to make and freeze loaves of zucchini bread.

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

Outdoor Life

Hunting Rules Changes Include Reporting System, Supplemental Feed

by Mary Johnson

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has adopted new rules for 2013-2014 hunting season. The department will require Alabama outdoorsmen to report harvests of deer and turkey and will allow supplemental feeding of deer and wild hogs.

Legislators are considering a bill that would stop the reporting requirement. SB454, sponsored by Sen. Paul Sanford, R-Huntsville, has passed the Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee. However, Alabama Farmers Federation policy states the organization supports the Conservation Advisory Board providing its decisions do not conflict with other Federation policy.

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources advisory board recently approved changes to supplemental feeding rules. Hunters may use supplemental feed for deer and wild hogs, but must be at least 100 yards away and out of the line-of-sight of the feeder. The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources advisory board recently approved changes to supplemental feeding rules. Hunters may use supplemental feed for deer and wild hogs, but must be at least 100 yards away and out of the line-of-sight of the feeder.

"CAB exists to develop rules and regulations for hunting," said Federation Wildlife Commodity Director Rick Oates. "Collecting information on harvests is essential for the department to maintain its management program and control a proper balance of deer population in Alabama. With the reporting system, CAB will have the necessary data to improve hunting in our state."

Reports may be made through OutdoorAlabama.com or the Outdoor Alabama app. The department plans to establish a toll-free number for reporting.

CAB also voted to allow supplemental feeding for deer and wild hogs on private land. Hunters must be at least 100 yards away from the feeder, which must be blocked from line-of-sight by natural vegetation or terrain.

Another change shifts deer hunting season in southwest Alabama from December 2 - January 31 to December 12 - February 10. Counties affected include all of Baldwin, Mobile, Washington and Escambia; the majority of Covington, Conecuh, Monroe and Clark; and parts of Choctaw, Butler and Wilcox. ADCNR representatives said biological information showing a later mating season in southwest Alabama prompted the change.

The board voted to close the fall turkey hunting season in Alabama. Hunters will be required to report turkey harvests starting with the spring 2014 turkey hunting season.

Find more information in the Outdoor Alabama e-newsletter.

Mary Johnson is with Alabama Farmers Federation.

The Business of Farming

Improved Financial Records May Improve Profits

by Robert Page

Farmers and agribusiness owners routinely focus on building and improving their farms and business operations. They stay on top of crop prices, read articles on a wide variety of topics, consider additional investment in new equipment to be more productive and devote many hours working hard to make their business the best it can be.

However, how much time do farmers, ranchers and agribusiness owners spend studying and analyzing their financial records to make changes for improved profits?

As accountants, we understand studying your monthly and yearly profit-and-loss reports can be painful for a variety of reasons. You may discover:

– You wasted money and time.

– You spent money when you should have saved it.

– You borrowed money to buy a piece of equipment you really didn’t need.

– You would not have had to borrow money to pay your taxes if you had spent more time calculating how much taxes you were going to owe.

– Your cash flow was not adequate for everything you wanted to do.

– People have been stealing from you for years, right under your nose.

Good farmers plan their next year’s crops carefully. They understand their planting costs per acre and their expected yield per acre. Similarly, good agribusiness owners know last year’s sales numbers and how they hope to improve sales this year. Studying and planning sales and cost of sales are critically important. However, your net profit is the number after all the expenses, not just cost of production.

Some farmers keep good financial records and some have very poor records for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, it’s plain, old procrastination by the farmer or business owner. Procrastination can be defined as both (a) avoiding doing things that need to be done or (b) leaving things undone for as long as possible. However, if you want to really look for improved profits, here are some things to consider doing, even if you don’t want to take the time or spend the money to get them accomplished.

Get monthly and year-to-date financial statements. Whether you are using a family member or outside accountant to do your books, really look at where your money is going each month.

Study year-to-year comparisons for all expenses, not just cost of sale or production expenses.

Make sure the same expenses are coded to the same expense accounts each month and year. Year-to-year comparisons are incorrect without consistent, accurate account coding.

Determine a budget for all expense items.

Sometimes, doing boring, painful expense analysis can pay off in more profits and improved cash flow. We suggest you talk with your accountant/bookkeeper for more ideas on expense analysis for better profits.

Homeplace & Community

It’s Blueberry Time

by Angela Treadaway

Blueberries are plentiful this year and are a very good source of great antioxidants. Why not pick some to use in recipes and also to freeze for later use?

Blueberries are probably the easiest fruit to prepare and serve. There’s no peeling, pitting, coring or cutting. Just rinse, eat and enjoy! Blueberries are not as perishable as most other berries. For optimal storage, berries should be refrigerated, but not washed until needed. Once chilled, they will maintain their quality from 10 days to two weeks. Remember, both frozen and fresh berries should be rinsed and drained just before serving.

Did you know?

July is National Blueberry Month in the United States, but it is August in Canada.

Blueberry muffins are the most popular muffin in the United States.

A single bush can produce as many as 6,000 blueberries a year.

Only three fruits are native to North America: blueberries, cranberries and Concord grapes.

Source: U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council

Ready or Not – How Ripe?

Some fruits should be picked or bought when they are at the ideal stage for eating because they do not continue to ripen after picking. These include apples, cherries, grapefruit, grapes, oranges, pineapple, blueberries, strawberries, tangerines and watermelon.

Other fruits continue to ripen after they are picked: apricots, bananas, cantaloupe, kiwi, nectarines, peaches, pears, plantains and plums. Tomatoes also continue to ripen after picking.

To speed the ripening of fruits such as peaches, pears and plums, put them in a ripening bowl or in a loosely closed brown paper bag at room temperature. Plastic bags don’t work for ripening.

The Best Blueberry Muffins

1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)

1¾ cups plus 1 Tablespoon flour, divided

½ cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon nutmeg

¾ teaspoon salt

1 egg

1 cup sour cream*

1/3 cup milk

Preheat oven to 400°. Grease twelve 2½-inch muffin cups or line muffin tins with foil liners.

Toss blueberries with the 1 tablespoon of flour to keep them from coming to the top. Combine the remaining flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg and salt. Set aside. Beat egg, sour cream and milk. Stir into flour mixture until just combined (batter will be lumpy). Stir in blueberries until evenly distributed. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full with batter. Bake about 20 minutes until golden. Makes 12 muffins.

* Because sour cream is the only fat in this recipe, regular sour cream will provide more richness than light sour cream.

Baking Tip: For best results, dust unthawed blueberries lightly with flour before stirring into batter.

Blueberry Pound Cake

1 package butter-flavoured cake mix 8 ounces cream cheese, softened

½ cup vegetable oil

3 eggs

2 cups blueberries

Preheat oven to 325°. Lightly grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan. Combine cake mix, cream cheese, oil and eggs. Beat until smooth. Gently fold in berries. Spoon into prepared pan and bake for about 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Yields 12-16 servings.

Freezing the Blueberries

Freeze blueberries for long term storage. Some people prefer to freeze berries without washing to avoid moisture on the berries from breaking down the cell walls. Wash the frozen berries before using. Other people prefer to wash the berries before freezing so they are ready to use when taken out of the freezer. Be sure to dry them thoroughly between towels before freezing.

It is ideal to freeze berries on a tray before packing into bags or boxes. This allows you to easily remove the amount you want at one time. Frozen blueberries can be used later to make jams, syrup or in baking. Most of the berries will probably be used to top off cereal or sprinkle in pancakes or muffins.

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.

Lawn and Garden Checklist

July Lawn and Garden Checklist

PLANT

  • Plant the following vegetables no later than July 20 to allow time to mature before frost: tomatoes, okra, corn, pole beans, lima beans, cucumbers, squash and snap beans. Watch new seedlings for insect damage and don’t let them dry out in the scorching heat!
  • Plant heat- and drought-resistant flowers such as coleus, hibiscus, melampodium, pentas, plumbago, portulaca, marigold, zinnia, periwinkle, petunia, cosmos and ageratum.
  • Many perennials and biennials can be started now from seed; then set out in the fall into nursery beds.
  • Bearded iris can be divided and replanted when they have finished blooming. Discard all shriveled and diseased parts.
  • Delay transplanting in-ground trees and shrubs until late fall or winter.
  • Grass is often hard to establish under trees due to shade and roots; plant a ground cover instead.
  • Plant a cover crop in bare spots in the vegetable garden.

FERTILIZE

  • Feed summer vegetable plantings monthly.
  • Chrysanthemums should be lightly fertilized every two weeks.
  • Container-grown plants can’t forage for food and moisture like their garden-grown colleagues can. Feed often.
  • Do not fertilize cool-season grasses until September.
  • Re-green yellow lawns with an iron or minor nutrient feeding.
  • Check azaleas and camellias for iron chlorosis (pale green leaves, darker green veins). If necessary, use copper or iron chelate to correct iron deficiency.
  • Do not fertilize shrubs from July through November.

PRUNE

  • Discontinue pinching your chrysanthemums mid-month so they will be able to develop flower buds for the fall. To promote ‘trophy size’ flowers, allow only one or two main shoots to develop. Remove all side buds as they begin to develop.
  • If you stake your tomatoes in lieu of caging them, you will achieve healthier plants and larger fruit if you remove suckers from the vines.
  • Prune blackberries after harvest.
  • Give fruit trees light trimmings as needed to direct growth.
  • This is a good time to remove water sprouts from apple and pear trees.
  • Always be on the lookout for dead, damaged and diseased wood in trees and shrubs. Prune them out as discovered.
  • Through month’s end, softwood cuttings of buddleia, weigela, rose of Sharon and roses, among other shrubs, can be taken to propagate more plants inexpensively.
  • Do not prune azaleas and rhododendrons after the second week of July for they soon will begin setting their buds for next year’s blooms.
  • Deadheading will not only keep the flower garden looking nice, removing the spent blooms will encourage some annuals and many perennials to continue blooming or to put on another flush of flowers.
  • Annual flowers that tend to get very tall can be cut back at least half to one-third to get them back in bounds. Some to cut back are cleome, cosmos, orange cosmos and zinnias.
  • Do a final pinching by mid-July of fall blooming flowers like mums and asters.

WATER

  • Irrigation is your single biggest garden responsibility this month.
  • Early morning is the best time to water; when the air is calm and evaporation minimal.
  • Gardens need an inch of water a week from you or the heavens. Check your rain gauge to make sure they get it and, remember, soak deeply in the root zone, don’t spritz things with a sprayer now and again like you’re washing the car. That’s a garden no-no.
  • Install micro-sprinklers to conserve water in the vegetable garden.
  • Before sinking in the ground, soak the rootball of new woody plants in a bucket until no air bubbles come to the surface, dig the planting hole, fill with water and allow to drain away. Place the plant in the hole, fill with soil, firm gently and water well with a watering can - this will give the plant a huge advantage over one planted with a dry rootball in a dry hole and watered only on the surface.
  • Ensure trees or shrubs planted in the last couple of years on lawns or in areas of rough grass have a circle of clear earth around them - this must be kept clear or grass will prevent essential moisture getting through. Mulching with bark or compost will help. Give them a good soaking once or twice a week, or whenever the soil feels a bit dry to the touch.
  • Wait until lawns show signs of wilting before watering to help them develop deeper roots.
  • To keep hanging baskets looking attractive, soak the baskets in a tub of water every few days in addition to the regular daily watering.
  • Be sure to make arrangements for neighbors to harvest and water your garden while you are on vacation.

PEST CONTROL

  • Read label directions carefully.
  • Protect honeybees. If you must use an insecticide (even organic), spray late in the evening when few bees are active.
  • If you are finding blossom-end rot on tomatoes or other vegetables, you may not be paying enough attention to watering. Other than doing your soil test to make sure there is adequate calcium in the soil, allowing plants to get too drought stressed between waterings is the most common cause of this discouraging malady.
  • Till and mulch soil to conserve moisture for germination of fall crops and to help reduce the nematode population in the soil.
  • With all the rain, this season is shaping up to be another bad year for fungus diseases in the vegetable garden. The best way to deal with most diseases is to prevent them from getting started by maintaining weekly fungicide sprays. The most commonly used garden product is chlorothalonil (Bravo, Daconil, etc.). Organic gardeners may want to try Serenade. Copper or sulfur sprays are less effective, but offer a little help.
  • Clean off harvested vegetable rows immediately to prevent insect and disease buildup.
  • Cover vacant garden soil with clear plastic for eight weeks to bake out pests (solarization).
  • Learn to identify lawn weeds and use appropriate controls.
  • Chinch bugs and sod webworms are now affecting lawns; treat as needed.
  • Hot, dry weather may actually be a good thing if your lawn is showing symptoms of brown patch fungus disease. The best steps to reduce the spread of the disease are to avoid mowing when the grass is wet, and do not irrigate. If the weather stays dry and the grass goes dormant, the disease will stop developing. If you currently have brown patch you may want to use a bagging attachment to remove clippings for a while.
  • Early summer rain has produced perfect conditions for lots of black rot to develop on grapes as well as brown rot on peaches. At this point, if you have not been applying fungicide sprays on a regular basis, you probably already have problems. Products containing Captan are most effective.
  • Resume peach and apple tree sprays after harvest.
  • Inspect needled evergreens now for bagworms. If possible, remove them by hand. In early July, you can still control them with organic Bt spray (Bacillus thuringiensis). By late July, stronger insecticides will be needed. In August, the caterpillars enter the pupa phase and are not affected by insecticides.
  • Look for Japanese beetles, aphids, spider mites and the dreadful thrips. Insecticidal soap can be a cure for the latter, but beetles need stronger stuff.
  • Control mosquitoes by eliminating all sources of stagnant water.
  • Prevent rose diseases with a fungicide spray program.
  • Take steps to prevent the invasion of slugs to your garden. If they’re already there, go to the Co-op for eradication ideas.

ODD JOBS

  • Don’t bag or rake clippings; let them lie on the lawn to return nitrogen to the soil.
  • Start planning the fall garden.
  • Drink lots and lots of water. Hydration is key to keep from having a heat-related illness. An 8 ounce bottle of water an hour when outside will be effective.
  • Wear SPF 50 sunscreen when expecting to be outside for long periods of time. Sunburn is a stress on your body and enough of it will put you in enough pain to keep you inside for a very long time.
  • Check garden centers for markdowns on remaining plants.
  • Keep lawns at about three inches to protect from summer heat.
  • Maintain a three- to four-inch mulch layer around trees and shrubs to protect them from mower and weed whacker damage. Don’t place the mulch too close to the trunk.
  • Bats help control mosquitoes; attract these friendly mammals with bat houses.
  • Low areas in the lawn may be gradually filled with shallow applications of good topsoil where needed. Avoid the temptation to apply a layer of sandy loam over the entire lawn area just because your neighbor does.
  • Cutting flowers is best done with sharp shears or a knife which will help avoid injury to the growing plant. A slanting cut will expose a larger absorbing surface to water and will prevent the base of the stem from resting on the bottom of the vase. It is best to carry a bucket of water rather than a cutting basket for collecting flowers.
  • Be sure to make arrangements for neighbors to harvest and water your garden if you go on vacation.
  • Don’t wait until autumn to harvest your herbs. Snip them now at their peak of perfection, then dry or freeze them.
  • Harvest vegetables regularly while they are young and tender. Cucumbers and green beans often need to be picked daily. Pick yellow squash and zucchini when they are four to seven inches long.
  • Irises and daylilies are typically divided now. If you have several varieties of daylilies, it is often helpful to divide while they still have some blooms if you want to keep the varieties separated.
  • Make sure the garden is well mulched to prevent weeds and conserve moisture.
  • Regularly sharpen mower blades, change engine oil and clean or replace air filters.
  • Turn the compost pile every other week. More often if you’re constantly adding new material. Water when needed.
  • Use easy-to-maintain container gardens as accents for entrances, porches and patios.
  • Continue attracting insect-eating birds to the garden area by providing them with a fresh water source. Keep feeders and baths clean.
In the News

Just in Time for the Summer Driving Season: High Tech Equipment for Weights & Measures

from the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries

Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries John McMillan on April 26, 2013, introduced new equipment recently purchased for the department’s Weights and Measures Division. The six fuel analyzers and five provers will vastly increase accuracy and productivity as inspections are conducted in the field.

The new equipment comes at an opportune time with the summer driving season underway and with it comes higher gasoline prices.

"It has been one of my primary goals since taking office to supply our employees with updated equipment to better provide services to farmers and consumers across the state. These fuel analyzers and provers will enhance the technological capabilities of our Weights and Measures inspectors," Commissioner McMillan stated.

"This new equipment will at least double our rate of inspections while increasing our accuracy in determining the precise measurement of gasoline and diesel pumps across Alabama," said Stacy Boshell, Director of Weights and Measures. "We will have the efficiency of 10 people, minimum."

Total cost of the equipment is less than $150,000, which Boshell said will be recouped in the first 12 months of use.

From the safety aspect, Boshell explained the division’s five inspectors will reduce their handling of fuels with the new equipment, further eliminating multiple trips to weigh and test the fuel for quality and quantity.

"With these self-contained units, there is no possibility of a fuel spill now versus conducting tests with five-gallon containers," he added.

Other states are using these devices, Boshell noted, including Mississippi, Georgia and Florida.

"They have successfully incorporated the new equipment into their inspections and have seen immediate results," he said.

The new devices will enable Weights and Measures to step up their number of spot checks by registered service agents who currently conduct inspections and calibrations of measuring devices, especially service station pumps.

"The responsibility of testing devices under the proposed Registered Service Agent legislation now in the Alabama Legislature would shift to device owners," Boshell said. "This puts our department in more of a regulatory position to ensure all devices are tested statewide increasing overall fairness in the marketplace."

Boshell emphasized the new role of the Weights and Measures Division would be that of conducting random spot checks to make sure regulations are fulfilled and there is accountability through civil fines, something that currently doesn’t exist.

Youth Matters

Kids Meet Real Farmers

These volunteers tell the children about life on the farm.

at Urban Youth Farm Day

by Keith Johnson

Alabama may be the least windy section of the nation, but the students who attended Urban Youth Farm Day must have felt as though school had moved to Kansas. The wind at the Alabama A&M Winfred Thomas Agriculture Research Station was nonstop, but so was the learning as the kids from several private and public schools discovered something about where their food comes from.

This was the 17th gathering since Sylvia Oakes and Wanda Pharris dreamed up this experience for the school kids of North Alabama.

Oakes said the realization that something had to be done came when she met children who were convinced McDonalds was the source of hamburger meat. She said there was such a lack of knowledge with most children, and especially urban kids, about how food is produced that they decided they must take action.

This young volunteer brought one of her goats to let the kids milk her and learn about her soap making business.

What they put together is an opportunity for kids to meet real farmers and people who assist farmers in the production of our food and fiber.

Keith Griffin, general manager of Madison County Co-op, gave the main address before the kids visited the many stations set up by the volunteers. Griffin said it was important to speak to the kids about the importance of agriculture.

"It went well, but we are not doing enough to get the message out there. It’s very frustrating."

One of the stations discussed simple gardening techniques in order to plant (pun intended) the idea that kids could actually grow their own food.

At another station, there was an excellent lecture about the lifecycle of the now ubiquitous fire ants and how to control them. At this point, a lively discussion ensued as several of the boys suggested multiple methods of their own, almost all of which involved various explosives. The latest approach in the adult world is to import the phorid fly whose larvae feeds exclusively on the head of the fire ant. Scientists have high hopes, while this method will not eliminate fire ants, it will bring their numbers down to a more manageable level. This should still leave sufficient stock for boys everywhere to hone their military skills.

On down the line, the kids were asked to rate bugs on a scale ranging from "bad bugs" to "good bugs" depending on whether they helped or hindered food production. The point was made to the students that a particular insect’s impact was rarely all bad, but some are much better for the farmer than others.

There was only one station that was definitely not "hands on" and for a very good reason. A couple of the local beekeepers brought a display hive of bees so the kids could watch the bees at work. These farmers discussed how important honey bees are for the pollination of crops and how crop production would plummet without the work of the bees. They also told the students about the mysterious disappearance of the honey bees across North America. The students learned bees are a highly organized society in which each bee has a job and depends on the others to do their jobs so the hive can survive. Children could also see the strange outfits required to work with bees after they have been "smoked" to make them calm as they are being handled.

The students are introduced to basic horsemanship with this beautiful Appaloosa.

At the "How’d that get on my plate?" station, the kids tracked the foods they ate back to the farm and their actual sources. Elsewhere, kids were discussing container gardening and learning how, by using intensive methods, even small spaces can produce large quantities of food.

Of course, no farm demonstration is complete without farm animals and there was a beautiful Appaloosa horse for the kids to touch and feed.

One young teen had volunteered to bring one of her milk goats, and all sorts of questions were asked about where the milk comes from, can you drink it (she does) and what else can you do with it (she makes soap).

The children also toured the farm on a wagon pulled by a tractor, which by itself was a very exciting experience for those who had only seen tractors in pictures. As they toured, the staff from the experiment stations would explain what the kids were seeing. This was definitely far better than sitting in a classroom and having a teacher try to explain how a farm produces food.

This program is an excellent example of how the time spent in the classroom can be tremendously leveraged with field trips and hands-on demonstrations. It is doubtful many of the kids attending this program will forget the day they went to a real farm and met the folks who actually produced the food they eat.

Oakes and Pharris are good examples for the rest of us to remember. When we see our kids and youth woefully ignorant in some critical area, instead of just rolling our eyes and wondering what the world is coming to, we need to take action and teach them. After all, someone taught us first.

Keith Johnson is a freelance writer from Morgan County.

Youth Matters

Project Pig Squeal

Participants in Project Pig Squeal.

Production Ag Experience for 4-H Youth

by Anna Wright

The Northeast Alabama 4-H Pig Squeal Project is the newest livestock production opportunity for 4-Hers in Alabama. This project teaches youth recommended management practices for growing and raising swine. Twenty-two youth from Etowah and Cherokee counties took part in this initial project.

"Involvement in this project teaches youth about swine production, business, recordkeeping and responsibility," said Danny Miller, Cherokee County Extension Coordinator. "Letting these youth produce a safe, consumer-ready product gives them a sense of pride and accomplishment. This project was set up to be as close to industry standards as possible."

Left, Grand Champion Showman was Wesley Rogers, Cherokee County. Above, Carley Wagers, Etowah County, was the Grand Champion Market Hog winner at the Northeast Alabama 4-H Pig Squeal Project Show and Sale. Carley Wager was also Reserve Champion Showman. (All Credits: Mirandi Watson, 4-H agent for Cherokee & Etowah counties)

Once kids picked up their pigs in December, they were sole pork producers. Decisions, records and daily tasks were completed as if they had a commercial hog operation.

"This project was a true production project," said Amy Burgess, Etowah County Extension Coordinator. "The 4-Hers got a good introduction of what it takes to grow a wholesome product others would consume."

Jackson Osborne, Etowah County, was the Reserve Grand Champion Market Hog winner at the Northeast Alabama 4-H Pig Squeal Project Show and Sale. (All credits: Mirandi Watson)

To be part of Pig Squeal, students paid a $100 registration fee, scheduled a visit to their homes by Extension personnel to view their hog operation and attended mandatory training with their parents.

The mandatory meeting informed participants on swine facilities, nutrition, safe handling of hogs, showmanship, health and recordkeeping. During these meetings, each participant received a National Pork Board certificate in youth pork quality assurance training. This certificate guaranteed the quality of the hogs being raised would meet a high standard of production, resulting in a valuable product.

Students were also given a production manual. The manual provided information on hauling pigs, guidelines for building facilities, feed ratios and how to prepare for the show.

Then, on December 15, each participant picked up their two, 50-pound composite feeder pigs that were about two months old at the Sand Rock Livestock Pavilion. Each pig was vaccinated and came from a commercial swine-nursery farm owned by George and Sheila Brown who operate a JBS Swift Nursery facility in Crossville.

Class 1 Showmanship (Ages 9-11) - 1st, Carley Wagers, Etowah County; 2nd, Ainsley Davis, Cherokee County; 3rd, Alana Loyd, Cherokee County; 4th, Jackson Osborne, Etowah County; and 5th, Grace Rogers, Cherokee County Class 2 Showmanship (Ages 12-13) - 1st, Wesley Rogers, Cherokee County; 2nd, James Isaac Rogers, Cherokee County; 3rd, Ethan Tillery, Cherokee County; 4th, Alex Self, Cherokee County; and 5th, Jeremy Chambers, Cherokee County
Class 4 Light Weight Hog - 1st, Zena Roden, Etowah County; 2nd, Dalton Martin, Etowah County; 3rd, Grace Rogers, Cherokee County; 4th, Noah Spiker, Etowah County; and 5th, Ainsley Davis, Cherokee County (All Credits: Miranda Watson) Class 3 Showmanship (ages 14 and up) - 1st, Garret Tillery, Cherokee County; 2nd, Cara Parker, Cherokee County; 3rd, McKayla Self, Cherokee County; 4th, Zena Roden, Etowah County; and 5th, Hannah Wise, Etowah County

Over the next 127 days, youth were responsible for raising their hogs. To the best of their abilities, the 4-Hers kept records of how much feed, water and money they used in growing their hogs.

At the end of the project, the 4-Hers gathered at the Pig Squeal Show and Sale April 20 at the Sand Rock Livestock Pavilion. More than 200 people were present.

Class 5 Light-Medium Weight Hog - 1st, Cara Parker, Cherokee County; 2nd, Hannah Wise, Etowah County; 3rd, Alana Loyd, Cherokee County; and 4th, Alex Self, Cherokee County


Class 6 Medium Weight Hog - 1st, Wesley Rogers, Cherokee County; 2nd, Kristynn Quinn, Etowah County; and 3rd, Matthew Holbrooks, Cherokee County

This event was a time to show off their hard work and to sell their pigs to the highest bidder. Each youth was required to bring one hog to the event and had the option to bring the second to sell.

A sale catalog was provided to everyone in attendance. It had a description of each hog in the show and sale. A picture of each hog was provided along with a report of the hog written by the 4-Her. Each picture also noted the lot number of that particular hog allowing bidders to view the selection of hogs before the sale.

Class 7 Medium-Heavy Weight Hog (no photo) - 1st, Carley Wagers, Etowah County; 2nd, James Isaac Rogers, Cherokee County; 3rd, McKayla Self, Cherokee County; and 4th, Ethan Tillery, Cherokee County Class 8 Heavy Weight Hog - 1st, Jackson Osborne, Etowah County; 2nd, Garrett Tillery, Cherokee County; and 3rd, Jeremy Chambers, Cherokee County

Each age group showed their hogs in the arena while the judge directed the students for the duration of the time. Once the judge selected the winners, he gave oral reasonings for the scoring.

After the show, hogs were auctioned off for processing. Auction bidders did not have to take possession of the live animal after the sale. The average weight per pig was 298 pounds and the average price per pound received was $1.33. Bidders were present at the sale as well as several bidders watching the sale via Internet.

This project was taken full circle when students and their parents were invited to the Auburn University Meats Lab to see some of the pigs being processed.

This project was coordinated by Cherokee County Extension Coordinator Danny Miller, Etowah County Extension Coordinator Amy Burgess and Regional Extension Agent of Animal Science and Forages Landon Marks.

Anna Wright is a freelance writer from Collinsville.

Farm & Field

Safeguarding Farmers Markets from Foodborne Illness

by James Languster

Tony Glover pointed with pride to the growing number of farmers markets popping up on Alabama town squares and byways like mushrooms after a drenching spring rain.

Glover, coordinator of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System’s Cullman County office, has done his part to promote the growth of his own farmers market, Festhalle Market Platz, a bustling market housed in a massive 7,250-square-foot wooden pavilion in downtown Cullman and operated from April through October.

Yet, despite all opportunity this rapid growth has generated both for farmers and consumers, occasionally Glover worries about the specter of foodborne illness.

As he’s the first to stress, just because food is fresh and locally grown doesn’t mean it’s necessarily free of pathogens. Even one serious pathogenic outbreak traced to a single farmers market could quickly undo years of planning and investment - not to mention, all the effort put into building a loyal customer base, he said.

Similar concerns seem to be in the back of many consumers’ minds, too - a fact driven home to Glover not only throughout his career as an Extension educator but also during the years when he operated his own produce business.

"Customers were always asking me where food comes from and also about how it’s raised and whether it contains pesticides," Glover recalled.

Glover is still fielding the same frequent, often fervent, questions from consumers in his current role as an Extension professional.

Operating on the time-honored maxim that "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," he has turned to members of ACES’s food safety team who are conducting a training series titled "Enhancing the Safety of Locally Grown Produce" throughout the state to alert growers to these risks.

Angela Treadaway, an Extension regional food safety agent in central Alabama, already has conducted four safe handling training sessions for growers in Cullman as well as neighboring Jefferson and Walker counties.

"Growers who sell their produce to big retail chains such as Wal-Mart and Winn-Dixie are required to undergo more comprehensive training known as GAP, which stands for Good Agricultural Practices," Treadaway explained.

Farmers not only learn how to identify common practices contributing to foodborne illness but also are shown how to comply with the paperwork requirements that would enable investigators, if the need arose, to trace back not only the point of origin of this produce but also to gain a clear picture of how it was produced, packed, handled and stored.

The training Treadaway and the other Food Safety Extension educators are providing through "Enhancing the Safety of Local Produce" is not as comprehensive as GAP. But then, farmers markets in Alabama are currently not governed either by state or federal food handling regulations, she noted.

"We think these regulations are coming sooner or later, much as they have with restaurants," Treadaway added. "Right now, though, we are concentrating our efforts on alerting growers to the risk of foodborne illness and the steps they can take to prevent outbreaks."

The training identifies common practices that may contribute to serious breaches in food safety.

At the top of the list: water, namely irrigation water.

"They need to be especially aware of the type of water source they’re using to irrigate their produce," Treadaway said. "For example, if you’re drawing your water from a pond to which cows and other livestock have access, you’re running the serious risk of exposing your produce to pathogens."

The use of manure as fertilizer is another critical concern - the reason why farmers are urged to compost manure several weeks before it’s applied as crop fertilizer and not to harvest produce for at least 90 days after manure has been applied.

But as Treadaway and other food safety experts stress during the training, there are even more subtle ways pathogenic exposure can occur.

"If you happen to be a hunter, for example, you don’t need to haul your hunting dogs or, for that matter, a dead deer or a feral hog on your truck bed the night before you carry produce to market, at least without cleaning and sanitizing the bed thoroughly," said Dr. Jean Weese, an Extension food safety specialist and Auburn University professor of food science who heads the Food Safety team.

The trainers also stress the importance of using clean and sanitized utensils to cut up and serve samples to their customers at the farmers market.

"In too many cases, growers, in showing their products to customers, use their pocket knives to slice produce, often on unsanitized surfaces," Weese added. "We encourage them to use disposable utensils and plates instead."

The training also emphasizes the importance of separating display produce from the products actually sold.

"Customers have a tendency to touch everything, and growers can’t be sure where all these hands have been - the reason why it should be a standard practice to separate display produce from the products actually bagged and sent home with the buyer," Weese explained.

Cullman County farmers are not required to take the safe-handing training to sell produce in the Cullman Farmers Market, Glover said.

For now, he’s adopted a "coalition of the willing" strategy for reaching his farmers market sellers, hoping, as more growers are encouraged to take the training, others will follow suit. Lately, he’s seen evidence that this strategy is working: A few of the growers who have taken the training have begun displaying their certificates on their market stalls.

Glover hopes this certification, in addition to translating into an uptick in sales for these farmers, will, in turn, provide an incentive for more noncertified growers to take the training.

James Languster is a communications specialist with Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

Our Outdoor Heritage

So How Many Hunters Are There in Alabama?

by Corky Pugh

According to economist Rob Southwick, the population of hunters in Alabama is 60 percent greater than the population of Birmingham, the state’s largest city. Southwick of Florida-based Southwick Associates cites figures from the recently-released U. S. Census Bureau survey, "National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation."

The "National Survey," which measures the number of participants age 16 and older, lists the number of hunters in Alabama as 535,110.

"To put things in perspective, the number of Alabama hunters could fill up the University of Alabama Bryant-Denny stadium over five times," Southwick said,

Using another spectator-sport comparison, Southwick said, "In 2011, twice as many people hunted in Alabama than attended NASCAR races at the Talladega Superspeedway."

The most-recent survey figures show the number of hunters up from the 2006 "National Survey"; however, the increase is not reflected in actual hunting license sales. License certifications show the number of licensed hunters in Alabama remains flat, following a decline over the past 30 years.

Until the increase in hunter participation is reflected in actual license sales, there is no net gain for wildlife resources or the state’s hunters. Hunters pay for science-based management and law-enforcement protection of wildlife resources through purchases of hunting licenses. All Alabamians benefit economically and societally from this hunter-funded program of state government.

Alabama, like all 48 contingent states, receives a proportionate share annually of three-to-one matching Wildlife and Sportfish Restoration dollars. Each state’s apportionment is based on the number of license-buying hunters and anglers.

Alabama law exempts residents over the age of 65 from the requirement of purchasing a license to hunt or fish.

Southwick and other experts agree the aging of the "Baby Boomer" segment of the population has a detrimental effect on the number of license-buying hunters. As the huge segment of "Boomers" age, more and more become exempt from the requirement to purchase licenses.

Other demographic and socio-economic trends have adversely affected hunting participation. Urbanization is a real factor - folks have moved to town, and urban/suburban sprawl has consumed vast acreage previously available to hunters. The time-intense nature of our society has resulted in less and less available discretionary time, and more activities competing for what is left.

One observer at the national level has noted that perhaps we do things backwards in America - we give away free licenses to people 65 and older who have more leisure time and discretionary income than ever in their lives, yet we require a 16-year-old to buy a license to participate.

The license exemption is a result of legislative action many years ago to give free privileges to seniors. In more recent times, there have been repeated attempts to give free privileges to broad classes of citizens such as all members of the National Guard.

While all these folks deserve our respect and admiration, it costs Alabama just as much to provide hunting and fishing opportunities to them as anybody else. The people in these groups who hunt and fish don’t mind paying for the privilege, so long as their license dollars go to pay for the management and protection of wildlife and fisheries resources.

Under Alabama law, there are already several classes of license-exempt hunters. Alabama resident landowners and members of their immediate family hunting on their own land need only show proof of residency. There are special provisions for active-duty military home on leave. And there are special licenses for permanently physically disabled individuals.

At least the state can count these special licenses for the physically-disabled as part of the license certification for federal aid purposes. When the physically disabled license was the subject of debate several years ago, one leader among the community of disabled hunters hit the nail on the head.

The wheelchair-bound gentleman said, "I am physically disabled, not financially disabled. We don’t mind paying like everybody else. What we want is opportunity that meets our needs."

This was the genesis for Alabama’s widely-recognized Hunting and Fishing Trail for the Physically Disabled.

A resident All-Game Hunting License costs less than 11 cents a day, and a Resident Freshwater Fishing License costs a little over 3 cents a day.

It doesn’t sound like a lot of money until you multiply it by the number of licensed hunters and anglers, and recognize that nobody else pays to put conservation enforcement officers and biologists on the ground.

This erosion of the funding base for the Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division adversely affects the resource base and related hunting and fishing opportunities enjoyed by all who hunt and fish. There are no other sources of funding other than license revenues and matching Wildlife and Sportfish Restoration dollars. As hunters and anglers, we pay the bill. And most of us don’t mind because we know our money directly provides benefits we all enjoy.

Convincing the politicians we don’t mind paying is something that deserves our thought and attention.

Corky Pugh is theexecutive director of the Hunting Heritage Foundation.

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

Southern Translation

SENTENCE USAGE: "That jarhead Teddy beat around the bush for so long to the game warden with some cockamamie story about how he could be spotlightin’ for coons at 2 a.m. from the tailgate of his pick-up on a county road, using a 30.06 while at the same time drinking the better part of a 12-pack of beer that the officer finally doused him down real good with pepper spray and hauled him off to the pokey!"

Was this Teddy character actually beating a shrub?

"Beating around the bush" means to avoid coming to the point.

The figurative meaning of the odd phrase "beat around the bush" or, as it is usually expressed in the U.K., "beat about the bush," evolved from the earlier literal meaning. In bird hunts, some of the participants roused the birds by beating the bushes and enabling others to catch the quarry in nets. So "beating about the bush" was the preamble to the main event, which was the capturing of the birds. Of course, grouse hunting and other forms of hunt still use beaters today.

The phrase is old and first appears in the medieval poem "Generydes - A Romance in Seven-line Stanzas," circa 1440:

"Butt as it hath be sayde full long agoo,

Some bete the bussh and some the byrdes take."

The poem is anonymous and exists only as a single handwritten manuscript in the library of Trinity College, Cambridge; the early printed versions have all disappeared. Even at that early date, the author’s implication was clearly that "bete the bussh" was considered a poor substitute for getting on with it and "taking the byyres." If it really was said "full long agoo" in the 15th century, then the English "beat about the bush" must be one of the oldest non-biblical phrases in the language. The earliest version found adds "about" to "beat the bush" is in George Gascoigne’s Works, 1572:

"He bet about the bush, whyles other caught the birds."

As far as the relative global popularity of the two earlier mentioned versions of the phrase goes, the U.S. version has become the standard.

http://www.phrases.org

Product Spotlight

Tarter Hay Rings

by Jimmy Hughes

With strong cattle prices continuing along with higher feed cost, this is a good time to consider and purchase products that can help you save money in the upcoming feed season. It is common to find your best buy on feeding equipment during this time of the year. I would encourage you to take a long look at heavy-duty Tarter hay rings.

Studies show cattle will waste up to 15 percent of the hay put out during the winter without a hay ring or other device to keep them from lying on and wasting the hay. If we assume a 1,000 pound bale of hay costs $30 per bale, then a 15 percent loss would mean you would lose up to $4.50 for each bale put out for your cattle. With these figures, it’s simple to see that a hay ring will rapidly pay for itself by reduced hay loss.

Tarter hay rings are well designed and well built for long-term durability and use. I would suggest, when looking at Tarter hay rings, you spend the extra money for a heavy-duty one. The heavy-duty rings are built from heavier-gauge steel and are designed for bigger cattle and bulls, giving better durability and a longer life span when compared to economically priced, lighter-weight products. I have seen lighter-gauge hay rings last only a couple of years while the heavier products can last many years, saving you money overall.

Tarter Cattle Equipment also prides itself on the unique painting system providing a more consistent baked-on paint that will not show runs and will provide superior rust prevention. If you are looking for ways to save additional money, I would strongly suggest the consideration of Tarter hay rings for your operation.

If you need any information on these products, please feel free to contact your local Quality Co-op or I can be reached at 256-947-7886 or jimmyh@alafarm.com.

Jimmy Hughes is AFC’s animal nutritionist.

Homeplace & Community

The Co-op Pantry

One of AFC Cooperative Farming News’ proofreaders, Susan Propst Graben is a genealogy buff like me. Also, like me, she is partially of German descent. When she told us she and husband Bill were going to visit Europe and would be going to Germany, I got a brainstorm and asked her to pick up some authentic German recipes to share with us this month. Both of us grew up eating Americanized German food, but she has gotten us authentic recipes for this month.

Here is Susan’s story:

Susan, right, and Bill Graben

"I have always been surrounded by good cooks, from my great aunts, who ran a tearoom in North Carolina during the Depression, to my grandmother (Propst/Costner German heritage), who taught me to finally eat her green beans with fatback in them, to my aunt, who makes the BEST pound cake ever. But, I always need a recipe; I find it difficult to do something from scratch. Being an only child with no children, cooking for the masses does not come naturally to me. However, I do love to eat good cooking and my interest in genealogy always leads me to family reunions where there is an excess of great foods and I always ask for the recipe!

"Born and raised in Shelby, N.C., I went to college at Agnes Scott in Decatur, Ga., grad school at UNC-CH and then met my Alabama-born husband in Atlanta. That is how I came to Decatur and really confused my poor mother who had written me for 4 years in Decatur, Ga., and then had to change to Ala.! She would send me recipe clippings from the local North Carolina papers, which I would save, catalog and keep in a huge crate file I still have. Reading is another passion and I have quite a few cookbooks; so even if I don’t know how to make something, I can usually find a recipe in my collection.

"I started proofreading AFC Cooperative Farming News about 14 years ago and really enjoy it. I raised and showed Guernsey cattle growing up as my dad worked for a dairy, so I do consider myself kind of a ‘farm girl.’ My recipes range from very simple to overly complex. A recent Danube River cruise inspired my interest in German recipes."

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

ZORMA

1 pound ground beef
1 egg
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 cup uncooked Minute rice
1 can sauerkraut
Paprika
Butter
Powdered sugar

Mix beef, egg, salt, pepper and rice together. Form about 24 balls. Place a layer of sauerkraut in a casserole dish; place a layer of meatballs and sprinkle with paprika. Repeat layer, ending with sauerkraut. Sprinkle top with paprika; cover and bake at 350° for 30 minutes or cook in Dutch oven with lid on for 1 hour on top of the stove. Brush with butter; glaze with powdered sugar and boiling water mixture. Yields 8 servings.

GLUHWEIN (GERMAN WINTER WINE)

2½ cups water
3 bags mandarin orange spice tea
2 cinnamon sticks
2 lemons, sliced
4 cloves
1 large orange, sliced
2 teaspoons ginger
1 bottle red Burgundy wine
2-3 cups sugar, to taste

In Crock Pot on high, combine first 7 ingredients and simmer 45 minutes. Add wine and sugar. Simmer another 2 hours. Discard spices and fruits. Serve hot.

GERMAN GOULASH

18 ounces onions
18 ounces lean beef or ready-cubed braising steak
2 Tablespoons butter OR cooking oil, such as sunflower, divided
Salt and pepper
Paprika powder
4 slightly rounded teaspoons tomato puree
1 cup hot water
1-2 dashes Tabasco sauce

Peel onions, halve and cut into slices. Rinse beef under cold running water, pat dry and cut into 1¼- inch cubes. Heat half the butter or oil in a pan; add cubed meat and brown well on all sides. Add remaining butter or oil and onions. Brown with meat. Season meat mixture with salt, pepper and paprika powder. Stir in tomato puree. Add water; cover and braise over medium heat for 1¼-1½ hours until cooked. If too much liquid has evaporated, add a little water. Season again with salt, pepper, paprika and Tabasco.

Note: You can substitute red wine for half of the water if desired.

WARM POTATO SALAD

2¼ pounds firm cooking potatoes
2-3 Tablespoons herb vinegar
2 onions
Salt and pepper
3 ounces fatty bacon
1 pinch sugar
4 ounces vegetable stock
4 teaspoons chives, chopped

Wash the potatoes, put in a pan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook over low heat for 20-25 minutes. Peel the onions and cut into cubes. Dice bacon; put in frying pan and cook over medium heat so the fat is released. Strain fat through a sieve into a small bowl and reserve bacon.

Add diced onions to stock and bring to a boil. Cover and cook about 5 minutes. Add vinegar, salt, pepper and sugar. Stir in bacon fat.

Drain the potatoes when cooked and rinse briefly in cold water. Drain again and peel while still hot. Cut into slices and arrange in a heat-resistant dish. Pour salad dressing over potatoes and mix well. Let stand a few hours so the flavors can soak in. Preheat oven to 300°. Check seasoning and add salt, pepper and vinegar to taste. Put dish in oven for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in chives, scatter bacon on top and serve warm.

DEUTSCHER GEBACK (GERMAN COOKIES)

½ pound butter
1 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
2 cups flour
1 cup nuts, chopped
½ cup strawberry jam

Preheat oven to 325°. Grease 8-inch square cake pan. Cream butter until soft. Gradually add sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks and blend well. Add flour slowly and mix thoroughly. Fold in nuts. Spoon half of mixture into cake pan. Spread jam over the top and add remaining mixture. Bake 1 hour. Cut into bars. Yields 16 servings.

OLD GERMAN HONEY COOKIES

1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup shortening
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup honey
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 eggs
1 teaspoon ground ginger
4 cups flour

In a saucepan over low heat, melt together sugar, shortening and honey. Let cool. Mix together eggs, vanilla, baking soda and ginger. Gradually add to cooled honey mixture. Slowly add flour to mixture. Stir until well blended. Bake at 350° until golden brown (12-15 minutes).

SONKER

1 cup self-rising flour
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 cup sugar
1 can milk
1 stick butter
Fruit, fresh or canned, to cover bottom of pan

Melt butter in 11x13 pan in oven while preheating to 350°. Remove from oven. Cut up (if necessary) fruit and place in baking dish. Mix together flour, sugar, vanilla and milk. Pour over fruit. DO NOT STIR!! Bake at 350° for 45-60 minutes or until golden brown. Great served hot with ice cream!

Note: Sonker is a type of berry pie or deep-dish cobbler and the word is unique to German-settled areas of North Carolina. My grandmother used to make this dish when I was growing up. You can use almost any fruit – peaches, blackberries, strawberries, cherries, etc. I have even seen a recipe for a sweet potato sonker, but it is more complicated.

KIELBASA POTATO CHOWDER

½ pound smoked kielbasa or Polish sausage, cut into ½-inch pieces
3 bacon strips, diced
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1½ cups reduced sodium chicken broth
1½ cups water
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
½ teaspoon chicken bouillon granules
1/8 teaspoon pepper
2 kale leaves, torn, or 1/3 cup fresh spinach, chopped
½ cup heavy whipping cream or 2% milk

In a large nonstick skillet, brown kielbasa and bacon; drain, reserving 1 teaspoon drippings. Add onion; cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes or until onion is tender. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer.

In a large saucepan, bring broth and water to a boil. Add potatoes, bouillon and pepper. Cook for 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

Add meat mixture and kale; cook over medium heat for 2 minutes or until kale is wilted. Reduce heat. Add cream; cook 1 minute longer or until heated through.Yield 4 cups.

APPLE STRUDEL DOUGH

2.78 cups flour (conversion of 12-¼ ounces)
1 Tablespoon oil
1 Tablespoon butter, melted
3½ fluid ounces water, lukewarm
Pinch salt

Filling:
1¼ pounds tart apples, (peeled, cored and sliced)
3½ ounces butter, melted
3½ ounces biscuit breadcrumbs
1¾ ounces light brown sugar
Raisins, cinnamon, chopped nuts, lemon juice
Rum (optional)

Peel apples and cut into thin slices. Gently brown biscuit crumbs in butter. Combine all ingredients for the filling.

Dough:
Mix flour, salt, oil and lukewarm water. Knead together with the kneading hook on the mixer or in a food processor for approximately 10 minutes until the dough has become smooth and elastic. Roll the dough into a ball and brush with butter. Using a sharp knife, cut a cross at the top of ball of dough and then leave to rest at room temperature for 2 hours, wrapped in cling film.

Sprinkle a patterned tablecloth evenly with flour. Roll the dough out as thinly as possible on the cloth. Place your hands, stretched out flat, under the dough and draw the dough over the back of your hand so it becomes thinner and thinner. You know the dough is ready when the pattern on the tablecloth is recognizable through the dough, or when you can read newspaper print through it.

Fill and roll the strudel together, being sure to use the tablecloth to help you by raising the end with the filled dough just enough the strudel begins to roll on its own accord. Grease strudel with melted butter and bake in preheated over at 400º for 30 minutes, or until golden brown.

Note: The pastry chef on the VIKING Vienna demonstrated how to make the strudel and gave us the recipe. There was also a tasty topping that accompanied the dish, but it was not included!!

SACHER TORTE

The actual recipe for this chocolate and apricot cake is a well-guarded secret. It is produced by the Sacher Hotel in Vienna, Austria. A dense, not-too-sweet concoction, this is a lot of work, but well worth the effort.

Torte:
4½ ounces high-quality bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped9 Tablespoons (1 stick plus 1 Tablespoon) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup granulated sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour (spoon gently into cup and level)

Apricot filling:
¼ cup water
¼ cup white sugar
3 Tablespoons dark rum, divided
1 (12 ounce) jar apricot preserves
1 Tablespoon water

Chocolate icing:
9 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
3 ounces heavy cream

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400º degrees. Lightly butter 9-inch spring form pan and line bottom with a round of parchment or wax paper. Dust sided of pan with flour and tap out excess.
In the top of double boiler over very hot, but not simmering water, OR in a microwave at medium power, melt chocolate. Remove from heat or oven and let stand, stirring often, until cool.

Beat butter in bowl of a heavy-duty standing mixer fitted with paddle blade on medium-high speed until smooth, about one minute. On low speed, beat in the confectioner’s sugar. Return speed to medium-high and beat until light in color and texture, about 2 minutes. Beat in egg yolks, one at a time, scraping down sides of bowl. Beat in chocolate and vanilla.

Beat egg whites and granulated sugar in a large bowl with a handheld electric mixer on high speed until soft, shiny peaks form. Do not overbeat. Stir about a quarter of beaten whites into chocolate mixture to lighten it; then fold in the remaining whites, leaving a few visible wisps of whites. Sift half of flour over the chocolate mixture, and fold in with a large balloon whisk or rubber spatula. Repeat with remaining flour.

Spread evenly in pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. (The cake will dome in the center.) Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove sides of pan and invert cake onto rack. Remove paper and re-invert on another rack to turn right side up. Cool completely.

To assemble: Using a long, serrated knife, trim the top of the cake to make it level. Cut cake horizontally into two equal layers. Place one cake layer on 8-inch cardboard round.

For filling/glaze: Bring water and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan. When the sugar has dissolved and the syrup is clear, remove from heat and stir in 2 tablespoons rum. Brush a third of syrup on the cut side of the cake bottom. Puree the apricot preserves with 1 tablespoon water until smooth. Bring to a simmer over medium heat in a small saucepan, and cook until thickened, about 2 minutes. Stir in remaining rum. Spread a third of jam mixture onto cut side of cake bottom. Place top of cake onto the bottom. Brush the outside of the cake with the remaining syrup. Spread remaining apricot preserves over top and sides; refrigerate until chocolate icing is ready.

Icing: Melt chocolate over double boiler or in microwave until smooth. Bring cream to a simmer in a small saucepan. Stir into melted chocolate. Cool slightly, stirring often, until the chocolate reaches a spreadable consistency.

Set cake on cooling rack set over a cookie sheet or waxed paper to catch any drips. Pour the icing on top of the cake and spread around the edges; allow excess to drip through the rack. Cool cake to room temperature. Carefully remove from cooling rack using a spatula. Transfer to dessert plate and store in refrigerator, at least one hour, until glaze is completely set. Remove from refrigerator about 1 hour before serving.

To serve, slice with a sharp knife dipped into hot water. Serve with a large dollop of whipped cream on the side. Yields 12-16 servings.

Note from Mary: I think I gained 10 pounds sampling the recipes, but it was worth it!

Thank you, Susan. Not too many people would have spent part of their vacation hunting down recipes for us. Let’s enjoy something a little out of the ordinary this month.

I am looking for cooks of all ages, cooking traditions and skill levels to feature in this column. I want to hear from those in Alabama as well as our out-of-state readers. The simple requirements for being a featured cook are to love to cook (and eat) and to share your story with us. Get those recipes coming! Email me at maryd@alafarm.com. --Mary

Youth Matters

The FFA Sentinel: 2013 Alabama FFA District Career Development Events

The Eufaula FFA Chapter proudly displays the banners they won at South District Eliminations.

by Luke Knight

I believe that hard work and honest sweat are the building blocks of a person’s character." This quote comes from "A Farmer’s Creed." I love to use this creed because of its ability to pertain to real world experiences. Mentioning real world experiences, one of the best ways to demonstrate them are by participating in career development events. CDEs help students develop the abilities to communicate clearly, think critically and perform effectively in a competitive job market. Agriculture is Alabama’s number one industry. More than 21 million American workers (15 percent of the total U.S. workforce) work with agriculture. Also, by the year 2050, more than 9 billion people will live on Earth. People in the agricultural community are going to have to produce more products in the upcoming years than ever before! This is why CDEs are so important - not only to FFA but also to the American public.

The Horseshoe Bend Chapter, first place winner in String Band, performing at Central District Eliminations.

Each year in Alabama, thousands of FFA members compete in numerous competitive events. Many people do not realize the level of competition is somewhat comparable to a high school football game in Alabama. Many of the competitions start at the chapter level. Members compete with other members to determine who will get to represent their chapter in the event. Many of the chapter winners must then compete at the county competitions in order to advance to district. The next level of advancement is one of the major events of the year for Alabama FFA Association - District CDE Eliminations. Students who advance beyond District Eliminations are eligible to compete at State Competition. State winners in most events can then compete at the National FFA Convention.

Drew Cooper and Jackson Barefoot are proudly displaying the banners they won at North District Eliminations. They represent the Danville FFA Chapter.

District Eliminations are an annual event in each of the three districts (North, Central and South). They are facilitated by each district’s officers. This year, at our District Eliminations, we had more than 3,000 members, advisors and guests present. We had extraordinary participation at all of the districts and it could not have been possible without the support of everyone. Thank you!

Some of the events at the District Eliminations are listed with the number of teams or individuals that competed statewide: Ag Construction and Maintenance (55 teams), Ag Mechanics (57 teams), Creed Speaking (29 individuals), Extemporaneous Speaking (23 individuals), Floriculture (44 teams), Forestry (39 teams), Land Evaluation (70 teams), Livestock (39 teams), Nursery and Landscape (55 teams), Parliamentary Procedure (10 teams), Poultry Evaluation (57 teams), Prepared Public Speaking (17 individuals), Quartet (14 teams), Quiz Bowl (27 teams), Safe Tractor Driving (38 individuals), Small Engines (75 teams) and String Band (17 teams). Each district has a CDE that only their district competes in. North District competes in Opening Ceremonies (7 teams). Central District competes in Compact Tractor Driving (11 individuals). South District competes in Scrapbook (8 chapters).

We are so glad everyone attended and competed at our district eliminations. These events couldn’t be possible without the dedication of FFA members. The District Eliminations are going to help ensure we have a strong and viable workforce ready to continue prospering agriculture in Alabama and beyond. Advisors, supporters and members, we cannot thank you enough for making this year’s District Eliminations a huge success!

Luke Knight is the 2012-2013 Alabama FFA State Reporter.

From the State Vet's Office

The People Factor

by Dr. Tony Frazier

This column usually runs about 11 or 12 hundred words. I suppose if I just listed the names of the people who over the years have mentored me, influenced me, put up with me or in any other way helped me do my job, I would use up those 12 hundred or so words and still have a lot of names to go. I became a veterinarian because I have a great respect for companion animals and food animals and how they enhance our lives. I also became a veterinarian because I love people and wanted to have a positive effect on human lives through working with their animals. I believe I even have an impact on the lives of people who actually believe chicken fingers come from the appendages at the end of the chicken’s hand. I do this by working with producers and industry to assure, when a person orders the chicken finger meal, we have an abundant supply of poultry to meet that need. I have a fairly decent understanding of animal diseases, their prevention and treatment, but it is the people factor I enjoy most about my job.

The "Andy Griffith Show" is and, in my opinion, will forever be one of the best TV programs ever made. I remember on one show Barney was quoting some law or statute or regulation. Andy reminded him, while it is good to know regulations verbatim, he should never forget their job was more about people than regulations. The job of the State Veterinarian is established by law and gives me authority, acting under the authority granted to the Commissioner of Agriculture, to administer and enforce all sanitary livestock laws, regulations and statutes. While I do have the law and regulations behind me, it doesn’t mean I have a big stick to make people do what I say when I say it has to be done.

I remember when I first came to work for the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries as a Veterinary Medical Officer I was given the task of testing, or retesting, a herd of cows for brucellosis that had been tested several times already. When I first met the owner, I remember asking for a minute of his time. He looked down at his watch and asked me what I needed to tell him. I began discussing that we were going to have to test his cattle again to be able to release them from quarantine. In just a little bit, he looked back at his watch and informed me that my minute was up and cordially invited me to get off his farm, which I did. We eventually got the herd tested and got him released from quarantine. That incident, early on in my regulatory career, made me realize people aren’t necessarily happy to see the man with the regulation book coming to see them. I have learned, while the law and regulations have to be administered and enforced, there is a people factor that is the key piece of the puzzle. I have learned working with people gets my job done a lot easier than working against them.

A prime example of working with people is what we are doing to get the new animal disease traceability regulation implemented. We began, at the request of the cattle industry, working on a state traceability regulation to mirror the upcoming federal regulation recently put into place. We have tried to work with the people involved in the livestock industry to make animal traceability the least intrusive it can be, yet still accomplish what needs to be done to maintain export markets and ultimately to be able to trace animals that may have been exposed to various regulated diseases. And even though we are trying our best to get the facts out about animal disease traceability, I hear the discussion down at the coffee shop is some variation of the truth. I am told people who have never placed any kind of tag in a cow’s ear believe they will be forced to place the electronic radio frequency ID tags in their cows before they leave the farm. Many of them say if that is the case they will just sell out. That is not the case at all. We are working with veterinarians and stockyards to try to accommodate small producers who are not prepared to identify their cattle. And, just for the record, the old silver tags used in the brucellosis and TB testing days will serve as approved identification devices. I hope my experience working as a stockyard veterinarian and working in private practice has given me a perspective helping me understand the other side of the fence - not just the regulatory side.

There is an old saying, "If you try to make everybody happy, you will end up not making anybody happy." I do agree that I cannot always make everybody happy. I am sure we all can think of certain individuals who went to bed angry last night, they woke up angry this morning and they will go to bed angry tonight about something. I have found there are some people who cannot be made happy no matter what you do. I have had dealings with a few of those angry people over the years. And, in spite of the fact we may not find common ground, I have benefitted with my dealings with those encounters. When I deal with people who call me unhappy about some aspect of the State Veterinarian’s activity, it causes me to go back and see if we are doing all we can to consider the people factor and still accomplish what we have to do.

At the end of the day, all of us involved in animal agriculture are trying to make sure there is a safe, plentiful supply of beef, chicken, pork, dairy products and other animal agriculture products available as well as to make sure people can still make a living working in animal agriculture. I sometimes meet people who truly believe those of us on the regulatory side are trying to impede or even put those on the production side out of business. I will not argue there are some of my regulatory brothers and sisters who fail to consider the people factor involved in agriculture, but most of us realize the regulations we administer and enforce do affect lives. It is my goal to always fulfill my responsibilities without forgetting the people factor is the best part of my job.

Dr. Tony Frazier is the State Veterinarian for Alabama.

Feeding Facts

What Makes Feeds Different?

by Jimmy Hughes

I am asked from time to time about what makes feed different. I talk on a daily basis with producers who want to know what goes into formulating a feed and what makes a feed different while the feed tags appear to be very similar.

As a nutritionist, I have to consider several things when formulating a quality feed. In what market will the feed be sold? What species of animal will eat the feed? What are the nutrient specifications to be reached? What are the nutritional requirements of that animal? What is the animal’s stage of production? What federal regulations concern this feed? Will the feed be medicated? Will the formulated feed be of nutrient quality? Will all this be done at a competitive cost to the producer?

I want to discuss these issues as a way to inform you of what goes into producing a quality feed at a competitive price to meet your animal’s performance needs. Let’s look at each of these considerations in the decision-making process of feed manufacturing.

My first obligation when formulating the feed is to the animal itself. With this in mind, the first consideration is to know what species of animals is being fed. While you may think all species have the same nutritional requirements, this is not always true. The protein requirements across species can be different from a quality standpoint. Some animals may have a different requirement for by-pass protein and some may require different levels of soluble protein. Some animals require certain trace minerals and vitamins while others do not. Some species need additional fiber for proper digestion while some need very little fiber due to their inability to utilize fibrous feeds. Some examples are: (1) A goat has a requirement for and can utilize copper while a sheep has a much lower requirement and can build up toxic levels of the mineral. (2) Cattle can synthesize their own B vitamins in the rumen while pigs cannot. (3) Horses cannot utilize urea while cattle can convert urea to microbial protein. (4) Rabbits have a need for high-quality fiber while hogs do a poor job of breaking fiber down.

What may be even harder to believe is there are also differences within species that must be accounted for when formulating feeds. A Jersey and a Holstein cow have different requirements for trace minerals. A stressed calf cannot synthesize B vitamins while non-stressed cattle make their own. I tell you all this so you might see that a lot more goes into a feed formulation than just mixing ingredients together for a certain price.

The next consideration for a nutritionist is to know the animal’s nutrient requirements. As the animal grows and matures, the nutrient requirements for protein, energy, minerals and vitamins will change as well. If we offer a feed that is specifically for a certain type of animal, I want to make sure the feed meets the requirements of that animal. I do not want to produce a feed and call it a creep feed if that feed does not contain the nutrients to meet the needs of a calf eating a creep feed.

Know your feed dealer and manufacturer so you can depend on the feed they produce and sell. We want you to know that when you buy a feed from AFC you are getting a feed meeting the animal’s nutrient requirements.

I also have to know the stage of production of the animal. The nutrient requirements for animals change based on their stage of production. A nursing cow has a lot different requirement than a dry cow. An idle horse has a lot different requirement than a horse being ridden every day.

Another important factor is to understand any federal regulations that might come into play. The FDA and USDA have regulations in place as to what medications and at what levels they can be used in a feed. We have to follow these rules when formulating a medicated feed. This also includes the mixing of different drugs into a finished product. We cannot mix certain medications together and be able to tag that feed as legal according to these standards. We are asked from time to time to mix feeds containing different levels or types of drugs and we have guidelines to go by. These measures are in place to not only protect the animal but to also protect humans who might consume product from these animals.

Another consideration is the feed’s nutrient density. I am asked from time to time to blend a feed for a certain price. This can be a very simple process for a nutritionist, but a very poor product for the end consumer. If you have a certain feed in mind, make sure to provide all this information to your feed dealer. A protein percentage does not provide enough information to formulate a quality feed. A feed can meet protein specifications using several different ingredients, with some being much higher in quality than others. When purchasing a feed, always ask for certain levels of minerals and vitamins along with fat and lower fiber levels. If you are more specific in your request, I can assure you there be like pricing of similar quality feed from different dealers.

In conclusion, you may be wondering why this should be important to you. With feed prices expected to remain high over the summer, it makes it even more important to buy a feed based on quality and not just ton price. We continue to see more and more groups who either blend commodities together or who try to mix feeds and sell to producers. In years past, these groups have typically looked at a blend of higher-quality ingredients such as distillers and corn gluten along with soyhulls. As these ingredients have increased in price, we are seeing less of these ingredients and more lower-quality, less digestible products going into feed. I want you to be aware that a lot goes into feed formulations and it is not as simple as picking out a feed based solely on its name. Please be aware of this when selecting a feed company and know what they are offering you as a producer. Remember, if a feed is lower in cost than another, then there is a reason and the reason is lower quality ingredients that will not perform to the level the producer expects. A feed similar in quality will be similar in price and a feed not similar in quality can be very different in price.

If I can help you in making the very best feed decision or selection of quality ingredients for your operation - no matter if it’s deer, cattle, horses, pigs, goats or another domestic animal, please feel free to contact me at 256-947-7886 or jimmyh@alafarm.com.

Jimmy Hughes is AFC’s animal nutritionist.

Farm & Field

Without Cold Storage Numbers Don’t Add Up for Commerical Vegetable Growers

2+2=4. This is the way it is supposed to work, but, as is the case with far too many commercial vegetable operations around the state, vegetables grown without adequate cold storage immediately after picking adds up to about 2½ instead of 4. With the use of plasticulture and drip tape, yields can easily triple or quadruple; hence, larger amounts of produce need to be kept chilled during the time of picking to date of sale … this may be a couple of days or a few hours. Proper handling to hold quality is always a big issue!

Alabama Agricultural Development Authority loan programs can help with this cold storage issue or, for that matter, drip irrigation, too! We have the expertise, money and knowledge to make this whole process happen. Give us a call at 334-240-7245 or email john.gamble@agi.alabama.gov for answers to your questions or instructions on how to move the process forward and make 2 + 2 = 4!

Farm & Field

Young Couple Finds Excitement in Farming

Adam and Toni Lovvorn with their 30 head of cattle.

by John Howle

As you travel through the quiet community of Graham, there are only a few landmarks dotting the highway. There’s a small store at a crossroads where you can fill up a tank of gas and grab a coke. There are a few churches, and the remaining landscape is beautiful pastureland, timber and occasional chicken houses. Someone from the city might think there’s not much excitement around here. Well, that depends on your idea of excitement.

One young couple from Graham gets their kicks from the delivery of day-old chicks and newborn calves hitting the ground. Adam, 26, and Toni, 22, Lovvorn have spent their young lives centered around farm life, and, as young newlyweds, they find this the most exciting life anyone could live.

"You see that new post in the fence over there?" Toni asked. "Well, I ran it over with the Bobcat tractor while moving pots of flowers with the front end loader."

Adam just laughed as she explained her scrape with the fence. For most these days, farming is at best a risky business venture, but these young folks don’t let it deter them.

Adam Lovvorn says that keeping plenty of minerals on hand helps keep the herd healthy.

"We have about 30 of our own registered Sim-Angus cows, but my parents farm with us and together we run about 250 to 300 mama cows," Adam said. "Toni and I also have two modern and computerized chicken houses."

The chicken houses are 66 feet wide and 600 feet long.

"We have about 59,000 chickens per house," Adam said. "The chickens in each house drink about 5,000 gallons of water per day."

I asked Adam what his "town job" was, and he said, "You’re looking at it. I grew up in farming, and I knew I was supposed to do this for the rest of my life."

Adam is a full-time farmer, but Toni has just received a degree allowing her to teach special education students in high school.

"My family has always been in the cattle business, and I’ve always been involved with that," Toni explained. "I showed sheep starting at age 6, showed heifers until I graduated high school, and I barrel raced in the West Georgia Junior Rodeo growing up."

Adam and Toni’s cows are grass fed, and they are fed dry hay and haylage during the winter months.

Toni Lovvorn holds one of thousands of chickens in their two houses.

"We always provide the cattle with minerals, vaccinate and deworm them, and practice fly control," Adam stated. "I was very fortunate to be able to farm for a living because many times today, if you want to be a farmer, you either have to be born into it or marry into it."

Toni shares Adam’s feelings about working on the farm even though she will be sharing part of her day in the near future with her students.

"Our parents and grandparents established something in farming that we want to continue on," Toni said. "Today, most of our recordkeeping of cattle and chickens is done on Excel spreadsheets."

The added benefit of their youth is the fact that these modern-day farmers know how to take advantage of today’s technology when keeping up with the farm.

"I have an app on my iPhone allowing me to remotely access the computers of the chicken houses to see what’s going on," Adam explained. "If I’m an hour from home and there’s a problem, I can pull up the chicken house computer on my phone and see if it is serious enough to rush home or see if it’s only a minor issue."

The Lovvorns sell their cattle in truckload lots with their parents’ cattle. The truckloads will go either to Roanoke Stockyards, the Carroll County Livestock Sale Barn or Superior Livestock.

"Superior Livestock is an online auction where you can watch your cattle being sold on RFD-TV," Adam said. "Most of our family’s steers go to Superior Livestock."

They raise the grass-fed cattle with extended family on the family farm property as well as leased land throughout the area.

"We are commercial SimAngus growers and want to stay that way with plans to expand in the future," Toni remarked.

"If the good Lord’s willing, we’d like to build more chicken houses and increase the cattle herd in the next few years," Adam added.

It takes them five weeks to take their chickens from day old to broiler size.

"It’s hard to believe these half-grown birds were just small, round balls of fluff days ago," said Toni, while holding a young chicken inside the chicken house. "I already knew a lot about the cattle business from my Dad, Doug and Granddad Wendell Gibbs, but I had to learn from scratch about the chickens."

With the cattle, the Lovvorns bring expertise from both sides of their family.

"We artificially inseminate the heifers, and our bulls come from Toni’s family," Adam said.

He is referring to Gibb’s Farm, owned by Toni’s family.

"It takes a lot of seed, fencing materials and hay rings to run the farm, but the folks at the Randolph Farmers Co-op in Wedowee have always been good to us, and that helps," Adam said.

It’s not all work for the young couple. When I called them for the interview, Toni said they were fishing on the back side of the farm, but felt they would be back in time for the interview and a tour of the farm. Toni continues to ride horses, and balance the demands of farm work, college completion and starting the hunt for a teaching position. Together, they are keeping the farming tradition going strong in Alabama and having an exciting time doing it.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.

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