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June 2014

4-H Extension Corner: Partnerships

Jackie Bushman, Buckmasters founder, left, and the Tallapoosa County Shotgun Team.

Association with Extension and Buckmasters is providing exciting new opportunities for 4-H youth.

by Maggie Lawrence

Many teenagers would not want to spend a bitterly cold afternoon with temperatures in the 20s perched in a deer stand. Others would think a day-long hike through woods and swamps was a chore. Those young people need to talk with Micah Oliver and Callie Littlefield. Oliver and Littlefield are just two of the Alabama 4-H club members who have enjoyed the benefits of a growing partnership between the Alabama Cooperative Extension System and Buckmasters, the nation’s leading deer hunting association.

ACES and Buckmasters joined forces in 2013 with Extension professionals providing the latest information in wildlife and habitat information via Buckmasters’ magazines. Jackie Bushman, founder of Buckmasters, calls the partnership a great fit.

"The thing that excites me in our partnership is that Alabama Extension brings expertise we have never had on the wildlife biology and habitat side," Bushman said. "It allows us to provide solid educational content to our members and subscribers. We can teach the ‘how to’ of deer hunting, but having Extension teach the biological side of the outdoors is tremendous."

4-H regional agents share information at the Skins and Skulls Station at the 2013 Buckmasters Expo.

ACES director Dr. Gary Lemme agrees with Bushman about the educational benefits of the partnership, but added the benefits to 4-H members, particularly those involved in Alabama 4-H Shooting Awareness, Fun and Education, are even more exciting.

"Our partnership with Buckmasters has brought exciting new opportunities for our youth, and we are looking forward to how our partnership will grow," Lemme said. "Alabama 4-H S.A.F.E. and our other natural resource programs are some of the most popular offerings we have in 4-H."

The Extension-Buckmasters partnership has benefited not only current 4-H club members but exposed thousands of young people to 4-H as well.

Children and parents visiting the Young Bucks area at the 2013 Buckmasters Expo in Montgomery were treated to 4-H stations with activities on animal tracks, skins and skulls. Alabama 4-H will return to the 2014 Buckmasters Expo August 15-17 at the Montgomery Convention Center with these activities and many more.

Also at the Expo, the 2013 State Champion Archery team from Etowah County got a chance to shoot on Buckmasters Championship Archery Range. The young people, who represented Alabama in the National Shooting Sports event in Nebraska, gave the audience, professional archers and members of the bow hunting industry a surprise with their accuracy on the range, which featured pop-up targets at a variety of distances.

Oliver, a member of the 4-H River Region Rifles Club, had the opportunity to bring in the New Year on a hunt for his first deer with a Buckmasters guide. The temperature was only in the 20s when he and his guide headed out to a hunting blind. Before the afternoon ended, Oliver was telling both Bushman and Lemme about his afternoon and how he had harvested his first deer.

"It was really exciting. I was surprised at how peaceful it was while we watched the field. It was a great opportunity to put the shooting and safety skills I have learned in 4-H into action," Oliver stated.

He said his years in 4-H S.A.F.E. were a key element in his successful first hunt.

"My time in the River Region Rifles Club has taught me so much that I felt really prepared for what I encountered on the hunt," he explained.

When Gamo Air Rifles and Buckmasters hosted the Squirrel Master Classic at Southern Sportsman Lodge in February, each team, composed primarily of hunting television show personalities and outdoor media, boasted an Alabama 4-H club member. Littlefield and five more River Region Rifles members got to hunt squirrels with Bushman, Jacob Landry of Swamp People, Michael Waddell and Travis Turner of Bone Collector, and Shawn Michaels of MRA Hunting.

"All the experienced hunters on my team were so gracious – helping me with my first hunt," Littlefield recalled. "They encouraged me and taught me techniques to improve my stalking and hunting skills. It was amazing to be able to use my 4-H training in a hunt."

Most recently, four members of the Tallapoosa County Champion 4-H Shotgun team joined Bushman and Lemme on a quail hunt.

"It was a great opportunity to quail hunt with these young men," Lemme said. "They were great ambassadors for 4-H and everyone bagged their limit."

Talking with Bushman, it is easy to hear his passion and excitement for the young people involved in Alabama 4-H.

"We are very excited about working with 4-H. 4-H youth and young people like them are our future. Hopefully, their excitement about fishing and hunting and enjoying the outdoors will spread to their friends and other young people," Lemme concluded.

Maggie Lawrence is a communications specialist with Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

A Green Revolution

A bronze statue of Dr. Norman Borlaug was unveiled in April at the U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall – home to 100 statues of prominent Americans. The seven-foot statue of Dr. Borlaug depicts him at work in a field and is based on a photograph of him as he checked the resistance of wheat plants to disease. Dr. Borlaug (March 25, 1914 - September 12, 2009) was an American biologist, humanitarian and Nobel laureate who has been called “the father of the Green Revolution.” He is credited, through his plant research, with saving more human lives than any other person who has ever lived. “The Man Who Saved a Billion Lives” is one of seven people to have won the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal.

This Time for Africa

by Tina Rosenberg

Last month was the 100th anniversary of the birth of Norman Borlaug, the father of the Green Revolution.

In 1944, Borlaug moved to Mexico to work on breeding high-yield, disease-resistant strains of wheat. Mexico adopted them – and in 1970, wheat yields were six times what they had been in 1950.

In 1965, India and Pakistan, then on the brink of widespread famine, began growing the high-yield wheat. Over the next 30 years, wheat yields in India tripled. The same happened with high-yield rice strains that had been developed in the Philippines.

Borlaug, who died in 2009, directed the wheat improvement program of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center that goes by the Spanish acronym CIMMYT. The research headquarters is a 200-acre spread of land a half-hour drive from Mexico City.

Today CIMMYT researchers grow and test new varieties of corn, or maize, along with the wheat. Their purpose is to contribute to a new green revolution - this time for Africa.

The high-yield wheat and rice of the Green Revolution produced dramatic gains in harvests in Asia and Latin America, but not in Africa. There, the climate was too varied, the soils too degraded. Africa lacked infrastructure such as roads or India’s railway system that helped farmers to commercialize their grain. It did not have a network of companies to sell farmers the hybrid seeds for the high-yield varieties, nor the fertilizer and pesticides necessary to take full advantage of those seeds.

Asian governments had large programs to provide credit, extension agents to teach new farming methods, and subsidized inputs; the Food Corporation of India bought surplus grains at a guaranteed price.

African governments, for the most part, did not do these things. And today Africa’s agricultural yields are less than half the global average, and about 25 percent of what they could potentially yield. Agricultural productivity in Africa is growing at about half the rate the population is growing.

Africa has long been a continent of small farmers, half of them women, raising maize with no fertilizer, pesticide or irrigation, on a tiny plot with a hoe. Now the little these farmers have is endangered by drought. Climate change is making Africa’s weather more extreme and erratic. Africa loses about a fifth of its maize crop because of drought. In many years, the loss is near-total. A survey of farmers in 12 countries found, in the last decade, they averaged about three wipeout years.

Maize is the natural focus for a Green Revolution in Africa, as it is the poor person’s crop and the one most widely planted in Africa.

In 2011, I walked through the fields at CIMMYT with Marianne Bänziger, the center’s deputy director general for research and partnerships. She is a Swiss crop physiologist who specializes in developing maize for low-water and low-fertility environments.

CIMMYT began working on drought-tolerant maize in the late 1980s. In 2000, the first seeds for drought-tolerant maize were planted in Malawi and Zimbabwe. Now 3 million farmers in 13 countries in Africa are using them. (All these strains are conventionally bred, not genetically modified.)

"One drought is something that throws farmers back into poverty," Bänziger said. "They lose everything. During a severe drought, a farmer may harvest 5 percent of the ears of a normal crop. With drought-tolerant maize, the farmer can get 50 percent. We want to get to the point where we can save every plant."

The Green Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s is still debated today. The bumper yields came not only from new strains of wheat, but also from the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Farmers, who had lived for millennia using the seeds they grew, now had to purchase them to get these gains. Buying seeds and fertilizer, of course, was easier for the wealthy than the poor. And vast planting of only a few varieties reduced biodiversity.

But Mark Rosegrant, the director of the environment and production technology division at the International Food Policy Research Institute, said that small farmers did, with some lag, adopt the new technologies – the record yields they saw others achieve convinced them to buy the seeds, fertilizers and pesticides. They also benefited all along from a newly revitalized rural economy, higher wages and lower food prices.

Pesticides and inorganic fertilizers are bad for the environment. But this is not an argument that anyone who eats in America should be making to African subsistence farmers. In 2006, an African Union Declaration on agriculture adopted the goal of 50 kilograms of fertilizer per hectare planted. At the time, Africa was using only eight kilos per hectare; America was using 120. Africa needs vastly more fertilizer use, not less.

But the Green Revolution also produced enormous environmental benefits. Borlaug’s research was motivated in part by a desire to save forest from being turned into farmland. And he succeeded – as cereal production doubled in Asia, the area under cultivation increased by only 4 percent.

Most important, the Green Revolution’s critics have no good answer to what would have happened to Asia’s exploding population, already hungry, absent the doubling of yields. The Green Revolution saved a billion people from starvation.

What will happen to Africa? It is not only possible to get more maize from every acre planted, it is necessary. Africa cannot feed itself while getting only a quarter of its potential yields.

The strains of maize bred at CIMMYT in Mexico are spread throughout Africa by the Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa project, or D.T.M.A., with headquarters in Nairobi, run by CIMMYT and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture. The project has released 140 new varieties of maize so far.

But a key lesson of the Green Revolution is that getting a new strain of maize out of the research station is not the same as getting it into the fields. Bänziger spent 9 years in Zimbabwe and 5 years in Kenya, working with local governments, farmers, seed company officials and agricultural extension agents who train farmers.

Her career – a combination of scientific research and on-the-ground cajoling, politicking and marketing – reflects both parts of the job. The science, she said, is the easy part.

"So far, it’s a success story," she said. "And we can further increase tolerance to drought."

The more difficult challenge is on the ground – farmers don’t know about the seed, or they know about but can’t get it, or they can’t afford the initial investment, or they are afraid to try it. CIMMYT’s job is to pollinate not just a plant, but a practice.

Drought-resistant maize is now providing a better livelihood for some 20 million people. The organization aims to double that reach by the end of next year. The drought-tolerant varieties do as well as or better than traditional maize when the rains are good, and when they are bad they will save a farmer from ruin. Overall, said Tsedeke Abate, an Ethiopian agricultural biologist who directs D.T.M.A., they improve yields by 20-30 percent.

One setback came 2 years ago with the emergence of Maize Lethal Necrosis, a new disease that destroyed maize crops in Kenya and Tanzania. Kenya is a major producer of drought-tolerant maize seed - and none of it could be used, for fear of spreading the disease. CIMMYT is testing its strains to see which are most resistant to the disease, and rapidly breeding new ones.

The impact of the disease on the drought-tolerant maize program underscores a basic lesson: farmers can’t plant the seed if they can’t get it. Maize Lethal Necrosis has not been the only obstacle to seed production, and Abate is now traveling around Africa encouraging seed companies to produce their own foundation seed – the first generation after the breeder seed.

Until recently, there were very few seed companies in Africa, most of them state-run. In many countries, a farmer could look at her neighbor’s high yields with envy – but have no place to buy the seed herself.

As with many products in Africa, creating a distribution chain is a bigger challenge than inventing the product itself. Seeds have to be grown – of high quality and in large amounts. Agro-dealers – especially those in remote places – have to get them and stock them. Government extension agents or seed company employees have to plant demonstration plots; seeing the plots of traditional and high-yield maize side by side is persuasive. Farmers have to find out about these marketing efforts. They need credit to buy the seeds and the fertilizers.

D.T.M.A. doesn’t do any of this directly. It works with national programs and seed companies, often alongside the Program for Africa’s Seed Systems, part of a group called AGRA – an acronym for A Green Revolution for Africa. (Two giant foundations – Rockefeller and Ford – financed much of the original Green Revolution, and two giant foundations – Rockefeller, again, and Gates – are financing much of the Green Revolution today.) These groups have successfully midwifed dozens of new seed companies and distributors – private sector, government and community-run.

The Seed Systems program also provides fellowships for African seed scientists, another crucial need. Abate said that in the 13 countries where D.T.M.A. works, accounting for about three-quarters of Africa’s maize, there are only about 65 full-time maize researchers.

"Just imagine – a crop that’s the most important source of income on the continent," he said. "To have less than 70 researchers is really obscene."

The Green Revolution failed in Africa for reasons that remain major obstacles today. Absent research, roads, storage, extension capacity, credit and subsidies – high-yield maize will produce little, or its gains will go only to wealthier farmers. But when governments invest in agriculture, dramatic gains are possible. (The book "Millions Fed" details some of the success stories.)

One example – not in the book – is Malawi. In the 2004-05 growing season, drought produced a catastrophic maize harvest, and 5 million people – more than a third of the country – needed emergency food aid. Malawi then started a program that heavily subsidized fertilizer and instituted smaller subsidies for seeds. The effect was immediate: yields reached double the traditional levels, and remain there. Malawi became a food exporter, selling maize to the World Food Program and to other countries. Inside Malawi, hunger dropped sharply and poverty has declined significantly.

Abate’s own country, Ethiopia, has also doubled yields. In 2001, he said, Ethiopia had a very good harvest – but it had no storage facilities for grain.

"So the bag that contained the grain to transport it to the market was worth more than the grain itself," Abate said.

Ethiopia has since invested heavily in infrastructure, extension agents and marketing; maize is traded, for example, on Ethiopia’s new commodity exchange. Ethiopia is now second to South Africa among African countries in production per hectare.

"Successful countries have invested in agriculture and they are now benefiting from that investment," said Abate. "Lessons should be drawn from their experiences. This is what the future of African agriculture should look like."

A Natural Beauty

The Conecuh River cuts through the Renfroe property adding even greater diversity to the land with its sloughs.

Pike Co. Treasure Forest Association tours the Renfroe Farm, a 3,000-acre private refuge.

by Jaine Treadwell

The Renfroe "farm," as it is loosely called, could be a Pike County best-kept secret.

Gene and Jana Renfroe could spend early spring afternoons leisurely strolling the quarter-mile walkway across a sparkling pond or an early winter morning "shooting" deer with a Canon as the whitetails feed on the grain fields. The farm could be their hideaway.

Two wagonloads of Pike County Treasure Forest Association members and friends of the forest enjoyed the riding tour of the Renfroe property and the informative presentations by Gene Renfroe at stops along the way.

And, for sure, the 3,000-acre Pike County property could be a best-kept secret, but it is not.

Gene and Jana graciously open their "refuge" to groups of all ages who want to know more about land and forest management, and good stewardship of God’s earth on loan to those who inhabit it.

Just as the Renfroes have opened the gates to their property to school groups who are participating in the Classroom in the Forest programs, so do they open the gates to adults who want to know more and learn more about forest and wildlife management.

Gene Renfroe explained how a troubled pond was given new life with the installation of a liner like those used at industrial toxic waste sites.

The annual meeting of the Pike County Treasure Forest Association was held in April at their property off the Henderson highway.

The two trailer loads of Association members and other friends of the forest who toured the property were "blown away" by the beauty of rural Pike County and what the Renfroes have done to improve and enhance their property.

"What Gene and Jana have done to improve their property is nothing short of amazing," said Carter Sanders, Pike County TFA president. "I don’t know of any better stewards of the land than them."

Gene said his family has been on the property for five generations. He and his wife purchased the land from his mother and it is entrusted to their children and to future generations.

A quarter-mile wooden walkway spans one of the ponds on the Renfroe property. The walkway is ideal for leisurely strolls and for bird watching.

"The original property was 1,600 acres on the east side of the Conecuh River," Gene said. "We now have 3,000 acres with 1,000 acres across the river."

The Renfroes have a mixed forest with both pines and hardwoods. Renfroe said he has an affinity for hardwoods with the exception of sweetgums.

He, laughingly, said he wouldn’t mind if all the sweetgums suddenly disappeared.

"Jana and I are committed to maintaining a hardwood forest along with the pine plantations," he said.

Their commitment to maintaining a hardwood forest was evident as the trailer loads of 40 friends of the forest inched along narrow lanes bordered on both sides by towering hardwoods with limbs that seemed to reach upward and brush clouds from the sky so the sun could filter through.

"You won’t find anything more spectacular than this," Nelda Price said. "And, to think, this is Pike County, Alabama."

The tour of the Renfroe property meandered through the pine plantations and the hardwood groves, snaked around the ponds, through the hill country and the bottomlands, and edged the swamplands of the Conecuh River.

"This property is so diverse," Sanders said. "There are hills and river bottoms and everything in between. The Renfroes manage their property for timber and for wildlife. They have grain fields for the deer and honey spots with pear trees and crabapple trees for small animals and birds. They have considered everything in managing their property."

Renfroe said the property is blessed with wildlife.

"We have plenty of turkey and deer, and we’ve been managing our wildlife actively for about 20 years," he said. "We have several shooting houses and some are two-story. We built them so that hunters with special needs can hunt and have a place to shoot without having to climb ladders."

There are several ponds on the property including a pond with a quarter-mile wooden walkway that is ideal for quiet walks and bird watching, and a pond where trophy bass are being raised.

A troubled pond on the property was given new life with the installation of a liner like those used at industrial toxic waste sites, Renfroe said.

"One really unique feature of the Renfroe property is the green tree reservoir," Sanders said. "This area has a mammoth dam where the water can be regulated in one-foot increments. The land can be flooded in October for a duck pond and the water can be drawn out in March and will be a dove field in September."

Carla Rice, a friend of the forest, was impressed by the uniqueness of the property.

"If I had not known better, I would have thought that I was in a national wildlife park," she said. "There are thick forests with towering hardwoods, swampy areas with huge cypress knees, grasslands and beautiful ponds. The tour was totally unique. I don’t know of any other place around here that is as diverse as this. It is awesome. Breathtaking."

Keith Roling, a TFA member, agreed that it is amazing what the Renfroes have done to improve their property.

"The Renfroe property could easily be a state park," he said. "This property is as diverse and as beautiful as property that has been set aside for public viewing."

Roling said he joined others on the tour in expressing appreciation to the Renfroes for "sharing this wonderful place with us and for being such dedicated stewards of the land."

Jaine Treadwell is a freelance writer from Brundidge.

A Simple Home Test

Reduces the high cost of radon in Alabama

Residents of every county vulnerable

by Maureen Drost

Up to 30,000 non-smokers lose their lives to lung cancer in America each year. The cause? Exposure to excessive amounts of radon in their homes.

In Alabama, high levels – more than four picocuries per liter - of the colorless, odorless gas abound particularly in the north and central regions. However, according to spokeswoman Patricia Smith, the U.S. Surgeon General has declared all 67 counties in Alabama vulnerable, meaning "everyone needs to test their homes for radon."

“Alabama is a radon state,” according to Patricia Smith, Alabama radon coordinator. “Every home should be tested.” The counties in red have the highest levels of radon at greater than four picocuries/liter, yellow signifies two to four pc/l, and green less than two pc/L.

Smith spoke April 15 to the Huntsville Rotary Club at the Von Braun Center. Huntsville Rotary is one of the oldest and largest such groups in the area and engages in service to others, especially high school youths, as part of its mission.

As the state radon coordinator for counties in North and Central Alabama, Smith works for the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service and makes frequent presentations to adults and children. Many who talked with her at an exhibit for a Madison County Earth Day celebration weren’t aware of how harmful radon can be, she said.

A DVD shown to the Rotary members presented the personal side of lung cancer brought on by radon exposure. Showing profiles of men and women in their 40s, 50s and 60s, the mini-documentary showed a husband trying to hold back tears as he coped with his wife’s surprising diagnosis.

"I believe radon caused my lung cancer," a busy mother from Oakmont, Pa., announced.

Driving her children to one of their many sporting events, she bravely said, "Life doesn’t stop because I’m sick."

Her home tested at 50-46 points higher than the four pc/liter danger level.

Dennie Edwards, a third person with cancer, explained how he lost his left lung to the disease.

"Something as simple as a radon test," said the DVD moderator Connie Durst, "can prevent (such trauma)."

Sponsor of the presentation is, Cancer Survivors Against Radon.

Smith told the Rotary Club that high amounts of radon can be mitigated by trained professionals. For families whose houses are on slabs, for example, the contractor "puts a PVC pipe into the ground and runs it into the home." A chemical smoke test is often completed first to locate the source and direction of air movement. The cost depends on the type of foundation.

To select an honest, responsible contractor she encouraged club members and guests to contact her at Another website,, contains links to educational pamphlets, hotlines and other resources.

"Radon comes from the decay of uranium," she said. "It’s in the soil and comes in through cracks in (the foundations of) our homes."

Homeowners can test their houses using a simple $7 test. The kit comes complete with instructions, a data sheet and a paid return box in which the testing vial can be placed and mailed to a lab through the U.S. Postal Service. Smith sold dozens of kits at the Rotary luncheon and told the club members more are available at the Madison County Extension Service on Cook Avenue. They’re also available through such lawn and garden stores as Lowe’s and Home Depot.

Compared with the toll from other cancers, said spokeswoman Durst as she summed things up, "Thirty thousand deaths from radon is just a drop in the bucket … unless it is you."

Anyone wishing to schedule a presentation by Patricia Smith may contact her at for more information. During the summer, she schedules special programs for Boys & Girls Clubs, 4-H groups, city and county libraries, and scout troops.

Maureen Drost is a freelance writer from Huntsville.

Auburn College of Agriculture Honors Exceptional Alumni

Flanked by Auburn University College of Agriculture Dean Bill Batchelor, left, and Associate Dean for Instruction Paul Patterson, right, are recipients of the college’s first Alumni Awards including, from left, R. Dewey Lee, Outstanding Alumnus, Department of Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences; Jimmy Parnell, Outstanding Alumnus, Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology; Randall Ennis, Outstanding Alumnus, Department of Poultry Science; Valentin Abe, Outstanding Alumnus, School of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences; Billy Powell, Outstanding Alumnus, Department of Animal Sciences; James Harwell, Outstanding Alumnus, Department of Horticulture; Ray Hilburn, Alumni Service Award; Jeff Helms, Outstanding Alumnus, Agricultural Communications Program; and Paul Pinyan, Alumni Service Award.

Press Release from Auburn University College of Agriculture

Nine successful and influential professionals who hold degrees from Auburn University’s College of Agriculture have been selected as winners in the college’s newly established alumni awards program.

The honors, formally presented Friday, April 18, include seven departmental Outstanding Alumni Awards and two college-wide awards for exceptional service to and support of the College of Agriculture at Auburn.

Winners of the departmental honors are:

Valentin Abe of Port-au-Prince, Haiti - M.S., fisheries and allied aquacultures, 1991, and Ph.D., ’95. Named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2010, Abe is director of Caribbean Harvest, a tilapia breeding and aquaculture project in Haiti empowering impoverished residents by increasing their incomes through tilapia culture.

Randall Ennis of Huntsville - B.S., poultry science, ’83. Ennis is director of global business development for Germany-based EW Group, an international company that concentrates on animal breeding, animal nutrition and animal health. Most recently, Ennis was CEO of Aviagen, the world leader in poultry genetics and breeding, and a company that EW Group purchased in 2005.

James Harwell of Auburn - B.S., horticulture, ’72. Harwell is executive director of the Alabama Nursery and Landscape Association and executive secretary of the Gulf States Horticultural Expo, the nation’s largest green industry trade show and education conference. He also was instrumental in establishing the Alabama Green Industry Training Center in Birmingham.

Jeff Helms of Montgomery - B.S., agricultural journalism, ’92. Helms joined the staff of the Alabama Farmers Federation, the state’s largest farm organization, in 1998 and today is director of communications for the federation and general manager of Creative Consultants Inc., the federation’s in-house advertising and marketing agency.

R. Dewey Lee of Tifton, Ga. - B.S., agricultural sciences, ’76, and M.S., agronomy, ’79. Lee is a retired professor and Extension grain and bioenergy crops agronomist in the University of Georgia’s Department of Crop and Soil Sciences who, since his retirement, has returned to the faculty on a part-time basis. He also serves as state executive director of the Georgia Corn Growers Association.

Jimmy Parnell of Stanton - B.S., agricultural business and economics, ’85. A Chilton County cattle and timber producer, Parnell is currently president of the Alabama Farmers Federation and president and CEO of Alfa Insurance Companies. The federation has 400,000 members; Alfa has more than 1 million policies in force in 11 states.

Billy Powell of Montgomery - B.S., animal sciences, ’66, and Ph.D., ’70. Powell is the long-time executive vice president of the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association and editor of Alabama Cattleman magazine. He also is executive director of the Southeastern Livestock Exposition.

Recipients of the college’s first Alumni Service Awards are:

Ray Hilburn of Luverne - B.S., poultry science, ’78. Hilburn spent 30 years with the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries as director of poultry programs before joining the Alabama Poultry and Egg Association as membership director in 2011. On Jan. 1, 2014, he was named associate director of the association.

Paul Pinyan of Auburn - B.S. animal and dairy sciences, ’88. Pinyan, who also holds a law degree from Faulkner University’s Jones School of Law, is executive director of the Alabama Farmers Federation and general manager of Alfa Services Inc., which offers federation members marketing assistance, health insurance, farm supplies and other products and services.

Nominations for the awards were submitted by departments and units within the College of Agriculture. The final selection was made by a committee that included the dean, associate deans, department heads and unit directors.

Backyard Orchards

Sisters Allie Corcoran, left, and Cassie Jones sit on the front porch at Backyard Orchards’ new barn. The new barn allows room to showcase goods, a kitchen for making foods and room for so much potential growth.

Sisters know u-picks are always good for family fun.

by Anna Leigh Peek

If you’ve happened to travel through Barbour County on U.S. Highway 431 in between Columbus, Ga., and Eufaula, you may have noticed something new at mile marker 81, but it is not the new four-lane highway.

Backyard Orchards is a roadside stand started by sisters Cassie Young and Allie Corcoran in April 2010. The Corcoran sisters had grown up on a row crop farm and both went off to Auburn. When Allie graduated in 2009, she was looking at going back home to the farm, but there was not enough room on the farm for another partner. The family came together and started talking.

"We had been on vacations in North Carolina as a family. We always went to u-picks and they were always family fun. We wanted to do something where we could bring families out here and get them a little closer to agriculture," Corcoran said.

You can stop and buy some pre-picked or pick your own.

They finally decided to locate their business on their family’s old homeplace. Their first step was to clean up the area to prepare it for planting. They also sought the advice of Extension agents and other u-pick operators around the Southeast. They planted their first crops in August 2009.

Corcoran and Young have different backgrounds. Corcoran studied agricultural communications at Auburn and Young studied human development and family studies. Both agree their different areas of expertise have proven to be a great asset to their business.

"We complement each other very well," Corcoran explained.

Young handles more of the paperwork and customer service, and Corcoran handles more of the operational aspects of the business and is the spokesperson for the farm.

"Cassie will often tell me, you have to remember how people think," Corcoran said.

Backyard Orchards started with a small pole barn to sell their produce. Now in their fourth year of operation, Backyard Orchards has grown their business. In the last year, they have built a new building to expand the items they offer for sale and added a kitchen.

The construction of their building was quite a challenge as there are so many regulations to be followed.

With their new building, the sisters are able to offer an assortment of goods, from homemade jellies to cookbooks, and from snacks to their very own cane syrup.

"The regulations we had to follow probably started out to ensure safety, but many have lost their practicality," Young said. "Many of the regulations sound good, but are not feasible. You will not understand until you are actually on a farm, doing the work that these laws often do not make sense."

Other challenges that Young and Corcoran face are having help to harvest the fruits and vegetables when they are ripe and ensuring the proper handling of the produce, especially proper refrigeration.

The sisters have learned a lot in their 4 years in business and that learning process is continuing.

"Knowing what we know now, we probably should have done some things differently," Corcoran said.

"When starting an operation like this, you can start off by going all in or you can start and gradually add things like irrigation," Young explained. "We started all in which is costly. It required Allie to work a part-time job, off-farm, for several years."

"We have learned that you shouldn’t try to cut corners. When you do, you end up punching yourself in the back," Corcoran added.

Like with any farm, there is always work to be done at Backyard Orchards. This season is the first time both sisters have been able to be at the farm full-time – thanks to the success of their business. Young and Corcoran have to pick, package and sell their produce along with help from some other workers.

This year, Backyard Orchards is offering strawberries; blueberries; red potatoes; red, yellow and Georgia onions; rutabagas; collards; cabbage; turnip greens; bok choy; squash; zucchini; tomatoes; sweet and field corns; and peaches.

In addition to selling produce, Backyard Orchards now welcomes field trips from local schools.

"We love having kids come," Corcoran said. "It is so fun to see them wander in the fields and learn about agriculture first hand."

This year with their new building, they are able to do birthday parties and small meetings, and one day would like to host weddings.

Ice cream is a popular item at Backyard Orchards in the summertime. Peach, blueberry and chocolate are made the old-fashioned way in an ice cream maker. According to Young, "We sell ice cream as quick as we can make it."

Even though it is more work than just picking up a bucket of fruit, the u-pick option is very popular.

"It is rewarding to watch people pick their fruit and take a bite of a strawberry in the field and really enjoy it," Young said.

Since it is the season for fruits and vegetables, Backyard Orchards is currently open Monday-Saturday 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. and Sundays 1:30-5:30 p.m. In the fall, there are special hours for pumpkins and gourds. You can visit their website at or follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

Anna Leigh Peek is a freelance writer from Auburn.

Breaking up the Monotony

by Lisa Hamblen Hood

When I finally get around to doing a job I dread, I realize why I dreaded it. Cleaning out the feed room is one of those ugly jobs. If it isn’t cleaned periodically, it will get so filled up with feed bags, strings, paper scraps, buckets, loose hay and pieces of baling wire that we can’t get in the door. Of course, that is the perfect kind of job to enlist free child labor. They’d prefer watching TV in the air-conditioned house, but then how would their character ever get built?

That job reminds me (and I then remind my kids) how much easier it would be to tidy up a little each day. Then, we wouldn’t have had that colossal mess in the first place. I’m sure that lecture falls on deaf ears.

Everyone has a designated job. One kid picks up baling wires and folds them several times. Another kid picks up strings and paper tape. I work with another kid, flattening and folding the empty feed bags and stuffing as many as possible into another bag.

One day while we cleaned the feed room, it was particularly hot. I didn’t intentionally pick the hottest day of the year, but my children wondered otherwise. Inside the confines of the metal room, the heat was truly sweltering. It wasn’t exactly therapeutic for our allergies either, with all the dust hanging in the still, hot air.

I should have been wary that day because the job was going so smoothly. That should have been an omen in itself. No one was arguing about whose job was harder or asking to take another break. Wires were getting rolled and bags were getting flattened and folded. Occasionally, there would be a few particles of feed left in the bottom of a bag, and I’d just dump them out on the ground to be swept up with the loose hay.

My teenage daughter was standing next to me when I emptied a bag. Unbeknownst to us both, there was a tiny mouse in that bag. No doubt he’d been feasting on the rich, high-protein goat ration, and was, for the moment, safe from the family cat. When I turned the bag over, he tumbled out and scrambled for cover. When he did, the closest route to safety was over the top of my daughter’s sandal-clad foot.

When she felt those little feet scurry over the top of her feet, she reacted with tremendous shock and surprise. My head was down, and I was already grabbing the next bag to be emptied, so I was unaware of what was happening. But when I heard her gasp, I looked up. All the color had drained from her face. She threw her hands over her mouth and paused. I waited for her to exhale. When she finally did, she let out a blood-curdling scream. Then, she broke down into hysterical sobs, tears streaming down her hot, dusty face. I couldn’t really understand all she was saying, because she was blubbering by that time. But it was something about being "grossed out" by the mouse’s tickly feet on top of hers.

I don’t know how many times I had told her and the kids not to come outside to work in flip flops. Proper clothing and footwear are essential for efficient completion of any job. However, sensible information like that never seems to find its way into her teenage brain. It’s already too crowded with critical data about which boy was going out with one of her friends, or which boy was going to call her that night or meet her at the next rodeo.

When she finally calmed down, the other kids and I had a good laugh at her expense. It was a dramatic overreaction to such a little mouse. She failed to see the humor in the situation, which made it even funnier. At least, it did break up the monotony of the hot, tedious job. It didn’t take much convincing that perhaps it was time for us all to take a break in the house and have a glass of tea.

When we went back out to finish the job, my teenager put on her boots - without even being told.

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

Bringing History to Life

Visitors to the Blountsville Historical Park during the recent Daffodil Festival.

by Suzy Lowry Geno

There are not many areas of Alabama that can boast of not one but two major Civil War raids, Native American history in almost every corner, a former long-time college when formal education was still in its infancy, being a former county seat and fighting back after that honor was lost, and having houses and other buildings still standing that witnessed it all!

The Blount County town of Blountsville has one traffic light in the heart of its small business district and the population is listed at around 1,700. But don’t let those two small-town facts fool you!

As a matter of fact, even some locals laughed when the town council and the Blountsville Business Association worked with Auburn University in 2005 to make an improvement plan for the town. But Councilman Dennis Beavers and local insurance company owner explained every one of those 2005 goals have now been checked off and more progress is coming!

And then there’s the Blountsville Historical Society, formed only in 1990, that was honored with the James Ray Kuykendall Local Historical Society Award for being the best in the state in 2006 and is certainly not resting on their laurels!

Blountsville City Council-man Dennis Beavers plays piano in the Historical Society’s small chapel. Beavers is also president of the Blountsville Business Association and serves on the historical society board.

The key to Blountsville’s success is the town’s dedicated volunteers, Beavers and others agree. And the rough-cut diamond in the town’s crown is the Blountsville Historical Park.

The community and the town were originally called Bear Meat Cabin. While no one knows for certain, folks think that name came from a Cherokee chief who lived in a log cabin directly in the center of what is known as present-day Blountsville.

The small settlement of white settlers and Native Americans that grew up around his cabin was believed to be the first settlement in Blount County and an economic center for what is now the area of Blount, Cullman, Walker and Marshall counties.

While the largest settlement of Cherokee Indians were said to live about 20 miles northward in what is now Marshall County, evidently hunting parties of several tribes of Indians traveled often throughout the area.

Information from the Heritage of Blount County (printed by the Blount County Historical Society) notes that the settlers in the area around about 1818 had trouble with some mixed Cherokee and Creek Indians and some "undesirable whites."

But, basically, it seems everybody got along and the rural area was valued for its hunting and beauty.

History notes that Davy Crockett "came along the Bear Meat Cabin Road in 1817 or 1818 with three of his neighbors from Winchester, Tenn., ‘to explore a new country.’"

The old Brooksville Post Office. It is rumored that Bonnie and Clyde spent the night in their roadster behind the old post office at its original location.

The town and settlement’s name was changed to "Blountsville" when the new town became the county seat in 1819. (There was a huge controversy when the county seat was moved to the new railroad town of Oneonta in the late 1800s! The old Blountsville courthouse was later used as the building for Blount College, but it burned January 5, 1895, and a new building was built for the North District Agriculture School.)

As more and more settlers came, they traveled what became known as the Tuscaloosa-Huntsville Road and a part of that road is now the back driveway to the Blountsville Historical Park!

What is now known as the Freeman House was built facing that old road around 1830.

Jane Wright remembers living in that house more than a century later when she was 5 or 6 years old, having to utilize an outdoor toilet and with her mother cooking their meals on a wood-fired cook stove.

The Freeman House had originally been built as a two-story home of homemade brick. A tornado or severe windstorm toppled much of that building in the early 1900s and Jane’s grandparents, Paul and Gertrude Freeman, rebuilt the home as a one-story, four-room house utilizing the handmade bricks and many of the other items.

The home sat empty for many years. Jane’s parents, Lee and Alma Scott, inherited the home and farm from her grandparents. Later Jane and her brother Ed inherited the house and then chose to donate it and one acre of land to the Blountsville Historical Society. (The Society has since acquired two other adjacent tracts of land.)

Savannah Silas, 9, hopes the Blountsville Historical Society is able to raise enough in donations to restore this old barn and turn it into a home for the area’s agricultural history. The two-part barn is the latest addition to the Blountsville Historical Park.

The Freeman House has now been refurbished and is the museum and center of the Historical Park.

That house was soon joined by a donation of the old Brooksville Post Office (built in 1836) and the old Blountsville jail building (donated in memory of Ann Weaver Martin).

The old post office’s most recent claim to fame was the rumor that Bonnie and Clyde slept behind it in their sedan on one of their runs along what is now U.S. 278 a little north of Blountsville in the Brooksville area.

The 1800s Isham Chamblee Cabin was donated in the last couple of years and has since been re-roofed with a new metal roof and completely refurbished inside and out. It’s filled with period furniture and visitors can enjoy a crackling fire in the fireplace or climb the steps to the sleeping area.

Eddy Doty, whose wife donated the cabin, was on hand to provide history at the park’s recent Daffodil Festival. He noted that the cabin, originally made of red cedar logs, was built in 1817 by his wife’s grandfather "four generations removed." He died in 1852 and it took 2 years to probate his estate.

The old cabin and property were then bought by the Moore family who owned it until around 1976.

It later changed hands again until Doty and his wife bought it 5 years ago and then donated it to the park.

It was carefully dismantled from its home in the Valley area, and all the numbered logs were rebuilt at the historical park.

A plaque on the cabin’s porch now proclaims the Isham Chamblee Cabin was donated by Mrs. Ed Hart with Mrs. Eddie Doty, a descendent of Isham Chamblee "instrumental in getting the cabin moved to the historical park."

Cooking utensils, rocking chairs, primitive cabinets, a spinning wheel and floor loom, a small roll top desk, and a child’s rope bed are just a few of the donations making that cabin special.

Next door at the park is the Hoyt McCullough Cabin built in the 1850s in Tennessee and moved to the park after its purchase by Jim McCullough. It is furnished with similar period pieces.

The tinier Graves Cabin was constructed using logs from an 1800s barn. It was donated to the park by the families of Capt. William Graves, Mark D. L. Graves and J. H. Graves and its tiny one-room area is much more primitive than the other buildings.

There’s a new-old chapel containing an upright piano and beautiful pulpit with the chapel built to fit in with its older neighbors, according to Wright and Beavers.

The Society has sponsored many educational and recreational events at the park including Civil War reenactments (The Forrest-Straight Raid came through May 1, 1863, and Rousseau’s Raid July 1864).

But now society members say they want to attract more folks interested in the simple history of the area.

Matthew Mobley, the society’s current vice-president, and his wife moved to Blountsville about 5 years ago and fell in love with the area’s history and people.

"It’s so important that we preserve the old buildings and the history that went with," Matt explained.

Other Historical Society officers include O. K. Alexander, president; Pam Baxley, secretary; and Cathy Marsh, treasurer.

Donations to help with roofing the old log barn (or to help the historical society in any of their other projects at the park) can be mailed to the Blountsville Historical Society; P.O. Box 232; Blountsville, AL 35031.

The park will likely be open on Sunday afternoons throughout the summer and is open for other events throughout the year (such as during the town’s huge Harvest Festival scheduled for the second Saturday in October).

You can visit the Park’s website at to find events and when the park will be open or phone Betty Alexander at 205-429-2468.

The park is located at 71406 Main Street in Blountsville, between mile markers 270 and 271 on U.S. Highway 231.

You never know what you’ll find, including antique car shows, dulcimer groups playing on the Freeman Cabin Porch, quilters, old time bluegrass being played in a circle in the cabin’s front yard, someone demonstrating how to make candles or cheese, a woman in the corner silently spinning wool, or just folks who are descendants of the area’s pioneers who can tell you a lot about that special place called Blountsville.

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

Corn Time


Cutting Corners

Planting No-Till Food Plots

by Todd Amenrud

I don’t really care for the terms "no-till" or "no-plow" when it comes to food plot products. I believe it gives many newbies a false sense of hope. It tells them that it’s acceptable to cut out an important step in the planting process and everything will be OK. The problem being – these types of products are often sold to those first-timers or food plot farmers that don’t have the equipment necessary to complete all the plantings steps according to the book. The more steps you skip in the planting process, the more you will sacrifice in attraction, yield and palatability to a point where you have a total failure. Is it possible to plant a food plot without working/turning the soil? Absolutely; however, if you’re going to skip this very important action, some of the remaining steps become much more essential and must be completed correctly.

Planting a food plot for whitetails or turkeys without working the soil can be done, but you must choose the right crop. You’ll need to use small seeds with a planting depth of a quarter inch or less. If you aren’t working the soil to prepare a deeper seedbed, you’ll have to utilize what Mother Nature left you. So that means large seeds like corn, beans and peas with a planting depth of an inch or more will likely need to be passed on unless you do have an implement that will bury the seeds the appropriate depth, or an awful lot of "elbow grease." Instead, small seeds like clovers, brassicas, chicory, alfalfa and some cereal grains will need to be your choices.

My two top choices would be Deer Radish for an annual and Clover Plus for a perennial. BioLogic’s radishes are both, one of the best plants that I’m aware of for improving the soil and one of the most attractive plantings I’ve ever witnessed whitetails "attack." Clover Plus is easy to plant, maintain and grow, and day in and day out it’s the most reliable crop I’ve ever planted.

As said, if you’re going to skip a major step like seedbed preparation, you must make sure the rest of the procedures in the planting process are completed properly. Along with other details, there are three vital steps to ensuring success. 1) You must make sure you choose a suitable location. 2) Make sure to eliminate the existing vegetation (competition). You don’t want your crop competing with native plants for sunlight, moisture and soil nutrients. 3) Make sure your seeds make contact with the soil. For good germination, the seeds must be planted the appropriate depth.

A good rule of thumb in choosing a location is: if significant vegetation grew on the site during the prior growing season, that normally indicates there should be enough sunlight hitting the spot to sustain plant life. If there’s not something currently growing in the spot, what makes you think your food plot would grow any better? Four hours of direct sunlight is the absolute minimum, BioLogic’s Hot Spot is created to perform in as little as four hours per day, but I would want six hours per day or more to grow most other plant types.

A soil test will be crucial for several reasons. Just like any plot, we need to know what we’re dealing with so we know what to add for success. However, in the case of a no-till plot, since we cannot turn the soil, adding lime to reduce the soil’s acidity will be much less effective. An application of pelletized lime may help somewhat, but it will be important to choose a crop that will grow in the pH you currently have, since raising (or reducing) it will be very difficult without being able to turn the soil.

It will be important to pay attention to your soil test results and make sure you apply the NPK fertilizer called for in your test’s recommendations. In a no-till situation, BioLogic’s M.E.E.N. Green Water Soluble Fertilizer can be just the ticket. This unique product contains water soluble phosphorous that helps stimulate root development and increased plant growth. Healthier root systems allow plants to more efficiently utilize soil moisture. It also provides plants with key micronutrients which are often unavailable in ordinary fertilizers. The main advantage in this no-till situation, however, is the fact that the nutrients are absorbed through the plants’ leaves and stems (in addition to the roots), so even in acidic conditions the plants will be able to utilize these important nutrients. This unique formula makes plants healthier and noticeably more attractive.

It is vital to remove all competing vegetation. Plain glyphosate (Roundup) is usually the best, easiest and least expensive choice for this job. There "were" ideal conditions at the spot for whatever native plant was growing there before; you need to remove those plants and create "ideal conditions for your new proposed crop."

If there is a matt of vegetation such as a layer of sod, it must be removed. All dead plant matter should be raked out of the plot. For late summer planting, there will often be tall green plants or grass growing so you may need to mow before you spray your herbicide. If you mow, make sure to wait a few days before you spray the herbicide. Mowing will shock the plants into dormancy and you want your target plants growing robustly so they suck the poison into their root systems.

The ultimate no-till planting method would be a no-till drill. Advantages of using a no-till drill are so great that often it can be the best way of planting many crops, whether it is a cash-crop or food plot. It saves time during a very busy time of the year for a land manager, it increases yield, prevents soil erosion, lowers costs and is MUCH better for the soil.

Without the magic of a no-till drill, food plot farmers can still produce a decent stand with a no-till approach. Since we’re cutting out a major action in the planting process, we must ensure the other steps are executed adequately. No-till planting is a great method to produce a stand in a spot where the ground cannot be worked due to excessive rocks, stumps or other debris, a site you cannot get equipment to or for first-time farmers who don’t have the necessary equipment. Creating a proper seedbed will usually produce better results, but this is a technique ordinarily used when customary planting approaches are out of the question. A no-till plot may not look as pretty as a well-prepared seedbed, yet you can still produce tons of forage for your wildlife.

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.

Don’t Touch It!

“What am I?” Last month’s WAI was an aphid on the head of a black kingsnake.

by Herb T. Farmer

When the weather warms up in Alabama, you can count on several things. Let us take a look at these things by category and we’ll keep the categories narrow.

Here’s the good, the bad and the ugly of the warmer season of Alabama.

On the good side, there are so many shades of greens, yellows, blues, reds and every color in between that only high-definition cameras can capture them as well as the human eye.

The weather in the springtime is especially nice because you can open the windows and air out the house. Put a fan in the window and let the ventilation begin! It lets the stale stench of winter go right out. When I was younger, we didn’t have central heating and air conditioning. We stayed outside all day and when the time came for supper, we went inside and ate. Then we went out onto the front porch and drank tea in our rocking chairs until the sun went down or laid on a quilt in the front lawn and watched for meteors and satellites. All this we did while waiting on the house to cool down before bedtime. Ah, yes. Dancing with the stars meant so much more than watching somebody else do something on a television.

Yes. I have central heating and air conditioning, and I use it when it is necessary. Let’s see, now. So far this year I have had two electricity bills under $100 and I expect I’ll have at least one more before the power company goes up on their seasonal usage rates.

Poison ivy seedling. This size is usually what affects me the most. They are often overlooked and accidentally touched.

On the bad side: Poison ivy is an interesting-looking vine with all its spring blooms and hairy wood and such. But it gives me fits! As you probably know, all parts of the plants are poisonous and I am highly allergic to it. Each spring I go on a killing spree on the property and try to eradicate all of the poisonous plants. Still, invariably, there will always be that seedling that escaped my eyes and brushes against my overalls without my knowledge.

I end up with an itchy arm for a few days and it’s miserable.

I got an email from a reader named Linda a few weeks ago. She asked about using jewelweed as a cure for the inflammation caused by poison ivy. I explained to her that I do not have personal experience with that, but I heard the native variety has been used as a preventative. Still, I have no personal experience with that.

What I do use for most any bite, sting, burn and poisonous plant reaction is pure raw local honey. It helps the healing process with its anti-microbial properties.

More bad: Imported fire ants were introduced into the United States at the Port of Mobile from South America. This occurred in 1918 and again between 1933 and 1941.

Here on the Herb Farm, imported fire ants are a medium risk problem. We control them naturally by letting Mother Nature do the work for us. Decapitating flies, native ants, wasps and other predatory insects keep the infestations to a minimum. Research has revealed in some studies that chemical controls only temporarily mask the problem and, like any of natures’ wonders, keep the species alive by becoming immune to, or escaping, the effects.

Still, their bites hurt and are potentially dangerous to people and other animals.

Mosquitoes! Bad? Yes. Annoying? Yes. Disease carrying? Yes. Controls? Remove their breeding sources (standing water). Realistic? Not really, especially if you live in an older subdivision or on a farm with natural rain pools.

40% DEET is my best friend this time of year. Unnatural control? Yes. Do I recommend it for you? No. Ask your doctor first and research the dangers of wearing this chemical before using it.

Personally, DEET is the only perfume I wear.

Ticks are exceptionally bad this year and I thought our insect population was supposed to be reduced when we have a cold, cold winter like the one we just came out of. Not so. Even though I wear DEET, I brush off at least one or two small ticks each day. I think the reason I only find them crawling on me and not attached is because of the insect repellant.

Visiting friends and traveling salesmen, however, sometimes aren’t quite as lucky. If they have that tasty blood type as I and they aren’t wearing this farmer’s perfume, they might just get home and find a sucker attached to their skin.

DEET works well repelling chiggers, too. I haven’t had one of those on me in more than 20 years.

Snakes, on the other hand, are the bitter-sweet part of the season. I cannot classify them in the "bad" category of the season. They are all beneficial creatures in nature and certainly here at the farm. I must admit I had much rather see a black kingsnake swallowing a Southern copperhead than a cottonmouth swallowing a bullfrog. Nevertheless, it happens and we just have to take precautions. Keep the natural areas of the property groomed. Walk around the ponds and water features at night with a flashlight. Be careful!

Another bad is having to prune citrus trees and other thorny plants. Bougainvillea is one of the worst because I grow several cultivars and overwinter them in the greenhouse. They get long and leggy, and need pruning before the heat sets in. They then set buds and bush out. I end up with holes in my arms and other places.

The "ugly" part of the season is best described as being just plain old annoying stuff that you don’t count on and wish it would go away.

One thing that really gets me going is sitting on the porch with a visitor, enjoying a glass of lemonade or iced tea and rocking in the most comfortable rocking chairs known to man and have to listen to them whine, "It’s so hot." It could be a nice comfortable 85 degree day with a mild five mile an hour breeze keeping me cool as a cucumber and they will be sweating like a bank robber at the policemen’s ball, complaining all the while … "Dang, it’s hot."

It just makes me want to tell them to just pack up and get out of my state!

Solution for that problem? Move to Indiana! My state is too crowded for the likes of them. Or, they could just quit laying in that air conditioning and learn what evaporative cooling is all about.

Okay. I promised two recipes for June, so here goes.

I was experimenting with potato salad last week and stumbled on this, quite by accident. Nonetheless, I liked it so much that I made more and taste tested it with some supper guests last Tuesday night and they liked it, too. They asked for the recipe and this is what I gave them. It’s a "to taste"-type concoction, so use your own judgment with the salts and spices.

Potato Salad

About 2 pounds red or gold potatoes (use potatoes with a smooth texture – not Idaho or Russets)

½ cup celery, remove vein strings and dice to about ¼"

¼ cup red onion, finely diced

¾ cup sour cream

¼ cup mayonnaise

2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 teaspoons Lawry’s seasoned salt

¼ Tablespoon fresh-ground black pepper

1 teaspoon sea salt

Clean potatoes with skins on using a Scotchbrite pad or scrub brush, then cook in boiling water until fork tender. Cut potatoes into about 1" pieces and place into large mixing bowl.

Mix other ingredients together in a separate bowl until completely combined. Add dressing mixture to the potatoes and mix well. Chill, then serve.

Recipe # 2

¼ pound of bacon, cooked to crispy-done texture and crushed

1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

¼ cup chives, finely chopped

Make recipe above.

Add bacon and cheese to potato salad dressing mix. Top potato salad with chives after mixing.

Each recipe lends a different flavor, so you can serve both at the same dinner gathering.

I’m going to have some right now! Let me know how yours turns out.

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

Thanks for reading!

For more information, email me at

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

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


Flavored Vinegars Add Extra Taste to Meals

by Angela Treadaway

Flavored vinegars can be safely prepared at home and are best if stored in the refrigerator.

** Caution: Garlic, vegetables or herbs in oil mixtures may support the growth of Clostridium botulinum bacteria. For safety reasons, they should be made fresh. Leftovers should be frozen, refrigerated for use within 10 days or discarded.

Flavored vinegars and oils add excitement to salads, marinades and sauces. They also make special gifts, provided a few simple precautions are followed. Of the two, flavored vinegars are easiest and safest to make. Because vinegar is high in acid, it does not support the growth of C. botulinum bacteria. However, some vinegars may support the growth of E-coli bacteria. Infused oils have the potential to support the growth of C. botulinum bacteria. These products may cause great harm if not made and stored properly. By following the procedures below, both types of products can be safely prepared and used.

Flavored Vinegars

Containers. Select and prepare containers first. Use only glass jars or bottles free of cracks or nicks and that can be sealed with a screw-band lid, cap or cork. Wash containers thoroughly, then sterilize by immersing the jars in a pan of hot water and simmering for 10 minutes, remove from the pan, drain extra water out and dry. Fill while the jars are still warm.

Herb vinegars. Commercial companies that make herbal vinegars dip the herbs in antibacterial agents not readily available to consumers. As an alternative, briefly dip the fresh herbs in a sanitizing bleach solution of one teaspoon household bleach per six cups (1.5 quarts) of water, rinse thoroughly under cold water and pat dry. For best results, use only the best leaves and flowers. Discard any brown, discolored, trampled or nibbled parts of the herbs. Fresh herbs are best picked just after the morning dew has dried. Allow three to four sprigs of fresh herbs or three tablespoons dried herbs per pint of vinegar.

Fruit, vegetable and spice vinegars. Fruits often used to flavor vinegars include strawberries, raspberries, pears, peaches and the peel of oranges or lemons. Allow the peel of one orange or lemon, or one to two cups of fruit per pint of vinegar flavored. For variation, try fruits in combination with herbs or spices. Vegetables such as garlic, cloves and jalapeno peppers can also be used to add zest to vinegars. Thread these on thin bamboo skewers for easy insertion and removal. Thoroughly wash all fruits and vegetables with clean water and peel, if necessary, before use. Small fruits and vegetables may be halved or left whole; large ones may need to be sliced or cubed.

Vinegar selection. Use only high-quality vinegars. Even the strongest herbs cannot diminish the sharp flavors of some vinegars. The type of vinegar to use as the base depends on what is being added. Fruits blend well with apple cider vinegar. Distilled white vinegar is best with delicate herbs and wine vinegar works well with garlic and tarragon. Do be aware, however, that wine and rice vinegars contain protein that provides an excellent medium for bacterial growth, if not stored properly.


To make flavored vinegars, place the prepared herbs, fruits or spices in the sterilized jars, being careful to avoid over-packing the bottles. Use three to four sprigs of fresh herbs, three tablespoons of dried herbs, or one to two cups of fruit or vegetables per pint of vinegar to be flavored. Heat vinegar to just below boiling (190 degrees), then pour over the herbs and cap tightly. Allow to stand for three to four weeks for the flavor to develop fully. Then, strain the vinegar through a damp cheesecloth or coffee filter one or more times until the vinegar is no longer cloudy. Discard the fruit, vegetables or herbs. Pour the strained vinegar into a clean sterilized jar. Add a sprig or two of fresh herbs or berries that have been sanitized as described above. Seal tightly.

The flavoring process can be shortened by a week or so by bruising or coarsely chopping the herbs and fruits before placing in the bottles and adding the hot vinegar. To test for flavor development, place a few drops of the flavored vinegar on some white bread and taste. When the flavor is appropriate, strain the ingredients one or more times through a damp cheesecloth or coffee filter. Pour the strained vinegar into a clean sterilized jar. Add a sprig or two of fresh herbs that have been sanitized as described above. Seal tightly.

Storage and Use

For the best retention of flavors, store flavored vinegars in the refrigerator or a cool dark place. If properly prepared, flavored vinegars should retain good quality for two to three months in cool room storage and for six to eight months in refrigerated storage. Some people enjoy displaying pretty bottles of herb and fruit vinegars on a kitchen window sill. If left out for more than a few weeks, these bottles are best considered as decoration and not used in food preparation.

Flavored vinegars can be used in any recipe calling for plain vinegar. They add zest to marinades for meats and fish, and interesting flavors to dressings for salads, pastas and vegetables.

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.

For Father’s Day

Pawpaw R.J. with artwork and gifts Rolley Len sent to decorate his hospital room

Keep your family healthy and close

by Christy Kirk

As a parent, you try to shield your children from as much pain and sadness as possible. In April, when I explained to Rolley Len that her Pawpaw R.J. was in the hospital, I saw the worry in her little 6-year-old eyes. I thought I was holding most of my worry inside and didn’t realize how much the kids really understood. It wasn’t until a few days later that I realized she could see how anxious I was. The night before Dad’s bypass surgery I was packing a bag to go to Huntsville.

Rolley Len followed me through the house into my bedroom and asked, "When are you going to stop crying?"

I had tried to hide the tears in my eyes from her and Cason, but she had already seen my face.

It has always been important to me that Rolley Len and Cason have as strong of a relationship as possible with their grandparents. It is hard to believe, but my Dad’s father was born in 1888 and died not long after my parents were married. My Mom’s daddy died when I was only 4 years old, so I only have vague memories of him. Because I didn’t have granddads growing up, I want my kids to spend as much time as possible with theirs. Rolley Len and Cason love all of their grandparents, and it has truly been a blessing that they have been able to grow up around them. Of course, being so close to them can be hard when health problems arise.

Jason and I try not to sugarcoat the truth about certain things such as health issues, but we also don’t want to overwhelm them with too much information too soon. We quickly realized that having your children grow up around animals means they are probably going to learn more details about life and death earlier than some kids do. Rolley Len and Cason have seen and experienced a lot and always have a million questions, so we have to be ready with answers.

The first time a sheep began to give birth in the pasture, Jason and I ran with the children and a camera down to the edge of the pond to watch "the miracle of life." Rolley Len and Cason sat patiently on the concrete bench watching. Every so often Rolley Len would jump up to peek at the progress. Little did we know that the mama would have trouble giving birth and the lamb would be stillborn. We had expected 100 questions about birth and instead found ourselves explaining what might have gone wrong.

We try to be as honest as possible when explaining life and death matters to them. Sometimes we must let them know where the "missing" sheep is, or we have to let them know what might happen to our cat after being bitten by a snake. When I tell Rolley Len and Cason the truth about what happens to our livestock or pets, I hope that translates into some kind of understanding of what can happen to people we know and love, and how we deal with it.

Having grandparents prevalent in your life means that eventually you will have to talk about things like health, hospitals and hope. The best way I felt I could explain to Rolley Len how I felt about possibly losing Pawpaw R.J. was to compare it to her not having her daddy any more. We talked about Pawpaw’s heart being fixed in surgery and his need to heal afterward. Rolley Len was still worried and there were tears from both of us, but she seemed to understand.

Now that he has made it through the bypass surgery and is recovering well, it won’t be long before Rolley Len and Cason can spend time with their Pawpaw again playing "bear and chickens." In honor of his recovery, I am sharing some recipes you might want to use for your own father on Father’s Day. If your loved ones can’t have red meat, then skip the steak and hamburgers and grill salmon instead. Salmon is not the least expensive fish, but it is one of the healthiest. Make your next meal delicious and heart healthy and help keep your family close for many more years.

Rolley Len Kirk said she didn’t like it, she LOVED it!

Salmon with Dill Mustard Crust

1½ pounds center-cut salmon fillet

3½ Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

½ cup Panko bread crumbs (optional for more crunch)

1½ Tablespoons dried dill
¼ cup Dijon mustard

Preheat oven to 375°. Rub salmon with olive oil. Place on foil-lined baking sheet. Mix bread crumbs with dill and cover fish with mixture. Spread mustard over top using a knife or rubber spatula. Bake about 15 minutes or until the salmon is no longer translucent.

Dill Sauce for Grilled Salmon
(if your doctor allows these fats)

1/3 cup sour cream

1/3 cup mayonnaise

1 Tablespoon onion, finely chopped

1 teaspoon lemon juice

¾ teaspoon dill weed

¼ teaspoon garlic salt

Prepared horseradish, to taste

Pepper, to taste

Mix all ingredients together and serve with salmon.

Apple and pumpkin are both delicious on their own whether in pies, cakes or breads, but this recipe combines them with very little sugar and no white flour. I love it because it tastes good, but also because I never thought I would like a dessert that had whole wheat in the recipe.

Apple Streusel Pumpkin Cake

½ cup (1 stick) plus 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

4 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced thin

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

5 Tablespoons white sugar, divided

1¼ cups whole wheat flour

1 cup brown sugar

½ teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

1 teaspoon baking soda

¾ cup canned pumpkin

1/3 cup sour cream
2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350°. Butter and flour a 9x3-inch springform pan. Dice ½ cup butter and soften.

In a saucepan, melt remaining butter over medium high heat. Sauté apples until softened and golden. Sprinkle cinnamon and 3 tablespoons white sugar over apples and cook until thick and bubbly.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, brown sugar and salt. Add softened butter and mix with a hand mixer (or stand mixer) until pea-sized pieces form.

Take 2/3 cup of this mixture and put in a small bowl to make streusel. Stir in remaining white sugar and pumpkin pie spice.

To remaining mixture, add baking soda and blend with the mixer. Add pumpkin, sour cream and eggs, beating until smooth. Scrape batter into prepared pan. Spread sautéed apples over the batter and sprinkle streusel on top. Bake 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Wilted Spinach

2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 pound washed spinach

4 cloves garlic, minced

Salt and pepper, to taste

Heat oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Add a handful of spinach to the skillet and allow to wilt, then add the rest in batches. Allow to wilt, sprinkle with salt and pepper, remove from heat and serve immediately.

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

Harvest for Health

UAB researcher Dr. Wendy Demark-Wahnefried, Ph.D., R.D., (back, far left) and Jefferson County Master Gardener volunteers who participated in the pilot Harvest for Health project.

Master Gardeners pair with cancer survivors.

by Tony Glover

While working in the Jefferson County Extension office, I had the opportunity to work on a pilot project with the University of Alabama at Birmingham pairing Master Gardener volunteers with cancer survivors to improve the survivors’ eating habits and increase their exercise routines. This turned out to be a great project with very good results. The project has grown and is now offered in several counties. Recruiting Master Gardeners was the easy part because they are scattered all over the state, but recruiting cancer survivors has been more challenging. Hopefully, you can help us find participants so please read on for details on the project.

The project is called Harvest for Health and is now an ongoing study at UAB that continues to pair cancer survivors with Master Gardeners from the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

"Having a garden may help cancer survivors and their families eat better, get more exercise and become healthier," said Wendy Demark-Wahnefried, Ph.D., R.D., professor in the Department of Nutrition Sciences and associate director for Cancer Prevention and Control at the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center. "Studies have shown a link between diet and cancer, and between physical activity and cancer. We want to see how gardening affects quality of life of cancer survivors, as well as how it affects their diet and exercise behaviors."

UAB provides tools, seed and seedlings, and will either provide a raised bed in the yard of a survivor’s home or provide EarthBoxes - large gardening containers on wheels - that can be kept on a porch or patio. Master Gardeners visit with the survivors twice a month for one year, offering advice, expertise and suggestions, while answering the questions new gardeners have.

The study is now recruiting people age 65 and older in several areas (especially along the coastal counties and north Alabama) who have been diagnosed with cancer within the past 5 years and have completed their primary therapy (e.g., surgery, radiation or chemotherapy) and who do not raise vegetables already. I assume most of the readers of this article are vegetable gardeners, but you may know of family or friends who are not and might qualify to participate.

"We’re looking for people who don’t already eat five or six servings of fruit or vegetables a day, or those who are not already physically active," Demark-Wahnefried said. "We want to provide this study to survivors who will benefit the most. Besides being a good source of exercise, gardening is a good way to learn about healthy diet and nutrition, and to have some control over what one eats."

The Master Gardeners, who have completed a rigorous certification process from ACES, are all volunteers.

"The volunteers are very excited to be making a difference in the lives of cancer survivors and their families," Demark-Wahnefried explained. "We have plenty of Master Gardeners standing by, but we need more cancer survivors to participate in the therapy."

Participants in the study do not have to go to UAB, but will have two visits from the research team at their home during the course of the project, along with the twice-monthly interactions with the Master Gardeners.

The study is particularly interested in those with the following cancers: bladder, breast (female), cervix, colon and rectum, corpus and uterus, kidney or renal pelvis, Hodgkin lymphoma, Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, oral cavity/pharynx, ovary, prostate, small intestine, soft tissues and thyroid.

The study is funded by a grant from the National Cancer Institute. For more information on how to participate, contact study organizers at 205-996-7367 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. '; document.getElementById('cloak6100').innerHTML += ''+addy_text6100+'<\/a>'; //--> or call me at the Cullman County Extension office at 256-737-9386.

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

Haynes Brings Youthful Perspective to AFC Board

Ben Haynes, a native of Cullman County, is the newest – and youngest – member of AFC’s Board of Directors.

by Susie Sims

Ben Haynes recently accepted the position of board member of Alabama Farmers Cooperative. He was installed at AFC’s Annual Membership Meeting in Montgomery.

Haynes, 36, is a native of the Fairview area in Cullman County. He is a fifth-generation farmer and a 2000 graduate of Auburn University. In fact, the entire Haynes family is dedicated to Auburn.

Since Haynes’ oldest uncle went to Auburn in 1968, there have only been a couple of years when a member of the family wasn’t on the Plains.

Haynes Farms, LLC, includes Haynes, his father Darrel and his brother Bart. Together they row crop about 1,200 acres of corn, soybeans and wheat. They also have a couple hundred acres of dedicated hay ground.

Haynes Farms also produces commercial cattle – Charolais, Brangus and Hereford. They also maintain a small herd of Brahman cattle. Each year, they produce around 600 calves that they background themselves, then sell through Superior Livestock Auction. Haynes noted that the farm has been selling truckloads of cattle since his father returned from Auburn in the 1970s.

Recently, cattle from the Haynes farm have been directed to feedlots in Maryland and Indiana. Haynes said there is a supplier in Maine that markets beef to Whole Foods stores on the East Coast and it is more cost effective to obtain the cattle directly from Southern and Midwestern producers than from feedlots in the West.

Haynes said his cattle, sold this way, are marketed under an "All Natural" label. The farm must agree to certain restrictions such as not allowing antibiotics or other additives to be used. It has turned out to be a reasonably good market.

Haynes has served on the board for Cullman Farmers Co-op and was retained as a board member when the store merged with the Marshall County operation. Most recently, he served as president of the Marshall Farmers Co-op Board.

Even though Haynes is considerably younger than your typical board member, he looks forward to being the junior member on the board.

"All the guys I knew and the ones I’ve gotten to know over the past several months, I don’t mind being associated with them," Haynes said with a chuckle. "They are a good group of men."

Being asked if he would consider serving on the board, Haynes said, "It was something I felt like I could contribute to and hopefully be a small part in the continuing success and strength of farming."

Haynes noted that Cullman County is like other mostly rural counties in that the farming economy is quite mixed.

"We’re always going to have some cattle, some crops," he said. "We’re in a part of the world where some of your for-profit suppliers are never going to be fired up about servicing this area."

Thankfully, Cullman County is blessed with a strong Co-op to fill the needs of its members, noted Haynes.

"From a selfish standpoint, we need the Co-op to be strong and able to deliver service and product for our farm to be successful. And I know there are lots of places in the state that are like my place and depend on that service. The Co-op fills that void," said Haynes.

"The Co-op has been around for a very long time and if I can play a very, very small role in continuing that success and legacy then I will have considered whatever time I spent on the board to be time well spent."

As is typical for most farmers, Haynes doesn’t have many outside interests. His interests are family, church and farming. His family usually enjoys a trip to Auburn once or twice a year.

Haynes has found a kindred spirit in AFC President Rivers Myres. Myres is new to the job as well and they are both tackling the learning curve that comes with any new experience.

"Concerning Rivers, I’m really impressed with his humility and his willingness to listen to folks," Haynes said. "Since we started at the same time, we kind of feel like we’re in this together. I feel like he’s going to do a fine job going forward."

Haynes and his wife Whitney have three children, Jack, 6; Lola Kate, 3; and Charlie, 1. Whitney teaches Family and Consumer Science at Fairview High School. They are active members of Mt. Olive Church, where Whitney’s grandfather is the pastor.

Haynes has served on the local board for the Alabama Farmers Federation and was the Chairman of the State Young Farmers Committee in 2011. He graduated from Fairview High School in 1996. While a student on the Plains, Haynes was a member of Phi Gamma Delta fraternity and an Ag Ambassador.

Susie Sims is a freelance writer from Haleyville.

High Price of Food?

by Baxter Black, DVM

How should we as food producers interpret the media’s looming concern about headlines saying "Rising Food Prices Bite Budgets!" Examples given from previous 12 months’ list of percentage increases show: Ground Beef, 4.9 percent; Eggs, 5.7 percent; Tomatoes, 6.9 percent; Pork Sausage, 8.7 percent; Potatoes, 9.2 percent; Fresh Fish, 9.9 percent; and Oranges, 12.2 percent.

The causes of the increases are different: from drought, freezing weather, disease, government regulations, EPA, loss of farm ground to suburbia, etc. It all boils down to a reduction of product vs. its demand. We producers justify the prices of the basic commodity, food, because it has lagged unfairly behind almost all other life essentials such as oil, wood, coal, ore and fresh water. We repeat the statistic that people in our nation spend less than 10 percent of their income on food, 40 percent of it eating out. That is lower than either housing, transportation or health care which together account for 52 percent. And the Department of Labor who did the survey didn’t even include income tax!

Another factor is that with most foodstuffs, the farmer’s cut is less than the grocer or restaurant middlemen, from 5 percent for grain products (bread) to 50 percent for milk. And that’s eating at home. Anyone who eats out 40 percent of the time and complains about the cost of French fries, orange juice, hamburger, Ben & Jerry’s or Starbucks is hard to take seriously. In addition, today’s modern middle income shoppers are accustomed to "Seasonal" fresh produce always being available. If it’s not available in the produce section, they can find it canned, bottled or frozen on the shelves. Still others are willing to pay more if they think it is organic. We are very spoiled shoppers.

However, single parent families working two jobs or those who are receiving welfare and/or unemployment checks are much more aware of the increase in the price of food. To our credit, the Farm Bill aids 46.7 million Americans (1 in 5) who are receiving food stamps to the tune of $72 billion a year, to ensure none go hungry. This life-saving program, as well as all of the entitlement programs, is paid for by the taxes collected from the 90 percent who are working. It is not the government that makes money; the government takes money from those who earn it and redistributes it.

The jobless and the middle income groups are less affected by the food prices. But caught in the vise are those single-parent, geographically challenged, low-middle income Americans holding down a job and paying their own way. These workin’ moms do shop thriftily and if the price of salmon or strawberries or asparagus or chuck roast is too high, they can do without. The supermarket is full of nutritious, generic brands, fresh meats and vegetables that are affordable – especially if you know how to cook. However, these workin’ moms are tempted by the ease and low cost of "fast food" meals vs the ever-present exhaustion accompanying the effort of fixing a home-cooked meal for the kids at the end of a work day. Nothing is easy.

So what about the "Rising Food Prices Bites Budgets"? Most producers do their best to grow their crop as cheaply and efficiently as they can. They like to make a profit, sometimes they get lucky and sometimes they go broke, but the consumer never runs out of something to eat.

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,

Hope in the Midst of Hopelessness

by Glenn Crumpler

Can you ever remember a time in your life when you found yourself in a situation where you felt completely helpless and hopeless? Most of us can easily remember times when we felt helpless. Perhaps it was during a drought and we just could not get the much needed rain to grow our grass or water our cattle, and there was nothing we could do about it. Perhaps it was during a flood when everything we had would soon be underwater, and there was nothing we could do to prevent or stop the water from flowing. It may have been when we or a loved one faced an illness or injury that was either debilitating or terminal. For others it may have been when we lost a job, found ourselves in overwhelming debt, went through a painful divorce, or any other event or situation that got to the point where we no longer had any control or power to change the situation.

Probably, a lot fewer of us have ever really experienced situations where we experienced complete hopelessness – at least for an extended period of time. Even in the toughest times we have access to resources and/or knowledge to give us hope for a brighter tomorrow. We have so many things to give us hope for a better future in this life: world class health care and medications, education, insurance, government assistance, economic opportunities, friends and family, a strong military, church, etc. These all offer important, but only temporary hope.

The greatest news is that we have the opportunity through the truths and the promises of Scripture to know God the Father who created and sustains the universe and everything in it. We can know and experience the forgiveness, unconditional love, and the sacrificial and substitutional death, burial and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ so that we can know we have eternal life regardless of what happens to us in this life. We can know and experience the presence and the power of His Holy Spirit who lives in us and comforts us and gives us His peace even when all hell is breaking loose in our lives and in the world.

I recently returned from a trip to Jordan where I was part of a small team working with just a few of the almost 2 million Syrian refugees who have lost everything they owned and fled for their lives into Jordan. Millions more have fled to other neighboring countries. They have all been forced by the violence and bombings of war to leave their homeland, their jobs, their family, their dreams and everything familiar to them to live in refugee camps when their communities were destroyed.

Those who fled to Jordan were the lucky ones, but they still found themselves living in tents in a massive refugee camp in Mafraq Jordan (Al Zaatari Refugee Camp if you want to Google it) or in tents or crowded into one-room makeshift apartments in the surrounding communities outside the camp. They walk in with nothing except what they can carry on their backs. Syrian snipers are patrolling the border trying to kill them as they flee for safety. Many have been shot or wounded without having received any medical care. Many have lost family members or had to leave them behind not knowing what their fate would be. All of them have left everything and will probably never be able to rebuild their lives as they have known it.

Zaatari Camp is the second largest refugee camp in the world – 2.8 square miles and houses over 160,000 refugees. Six hundred refugees are still walking in each day. The other 1.5-plus million refugees have been allowed to move outside the camp in squatter tent villages or crowded into one-room apartments. It is Jordan’s fourth largest city, but still does not have running water or sewage, and electricity is scarce. The United Nations and other Christian and relief agencies provide each family with a thin mattress, tarps to make tents, a butane or kerosene stove, and some basic food supplies for a few days. After this initial period, the refugees are given a $26 coupon each month by the United Nations to purchase basic food supplies and fuel for their stoves. If medicine or hygiene products are needed, the people have to sell one or more of their food coupons to get cash to purchase these items. On average, they get $17 cash in exchange for a $26 coupon, so you can see how meagerly they live.

Crime in the camp is especially high. So high that the Jordanian government has basically given up trying to police the crowds so they just guard the perimeter of the camp. They just do not have the manpower. Life inside the camp is governed by whichever gang-like militant group has the most power. Rape, abuse and other crimes are common – so common that the women and girls cannot go outside to go to the bathroom at night.

Because of the sanitation issues, many of the children get sick. During the harsh winter they experienced this year, many suffered and died from the cold. When it rains, the camp becomes a mud hole of filth. When it is hot and dry, it is a dust bowl. Much has been done to improve the camp’s living conditions, but this is still how it is today after the improvements.

Life outside the camp is better, but the people are still traumatized, still living in severe poverty, still lacking medical care and hygiene products, the children are still unschooled, trauma still goes on, law enforcement is still inadequate or non-existent, and children are being taken or purchased for $100 by foreigners to be enslaved in the most grievous ways. The people still feel absolutely helpless, but, worse than that, they feel absolutely hopeless.

One little 11-year-old girl, we will call her Susie, felt so helpless and hopeless that she doused herself in kerosene and set herself on fire. Had it not been for one of our team members and our driver being down on the street to strip her clothes off, she would have died. As it is, she is still in the hospital with second- and third-degree burns over half her body. As she writhed in the street in pain, crying and screaming with nothing left on her body except hanging skin and her panties, we learned she had heard she was going to be raped again that night so, in her seemingly hopeless situation, she chose to set herself on fire.

I could go on and on, but still could not adequately put into words the absolute hopelessness these millions of people and millions more like them deal with every day without a glimpse of how things will ever be any different for them.

The Good News is there is a God who loves them and who has a plan for their lives. He loves them so much that He sent His only Son to suffer and die in their place so they could be set free. He rose from the grave, conquering death so they could have life and hope for all eternity in a place called Heaven where sin will be destroyed, every hurt healed and where God will personally wipe away every tear from their eyes.

The sad news is that these people do not know of this God or what He has done for them. They do not know Jesus purchased them through the shedding of His blood. They have not experienced the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit who can give them peace greater than their understanding or circumstances. They do not have access to God’s plan nor His promises found in Scripture, because they have no access to Bibles.

Through no fault of their own, they have never heard that God said, "I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV) The very thing they are desperately searching for right now: hope for a future! They have never heard Isaiah 40:31, "But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." They have never heard Romans 15:4, 13, "For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope … May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." They have never heard John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life." All these, and so many more verses and promises of God, they have never heard because they have not had access to the Word of God, no churches, no Christian broadcasting – they know nothing about the only real Hope that any of us have – the only Hope that is eternal and keeps any of us going.

I have never before asked in one of these devotionals for help. But right now, the need is just so great and the doors are open that have never been open before for us to sow hope into the lives of these millions and millions of people by providing them with electronic Bibles and discipleship resources. We cannot let this great need go unmet, but we cannot meet it without the help of the millions who have experienced the Hope that only comes from Jesus Christ – THE Hope the people must hear about to possess.

Please, share this request with your church, family and friends. Visit our website at and sign up for our newsletters so you can keep up with the most current information on our work with these refugees. Contact me at to see how you can help us offer life-changing and sustaining hope to these and others living in complete hopelessness.

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

How to Survive a Venomous Snake Bite

by Justin Monk

Snakes may be Alabama’s most misunderstood wildlife. A high percentage of people are both fascinated by and fearful of snakes. While not all snakes are venomous, you should take caution when outside during both day and night. Snakes are most active at night, especially in warmer weather.

Six of Alabama’s 40 species of snakes are venomous. Five of those are classified as "pit vipers." Pit vipers have a depression (pit) on both sides of the face between the eye and nostril. They have vertical, cat-like pupils along with triangle-shaped heads, thin necks and heavy bodies. Pit vipers have hollow, retractable fangs near the front of the mouth. Alabama’s pit vipers include the diamondback rattlesnake, timber rattlesnake, pygmy rattlesnake, copperhead and cottonmouth (water moccasin).

Alabama’s sixth species of venomous snake, the coral snake, is not classified as a pit viper. Coral snakes have oval, elongated heads with thin bodies. They have distinct body markings with a series of red, yellow and black bands, while their head and snout are both black. Several nonvenomous snakes found in Alabama resemble the coral snake. However, the easiest way to distinguish between the coral snake and its lookalikes is to remember the quotation, "red on yellow – kill a fellow; red on black – friend of Jack."

All snakes will bite when threatened or surprised, but most will avoid people if possible. Pit vipers, however, tend to be more aggressive snakes than most including the coral snake. Rattlesnakes are the only snake equipped with a warning mechanism (rattlers) to give notice that you are in danger and getting too close. Coral snakes tend to move away when threatened to avoid contact with predators, but not always.

Bites from any of Alabama’s venomous snakes can be deadly if not treated quickly. If you are bitten by any of the aforementioned snakes, the following is a list of some of the symptoms you could experience: blurred vision, dizziness, fever, excessive sweating, fainting, rapid pulse, skin discoloration, swelling at the site of the bite, pain at site of bite, low blood pressure, numbness, nausea and vomiting, breathing difficulty and thirst.

If you find yourself in a situation where you or someone you are with has been bitten by a venomous snake, take these steps to ensure survival and be able to make it to a hospital for the appropriate treatment:

  • Keep calm. Restrict movement and keep the affected area below heart level to reduce the flow of venom.
  • Remove any rings or restricting items from the affected area due to swelling.
  • Create a loose splint to help restrict movement of the area.
  • Clean the wound, but don’t flush with water.
  • Wrap wound with compression bandages. Go about four inches above the wound, wrapping as you would a sprained ankle.
  • Seek medical attention immediately.

Below is a list of things you should not do when bitten:

  • Do not allow over exertion.
  • Do not apply a tourniquet.
  • Do not apply a cold compress to a snake bite.
  • Do not cut into the bite with a knife or razor.
  • Do not try to suck out the venom by mouth.
  • Do not give/take any stimulants or pain medication unless instructed to do so by a doctor.
  • Do not raise the site of the bite above heart level.
  • Do not drink caffeine or alcohol.

During warm months, avoid areas snakes inhabit such as overgrown/grassy areas, woodpiles and debris, and thick woodlands. If encounters with these areas are unavoidable, be sure to wear the appropriate clothing such as long pants, snake boots or snake chaps, and gloves.

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

Justin Monk is a wildlife biologist with the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries.

How's Your Garden?

Still waiting for the allamanda vine beneath it to grow, this pot has plenty of color because of the painted stakes made of bamboo

by Lois Trigg Chaplin

Painted Bamboo Stakes

Bamboo on a property can really be a nuisance, but if you happen to need some stakes to support vines or other plants, it comes in mighty handy. Some of our bamboo stakes are several years old. They hold up well, even exposed to year-round weather. This idea for painting bamboo stakes is from the Birmingham Botanical Garden, where the stakes are able to add their own bit of color independent of what will be growing on them. To paint your own stakes, use outdoor latex house paint if you want it to last.

Window Dressing

I would have never guessed how much a simple little hanging vase could add to our kitchen window. It provides an easy spot to pluck seasonal flowers and foliage from the garden on the spot anytime and it always works, and always without planning. We use it for stems of aspidistra, leucothoe, camellia or ferns, clippings from Lenten rose, roses, impatiens, salvia and other flowers such as these fragrant lilies. It has even held vegetable foliage such as Swiss chard and kale in the winter. If it’s in the garden and will live in water, this vase has seen it. A gift from our daughter-in-law, it has become one of the most used items in the house. If you have a chance to try something like this in your kitchen window, I recommend it. It’s always fast, easy and spontaneous, depending on what the garden is giving at the time.

Snack-sized Sweet Peppers

There is still time to include delicious snacking peppers in your garden from transplants. These sweet little peppers, each eaten in two or three bites, are great lunchbox and picnic items. Because they are small, sweet and colorful, people are often at least willing to try them, especially if they grow the peppers themselves. These little peppers are usually expensive at the grocery store, so one or two plants in the garden are a treat. Be sure to keep them well watered for best production. They may start slow, but will load up with fruit as the heat begins to lift at night in late summer.

Easy Flowers from Seed

There is a simple little task that you can do now that will make you very glad you did in a few weeks. That is to sow a few flowers from seed. These are types that come up very easily this time of year – zinnia, sunflower, tithonia, cleome, marigold and cosmos. They will give bees some fresh pollen in late summer and fall, and give you some nice color for the garden or to snip and bring indoors. Rough up the ground, sprinkle the seeds on top, and pat them into the ground gently before watering with a fine spray. Keep the seedbed moist for the next few days, and you will soon see the young plants popping up from the ground. Most begin blooming in about two months and continue until frost.

A strip of duct tape easily lifts the eggs of squash bugs from plants without damaging the foliage.

Duct Tape for Squash Bugs?

A member of the Bonnie Plants Facebook community shared their inventive way of collecting squash bug eggs – pull them off with duct tape! Notorious for laying large patches of eggs that hatch by the dozens, squash bugs can quickly kill a mature plant by sucking it dry. They especially like winter squash and pumpkins. Killing these pests is difficult, but if you can get the eggs before they hatch, you’re way ahead. Working a little like a lint roller, a strip of duct tape will lift the eggs off the leaves which allows you to remove them easily without damaging any leaf tissue. The eggs are oval shaped, shiny and copper colored. They are usually in clusters on the underside of the leaves. Happy hunting!

Instant Color

Are you looking for big plants for instant color in flowerbeds or to put into containers? If so, there are more and more of them available as growers produce flowering plants in larger sizes for later planting. However, if you don’t find what you want in gallon or larger containers at the nursery, look at the hanging baskets. Plants growing in baskets can be easily transplanted from their basket to another container or the ground.

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

Hunting Seasons Update

Conservation Board approves changes to hunting regulations for deer, alligator and red snapper.

Release from the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

In its last meeting of 2014, the Alabama Conservation Advisory Board approved a February deer season for most of the southern half of the state with one boundary tweak in Henry County, approved changes to the alligator season and agreed to implement a reporting system for red snapper landed in Alabama.

Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Director Chuck Sykes said Wildlife Section personnel are continuing to take samples at many locations throughout the state. However, since the last board meeting, they have focused reproduction studies on the areas along the Chattahoochee River to determine if a February deer season is justified.

"The areas we looked at were Houston and Henry counties, and the top part of Barbour and Russell counties to see if we could fine-tune those lines," Sykes said at the State Capitol Auditorium. "Our guys have done an outstanding job, as usual, getting out and getting this done. Twenty-one deer were sampled in Henry County at four sites. About 95 percent of those were bred before or on Jan. 31."

Sykes said the average conception date for site one was Jan. 8; site two was Dec. 31, site three was Jan. 11 and site four was Jan. 11.

"So we have made adjustments to the boundaries," he said. "Barbour and Russell counties will stay the same as proposed at the previous board meeting. But there was some tweaking done in Henry County."

Sykes said one small portion of Henry was put back under north zone regulations for a better line definition (see map) for both hunters and Conservation enforcement officers.

The implementation of an alligator season in Alabama has been one of the most popular actions taken by the department in a long time. In turn, WWF biologists are learning more and more about the alligator population in the state each year. Because of that increased knowledge and input from the public, the alligator season in 2014 will have several adjustments. [Deadline for applications to hunt the 2014 season is July 16.]

"We’re changing the way the alligator applications will be processed," Sykes said. "Last year, a person could apply as many times as they wanted to. This year, we are going to allow one application per person per zone. That’s all we’re going to take."

The alligator season is broken into three zones – the Mobile-Tensaw Delta; the West Central, comprised of the counties of Dallas, Monroe north of U.S. Highway 84 and Wilcox; and the Southeast, includes the counties of Barbour, Coffee, Covington, Dale, Geneva, Henry, Houston and Russell.

There will be 150 tags issued for the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, 50 tags issued for the West Central zone and 40 tags for the Southeast zone.

"In the Southeast, we are instituting an 8-foot length minimum before you can harvest an alligator in that zone," Sykes said. "The reason is we’re trying to protect females. Most of the females are in the 6- to 8-foot range. Habitat quality and nest predation are limiting recruitment in that area, so we’re instituting the 8-foot minimum to protect those females."

The alligator season application cost has been raised to $20, compared to $5 in previous years. The reason, according to Conservation Commissioner N. Gunter Guy Jr., is to be able to offset the administrative costs associated with the alligator season.

"I just want to make it clear that the $20 is not the cost of the tag," Commissioner Guy said. "That is the fee for the administrative costs. The tags are still free. The one thing you do have to have is a hunting license, at least a small game license, to be eligible to hunt alligators."

Sykes explained further, in previous years, the alligator season raised about $85,000 in revenues through application fees, and it cost about $85,000 to administer the program.

"If the same amount of people apply this year, it should be a wash," Sykes said. "We’re not trying to make money off of this program. We’re just trying to pay for the administrative process."

One big change over the past is the draw for the alligator tags. Sykes said because of the luck of the draw, some applicants have not been drawn in 5 or 6 years while others seem to be drawn every year.

"This year, if you don’t get drawn, then next year you will get preference points," Sykes said. "So each year you don’t get drawn, your preference points add up. That way we will try to make this as fair as possible."

The Board also approved a WFF proposal changing the trapping regulations for raccoons and opossums. Trappers will be able to take those two species year-round under a special permit available from WFF district offices or from WFF personnel.

"This will allow people to trap raccoons and possums year-round on private land," Sykes said. "In the past, you were not allowed to do that. All you’ve got to do is get that special permit, just like the feral hog permit."

The Game Check program would be voluntary again for the 2014-2015 season despite disappointing compliance. Through Game Check, 19,205 whitetail deer harvests were reported. The 2012-2013 annual mail survey, meanwhile, estimated the deer harvest at 266,700. The number of harvested turkeys reported through Game Check was 2,012, while the mail survey indicated 40,600 were taken.

"Those numbers are not good," said Sykes about Game Check compliance. "But we’re going to ask the system be voluntary again and hope the hunters saw this year that it was not government overreach. It was not us trying to get in your business. We’re just trying to get better data to make the best management decisions we can for the future of hunting in Alabama. We’ll evaluate the numbers again next year and come back to the board with our recommendations."

Marine Resources Director Chris Blankenship said it appears the red snapper season in federal waters will be between nine and 11 days. He said inadequate data collection by the federal government has left Alabama with little to no red snapper season. Blankenship’s proposal would cover reporting of red snapper harvest data from the recreational sector only. Commercial reef fish permit holders are currently under an individual fishing quota and already report their catches.

"We do have good consensus on that," Blankenship said. "We have letters of support from the Orange Beach Fishing Association, the Coastal Conservation Association, Dauphin Island Marina and many charter-boat captains, and emails of support from many recreational fishermen. We feel like if we can actually show what’s being landed in Alabama, that we can improve the process in the way they set the red snapper season. And, as we try to take over the management of red snapper from the federal government, the red snapper-reporting system will be integral in being able to do that."

The board approved a resolution to support Marine Resources’ efforts to improve the fisheries data collection, extension of state waters for fisheries management to nine miles and improved long-term management of red snapper. The boardalso approved a bag limit of 10 vermilion snapper per angler per day.

During public testimony, Arrion Tucker of Guntersville asked the board to consider a 1,000-hook limit per person per day for catfishing on the Tennessee River. A third-generation commercial fisherman, Tucker said some operations are deploying between 5,000-10,000 hooks and it is impacting the catfish populations on the river. Currently, there is no hook number restriction on resident fishermen. Non-residents are limited to 100 hooks per person per day.

With the increase in knowledge and advancement in equipment and technology, Tucker said deploying more than 1,000 hooks per fishermen could result in an unsustainable harvest in the river.

"I believe with this hook restriction that our Tennessee River lakes could recover in 3 to 5 years to the best it’s ever been," Tucker said.

Board member Grady Hartzog asked the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division to look into Tucker’s request and report to the board at its first meeting in 2015.

In other business, Board member Raymond Jones of Huntsville said after careful consideration of dog deer-hunting complaints and attempts at reconciliation, he was compelled to move that a portion of Colbert County be put on the dog deer-hunting permit system. The permit system will affect that area of Colbert County inside the following boundaries: from the intersection of the Natchez Trace Parkway and U.S. Highway 72 west along US Hwy 72 to the Mississippi State line, north along the Mississippi State line to the Tennessee River, east along the Tennessee River to the intersection of the Natchez Trace Parkway and south along the Natchez Trace Parkway to the intersection of US Highway 72. The motion passed unanimously.

Insight on Ag

by Jim Erickson

Less Production, Debt in highly leveraged farm operations than 20 years ago

While the average leverage of farm businesses - as measured by debt-to-asset ratios - has decreased over time, some farms remain highly leveraged. The D/A ratio that implies financial vulnerability varies with individual farm business characteristics, but a commonly used threshold to indicate high leverage is a D/A ratio greater than 0.4. Using this definition, highly-leveraged farms consistently accounted for a disproportionate, but declining, share of the total value of production by all farm businesses between 1992 and 2011.

In 2011, 5.3 percent of farm businesses were highly leveraged and contributed 13.4 percent of farm businesses’ total value of production; by comparison, in 1992, 9.5 percent of farm businesses, responsible for 19.6 percent of production, were highly leveraged. The declining role of highly-leveraged farms suggests the sector’s financial resiliency has increased over time because financial shocks such as an unexpected drop in income or a sudden jump in interest rates would likely affect fewer farm businesses, producing a smaller share of the value of production.

Limits on Capital Expensing could affect farmers’ purchase decisions

Farming requires large investments in machinery, equipment and other depreciable capital. Such investments may be treated either as a current expense and deducted from gross farm income immediately, or capitalized and depreciated over time. For the past 4 years (2010-2013), if the cost was treated as an expense, the maximum deduction a farm could take was $500,000.

Unless the 2010-13 expensing limit is extended, it will fall to $25,000 for tax year 2014. This change could increase the cost of capital investment and significantly increase taxable income for some farms. Based on 2012 ARMS data, while 38 percent of U.S. family farms reported a capital purchase, less than 1 percent had expenses exceeding $500,000. Under a $25,000 expensing limit, 13 percent of farms would have exceeded the limit. Smaller family farms, in general, did not make investments exceeding the old limit, but about 9 percent would have exceeded the 2014 limit. Very large family farms (those with gross cash farm income in excess of $5 million) were far more likely to have capital costs exceeding both the old limit (35 percent) and the 2014 limit (78 percent).

Family Farms Dominate U.S. production of major field crops and hogs, poultry, eggs

Family farms, whether using the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service definition based on majority ownership of the farm business or the Food and Agriculture Organization definition based on the predominance of family-supplied labor, account for a large share of U.S. agricultural production. However, their relative production within commodity groups varies.

Family farms were particularly important in the production of major field crops (corn, cotton, soybeans and wheat) where they accounted for 62-96 percent of U.S. production in 2011, and in hogs, poultry and eggs where they accounted for 68-96 percent of production.

Family farm production shares are lower in every major commodity category when focusing on the share of farms where the principal operator and spouse provide most of the labor used on the farm (the FAO standard). Large farms, often family-owned that are heavily reliant on hired farm labor and contract service providers, account for a large share of U.S. production, particularly in high-valued crops (fruit, nuts, vegetables and nursery) and dairy. For example, family-owned and -operated farms account for 75 percent of dairy production, but the operator and spouse usually provide less than half the labor on those farms.

Ag Research leads to discoveries with potential commercial applications

USDA has released a new report on scientific breakthroughs discovered by department researchers that led to new patents and inventions with the potential for commercial application and potential economic growth. Studies have shown that every dollar invested in agricultural research returns $20 to the economy.

In the last fiscal year, USDA reports receiving 51 patents, filing 147 patent applications and disclosing 180 new inventions. The results are detailed in the Department’s 2013 Annual Report on Technology Transfer.

Helping drive these innovations, USDA has 259 active cooperative research and development agreements with outside investigators that include universities and other organizations, as well as small businesses.

USDA’s technology transfer program is administered by the Agricultural Research Service, USDA’s principal intramural scientific research agency.Discoveries from USDA’s 2013 report include:

  • A new kind of flour made from chardonnay grape seeds that can prevent increases in cholesterol and weight gain (Mayo Clinic is currently conducting human clinical trials on the product);
  • New ways to turn lawn clippings and tree leaves from cities into bioenergy;
  • An enzyme compound that can be used to develop insecticides to combat sand flies, a disease-spreading insect posing a major problem for U.S. military in Iraq and responsible for hundreds of thousands of childhood deaths in Africa;
  • A computer-based model of the fluid milk process to lower greenhouse gas emissions (the model has been distributed to more than 100 processors in the United States and should help the dairy industry realize its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent per gallon of milk by 2020);
  • Oat concentrates, a digestible, functional food from oats licensed for the production of Calorie-Trim and Nutrim;
  • A new process for turning old tires into zinc fertilizer;
  • A handheld device using gold nanoparticles to detect West Nile virus (and potentially other diseases) in blood samples;
  • Window cleaners using a biodegradable solution of nanoparticles that prevent water-beading and are superior to current cleaners;
  • A small packet that when inserted in small fruit containers releases an antimicrobial vapor that helps keep fresh fruit from rotting on the shelf.

Over the years, USDA innovations have created all sorts of products Americans use or benefit from every day. Among them are frozen orange juice concentrate, permanent press cotton clothing, mass production of penicillin in World War II, almost all breeds of blueberries and cranberries currently in production, and 80 percent of all varieties of citrus fruits grown in the United States, and "Tifsport," a turf used on NFL, collegiate and other sports fields across the country, specifically designed to withstand the stress and demands of major team sports. Tifsport is also used on PGA and other golf course fairways, while its sister turf, "Tifeagle," specially designed to be mowed to one-tenth of an inch daily, is used on PGA putting greens.

June Lawn and Garden Checklist


  • Continue planting warm-season vegetables. Beans, peas, squash, corn and cucumbers can be seeded through July for successive crops.
  • You can also plant vegetables in containers and grow them on decks, patios or other small spaces. Use potting mix, not potting soil, when planting.
  • Most trees and shrubs are sold in containers. If buying now, use care when planting, as the tree or shrub often is not as well rooted as later in season, and you can damage roots when removing the container.
  • Gladiola corms can still be planted for successive blooms.
  • Most varieties of pumpkins should be planted in June for harvest in October.
  • Daffodil clusters should be divided every 3 years to ensure good blooming. Dig the clumps, remove the yellowed leaves, and replant the bulbs just as you would in the fall.
  • Irises and daylilies can be divided even while in bloom. This is useful if you need to keep flower colors separated. Remove any remaining flowers, cut leaves half way back and replant the divisions as soon as possible.
  • It is hard to pull out the pansies when they are in full bloom, but they will soon fade out in the summer heat. It is best to go ahead and replace them with summer bloomers if you want color in that location all summer.
  • Plant hydrangeas where they receive morning sun and afternoon shade.
  • This is a good time to repot houseplants if you have not done so.
  • Keep a close eye on the quality of your spring crops. Hot weather causes lettuce to bolt and become bitter. Plant a warm-season crop as soon as the spring vegetables are harvested.
  • At the end of the month, gardeners can set out more tomato plants for a fall harvest.


  • Fertilize the lawn this month. Use a complete lawn fertilizer with a 3-1-2 ratio of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.
  • A split application of calcium nitrate or equivalent should be applied during the summer for newly planted peach trees: 1/2 cup calcium nitrate in early June and again in early August.
  • Roses will need to be fertilized each month through the summer after each flush of flowers.
  • Feed houseplants with a good quality indoor plant food such Osmocote (slow-release granular).
  • Check vegetable plant foliage for signs of nutrient deficiency. Contact your Co-op store for advice.
  • Vegetable garden plants, other than legumes such as beans, lentils, peas and peanuts, need a regular supply of nitrogen fertilizer beginning 5 or 6 weeks after planting.
  • Give container gardens a weekly feeding or use a slow-release fertilizer as instructed on the label.
  • Do not fertilize fescue lawns until September.
  • Feed water lilies and other aquatic plants in home water gardens.
  • Heat is a key factor in the decomposition process. During the summer months, high temperatures can cause organic materials that have been added to your garden for fertilization purposes to decompose and break down more quickly. Adding additional organic materials to your garden soil can help to improve plant health and soil quality as the summer heat speeds up decomposition and the release of organic nutrients.


  • This is a good month for shearing, pinching or pruning junipers, cypress or conifers. If you’ve been cultivating a special living Christmas tree, sculpt it now.
  • Prune suckers and water sprouts from all fruit trees.
  • Remove old flower heads from annual bedding plants to keep them blooming.
  • Pinch your chrysanthemums to encourage them to be bushier and have more blossoms. Pinch them again, every 6 inches or so, as they grow until mid-July.
  • Also continue to pinch back tall growing fall bloomers such as asters, monarda and salvias.
  • Make sure your climbing roses are securely tied into position and prune them after blooming.
  • If your tomato plants are staked, not caged, pinch out suckers.
  • Pinch back any annuals, fuchsias, geraniums, cosmos or any other plants that might be getting a little leggy.
  • Hurricane season begins June 1; it’s not too late to have your trees checked and trimmed.
  • Groom hanging baskets by removing old flowers and lanky shoots.
  • Be on the lookout for dead, damaged, diseased wood in trees and shrubs, and prune them out as discovered.


  • Check all newly planted shrubs and trees for water on a regular basis. Irrigate deeply and thoroughly as needed.
  • During the hot summer months, mulch can be especially useful for conserving water. For vegetable gardens, shredded leaves or grass clippings are good mulch material. For ornamentals, pine needles or wood bark do the best job.
  • As Irish potato plants begin to die back, reduce watering.
  • Overhead irrigation, especially late in the afternoon, is likely to spread certain foliar diseases. If you use overhead irrigation, do so earlier in the day so plants can dry before night.
  • As the weather dries out, your container-grown plants may need daily watering especially if the pots are exposed to the drying sunlight.
  • Fix leaky hoses and check irrigation systems for broken sprinklers.
  • Trim limbs and remove weeds that may be interfering with sprinkler operation.
  • Keep an eye on soil moisture. Vegetable gardens need one inch of water each week. When soaking rains skip your neighborhood, water slowly and deeply to encourage roots to travel away from the hot ground surface. This also reduces runoff and moistens the soil several inches down.
  • Consider adding rain barrels or cisterns to capture and store water for the dry times. Your Cooperative Extension System office has details on this and other irrigation ideas.


  • Summer is upon us! Although most of your planting may be done, your battle with pests –insects, diseases, weeds and wildlife – has just begun.
  • Identify garden pests before you attempt to control them. If you decide to use a chemical control, read the label carefully.
  • The best practices in disease control are rotation, clean seed, resistant varieties (when available), early planting, plowing under old crop debris, mulching and seed treatment. Chemical fungicides may be used to control some common leaf diseases of tomatoes, squash, cucumbers and cantaloupes.
  • Put a couple of drops of mineral oil on corn silks within a week after they appear to prevent corn earworm.
  • Protect ripening berries from birds with nets or row covers.
  • The cool, wet spring has caused the slugs and snails to grow into armies! Be alert to the damage they cause. Seek out and destroy!
  • Change the water in your bird bath regularly. Standing water may become a breeding ground for mosquito larvae.
  • June is the time to apply a fungicide to the lawn to control turf diseases such as brown patch, dollar spot and others. Visit your local Co-op store for suggestions.
  • Check your roses for mildew, aphid, black-spot or other disease problems or insect infestations, and if they appear take steps to control them right away.
  • To protect bees pollinating many of our crop plants, spray pesticides in the evening after bees have returned to their hives.
  • Aerate and immediately water lawns that are compacted, hard, too wet or have nematode problems.
  • Bats can be an effective way to control insects. One big brown bat can eat 3,000-7,000 insects each night. Attract bats by building and placing bat houses in your yard.
  • Birds will generally not be scared away by scarecrows. Instead, try tying pieces of glass, colored cloth or tin to loose strings so the wind can blow them and clash them together. Random motion is the key to alarming the birds away from the garden.
  • Avoid blossom-end rot in tomatoes, peppers, squash and watermelons by maintaining uniform soil moisture. See your local Co-op store for possible calcium application recommendations.
  • Summer storms and warm temperatures can cause weeds to quickly grow out of control. During June and July, weed your garden regularly in the early morning or late evening hours to prevent yourself from getting overheated while working. Weed removal is important for a number of reasons. It conserves moisture, conserves nutrients in the soil, and helps prevent the spread of disease and insects.
  • Check new plant growth for aphids. Aphids, or plant lice, can weaken plants and delay growth.


  • Remember to keep a record in your garden journal of what is planted where and what varieties you grew. You will want this information next year for garden rotation and to remember what vegetable varieties you liked - or did not like.
  • Give the compost a turn.
  • Make sure the birds have fresh water.
  • Stop harvesting asparagus and allow their foliage to mature.
  • Replace cool-season flowers such as pansies and crops such as spinach that have bolted with the heat.
  • Use bark mulch around young trees to protect them from lawn mower damage.
  • If you do not have much room to landscape, consider using some of the many dwarf varieties available. These are plants that have slow growth and stay small, so there is little pruning maintenance. There are numerous dwarf evergreens, flowering trees and shrubs from which to choose.
  • The best time to harvest most herbs is just before flowering, when the leaves contain the maximum essential oils.
  • Before pouring gasoline into the fuel tank of your lawn mower, garden tiller or other garden equipment, be sure to turn off the engine and allow it to cool for at least five minutes.
  • Leftover vegetable and flower seeds may be stored in a cool dry location to be saved for planting next year.
  • Stake tall flowers to keep them from blowing over in the wind. Add a stake to each planting hole as you’re transplanting, and tie the stem loosely to the stake as the plant grows.
  • Allow one or two runners to develop from the most productive strawberry plants.
  • At exactly noon June 15, set your sundial to 12 or XII to get the most accurate time reading throughout the summer.
  • Dethatching the lawn should wait until fall. However, there is still plenty of time to perforate the lawn, if it is needed.
  • Indeterminate tomato varieties continue to grow vines all season and benefit from suckering. Remove suckers that sprout from the stem up to the first flower cluster. This will promote earlier fruiting and keep the plants to a manageable size. "Celebrity" and other determinate varieties will not sprawl as much and do not require suckering.
  • Keep lawns mowed regularly, but do not set the blades too low. This is a common mistake leading to less vigorous growth and higher chance of disease.
  • Now is a great time to install a water garden. Water features will allow you to enjoy the soothing sights and sounds of water.
  • Involve the kids or grandkids in growing vegetables. It’s fun. It’s easy and it builds kids’ enthusiasm for gardening and eating healthy - because they tend to eat what they grow!
  • Almost all vegetables are best when harvested early in the morning. Overnight, vegetables regain moisture they lost during the day and starches formed during the day may be converted to sugars during the evening. Vegetable quality is highest at the moment of harvest and begins to decrease rapidly afterwards.
  • Frequent picking is essential for prolonging the vegetable harvest. A plant’s goal is to reproduce; therefore, if its fruit are allowed to fully mature on the plant, there is no reason for it to continue flowering, meaning fruit production will halt.
  • If you suspect bees haven’t found your tomato plants, pollinate the blossoms yourself. Do this by gently tapping the open blossom with a pencil. For maximum effectiveness, do this frequently as new blooms open.
  • There are several indicators for ripeness of watermelon. The vine tendril closest to the fruit dies and turns brown when ready to harvest. Also, the underside of the fruit will turn from white to yellow. Finally, thumping a ripe melon should give a dull thud as opposed to a ringing, metallic sound when immature.
  • Use both hands to pick peas, beans and cucumbers to prevent breaking stems.
  • Some herbs such as basil and parsley are good additions to the vegetable garden. Others prefer drier conditions and little fertilizer. Herbs from the Mediterranean region such as lavender, rosemary, thyme, marjoram, dill and oregano will have greater concentrations of those essential oils if given lots of sun, very well-drained soil and very little fertilizer.
  • Don’t bag or rake grass clippings; let them lie on the lawn to return nitrogen to the soil.
  • Replace constantly declining turf in dense shade with a mulch or ground cover.
  • To get the color of crape myrtle you want, you should purchase a containerized plant now while it is in bloom in the nursery.
  • Adjust ties on trees and shrubs to prevent girdling of stems.
  • Build, repair or paint trellises, arbors and lawn furniture.
  • Change the oil and air filter in gas-powered equipment as instructed in manuals.
  • Edge beds to make a clean line and define them, and keep edges clean with regular fine-tuning with grass shears. A well-cut edge makes a big difference.
  • Ethanol-enriched gases have a shorter storage life; buy smaller quantities or add a stabilizer.
  • Harvest turnip roots when they reach the size of a tennis ball or larger (2½-2¾ inches in diameter). Like rutabagas, pithiness and/or a very strong flavor can develop if these crops are left in the ground during hot weather.
  • Be prepared for "June Drop" of fruit from fruit trees. They’re just thinning out to a manageable crop size. Clean up any fallen fruit.

MaxRax Deer Feed

by John Sims

MaxRax Wildlife Nutrition Inc. emerged in the mid-1990s as a specialized wildlife nutrition company with a commitment to quality and service. In today’s market, performance means everything and competition is tight. When formulating specialized diets, all aspects of breeding and raising deer are considered such as herd genetics, stress factors, water quality and extreme temperature fluctuations. Because breeding parameters are constantly changing, our independent nutrition research allows us to consistently improve our feed formulations. When feeding MaxRax, you can be confident you’re feeding the most advanced wildlife nutrition products.

MaxRax offers a diverse group of products that combine on-farm research with more than 15 years of experience and understanding the nutritional needs of deer and elk based on climate, region, season, soil/water conditions and genetics. MaxRax products contain special additives to optimize animal health and performance. They contain Chelated Trace Mineral Complexes for growth, reproduction and immune system function; Probiotics for intestinal health and nutrient absorption; Digestive Enzymes for greater feed and natural browse digestion; and Yeast Cultures for greater fiber digestion, energy utilization and mineral absorption.

16% MaxRax Deer Pellets: A universal diet for all stages of deer production

17% MaxRax Plus Pellets: For maximum antler production

20% MaxRax Fawn and Lactating Doe Pellets: Higher protein and energy to support rapid growth and aid in gestation and lactation

16% MaxRax Textured Feed: Fall/winter mix to assist overall health during the rut, breeding, cold temperatures and lower winter-feed intake

18.5% MaxRax Textured Feed: Spring/summer mix for superior antler growth

Alabama Farmers Cooperative manufactures MaxRax Deer Feed to ensure the highest quality and consistency for your animals. MaxRax is available at your local Quality Co-op store.

John Sims is an AFC products specialist.

New State Forester Comes Home

State Forester Greg Pate has firefighting figurines at his office as daily reminders of his job.

Steve Pate brings 30 years of experience back to Alabama.

by Alvin Benn

Renowned author Thomas Wolfe wrote a classic titled "You Can’t Go Home Again," but Alabama’s new State Forester is not only home again, his cell phone ring tone proves it.

It’s "Sweet Home Alabama," a Lynyrd Skynyrd hit that describes Greg Pate’s home state affection - something that didn’t diminish during a quarter century in North Carolina.

Since succeeding Linda Casey as State Forester earlier this year, Pate has been spending as much time as possible meeting and greeting those he supervises as well as others with forestry connections.

"I thoroughly enjoyed my years in North Carolina, but it’s good to be back home again," Pate said. "When this opening popped up, I knew it was an opportunity that was just too good to pass up."

Pate, who grew up in Anniston, submitted as much information as possible about his forestry career, but said he was somewhat surprised when he was called in for an interview.

"I just figured there were others with long histories in Alabama forestry, but I knew my overall experience certainly could help my chances," said Pate, a 1981 graduate of Auburn University where he majored in forest management. "I couldn’t get that chance without applying for the job."

Pate’s experience spoke for itself when the selection committee met to consider applicants seeking to succeed Casey as Alabama Forester.

For one thing, he had 30 years of experience in forestry including 5 in the private sector and 25 with state government. His work in the private sector was mostly as a forestry contractor as well as with private forestry consultants.

During his quarter century in North Carolina, beginning in 1988, Pate worked in forestry management, fire, nursery and genetics.

As a North Carolina forester, Pate was involved in fighting numerous forest fires in that state as well as some in western states – whenever the call came for help.

What sets Pate apart from most forestry officials is the fact that he is one of only a few to serve as chief forester in two states. He became North Carolina’s ninth State Forester in 2012 and Alabama’s State Forester this year.

When Pate learned of the Alabama Forester search, he drove back home for an interview a few days before Thanksgiving last year.

He said the selection committee was particularly interested in his background in management, wildfires and other aspects of the office.

State Forestry Commission Chairman Salem Saloom led the search committee and it was apparent that he had his eyes on Pate almost from the beginning.

"We had 22 applications from around the country, including Oregon, and worked hard to put the selection process in place," said Saloom, who is a doctor living in Brewton.

He said he and other members of the selection committee felt throughout the process "that Greg Pate was the right choice for us." One of the biggest reasons for that feeling was a "two-way street" interview with Pate when he arrived to state his case.

"It was apparent he had done his homework," said Saloom. "Greg was prepared when we asked pertinent questions about finances, procedures and other factors involving the department."

Saloom also said Pate wasn’t shy in questioning the selection committee about important issues "and we knew then that the cream of the crop would surface. In this case, it was Greg Pate."

"Wildfires are one of Alabama’s biggest problems along with personnel cutbacks," Pate said. "We’ve got 250 people working across the state in various capacities and that’s a big responsibility because we’re covering more territory than any state in the South."

In 2010, employment in Alabama’s forestry department was cut by 70, putting even more responsibilities on the shoulders of the 175 state workers actively involved in fighting forest fires.

"We do a lot more than fighting fires, too" he said. "That includes helping landowners with timber management, logging and educational programs."

With employment reduced to challenging numbers, Pate is thankful for one of his department’s biggest assets – volunteer firefighters.

"It’s the biggest help we’ve got because our volunteer firefighters help us tremendously," he said. "I don’t know what we’d do without them."

Alabama’s forest fires may not be as extensive as those in bigger states, especially those in western states, but every acre consumed by a fire "destroys or damages somebody’s resources."

He said the average forest fire in Alabama consumes between 16-18 acres and "depending on the location that can be a lot."

He said the state has "a large amount" of arson-related forest fires as well as blazes caused by accidental fires such as those involving leaf burning that gets out of hand.

What impresses him is the quick response time once a fire is reported – down to 40 minutes from the time one is reported.

"The quicker you get to a fire the better," Pate said, adding that 1,700 forest fires were reported last year resulting in a loss of 30,000 acres of woodland. Each fire consumed about 18 acres "and that’s too high."

A key to reducing that number, he said, is working closely with volunteer units, especially when it involves training techniques.

"Our volunteer firefighters get a lot of training when it comes to structural fires, but not when it involved wildfires in forests," he added.

Pate said his department’s budget is $24 million annually with a variety of appropriation sources involved including state and federal. He said the state general fund provides $9 million.

Even with all his experience, Pate admits he’s no "magician" when it comes to solving all the problems confronting his department.

His easy-going demeanor is reflective of a man who believes in delegating authority "because I’ve always counted on folks you hire to be smarter than you are.

"From my perspective, I look at the cup being half full, not half empty," he said. "I don’t have answers to everything, but we have a lot of good people working in this department and they’re the ones I count on."

In addition to meeting his staff and fellow foresters, Pate also began looking for a house to welcome his wife Mary and children Georgia, 17; Matthew, 12; and Jackson, 10.

Pate said Matthew told him, "Dad, I think I might like this move to Alabama because you can hunt deer a whole month longer than in North Carolina."

Although baseball is Pate’s favorite sport, he’s a War Eagle fan through and through, and can’t wait to start seeing Auburn football games this fall.

"I put in for season tickets and plan to use them as soon as the season begins," he said.

Alvin Benn is a freelance writer from Selma.

Outdoor Enthusiasm

Judie Shults’ horse named Radar garners extra attention from University Place Elementary School students and their chaperones. (Credit: Judie Shults)

Urban Youth Farm Day 2014 gives students the opportunity to gain a real appreciation for agriculture.

by Maureen Drost

Picture this. With mere weeks remaining in the school year, more than 400 young students show incredible enthusiasm in the classroom. They not only raise their hands to answer questions. They shout out answers.

By now, their minds occupied with dreams of summer fun, paying attention usually comes second for these children or even farther down the list.

So what’s the secret?

Volunteers from Meridianville Middle School enjoy being with Radar, the Appaloosa.

It’s an outdoor classroom. Urban Youth Farm Day to be exact on a 998-acre research, Extension and teaching facility run by Alabama A&M University.

In its 18th year, the annual event ran like a well-oiled farm machine with 30-minute interactive sessions on wildlife and farm animals, nutrition and exercise, plants, insects such as honeybees and group activities such as hayrides and making homemade ice cream.

Shirley Greene, a long-time volunteer and teacher at First Missionary Baptist Church School, said her kids love the experience and the chance to work in three garden plots much like the raised flowerbeds featured at Farm Day. Sylvia Oakes helps instruct the children at the school in the growing of plants, nutrition and raising farm animals.

Coordinator of the special day for third through fifth graders, Oakes worked with Wanda Pharris to pull together all the details needed for such a large event. Among her helping hands were volunteers from a 4-H group at Meridianville Middle School led by Stanley Fields. They helped keep the younger ones on schedule, so everyone could participate in the dozen-plus activities.

Oakes and Pharris work for the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

At one of the sessions, volunteer Judie Shults showed off her Appaloosa named Radar, and he was a crowd favorite. The youngsters wanted to ride him, they barraged Shults with questions about his teeth and feet, and huddled around him for photos like he was a long-time friend. Appaloosas are a gentle breed, and Radar seemed laid-back the entire time, munching on grass when he wasn’t being loved on.

Shults owns seven Appaloosas and is a member of the Dixieland Appaloosa Horse Club. She’s shuttled the 18-year-old Radar to this event annually for much of his life.

Wildlife on the Farm, a presentation by Marcus Garner, intrigued students. Garner passed around pelts from a coyote, a whitetail deer, a skunk and an opossum for everyone to touch. He also works for ACES.

"Don’t feed wildlife," Garner cautioned as he held up the coyote skin for 15 University Place Elementary School students to see.

Minutes later he said, "I don’t want to see any of y’all running behind a skunk," as he showed them the distinctive black and white pelt.

One boy wrapped himself in the deer skin after Garner announced that Native Americans often used the pelts to keep themselves warm in colder months. He went on to say the animal uses his white tail as a signal to others when alarmed such as when a predator lurks nearby. The alerted deer will flee and the others will follow.

"A lot of times, guys, we need to be more like the whitetail deer and communicate with our parents and teachers when we have a question," Garner said.

Other schools participating in the Urban Youth Farm Day were Faith Covenant Academy, Meridianville Middle School and Union Chapel Christian Academy.

Terence Martin made nutrition come alive for the University Place children as he polled the group over what they like to drink. "Coke," one youth shouted. "Mountain Dew," cried another. "Pepsi," said a third. Without exception, all the answers were soft drinks of some kind.

Martin held aloft a six-inch-long laboratory vial and told the students that one soft drink – just one – contains 33 grams or eight teaspoons of granulated white sugar. Drink water instead, he urged, especially during the summer heat. Most health experts recommend eight glasses per day.

Parked behind Martin was a brightly colored van with Nutrition on the Move painted across the side. As a project of Alabama A&M, Martin brings his mobile message to day-long events like this one and uses the van as an outreach tool for those with very limited transportation.

An abundance of other educational opportunities will occur on this Alabama farm in 2014. However, if only a handful of these children learn about avoiding obesity through exercise and better nutrition or gain a real appreciation for agriculture, Urban Youth Farm Day 2014 will be a tremendous success. Youthful enthusiasm is infectious.

Maureen Drost is a freelance writer from Huntsville.

Peanut People

Planning Hay Purchases

Don’t Wait ’Til Winter

by Robert Spencer

Summertime is always a good time of the year to plan hay purchases for winter hay feeding. It is best to take care of anticipated hay needs during hay season (May-Sept.), rather than waiting until later in winter only to realize you have insufficient hay inventories for your animals. Leftover hay can be utilized the following year. Locating hay in late winter tends to be a challenge, and premium prices may be expected. With a little bit of calculation, the planning process takes only a few minutes and can save on costs and stress during winter. While year-round availability of quality forages is the most efficient system for meeting nutrients needs of your animals, supplemental quality hay provides fiber and is more efficient than grain-based feeds which are solely designed to fill gaps in nutrient deficiencies.

Let us lay out the factors for planning hay purchases. Situations will vary depending on several factors: 1) animal inventories, and 2) winter weather conditions and 3) phase of production (lactating, maintenance or growing) will dictate an animal’s nutrient requirements and consumption rate. Storage capability, if inadequate, may necessitate advance payment and asking farmer to store hay. The planning process in our situation involves setting the following scenario. Estimated hay needs are based on 1 percent of body weight. Assumptions include a total daily consumption rate of 3-4 percent body weight for an adult female animal in minimal or no lactation, 2-3 percent of her diet being provided with a grazing mix of stockpiled grass and rye grass, and remaining 1 percent of intake includes hay with a value of 12 percent protein and 55 percent total digestible nutrients, and at most 1 percent species appropriate grain-based feed as a supplement when needed.

Disclaimer section: Situations will vary. During extremely cold winters (such as in 2013-2014) nutrient and consumption needs will increase. Lactating and growing animals will have slightly higher nutrient/consumption needs. Prices, quality and types of available hay will vary. Prices for grain-based feeds will vary depending upon species, protein content and ability to buy in bulk or bag.

The table in this article should be helpful with planning winter hay needs. Keep an open mind to varying situations; you can easily double estimated needs if deemed appropriate.

Having encouraged you to evaluate winter hay needs during hay season, I want to add this little thought. Why not address future hay needs a year in advance? Let me explain. I prefer not to move hay during the heat of summer, and over the years have developed multiple hay resources. In February and March, I make calls to inquire who has hay in their barn for sale, the type and price. This is when many hay farmers begin to think about emptying their barn of last year’s hay to make room for the upcoming hay season. If prices are reasonable, I buy as much hay as possible during that time of year and have the majority of my hay needs taken care of months in advance. Yes, I may pay a little bit more because of the labor costs of putting hay in the barn; yet, the majority of my hay needs are taken care of almost a year in advance. Barn-stored hay loses little or no nutrient value in the first year or two. The best part of all this, temperatures are moderate so moving the hay is not a sweaty process.

Meeting the nutrient needs of your animals is essential to maintaining good body condition. A starved animal is more likely to have consumed less than an animal kept in ideal body condition. Late winter is when we tend to hear news reports of malnourished animals being found in near-starving conditions due to lack of grazing materials, hay and grain-based feeds. Planning ahead will avoid stressful and costly situations. Now is the time to address future hay needs when hay is more likely to be readily available and affordable in the field.

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

Preventing Disease via Nutrition

Maximizing immune function in cattle is going to be more important than ever.

by Jackie Nix

Many of you may have already heard of the new Food Safety Modernization Act proposed by FDA. In a nutshell, previous FDA rules were focused primarily on identifying food safety problems after they occurred and responding accordingly. FSMA seeks to help prevent food safety issues in both humans and animals through preventative controls throughout all levels of production, storage and distribution. Part of the fallout of FSMA is the topic of antibiotic use in meat animals. With debate still ongoing, one thing is clear, that reliance on antibiotic use in food animals is on a downward trend. With this in mind, it is going to be more important than ever to build strong immune systems in our calves through sound nutrition.

While overall nutrition is important to maintaining health, there are several key trace minerals typically deficient in the diet that play critical roles in the development and maintenance of the immune systems in calves. These key minerals are copper, zinc and selenium.

Copper is needed for proper development of antibodies and white blood cells in addition to antioxidant enzyme production. Copper-deficient cattle are more susceptible to infections and do not respond as well to vaccinations. In addition, they tend to be less resistant to parasitic challenge. Studies have shown that cattle receiving proper copper nutrition tend to be less susceptible to infections and have less severe infections when disease does occur.

Zinc plays an important role in the maintenance of skin, gastrointestinal linings and the linings of the respiratory system. These are the body’s first defense against bacterial, viral and parasitic invaders. Additionally, zinc is crucial in non-specific immunity from neutrophils and phagocytic cells, and antioxidant activity. Zinc is also necessary for development of antibodies needed for specific immunity.

Selenium works in conjunction with vitamin E in the removal of free radicals via antioxidant activity and is critical for phagocytic cell function in non-specific immunity. Research has shown that selenium-deficient cells are less able to kill pathogens. Selenium deficient animals are less able to respond to a specific invader and have lowered antibody titers.

Since much of a calf’s body stores of trace minerals are obtained in-utero, especially during the last trimester, nutrition of the dam is crucial for the calf’s immunity. The dam’s nutritional status affects the calf in two ways. First, it affects the quality of the colostrum she is able to offer for passive immunity. Second, it provides necessary building blocks for when the calf’s body develops its own immunity.

Adding insult to injury is the fact that stress has a direct negative effect on immune function. For example, it has been shown that phagocytes do not respond normally to infection in the presence of cortisol (the "stress" hormone). Prolonged stress has been shown to actually increase an animal’s mineral requirements. The stress of this year’s harsh winter makes supplementation of the cow herd with high-quality minerals critical this spring and summer. It’s important to keep high-quality supplements in front of the cows even after calving as the cows need to replenish body stores. Calves also need access to supplements since some minerals such as copper are not transferred in milk in appreciable quantities. High-quality supplements will give them the building blocks they need for a strong immune system.

In summary, maximizing immune function via nutrition, especially trace mineral nutrition, is going to become increasingly important in beef production. SWEETLIX offers a wide variety of high-quality supplements that will deliver essential minerals and vitamins to cattle. For cows and calves coming out of a stressful winter, consider one of the SWEETLIX CopperHead Supplements. SWEETLIX CopperHead Supplements are fortified at 150 percent of NRC recommended levels of copper and zinc and SWEETLIX CopperHead Max Supplements at 250 percent of NRC recommended levels of copper and zinc. Both include highly available, organic forms of copper, zinc, manganese and cobalt. Visit to learn more about these products or like us on Facebook to learn more about how SWEETLIX can work for you. Ask for SWEETLIX CopperHead by name at your local Quality Co-op!

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.

SWEETLIX and CopperHead are registered trademarks of Ridley Block Operations

Remembering D-Day

“The Dead and Those About to Die” by John C. McManus melds historical background and facts about the battle with the personal accounts of the fighting men, both officers and enlisted men, who were part of the invasion force.

New book chronicles epic battle on 70th anniversary.

by Jim Erickson

June 6 marks the 70th anniversary of one of the most epic days in military history – the invasion of Hitler’s Europe by Allied Forces – D-Day, as the date is most commonly known.

A recently published book takes a close-up look at that day, more specifically at the experiences of members of the U.S. Army’s 1stInfantry Division, nicknamed The Big Red One, in its heroic, bloody and ultimately victorious struggle on the eastern part of Omaha beach.

"The Dead and Those About to Die" by John C. McManus, a professor of history at Missouri University of Science and Technology, melds historical background and facts about the battle with the personal accounts of the fighting men, both officers and enlisted men, who were part of the invasion force.

The book’s title is taken from observations written by Col. George Taylor, who had helped plan earlier Allied landings in North Africa and had led the 16th Infantry into Sicily.

"In a landing operation, there are two classes of men that may be found on the beach," he wrote months before the D-Day invasion, "those who are already dead and those who are about to die."

As described by McManus, Taylor’s fervent belief was that, in any invasion, remaining on the beach was a virtual death sentence. At the same time, troops often succumbed to inertia when surrounded by death and destruction, and needed effective leadership for the kind of forward movement that would increase their odds of survival.

While the D-Day invasion ultimately was successful, the battle’s early hours were filled with developments that made the outcome substantially less than a sure thing.

Heavy seas and difficult weather conditions combined to break down the intricate timetable and plans setting forth who and what were to land where and at what precise time.

"The timetable was wrecked, shattered like a prized picture window," McManus writes, "but the consequence was not mere shards of glass but the destruction of many lives …."

For the fighting men in the first wave, "tardy landings meant isolation from supporting units and firepower," the historian says, with the result the German defenders could more easily concentrate their firepower on small groups rather than dealing with larger, more numerous units.

Another major problem was that soldiers coming ashore were burdened by the weight of equipment and gear they had been given. For those who had to leave their landing craft earlier than anticipated, the weight they carried meant a life-or-death struggle when the water they jumped into was over their heads.

"Unfortunately, a number of men drowned because they didn’t even know how to swim. No one had considered the need for this basic skill among those in the invasion force," McManus said in an interview.

Those who made it to shore faced the equally daunting task of trying to move rapidly to escape enemy fire and advance on well-entrenched enemy positions.

However, that wasn’t the only problem. Although U.S. armed forces had a laudable commitment to provide medical care to servicemen during the war, the lack of medical evacuations to treat the wounded on D-Day was "rather stunning," McManus observes in his book. He attributes this shortcoming, as well as the heavy loads troops had to carry, to planners and commanders being "too preoccupied with logistics and timetables, at the expense of practicalities."

While McManus doesn’t mince words in his critiques, he also has ample words of praise for the many whose actions ultimately turned the 19 hours of D-Day hell-on-Earth into a success. The book is filled with personal descriptions of heroism, bravery under fire and creative initiative when faced with unexpected circumstances, including:

Lt. John Spalding of Owensboro, Ky., and Tech. Sgt. Philip Streczyk of East Brunswick, N.J., who successfully led the men in their platoon through a minefield in what is believed to be the first breakout from the beach. Both men survived the war, albeit with deep emotional scars. Their lives both ended tragically more than a decade later. Spalding was shot and killed by his wife, who subsequently was confined to a mental institution, while Streczyk took his own life.

Maj. Gen. Clarence "Coach" Huebner, the Big Red One’s commanding officer. McManus notes, while the general’s planning wasn’t perfect, "he succeeded in training his division to a winning standard" that "paid major dividends on D-Day."

1st Lt. Jimmie Monteith of Richmond, Va., who lost his life after leading his men off the beach and single-handedly eliminating two enemy machine gun positions threatening his men. Monteith received a posthumous Medal of Honor.

McManus’s book is a gripping account of these and many other stories from a day that turned the tide of the war and the history of the world.

The Missouri historian and professor already has garnered considerable acclaim for his newest book.

"John McManus created a portrait with words as Spielberg did with images in (the movie) ‘Saving Private Ryan.’ Of course, creating such a vivid picture with words is, for my money, far more difficult," said Paul Reid, author of "The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Defender of the Realm."

McManus recently addressed the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., and is scheduled for an interview on NPR’s Diane Rehm show on June 5. He also has been scheduled to speak at the Gerald Ford Presidential Museum and Library in Grand Rapids, Mich., and at the D-Day commemoration at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, La.

Earlier books by McManus include "September Hope: The American Side of a Bridge Too Far," "Grunts: Inside the American Infantry Combat Experience from World War II Through Iraq"and "U.S. Military History for Dummies."

Sandflat Sheep

Alton Drinkard and his Pyrenees PupPup with their herd of Katahdin sheep.

Retirement hobby becomes enjoyable business on Oak Lane Farm.

If you drive along Highway 9 in the small community of Sandflat, south of Thomasville, you may have to look twice to believe what you see! Grazing on both sides of Sandflat Road are herds of white sheep. Profiled against the green fields are groups of Katahdin sheep and a white Pyrenees dog keeping vigil on the flock. The pastoral scene is found on Oak Lane Farm, owned and operated by Alton and Carolyn Drinkard.

What’s so unusual about seeing sheep in Sandflat? In Southwest Alabama, namely Clarke County, there are very few sheep herds. Also, these are Katahdins, a relatively new American breed of hair sheep, developed in the 1950s and named after Mt. Katahdin in Maine. Katahdins are a cross between hair sheep, imported from the Caribbean, and British Suffolk sheep.

New lambs produced by a Katahdin ewe and a Barbados ram. The vivid coloring of the offspring has attracted many visitors to the farm.

The Drinkards originally raised Boer goats, but were attracted to Katahdins in 2005 because of the breed’s gentle nature and ease of handling. In addition, Katahdins are known to have fewer parasite and foot problems.

Drinkard and four of his friends, who also raise Katahdins in the Sandflat area, have joined together to form their own "mini-cooperative," working together to help each other. They breed their ewes to lamb at times of high-market demand. Then they network and market their products to get the best prices. Florida wholesale companies buy most of the lambs, but some individuals buy the sheep for their personal consumption. In addition, buyers purchase ewes for new herds. If a buyer is seeking a special product, each owner contacts the others to supply the need.

The owners also share feeding tips, especially the best values on grain and forage. The sheep are grass grazed as much as possible, because many consumers say the grass fed meat has a milder flavor. The warmer climate in southwest Alabama allows grass production nine to ten months out of the year; however, the owners do plant rye and clover for winter grazing and supplement their feeding programs with high-quality hay.

Katahdins need to be grain fed before and during lactation. To help with finding the proper grain combination, the owners contacted Jimmy Hughes, a nutritionist who works for Alabama Farmers Cooperative. Hughes formulated a feed they now use for the sheep. The feed is made to Hughes’s specifications and shipped to Central Alabama Farmers Co-op in Faunsdale, about 45 minutes from their homes. Because of the distance, the owners take turns bringing feed for the others.

Evans Drinkard, the Drinkards’ grandson, grinds corn to mix with the specially formulated feed. Evans has helped his Paw Paw feed the animals since he was 2 years old.

Katahdin ewes are wormed a few weeks before breeding and then within 24 hours after lambing. Usually, Katahdin mothers have few problems birthing, but, occasionally, a problem may arise. Ewes usually birth two or three lambs. Interestingly, the breeders have noticed a pattern among their lambs: if their farms show a higher percentage of rams one year, they will have a larger percentage of ewes the next year.

Drinkard raises both registered and commercial sheep, running a flock of 25 ewes and 46 offspring. He also houses two registered rams. This year, he decided to experiment with cross breeding five of his young ewes with a Barbados ram he purchased in Louisiana. (Barbados is believed to be the original hair sheep.) The offspring are showing the docile natures of their Katahdin mothers, while sporting the vivid coloring of their Barbados father.

"People are amazed at the coloring of these young lambs in the midst of the other white lambs. A lot of people stop on the roadside and take pictures of them," Drinkard said.

The Drinkards’ niece Megan Andrews, Huntsville, and nephew Drew Lacey, Sylacauga, always enjoy a visit to the farm, especially getting a hug from PupPup, the farm dog.

The Drinkards have two grandchildren, Mary Madeline and Evans, who live in Rome, Ga. The grandchildren enjoy coming to the farm to help with all the animals. In fact, Evans has been helping to feed the herd since he was two. Mary Madeline comes up with most of the unusual names for the many animals living on Oak Lane Farm. Both children adore the big Pyrenees dog named PupPup that watches over the sheep. During the ice storm in January, PupPup saved two lambs whose mother had abandoned them. For some reason, the mother took one of her lambs to the barn and left the other two stranded near the pond. A neighbor reported seeing the dog using her nose to push the newborn lambs up the hill to shelter. Both lambs were saved because of the dog’s devotion to her flock.

Drinkard also raises three different breeds of chickens and some guineas. As another sideline, he trains Beagles for rabbit hunters. Drinkard started the flock as a hobby, hoping to have something to do after he retired in 2006. He says he stays busy all day, but that’s what makes life interesting. He really enjoys his Katahdin flock, however.

"They are like pets to me," he laughed. "When I walk into any of my pastures, they come running to me. My favorite time is the lambing season. I get up early every morning to see what’s new. You can’t beat that!"

For more information on this Katahdin operation, contact Oak Lane Farm at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. '; document.getElementById('cloak13960').innerHTML += ''+addy_text13960+'<\/a>'; //--> or 334-636-5345.

Slip on Your Cowboy Boots and Cut Some “Okwuru”

Abigail Howle has harvested okra at the right stage. Pods are tender and not old and stringy.

by John Howle

“A government that robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul.” -- George Bernard Shaw

This is a busy time of year if you are a farmer. The growth of livestock, livestock forage and gardens are at their peak, and it takes true time management skills to keep up with the daily chores and keep the farm running smoothly. If you are one of the Peters the government depends upon for financial resources to pay the Pauls, you may find yourself in a frustrated state of mind. Instead of throwing our hard-earned tax money towards more government bailouts and failed stimulus programs, maybe we should use some of that money teaching people how to grow their own backyard garden.

Maybe we should teach children at a young age that hard work and discipline are how you become successful. Maybe we should teach children to be self-sufficient instead of being dependent on others. And maybe, just maybe, we should teach children (and adults) that they should become totally dependent on God instead of government.

As you spend the month of June baling hay, tending the garden and working with livestock, also plan some down time. Spend an afternoon fishing in a farm pond. Take the kids on a campout and cook all your food over an open fire. Finally, take the family for a weekend trip to one of Alabama’s beautiful state parks.


Originating in Africa, okra has been a staple of the Southern garden since the 1700s. Thomas Jefferson said it was known in Virginia before 1781 and, from 1800 on, many garden writers mentioned it in their writings. It can be eaten boiled, fried with meal, cooked into soups or served with other vegetables.

Two common accounts about okra coming to American involve the slave trade. One idea was that seeds were brought over by slaves, and the other was that slave traders brought the seeds so their captives could eat food from their native land to help prevent homesickness. From the Igbo language of southeastern Nigeria, we get the vegetable’s English name, okwuru, which became ochra, then okra.

According to documents at Texas A&M’s AgriLife Extension Service, some Mediterranean countries and the East use the ripe seeds to make cooking oil in areas where regular cooking oil is scarce. The ripe seeds are sometimes roasted and ground as a substitute for coffee. I might be hesitant to try this one. The last thing I want the first thing in the morning is a cup of coffee that might turn out to be as slimy as boiled okra.

The biggest mistake most people make is harvesting the pods when they are too mature and stringy. If the okra is harvested regularly at the half grown stage, the pods are tender and the plant will continue to produce for the length of the growing season. If old pods are left on the plant, new growth will taper off or stop, so remove any old pods.

The great thing about okra is that it will produce through the heat of summer even when other vegetables have stopped production. If you are harvesting okra every second or third day and have plenty left over, freezing is the best option.

Cut the okra pods in three-quarter-inch cuts, spread them out on a cookie sheet and set them in the freezer until frozen. Remove the cookie sheet, use a spatula to remove the frozen okra from the cookie sheet, and store in freezer bags with the date written on them. You can also use this method and freeze okra already coated with batter for frying later.

These Boots Were Made for Walking, Working and Western Fashion

If you research the history of cowboy boots, most sources agree the first boots were designed out of necessity. Around the 1870s, as legend has it, a cowboy took his old boots (likely old Civil War boots) to a shoemaker and asked for a pointy toe to get his foot into the stirrup easier, a taller shaft to protect his legs from briars and mesquite thorns, and a thicker heel so his foot wouldn’t come out of the stirrup during rough rides.

Later on, the basic black or white stitching began to be replaced by intricate patterns, different colors and various inlays of leather. The boots went from performing a function to becoming a fashion statement. This is evident from some of the old Roy Rogers cowboy episodes and other Westerns from the 1950s.

The basic design of the cowboy boot has stayed the same, but the walking and working technology of boot design has resulted in a much more comfortable modern day boot. Ariat is one of those companies who has used technology to create comfortable, rugged boots for just about any job you can perform on foot or from horseback.

For all around comfort and stability while working, I prefer the lower profile roper heel. The Heritage Reinsman is an excellent choice if you want a boot for both walking comfort and Western design. Ariat’s ATS footbed technology maximizes performance with unmatched stability and comfort.

The duratread outsoles are rugged and help you keep your grip on the ground even in slick grass during those times you have to pull a calf. The lower-profile heel also provides you with walking or standing comfort all day, and the square-toe design and six-row stitch pattern make this a truly stylish boot whether you are riding on a horse or riding into town for that Saturday night rib-eye special. You can order these boots through your local Co-op dealer or go online to Retail ranges from $160 to $180. Boots pictured are "earth" in color.

This June, slip on your boots, cut the okra and teach the folks how to be reliant on God instead of the government.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.

Southern Translation

SENTENCE USAGE: Those two boys are 2 years apart, but as alike as two peas in a pod!"

How can humans be like legumes?

This simile derives, of course, from the fact that two peas from the same pod are virtually indistinguishable. The phrase, sometimes given as "like as two peas," is quite old and versions of it date from the 16th century; for example, John Lyly used the phrase in "Euphues and His England," 1580:

"Wherin I am not unlike unto the unskilfull Painter, who having drawen the Twinnes of Hippocrates, (who wer as lyke as one pease is to another)."

Lyly’s use of "pease" as the singular form was the norm in Tudor England. The word "pea" came into use as the singular in the 17th century with "peas" as the plural, thus avoiding "peases," which would have been something of a mouthful. This transition left "pease" out in the cold and we now hardly use the form, except in the name of the dish of dried peas cooked to a mush – "pease pudding." The pudding is itself now becoming less common as it has largely been superseded by "mushy peas," which are essentially the same thing. Once that process is complete, "pease" will be gone from the everyday language – a pity.

Teaching Green

Bluff Park Elementary students engage with PALS to enhance their school.

by Mary Stanford

Bluff Park Elementary School in Hoover wants to engage its students in environmental issues. Gifted/Enrichment teacher Nancy McGowan invited PALS to come to Bluff Park Elementary. Dr. David Fancher accepted the challenge and partnered with People Against A Littered State. PALS will supply educational tools, a teacher’s curriculum and materials needed to clean up their campus.

As PALS’s Clean Campus Coordinator, I am always on the lookout for resources to recommend. Students were excited to learn about their "carbon footprint" and being a good steward of their environment. They participated in creating a quilt showcasing beautiful Alabama.

Under the leadership of Nancy McGowan, "Team Green" engaged students in programs to enhance Bluff Park Elementary School. PALS looks forward to working with all Alabama schools in promoting a cleaner and healthier environment. Each participating school can qualify to nominate themselves for the State Award. The first place winner receives a $1,000 scholarship, second place a $750 scholarship and third place a $500 scholarship.

If interested in having PALS come to your school, contact me at

Mary Mitchell Stanford, PALS Clean Campus Coordinator.

The Co-op Pantry

In the January column of the Co-op Pantry, I was on my soap box talking about diabetes, especially type 2, which is very prevalent in our area. This month, a very courageous lady named Kathy Thrasher is going to tell us about her life growing up as a farm girl and then about life after she developed type 2 diabetes and is in the end stage of renal disease. I want to thank her for her willingness to put a name and story with this insidious illness that is impacting so many people in our state and indeed, the whole southeastern United States. Here is Kathy’s story.

"I was born in Arab and grew up and lived in the Strawberry community of north Blount County, south of Arab. I lived there until circumstances surrounding the April 2011 tornadoes and my failing health caused me to stay with my sister in Blountsville.

"My mother and grandmother taught me to cook. We lived near my dad’s parents, and shared a garden with them. My mother and grandmother did all of the garden work together – canning, freezing, etc. And, when I was very young, we home processed a lot of our own meat – pigs and chickens mostly. So, they often cooked meals together. My early "cooking" experiences were stirring dishpans of food to make them cool faster for bagging and freezing, or putting something in the oven to bake so Mom and Granny did not have to stop working. That may be why my favorite way to cook is to put some stuff in a baking dish at 350 degrees in the oven and come back later.

"My first solo experience with cooking came with 4-H cooking competitions. In the 1970s, I came in second in the Blount County 4-H breads competition. I guess that sealed my love of cooking. Second place award was an Auburn University Home Extension Service Cookbook (which I still have). I don’t really collect cookbooks, but, when I get a good one, I keep it a long time. I do collect recipes, the habit of which I got from my Mom and Dad. Although Dad didn’t cook much, he was always interested in hearing people talk about recipes. I have always enjoyed watching Alabama Public Television cooking shows. Even before the "Cooking and Food Networks," my grandmother and I would watch the APT programs and she would say she was glad she didn’t have to clean up the kitchen behind them. My sister claims I still watch too many cooking programs. Work, church, fraternal organizations and family gatherings provide me ample arenas to experiment (I mean test) with new recipes.

"I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in the 1990s, and that changed my lifestyle and eating habits. I had to watch sugars and carbohydrates, and needed to exercise. In 2008, I was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease and had to radically change my diet. Before dialysis, your body needs a low protein diet, but dialysis patients must follow a high-protein diet because the dialysis process depletes protein from the blood. In January 2012, due to complications dealing with kidney stones, I started dialysis. With kidney disease, I had to become aware of sodium, phosphates and potassium in foods. Dialysis patients are a lot like farmers in that we have to have determination, but we also need a support network/community to help when needed – one example is transportation to and from the dialysis center when you can’t drive. God has greatly blessed me with a loving family, church family, community and friends to provide support."

Kathy, you are my hero!


5 eggs (minus 2 whites for meringue), beaten
¾ scant cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cornstarch
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix all ingredients. Place in a 9-inch deep-dish pastry shell. Bake at 350° until knife inserted in the center comes out clean, approximately 45 minutes. Top with meringue and bake an additional 10 minutes at 425° until meringue is browned.

Caution: Too much sugar will make the pie “water.”


2 egg whites
¼ teaspoon vanilla
¼ cup sugar

Beat egg whites until fluffy. Add vanilla and continue beating, gradually adding sugar until very stiff.


1 cup chopped dates (to better control carbohydrates avoid using pre-pack- aged chopped dates rolled in sugar)
1 cup prunes, chopped
1 cup cold water
1 stick unsalted butter or margarine
1 cup raisins
1 cup plain flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
2 eggs or egg substitute
½ cup nuts, chopped (optional)
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla

Boil dates and prunes in water for 3 minutes. Add butter and raisins. Let cool. Mix flour, baking soda, salt, eggs, nuts, spices and vanilla. Add to fruit mixture. Stir to blend. Pour into a baking dish or tube pan. Bake 350° for 25-30 minutes. Makes 20 servings.

(Original recipe from Blount County newspaper The Southern Democrat in the 1980s)

Note: Prunes and dried plums are interchangeable if your store doesn’t carry prunes in the dried fruit section. This recipe is not renal friendly because dried fruits are usually preserved with phosphates to maintain color and long shelf life, and prunes and dates are high in potassium. Also, nuts are high in potassium and phosphates. Limit portion to one serving. This recipe is diabetic friendly. It is a great substitute for fruit cake during the holidays.


1 green onion, chopped
1 Tablespoon celery, chopped
1 pound “backfin” lump crab meat
10 low sodium saltine crackers crushed (to make ½ cup)
1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
3 Tablespoons tartar sauce
¼ cup egg substitute
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil

In medium skillet, sauté onion and celery until sweated, but not brown. Combine crab, cracker crumbs, onion, celery and seasoning in a medium bowl. Mix tartar sauce and egg in small bowl. Combine egg mixture with crab.

Note: My homemade tartar sauce is mayo, dill pickle relish, hot sauce and minced onion. (From Diabetic Cooking Magazine)

Note from Mary: The above mentioned magazine is a wonderful resource to help you cut the bad stuff from your cooking.


1 (28-ounce) can no salt added diced tomatoes, undrained
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
1 rib celery, chopped (about ½ cup)
2 Tablespoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes
2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1 teaspoon dried basil leaves
2 pounds chicken, cut in chunks
1 cup uncooked rice
1 cup fat-free reduced-sodium chicken broth

Combine all ingredients except rice and broth in slow cooker. Cover and cook on LOW 8½ hours or on HIGH 4½ hours. Meanwhile, prepare rice according to directions, substituting broth for some or all of the water. Serve jambalaya over hot cooked rice. Serves 6.

Dietary Exchanges: 1 Starch; 4 Meat; 3 Vegetable

Note: 2 pounds of large shrimp, peeled and deveined, can be substituted for the chicken. Shrimp should be added only in the LAST 30 minutes of cooking on LOW. The original recipe was in Diabetic Cooking Magazine January 2005 issue as submitted by Lucy Cannek of Elmhurst, Ill. The recipe was designed to be low fat and low sodium for diabetics. Tomatoes are a source of potassium especially fresh and, therefore, must be limited on a renal diet. So use canned not fresh tomatoes. Avoid eating more than one serving per day if on a renal diet.


2 Tablespoons unsalted margarine or butter
¼ cup onion, chopped
1 Tablespoon bell pepper, chopped (opt.)
1 Tablespoon celery, chopped
2 Tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 cup liquid non-dairy creamer

In skillet, sauté onion, bell pepper and celery in margarine on medium heat until sweated but not brown. Add flour and seasonings. Cook until browned slightly and flour is cooked. Slowly add creamer, stirring constantly until thickened. Use in casserole in place of “cream of something” soups.

Variation: Add 3 tablespoons chopped fresh mushrooms with onion, pepper and celery for mock cream of mushroom soup. Or, add a small onion (julienned slices) and add ½ cup low sodium beef broth with liquid for an onion gravy/sauce for beef (i.e. beef tips, hamburger steaks).

Note: If not on a dairy-restricted diet, whole or 2% milk can be substituted for non-dairy creamer.


1/3 cup flour
½ cup sugar (or sugar substitute)
½ cup water
1 (20 ounce) can crushed pineapple, in own juice, undrained
3 cups apples, diced
Non-dairy whipped topping
Pecans, chopped

In sauce pan combine flour, sugar, water and pineapple. Cook on medium heat until thick, stirring constantly. Pour over diced apples in dish. Stir to combine. Let cool.

Top with whipped topping and pecans. Keep refrigerated.

Note: This recipe was given to me by Sandra Benefield. Nuts are a high potassium and phosphate food, and have to be limited. Use only a small amount of pecans or replace with toffee bits for crunch. Adding toffee increases the sugar content.


½ cup sugar
1/3 cup plain flour
2 egg yolks
2 cups liquid non-dairy creamer
1 teaspoon vanilla flavoring
Nondairy whipped topping (optional)

In a large microwave safe bowl, whisk dry ingredients until well blended. In a separate bowl or measuring cup, combine yolks, creamer and flavoring. Add wet ingredients into dry and whisk until well blended. Microwave uncovered on high for 2 minutes. Remove from microwave and whisk well (note at this point it doesn’t look like anything is happening). Return to microwave and cook additional 1½ minutes (edges will begin to look thicker).

Again whisk very well. Return to microwave and cook 1 minute or until pudding thickens in the center. Remove from microwave and stir to combine well and to start the cooling process. Place into serving container(s) and refrigerate until cool. Recommend cover with plastic wrap to prevent “skin” from forming. Top with whipped topping if desired.

Note: Microwave ovens vary greatly. Which last minute of cooking closely to prevent overflow and/or becoming too thick. If you are not on a diary-restricted diet, whole or 2% milk may be used instead of non-dairy creamer.

Serving suggestions: Pour into gram cracker pie crust and serve with non-dairy whipped topping (makes 8 servings). Pour ½ cup portions into individual dessert dishes. Serve plain, with fruit or with whipped topping and/or gram cracker or short bread cookie. The number of servings will vary.

Variations: Reduce sugar to ¼ cup and at end of cooking, fold in equivalent of ¼ cup of favorite sugar substitute.

For chocolate pudding, add 1/3 cup cocoa to dry ingredients. Cook and serve as noted.

Note: Cocoa is a higher phosphate food and should be limited.

Substitute coconut flavoring for vanilla. At end of cooking, fold in small bag of flaked coconut.

Note: This is the least-healthy variation. This recipe was created using the Nabisco Banana Pudding recipe; cooking methods from a publication in the 1980s called Microwave Times, and substitution guidance from renal dietitians as inspiration.


2 pounds lean ground pork
1 teaspoon black pepper
2½ teaspoons ground sage
½ teaspoon ground cumin
Pinch powdered garlic
Dash cayenne pepper (or to taste)
½ teaspoon poultry seasoning
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 Tablespoon water
1 Tablespoon olive oil

In a large bowl, combine pork, seasonings, sugar, water and oil. Mix well by hand. Cover and refrigerate for 3 hours or overnight. Form meat into two logs about 2” in diameter. Then divide each log into 10-12 patties. Fry or broil until done. The raw patties may be frozen for later use. Thaw before cooking. Serving size: 1 patty.


2 cups yellow squash, finely chopped
1 cup onion, finely chopped
1 egg or ½ cup egg substitute, beaten
1 teaspoon parsley flakes or 1 Tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
½ teaspoon Italian seasoning mix (without salt)
1 teaspoon pepper
½ cup plus 1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil

In a large bowl, combine squash, onion, egg, parsley, seasoning and pepper. Mix well. Stir in flour. In a skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat, drop batter by tablespoonful on to skillet. Cook about 3 minutes per side or until golden brown, turning once. Drain patties on paper towels.


4½ cups white sugar
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
1 tall can evaporated milk
10 ounces chocolate chips
1 pound butter
1 cup nuts

Boil sugar, cream of tartar and milk for 8-10 minutes. Stir occasionally. Place chocolate chips and butter in large mixing bowl. Pour boiled ingredients over them. Stir until smooth. Add nuts. Pour mixture in buttered pan and chill. Makes about 4 pounds.

Note: NOT renal or diabetic friendly. Sometimes rules have to be broken. Just be prepared to pay for the consequences. Chocolate is high in phosphates and nuts are high in both potassium and phosphates. And let’s not even discuss the sugar.

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

I am looking for cooks of all ages, cooking traditions and skill levels to feature in this column. I want to hear from those in Alabama as well as our out-of-state readers. The simple requirements for being a featured cook are to love to cook (and eat) and to share your story with us. Get those recipes coming! Any featured cooks during 2014 will receive a free copy of our new cookbook when it is published.

The FFA Sentinel: Montevallo HS Students Share Their Passion for Agriculture

Montevallo FFA Chapter officers and Advisor Blake Ray pose with one of the tractors from the parade.

by Meredith Goggins

In March 14-15, 2014, the Montevallo FFA Chapter hosted its 10th Annual Keith Adair Memorial Farm Day. FFA members sported their traditional blue jackets as they introduced Montevallo Elementary School children to agriculture.

On March 14, MES students were escorted to the MHS football practice field where the event was held. They started their day by making symbolic bracelets with national blue- and corn gold-colored beads after learning these were the FFA’s national colors. Next, they entered the big show tent and watched an entertaining and sometimes laughable performance put on by FFA members to guide them through the history of agriculture and how it has changed over the years. Then, they moved on to Michaela Sanders with the Mobile Dairy Classroom. The goal of the Mobile Dairy Classroom is to educate children on the dairy industry. MES students saw a live cow at this portion of the day’s events. Sanders demonstrated how to milk a cow, and explained how the milk process winds up in your refrigerator. The kids got to learn about agriculture in an "outside classroom format" in a way they may never experience elsewhere. Last, the MES kids got to walk through the Farm Day Petting Zoo featuring animals brought in by the high school’s FFA members. The kids saw chickens, cows, a horse, rabbits, quail and ducks among other animals.

"It was great to see our high school students branch out of their comfort zone and share their passion for agriculture with the younger children. Most rewarding was seeing the kids leave with smiles on their faces, and knowing we had an impact on their day and their knowledge of agriculture. We always want them to remember the blue jacket, and the smiling and dedicated member who comes with it," said Chapter President Meredith Goggins.

Montevallo Elementary School kids observe a live cow milking session at the 2013-2014 Farm Day.

On March 15, Farm Day was opened up as a free community activity. People were welcomed in by FFA members as they experienced an antique truck and tractor parade, a field of vendors, live entertainment including the Montevallo FFA String Band, a silent auction, a petting zoo, an archery exhibit, a kids’ area and concessions.

FFA officers rode through the town on the first trailer, followed by a flashback of trucks and tractors. The parade entertained the small town by bringing it back to its roots.

After the officers returned to Farm Day, they rejoined fellow FFA members to open up the event. The show tent was separated into a silent auction where community members could bid on items donated by businesses in the community and a stage for entertainment. All proceeds from the silent auction went to the FFA alumni for scholarships for FFA senior members.

In the entertainment portion of the show tent, senior FFA Vice President Seth Hawks and community member Dallas Perry opened up the day’s event with a song set, and following were the Montevallo FFA String Band, Seth Hawks again with junior FFA Sentinel Lupe Serrano, and Montevallo High School teacher Mary Howard.

The petting zoo was a big hit on Saturday as well, as FFA members continually showcased their animals so adults and children alike could enjoy the occasion.

Junior FFA Historian Lena Buttgereit said of the event, "Farm Day on Saturday was a fun experience. It was a great opportunity to get involved with the community. Seeing little kids’ faces light up when interacting with the animals had to be my favorite part."

At the archery exhibit, MHS FFA Archery Team members helped kids, who had permission from their parents, shoot bows. For some of the kids, it was their first time holding a bow.

At the kids’ area, there was a moon bounce, a gift shop and kids’ games including a cake walk, an egg toss and corn hole games.

"It was great to see the kids having a blast and enjoying themselves around agriculture," said sophomore FFA member Madison Cristwell.

At concessions, FFA members served the community delicious BBQ that Tracey Lawley prepared with the help of his son, sophomore FFA member C.D. Lawley. Community members had a great time fellowshipping with one another, learning about agriculture, and supporting the blue jacket and the FFA.

Montevallo High School FFA Farm Day is a successful fundraiser as it raises community awareness of agriculture and helps the community come together in support of the students.

Meredith Goggins is the Montevallo High School FFA President.

The Inevitable Miss

by Corky Pugh

I missed him," he said.

Standing at the front door of the camphouse, my friend looked like a high school boy who had just been rejected by the girl he asked to the prom. He held in his hand a recently fired, empty, 12-gauge, 3-inch-magnum #4 shotshell. The empty shell may as well have been a droopy, wilted corsage.

Expecting my friend for supper, and hearing the screen door open, I had hollered from the kitchen, "How big was he?"

The mid-March day, fraught with rain in the morning, offered a good afternoon turkey hunting opportunity. My friend had found a free-wheeling, gobbling turkey mid-afternoon. Such birds are a true gift. They are typically without female companionship, urgently seeking to find a receptive hen – not to ask to the prom.

Turkeys that gobble repeatedly offer the advantage of giving the hunter constant notice of their location, facilitating a good set-up. The hunter knows when and where to get his shotgun up and pointed. If the hunter has done everything right, when the gobbler comes into view, he is within gun range and looking down the barrel.

In the present instance, the hunter had executed everything well, and the longbeard was standing upright and stone still at 26 paces.

Missing under such circumstances, when all the other cards are stacked in your favor, is indeed a painful experience.

My friend, a seasoned veteran, knows that misses are inevitable. He has had the benefit of a lifetime of turkey hunting under highly favorable conditions, and knows from hard-earned experience that everybody misses from time to time.

I asked him what the turkey did when he shot, and he replied, "He ran like hell. I don’t think I touched him."

As my friend was leaving after dinner, he had deposited the empty shell in a prominent place in the cabin.

I asked him, "Don’t you want your shell?"

The slightly terse reply was, "No, it’ll only be a reminder of an unpleasant experience."

Sometimes in the past I have kept such shells as a perhaps twisted reminder of the need to aim carefully at a stationary, fully-upright turkey, one only between 15-40 yards. Adhering to these standards, you will kill them most of the time. Sometimes, though, you still miss.

Show me a man who says he’s never missed a turkey, and I’ll show you a liar or a man who hasn’t hunted turkeys much.

We all beat ourselves up to one degree or another after a miss.

Children and others unwashed seem in awe that one can possibly miss something as big as a turkey gobbler. Doves, yes. Quail, quite understandably. They’re both small and typically moving in an erratic and rapid fashion. But 20-pound, three-foot-tall specimens that are all distracted with strutting and gobbling and such? And standing still?

Most of us shoot over turkeys that we miss. Aiming for the head rather than the neck increases the likelihood of shooting high. Sitting absolutely still in a cramped position for a long period of time, it’s easy to let your cheek drift up off the stock, causing a misalignment in the elevation of the barrel.

Sometimes, we rush the shot unnecessarily. Sometimes, we just get "buck fever." This is what my friend said happened on that March afternoon.

Sometimes we shoot stuff between us and the turkey. The excitement of calling up a turkey, watching him strut, listening to him gobble and finally getting a shot can cause focal-depth distortion. Objects between the gun eye and the turkey become invisible.

Hunting with a cameraman videotaping a hunt for a National Wild Turkey Federation television program, I once shot a two-inch sapling half-way between my gun muzzle and a gobbler at 25 paces. The sapling was gnawed in two by a dead center hit from a load of copper-plated #4 shot. The turkey ran like there was no tomorrow. There was shot sprayed in a donut pattern all around where the turkey had stood.

I tried to no avail to get NWTF to run the segment.

The producer at the time said, "We don’t run misses."

My argument was, "Real hunters know that misses are part of hunting. I’m not embarrassed by it. And it was a clean miss."

The experience called to mind vivid memories of a hunt long ago with the Wise Old Man of Conservation. Hunting together in open, recently-burned, sparse, pine fields in Bullock County, we went to separate gobbling turkeys. I did something stupid and ran mine off. He called his up, shot it, watched it ball up, take flight, and helicopter away.

We spent hours and hours looking for the turkey. It’s what responsible hunters do. We never found it, despite walking a grid pattern encompassing the better part of a 40. The Wise Old Man was as despondent as I ever saw him.

"Some crippling loss is an inevitable part of hunting," he said. "If it ever becomes a virtual certainty that when the hunter pulls the trigger that the game animal drops dead, then fair chase will have been lost."

"But it doesn’t make you feel a bit better about it," he lamented.

Clean misses are in all respects preferable to the other kind.

Corky Pugh is theexecutive director of the Hunting Heritage Foundation.

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

The Raw Milk Debate

My Perspective

by Dr. Tony Frazier

I occasionally listen to the radio in the mornings as I drive in to work. I am usually fairly entertained by the dialogue that goes back and forth between the callers and the hosts. I suspect I hold to some viewpoints that would entertain listeners if I called in with my two-cent’s worth. Occasionally, though, talk radio programs venture off into areas where the hosts admit they are not experts and the callers are pretty emotionally attached to a subject they are obviously not experts on either. The problem comes when callers cite information that is slightly off center, incomplete or, sometimes, just downright wrong.

Awhile back the subject of the morning was "Raw Milk" (unpasteurized milk). And as the conversation went on, it went down a familiar path that touched a nerve. And although I did not call into the morning talk radio show, I am using this column to weigh in on the debate. The position that so many people take today to oppose what we know as modern agriculture and husbandry practices is to declare the government is out to put the small producer out of business in favor of the evil factory farm only out for the almighty dollar. In my mind, it is one of those "fingernails on the chalk board" moments when I hear people voice that point of view. I am not against the small, local farmer who sells locally and chooses to not use modern agriculture practices. I do take it very seriously when I hear people who want to take agriculture backward while it is widely agreed that the population growth over the next few decades will necessitate a drastic increase in our ability to produce food.

The regulation of the selling of raw milk for human consumption does not fall under my jurisdiction. That responsibility goes to the folks over at the Alabama Department of Public Health. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the folks over at public health. I have worked closely with many of them since I have been State Veterinarian. I have found them to be people who take their jobs very seriously and their main concern is that of keeping the citizens of Alabama healthy. As I did some research for this column, I have found that raw milk advocates equate a regulation restricting the sale of that product to the loss of some fundamental right we have as American citizens. Certainly, as I listened to one caller on the radio show, I felt that caller thought the bill of rights protected a person’s right to sell raw milk. And I wondered if the caller would advocate the drinking of "natural" water from creeks and streams for all Americans instead of bottled water or water from local treatment plants. I suppose that would be one’s choice just as is the consumption of raw milk. I mean if you want to drink unpasteurized milk from your own dairy cow, you certainly have that right – you just can’t sell it to the public.

I would like to make two or three observations that put me firmly on the side of pasteurized milk for human consumption. First, raw milk is an excellent medium to grow dangerous bacteria. From 1993-2006, there were 121 documented dairy-product-related disease outbreaks with 4,413,239 hospitalizations and three deaths. Sixty percent of those outbreaks were associated with unpasteurized products. Three of the dangerous types of bacteria that can be harbored in raw milk are salmonella, E. coli and listeria. These bacteria have a potential to cause serious health problems to people who consume them no matter the source. The health risks become even more of an issue in people with weakened immune systems, pregnant women, children and the elderly. According to the Centers for Disease Control, unpasteurized milk and milk products are 150 times more likely to cause food-borne illnesses and 13 times more likely to result in hospitalization than pasteurized products.

Second, information is being disseminated that the pasteurization process not only makes milk inferior nutritionally to the unpasteurized product but actually creates health risks. It is funny how the pendulum swings back and forth. Several years ago, I was reading an article listing some of the most significant factors that contributed to improved human health and longer life expectancy in the United States. One of the top factors was pasteurization of milk. I was researching information a few years ago about brucellosis and was interested to find that, in under-developed countries, one-third to one-half of the patients in hospitals were there as a result of drinking unpasteurized milk from infected cattle, sheep or goats. While it is true that the heating process diminishes vitamins C and B12, and thiamine, raw milk is not a significant source of those vitamins. Pasteurization coagulates a small amount of the protein, makes a very small amount of the calcium insoluble and some fat globules are dispersed, but all three of these nutrients remain available to be used by our bodies. The normal pasteurization process takes milk to 160 degrees for 15 seconds and rapidly chills it. The process could be accomplished by heating the milk to a higher temperature for a shorter period of time, but significantly higher temperatures have an effect on taste.

Finally, for the umpteenth time I want to address that we in the regulatory business are not trying to put the small farmer out of business. Do you ever notice that when the peanut butter gets contaminated with Salmonella, everybody wants to know where the regulators were? When you can’t sell raw milk for human consumption, it’s those danged old regulators taking away my rights as an American. As I said earlier, I do not regulate raw milk, but I regulate animal agriculture practices and products, and I can assure you I am as concerned as anyone that your rights as an American are not walked on. Most regulators are regular folks doing a job. Those of us entrusted with the safety of food take it seriously. We have kids, parents, and families and friends who eat the products we are responsible for. We do not want them or your family to consume something that is unsafe. We want a safe, abundant supply of food to be there when the growing population comes to the table to eat.

Going back to the radio show when the callers were talking about their right to buy unpasteurized milk as if it were the right to freedom of speech or to peacefully assemble, I was very impressed with the way the hosts handled the discussion. One of the hosts said, "I think the bottom line is this, you have said it is illegal to sell the raw milk for human consumption here in Alabama. If the law is bad, get it changed. In the meantime, you are breaking the law."

Dr. Tony Frazier is the State Veterinarian for Alabama.

Timing is the Key

A hay moisture probe will let you know if the moisture is below 18 to 20 percent.

A high-quality hay harvest depends on getting it cut when there is little chance of rain.

by John Howle

Having high-quality hay for winter means more than just baling a lot of dried forage in summer. If you can get the bulk of your cutting done before the end of June, the hay quality will be higher than that harvested later in the summer. Even though hay cut later in the season often produces higher yields and more bulk, the quality of the hay is sometimes lower.

Timing is key when cutting hay. On grasses, hay should be cut at the boot or early head state. For clover, cut at the early, bloom stage. Look at the long-range forecasts. Over the years, our rule of thumb was never cut when rain chances are above 30 percent.

During the humid summers in Alabama, it’s always a gamble that you will be able to bale your hay without any of it getting rained on. If a popcorn shower does appear, a hay tedder or fluffer can be used to spread the hay for better drying. You may lose some forage such as leaves or seeds by the extra agitation, but you’ll preserve higher-quality hay getting it dried quickly.

There’s been a lot of research on which time of day is best to cut. Some say cut at night when the starch and sugar content of the forage is higher, and some say cut during the day when photosynthesis is actually driving higher sugar levels of the plant during growth. Rather than fixate so much on the time of day, I would recommend concentrating on getting the hay cut with the smallest chances of the hay being rained on.

Packed Tight

One way to prevent hay from spoiling through the baling process is to make sure the bales are packed tightly. This is when moisture content of the forage is important. With a hay moisture probe, available through your local Co-op, you can determine the percentage of moisture in the bale more accurately than the twist and crackle method where you twist a handful of hay and listen for it to make a crackle sound. The moisture level of the hay should be below 18 to 20 percent when baling.

Hay baled at the right moisture and stored in a dry, covered area will last indefinitely. The key is making sure the hay is adequately dried before baling, but especially before storing in the barn. A densely packed bale of hay has less spoiling, not only because moisture is kept out but also a tight roll can prevent heat and moisture from escaping from the bale.

The last thing you want is for the baled forage to go through a "heat" where the bacterial action during the breakdown of forage enzymes can cause extreme temperatures to where some barns have burned down or at the minimum there is hay spoilage. On the other end of the spectrum, hay that is too dry can result in dry leaves coming off the stems during the baling process in forages such as legumes.

Width of Windrows

Sometimes called hay swath, the windrow size can also affect baling density. Especially on round balers, a uniform width on the windrow where hay enters the baler in an evenly distributed manner keeps the bale tight and uniform. Windrows that go from wide to thin or a baler operator that doesn’t keep the hay entering the baler evenly can result in lopsided and unevenly dense bales.

Proper Storage Versus Profit Margin

It is truly expensive to build a hay barn, but most research that has been conducted by Alabama forage specialists shows that in around 5 years, you can pay for the cost of a barn when you calculate hay losses over that period. For instance, when you store round bales outside, most folks store them end to end on sloping ground to minimize trapping moisture. The first three layers of a round bale stored outside will be of little or no food value because of rotting and outer mold.

The tops of the bales are most susceptible to rain because there is more surface area to absorb moisture quickly, and the bottoms of the bales are continually sponging up water due to contact with the soil. The sides do shed water better, but you’ve still lost a third of the nutritive quality of the hay.

Machine Maintenance

Take the time to make adjustments to your baler whether it is a round or square bale model to ensure your bales are packed tight, the belts are properly adjusted and, on square balers, make sure the cutters and tying mechanism are well greased and tying correctly. It’s a frustrating experience to grab a small, square bale for a sling and the string comes untied. Finally, make sure you visit your local Co-op so you have a surplus on hand of all baling needs such as string, netting or wrap.

In addition, keep extra spare equipment parts such as sheer pins, belts and other parts that commonly break down in the field. Different forages create different levels of baling density. If you bale an entire field of ryegrass in square bales, you may have to make adjustments if you go to a field made up exclusively of Bermudagrass.

This June, make sure the hay you bale is high quality, and the livestock will thank you for it in the winter.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.

Triple Focused Ag Day

Carlie Smalley, Sylvania FFA, talks to third- and fourth-grade students at her school about how seeds are removed from cotton fiber. She used a miniature cotton gin to illustrate the process at the Sylvania Ag Day.

Sylvania ag teacher conducts service activities for his school and community.

News Release from Sand Mountain-Lake Guntersville Watershed

Joey Haymon, agriscience teacher at Sylvania High School, believes in widening the learning horizons of his students as well as conducting service activities for his school and community.

A triple-faceted Ag Day at Haymon’s school in April allowed the energetic agriscience teacher the rare opportunity to accomplish all three of his noble purposes. In one day’s packed schedule, an Ag in Action mobile exhibit, a Farm Safety feature and a "Conservation Grows Jobs" press day were all incorporated into a busy Ag Day on the Sylvania campus. And Haymon was moving from event to event with the vigor of a "moving locomotive."

The Ag in Action mobile classroom featured simulated activities on Alabama crops including soybean production, whereby students experienced the lifelike audiovisual presentations. Assisting with this event were Jennifer Childers, Etowah County Soil and Water Conservation District; Vickie Goggans, DeKalb County Soil and Water Conservation District; and Jeff Whitaker, young farmer from the Alabama Farmers Federation.

Jennifer Childers, of the Etowah County Soil and Water Conservation District and is also the coordinator of the Ag in Action mobile exhibit, talks to students about soybeans, one of the features in the audiovisual presentation made available to students by the Alabama Farmers Federation; Alabama Mountains, Rivers and Valleys RC&D Council; and others. DeKalb County ranks among the state’s top 10 soybean producers.

Katie Smalley, an active Sylvania FFA member, conducted a demonstration using a miniature cotton gin, also a part of the Ag in Action exhibit. She showed participating students how a cotton gin works in removing the seeds from cotton bolls.

Some 125 third and fourth grade students and eight teachers at the Sylvania school participated in the Ag in Action project. FFA members Donovan King, Aaron McCurdy, Lacy Hughes and Clayton Stieffel served as elementary student guides while Matt Wise and Micah Paddock worked with Ag in Action simulators.

Farm safety topics were the second feature of Haymon’s day of activities. Chemical safety and farm mishap lessons were covered by FFA members Lexia Brown, Makayla Johnson, Travis Jordan, Nick Bean, Ryan Lacey, Hunter Furgerson, Zavier Williams and Wylie Rodriguez. The chemistry demonstration illustrated just how quickly chemical reactions can occur and may even cause an explosion with accompanying ill effects to careless users of chemicals. Lawn mower safety was selected for emphasis relative to mishaps because of the current mowing season. An interesting demonstration showed the relationship of a mower user’s reaction time to a mishap to the severity of a potential injury from an accident.

Haymon was pleased with the interest of the elementary students. He was equally excited about how the day’s events provided his students with much needed people skills as well as helping them develop their leadership potentials as they accepted responsibility to help set up and conduct the events of the day.

The third component of the Haymon extravaganza was a feature on "Conservation Grows Jobs" presented by John Eason, Chairman of the DeKalb County Soil and Water Conservation District, along with Jerry Wisener, DeKalb Natural Resources Conservation Service District Conservation. An audience of elected officials, Alabama Farmers Federation members, and others were present for this informative presentation.

Eason discussed the involvement of federal-, state- and local-funding agencies in supporting agriculture in DeKalb County. He noted that over $2 million was invested by the aforementioned funding agencies for on-the-ground agriculture practices in DeKalb County. Of interest, too, was how DeKalb County compares to the leading agricultural crop producers in the state. The county ranks first in hay production, second in beef cattle and second in poultry. The county is also represented in the state’s top 10 producers in growing corn and soybeans.

Jerry Wisner discussed the work of his agency in helping farmers and landowners with such projects as water wells and troughs; conservation tillage; cross and exclusion fencing; beef cattle heavy-use feeding areas; poultry dry stacks, composters, freezers and incinerators to dispose of dead birds; as well as different aspects of pasture establishment and maintenance.

“Life Revisited”

by Nadine Johnson

My first editor Rebecca Paul Florence will receive the first copy of my book, "Life Revisited." I thought my readers might enjoy reading how this book came to be.

Late one afternoon in the early 1980s, I made pepper jelly. This endeavor is responsible for my career as a writer.

The steam from the cooking of this delicious condiment filled the air. It was inhaled at the same time it settled all over my body. It didn’t cause pain: however, it had me tingling all over – both inside and out. I happened to be home alone. (Richard was somewhere on the railroad.) Bedtime came and I went to bed. Soon I found I could not turn my awake button off or my sleep button on. I tried to read. I tossed and turned. My mind kept working overtime. Finally I got out of bed to write the story which was on my mind and it became my first published article.

During the following week, I wrote several more of these articles. They turned out to be what we call "human interest stories." Something prompted me to take them to a small newspaper that published in Mobile at the time. Young Rebecca Paul happened to be the editor.

"Do you think anyone would want to print these?" I asked.

Without batting an eye she said, "Yes, I do."

That’s how I became a writer.

We decided to give this column the title of "The Farmer’s Wife." I wanted to make my husband a part of this endeavor. The stories first appeared in The News Herald, a small paper in Chickasaw. Later it appeared in Baldwin County papers including Eastern Shore Courier, Baldwin Times and Fairhope Courier. It was also printed in The Troy Progress and The Troy Messenger.

I promised Rebecca that these columns would someday be put into book form. For a time, I tried to figure out how to accomplish this. It didn’t happen. Finally, I gave up with the thought and decided that if God wanted this to happen He would send me a publisher. Thirty years after my promise was made, Roger Bull, a publisher, walked right in my door.

Now what would we name the book? Finally, it became obvious that these short stories were all about events in my life. One Sunday as I sat listening to the preacher’s sermon, the name of the book popped in my head – "Life Revisited."

Recipes appeared along with these stories. Many have been included in the book.

By the 1990s, my intense interest in herbs had developed and my writing changed. The articles were still human interest, but also about the many uses of herbs and other alternatives.

"Life Revisited" is available from For autographed copies, send $20 per book to Nadine Johnson; P.O. Box 7425; Spanish Fort, AL 36577. My telephone number is 1-866-570-7302 and email is

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

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