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July 2015

4-H Extension Corner: Hosting WHEP

A team of Washington County 4-H members won the state contest and represented Alabama at the 2014 National WHEP contest in Columbia, Mo. Washington County Senior team members and coaches are, from left to right: Sarah Butterworth, Peyton Singleton, Lexi Ferguson, Emily Wilson, Thomas Anderson and Brandon Strickland.

Alabama is host state for Wildlife Habitat Education Program National Contest in August.

by Emily Nichols and Jim Armstrong

This year, Alabama is the proud host of the Wildlife Habitat Education Program National Contest that will draw in youth from across the country. Approximately 250 high school students, 4-H teachers and adult chaperones will attend the event Aug. 2-5 at the Alabama 4-H Center in Columbiana. The students’ knowledge of fish and wildlife habitat management will be put to the test by engaging them in a variety of skill events. In addition to the contest, they will be learning about the diversity of natural resources in Alabama while experiencing "Southern Hospitality" at its best. This is Alabama’s second time to host the national competition since 1989.

WHEP,, is a hands-on natural resource program dedicated to teaching wildlife and fisheries habitat management to youth ages 8-19 through 4-H or FFA organizations. Annually, about 10,000 youth participants learn wildlife and fisheries terms and concepts, species identification and habitat management, and are able to test their knowledge in state competitions. Winning teams from each state attend the national contest each year in a different state with different habitat types and experience positive youth development and leadership opportunities while having fun.

A team of Coosa County 4-H members won the National WHEP contest held in Utah in 2007. Members of the team were Anna Vines, Treavor Abrams, Elijah Phillips, Samuel Cordner along with coach Roger Vines.

WHEP originated in the Southeast as a 4-H event more than 25 years ago and now it is available throughout the country.

One of the many things that makes the national WHEP event so interesting and challenging is that the host site moves to a different part of the country each year. Through the years the contest has been held in such diverse places as the prairies of Kansas, coastal North Carolina, the deserts of New Mexico and the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee.

Alabama teams have always placed at or near the top of the national competition. In fact, Alabama teams have won first place eight times and second place seven times nationally.

At the national event, senior-level (ages 14-19) teams of four members compete as individuals and as teams. They make management recommendations in a variety of habitats for a variety of wildlife species, both game and nongame. As a team, contestants compose a written management plan much like a wildlife biologist might compose for a landowner. Having done that, they then stand before a panel of wildlife professionals and defend their recommendations.

Contestants compete again as individuals in identifying wildlife species by skulls, pelts, feathers, calls and habitat components from aerial photos.

The event is a rigorous one and it is quite impressive to hear and see the depth of knowledge and critical thinking skills exhibited by many of these young people.

Alabama 4-H truly believes that WHEP reaches youth from all backgrounds and helps to develop their heads, hearts, hands and health. These hands-on experiences are enabling them to become loyal citizens by acting as stewards of their environment.

Emily Nichols is a natural resources specialist and Jim Armstrong is a wildlife specialist, both with Alabama Cooperative Extension System and co-coordinators of the Alabama WHEP competition.

A Rolling Success

Levy Geyer, USDA marketing specialist, gives instructions to the tour group at the New Holland stable in Pennsylvania.

Small Ruminant Tour explored current marketing channels for sheep and goat producers.

by Maria Lenira Leite-Browning, Jeff Posey and Elizabeth B. Myles

A tour aimed at exploring current marketing channels used by sheep and goat producers in the Northeast United States united about 80 participants from Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee. The educational tour allowed producers to learn more about different marketing channels. The group was formed by 75 producers from Alabama and Tennessee, producer members of the Mississippi Meat Goat Producer Cooperative and five Extension educators. This was a five-day Marketing Small Ruminants Educational Tour conducted May 22-26, 2015. The educational tour was sponsored by the grant awarded from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture to Dr. Maria Leite-Browning, Alabama Cooperative Extension System-Urban Affairs and New Nontraditional Programs, and the co-PI institutions: Dr. Cassandra Vaughn, Alcorn State University; and Dr. Richard Browning Jr., Tennessee State University.

The participants learned how to improve live-grading skills and evaluate the condition of their animals to satisfy targeted markets. They also had the opportunity to network with buyers, auction barns and livestock haulers in the Northeast.

The first stop of the educational tour was in Tazwell, Tenn., at a 600-plus purebred Katahdin sheep farm owned by James and Joann England. England provided the group with the benefits of raising Katahdin sheep, discussed risks and his marketing strategy. An in-depth discussion of mortality composting was also provided. While the meat goats are sold to local markets, his lambs are sold at an auction in Columbia, Tenn.

Then the group visited the Tennessee countryside near Tazwell to tour the Katahdin/Dorper-cross hair sheep operation owned by Rodney Fugate and his sons. Fugate discussed the benefits of sun hemp as a forage choice. Fugate sells lamb directly to local restaurants in Tennessee.

On Saturday, the group spent the day at the Vanguard Ranch in Gordonsville, Va., a commercial Kiko and Myotonic goat operation managed by Renard Turner. The tour included an outdoor lunch of Turner’s famous goat kabobs from his food truck. Turner explained how he built a niche market for goat burgers, kabobs and curry by using his food truck where ethnic festivals and fairs are held. He further provided members with valuable information on holistic farming practices, organic farming methods, breed selection, culling and forage production.

On Sunday, the group had a free day of rest or could tour Skyline Caverns and Manassas National Battlefield Park.

As the group traveled into rural Pennsylvania, they were amazed at the widespread diversity and scope of agricultural practices in the countryside.

Upon arrival in New Holland, Pa., on Monday, the group spent the evening attending the New Holland Sales Stables goat and sheep auction, one of the largest in Northeast United States with over 225,000 head sold annually. The New Holland Sales Stables tour was coordinated by Levi Geyer, supervisory market news reporter for the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service. Geyer also took the group to a nearby goat holding and buying facility, and explained the goat-grading process. Geyer explained how it took careful strategic planning coupled with excellent access for shipping to major U.S. cities such as Washington, Baltimore, Providence, Boston, Philadelphia and New York City to make the buying yard and sales stables profitable due to close proximity to those diverse ethnic markets.

The tour ended on Tuesday with an 18-hour bus ride home. A key benefit to members was the opportunity to network with their peers in Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee coupled with the expertise of the Extension specialists and farmers visited. Members left with renewed enthusiasm, a plethora of ideas and shared interest in pooling resources to increase small-ruminant-production goals.

Dr. Maria Lenira Leite-Browning is the Extension animal scientist (sheep and goats) with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System at Alabama A&M University, and the PI of the grant.

Dr. Jeff Posey owns and operates Five Oaks Farm in Lincoln County, Miss., with his wife Joanna where they have 27 head of Boer-crosses and experiment with forages such as serecia lespedeza, chicory and forage soybeans in a silvopasture land management model.

Elizabeth Myles identifies potential markets and link buyers with farmers. She provides education, training and outreach in marketing to farmers in Mississippi. She grew up on a farm in Claiborne County, Miss., and assists with the cow-and-calf operation.

A Watchful Eye

If you happen to get images of deer looking directly at you, it may mean the camera’s shutter triggering is too loud. When positioning your camera, it’s best to take a test picture to make sure everything is framed properly. You want to see the whole deer, not just the legs or half of a set of antlers.

Twelve concepts that may help you get the most from your trail camera.

by Todd Amenrud

Most whitetail enthusiasts don’t run their trail cameras through the early summer months for several reasons; one being, a buck’s antlers haven’t developed to a point of distinguishing them from other bucks. Next month is the perfect time to get your cameras working. Following are a few thoughts to help you get the most from your trail cameras:

Choose the right camera. The worst cameras today are better than the first flash cameras that hit the market. The two most important features are an infrared flash and a quiet shutter. No animals, including whitetails, like to have a whopping, white explosion go off in their faces when it’s pitch black. Flash cameras spook wildlife, period. You must also have a quiet shutter. If you get photos of the animal looking at your camera, it could be hearing your shutter.

You may also want certain other features like better resolution, time lapse, burst mode, video, password protection or built in viewer. It all depends upon your personal needs, but, like most things, you get what you pay for.

Angle the camera to the trail. Trigger speeds have come a long way in recent years, but if you’re covering a trail or a passage where the animals will pass by relatively quickly, it’s best to angle the camera (about 45 degrees) to the trail rather than placing it perpendicular to the trail. If the camera is placed at a right angle to the trail and the animal passes through the sensor area traveling fast, you may only have an image of a hind end or no animal at all.

Use your cameras to backtrack specific bucks. If a buck is showing up at a food plot or feeding station after dark and you don’t have snow to backtrack him to his bedding area, let your trail camera do the work for you. The closer you get to their core area, the better your chances for a shot during legal shooting light. The key is to keep your cameras moving. A buck may simply walk 5 feet out of your camera’s sensor area, so keep repositioning them.

Place the camera south of your target area and remove all debris. At times you may also get away with facing your cameras to the south; it depends upon the time of the year as the sun’s angle to the Earth will change. It’s really the sunrise and sunset you should try to avoid. By facing the camera in a northerly direction, your daytime photos should have the best lighting.

Make sure to remove all obstructions. Cut branches, weeds and twigs out of the way. Later you’ll see it’s suggested to use natural foliage to keep the camera concealed and hide it from thieves, but, if you do, just make sure you have a clear path to your target area. Otherwise, the LEDs will light up the brush in front of the camera leaving your target underexposed. It can also cause false triggering. If a large, sun-saturated branch is passing in front of the camera’s sensors, you’ll have an SD card full of animal-less images.

Camera thieves suck! Deter camera crooks by concealing cameras, securing them to a tree with a cable and lock, and/or hanging them in hard-to-reach spots or placing them in a locked steel box. Nothing seems to stop a really determined camera bandit, but to begin you must use some common sense - don’t hang your camera in an obvious location. A camera hanging on a trail, next to a feeder or at a gate opening may be a bit too tempting. Find a less obvious spot and camouflage the camera into the surroundings.

One of the best ways to discourage theft is to hang the camera high in the tree. Bring a climbing stick section, a couple of tree-steps or a small ladder and hang the camera out of reach of the average person. Remember, if you hang it high, you’ll need to place a branch or wedge behind the camera to angle it downward.

An ATV or farm vehicle is usually much less intrusive than a person on foot. Driving right up to your camera creates less of a disturbance and leaves less human scent at the scene.

Security chains and cables work well to deter most, but sometimes, if a camera-pinching puke can’t take the camera, they’ll destroy it. Again, if a resolute crook wants the camera, they seem to find a way – unfortunately a pair of bolt cutters fits in a backpack. Lastly, some cameras have security boxes that can be fastened to a tree and then the camera locked into the box.

It is possible to use a second, better-hidden camera to catch a camera thief. If you place a second camera pointed at your original camera and make sure to conceal it VERY well, it’s possible to catch some of these brainless camera-nabbing crooks. The penalty for vandalism or theft is much greater than trespassing.

Take advantage of the time-lapse feature. This means the camera is triggered at predetermined time intervals rather than movement through the sensor area. Time-lapse is a great feature for covering food plots, agricultural fields or any large, open area. If you can’t figure out which trails deer are most often using to access a food source, time lapse can teach you.

Time lapse is also a great feature for scouting turkeys. It can tell you areas gobblers prefer for strutting zones/bugging areas and where it’s best to set up your ambush.

Use scent for a stopper. A small amount of scent placed in your chosen spot can stop your buck in the perfect position to pose for his portrait. A little Trail’s End #307 or Golden Buck will work during early season or after the rut, and Special Golden Estrus or Mega Tarsal Plus will stop them in their tracks and draw them in during late October through November. Place the scent on a Key-Wick and then put it on a branch or twig about 4 feet off the ground.

Mock scrapes work amazingly well to take an inventory of the bucks you have in your area. You may not get many photos of does, but bucks are instinctually drawn to the scrape from early October into December. You can "doctor-up" a buck’s natural, existing scrape or make your own mock scrape. A Magnum Scrape Dripper with some Active Scrape or Golden Scrape will work best for this tactic.

Develop a system for filing your photos. To really effectively manage a property, you must be good at keeping records. Trail camera photos are one of the primary ways to keep on top of what’s happening on your property. They help you to gather information on mature bucks, document trends over the years and there is no better way to determine density, buck-to-doe ratio or age structure of your herd. Nowadays, one property manager on a 500-acre parcel can go through 200,000 images or more in one season. Whether you categorize your files by date, place where the camera was located, the specific buck you’re after or some other system, it’s important to find a way to organize your images so you can find them when you need to recap.

Shoot a test photo/video so you know it’s framed properly. If your camera has a built-in viewer, this will be easy, but you don’t want your camera to capture just legs or half a set of antlers. Consider using a digital-picture viewer so you can check over your photos in the field. Small digital cameras may also work for you.

Find the sweet-spot. Most cameras will claim they are good to a certain range … when in reality, they stink at the maximum-touted limit. Set them close enough to your target to get good, nighttime illumination on the subject from your infrared flash.

What are some camera manufacturers thinking with their mounting systems? The strap some of them use to fasten your camera to a tree could double for a seatbelt in a car and it requires two people to get it around a tree. A simple, small rubber cord (bungee-cord type) with hooks at each end works perfectly if you’re not worried about theft. Otherwise, with mounting systems like the "Stake Out" or "Stic-n-Pic," you don’t need a tree at all. Some trail cams will work with a regular camera tripod. There are numerous other mounting options, but it’s nice to have something simple and fast.

How and when should you check your cameras? Some say you must wait a certain time span and check them at a specific time of day, but every situation is different. In some instances, you may need to check them every day or every other day. Under other scenarios, you may want to wait a week to 10 days or more before you check them. Variables would be the time of year, location of the camera(s), what you’re trying to do with your camera, how you’re checking the cameras, weather conditions and more. The idea is to check or move your cameras when you will disturb the area the least.

Since an ATV or some farm vehicles are less intrusive than a person on foot, some choose to mount their cameras so they can drive right next to the camera to switch out SD cards. This is less of a disturbance than walking in on foot because whitetails will stay bedded and will tolerate the vehicle passing by, but a person on foot would bump them to the next property. If you’re able to drive right to your camera, you also leave much less human scent in the area.

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

Ag Insight

by Jim Erickson

Number of female veterans in rural areas growing

The demographics of rural veterans are shifting as an increasing number of women serve and retire from the military.

Since the change from a conscription-based military to an all-volunteer force in 1973, the presence of women in the military has grown from less than 2 percent of active duty personnel to more than 14 percent and the share of female veterans has steadily increased.

In rural (non-metro) counties, their share more than doubled from the end of Gulf War I (1990-1991) to the present, rising from 3 percent in 1992 to 6.3 percent in 2013, the most recent year for which data is available.

More than 40 percent of rural female veterans served during Gulf Wars I and II (2003-2011), compared with less than 5 percent of rural male veterans, reflecting a more youthful rural female veteran population. In 2013, 55 percent of rural female veterans were under the age of 55 compared to 26 percent of rural male veterans.

U.S. vegetable imports increase as demand grows

As U.S. demand for fresh vegetables has grown, production also has risen; but imports have increased even more.

According to the USDA’s Economic Research Service, U.S. production of fresh vegetables has grown over the past several decades. However, it has not kept pace with domestic consumption that has increased due to an expanding population and higher per capita use.

As a result, the nation has been a net importer of fresh vegetables since 1969 (except for 1981). After 1990, the rate at which imports have grown has been especially notable, and, since 2010, approximately 25 percent of the fresh vegetable supply utilized in the United States has been imported.

The value of fresh vegetable imports exceeded exports by almost $4.3 billion in 2014.

ERS says the share of imports in domestic use continues to grow in response to multiple factors, including supply gaps, increased awareness of vegetables as a part of healthy diets, desire for year-round variety of fresh vegetables and increased demand for new products.

Exports have remained a relatively small share of U.S. fresh vegetable production. Average volume exported as a share of production peaked in the 1990s and the share exported to all countries fell approximately 3 percent in 2014 compared to the previous year. Onions and lettuce continue to dominate fresh vegetable exports.

Food program helps 3.6 million children

More than 3.6 million children in child care centers and family day care homes received nutritious meals and snacks through USDAs Child and Adult Care Food Program in fiscal 2014.

The number of children served is up 33 percent from the 2.7 million the program helped in fiscal 2000. CACFP provides increased access to healthy meals throughout the day to children at child care centers, family day care homes, shelters and afterschool care programs.

In January 2015, USDA proposed new nutrition standards for CACFP meals, the first change to meal standards since the program’s inception in 1968. The proposed standards require meals to include a larger variety of fruits and vegetables, more whole grains, and less sugar and fat.

New approach planned for rural development efforts

A plan for implementing a Farm Bill provision is expected to have a major policy impact on the way the USDA helps rural communities plan and finance regional economic development strategies.

The new Regional Development Priority policy will make it easier for rural communities to access resources to invest in long-term community development efforts by giving priority to applications for programs including regional partnerships and strategies.

"Regional planning maximizes the effectiveness of our investments in rural America," USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said in announcing the new policy. "When communities come together to share resources, ideas and expertise, they can develop a cohesive economy strategy and invest in their future. With a strategy in place, USDA-funded projects can spur regional economic transformation, increase job opportunities and improve quality of life for rural communities."

Under the RDP, communities with multi-jurisdictional economic development plans will be able to request funding priority when they apply for loans and grants in four key USDA programs, including those for community facilities; business and industry loan guarantees; and water, environmental and rural business development grants.

Applicants seeking priority consideration will be judged by: 1) How well their funding request supports a region’s existing development plan; and 2) how well the plan addresses regional collaboration and considers other funding sources including philanthropic groups and other federal agencies.

Projects that receive funding will be based on locally identified needs and growth strategies capitalizing upon a region’s unique strengths.

More peanut growers using precision ag practices

The number of U.S. peanut growers who have adopted precision agriculture practices has increased considerably in recent years, according to the latest Agricultural Resource Management Survey conducted by USDA.

In interviews with farmers about production practices, resource use and finances, the survey showed that 42 percent of peanut farms were using auto-steer or guidance systems, up from 5 percent in 2006. These systems can reduce stress for operators and limit the over-application of inputs on field edges.

Yield monitors and yield maps, with essentially no usage in 2006, were used on 8 and 6 percent of farms, respectively, the survey revealed. With these technologies, monitors can identify within-field yield variations so farmers can adjust inputs and practices accordingly.

The use of variable-rate application that has increased from 3 to 22 percent of farms allows for the adjustment of fertilizer application over a field so fertilizer can be applied where and when it is needed, thus reducing costs and being more environmentally friendly.

U.S. sweet potato production hits record high

U.S. sweet potato production reached a record high of 29 million hundredweight (cwt) in 2014, extending production gains that have continued for more than 15 years.

Since 1971, North Carolina has been the top sweet potato producer in the United States, and in 2014 it produced 53 percent of all sweet potatoes grown in this country. The 185-percent increase in North Carolina’s production since 2000 has led the growth of the U.S. sweet potato industry, but production has expanded in many other states, including California (where production has doubled since 2000) and Mississippi (where production is up by 155 percent).

Financial help available for organic certification

The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service has announced that some $11.9 million in organic certification assistance is available through state departments of agriculture to make certification more affordable for organic producers and handlers across the country.

According to USDA figures, the organic industry saw record growth in 2014, accounting for over $39 billion in U.S. retail sales.

The funding is provided on a cost-share basis and certification assistance is distributed by two programs. Through the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program, $11 million is available to organic farms and businesses nationwide. The Agricultural Management Assistance Organic Certification Cost Share Program makes an additional $900,000 available, but only in a few states of which Alabama is one.

The programs provide cost share assistance to USDA certified organic producers and handlers, covering as much as 75 percent of an individual applicant’s certification costs, up to a maximum of $750 annually per certification scope. In 2014, USDA issued nearly 10,000 reimbursements totaling over $6 million.

To receive cost share assistance, certified organic producers and handlers should contact their appropriate state agencies via the contact information on the National Organic Program’s cost share website:

Each state has its own guidelines and requirements for reimbursement and NOP assists states in implementing the programs.

Ag Pact with Cuba

Auburn’s College of Agriculture signs academic exchange partnership with Cuban institutions.

Less than six months after the United States announced plans to restore diplomatic and economic ties with Cuba, the Auburn University College of Agriculture has entered a historic partnership with the Agrarian University of Havana and the Cuban National Center for Animal and Plant Health paving the way for faculty and student exchange programs and collaborative research efforts between Auburn agriculture and the Cuban institutions.

The 5-year international academic interchange agreement that administrators from the three entities formally signed May 21 in Varadero, Cuba, was the culmination of a process that got underway more than 5 years ago, when faculty and administrators in the College of Agriculture began working to establish academic relationships with the communist island. Henry Fadamiro, College of Agriculture assistant dean and Office of Global Programs director, signed the treaty on behalf of the college and Auburn.

The treaty is one of the first such agreements between Cuba and an American university since the United States imposed the Cuban trade embargo in 1962. It is the first in agriculture.

"For the Cubans and for the College of Agriculture and Auburn University, this is monumental," Fadamiro said. "This means that now we are in a position to take advantage of the opportunities to work with Cuba as equal partners."

Activities authorized in the agreement include faculty, staff and student exchange programs; joint research, teaching and Extension projects; graduate and undergraduate coursework at both universities; special short-term courses; and cultural exchange undertakings.

"With this treaty and the recent removal of Cuba from the U.S. terror list, we can take our students there, we can work with their faculty in research, and, for the first time, we can bring their students and faculty here," Fadamiro explained. "They have much to learn from us, and we have much we can learn from them."

The agreement also provides the legal framework for expansion of the academic collaboration with Cuba to other colleges and programs at Auburn, Fadamiro said.

"Not only that, but it sets the stage for the State of Alabama and the nation of Cuba to begin a relationship that can be huge economically, here and in Cuba," he added.

Other Auburn faculty attending the signing ceremony with Fadamiro were Associate Professor Brenda Ortiz in the Department of Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences and Cuba-native Rodrigo Rodriguez-Kabana, distinguished university professor emeritus of plant pathology, who was in Varadero, too, for the 47th annual meeting of the Organization of Nematologists of Tropical America.

Fadamiro said that, over the past 5 years, several College of Agriculture faculty members have played crucial roles in laying the groundwork for and eventually securing the academic agreement. In addition to Rodriguez-Kabana and Ortiz, Guertal and Department Head and Professor Emeritus Joe Touchton, both in crop, soil and environmental sciences, and Agricultural Economics Professor Joe Molnar all were highly instrumental in the effort. Bill Batchelor, former College of Agriculture dean, also was extremely supportive of the effort, Fadamiro said.

Key to the success, however, was Rodriguez-Kabana and the level of trust he has attained among Cubans, Fadamiro said. Rodriguez-Kabana was the invited speaker in the scientific meeting’s closing session and, following his remarks, the Cuban Nematological Society presented the 75-year-old Auburn nematologist a special award for his ongoing efforts over the past 30 years to foster relations between the United States and Cuba.

Agricultural Ignorance

by Baxter Black, DVM

The editor of the Delmarva Farmer made the observation that Americans, as a whole, have reached the Age of Agricultural Ignorance. This stage in our civilization is a direct result of the lack of "kids growing up on the farm."

There are many reasons for them leaving; one of the greatest being that farming requires manual labor. As our country has progressed, each generation was drawn to professions demanding less and less physical exertion. A perfect example is the importation of foreign labor to do the grunt work. Grandparents and parents crossed the border to work in the fields. They, themselves, were close to the land and understood farming. But, when they raised their children, they deliberately discouraged them from working in agriculture.

In the last five generations in the United States, we have whittled down the percent of the population engaged in production agriculture from 25 percent in 1933 to less than 2 percent today.

So what? Using modern agriculture practices, the reality is that 2 percent is enough to feed everyone else. It’s an amazing accomplishment that is now taken for granted. However, there is an accompanying negative progression contributing to the Age of Agricultural Ignorance. It is the expanding ignorance of science. Today in the United States, 50 percent of all post-graduate degrees in science-based curriculums are earned by students who are foreign-born. "Science based" include subjects such as math, chemistry, engineering, medicine, physics and agriculture. Political science and economics are not sciences.

What those of us in agriculture find hard to believe is that, according to popular culture, we are not doing a good job. The community of denigrators accuses farmers of misuse of animals, land and our environment. They are innocently supported by an ignorant media (journalism is not a science) that is incapable of evaluating information such as statistical significance, withholding times, FDA requirements and the writing on the back of a bottle.

I grant that they get a disproportionate amount of the front-page scares and the denigrators stir up contributions to their anti-farming causes and the gutless media-sensitive politicians (lawyery is not a science) and pop stars are no help, but ….

Dwarfing their squealing, the landslide of food production roars down through the planting, harvest, transportation, preparation and consumption of what we choose to eat. The food chain never stops. It is feeding 320 million people in the United States daily, plus furnishing $45 billion worth of food exports (2013).

One might conclude that America’s horn of plenty will survive as long as foreign-born students help us continue to technically and biologically streamline farming, and as long as foreign-born laborers who are willing to pick up a shovel or drive a tractor keep immigrating that we will not go hungry … a sad conclusion.

Then again, there might be a renaissance of 21st Century Agricultural Awareness where farmers and ranchers will be recognized for their contribution and treated like royalty - in the league of astronauts, Heisman Trophy winners or even Oscar winners!

Hey, you never know. Hunger is a powerful influence.

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,

An “Open Window”

Josh and Beth Hornsby took a leap of faith when they exchanged a paycheck for full-time farming, but have never regretted it.

by Christy Kirk

Lately I have been hearing the same saying over and over: "When God closes a door, He opens a window." A friend of mine recently said that for quite a while she had felt like something just wasn’t quite right in her life. She began to pray about how she felt and asked God to help her see what she wasn’t seeing. She wasn’t sure if she had made the right choices in her career or in her role as a working mother, but she knew that where she was wasn’t a truly comfortable fit.

She prayed for about five months and then a door in her career suddenly closed. She was shaken by the abruptness of it, but still felt in her heart that there was somewhere else she should be and something else she should be doing. Quickly, but with a lot of faith, she considered her options.

Levi, left, and Sully Hornsby enjoy “helping” in the fields.

It wasn’t long before a window of opportunity opened just as suddenly. The place where she got her new job had not even had a vacancy when she first started to pray about her concerns. If she had not been in the mindset to look for a new opportunity, she might have missed it. It turned out the perfect place for her had not even been created yet.

"When God closes a door, He opens a window." The problem with the saying is that you can’t always tell where an open window is. Decisions about your career, lifestyle or health can be hard to make, especially in times of transition or loss. You may not be able to distinguish a good opportunity from a dismal dead end, but what about when you intentionally open your own window? How do you know when you are no longer "in your element," and how do you plan for long-term transformation, especially when you have a family to feed?

These questions brought to mind a farm family here in our community. Josh and Beth Hornsby own Hornsby Farms in Little Texas. In 2009, they decided to use their own garden to start a little farm stand as a side venture to supplement their income. With the stand, Beth could stay home and raise their first child Sully. Each year the business grew a little more and, with the birth of their second son Levi in 2013, they started looking at their options.

Josh had been working as a wild-land firefighter and was hardly ever home because of his job. A salaried government position may seem like an obvious choice when weighing the options for long-term family security, but both Josh and Beth knew that something had to change to make their situation better.

They considered their collective skills and financial needs, but they also talked about what kind of work actually made them happy. They really enjoyed feeding the community, growing delicious fruits and vegetables, and preserving their harvest. After countless hours of prayer and conversations between the two of them, they decided to take a leap of faith. Josh left his job and they began farming full-time in February 2014.

They definitely missed the consistency of having a set paycheck every two weeks, and saving for the leaner months is crucial to the long-term financial stability of the farm. But they knew they have made the best choice for their family.

"Income fluctuates throughout the seasons and some months are leaner than others, but we have a roof over our heads, food in our bellies, and we are happy and healthy," Beth said.

Josh and Beth have created a balance of duties based on their talents and abilities, so that both their farm and family can thrive. Josh grew up farming alongside his father and combined that knowledge with his degree in horticulture from Auburn University. He handles most of the major field decisions and all of the tractor work. Beth has been able to put her business degree and marketing background to use by handling all aspects of marketing for the farm. They share many of the daily duties such as picking and deliveries, and Beth cans a variety of jams, pepper jellies, pickled items and tomatoes. Their boys have been included in every step of their farming journey, making them a true farm family.

Although Josh had prior experience with farming, Beth said there is always something new they can learn about farming. In the off-season, they travel all over the Southeast for agricultural conferences. Being able to connect with other farmers has helped them improve their growing methods, educate themselves on new research regarding farming equipment and sustainable farming practices, and share ideas for new methods that might work best for their own farm and land.

The biggest surprise for the Hornsbys about transitioning into full-time farming has been how receptive the community has been to what they are doing. From the early years of the little farm stand, Hornsby Farms has grown tremendously in the past year. Josh and Beth believe it is due to a great support system existing within the community. The demand for fresh locally grown fruits and vegetables has grown and community support and encouragement has made the business a success.

Beth shared that they had days where they didn’t know if they could work another minute because they were dog tired or because they would lie in bed at night worrying about finances. The excitement she and Josh share as they talk about their adventures with people in the community and the pure joy they feel when watching their boys help in the fields have kept them motivated and positive. They still have days where they think they can’t work anymore, but they know when you farm it is part of the deal.

Although it can be very stressful, farming has given Josh and Beth a renewed sense of faith.

"We aren’t guaranteed tomorrow’s harvest, and we trust God will provide. Being able to work together as a family is a huge blessing, and we couldn’t imagine it any other way," Beth said.

Knowing you are working to grow food for the community as well as your family’s next meal can make it all worthwhile.

One of the things Josh and Beth wish they had known before starting to farm full-time is that they could actually do it. They took a chance on their future with a lot of trust in each other and a strong belief that God had a plan in mind to take care of them. Every day they talk about how they wish they had transitioned much sooner. Their family’s financial security was not guaranteed when Josh left his firefighter job, but their hard work and faith in each other shows that you can find your window of opportunity, if you look for it.

Strawberry Lemonade

½ cup water
½ cup sugar
½ cup Hornsby Farms Strawberry Jam
1 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
Lemon, sliced

Heat water and add sugar, stir until dissolved. Add jam and lemon juice. Mix together. Add ice and enjoy! Use lemon slices to garnish.

Note: This is delicious!

Brown Sugar Squashinni

1 squash, sliced or diced
1 zucchini, sliced or diced
1 Tablespoon butter
Salt, dash
1 Tablespoon brown sugar

Place squash and zucchini in skillet with butter, salt and brown sugar. (To make more, just double the batch accordingly.) Sauté until squash and zucchini are tender and there is a nice glaze going with the butter and brown sugar. Usually takes 5-10 minutes depending on how veggies are cut.

Note: A Hornsby family favorite!! We struggle to find new ways to eat all our veggies and created a tasty side that we all love!

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

Antibiotics or Anti-Antibiotics

An Overview of the FDA Veterinary Feed Directive

by Dr. Tony Frazier

For anyone who is inclined to pay attention to it, there is a debate raging on about the use of antibiotics in food animals. As I listen, and sometimes engage in the debate, I am reminded of a story of a little boy whose parents didn’t attend church regularly, but the neighbors always took the little boy. One Sunday when the little boy got home from church, the dad asked him what they preached about that day. The boy informed his dad that the sermon was on sin. When the dad further inquired as to what they had to say about sin, the little boy thought for a bit and said, "They’re against it."

I think most of us would say we are against disease. However, there is a slice of the population who believes that "antibiotics" is a four-letter word, at least when they are used on food animals. As a veterinarian involved in animal agriculture, I would like to think my position on the use of antibiotics in food animals is based on sound science. So, if you are like the little boy’s dad, wondering where I stand on the use of antibiotics in food animals – "I’m for it."

Now, having said that, I am not for the indiscriminant use of antibiotics in food animals. To say that any unrestricted use of antibiotics in food animals or any other creature, including humans, is also wrong. In fact, to hold the position that indiscriminant use of antibiotics in food animals is okay is just as wrong as the position of all antibiotic use in food animals is a bad thing.

Antibiotics are truly miracle drugs. It is interesting that when I search the Internet for "reasons the life expectancy is increasing in developed countries," I find one of the leading factors is the ability to fight infectious disease. If we look back at the leading causes of death a century or two ago, we find that infectious and parasitic diseases topped the list. Today, heart disease and cancer figure prominently into the leading causes of death. Maybe that is because people used to not live long enough to develop heart disease and cancer. I realize that clean drinking water, safer food and vaccinations have contributed to the decrease in the number of people who die from infectious diseases. But I also think the discovery, development and use of antibiotics has greatly contributed to the decreasing number of deaths from infectious diseases.

Part of the friction about using antibiotics in food animals is the premise that they help create bacteria resistant to antibiotics and, when they are needed to treat human diseases, they won’t work because of their use in cattle, swine and poultry. That is a concern we are not only aware of but also take steps to guard against. First, there are a large number of human antibiotics not even available for food animals. Also, many of the antibiotics used in food animals are not used in human medicine. Additionally, most antibiotics are restricted to use under the direction of a licensed veterinarian. In the past, back in the 1900s, there were several antibiotics for animal use also available over the counter. Those over-the-counter antibiotics are becoming more and more scarce. In fact, I believe we are moving in a direction that will likely see over-the-counter antibiotics go the way of the dinosaur. In just a minute I will discuss the Food and Drug Administration Veterinary Feed Directive that I think supports my prediction.

Before I talk about feed directives, I want to touch on drug withdrawal times and how they are monitored. First, every drug, antibiotic or other classification, approved for food-animal use has a withdrawal time. It is printed right on the label. To assure compliance with drug-withdrawal times, animals are randomly tested for antibiotic residues at harvest. According to people who know a lot more about statistics than me, if you test a certain number of randomly selected samples, you can have a 95-99 percent confidence level that if antibiotic withdrawal times have not been observed, it will be caught. I think that’s pretty good because I can go days without being 95 percent confident of very many things. Anyway, they also do "for cause" residue testing. That would be for animals appearing to have new injection sites or exhibiting signs that would cause suspicion of recent antibiotic or other drug use. If antibiotic residues are found, then a trace-back is done to determine who did not observe the withdrawal time. Then you get on the FDA’s you-know-what list, a place you do not want to be. Initially there is an effort to educate the producer. However, if the situation appears that a producer was not just ignorant of the withdrawal regulation but ignoring it, the penalties can become much more formidable.

The FDA is also making some changes in policy addressing the use of antibiotics in food animals. Regulatory guidance is being put into place requiring antibiotics used in feed be accompanied by a veterinary feed directive. Antibiotics that have, in the past, been available over the counter to put in animal feed will transition to now requiring a veterinary feed directive very specific in the use of the antibiotic. It requires a veterinary-client-patient relationship where the veterinarian has specific knowledge of the animals being fed the medicated feed. It also requires specific records be maintained. The thought behind a move in this direction is that medically important drugs used in food-producing animals be limited to assuring the health of the animals and be limited to those uses that include veterinary oversight and consultation.

Finally, as I consider the subject of antibiotic use in food animals, I believe it is inhumane to allow animals to suffer from infectious diseases when it is within the science-based regulations and guidelines to treat those animals. When we graduate as veterinarians, we take an oath:

"Being admitted to the profession of veterinary medicine, I solemnly swear to use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health, the relief of animal suffering, the conservation of livestock resources, the promotion of public health and the advancement of medical knowledge. I will practice my profession conscientiously, with dignity and in keeping with the principles of veterinary medical ethics. I accept as a lifelong obligation the continual improvement of my professional knowledge and competence."

I don’t think I can live up to the part about "protection of animal health, the relief of animal suffering and the conservation of livestock resources"without the judicious use of antibiotics.

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

Changing of the Guard

What does this hold for the future of hunting and fishing?

by Corky Pugh

Exodus of the Baby Boomers

State fish and wildlife agencies across the nation are experiencing the exodus of the baby-boomer generation of employees, with a resultant huge loss of institutional knowledge and memory. Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division is certainly no exception.

The phenomenon has been documented by Dr. Steve L. McMullin of Virginia Tech through survey research of natural resource agencies and their employees. McMullin and others provided enough insight about the trend to gain the attention of natural resources leaders, who recognized the implications for the future.

In the words of founders of the National Conservation Leadership Institute, "We are in a new era – a time in which organizational guardians of our natural resources legacy find themselves facing unprecedented challenges in a rapidly changing landscape. These challenges are exacerbated by the immense leadership void created from vast numbers of retiring baby boomers."

Established in 2005, NCLI is an intensive, world-class leadership development program offered annually to a select group of 36 professionals from natural resources-related organizations. Through the years, Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division has been fortunate enough to have several candidates accepted for NCLI fellowship.

Additionally, the division has invested heavily in leadership development at all levels of NCLI, utilizing the services of the Management Assistance Team that provides consulting services in a highly cost-effective manner to all 50 states.

Change can be good, but …

Change is inevitable and can be good, when undertaken in an orderly way. Incremental change through adaptation and constant innovation and improvement results in smooth sailing through the turbulent waters of time. By contrast, abrupt, quantum change can be highly disruptive.

Legions of professional employees of state fish and wildlife agencies will retire in the years leading up to 2020. These are the employees who worked through the formative years when science-based wildlife management combined with effective law enforcement restored wildlife populations to sustainable levels. The relative abundance we now enjoy is a result of their work.

Because of the hiring of a generation of employees as the field of work emerged, combined with the typical long-term careers of those who chose to work in the wildlife conservation field, there has been no precedent for the kind of loss now occurring.

Frontline Employees are Most Important

Always on guard against taking myself too seriously, I never operated under the illusion that people really cared who occupied the director’s position in Montgomery. Hunters, fishermen and landowners do care a great deal, though, about whom their conservation enforcement officers, wildlife biologists and fisheries biologists are across the state.

These frontline employees are the ones who touch people in a tangible way at the local level where it matters. These employees are the most important people in the division. And many are reaching retirement age and moving on.

No one is indispensable. And younger employees sometimes bring new ideas and heightened energy … sometimes.

Based on the better part of two decades of experience working with the most committed people on Earth, I know that there is not always a correlation between age and get-up-and-go. Because of their love for what they do, many if not most employees of the Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division finish strong, with as much dedication the day they retire as they had the day they were hired.

Experience has taught them how to work smart, making the most of their available time, doing the things that matter most in terms of the well-being of the resource and the best interests of recreational users.

More Complex than Brain Drain

The brain drain occurring with the retirement of legions of seasoned employees is bad enough in and of itself. However, the problem is far more complex than this.

While the generation of biologists we are losing was focused on practical wildlife management, universities are now graduating students with more of an ecological focus, be it right or wrong.

The seasoned, veteran enforcement officers, most a serious game law violator’s worst nightmare, are carrying with them hard-earned, firsthand knowledge of how game thieves, poachers, night hunters and baiters operate.

Most present-day biologists and officers grew up in the woods and hunted and fished before they came to work for the division. By contrast, many of today’s young people have not had the benefit of these experiences.

The purpose here is not to bash younger people for their lack of experience or understanding. It is not their fault that our society has become more urban with fewer opportunities for finding your way around in the woods without signage and arrows to point the way.

The challenge is growing greater for natural-resource agencies to find qualified candidates who have a base of understanding about hunting and fishing. And certainly, there is a general lack of knowledge that hunters and anglers pay for management and protection of fish and wildlife resources through license purchases and matching dollars derived from sales of hunting and fishing equipment.

This bodes poorly for the future, and it goes beyond a lack of context and understanding. In the blink of an eye, today’s frontline conservation enforcement officer or biologist will be tomorrow’s agency administrator.

If tomorrow’s fish and wildlife agency administrators do not understand and value our role as hunters and anglers, what does this hold for the future of hunting and fishing?

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

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

Changing of the Guard

What does this hold for the future of hunting and fishing?

by Corky Pugh

Exodus of the Baby Boomers

State fish and wildlife agencies across the nation are experiencing the exodus of the baby-boomer generation of employees, with a resultant huge loss of institutional knowledge and memory. Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division is certainly no exception.

The phenomenon has been documented by Dr. Steve L. McMullin of Virginia Tech through survey research of natural resource agencies and their employees. McMullin and others provided enough insight about the trend to gain the attention of natural resources leaders, who recognized the implications for the future.

In the words of founders of the National Conservation Leadership Institute, "We are in a new era – a time in which organizational guardians of our natural resources legacy find themselves facing unprecedented challenges in a rapidly changing landscape. These challenges are exacerbated by the immense leadership void created from vast numbers of retiring baby boomers."

Established in 2005, NCLI is an intensive, world-class leadership development program offered annually to a select group of 36 professionals from natural resources-related organizations. Through the years, Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division has been fortunate enough to have several candidates accepted for NCLI fellowship.

Additionally, the division has invested heavily in leadership development at all levels of NCLI, utilizing the services of the Management Assistance Team that provides consulting services in a highly cost-effective manner to all 50 states.

Change can be good, but …

Change is inevitable and can be good, when undertaken in an orderly way. Incremental change through adaptation and constant innovation and improvement results in smooth sailing through the turbulent waters of time. By contrast, abrupt, quantum change can be highly disruptive.

Legions of professional employees of state fish and wildlife agencies will retire in the years leading up to 2020. These are the employees who worked through the formative years when science-based wildlife management combined with effective law enforcement restored wildlife populations to sustainable levels. The relative abundance we now enjoy is a result of their work.

Because of the hiring of a generation of employees as the field of work emerged, combined with the typical long-term careers of those who chose to work in the wildlife conservation field, there has been no precedent for the kind of loss now occurring.

Frontline Employees are Most Important

Always on guard against taking myself too seriously, I never operated under the illusion that people really cared who occupied the director’s position in Montgomery. Hunters, fishermen and landowners do care a great deal, though, about whom their conservation enforcement officers, wildlife biologists and fisheries biologists are across the state.

These frontline employees are the ones who touch people in a tangible way at the local level where it matters. These employees are the most important people in the division. And many are reaching retirement age and moving on.

No one is indispensable. And younger employees sometimes bring new ideas and heightened energy … sometimes.

Based on the better part of two decades of experience working with the most committed people on Earth, I know that there is not always a correlation between age and get-up-and-go. Because of their love for what they do, many if not most employees of the Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division finish strong, with as much dedication the day they retire as they had the day they were hired.

Experience has taught them how to work smart, making the most of their available time, doing the things that matter most in terms of the well-being of the resource and the best interests of recreational users.

More Complex than Brain Drain

The brain drain occurring with the retirement of legions of seasoned employees is bad enough in and of itself. However, the problem is far more complex than this.

While the generation of biologists we are losing was focused on practical wildlife management, universities are now graduating students with more of an ecological focus, be it right or wrong.

The seasoned, veteran enforcement officers, most a serious game law violator’s worst nightmare, are carrying with them hard-earned, firsthand knowledge of how game thieves, poachers, night hunters and baiters operate.

Most present-day biologists and officers grew up in the woods and hunted and fished before they came to work for the division. By contrast, many of today’s young people have not had the benefit of these experiences.

The purpose here is not to bash younger people for their lack of experience or understanding. It is not their fault that our society has become more urban with fewer opportunities for finding your way around in the woods without signage and arrows to point the way.

The challenge is growing greater for natural-resource agencies to find qualified candidates who have a base of understanding about hunting and fishing. And certainly, there is a general lack of knowledge that hunters and anglers pay for management and protection of fish and wildlife resources through license purchases and matching dollars derived from sales of hunting and fishing equipment.

This bodes poorly for the future, and it goes beyond a lack of context and understanding. In the blink of an eye, today’s frontline conservation enforcement officer or biologist will be tomorrow’s agency administrator.

If tomorrow’s fish and wildlife agency administrators do not understand and value our role as hunters and anglers, what does this hold for the future of hunting and fishing?

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

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

Corn Time


Decatur’s New Police Boat

The 25-foot purpose-built mission specific RIBCraft will be used by the Decatur Police Department for tactical operations and on water patrols. The new RIB will enable Decatur Police to fulfill technical rescue and hazardous materials mitigation. It comes thanks to a federal grant and lots of donations from the River City’s business community, of which Alabama Farmers Cooperative was one. Pictured from left are Sgt. Mike Cowart; Lt. Jeremy Hayes; Samantha Carpenter, AFC; Walt Black, AFC; and Chief Ed Taylor.


Eating It Up

Glenda Rotton, left, cooks a pot of Little Lady Finger peas and butterbeans as Dora Cole watches. She cooks them together to achieve a special flavor that’s not possible when the vegetables are cooked separately. She says there’s no comparison between mixing the vegetables on the plate and cooking them together.

Lifelong friends Dora Cole and Glenda Rotton enjoy talking, cooking and singing on their cable tv show “Dora & Glenda Dish It Out.”

by Jaine Treadwell

Thomas Roughton was hauling video recording equipment into the kitchen for the taping of the next segment of the "Dora & Glenda Dish It Out" cable TV show.

Glenda was at the stove stirring a pot of Lady Finger peas and butterbeans. Dora was topping pears with mayonnaise and shredded cheese, the kind that comes already shredded and packaged.

The cat went out the door as the preacher came in.

"Forgot my mandolin," the preacher said as he went back out and the cat came back in.

"Oh, Dora! Don’t do that," Glenda said as she spanked Dora’s hand that was reaching for the sugar dish.

"Everything’s better with a pinch of sugar," Dora said, intent on adding "just a pinch" to Glenda’s cook pot.

Glenda kept Dora at bay by putting the lid on the pot.

Dora, center, and Glenda both sing in the choir at East Side Baptist Church and were members of a gospel singing group. They said their favorite place to sing, other than church, is in the kitchen. Rev. Ed Shirley accompanies them on the mandolin or the guitar. Sometimes they sing prayerfully. Sometimes they sing joyfully. Sometimes they sing off key. Sometimes they let the preacher sing along.

"I don’t want even a pinch of sugar in my vegetables. Go away," Glenda told her.

Glenda Rotton and Dora Cole have been friends "forever" so they can talk to each other that way.

The "Dora & Glenda Dish It Out" cooking show is a new venture for the lifelong friends. But cooking has been a lifetime calling for both.

"Oh, we’ve been cooking all our lives," Glenda said. "We both owned restaurants here in Union Springs for years and years. My husband and I owned the Country Kitchen out on Highway 82 for 35 years. Dora owned the Tip Top Café in town for about 20 years. Is that right, Dora?"

Glenda said the Country Kitchen got its start as a snack bar serving mainly chicken and burgers.

"Then we expanded to a full family restaurant, serving meats, vegetables and desserts," she said. "Later, we added a grocery store so you could come eat with us or buy groceries and cook yourself."

The Tip Top Café also started small and stayed small for a while.

"The Tip Top was mainly a barbecue place," Dora said. "We had pit-cooked pork and chicken, and served it with the best slaw anywhere. We had sandwiches and plates, too."

Thomas Roughton, producer of “Dora & Glenda Dish It Out,” goes on location to tape the popular cooking show featuring Dora Cole and Glenda Rotton. Both owned and operated restaurants in Union Springs for several decades. They are well known for their expertise in the kitchen.

The owner of the Tip Top Café building was impressed by Dora’s work ethic so he took down the firewall between the café and the adjoining building so she could expand her restaurant.

"A bunch of the men liked to come to the café early and drink coffee, but I didn’t always get there as early as they wanted," Dora said. "So, I just started leaving them the key. They would go on in and have the coffee ready when I got there."

Glenda and Dora agreed that men can outdo women when it comes to gossiping.

"Whoever says men don’t gossip is wrong," Dora said, laughing. "I’ll vouch for that."

Neither admitted to doing any gossiping themselves - nor did they deny it.

Although they both owned restaurants in a small town known as the bird dog capital of the universe, Glenda and Dora didn’t consider themselves competitors.

"I was out on the highway and Dora was in town," Glenda said. "We didn’t compete. We didn’t have to."

Due to health and circumstances, Dora closed her restaurant in 1986 and Glenda in 1991.

"We both wish we were in the restaurant business right now," Glenda said. "It was hard work, but we loved it."

Both women love to sing, too, and are "pretty good at it." They are members of the East Side Baptist Church and were members of the East Side Harmony gospel singers.

When Thomas Roughton approached Dora and Glenda last year about doing a talk show on N-Focus Productions, they didn’t hesitate. They were always ready for new adventures.

"The show was called ‘Remember When’ and we just talked about things that happened long ago - the cotton mills, grist mills, working in the fields," Dora said. "The thing was we just never got through talking. We sang a little, too."

Now, with the new cooking show, "Dora & Glenda Dish It Out," the friends can talk, sing and cook. The three things they love to do.

"Oh, we have a big time," Glenda said. "We cook and talk while we cook and then we invite someone to come to the table and eat and tell how good our cooking is."

Dora and Glenda don’t always agree on the "how to" of the cooking and they each give their opinion and let folks make up their own minds.

The banter between the two "makes the show," the producer said. "They are fun ladies."

The real bone of contention between the two is that pinch of sugar Dora puts in everything.

"I do not want sugar in my vegetables except the turnips if they are bitter," Glenda said, then jumping from sugar to potatoes. "But, you can put an Irish potato in greens to take the bitterness out. I’d rather do that than add sugar."

Dora said a pinch of sugar makes anything better, and then she jumped to potatoes.

"If you put in too much salt, add a potato and the potato will take the salt right out," she explained.

"A potato won’t take the sugar out," Glenda said.

The Rev. Ed Shirley, pastor of Brundidge United Methodist Church, was the guest of Glenda and Dora and sat down to a chicken salad plate and a side of pear salad Dora had prepared.

As Dora forked the chicken salad onto the preacher’s plate, Glenda quipped that she needed a spoon.

"I didn’t see a spoon," Dora said.

"There was one by the fork," Glenda said to which Dora paid no attention.

Dora decided to make the preacher a chicken salad sandwich "to go." She went off camera to get another plate. Roughton tried to chase her with the camera. Glenda laughed and went to check on her oven-fried okra and her vegetable combo.

Dora was in the sugar dish.

"Oh, Dora," Glenda said.

The preacher took out his mandolin and the segment closed with the trio singing, "How Beautiful Heaven Must Be."

Roughton called "cut" and another segment of Dora and Glenda was wrapped up.

The "Dora & Glenda Dish It Out" and Country "Fried" Singing show airs at 5 p.m. Sundays on Direct TV Channel 29 and on the Dish. The show is a production of N-Focus, Thomas Roughton, CEO.

Jaine Treadwell is a freelance writer from Brundidge.

Fueling a Passion

Rachel Berube, left, an Auburn University College of Agriculture student, receives one of the scholarships from the Successful Women in Agriculture donor society. Amanda Nims, center, and Amanda Martin, co-founders of the society, present the scholarship.

Successful Women in Agriculture is a new AU donor society offering support for females in a male-dominated field.

by Michelle Bufkin

It is not uncommon to hear that farming is a predominantly male field, but in recent years women’s participation in farming has increased. According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, 30 percent of farmers in the United States are females. That means there are 3.2 million female farmers. There are also more women studying agriculture at land-grant universities. Auburn University is now 55 percent female. To increase these numbers and to provide support to these women, Amanda Martin and Amanda Nims started the Successful Women in Agriculture donor society. The society will help women network and become successful agricultural leaders.

The Successful Women in Agriculture donor society began in the fall of 2014 with the main purpose of providing scholarships to young women in the College of Agriculture. Successful Women in Agriculture also wanted to help connect students with established female leaders in the agricultural industry. In the first year of the program, the society had 40 donors and organized two large events. The fall event featured a leadership panel discussion and a lunch where students and donors could network. The spring event was a luncheon where two $1,000 scholarships were awarded to female students in the College of Agriculture. Future plans for the society are to establish an online member directory to help students and members stay in contact and network. Martin is also hoping to plan and implement a professional development conference for the coming year.

Students and donors network through a horticulture workshop at the spring luncheon.

"We hope to continue growing our membership to have the opportunity to offer more scholarships for our students. We also hope to support our female leaders in the college by connecting them with professional mentors who will help cultivate their career goals," said Martin, student recruitment and alumni relations coordinator for the College of Agriculture at Auburn.

The mission of Successful Women in Agriculture is to guide, mentor and provide financial support to young ladies as they prepare to work in a traditionally male-dominated field. And student participants and donors believe that is exactly what it has done in its inaugural year as a society.

"The College of Agriculture is committed to the professional development of our students and is always looking for new industry partners to assist with these efforts. The growing number of women in agriculture makes organizations like this one important," said Dr. Paul Patterson, associate dean for instruction at the College of Agriculture.

Participants see Successful Women in Agriculture as more than a donor society; they envision it as an opportunity to network and receive advice from strong leaders in the agriculture field.

"Hearing from Dr. Christy Bratcher and Grace Smith Ellis speak on difficulties they’ve faced in the workplace and how they’ve learned to be successful has made me a stronger female leader and will help me when I join the workforce next summer," said Marlee Moore, agricultural communications student.

Donors not only provided sound life advice to students, they also helped fuel each other’s passion for the industry they share.

"As a new graduate taking my first steps into the professional world, it’s nice to have the support system the society offers. Networking is always an important thing, but to find a group of women who share my passion for agriculture is refreshing," said Kayla Sellers, recent College of Agriculture graduate.

Students were able to see firsthand some of the opportunities available to them as women in the agricultural world.

"Successful Women in Agriculture really opened my eyes to the job diversity for women in the agriculture industry. I was also extremely encouraged and inspired at the luncheon networking with other alumna learning from them about how to thrive in the ag industry," said Rosa Cantrell, recent Auburn graduate.

American Farm Bureau recently conducted a survey asking, "What are the top skills women need to compete in agriculture?" After nearly 2,000 women participated in the online survey, the top answers were effective communications, setting and achieving goals, and strategic planning.

"The survey results point to a need for a deeper dive into what leadership traits women in agriculture are interested in learning about in order to achieve their goals," said Sherry Saylor, AFB Women’s Leadership Committee chair and Arizona row crop farmer.

It is common for a woman to be a farmer’s wife, but it is much rarer for her to be the farmer. This is proven by statistics from 2012 Census of Agriculture. According to the survey, only 14 percent of principal farm operators are women. But there are numerous organizations, societies and groups that want to help women realize their high level of potential in the industry, whether it is farming, agribusiness or any other agriculture-related jobs.

Members of Successful Women in Agriculture are invited to special on-campus events and professional development programs providing the opportunity to share ideas and to meet, build relationships with and positively influence enthusiastic young women who will be the agricultural producers, scientists, businesswomen, policymakers and leaders of tomorrow. For more information about the society or to join, feel free to contact Amanda Martin, 334-844-8900 or, or Amanda Nims, 334-844-1475 or Membership will be a stimulating and fulfilling experience that will help to grow not only the next generation of female agricultural leaders but the agricultural industry as a whole.

Michelle Bufkin is is a freelance writer from Auburn.

Fun in Chocola’

Group photo at the beginning of one of the farm tours.

Square-foot small animal production in Guatemala takes advantage of the limited availability of space for agriculture.

by Robert Spencer

I have volunteered internationally since 2006, worked in Haiti, El Salvador and Myanmar. In 2015, I received my first opportunity to work in Guatemala; located south of Mexico, west of Honduras and north of El Salvador. The majority of my time was spent in Chocola’, located within the Suchitepequez district.

I was there April 26-May 10 to work with rabbit producers in rural areas on advancing the quality of meat rabbit production with the goal of increasing household nutrition. Revenue generating opportunities for women and their families in Chocola’ is very limited. Also, nutritional deficiencies within rural family diets are alarming. Too often the women need to remain at home with the young children and have little or no opportunity to become self-sufficient with quality food production, and the men are often in other areas with their jobs – if there is a husband involved.

This young lady has about 20 rabbits and is very pleased with the project.

My assignment was to promote capacity building in quality of meat rabbit production for women, encourage the consumption of rabbit meat as a way for households to increase access to nutrition, and introduce the concept of marketing of rabbit meat for food security and incomes. This initiative was made possible through collaboration with Institution for Nutrition in Central America and Panama, Seeds for the Future (Simmelas, Spanish for seeds) and support from Partners of the Americas Farmer to Farmer Program (USAID-funded programming).

You would think vegetable and animal production would be a common practice in this area, but, just like in the United States, it is almost a lost skill. Many of the households inside of Chocola’ have very little space for vegetable production, let alone rabbit and poultry production. So Simmelas and INCAP have worked with over 100 families on becoming self-sustainable producers while increasing household nutritional availability. They have utilized the concept of "square-foot gardening," a term often used within urban areas of the United States. I decided, given limited availability of space for these households and their interest in small animal production (rabbits and chickens), it would be ideal to apply this same concept and call it "square-foot animal production" and combine the two into "square-foot agriculture."

During my time in Chocola’ and surrounding areas, I was part of seven workshops, five meetings, two interactive sessions and 17 local farm tours. The farm tours meant physically walking from household to household and visiting each small operation.

My approach to outreach activities was to use a supporting role by suggesting opportunities for improvement. The objective of this assignment was to strengthen the capacities of technical field staff and participating families by addressing practical strategies for production and consumption of rabbit meat. Most of the households visited had been raising rabbits less than a year, and had anywhere from two to 40 rabbits. The initial strategy is to start each household with two bred female rabbits and Simmelas would work with the women to increase production. Based upon verbal interaction, the satisfaction among those who have been raising rabbits for more than six months was very positive including the appreciation for increased nutrition.

I feel that the affirmation, education, interaction and farm tours shared during my visit provided the morale boost some of the farmers needed and will move existing farmers in a positive direction. They will be expected to encourage potential producers to consider meat rabbit production while promoting quality of production. The information I left behind will provide technical support. While all my international experiences have been fun and a learning experience, this ranks up towards the top. The photos included in this article capture some of the fun I had in Chocola’.

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

Going Organic

Chip and Laura Spencer put in long hours at their Dallas County organic farm, but they love every minute.

The Spencer family garden was the beginning of an unintended journey to sustainable agriculture.

by Alvin Benn

Education and excavation careers can be rewarding, but Chip and Laura Spencer of Dallas County have switched to a new profession, one drawing widespread, positive attention.

It’s called Community Supported Agriculture and they’ve extended their farming operation beyond traditional management that often focuses on basic cultivation techniques.

The Spencers have become so proficient and popular that visitors from as far away as Scandinavia and France have come to take a look at their program and often wind up spending several weeks each year learning the basics.

Ariel Drouault, a New York native now living in California, is winding up a 10-week "course" in sustainable agriculture, as it’s also known. Long hours and strenuous work in the fields haven’t had Drouault wondering if he’s doing the right thing because he awaits the sun each day so he can get back to work.

Chip Spencer and his son Mac spend part of their days inside a greenhouse where organic vegetables are grown.

A student at Sterling College, an environmentally friendly school in Vermont, Drouault spent a few days with the Spencers during spring break and was so impressed he signed up for the summer course.

Drouault is an intern whose compensation is in the form of room and board. He and other interns who take part in the program spend long days at the Marion Junction site about 15 miles west of Selma not far from U.S. 80.

"I’m tired after we finish for the day, but I’m ready to get started again the next morning," said the 20-year-old Drouault who hopes to become a farmer one day. "I’m learning what I can during my time here."

The genesis of the Spencer enterprise dates back to a small garden on the farm they bought to raise Quarter Horses. It soon took on an organic agricultural complexion that surprised even them.

"We found ourselves on a journey we never intended because we were going organic with our family’s food," said Chip, who remembered sitting down with his wife and discussing "the future of not our farm, not our jobs, but our lives."

Laura was teaching school at the time while her husband ran a successful excavation business. They viewed the "garden" at first as not much more than an outlet to relieve stress.

Ariel Drouault tries his hand at driving a tractor on Spencer Farm where he is an intern learning about organic farming.

But, then, something unexpectedly happened as "step by step," they began to appreciate agrarian life.

As Chip puts it, "Funny things happened on the way to the supper table. Our little garden became our sanctuary from workday trials and tribulations."

The longer he and Laura labored in the garden the more it began to pay a different kind of dividend, one that rewarded them with improved physical health of their two children – "not to mention the mental health of their parents."

As the garden continued to grow, the couple added beef followed by pork and, later, milk goats. Something else happened during that period, something Chip describes as a "defining moment" in their lives.

"I was working 12-hour days with my business, laden with the stress of employees and sales, bottom lines and equipment mortgages," he recalled.

One day, as he filled in for one of his truck drivers, he was passing through a small town in the area and noted three men sitting on a bench near the traffic light where he had stopped.

"They were smiling and laughing and having a very pleasant afternoon," he said. "It was then that I realized income and happiness were two separate and unrelated things. My happiness was found in my garden on my self-sufficient farm."

When he and Laura sat down to discuss their future, it veered from farming and employment, centering instead on their lives and how they were going to make some important changes.

During the years that followed, Chip began to sell off his excavation business while Laura became a stay-at-home mom, teacher, gardener and creator of goat/sheep soap.

"I took on the role of plumber, carpenter and mechanic while using my mental capacity trying to figure out how to grow animal feed on the farm as we weaned ourselves off purchased energy," he said.

Their self-sufficiency depended a great part on the soil providing the basis for what they grew in their ever-expanding garden. Assisting in that regard has been Russell Gibbs, manager of AFC’s Central Alabama Agronomy offices in Selma and Demopolis.

An expert on soil science, Gibbs is widely known throughout the Black Belt and his agricultural expertise at Spencer Farm has been invaluable.

"Russell has been very helpful in both recommending and finding the few necessary soil amendments we are not able to produce here ourselves," Chip said. "Even though we have reduced our fertilizer deficiency by 75 percent, there are a few micro-nutrients we must seek out."

Chip said Gibbs’ suggestion to use natural-mined baron granules on his farm literally hit "pay dirt" because he could not produce it through composting. In the end, baron additives have helped him adhere to organically minded practices.

Gibbs said the Spencers could well be trailblazers in Alabama, especially in the Black Belt region "because it looks like they’ve got a niche market."

"Organic farming is relatively new in this part of the state and they come to me from time to time for advice," Gibbs explained. "They certainly don’t appear to have any problem moving whatever they grow and that’s a good sign."

While all that was going on, Chip and Laura joined an online community connecting them with "willing and eager young people" from all over the world – from Australia to Canada, from Scotland to Switzerland.

That’s when foreigners’ visits to the farm began and haven’t abated. Drouault is a good example and he’s been joined by others also seeking to learn more about community agriculture.

"Hopefully, our example will inspire others to do something similar," Chip said. "We want to make a much bigger splash than just doing this for our family."

He believes that if their organic farm can serve as a catalyst for a "vibrant local food economy" it will make a big difference in alleviating problems that continue to affect Alabama’s Black Belt region.

Another important element at Spencer Farm has been the creation of a "shareholder" operation in which 25 families sign up to take advantage of those homegrown goodies at favorable prices.

"Social media has helped us spread the word about what we’re doing here," said Laura, who is kept busy planting, teaching her son at home and preaching the importance of what she and Chip are doing.

Each week for 12 weeks, the "shareholders," who already paid $250 up front, receive bags filled with wholesome produce. They can either pick it up at the farm or go to the farmers market at Bloch Park in Selma.

One of the "shareholder" families is headed by Rev. Jack Alvey, the rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Selma. With wife Jamie and 2-year-old Mary Katherine in tow, they enjoy driving to the farm to chat with the Spencers and check out the animals.

"We enjoy doing what we can to help support them," Alvey said. "The organic food movement and family farms are becoming popular all over the country because people are getting back in touch with the land."

Since Spencer Farm produces organic crops, what they raise can be consumed from the fields and Laura has been known to pick off a broccoli stem or a layer of cabbage to munch on when she gets hungry.

There’s no need to wash it because potentially dangerous chemicals that can be used in the growing process at other farms are verboten at Spencer Farm.

If she wants to, all she has to do is take along a small salt shaker to add to the natural flavor in her hands.

Alvin Benn is a freelance writer from Selma.

Grace is Like Grits

by Glenn Crumpler

I am pretty sure the only people who do not like grits are those who have only had the lumpy, unsalted ones served to tourists as they pass through the South. If they ever tasted "real" grits with plenty of butter, enough salt, a little black pepper and just a little bit of bacon grease, they would go home telling everybody about them. Throw in a little sharp cheddar cheese and they are hooked for life! Serve them with country ham, redeye gravy, cathead biscuits and a couple of fried eggs, hot coffee and a cold glass of milk, and the South would soon be overpopulated. Never again would they ask, "What is a grit?"

I once heard a country preacher say, "Grace is like grits … and grits ain’t never hurt nobody." To me, that made perfect sense. He, like me, assumed everybody ate grits and everybody liked them. We surely never heard of anyone being hurt by grits. If people we knew and grew up with did not like grits, they probably went hungry a lot of days because we had them for breakfast and sometimes we had breakfast for supper. We even cook’em sometimes for a fish fry. It is not uncommon now to even see "souped-up" grits served at fancy weddings or other receptions!

While the analogy for grits only works if you are from the South and are a diehard grits fan like me, what the preacher said about grace is absolutely true. Everybody likes grace. Everybody needs grace and grace never hurt nobody! If it were not for God’s grace in our lives, if we lived at all, we would be completely and utterly helpless, hopeless and doomed for condemnation. If it were not for God’s grace in our lives, we could never show grace to anyone else and no one could ever show grace toward us. If it were not for grace, there could never be forgiveness or reconciliation to God or to one another – everyone would be alienated from God and from everyone else. Without grace, we could not even live with ourselves and have any semblance of hope and peace in our lives.

What does grace mean? Grace has been described in many ways. Many theologians describe grace as God’s unmerited or undeserved favor to us who are under condemnation. God’s love is action towards men who merited the opposite of love. Grace is God moving heaven and earth to save sinners who could not lift a finger to save themselves. Grace is God sending His son Jesus to suffer and die in our place, for our sin so that we can be forgiven and we could receive life eternal. Grace is Jesus giving His life to pay a debt He did not owe, because we owed a debt we could not pay. Others make the distinction that showing kindness to a stranger is "unmerited favor"; doing good to your enemy is more like the spirit of grace.

Whatever the definition used, it is important to note that grace is more than a divine attribute of God or the character of God, but it is the wholly generous "act" of God toward us. Because He loves us, He sent His son Jesus to suffer and die in our place, taking our sin and punishment upon Himself so we could be set free from both the punishment and the power of sin. But, even before Jesus came into the world to do for us what we could not do for ourselves, God was extending His grace to us.

God reaches out to us in grace before we have faith to make us aware of our sin and our need for God. This grace is the divine love of God that surrounds all humanity whether they know it or not. This is the action of God taking the initiative to pursue a relationship with us and urging us to turn toward God (repent) so we may be justified and delivered from the bondage of sin and death. We need God’s initiative, because our human state prevents us from being able to turn to God on our own.

At the moment of salvation, an unjust sinner is justified or made right in the sight of a just and Holy God. Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us as a result of our exercise of faith in Christ. Faith itself is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8-9). In justification, we turn to participate in God’s ways and are, through faith alone, forgiven and restored to God’s favor through the action and example of Jesus Christ. Justifying grace puts us "in line" with God. Accepting the gift of God’s grace leads to new birth in the Holy Spirit which enables us to live a Godly life.

Through the action of the Holy Spirit, God continues to nurture our growth in grace in a continual journey toward "having the mind of Christ and walking as He walked." God’s grace continues throughout life to change us and leads us to increase our faith, leading to good works and the pursuit of holiness.

If we do not see ourselves as sinners, guilty and separated from a Holy God as the Bible teaches, then grace may not seem like much to us. If we do not believe that each of us will spend eternity in either a place called Heaven or a place called Hell as the Bible teaches, then grace may not mean much to us. In comparison, if we do not believe in the law of gravity, then a parachute would not seem like much but I dare you to jump out of an airplane without one! Choosing not to believe the truth does not change the truth, nor does it remove the consequences of us violating the truth.

Grace is not justice. Justice is getting exactly what we deserve (in our case, death – for all of us have sinned and fallen short [Romans 3:23], and the wages of sin is death [Romans 6:23]). Grace is not mercy. Mercy is not getting the bad we deserve (in our case, again death) but grace is God acting on our behalf by sending His Son as our sacrifice to forgive us and offer us salvation and eternal life that we do not deserve and cannot purchase or earn. Grace means the penalty of our sinfulness is paid by the blood of Jesus, and we are given or we inherit Sonship and eternal life when we put our faith in Him.

God’s grace is free and undeserved; however, it is a gift that has to be accepted with gratitude, a sense of brokenness over our sin and with a heart of repentance – meaning we choose, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to turn from our sinfulness and to strive to live our lives in ways pleasing to and obedient to Him. Grace does not mean that we have a license to sin but it does mean that when we put our faith in the substitutionary and atoning work of Christ and we do sin, grace has us covered.

So you see, that country preacher was right. Grace is a lot like grits. Grace is good and it ain’t never hurt anybody!

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

Grease Guns, Rock Rakes and Green Beans

by John Howle

"It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see." -- Henry David Thoreau

How we see things determines whether our attitude is positive or negative. When I was a teenager, I would look across an open pasture cluttered with multiple square bales of hay in rows and feel overwhelmed, hot and frustrated thinking about how long it was going to take to load and haul all that hay into the barn. Now, when I see a field full of hay, I think about the blessings of rain, growth, abundance and feed for the winter.

When we look at the current state of our country and shifting attitudes of the masses that run counter to God’s word and legislation on a federal level reflecting that shift, it’s easy to become disillusioned and negative. When we actually look at God’s word in relation to the country’s current situation, we can be comforted. "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn away from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." (2 Chronicles 7:14 NIV)

During hot days, pull the plunger rod out on the grease gun to keep grease from oozing out the plunger end.

Keep the Grease Flowing

The hot days of July can cause the grease in your grease gun to ooze past the plunger making a mess when you grease your haying and other farm equipment. To solve this problem, pull the plunger handle all the way out into the locked position until you are ready to use it. When you are ready to grease your fittings, simply re-engage the plunger and rod to keep the grease flowing out the tip instead of the end of the plunger.

There are many styles of grease guns: lever-style, hand-grip, air-powered and battery-operated. The most economical and easy for one person to operate is the hand-grip style. You can hold the grease gun tip securely on the fitting with one hand and administer strokes of grease with the other.

Most grease fittings have a ball check in the head of the fitting to prevent dirt and grit from entering. If these fittings are in difficult-to-reach spots, you can order angled or higher profile fittings to make the job of lubrication easier. If you find a fitting that won’t accept grease, replace it. Chances are that fitting was the one that needed grease the most. Keeping the moving parts of your machinery, truck and tractor lubricated is the key to a long life of service.

Splitting Wood

There are plenty of times when you need some wood split for summer activities. Having a fire pit burning in the backyard, grilling with hickory or using firewood on a campout may require that you need to already have wood split for the flames. If you have a larger log of wood to split, especially hardwood, don’t try to split it down the middle with your axe. You’ll normally just get the axe stuck, and it’s dangerous to try to wrestle the axe out of the wood. Instead, aim for the outer edges of the wood. Outside edges split off easier than the center. Once you split off the outer planks, then go for the middle splits.

A rock rake will remove not only rocks but sticks, vines and stump chunks from new ground for finished fertilizing and planting of seeds.

Preparing New Ground for Pasture

If you’ve had land cleared for either a large food plot or pastureland, chances are you’ll have plenty of rocks, sticks and debris to remove. Everywhere a large rock or chunk of wood is located is a place where grass won’t grow. A rock rake does an ideal job of removing the larger rocks, sticks and debris from prepared ground.

Once you’ve gone over the ground in one direction a few times, change direction 180 degrees to get the remaining debris from the field. Now you are ready to apply lime, fertilizer and seeds. Going over the spread seeds with a culti-packer will help ensure more seeds germinate, and it will reduce erosion on sloped land until the seeds establish roots to hold the soil in place.

Green Bean Canning

Hopefully, you’ve already stocked up on your canning supplies at your local Co-op. Maybe you only have a small row of green beans, but want to can them. What should you do? Green beans that are kept dry and in a cold crisper in the refrigerator will keep for quite a few days. Cleanly pick your beans, make sure they are dry, and store them in a cold crisper in the refrigerator. By the time you’ve had three pickings of beans, the green beans will still be fresh enough to can, and you’ll have enough to run the entire canner system.

This July, look at situations in a positive way. See more opportunities than obstacles, and exercise your constitutionally protected right to vote so you can bring righteous leaders into authority. "When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn." (Proverbs 29:2)

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.

How's Your Garden?

Harmless soldier flies quietly go about their work as recyclers of organic matter.

by Lois Trigg Chaplin

Black Soldier Fly is a Good Guy

If you see flattened, brown, grub-like larvae about an inch long in your compost pile, they may be the young of black soldier flies (Hermetia illucens). This native fly is a composter’s friend, helping to break down the pile faster while inhibiting the development of bad fly species such as houseflies and blowflies. Commercially, black soldier fly larvae are used to compost and sanitize manure and waste. They are also commercially reared as food for reptiles, poultry and fish. The adults are sanitary, rarely fly indoors and do not bite. They are quiet flies that tend to hide. So, don’t be alarmed. Leave the larvae of the black soldier fly in your compost and let them do their work to help recycle vegetable and garden refuse into rich compost for your garden.

Healthy Cuts for Grass

When it starts getting hot, give your lawn a break from too much mowing. Ever noticed how the grass turns brown after it is cut in hot, dry weather? That’s because cutting all that top growth from the grass stresses it. Instead of just routinely mowing during the hottest part of summer, watch to see if the grass is actually growing. Often in hot weather grass doesn’t grow, it’s just trying to survive. If you water the lawn enough to support growth, make sure you or your mowing service raise the height of the mower blades to remove less leaf surface. Slightly taller grass grows deeper roots, which makes it more tolerant to drought. It also competes better with weeds.

Think a Year Ahead for Blueberry Harvest

Blueberry season is a good time to take note that the number of berries a bush will produce next summer depends on the health and vigor of the plants through this summer and fall. It is important to water and fertilize to encourage new growth and lots of foliage because one new vegetative bud develops for each new leaf that is produced. In late summer and early fall, some of those buds will become the flower buds that make next year’s berries. Research at the University of Florida has shown that the health of leaves and how long they remain on the plant into fall greatly influences how many flower buds are formed. So, early defoliation due to drought or lack of water is not good. Flower buds first form on old wood, then the new growth appears after a light pruning in summer after the berries are harvested. To encourage new stems this summer, trim back shoots on plants 2 years or older by about one-third their length after all the berries are harvested. Also fertilize lightly after pruning. The Alabama Cooperative Extension System advises against using nitrate fertilizer on blueberries because it can cause root damage. Instead, ACES recommends cottonseed meal or a slow-release product made from coated urea. As plants grow and set buds, they need adequate water. Be sure to continue watering during dry weather until leaves drop in the fall.

Vacation Plants

Going on vacation but don’t have anyone to water your potted plants? Move them to the coolest, shadiest place you have – a basement garage is ideal. Water well before leaving and place a saucer under each pot to catch the excess for later. Taking potted plants, even flowers and vegetables in pots, out of the heat and into a cooler place will help them survive on their own while you are gone. You can use old kiddy pools to group the plants and hold a little extra water for them to take up while you are gone. Just don’t make the level more than an inch or two high because water logging the soil could be worse than thirst.

Mandevilla and dipladenia tropical vines love a little mid-season fertilizer.

Feed Mandevilla and Dipladenia

Pink-flowering mandevilla or dipladenia vines love heat and humidity and will grow very fast, even in mid-summer when many other plants are just trying to hang on. Because of this, they respond well to a little fertilizer in mid-summer after the slow-release product likely used in their nursery production is gone. To keep them blooming well, give them at least half a day of sun and a little liquid fertilizer every two to four weeks.

A Second Crop of Beans

You can get in another harvest of beans for fall picking by planting now. Kentucky Wonder pole beans, an all-time favorite, bear in about two months and will yield beans in September and October and even into November in South Alabama. Most bush beans bear slightly earlier. Soak the seeds overnight so they will sprout quickly and water daily because of the heat. The biggest threat this time of year will be insects, particularly Mexican bean beetles, especially on the young plants. Some gardeners use Sevin dust, but the dust form of this insecticide is easily picked up by bees. It’s best to use a liquid insecticide that will dry quickly and wait until evening to spray when bees are not active.

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

In Times of Need

Pam Coan, right, holding brush, and Jaclyn Simmons, both active members and on The Lil’ Susie Small Animals in Need Fund Foundation’s Board of Directors, lend a hand at their annual dog wash fundraiser this past May.

The Lil’ Susie Small Animals in Need Fund Foundation helps pet owners who need financial assistance in emergency medical situations for their furry companions.

by Debra Amos

The goal of The Lil’ Susie Small Animals in Need Foundation is to financially assist owners with the high cost of emergency life-saving surgeries and treatments when their companion pets require unexpected veterinarian care, with the effort of keeping these companion pets and owners together for many joyful years to come.

The owner must apply and qualify for the funding. The animals who receive this funding are known as our Funds Recipient Animals and referred to as FRA. Since our organization was founded in December 2012, we have funded 29 and counting such surgeries and treatments. We have grown from the two of us to over 80 members spanning four states.

This organization was founded by Bobby Norwood and me when our beloved companion pet, Susie, a 19-year-old beagle/Jack Russell mix had to be given up after a costly bout with kidney disease. After exhausting all reasonable efforts to save her and an effort to make her last days as comfortable as we could ... we had to say goodbye. Her compelling story and others are available on our website, as well as our Lil’ Susie Facebook page.

With our overwhelming grief, we realized we had a desire to help others with their companion pets in their time of need. And with the help of our longtime friend and veterinarian, Dr. J.B. Harris DVM of All Animal Clinic in Leighton, we have accomplished our dream.

So many of us, for whatever reason, live from day to day and are simply not prepared for the unexpected illnesses or accidents that as a pet owner will inevitably come our way. And, at that time, the lack of finances does not suggest that their love for their companion pet is in any way less than what we felt for our little Susie, the namesake of this foundation. These are the desperate pet parents this organization helps. We have funded emergency surgeries from bladder stone blockage and caesareans to leg amputations with everything imaginable in between.

Our motto is that, although we could not save our Susie along with the dedicated and talented hands of our veterinary service providers, we strive to help as many as we can to be able to keep their beloved pets with them in their home environment for many years to come, as opposed to the alternatives.

In doing this The Lil’ Susie Foundation has changed the lives of many grateful pet owners such as Crystal Johnson and her dog Patches. Patches needed emergency exploratory surgery with only hours to live. Crystal had no money available and turned to us. Patches is her companion service dog - Crystal is wheelchair-bound from a devastating automobile accident that left her paralyzed from the waist down. She depended on this dog for emotional support.

A 501(c)(3) organization such as this one is sustained by donations and the hardworking tireless volunteers who man many hours of fundraising events each year. We are always just a phone call away from a desperate and distraught pet-parent faced with a life-threatening illness or injury of their beloved pet without the means to pay the cost of the veterinary care to save their pet’s life. Many times these have been our senior citizens with that pet being the only friend they feel they have.

Along with the joys of helping these pet-parents comes the hardest part of what we do ... and that is the fear of not having the funding in place when that fateful phone call comes in.

Service Providers are All Animal Clinic in Leighton and Moulton Veterinary Clinic in Moulton.

Debra Amos is INC, cofounder and GM of The Lil’ Susie Small Animals in Need Fund Foundation. You can visit their website at or call them at 256-412-4887.

July Lawn and Garden Checklist


  • Plant the following vegetables no later than July 20 to allow time to mature before frost: tomatoes, peppers, okra, corn, cucumbers, squash, snap beans, pole beans and lima beans.
  • Many perennials and biennials can be started now from seed; then set out in the fall in nursery beds.
  • Plant zinnia seed by July 4 for late blooms in annual border.
  • Plant a cover crop in bare spots in the vegetable garden.


  • Stop feeding woody plants. Promoting more soft growth in high summer isn’t good; time for them to start moving toward the hardening-off phase of their cycle. No more fertilizer until late winter or early spring.
  • Time to put down your second and last fertilizer application on centipede. Fertilize zoysia lawns now with a 26-4-12 lawn fertilizer.
  • Fertilize all container plants frequently (at least every two weeks) because daily watering leaches out nutrients pretty quickly.
  • Check azaleas and camellias for iron chlorosis (pale green leaves, darker green veins). If necessary, use copper or iron chelate to correct iron deficiency.


  • Prune blackberries after harvest.
  • Do not let basil plants flower as it will change the flavor. Keep pinching out flowers, but the best approach is, as soon as the flowers start to form, cut the plants back hard, right above a set of leaves low on the branch. The stems will quickly resprout. Make a batch of pesto from the harvest.
  • Always be on the lookout for dead, damaged, diseased wood in trees and shrubs, and prune them out as discovered. Ditto with suckers and water sprouts.
  • Prune climbing roses and rambler roses after bloom.
  • 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.
  • Deadhead faded perennials unless they have showy seed heads (same with bulbs) if you want to collect seed later (non-hybrids only).
  • Shear back spent annuals by one-third.
  • Deadheading redirects energy towards healthy roots.
  • Do a final pinching by mid-July of fall-blooming flowers such as mums and asters.
  • Prune summer-flowering shrubs as soon as the blossoms fade.


  • Irrigation is your single biggest garden responsibility this month. 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. Plants in containers may need water once or twice a day during hot spells. Be alert!
  • Keep cucumber plants well watered. Drought conditions will cause bitter fruit.
  • Consistent moisture is important for preventing blossom-end-rot on tomatoes (and sometimes squash or peppers). Mulch helps as well as attention to calcium content of soil.
  • To keep hanging baskets looking attractive, soak the baskets in a tub of water every few days in addition to the regular daily watering.
  • Trees are especially vulnerable to drought, particularly the oldest and the youngest (those planted in the last few years). Water deeply!
  • Consider drip irrigation and/or soaker hoses as efficient watering alternatives.
  • Be sure to make arrangements for neighbors to harvest and water your garden while you are on vacation.


  • Use all chemicals – for insects, weeds or nematodes – according to directions on the label. The warnings and precautions are for your protection.
  • Store pesticides in a safe place in their original containers away from children and pets. Do not allow children or pets to play on lawns freshly applied with weed controls. It is best to wait one week.
  • To minimize insect damage to squash and cucumber plants, try covering them with lightweight floating row covers. Remove covers once plants flower.
  • One way to find out what’s crawling in lawn is to mix two tablespoons of dish soap in a gallon of water and pour over a small area. Bugs will come to the surface.
  • Insecticidal soaps will help control aphids and other soft-bodied insects early on. Malathion is a good all-round material for aphids and red spider mites and gives some worm control. Carbaryl (Sevin) is another effective material, especially for bean beetles, tomato and corn earworms, cucumber beetles and pickleworms. Bacillus thuringiensis (Dipel, Thuricide) is an excellent biological control for cabbage worm or cabbage looper.
  • Apply a second spray to trunks of peach trees for peach borers.
  • Apply final treatment for borers on hardwood trees.
  • Hot, dry weather is ideal for spider mite development. With spider mite damage, leaves may be speckled above and yellowed below. Evergreen needles appear dull gray-green to yellow or brown. Damage may be present even before webs are noticed.
  • If webworms are appearing in your pecans, persimmons and other trees, prune out the limbs with the webs and dispose of them OR break open the webs so birds can get to them and eat them, or spray the webworms with a solution of one gallon of water plus one tablespoon of insecticidal soap.
  • Spray hollies for leaf miner control.
  • To control weeds, use mulch. Deep cultivation after plants are older will do more damage than good.
  • Control mosquitoes by eliminating all sources of stagnant water.
  • Make a pass through each bed each week, since weeds are not just unsightly but steal moisture, nutrients and light from desired plants.
  • If you are in Japanese beetle territory, handpick (as with other obvious pests such as tomato hornworms) in early morning and drown in a can of water mixed with a little dishwashing liquid to reduce infestation.
  • Keep asparagus well weeded. Let their ferns grow till frost to feed the underlying crowns.
  • Clean off harvested rows immediately to prevent insect and disease buildup.
  • Till and mulch soil to conserve moisture for germination of fall crops and to help reduce the nematode population in the soil.
  • Prevent rose diseases with a fungicide spray program.
  • Protect honeybees. If you must use an insecticide (even organic), spray late in the evening when fewer bees are active.


  • Work on canning, dehydrating and freezing extra produce from your garden to enjoy all year long. There are so many possibilities for saving your garden bounty!
  • Prepare new beds for fall planting by smothering grass or weeds with layers of recycled corrugated cardboard or thick layers of newspaper, then put mulch on top.
  • Edge beds to make a clean line and define them, and keep edges clean with regular fine tuning with grass shears. A clean edge makes a big difference.
  • Don’t bag or rake clippings; let them lie on the lawn to return nitrogen to the soil.
  • Start a new compost pile, or turn and add to the old one. Don’t let the compost heap dry out completely, or it will not "cook."
  • Drink lots and lots of water. Hydration is the key to keeping from having a heat-related illness. An eight-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.
  • Clean up fallen fruits under trees.
  • 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 temptation to apply a layer of sandy loam over the entire lawn area just because your neighbor does.
  • Be on the lookout for suckers coming from the roses in your garden. Where roses grow on their own roots, maybe reared from cuttings, there should be no suckers at all. But many roses have been grafted to a stronger root stock and sometimes this root stock will send out suckers. Any suckers from the roots, or from the stem below the graft, should be removed as far below the surface of the soil as possible.
  • 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 to the garden for collecting flowers, rather than a cutting basket.
  • Harvest often to get vegetables at the proper stage of maturity. If left to mature fully, the plant will stop producing. Early morning harvest, before vegetables absorb heat from the sun, is best for most vegetables.
  • Continue attracting insect-eating birds to the garden area by providing them with a fresh water source. Keep feeders and baths clean.
  • Divide bearded iris now.

Make Hay While the Sun Shines

by Stephen Donaldson

By the time you read this, everyone should be well on their way to harvesting their second cutting of hay. Spring rains provided plenty of moisture for ample hay quality and yield on our first hay cuttings. Dry weather in April allowed everyone an opportunity to harvest ryegrass and cool-season grasses while the crop was still rich in nutrients. If you are putting up balage, the abundant rain allowed you to harvest many tons of high-quality forage.

As we enter the summer months, we tend to start harvesting forage species that aren’t as capable of producing as much quality as the cool-season grasses. Warm-season grasses tend to be lower in both protein and carbohydrates (except the sorghum, millet and sorghum-sudan hybrids). Warm-season forages also tend to be higher in lignin; thus binding some of the protein and carbohydrates making the plant less digestible. In most places in Alabama, the tonnage produced by warm-season grasses outweighs the yields of the cool-season varieties. Also, the warm-season varieties are more easily cured and take less effort to harvest compared to the cool-season grasses.

There are some operations that have migrated to feeding corn silage to their cattle. Hopefully, your crop is still getting plenty of moisture and growing nicely. Corn silage as a feedstuff is hard to beat in beef operations, but, depending on the class of livestock, still may require extra nutrients to obtain suitable production.

This brief introduction describing forages gives some background for the need of supplementation for these forages to reach maximum production in beef operations. It is never too early to start planning the supplementation program that will be used to winter our cow herds. Some producers in the southernmost counties and Florida can use cool-season forage varieties to supplement their cattle, but most of us will be required to provide some feedstuffs to achieve maximum production.

Since most cattlemen in Alabama use summer perennials as their source of winter feed, we need to be prepared to provide nutrients to complement the weaknesses of the summer-annual forages. As stated earlier, these forages tend to be lower in protein and energy. I know many of you will argue that your Bermuda grass cut and fertilized every four weeks will typically analyze at 14 percent crude protein. If it does, that is great and can save on protein supplementation. However, in my 25 years of sampling forages, I have only seen this in one or two samples. If you think you are harvesting forages high in protein, sample them to be sure because this could save you plenty of money.

The supplement of choice for beef operations using summer-perennial grasses is easily our Brood Cow Supplement. This supplemental feed contains plenty of protein and energy to get maximum performance from your operation. Two other good choices include CPC Grower and CPC Developer. These feeds also contain adequate protein and energy for your operation. All of these feeds contain a nice complement of minerals and vitamins to ensure there is at least some mineral supplementation to go along with protein and energy.

While harvesting forages, producers can also experience bad luck and not be able to harvest the forages at the proper level of maturity or forages can take multiple rains that decrease both quality and palatability. While supplemental feed can help compensate for these problems, there are also other strategies producers can employ.

If producers run into this situation, my preferred method to get the most out of your hay is to use both supplemental feed and incorporate the use of low moisture tubs. There is surely a STIMU-LYX tub to fit your needs. The tub of choice to aid in the digestion of poor-quality hay is STIMU-LYX HLF 30. The non-protein nitrogen in these tubs should increase forage digestibility and intake. Just as a side note, these tubs also work well when there is excess poor-quality forage in the pasture or when forage has been stockpiled.

A final method that can be used to help with the digestibility of these poor-quality forges is liquid feed supplementation. Many Quality Co-op stores carry either Stimu-Liq 32 or Stimu-Liq 35-3. These liquid feeds must be fed in a liquid feeder and may not be offered in all locations, but they offer the same benefits as the low moisture tubs.

It may seem odd that we are discussing winter beef supplementation in July, but it is actually the perfect time. This time of year, while you are harvesting your winter feed, observe the quality of the forage and determine the type of supplement that will best fit with your forage. Summer may also be a time when pricing could be the most advantageous for your operation. Good luck with that hay crop and let us help when we can.

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

Miss Georgia’s Wind Chime

Harrison stand beneath the massive wind chime. People who stop for pictures have told them that standing beneath a wind chime brings good luck.

On a camping vacation in Tennessee, Georgia and Horrie Harrison discovered Dolly Parton’s huge wind chime and decided to build one of their own.

by Carolyn Drinkard

Georgia and Horrie Harrison, who live in the Sandflat community south of Thomasville, have always loved to camp, and one of their favorite places to visit is Pigeon Forge, Tenn. A few years ago on a visit to Dollywood, they spotted a huge wind chime that fascinated both of them. "Miss Georgia," as everyone calls her, commented on how much she would love to have one like that. Her husband Horrie, an accomplished fabricator and welder, assured her that he could make one like it. He carefully measured each part of Dolly Parton’s wind chime and set out to build one like it for Miss Georgia.

It took him a few years, but Horrie built a wind chime unlike any other in Southwest Alabama! The gigantic piece of art is constructed entirely from scrap pieces. Even though Horrie has a vast collection of scrap, for this project he called on two friends, Lamar Stockman and nephew Timbo Harrison, to help him find just the right tubes for the chimes so he could get the depth and tone he desired.

An accomplished gospel singer and musician, Horrie wanted his chimes to play a musically pure sound, so he carefully measured and cut each of the five tubes to produce a pentatonic scale. He cut the first tube at 10 feet in length and graduated downward 12 inches for each of the other four. Each hollow tube measured 4 inches in diameter.

Patterned after Dolly Parton’s chime at Dollywood, the Harrison’s wind chime stands 19 feet tall.

The next step was to find the right design for the suspension platform. Horrie wanted to use a metal star design, but, first, he had to find just the right star to hold the suspension cords. He found one like he had envisioned in a store in Monroeville; however, that star had lights on it and it was made from aluminum, making it unusable for the heavy tubes. He explained what he had planned to do and asked the store manager if he could possibly trace the design. The manager got a big sheet of cardboard and traced the star pattern himself for Horrie.

Horrie kept the pattern for months before he was able to find a 4-by-8 sheet of plate that would work. He used his torch to cut the star 3 feet wide. He attached the pipes to the star with eighth-inch cable. Then he cut the clapper 3 feet wide. Since positioning the clapper in different places can affect the depth and tone of the sound, he experimented before deciding on the final placement.

The wind catcher, or sail, was made from a 24-by-30-inch stainless plate. He attached it with eighth-inch cable and dropped it 3 feet below the pipes to catch the breeze and make the clapper strike the pipes.

To support the heavy wind chime, Horrie made a steel L-frame that stands 19 feet above ground. To mount the chime to the frame took the help of his neighbor Marty Friddle. The two hoisted the huge wind chime with a tractor and suspended it from the frame. When they had finished, Horrie called Miss Georgia outside to see her gift.

"I couldn’t believe it," she said. "It was the most amazing wind chime I had ever seen. It’s so big that I don’t know how he ever got it up so high."

The wind chime has now become a big attraction on Highway 9 in Sandflat! People from miles around have come to see and hear it. Many take photographs of their family members standing beneath the huge chime. Others believe that standing beneath the wind chime will bring them good luck. Horrie is repeatedly asked for details about the construction of his chime.

This rain tree was one of the first trees the Harrisons planted in their yard. It is covered in blooms for weeks.

The story of how the Harrisons met and eventually married is also quite interesting. Horrie and Miss Georgia had each lost their mates to cancer. In 2007, friends invited both to attend the Thomasville Senior Center for lunch each day. Although neither one knew the other, it took only a few days for staff members and other patrons at the Center to start playing "matchmaker" and finding ways to seat the two next to each other or partner them in games and other activities. It worked, because Miss Georgia and Horrie married in 2008 and moved to a small farm in the Sandflat community.

Their new home had only one tree in the backyard and one azalea bush. Since both enjoyed yard work and gardening, they started with a vision of transforming their yard into a relaxing, peaceful haven. Their first project was selecting trees that would attract birds and bees. They chose a hawthorn, rain trees, crepe myrtles, purple magnolias, chestnuts and oak trees. They created a fruit orchard filled with various fruits such as pears, peaches, apples, plums and figs. They added blueberry bushes and scuppernong and grape vines near this area. Miss Georgia cans or freezes all the fruit that they need, and then gives the rest to family and friends.

The Harrisons also love flowers, especially the older traditional varieties that grow well in South Alabama. Miss Georgia rooted numerous plants from the azalea bush that had been on the property and planted them throughout the area. From her previous home in Thomasville, she moved gardenia bushes, as well as many varieties of amaryllis, irises, daylilies and cannas. Horrie’s relatives shared some plants that were transplanted from his parents’ old home. One of their favorites is a delicate yellow running rose bush, shared by Bonnie Harrison. Visitors, who have come to admire the beautiful plants, never leave empty-handed. Miss Georgia believes in sharing her plants and practices the Southern art of "take along." In fact, in her backyard she has shelves filled with plants she has rooted. She may sell some of these, but most are given to visitors.

The Harrisons enjoy watching the hundreds of birds that have taken up residence in their yard. Horrie has erected a large pinwheel that holds Martin gourds, and hundreds come to birth their young and chitter and chatter in this happy place. Even more birdhouses can be found in front of the house. Horrie and Georgia found a dead cedar tree with several upswept limbs. They buried the old tree trunk in their front yard and placed some of Georgia’s extensive birdhouse collection throughout the limbs. Birds flock to build nests and claim their homesteads in this decorative "tree." Even more birdhouses can be found hanging on hooks or swaying from the trees.

The Harrisons are avid yard sale seekers! The "treasures" they find are often seen in their yard, reconfigured or repurposed by Horrie, who has an artist’s eye. Discarded pieces of scrap rebar may become colorful bottle trees; scrap iron may be refashioned into bells, rain catchers and graceful plant trees that clasp Miss Georgia’s blooming plants and greenery; and rusty tools and farm implements may be repurposed into unusual pieces of art that stand in the beds to trumpet nature’s beauty.

After just 7 years, the yard shows the hard work and determination of the couple. Vibrant colors abound, and something is usually blooming until frost. Even before they added the magnificent wind chime, many visitors came to delight in the sights and sounds of the Harrison’s beautiful gardens. The wind chime, however, is like icing on the cake!

"I am just tickled to death that we have it," Horrie said. "I still tinker with it to make it sound even better. The speed limit on Sandflat Road is 45 mph, but folks slow down, just to see the wind chime. We sit on the porch and enjoy folks looking at our wind chime."

As a gentle breeze brushes against the sail, the soothing music seems to affirm that this is a happy, tranquil space. The Harrisons have indeed created a peaceful, relaxing haven that refreshes the spirit and soothes the soul!

Carolyn Drinkard is a freelance writer from Thomasville.

Old Decatur’s 19th Century Charm

This image shows a color-tinted picture postcard of the Decatur depot. Built in 1905 in the Spanish Revival style, it served the Southern and L&N railroads. Passenger service continued into the 1970s. At its peak, L&N was the major employer in Decatur with more than 2,500 workers on the roll.

The Spanish Revival-style L&N Depot, built in 1905, is currently being restored for use as a combined museum-police precinct.

by Maureen Drost

Long before I would start my career in Decatur, a congenial Irish gentleman and an L&N train introduced me to the River City. That gentleman was my late grandfather William Thomas Rafter, who spent his career as an L&N yardmaster in New Orleans.

Several times a year he’d travel from New Orleans to visit our family in North Alabama. We drove from Huntsville to meet my granddad, my father at the wheel, our mother beside him and we eager children sitting in the back. Like its competitors, the L&N always arrived on time – never late. Punctuality was a cardinal rule not to be broken.

I can still see the towering locomotive on its approach, its distinctive whistle piercing the air and a brisk parade of cars in tow. Smartly dressed porters wheeled lumbering baggage carts toward the train as it slowed, and we raced to grab the first sighting of our granddad.

Because of the station’s Spanish Revival style, noted architect Frank Pierce Milburn is considered to be the designer. As the chief architect for Southern Railway, Milburn drew plans for more than 20 depots with most reflecting this design. The Decatur depot is on the National Register of Historic Places.

These memories from the 1960s remain etched in my mind much like photographs of the time. I still recall riding over the old bridge crossing the Tennessee River into Decatur and gazing out the window at the river traffic below. I remember Old Decatur and the 19th-century charm reflected in the architecture of its homes and businesses. Each place bore a unique look in contrast to the modern subdivision we lived in.

Today, as the 1905 Spanish Revival-style depot is under restoration, I’m eager to see the finished product – a combined museum and police precinct. Decatur has worked hard to preserve its 19th- and 20th-century architecture, and it’s obvious its citizens realize railroads are a major part of the lifeblood of the city. In their heyday, the L&N shops employed more than 2,500 people.

According to official David Breland, railroads will be the main focus of the museum. Both L&N and Southern Railway passenger trains bustled through this union depot most likely designed by Frank Pierce Milburn. He was the chief Southern Railway architect, and he designed other Spanish Revival-style stations.

Breland, who is director of historic resources for the City of Decatur, said other transportation important to the city will also be featured. Outside, on what was the platform for arriving trains, a "living museum" is planned. The police precinct serving Old Decatur will occupy 4,000 square feet of the building with offices located on either side of the museum space.

Here’s the story of how the $2.5 million depot renovation began. After considerable controversy over whether the expense was worth it, the Decatur City Council finally gave the go-ahead. The money includes a $720,000 grant from the Alabama Department of Transportation, $200,000 in donations from the public and $440,000 from the Decatur Downtown Redevelopment Authority.

Map shows the connections L&N trains made during their runs in the 1960s. Besides Louisville, Ky., and Nashville other stops included Birmingham, Mobile, New Orleans and Decatur. Starting in the 1830s, a succession of three depots served Decatur, the first being a riverfront station for the Tuscumbia, Courtland and Decatur Railroad.

"The lead paint abatement is complete," Breland said in a mid-May interview. In addition, "the interior has been taken down to its ‘bones,’ and the brickwork is finished on the exterior."

Work on the depot’s original tile roof came next on the to-do list for Building Construction Associates of Decatur. Two great finds lay waiting to be unearthed.

"Architect Fred Underwood of Decatur thoroughly researched the old roof tiles," Breland continued, "and was pleasantly surprised to find that the same company that manufactured the original tiles in 1905 is still in business and still makes them. Therefore, we will have a new version of the exact same tile originally on the depot.

"Second, despite decades of exposure to the weather after the depot closed, an extraordinary amount of the wood underlayment … is still totally functional. The building is being restored and especially so on the exterior with the aim of keeping as much of the original as possible. Most of our surprises to date have been positive ones including the fantastic brick and woodwork in the interior."

Artifacts of all kinds associated with the Southern and L&N railroads are being sought, he said. An old manual switcher has already been purchased.

Drawing shows the layout for the depot museum/police precinct. The museum will be flanked by police offices on both sides. At the rear of the building, what was the platform for arriving trains, additional artifacts will be placed with seating for guests to watch passing freight trains. Spring 2016 is the expected completion date.

Small donations and major gifts are still welcome. For more information contact David Breland, Director of Historic Resources for the City of Decatur, or, 256-565-3788 (cell).

"We have over 180 years of railroading history here," he said, starting with the Tuscumbia, Courtland, and Decatur Railroad built in 1832. "The dream … is to run a train between (the old Quad Cities depot and the one in Decatur)."

Barring major problems as the work progresses, the depot museum/police precinct should be complete by spring 2016.

I know I’ll often visit this architectural treasure. As I tour the museum, I know I’ll "see" my grandfather standing in the doorway of an L&N train, his eyes on the crowd searching once more for the family he loved.

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

Origin of the Beefsteak

The beefsteak: often weighing in at over a pound, these fruits of the tomato plant have always been understood to be freakish accidents of nature. Lippman and colleagues now can explain how and why.

Scientists pinpoint genes that make stem cells in plants, revealing the origin of beefsteak tomatoes.

by Peter Tarr

A team of scientists at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory has identified a set of genes controlling stem cell production in tomatoes. Mutations in these genes explain the origin of mammoth beefsteak tomatoes. More important, the research suggests how breeders can fine-tune fruit size in potentially any fruit-bearing crop. The research appears online May 25, 2015, in "Nature Genetics."

In its original, wild form, the tomato plant produces tiny, berry-sized fruits. Yet among the first tomatoes brought to Europe from Mexico by conquistador Hernan Cortez in the early 16th century were the huge beefsteaks. Producing fruits that often weigh in at over a pound, this variety has long been understood to be a freak of nature, but only now do we know how it came to be.

The secret of the beefsteak tomato, CSHL Associate Professor Zachary Lippman and colleagues show, has to do with the number of stem cells in the plant’s growing tip, called the meristem. Specifically, the team traced an abnormal proliferation of stem cells to a naturally occurring mutation that arose hundreds of years ago in a gene called CLAVATA3. Selection for this rare mutant by plant cultivators is the reason we have beefsteak tomatoes today.

In plants, like animals, stem cells give rise to the diversity of specialized cell types comprising all tissues and organs. But too many stem cells can be a problem. In people, too many stem cells can lead to cancer. Similarly, when stem cell production goes unchecked in plants, growth becomes imbalanced and irregular, threatening survival.

The finely tuned balance of stem cell production in plants is controlled by genes with opposite activities. Specifically, a gene known as WUSCHEL promotes stem cell formation, whereas CLAVATA genes inhibit stem cell production. Several genes in the CLAVATA family encode for receptor proteins that sit on the surface of plant cells – the equivalent of locks – as well as a series of proteins that dock at these receptors – the equivalent of keys. When a CLAVATA key is made and fits in a CLAVATA lock, a signal is sent inside the cell telling WUSCHEL to slow down. Critically, this prevents WUSCHEL from making too many stem cells.

Lippman and colleagues have identified a set of genes that control stem cell production in tomato, the key to fruit size and explaining the origin of giant fruits such as the beefsteak. These images show the impact of specific gene mutations on plant architecture and flower formation (top row); fruit size (middle row) and the size of the plant’s growing tip, called the meristem (bottom row). The left column (top to bottom) shows a wild-type tomato plant. Compare this with two mutants: one is called fab (middle column) and the other called fin (right column). Top row: While the wild-type plant has no branches on the stem that supports flowers, the two mutants show branching – called fasciation – and the flowers have extra petals [insets]. Middle row: the wild fruit has two compartments, called locules [white arrows], bearing a jelly-like substance and seeds; the mutants have additional locules. Bottom row: the meristems of the two mutants are larger than the wild plant, indicating that they contain more stem cells.

It is therefore no surprise that when CLAVATA genes are mutated, the plant makes too many stem cells in the meristem. However, in the newly reported experiments, Lippman’s team examined never before studied mutant tomato plants, three of which contained faulty genes encoding enzymes that add sugar molecules to proteins. How was this discovery relevant to plant stem cells? Lippman’s experiments revealed that the enzymes, called arabinosyltransfersases, add sugar molecules called arabinoses to CLAVATA3 – one of the CLAVATA keys. Remarkably, these sugars are required for the key to fit a CLAVATA lock.

The team’s important discovery: changing the number of sugars attached to the CLAVATA3 key can change the number of stem cells. Three sugars are normal, and produce normal growth. But when the one or more sugars on the CLAVATA3 key are missing, the key no longer fits properly in the lock. WUSCHEL therefore sends its signal to make new stem cells, but that message is not accompanied by a "stop" signal. There is abnormal growth; the plant’s fruit becomes extremely large. Revisiting the original beefsteak tomato variety, Lippman and collaborator Esther van der Knaap at Ohio State University found the secret of the beefsteak is that not enough of the CLAVATA3 key is made in the meristem. The result is too many stem cells and giant fruits.

The research more broadly shows that there is a continuum of growth possibilities in the tomato plant, and in other plants – since the CLAVATA pathway is highly conserved in evolution and exists in all plants. By adjusting the number of sugars on CLAVATA keys, and through other mutations affecting components of the pathway, Lippman and colleagues show it is possible to fine-tune growth in ways that could allow breeders to customize fruit size.


The research discussed in this article was funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Life Sciences Research Foundation, the Energy Biosciences Institute, DuPont Pioneer, the National Science Foundation and the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

"A cascade of arabinosyltransferases controls shoot meristem size in tomato" appeared May 25, 2015 in "Nature Genetics." The authors are Cao Xu, Katie L. Liberatore, Cora A. MacAlister, Zejun Huang, Yi-Hsuan Chu, Ke Jiang, Christopher Brooks, Mari Ogawa-Ohnishi, Guangyan Xiong, Markus Pauly, Joyce Van Eck, Yoshikatsu Matsubayashi, Esther van der Knaap and Zachary B. Lippman. The paper can be obtained at:

Peter Tarr is a senior science writer for Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and can be contacted at or 516-367-8455.

Pals: Clean and Green

East Elementary School has taken the Clean Campus Program to a new level.

by Jamie Mitchell

East Elementary School in Cullman County has taken their Clean Campus Program to a new level! At the direction of teacher Anna Katherine Parsons, East Elementary is working hard to ensure their campus stands out as clean and green for the 2015-2016 school year!

Parsons coordinated a Clean Campus Day in May to wrap up their 2014-2015 school year. The day kicked off with my 30-minute Clean Campus presentation; then each grade was dismissed to their assigned task. The younger grades cleaned windows and doors, as well as watered plants and helped in pulling weeds. The older grades worked to clean the parking lots and did other litter pickups around the campus. The cleanup was quite an impressive team effort!

East Elementary has participated in the Clean Campus Program for many years now, and always participates in Alabama PALS’ scrapbook competition every fall. Their scrapbook this year will have an abundance of new material after their successful cleanup day!

Congratulations to East Elementary for taking their Clean Campus Program so seriously!

If you think a school near you would be interested in joining the Clean Campus Program, just have them give me a call at 334-263-7737 or send me an email at

Jamie Mitchell is the PALS State Clean Campus Coordinator.


by Nadine Johnson

I have several good stories I could tell you about people who have suffered with parasites, but this is Rosie’s story. Rosie-Blu is a Shetland Sheepdog. Her date of birth is Aug. 3, 2011. She is registered with the American Kennel Club. She has a very impressive pedigree.

Rosie is my "great-grand-dog." She became an orphan when Michael, her owner "Poppa," suffered a sudden massive cerebral hemorrhage on Sept. 14, 2013. My son Bill became her benefactor "Grandpa." Rosie and I worked together to assist Bill through the deep mourning for his son.

Rosie and I bonded. Soon she recognized the sound of my car. As I drove into their driveway, she came bounding out yipping, twisting and turning.

Her dog language said, "Oh, there’s my Grandma. Goody. Goody. She will take me for a ride!"

She went to a certain area of the neighbor’s fence to call her dog friend and announce, "Look. Look. My Grandma’s here."

Bill and Rosie live in Fairhope. They often take long walks. Everyone along their routes knows and loves Rosie.

About a year ago, Bill said, "Mother, I give Rosie the recommended treatment for parasites as directed. However, I continue to see little rice-like pellets in her stool. I know this is a sign of parasites. Do you have a suggestion?"

Of course, I had a suggestion. After all, I’m The Herb Lady. We began to give her both black walnut and an artemisia combination. Every day, one capsule of each was opened and dumped into her food. She took it without complaint. Soon there was no more sign of tapeworms.

Recently Bill and I took Rosie for her annual check-up. The vet pronounced her very healthy – no parasites or other problems detected.

Black walnut is used to rid the bowel of parasites such as tapeworms. It is also used as an antifungal in cases of candida yeast, ringworm, athlete’s foot and thrush. Of course, black walnut is a tree which produces these tasty nuts. I have two of the walnuts in my "show and tell" basket. My brother-in-law gathered them from the wild long ago and gave them to me.

Artemisia combination is also a parasite fighter. It is a mixture of several herbs. (Mugwort and wormwood are both in the genus artemisia.) It is effective against roundworms, amoebic dysentery, pinworms, hookworms, giardiasis, fungal infections and the malaria parasite. I have had the pleasure of growing both mugwort and wormwood from seed. They are both natives of Europe. I do not think either can be found growing wild in this area of the United States.

During the summer months, Bill uses a preparation called "Revolution," an anti-flea and other parasite product for Rosie. While using this product the vet suggested he leave off the both black walnut and artemisia combination.

There are many parasites and we humans should not forget that they exist. We contract them unknowingly. Occasionally I take black walnut and artemisia combination just to be sure I’m parasite free.

As always I suggest you consult your physician before taking any herbal preparation.

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

Saluting Farmer Veterans

Event on Capitol Hill highlights the Homegrown by Heroes program and raises awareness of farming opportunities for veterans.

Alabama Farm Credit, North Alabama’s full-service agriculture lender, actively supports local military veterans who are farming and ranching. From a Farm Credit-sponsored event on Capitol Hill highlighting the contributions of farmer veterans to a partnership with the Farmer Veteran Coalition’s Homegrown by Heroes program, Alabama Farm Credit celebrates and recognizes opportunities for local veterans in rural America.

"Alabama Farm Credit’s support of farmer veterans goes beyond providing financial assistance," said Ben Gore, the lending cooperative’s president and CEO. "By providing tools and resources, increasing community awareness, investing in programs and promoting events, we aim to give back to veterans and help them succeed."

Nationally, Farm Credit hosted an event on Capitol Hill June 2 to showcase the contributions of farmer veterans and celebrate the success of the Homegrown by Heroes program. The event was presented in collaboration with U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, and U.S. Rep. Collin C. Peterson, the committee’s ranking member.

The Farmer Veteran Coalition serves military veterans who are interested in the agriculture industry. With funding from Farm Credit, in 2014 the coalition launched Homegrown by Heroes, a product-labeling program that identifies, promotes and supports agricultural products grown and raised by veterans and those still serving in any branch of the U.S. military. In the past year, the program has grown to include more than 165 farmers and ranchers across 43 states and comprising $15 million in annual sales. Membership has nearly doubled in the past three months alone.

"We owe our veterans a debt we can never repay," Conaway said. "When we purchase products with the Homegrown by Heroes label, we are able to at least show our appreciation for the enormous sacrifices they have made."

Veterans possess the skills and character needed to strengthen rural communities, and food production offers them purpose, opportunity, and physical and psychological benefits. Those who served in the U.S. military after 2001 have a 7.2 percent unemployment rate, compared with the national average of 5.4 percent, according to a 2015 Bureau of Labor Statistics report, and agriculture can be a meaningful solution for returning veterans looking for a way to provide for their families.

Alabama Farm Credit is part of the Farm Credit System, a nationwide network of lending cooperatives that has been supporting rural communities and agriculture with reliable, consistent credit and financial services for nearly a century. Farm Credit fulfills its mission of helping these areas grow and thrive by providing farmers with the capital they need to make their businesses successful and by financing vital infrastructure and communication services. Because a steady flow of capital means more jobs and economic growth, Farm Credit is able to invest in the vibrancy of communities throughout rural America.

Headquartered in Cullman, Alabama Farm Credit also has offices in Albertville, Athens, Talladega and Tuscumbia.

Learn more about the Homegrown by Heroes program at

Southern Translation

SENTENCE USAGE: "Ah heard the dawgs barkin’ and then seen Melvin draggin’ in about two this morning three sheets to the wind. If his wife hadn’t been to her sister’s house, she’d made him sleep in tha yard!"

Why did the man have three sheets with him?

"Three sheets to the wind" means to be intoxicated.

To understand this phrase, we need to enter the arcane world of nautical terminology. Sailors’ language is, unsurprisingly, all about the sea and many supposed derivations have to go by the board. Don’t be taken aback to hear that sheets aren’t sails, as landlubbers might expect, but ropes (or occasionally, chains). These are fixed to the lower corners of sails, to hold them in place. If three sheets are loose and blowing about in the wind, then the sails will flap and the boat will lurch about like a drunken sailor.

The phrase is these days more often given as "three sheets to the wind," rather than the original "three sheets in the wind." The earliest printed citation I can find is in Pierce Egan’s "Real Life in London," 1821:

"Old Wax and Bristles is about three sheets in the wind."

Sailors at that time had a sliding scale of drunkenness; three sheets was the falling-over stage; tipsy was just "one sheet in the wind," or "a sheet in the wind’s eye." An example appears in the novel "The Fisher’s Daughter" by Catherine Ward, 1824:

"Wolf replenished his glass at the request of Mr. Blust, who, instead of being one sheet in the wind, was likely to get to three before he took his departure."

The earliest manifestation of the phrase in print I know of is the "two sheets" version. That is found in "The Journal of Rev. Francis Asbury," 1815, that recounts Asbury’s travels through Kentucky. His entry for Sept. 26, 1813, includes this:

"The tavern keepers were kind and polite, as Southern folks should be and as Southern folks ought not to be; they were sometimes two sheets in the wind. O, that liquid fire!"

That leads us to think the phrase may be of American origin. However, Asbury was English, born in West Bromwich (a short walk from where I was born, as it happens) and travelled to America when he was in his mid-20s. Whether he took the phrase with him from the English Black County or heard it (or indeed coined it) in the United States, we can’t be certain.

Robert Louis Stevenson was as instrumental in inventing the imagery of "yo ho ho and a bottle of rum" piracy as his countryman and contemporary Sir Walter Scott was in inventing the tartan and shortbread "Bonnie Scotland." Stevenson used the "tipsy" version of the phrase in "Treasure Island," 1883 – the book that gave us "X marks the spot," "shiver me timbers" and the archetypal one-legged, parrot-carrying pirate Long John Silver. He gave Silver the line:

"Maybe you think we were all a sheet in the wind’s eye. But I’ll tell you I was sober."

Spoiler Alert, Botulism

Home-canning vegetables can be risky if not done correctly.

by Angela Treadaway

Home canning is an excellent way to preserve garden produce and share it with family and friends, but it can be risky or even deadly if not done correctly and safely.

It’s almost summer and home gardeners will soon start to harvest the delicious produce they’ve been growing. Did you know one in five U.S. households can their own food, and 65 percent of those households can vegetables? Home canning is a great way to preserve your garden goodies. But beware: if it’s done the wrong way, the vegetables you worked so hard for could become contaminated by a germ that causes botulism.

What is botulism?

Botulism is a rare, but serious illness caused by a germ called Clostridium botulinum. The germ is found in soil and can survive, grow and produce toxin in a sealed jar of food. This toxin can affect your nerves, paralyze you and even cause death. Even taking a small taste of food containing this toxin can be deadly.

Botulism is a medical emergency. If you have symptoms of foodborne botulism, seek medical care immediately.

Symptoms may include the following:

- Double vision

- Blurred vision

- Drooping eyelids

- Slurred speech

- Difficulty swallowing

- Dry mouth

Don’t let your canned veggies spoil

Follow these two tips to keep your canned vegetables safe and keep them from spoiling.

1. Use proper canning techniques.

Make sure your food preservation information is always current with up-to-date, scientifically tested guidelines. Don’t use outdated publications or cookbooks, even if they were handed down to you from trusted family cooks.

You can find in-depth, step-by-step directions from the following sources:

- The National Center for Home Food Preservation

- USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning

- The state and county Extension service of your state university

2. Use the right equipment for the kind of foods you are canning.

Always use a pressure canner. Pressure canning is the only recommended method for canning vegetables, meat, poultry and seafood. Pressure canning kills the germ that causes botulism when foods are processed at the correct time and pressure in pressure canners.

Do not use boiling water canners because they will not protect against botulism poisoning.

Make your home-canned vegetables safe

- Use a pressure canner – not pressure cooker, but canner.

- Be sure the gauge of the pressure canner is accurate. Have your canner gauge tested by your local county Extension office every year with their calibrated canner tester. It’s free; just call and make an appointment with the food safety agent in your region.

- Use up-to-date USDA recipes and processing times for the kind of food, the size of jar and the method of packing food in the jar.

Home-canned foods could be contaminated, but look, smell and taste normal. If there is any doubt about whether safe canning guidelines have been followed, do not eat the food.

Home-canned food might be contaminated if:

- The container is leaking, bulging or swollen.

- The container looks damaged, cracked or abnormal.

- The container spurts liquid or foam when opened.

- The food is discolored, moldy or smells bad.

If you suspect home-canned food might be contaminated with the germ that causes botulism, throw the food away.If any of the food spills, wipe up the spill using a dilute bleach solution (1/4 cup of bleach for each 2 cups of water).

Never taste home-canned food to determine if it is safe.

When you open a jar of home-canned food, thoroughly inspect the food.

When you open home-canned vegetables, be sure to cook them thoroughly before tasting or eating; boil at least 10 minutes before trying.

Outbreaks and Home-Canned Vegetables

Home-canned vegetables are the most common cause of botulism outbreaks in the United States. From 1996-2008, there were 116 outbreaks of foodborne botulism reported to CDC. Of the 48 outbreaks caused by home-prepared foods, 18 outbreaks, or 38 percent, were from home-canned vegetables. These outbreaks often occur because home canners did not follow canning instructions, did not use pressure canners, ignored signs of food spoilage and were unaware of the risk of botulism from improperly preserving vegetables.

The most recent botulism outbreak was in Ohio at Cross Pointe Free Will Baptist Church from a church potluck lunch. After weeks of research and samples from the persons affected, the CDC discovered it was from improperly home-canned potatoes used in a potato salad dish served at the potluck lunch. One person died and 20 people were sickened, treated and released from the hospital – some with possible lifelong paralysis caused from the foodborne illness. All could have been prevented just by taking a little more time to properly prepare home-canned vegetables.

Classes will be taught all over the state this summer on home canning. If you are interested in attending a class, check with your county Extension office or go online to and find a class near you from our calendar there.

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.

Summer Care for Crape Myrtles


by Tony Glover

About this time each year, I usually get a question about summer pruning of crape myrtles. People want to know, "Can you prune in the summer and why would people do this?"

Summer pruning of crape myrtles can be done and is done for a couple of reasons. The first is to try to get two or more bloom cycles per summer. Crape myrtles bloom on new growth; therefore, we can take advantage of this characteristic to get multiple bloom cycles on the earlier blooming cultivars. This does not work very well on varieties that bloom after mid-July. With this type of pruning, all you do is cut off the spent blooms as soon as they start to fade. You can remove about half of the total blooms and then come back in a week or two and remove the rest. Using this method you can have nice blooms for two or three times as long as normal.

The other reason to summer prune is to slow growth of an overly vigorous tree. This can be accomplished by making several thinning cuts within the tree canopy. Summer is also a good time to remove the vigorous suckers shooting out near the base or near last winter’s pruning cuts. If you have a tree that has outgrown the area it’s planted in, you may want to use this option because the typical heavy winter pruning just encourages more vigorous growth. Do not use this type of pruning later than mid-August. It is best to make mostly thinning cuts rather than heading-back cuts. Heading-back cuts are the type you see the roadway maintenance crews doing in the winter. This is the worst way to prune a crape myrtle whether in summer or winter.

The practice of chopping off the tops of crape myrtle has become very commonplace. Many people believe it is required to promote flowering, some prune because the plant is too large for the space provided, and others see their neighbors doing it and feel the need to follow suit. There are rare situations in which heavy pruning is necessary, but light pruning is usually all that is needed. The type and amount of pruning depends on the desired shape and size of the plant.

Crape myrtles can be a low-maintenance plant, and the best way to ensure this is to choose the cultivar that best suits your landscape needs before planting. There are many new cultivars in different sizes and colors. The dwarf (3-6 feet) and semi-dwarf (7-15 feet) selections now available make it easy to choose the right size plant for a certain space.

Crape myrtles that mature between 5-15 feet include Acoma (white flowers), Hopi (light pink), Comanche (dark pink), Zuni (lavender) and Tonto (red). There is also a new series of medium-sized crape myrtles called the Delta series (Delta Flame, Delta Eclipse and Delta Breeze) that are definitely worth checking out. These are also resistant to powdery mildew, a fungus that attacks and distorts the leaves. Compact crape myrtles between 3-6 feet include Hope (white), Ozark Spring (lavender) and Victor (red). Unfortunately, most of the compact crape myrtles are not resistant to powdery mildew.

If careful consideration is given to the projected size of the mature plant, a selection can be found that will not outgrow its boundaries and can be allowed to display its graceful beauty with minimal pruning. However, summer pruning can be used to help control size and increase blooming if done correctly.

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

Teaching the Teachers

Mike Tate discusses his family’s Tate Farms in Meridianville. From left, Renee Lyons of Highland Elementary in Huntsville, Bob Brechtel of Sparkman Junior High in Hanceville, Tate, Brandon Price-Crum of EAT South in Montgomery and AITC State Committee Chairman Kim Ramsey.

The tables are turned as Alabama teachers became students at the Ag in the Classroom Summer Institute.

by Marlee Moore

The tables turned on 80 Alabama educators as they stepped outside the classroom and onto the farm at the Ag in the Classroom Summer Institute in Huntsville June 3-5.

Teachers of kindergarten-sixth graders became students at the 15th annual institute as they attended workshops and farm tours. Teachers visited Belle Chèvre, a goat cheese creamery in Elkmont; Meridianville’s Tate Farms, an agritourism and row crop operation; and Mullins Farm, a honey and blueberry operation.

"These teachers are seeing farms first hand, sometimes for the first time," said AITC State Committee Chairman Kim Ramsey. "They’re getting to ask questions to real farmers and are receiving information they can implement in their classrooms."

Todd Mullins of Bill Mullins Honey in Meridianville extracts honey during AITC’s farm tour.

Renee Lyons, a 22-year classroom veteran, attended the institute for the first time this year.

"Visiting the farms has absolutely been wonderful," said Lyons, a second-grade teacher at Huntsville’s Highland Elementary School. "Now I have pictures to show students what happens on a working farm."

The teachers received age-appropriate literature, DVDs and curriculum about farming, the environment and agricultural misconceptions. Lyons is excited to teach students the life lessons she learned at AITC.

"In the past, I’ve had students come to me and ask where their chocolate milk comes from," she said. "Now I can speak to them with authority and explain where their food originates."

Mike Tate, whose family farm dates back to 1946, visited with teachers and helped conduct tours on the farm. He was grateful to show educators his family’s heritage and agritourism operation.

"It’s important (to host visitors) because in today’s world there are many people who have never had hands-on experience on the farm," Tate said. "Anything we can do to add to their experiences in agriculture is a good thing."

That experience is one Lyons said she won’t soon forget.

"I would definitely recommend any teacher attend the AITC institute," Lyons added. "I have already started making a plan about the things I am going to do in the classroom."

AITC is sponsored by the Alabama Farmers Federation and primarily funded through the Alabama Farmers Agricultural Foundation’s ag tag sales. Other sponsors include the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries and state agriculture organizations.

Ramsey, who is the Federation Women’s Leadership director, said teachers already are making plans to attend next year’s summer institute and are excited to share facts about agriculture with the next generation.

"It’s important for us to share agricultural information with teachers so students can share these truths with their families. That’s the most effective way to teach agriculture," Ramsey explained.

Marlee Moore is a communications intern with Alabama Farmers Federation.

The FFA Sentinel: Planting Seeds for the Future

Raychel Fields, left, president of Brookwood High School FFA Chapter, prepares for Partners in Active Learning Support at Brookwood Elementary.

Partners in Active Learning Support program works to bring agriculture education to elementary students.

by Jennifer Crutchfield

Partners in Active Learning Support program works to bring agricultural education programs in Alabama together with elementary students through project-based learning. For the last few years, Brookwood High School and Brookwood Elementary have connected via the Partners in Active Learning Support program. The Brookwood High School FFA connected again this year with Mrs. King’s third-grade class. This innovative partnership has helped both schools further develop and expand students understanding of plant science, community gardening, botany and agriscience.

This program is a critical component of recruiting and retaining future FFA members; not only do students get to work with their peers, they also are partnered with a high school student who guides them through their hands-on experience in the Partners in Active Learning Support program.

FFA members use knowledge and skills learned in their agriscience courses to conduct the Partners in Active Learning Support program. During one of the lab activities, students worked to remove weeds, amend the soil and plant their plants in the community garden at school.

Various agencies have helped ensure the success of the program this year. Scotts Company in Vance donated soil used to create an activity for the third-grade class to begin growing their vegetables for their community garden. The Alabama Farmers Federation donated the seeds, fertilizer and hay used in this program. All the cardboard and aluminum containers used for this program were donated by the CNP from Brookwood High School. The community is a vital part of any agricultural program and without these valuable partners this program would not have occurred.

The third-grade class was led through two different agriscience lab experiences. In the first lab, students identified squash, okra, peas and sunflower seeds. The students loved getting to read a book and getting their hands on the actual seed. Without the hands-on part, many students would have been lost. During the second lab activity, students worked to remove weeds, amend their soil and plant their plants in their community garden at school. This outdoor lab gave the high school FFA members an opportunity to show off their greenhouse projects and SAEs, and the third graders had an opportunity to tour the high school greenhouse. Raychel Fields, the 2014-2015 Brookwood High School FFA president, was the Partners in Active Learning Support’s leader for each lesson. She noticed that students eagerly learned about the process of gardening when given a hands-on lab.

The third Partners in Active Learning Support’s connection allowed FFA members, third-grade students, and teachers from Brookwood High School and Brookwood Elementary School to work together to celebrate the program and Earth Day by making sure every student in an agricultural class at Brookwood High School and every third grader participating in the program received a plant to take home and observe grow in their home gardens.

Each participant in Partners in Active Learning Support was allowed to take home a plant to begin their own home garden.

"I hope this program was a learning experience for the students so that they can carry this information home and apply their gardening skills to their lives by growing and sustaining plants throughout the summer. I liked being a leader in the Partners in Active Learning Support’s program because it allowed me to practice my goal of being an agriculture teacher," Fields stated.

The Brookwood High School FFA members hope that spreading agricultural knowledge along to elementary students through the Partners in Active Learning Support program will plant "seeds" for the future and garner interest in agricultural careers and promote agriculture education and FFA to future students.

Without the Partners in Active Learning Support program, this relationship would not have happened. The success of an agriculture department must include young students learning about agriculture through the Partners in Active Learning Support program. Because of the success of this program the students from the Brookwood High School FFA were able to pass on valuable leadership skills and knowledge to the younger children in our community. What the Partners in Active Learning Support program has done for both these schools is to allow them to develop a partnership outside of the four walls of the classroom.

Jennifer Crutchfield is the agriscience teacher at Brookwood High School in Tuscaloosa County.

The Importance of Alabama’s White-Tailed Deer Herd

by Chuck Sykes

As hunters, do we really appreciate the role the white-tailed deer plays in our lives?

The white-tailed deer is the most popular big-game animal in Alabama without question. Its popularity among hunters has provided the foundation on which Alabama’s current wildlife management system thrives. Even with its undeniable popularity among Alabama’s hunters, the white-tailed deer’s key role in the management of most other game animals in Alabama is often taken for granted.

The impact of deer within the state starts with hunting license sales. The majority of hunting licenses sold in Alabama are sold to deer hunters. As I’ve stated in several articles, revenue generated from the sales of hunting and fishing licenses is the basis for practically all funding for the Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division. Hunting license revenue provides the majority of the WFF Law Enforcement Section’s funding and provides matching money for the WFF’s Wildlife Section to receive federal monies generated through the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act, better known as the Pittman-Robertson Act.

The Pittman-Robertson Act was passed in 1937 and created an excise tax on firearms and ammunition to help fund state wildlife agencies’ wildlife and habitat management efforts. This included reestablishment of white-tailed deer populations. By the late 1970s, decades of restocking animals into areas with suitable habitat and providing protection for growing deer populations through various laws and regulations had produced huntable, healthy deer populations across the entire state of Alabama.

Hunters in areas where deer populations had been virtually non-existent for two or more generations were now able to hunt deer and actually have a reasonable chance of seeing and possibly harvesting one. Most of these hunters had grown up hunting small game and found satisfaction in finding a single set of deer tracks during their time in the field. Growing deer populations and the resulting increase in deer hunting’s popularity sparked tremendous growth in what would become one of Alabama’s largest "industries."

Hunting with family and friends has remained a long-standing social tradition for Alabamians, especially those living in the more rural regions. The time spent hunting with family and friends still holds many intrinsic values difficult to quantify. For many, though, deer and deer hunting’s most important value has become their impact on the state’s economy.

A 1987 study by Auburn University examining the economic impact of hunting on Alabama’s economy estimated hunting of all game species generated $600 million dollars annually to Alabama’s economy. Money generated from the sale of guns, ammunition, hunting leases, seed and fertilizer for food plots, hunting vehicles, etc., all contributed greatly to Alabama’s economy. Results of this study left no doubt that hunting is big business in Alabama.

Subsequent surveys (e.g., National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation) conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Census Bureau have shown the economic impact of hunting, and more specifically big-game hunting, on Alabama’s economy continues to increase. The total economic impact of deer hunting on Alabama’s economy totaled over $1 billion by 2011. That included more than 20,000 jobs and $66 million in state and local taxes. These numbers should catch the attention of all Alabama citizens, hunter and non-hunter alike.

While Alabama’s deer population and deer hunting industry continue to be a major economic force, several issues put the future of the state’s deer hunting industry, as well as the long-term health of the deer population, at risk. On the surface, many of these risks may seem trivial to most casual deer hunters, but their potential long-term impacts are very real.

Of all the current risks to the future of deer hunting and deer management in Alabama, the most frustrating has to be the conflicts arising among the various deer-hunting user groups. Conflicts between stalk hunters and dog hunters, bowhunters and gun hunters, food plot hunters and "woods" hunters, deer breeder/shooting preserves and traditionalists, or QDM hunters versus "meat" hunters serve no purpose other than to divide the hunting community. These conflicts are nothing new in the deer-hunting world and most often are based merely on the perception that one group of hunters is infringing on another’s opportunity to hunt and harvest animals.

These types of conflicts have rarely, if ever, hindered WFF’s ability to manage the state’s deer population or threatened the overall health of local deer herds, but, if left to fester, they have the potential to create much deeper and long-lasting issues. For many hunters, a loss of hunting opportunity resulting from shorter seasons for their preferred approach to deer hunting may drive them to pursue other recreational activities. The resulting loss of hunters poses a much more real and serious threat to deer hunting’s future than the user-group conflicts themselves.

Declining hunter numbers is an issue facing most states, including Alabama. The decline has been slow, but steady. Much of the decline is a result of an aging hunter population moving out of the licensed buying age range (i.e., 16-65). New hunters have not been recruited and retained at a rate to offset the loss of the aging hunters.

A loss of hunters not only impacts funding, but it may very well impact deer hunting opportunities and wildlife management activities in the future. Like it or not, many decisions regarding hunting seasons, bag limits or deer management issues are not based on science or the best available data. They are made in the political arena and are based on opinion and personal bias. Fewer hunters may very well mean less influence from hunters on the decision makers.

Fortunately, the majority of these decisions have little if any long-lasting negative impacts on Alabama’s native white-tailed deer resource, but topics are looming on the horizon with the potential to create very real long-term negative effects on Alabama’s deer-herd health, as well as the future of deer hunting and wildlife conservation in the state. The time will come when Alabama’s deer hunters need to make their voices heard to ensure the future of deer hunting and a healthy, sustainable white-tailed deer population. A singular, unified voice speaking up for any cause, including deer hunting and wildlife conservation, is much harder to ignore in the political arena than many individuals speaking out for their own benefit.

While the impact of white-tailed deer on Alabama’s economy is undeniable, the millions of hours that are expended each year by hunters and wildlife watchers looking for opportunities to interact with this extremely valuable natural resource may be even more important to the state’s residents. Maintaining a healthy and thriving deer population for other generations to enjoy requires more than just the efforts of Alabama’s Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division. Whether it is a push to limit one group’s opportunities to pursue deer using a particular weapon or method, or political maneuvering to relax restrictions on importation and movement of deer in Alabama, everyone with an interest in the well-being of the state’s deer population and deer-related industry should remain vigilant to issues threatening the future of either.

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

The Transformer

3-point boomless sprayer system

by John Sims

Need to spray weeds in your pasture, hayfield, ballfield or other non-crop area? The Transformer sprayer is just the solution for your needs. The base unit is a 3-point mounted 55-gallon sprayer, pump and handgun plumbed to accept one of three boomless tip options (sold separately). Boomless tips are easy to use and allow better coverage around trees, fencerows, buildings, gates, etc. The Transformer sprayer has a pistol-type hand gun for spot spraying. It is equipped with a Hypro 6500 series 6-roller PTO pump.

Boomless tip options

BXT boom extender nozzles – Valves allow you to turn off one side or the other when needed. Large-droplet size for reduced spray drift. Coverage of 28 feet at 36-inch height.

KLC nozzle – One-piece nozzle that covers 21 feet at 36-inch height.

Hamilton nozzle – Sprays 180 or 90 degrees by changing discs. Coverage of 36 feet at 36-inch height.

Tank and pump: #5302267

BXT tips: #5302287

KLC tip: #5302288

Hamilton tip: #530229

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

The Turkey Experiment


by Suzy Lowry Geno

My first turkey came to live at Old Field Farm quite by accident.

Tom, now known as Thomas, came to live here with the addition of 10 chickens, one guinea, two rabbits and two roosters when their owners could not keep them any longer.

He had been living with the 10 chickens so I just kept him in an area with them away from my other chickens and Thomas, as well as his family of hens, thrived.

Then my son Nathan and his wife Kim ordered six day-old Broad Breasted Bronze poults and raised them on their adjacent farm under a heat lamp.

When the poults grew large enough and were fully feathered, they moved the poults into an outside pen. As soon as they grew a little bigger, Thomas moved himself from my farm to their turkey pen!

Since most turkey orders have to be "straight run," no one was certain the sex of the other turkeys. But it was soon determined that between us we now had Thomas, four other males and only one female (whom I named Ruby).

A turkey’s head is distinctive and you either think it is beautiful or REALLY ugly!

Nathan and Kim were raising their turkeys for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. (Anyone who knows me well knows that none of the animals on my farm will be eaten; they have to provide income in other ways such as the chickens laying eggs, goats giving milk for my homemade soap, guineas providing snake patrol, etc.) But Nathan and Kim are more "practical" farmers than I am and the turkeys were one step up from the meat chickens they had raised.

But sometimes life gets in the way of our plans!

The turkeys developed a respiratory infection because of cold, wet weather and were on antibiotics shortly before Thanksgiving so could not be butchered. And after the holidays, Nathan and Kim were so busy at work that the turkeys just kept eating and growing ....

So this spring, often in the afternoons, shoppers to my tiny general store were greeted by six huge, very healthy, happy turkeys doing their drumming sounds, spreading their tail feathers in displays that would make any peacock jealous, and sidling up to folks just to be petted on their weird-looking, rubbery, blue and red heads!

Hundreds of times in the past few weeks I’ve had adults tell me they’ve never ever seen a turkey before except those dressed in plastic and ready for sale in grocery stores!

Just last week, a very nice BMW screeched to a halt in the middle of the highway, turned around in a nearby driveway and pulled up at my farm as we were burning off a ditch which was filled with limbs from a recent wind storm.

Windows opened, three heads poked out and they peppered us with questions about our helpers: the six very large, strutting, curious turkeys!

And, oh, my goodness, the turkeys were the stars during the Highway 132 18-mile-long yard sale held each spring! I walked out my side door one morning at 8 to find a couple videoing their 5-year-old son surrounded by the turkeys!

And those photo and video sessions continued all day for two days as people stopped from their search for bargains and just had to have their photo made with a strutting turkey!

In E.B. White’s book, "One Man’s Meat," a collection of his magazine columns in newspapers from 1937-1942, he talks about his one surviving female turkey (out of an original six). He itemized her total cost to him and, even with 1938 figures, it was a whopping $402.85, including everything from 30 cents for the fertilized egg, expenses for the broody hen who hatched her, growing mash, scratch feed, pens and more!

(White later used his true farm experiences as background for his books, "Charlotte’s Webb," "Stuart Little" and more!!!)

And I fear the true cost of these birds would be much more by today’s standards! If Nathan and Kim butcher them now, they would probably have to use them as ground turkey simply because of their age and their size!

But it HAS been a fantastic learning experience!

They currently have about 12 turkey eggs in their incubator and know, IF they’re going to butcher the turkeys, the deed needs to be done between the ages of 18 and 24 weeks.

And there are many more breeds of turkeys to look at as they plan ahead.

I have a friend who usually raised two Midget White turkeys every year, naming one of them Thanksgiving and one of them Christmas. She says the taste is so much better than one bought in a store that her family would likely rebel if she served a store-bought turkey!

There’s also Standard Bronze, developed in the United States. In the 1700s, colonists began establishing settlements and the turkeys they brought began crossbreeding with the Eastern wild turkeys! It has changed some through the years as they have been bred for bigger breasts and legs such as the Broad Breasted Bronze that Nathan and Kim raised.

The Bourbon Red is also an older American turkey from crosses of Bronze, White Holland and Buff turkeys.

According to an article in GRIT magazine, Narragansett turkeys were named for the Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island where more domestic turkeys brought from Europe in the colonial days crossed with wild turkeys making good meat, broodiness that was good for raising poults and with calm dispositions.

Then there’s the Broad Breasted White that has been developed in the last half century and usually raised in industrial situations.

You can look on any search engine and find out all about many turkey breeds, how to raise turkeys at home and even how to butcher them.

(And don’t forget everything from feed to fencing for turkeys is available at your local Co-op!)

Turkeys are not said to be very smart (but I have yet to see one stand in the rain with its head looking upward for so long that it drowns, which is the common rumor!), but I have found these turkeys to be extremely SMART about some things!

They know that if someone drives into the driveway of my tiny store there MIGHT be treats involved and, if they cooperate while photos are being made and while they’re patted on those funny heads, there’s almost a CERTAINTY a treat will follow!

Raising turkeys is similar to raising chicks: They need heat lamps when they are small and basically until they are fully feathered; they should have the finer poult feed when they are young; and they should be kept dry and out of drafts!

Turkeys should basically not be housed with chickens because of the possibility of the spread of diseases between the two species although ours have roamed the fields with our free-range chickens late in the afternoons with no bad side effects. (But I would not house them together with chickens unless it was a situation like with Thomas where he originally thought he was a chicken and had been raised with them by someone else!)

Will there be turkeys raised on this simple farm again? I would guess that is a 100 percent probability! Ben Franklin didn’t try to have them named as our national bird for no reason! They are fun, interesting and rewarding birds.

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

Watch Out for Heat Stress!

Adaption and Use of Tall Fescue in the United States. Shaded areas represent areas of major and minor use. Above, limiting the amount of fescue seedheads consumed by cattle will help limit the levels of harmful ergot alkaloids that interfere with temperature regulation.

Fescue pastures infected with endophytic fungas can negatively affect beef cattle during the summer months.

by Jackie Nix

Tall fescue dominates the transition zone between the temperate and subtropical zones of the United States and accounts for over 40 million acres of forage land. Roughly 20 percent of the total U.S. beef cattle herd is raised in this region. The majority of tall fescue grown is infected with an endophytic fungus. This endophyte is known to produce toxic ergot alkaloids that negatively affect cattle performance. Cattle consuming endophyte-infected fescue experience production losses exceeding $600 million per year. One of the specific negative effects is increased body temperature in cattle grazing infected fescue.

Fescue-induced heat stress is believed to be caused by several factors. The ergot alkaloids are known to interfere with blood flow from the core to the peripheral tissues. Additionally, the ergot alkaloids have been shown to interfere with copper utilization in the animal, resulting in delayed shedding of winter coats.

Ergot alkaloids constrict blood flow in the peripheral tissues. This directly impedes the animal’s ability to dissipate heat through evaporative cooling. One study showed a 50 percent reduction in blood flow to skin over the ribs of steers fed a high-endophyte diet.

Research has also shown that ergot alkaloids interfere with copper nutrition in the animal. The ergot alkaloids make the plant less able to uptake copper from the soil and make the animal less able to absorb copper during digestion. One of the most noticeable symptoms of copper deficiency (and also fescue toxicosis) is a rough hair coat and significant delays in shedding winter coats.

This extra hair coupled with decreased peripheral blood flow results in increased body temperatures. During the heat and humidity of the summer (particularly in more southern regions), the animal’s inability to dissipate its body heat results in significant heat stress. Heat stress is very hard on cattle and results in decreased feed intake, decreased weight gain and milk production, and poor breeding efficiency.

There are many management techniques that can be employed to help deal with heat stress, particularly that caused by fescue. Below are a few.

Provide adequate access to cool, clean drinking water. Access to cool water is essential to help the animal cool its body temperature. Locate waterers in shady locations and keep above-ground water lines shaded. Managers should check water temperature at the trough. An increase in water temperature from 70 degrees to 95 degrees will more than double cattle’s water requirements!

Provide shade. During very hot periods, make sure cattle have shade during the hottest parts of the day. Avoid using pastures that don’t provide this relief.

Rotate cattle to non-fescue pastures. Research has shown that cattle’s body temperatures will recover somewhat within 3-12 days when cattle are removed from infected fescue pastures; however, complete recovery from the effects of fescue toxicosis is not likely in the short term.

Keep fescue seedheads clipped. If pasture rotation is not an option, manage pastures to minimize the amount of seedheads consumed by cattle. The endophyte concentrates in the seedhead and is a very potent source of ergot alkaloids. You can avoid seedheads by grazing pastures close or by regular mowing if cattle aren’t able to keep up with forage growth.

Provide access to high-quality mineral supplementation. The reasons for this are twofold. First, we know cattle have a higher water requirement during periods of heat stress, thus they will have higher urine output. Cattle will quickly lose essential electrolytes such as sodium and magnesium under these conditions. Additionally, we know that the fescue endophyte interferes with copper nutrition. Given that copper interacts with a number of other minerals in the body, the fescue endophyte ends up throwing a number of minerals off balance. Supplementation with a high-quality mineral and vitamin supplement with adequate levels of potassium, magnesium, salt, copper, zinc and other trace minerals and vitamins will go a long way towards balancing out the nutritional shortfalls caused by fescue-induced heat stress.

We can nutritionally fortify our cattle to be better equipped to deal with the negative effects of heat stress caused by the fescue endophyte. One of the easiest ways to do this is with SWEETLIX CopperHead Fescue Max minerals.These highly palatable minerals are specially formulated for cattle on fescue forages and contain essential electrolytes in addition to a high-quality trace mineral and vitamin package. SWEETLIX CopperHead Fescue Max contains a combination of organic and inorganic sources of copper, zinc, manganese and cobalt for increased bioavailability.

In summary, heat stress is a very real concern for cattle owners utilizing fescue pastures during the summer months. You can help cattle regulate their body temperature by providing cool water and shade. You can also limit the amount of ergot alkaloids ingested by limiting grazing of fescue seedheads. Finally, you can nutritionally fortify cattle to better handle heat stress. One such nutritional option is SWEETLIX CopperHead Fescue Max minerals. Ask for it by name at your local Quality Co-op location.

SWEETLIX and CopperHead are registered trademarks of Ridley Block Operations

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

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