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June 2017

4-H Extension Corner: Stretching Boundaries

Alabama 4-H Outreach Programs Now Include Yoga

by Katie Nichols

Alabama 4-H is stretching boundaries as it rolls out a new program for in-school and after-school 4-H clubs. Inspired by the Arkansas 4-H yoga program, Alabama 4-H administrators have been hard at work to develop a program to benefit and intrigue young participants.

Alabama Cooperative Extension System 4-H and Youth Development Specialist Nancy Alexander said the focus of the program is to help kids achieve optimal physical, social and emotional health.

Regional Extension 4-H Agent Wendy Padgett does a yoga move.

"While 4-H Yoga is geared toward kids, it is for people of all ages – including the flexible and inflexible," Alexander added. "4-H Yoga is sillier, noisier and faster than traditional yoga. The curriculum includes desk yoga, as well as traditional poses."

They developed the program to align with Essential Elements of Youth Development and the National Health Education and P.E. Standards, making it a promising venture for in-school clubs.

This research-based curriculum is currently delivered in 16 other states. Because yoga can be done on the floor, at a desk or on a towel, the program can be delivered at low or no cost.

4-H educator program training began in the spring of 2017. Extension educators and volunteers will implement programs in varied settings in the fall of 2017. 4-H volunteers and teachers will have opportunities to train throughout the summer months.

Alabama 4-H Program Director Dr. Molly Gregg is excited about the implementation of the program in clubs and schools throughout the state.

"The benefits of yoga for young people are enormous," Gregg said. "Physically, their flexibility, strength, coordination and body awareness are enhanced. In addition, yoga can improve their concentration, sense of calmness and relaxation techniques."

4-H Yoga Youth Development Principles include belonging, mastery, independence and generosity.

  • Belonging: Show kindness, be respectful, tolerant and respect others’ points of view. Be honest with self and others. Do not lie. Think before you act. Balance thoughts, actions and feelings. Eat healthy foods.
  • Mastery: Be enthusiastic about learning. Understand others. Do not desire things you have not worked for. Work to develop skills. Be willing to put in extra effort to get results.
  • Independence: Be self-aware without judging yourself. Practice acceptance of self and others. Be happy with what you have. Be humble. Keep your mind clear. Take care of others.
  • Generosity: Do not be greedy or want what others have. Be grateful. Give without expecting anything in return. Serve others. Let go of ego. Take care of others.

Students are bombarded with distractions inside and outside of the classroom. Gregg hopes the 4-H Yoga program will be a tool to help parents and educators teach their children about healthy living habits.

Daniel Sullen, 4-H REA from Macon/Bullock, shows a yoga pose.

"In our hurry up world, it is not enough to encourage young people to eat right and exercise to be healthy," Gregg said. "Youth need to be able to regulate their emotions, manage stress and calm themselves. The research suggests yoga can help."

Alexander, who has worked to develop Alabama’s new program, said implementing a yoga curriculum within 4-H has the potential to affect students academically – as well as mentally and physically.

"Yoga is much more than just a physical activity," Alexander said. "Yoga practice promotes a connection between mind and body. Studies suggest practicing yoga can help reduce stress, improve stress management and coping skills, increase confidence, promote a healthy body image and improve social skills."

4-H staff trainings wrap up in mid-June. Opportunities for volunteer and educator trainings will be available for interested parties later in the summer. For training information, contact your local Extension office or 4-H agent.

Katie Nichols is in Communications and Marketing with Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

A Legacy of Love

Jerry and Theresa’s farm in Escambia County was named an Alabama Century and Heritage Farm in 2013. Theresa’s family has farmed the land for the past 140 years.

Theresa and Jerry Bell preserve 140 years of family-farming history at Legacy Acres.

by Carolyn Drinkard

To grow up on a farm that has been in your family for over 140 years is something very special! Theresa Bell did just that, but even more remarkable is the fact that she has been able to raise her own family on the same farm! She has watched as her loved ones worked hard to be good stewards, so they could bequeath a lasting legacy to the children who came after them.

Theresa’s connection to this land goes back to 1876, when her great-grandfather Coleman Strength purchased 320 acres of farmland in Escambia County.

Coleman used the virgin longleaf pine trees on the property to build a home for his wife and five children. There are many stories of Coleman’s stewardship, but one told about him floating timbers down the creeks and rivers to Pensacola, where he received his payment in silver dollars.

In 1910, Coleman deeded 80 acres to his son Frank, who built a family home for his wife and seven children in 1911. Today, this home remains on the property, next to a cane field.

Byron Strength, one of Frank’s sons and Theresa’s father, still lives on the farm.

The Bell family are (from left, back row) Seth, holding Millie; Angie; Whitney; (front) Cooper; Jerry; Owen; and Theresa. They are standing in front of the home built by Theresa’s grandfather in 1911.

Through the years, family members have continued to raise corn, peanuts, cotton and soybeans, along with cattle and hogs. They have worked hard to preserve the land and to make it better for those who followed.

Theresa grew up on this farm with a deep connection to the land and a love for the heritage it represented. She now lives there with her husband Jerry, off Alabama Highway 113 in the Pineview Community, the highest point in Escambia County. The Bells have continued the Strength family tradition of stewardship and preservation on their working farm. They keep 22 head of Brangus cows, planting and harvesting the corn and grass to feed their herd.

They also plant sweet corn, squash, tomatoes, okra and watermelons. Each spring, their farm becomes a you-pick destination for tomatoes and a few other vegetables, and their barn porch becomes a produce stand where they sell plants and other seasonal farm products.

The Bells use the bounty from their land to help others. They raise sugar cane and donate it to Crossover Ministry, a group from Opp, who helps men overcome drug addiction. The men come to their farm to cut and strip the cane. Then, they make the syrup at their campus and return some for the Bells to sell.

The Bells also sell pecans from trees planted by their ancestors. Theresa often shares the family story of the five pecans. When Theresa’s grandmother married, an uncle gave her five pecans to plant. He told her the proceeds from these trees would pay her taxes each year. Only two of the original trees are left, as Hurricane Ivan destroyed the other trees in 2004. The remaining trees still produce many pecans that the Bells sell each fall.

Frank Strength, Theresa Bell’s grandfather, built this home in 1911. The Bells hope to restore the home that suffered some damage from Hurricane Ivan.

In 2013, the Bells applied to be designated an Alabama Century and Heritage Farm. To receive this distinction, the farm must have been in continuous use by the same family for over 100 years. Because Theresa’s family had farmed this land for the past 140 years, the farm received the honor.

The Bells named their farm Legacy Acres. The name seemed appropriate, given the long family history of developing and preserving the land as a legacy for the next generation. However, Legacy Acres has taken on a different meaning, as a turn of events in the Bell family has cast doubt on their continuing the legacy in the traditional way.

"We wanted the farm to be passed on to our children and grandchildren," Theresa explained. "But when we realized our two children were going to be engineers and not farmers, we decided to leave a lasting legacy for them to come back to and visit."

Wishing to provide a real farm experience for not only their own grandchildren but also for other children and adults in this rural area, the Bells turned their working farm into an agri-tourism destination, hoping to encourage people to get outside and learn more about the environment and farming.

To get ideas for their new project, the Bells visited agri-tourism farms in North Alabama. With the help of their children, Whitney and Seth, they set out to implement their plans. Whitney suggested they take down an old pole barn, damaged by Hurricane Ivan, and replace it with a new event barn. The Bells built a new structure, adding a caterer’s kitchen and restrooms, so the barn could be used for weddings, reunions, corporate meetings and any other get-togethers. Jerry repurposed some of the old barn boards into tables that are now used inside the new structure. He placed an old carriage inside for a focal point and a backdrop for pictures.

With hard work and help from their family, the Bells had their Grand Opening and Barn Raising Oct. 22, 2016. Their desire was to provide a quality experience for all who came to the farm. In the new barn, they held an old-timey square dance. For the kids, the Bells created a corn maze and a corn bin. They also provided many other games. They brought in a food truck to serve snacks and soft drinks to guests. Using a 1934 Meadows Mill Jerry had restored, he ground corn to let visitors see how meal and grits were made.

Theresa and Jerry Bell planted 1,000 strawberry plants in their hoop house. Customers can pick their own or purchase the delicious berries in containers or flats.

When the Bells had their Grand Opening and Barn Raising last year, they kicked off activities with an old-fashioned square dance.

Whitney handled marketing for the venture, developing a webpage and posting on Facebook and Twitter. She also designed T-shirts and caps, and even made games for the children. Seth worked with his father on building many of the displays and helping to coordinate the visitors.

Even though their agri-tourism venture started with what they laughingly called "baby steps," the Bells hope to expand their plans even more in 2017. They are dedicated to helping children know where their food comes from, how it’s grown and what it takes to grow that food. They hope to partner with area schools, inviting classes to visit the farm. The county schools already come to the farm for the district soil judging contests each year, but the Bells hope to involve even more students.

Jerry and Theresa plan to reopen Sept. 9, 2017, and run until the end of October. They will offer a pumpkin patch, corn maze, hay rides and other games and activities such as face painting, cut outs for pictures, a petting zoo, horseshoes and corn bag toss. They are presently trying to find someone who will make syrup on-site. Also, Jerry will once again grind corn meal on designated days for both kids and adults.

Pioneer Day will be held Oct. 7. They will host a Cow Pattie Toss, with proceeds going to the Royal Rangers, a group who does re-enactments of times prior to 1840. Visitors will see black powder guns and tomahawks, sample food cooked on open fires, and experience numerous other activities showcasing how people lived in the 1800s.

Whitney praised the work her parents have done to preserve the farm.

"I’m extremely grateful to have grown up on a farm," she stated. "I learned the value of hard work, and I got to see the true principle of reaping what you sow. With Legacy Acres, I hoped to show people the beauty of living in the country. You have an opportunity to really highlight a simpler life and just how wonderful that is. I’m so proud of all of the work that Mom and Dad have done to make this happen."

The Bells noted that many people have helped them. Jerry singled out Todd Booker, manager of Atmore Truckers Association.

"I not only got supplies at the Co-op," Jerry explained, "but Todd also came out here and gave me some real good advice. He has been a valuable resource for us!"

Theresa and Jerry know they are merely keepers of this land for a little while.

"We know if it were not for God and all of His blessings, we would not have been able to accomplish any of what has been done," Jerry stated. "All we are trying to do is be good stewards of what He has blessed us with."

By following the examples of so many other family members who have come before them, Theresa and Jerry Bell hope to leave a legacy of love that will touch their children and grandchildren for generations to come.

If you are interested in having an event at the Bells’ Event Barn, you can contact them at 251-363-0964, 251-363-0966, or

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

A Little June Garden Stuff

by Herb T. Farmer

The 2016 drought has made the 2017 blackberry crop abundant and super sweet.

Crazy as it sounds, I think I’m getting old. I was wondering when my age would become evident by my actions and opinions. Well, today’s the day.

Thanks to the internet and social media such as Facebook and Instagram I can see what a lot of people have for dinner and read about how many times my friends get up in the night to go to the bathroom.

I’m really trying to embrace the technology of the current day. But, really? Who decides what is TMI (too much information)? See? I’m really, really trying hard.

More and more, I tend to appreciate the smaller aspects of growing a garden. Flowers that are often looked at as weeds by most folks are beneficial in their own way. Small native bees feed on the nectar of these wildflowers and pollinate them. These bees also pollinate other wildflowers and vegetables on the farm.

I’m getting a little wobbly in my post-middle age. No matter. If I hadn’t stumbled and fell down a hill on the property a few weeks ago, I might not have noticed a beautiful crop of lichen on a fallen tree. It’s funny how we learn to better justify our existence and errors.

Lately, I have been walking around the farm and trying to capture details of what’s growing around here.

From one end of the property to the other, I can find something new every time I walk it. Just the other day I saw a barred owl with a frog in its beak. That’s strange because I didn’t know owls ate amphibians … let alone feeding in the broad daylight.

It’s entertaining sometimes to just sit under a different tree and watch what happens before your eyes. Pretty amazing to me, it is.

Just the other day, as I was weeding one of the flowerbeds, I got a whiff of something dead. It was a chipmunk that had probably ended up being a play toy for one of my cats. Instead of burying it I decided to let the ants, which had set up camp in the carcass and were carrying the thripney bits to hold for a rainy day, have at it. It was truly amazing how fast they took the rodent down to skin and bones.

The zebra swallow has to be one of the prettiest of all swallowtails in our region. This one was found on a coriander adjacent to a row of blackberry bushes.

A few weeks ago, we had some chilly weather with incredibly high winds for May. The winds took some of my potted plants on the porch and sent them flying to one side; spilling soil, breaking limbs and breaking terra cotta. At least it wasn’t as bad as a neighbor down the road who lost several pine trees and a hackberry. We spent the better part of an afternoon with our chain saws cutting the trunks into manageable sizes for the portable sawmill.

Speaking of sawmills, my neighbor made a gas-powered band saw sawmill and it works great. He has some of the local tree disposal companies drop their loads on his property and he cuts them up for usable lumber. Seems like a pretty good arrangement to me.

I have seen some seemingly simple instructional videos about how to build a sawmill. Lately, it seems that YouTube has become my best friend.

Last month, I didn’t include a recipe because I didn’t have anything fresh and new to share. This month, I have two new recipes to share, but I have not photographed them. Therefore, I’ll just save them for July and give you a teaser for now. Back a few weeks, I visited Boozer Farms in Thorsby where I acquired some beautiful strawberries and giant bunches of kale. Is your mouth watering yet?

How about a rump roast this Sunday? The thought of it really gets me going! Here’s how I make mine.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees for a 4-5 pound beef rump roast, trimmed and tied. Coat the roast with olive oil. Rub with granulated garlic, fresh rosemary, salt and black pepper.

In a roasting pan or large cast-iron skillet, place the roast, fat side down. Roast it for 20 minutes; reduce heat to 275 degrees. Roast for 20 minutes per pound.

Remove from oven when the center temperature is 145 degrees. Let it rest for at least 15 minutes before carving. Slice it thin and enjoy!

Well, that’s about all for this installment of the Herb Farm. Next month I’ll tell you about my friends down at Boozer Farms in Thorsby.

Meanwhile if you "Like" me on Facebook, I promise to only give you good gardening information and present you with recipes that really work. It’s like the Herb Farmer Club and you are all exclusive members!

Eat your yard! I eat mine.

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

Thanks for reading!

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

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

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

A Venue to Celebrate

Morgan County Celebration Arena hosts numerous events bringing significant revenue to the area.

by Maureen Drost

Every spring and fall, thousands of Racking Horse trainers and fans crowd into the Morgan County Celebration Arena in Decatur.

According to officials with the Decatur/Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau, the April Spring Celebration kicks off the season for Racking Horse competitions. The world championship, in September, closes the season and World Grand Champions are crowned for each class.

The Morgan County Celebration Arena in Decatur holds different types of events from the original Racking Horse competition it was built for and other equine events to concerts, motocross, dog competitions, even Vintage Market Day and many others.

"The arena floor is one of the bigger floors in the Southeast," said Operations Manager Deral Posey. "The arena can seat approximately 5,000 people."

The complex features 643 stalls for horses, a hospitality room sponsored by Alabama Farmers Cooperative, a sale barn, over 100 RV sites and a concession stand that serves food such as rib plates and hamburgers, thanks to Libby’s Restaurant in Priceville.

About 40 events are featured at the arena each year with April being a busy month.

The Morgan County Sheriff’s Rodeo was presented the second weekend of April followed by Vintage Market Days the next weekend and the Racking Horse World Celebration closing out the month.

For the Vintage Market Days, vendors from Alabama and other states brought original art, home décor, outdoor furniture, seasonal plants, repurposed finds, jewelry and clothing. Live music and food trucks were also featured.

In the time leading up to the various shows and competitions, Posey stays very busy. An average day for him is about making sure show managers have what they need – power, tables, chairs and more.

Other events at the arena this year will include the Alabama Little Britches Rodeo for children and teens ages 5-18 that was scheduled for mid-May, bareback riding, tie-down roping, saddle bronc riding, barrel racing and steer wrestling.

The Cotton Cluster Competition, a steppingstone to the Westminster Dog Show, will be presented at the arena Nov. 10-13. Hosts for the show are the Decatur Kennel Club and the Huntsville Kennel Club. An agility trial was held in May.

"We’re trying to reach out to different groups," Posey said, "including area high schools. There’s plenty of room for graduations.

"In March, we had a concert featuring New Country. It went well. We discovered the arena has good acoustics, and we want to have more concerts."

The arena was built in the early 1970s and originally was an outdoor venue for Racking Horse shows in particular. The Racking Horse, known for its distinctive single-foot gait, is the state horse of Alabama.

With 400-600 horses competing for honors, the Racking Horse World Championship to be held September 21-29 is easily the biggest draw every year.

(From left) Jason Muse, manager of the Celebration Arena; Gail Williams, State Products Mart Authority; and Deral Posey, operations manager of the Celebration Arena; are responsible for keeping everything running smoothly.

"The arena is a really big asset to the county. It has about a $1 million-a-year economic impact on the area," Posey said.

The arena is owned by the Alabama State Products Mart Authority, but Morgan County stands behind it 100 percent.

The State Products Mart Authority purchased adjoining land that now holds an additional 27 campsites. They also renovated the stalls, about a $150,000 improvement to the facility.

In August, they will have the 8th Annual Megan McCain Memorial Barrel Race. Megan was killed by a drunk driver in 2009. Her parents do the rodeo to provide scholarships for youth pursuing an equine career. For more information about the barrel race, you can contact Donna McCain, her mom, at 256-239-3461. Megan sounded like an incredible young woman and her legacy will help other youth achieve their dreams.

We anticipate 2017 and 2018 to be great years with the addition of several big new shows that will be announced soon.

The Morgan County Celebration Arena is located at 67 Horse Center Rd, Decatur, AL 35603. You can contact them at 256-584-6725 or You can also visit their website,

Maureen Drost is a freelance writer who lives in Huntsville. She is a retired newspaper journalist.

A Will Is Probably Not the Best Way to Transfer the Family Farm

by Dr. Robert Tufts

The typical Will distribution plan is: "All to my spouse, if he/she survives; otherwise, to my children in equal shares, per stirpes." Per stirpes means by representation, meaning one share to each living child and one share to each deceased child who left issue (children).

If the decedent owned 300 acres and had three surviving children, how many acres does each child receive? The answer is 300 acres. Each child has an undivided one-third interest in the entire farm. What if there had been two surviving children and two surviving grandchildren from a deceased child? The two surviving children would have an undivided, one-third interest in the entire property and the two grandchildren would each have a 16-2/3 undivided interest (half their parent’s one-third interest). [Note: The only way to give a child specific property is to have a legal description prepared and included in the Will.] Now, as joint owners, they all have the right to the use of the entire 300 acres.

What happens if the three children do not agree on the use of the property? The typical farming family has at least one child who wants to farm and one child who works off the farm. Suppose the off-farm child needs money to invest in his business and the farming child does not have the money to purchase the interest of the off-farm child. The off-farm child has the legal right to force the partition of the property.


"The circuit court shall have original jurisdiction to divide or partition, or sell for partition, any property, real or personal, held by joint owners or tenants in common." (§35-6-20 Code of Alabama, 1975) If the land was 300 flat acres it could easily be divided into three equal-value (not size) tracts, and then the children would draw straws to see who had first choice among the tracts. The court must physically divide the property if that is possible. If the land could not be divided because of the terrain, use and/or number of owners, it would be sold and the proceeds divided. If there were 40 acres with a house, pasture, trees and pond, and four children (20 percent each) and two nieces (10 percent each), there would be no way to divide the property and it would have to be sold. Present owners have the right to purchase the property for its appraised value before it is offered at public sale.

Business Entity or Trust

A landowner could prevent the partition and management problems by putting the land in a business entity or trust. Children would be either owners of a business or beneficiaries of a trust. As such, they would not have the right to take their share from the business or trust, and, if set up correctly, the children could not be sued or divorced out of their share. In addition, a general partner of a limited-liability limited-partnership, a manager of a limited-liability company or a trustee of a trust would manage the property and it would not be necessary to get complete agreement from every owner/beneficiary before making a decision.

The entity could be organized to allow the farming child to rent the land. Then, the entity could distribute income among the owners/beneficiaries so all the children could be treated equally.

Which option would be best for you?

Alabama Extension is offering a program on estate planning for farmers and other landowners at several locations around the state. The topics in this article will be discussed in more detail and attendees will have a chance to ask questions of an attorney.

For more information and to register for a program, visit

Robert Tufts is a member of Alabama Cooperative Extension System’s Farm and Agribusiness Management Team. He is a professor emeritus at Auburn University, and is currently a visiting professor with ACES.

Ag Insight

by Jim Erickson

Perdue Takes Reins at USDA

Sonny Perdue has become the nation’s 31st U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.

After being confirmed by the U.S. Senate on an 87-11 vote, Perdue was sworn in by fellow Georgian and Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court Clarence Thomas during a brief ceremony in late April at the Supreme Court building.

After Perdue took the oath of office, he addressed employees at the U.S. Department of Agriculture before getting to work on his first day. He also has launched his official Twitter handle, @SecretarySonny.

"The only legacy I seek is the one any grandparent or parent seeks – to be good stewards and to hand off our nation, our home, our fields, our forests and our farms to the next generation in better shape than we found it," Perdue said.

"Making sure that Americans who make their livelihoods in the agriculture industry have the ability to thrive will be one of my top priorities. I am committed to serving the customers of USDA, and I will be an unapologetic advocate for American agriculture," he added.

Perdue grew up on a dairy and diversified-row-crop farm in rural Georgia. As a younger man, he served his country in the U.S. Air Force, rising to the rank of captain.

After earning a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Georgia, he put that training to use in private practice in North Carolina. As a member of the Georgia State Senate for 11 years, he eventually ascended to the position of president pro tempore, a post elected by his senate colleagues.

As a two-term governor of Georgia, he is credited with transforming a budget deficit into a surplus, increasing student performance in public schools and fostering an economic environment that allowed employers to flourish and manufacturers and agricultural producers to achieve record levels of exports.

He followed these accomplishments with a career in agribusiness, where he focused on commodities and transportation in enterprises spanning the southeastern United States.

Perdue has been married to Mary Ruff Perdue for 44 years and has four adult children and 14 grandchildren. He and his wife have served as foster parents for eight children awaiting adoption.

Perdue remains a licensed airplane and helicopter pilot, and an avid outdoor sportsman.

Two days after taking office, the agriculture secretary hosted a bipartisan breakfast with key agricultural policy leaders from the U.S. House of Representatives.

"A proud tradition of bipartisanship is the only way to get things done, and I am confident we will accomplish great things for American agriculture," Perdue said.

U.S. Ethanol Exports Rising

U.S. fuel ethanol exports are up significantly for the 2016/17 marketing year, primarily driven by increased exports to Brazil.

The change is related to an increase in Brazil’s sugar prices, due to strong international demand for the country’s sugar exports. As a result, the country’s sugarcane refiners have shifted processing capacity from ethanol to sugar.

Because Brazil has a 27 percent ethanol inclusion mandate for gasoline, the decline in output has left fuel refiners short of supplies. This has caused an increase in ethanol shipments from the United States, where corn supply is abundant, making up for Brazil’s shortfall.

U.S. ethanol shipments to Brazil began rising in October 2016, jumping 138 percent that month. The pace has continued at an elevated level through February 2017, the latest month for which trade data are available.

From October 2016 through February 2017, fuel ethanol shipments to Brazil surged 547 percent, compared to the same period a year earlier. In addition, U.S. shipments to the world rose 65 percent and exports to Canada, also a major buyer, rose by 57 percent.

Five Markets are Key to U.S. Agricultural Exports

The United States exported $135 billion worth of agricultural goods in 2016. This is down from a record of $150 billion in 2014.

While the nation exports agricultural goods to most countries worldwide, a significant share goes to major trading partners. In 2016, 61 percent of the value of agricultural exports went to Canada, China, Mexico, the European Union (EU-28) and Japan.

The dominance of key markets is not a new phenomenon. In fact, these five destinations have accounted for close to 60 percent of agricultural export value since at least 2000.

In the case of Canada and Mexico, proximity plays a large role in its trade relationship with the United States. Additionally, regional trade agreements increased trade between the country and its nearest neighbors.

The large share of trade going to China, Japan and the EU-28 is influenced by the sheer size of the economies involved. The EU-28, China and Japan are the three leading economies after the United States in terms of gross domestic product, and each country accounts for a significant share of global imports of agricultural goods.

Rural Schools Less Likely to Serve Local Food

According to USDA’s Farm to School Census, 35 percent of all U.S. school districts reported serving local food in school meals during a recent school year.

However, rural school districts were 11.2 percentage points less likely to serve local food daily than school districts in cities, after accounting for other school district characteristics such as region, enrollment level, per capita income of the surrounding county’s residents and county-level density of farmers’ markets.

School districts in suburbs and towns were also significantly less likely to serve local food daily compared to districts in cities.

Switchgrass Has Potential for Energy Production

Crops such as switchgrass dedicated for use in energy production are potential renewable sources for liquid fuels or bioelectricity.

Switchgrass is a perennial grass native to most of North America that grows well on rain-fed marginal land. However, markets do not presently exist for large-scale use of this energy resource.

A study by USDA’s Economic Research Service simulated the agricultural-land use impacts of growing enough switchgrass to generate 250 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity annually by 2030 - approximately the amount generated by U.S. hydropower today.

The introduction of dedicated energy crops on a large scale could affect other agricultural land uses, the prices of other crops and trade in agricultural products.

For example, the simulation predicted that land converted to switchgrass would come mostly from land used for crops such as hay and corn. Pastureland and forestland use would be affected at about the same level.

An increase in U.S. land area for switchgrass would also lead to smaller changes in land use abroad due to agricultural product trade.

Blueberry Use Growing Rapidly

Per capita use of blueberries in the nation has nearly tripled since 2006, largely attributable to growing demand based on the potential health benefits of berries in the diet.

In recent years, farmers have expanded production to help meet this demand. As a result, net domestic production doubled and imports increased by almost four times.

In addition to increased demand, consumer preference for year-round availability of popular fresh fruits and vegetables necessitates a greater reliance on imported goods. Domestic blueberry production primarily occurs in the spring and summer seasons. In the fall and winter, Southern Hemisphere countries such as Chile are in their growing season and supply the United States with a significant share of its blueberry imports.

In 2016, net domestic production fell slightly, while imports increased. This resulted from lower-than-expected production in states that normally supply the fresh market, including Georgia, Florida, New Jersey, North Carolina and California.

New Product Introductions in Food Stores Rebound in 2016

Introducing new products, as well as new package sizes, flavors and packaging, is one way food and beverage companies try to woo consumers and increase sales.

After two years of declining numbers of product introductions, 21,435 new foods and beverages made their debut on U.S. retail shelves in 2016, the largest annual number of product introductions since 2007.

The number of new, nonfood grocery items (beauty and personal care, health and hygiene, pet food and merchandise, and paper and cleaning products) also increased in 2016.

During the Great Recession of 2008-09, consumers sought familiar products and avoided impulse buying. To appeal to bargain-seeking customers who wanted to simplify their shopping trips and purchase familiar products, retailers devoted less shelf space to new products.

Accordingly, the number of new food and beverage products in U.S. retail outlets, as tracked by Mintel’s Global New Product Database, fell from 22,142 in 2007 to 15,637 in 2009. The number of new foods and beverages rose again in 2010, while new, nonfood grocery items continued their downward trend until 2016.

All Hands on Deck

Putting Out the Avian Influenza Fire

by Dr. Tony Frazier

Dr. Charlie Hatcher is the Tennessee State Veterinarian and a good friend. I almost always enjoy hearing from Hatcher. That was not the case Friday, March 3. I never do anything like this, but on my bucket list was to attend a Buck Brannaman Colt Starting and Horsemanship Clinic. There I was on annual leave in Ft. Worth, Texas, about to enjoy three days away from work, getting educated on how to train a green colt to compete in reining competition in just three short days – well, maybe not compete in a reining class but at least to ride like an old hand. Anyway, the clinic had not been going for long when my phone rang and I saw Hatcher’s name. I didn’t answer right away. I figured I was on leave and I would call him back. After a little bit, I got up and went out of the arena and returned my Tennessee colleague’s call.

"Hey, Buddy, we’ve got it in Tennessee?" … "Got What?" … "High Path AI!" … "You’re Kidding!?" … "Nope. Not kidding. A commercial breeder farm in the Shelbyville area had increased mortality – losing a few hundred a day."

Well, that call pretty much shot the rest of my horse training clinic weekend. It was mostly conference calls with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, other state veterinarians and poultry industry folks. You know, you can’t just pop in and out of a colt-starting clinic for a little bit here and there and then go home and think you are going to train a colt. Oh well, highly pathogenic avian influenza does take priority over a Buck Brannaman Horse Clinic. And I figured south Tennessee was a little too close to the Alabama state line for me to be on leave.

You never know what it is going to be like when HPAI comes calling. There was an outbreak back in 2014-2015 that mostly affected the Mid-West and the closest it came to us was somewhere in Arkansas. During that outbreak, over 50 million birds either died from the infection or had to be destroyed to contain the outbreak. In 2016, a HPAI outbreak in Indiana affected only one turkey farm with about 43,000 birds. The severity and how widespread the outbreak is depends on several factors such as how infectious the virus is, how pathogenic it is and the early response to contain the spread of the virus.

Avian influenza has been on our radar screen since before I became state veterinarian. We have a response plan that we have continued to fine-tune. We have exercised our plan, even with our neighboring states. We have continually enhanced our labs to be prepared to handle the heavy work load accompanying an avian influenza outbreak. We were as ready as we could be and the virus was just across the state line in Tennessee.

The only problem was that, when there is an avian influenza case detected, we set up surveillance zones where we test all poultry in a 6.2-mile radius of the positive flock. The surveillance zone dipped down into Alabama, so we had to begin locating all poultry, including backyard chickens, turkeys and guineas. As we began testing, we found a flock positive for low pathogenic avian influenza. While LPAI is not as devastating as HPAI, it is not good. HPAI is sort of like humans having Ebola virus. It is a really bad disease. LPAI is more like having hemorrhoids. It is still not a good thing to have but not nearly as bad as Ebola. The other thing about LPAI is that all it has to do is mutate or change just a little bit and it can become HPAI.

This next bit of information will not be that beneficial unless you are on a gameshow that gets fairly technical. But I think it helps you understand a little more of what we are doing. Influenza viruses have a first name and a last name. Their first name is H with a number following and the last name is N with a number following. The only H’s that can become highly pathogenic are H5 and H7. That means, when we began testing in the surveillance zones and find any H5s or H7s, we definitely have issues that must be dealt with.

As the testing began, a commercial flock in Lauderdale County tested positive for H7N9, the same first and last name as the high path virus near Shelbyville, Tennessee. We found a guinea at a trade day over in Jackson County positive for LPAI. That resulted in my calling for a stop movement order on all noncommercial birds until we got a handle on what we had across North Alabama. A little later, another commercial flock in Pickens County tested positive on routine testing. Later, a commercial flock in Cullman County tested positive for the low-path H7N9. With all of these positive cases, we had to establish the 6.2-mile (10K) radius surveillance zone and test all the commercial and non-commercial flocks in the zone.

As the title of the article says, it was time for all hands on deck. During the time beginning in early March through about April 21, we tested 327 premises. That required our labs to treat every test in the surveillance zones as Priority 1. Our Auburn lab worked all weekend the first weekend after we began testing. The testing involved 34 State Department of Agriculture and Industries workers – 25 lab workers, four field workers and five office workers. It also included 13 USDA employees. Hundreds of hours were worked and about 250,000 chickens were destroyed to stop the spread of the virus and to make sure it wouldn’t become highly pathogenic. And I am pretty sure I set some kind of record for being on the phone with USDA, other state veterinarians, companies and individual producers.

And then, our tests were all negative and, in my opinion, the crisis was avoided. When you look at the 2014-2015 outbreak and see that over 50 million birds were affected and look at our 250 thousand, it seems apparent we dodged not a bullet but a cannonball. The success of putting out the fire was a result of so many people – including the poultry companies – working together so well. I also do not discount that we had some divine intervention. I know I was asking God for whatever help He could give us – and probably some luck.

I remember a Winnie the Pooh cartoon I used to watch with my kids when they were small. Pooh said to Piglet, "You know, Piglet, the thing about bees is … you can never tell about bees." I would say the same thing about the avian influenza virus. You know, the thing about AI viruses is you can never tell about how they are going to act. We certainly were fortunate in our dealings with them this time. We will just keep our powder dry and be ready for the next time. And I think I may wait until I retire to attend another Buck Brannaman Colt Starting and Horsemanship Clinic … unless he retires first.

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

Artisan Beef

A new craft beef is making a name for itself in northwest Alabama.

by Susie Sims

You may have heard of Kobe or Wagyu (pronounced wi-goo) beef, but there is a new brand produced in northwest Alabama making waves in the artisan beef market. Gyulais (goo-lay) beef is a trademarked form of the craft beef that originated in Japan.

According to the website, the term Wagyu can be broken down into "Wa," Japanese, and "gyu," cow. The term Kobe beef describes Wagyu beef that is raised near Kobe, Japan. So all Kobe beef is Wagyu beef, but not all Wagyu beef is Kobe beef.

Dr. Daniel Hammond with his trailer identifying Gyulais as the product provided.

Dr. Daniel Hammond, who has been a practicing pediatrician for more than 30 years, first began in the cattle business with the Charolais breed about 20 years ago. Always interested in the genetics side of cattle production, Hammond’s interest was piqued just over 13 years ago when he visited a fellow Charolais breeder in south Texas.

"He had all these black cows in the pasture and I said that I didn’t know he was in the Angus business, too," Hammond recalled. "He told me those were Wagyu cattle. I started looking into it and reading about it."

It wasn’t long until Hammond purchased some Wagyu genetics and began his own experiment of sorts crossing Wagyu and Charolais. Hammond’s property is just outside of Florence on the old Perry Estate.

Hammond has studied the genetic components and believes he has developed a strong competitor in the artisan beef market. The Gyulais trademark was granted to Hammond by the federal government a couple of years ago. Not only does it allow for the marketing of the specialty beef but it also allows Hammond to develop his cattle as a breed.

Wagyu cattle are completely different from Western cattle according to Hammond. The most obvious difference is in the fat composition of the meat. We all know that, when it comes to beef, marbling means flavor. Wagyu is generally accepted as superior in marbling compared to traditional Western beef.

Concerning the fat composition, Hammond noted that Wagyu has a 2:1 ratio of monounsaturated to saturated fat. Western beef at its absolute best is 1:1. Once he was challenged as to how he knew the beef contained so much monounsaturated fat. Besides all the carcass testing that has been done, Hammond said, when you prepare a roast in a pan and then come back after it has cooled, instead of congealed fat you find what looks like olive oil.

"That’s monounsaturated fat," Hammond said.

He also mentioned that Wagyu beef has the highest concentration of omega-6 among other breeds. Hammond noted that this particular fatty acid isn’t popular in the United States just yet, but it will be soon.

Hammond said Wagyu are some of the easiest calving cattle in the world.

"They’re easier than Longhorns," Hammond offered. "If you breed a Wagyu bull to Charolais heifers, you don’t even have to check the heifers."

He has experience to back up his claim. Out of approximately 125 calves born on his farm, he has assisted with only two births.

A new batch of Gyulais calves born this spring.

"For the first three years, we only bred our heifers, but we liked the calves so much that we branched out into what we have now," said Hammond, noting he has partners in Texas and Louisiana.

Always concerned about genetics and the role they play in the finished product, Hammond has the Charolais national trait leader for backfat. He considers this the backbone of his breeding program. The better the genetics of his Charolais heifers, the better the Gyulais cattle they can produce.

Hammond said that 90 percent of Wagyu cattle in the United States are F1s, mainly Angus. This means that 90 percent of Wagyu in the United States are 50/50 Wagyu and Angus.

"We feel like the Charolais cross is a superior product because our yield is higher and our feed conversion is better," Hammond stated.

This allows for the product to be offered at a lower price.

Currently, Gyulais cattle raised in Lauderdale County are transported to Texas at about 750 pounds to be finished and harvested. The meat is then brought back, frozen, to Alabama to be sold.

Why the higher cost? There are limited bloodlines of Wagyu in this country, so they are expensive to buy. It is now illegal to take Wagyu genetics out of Japan. Hammond said currently there are 17 bloodlines of black Wagyu cattle and seven bloodlines of browns outside of Japan. Also, you have to feed the cattle longer to get the monounsaturated ratio correct in the meat.

Traditional Wagyu buyers won’t consider purchasing cattle unless they have been on feed for at least a year. Charolais cattle can typically be fed out in half that time. By crossing Wagyu and Charolais, Hammond can cut down on the amount of time needed to finish his calves. Wagyu buyers insist on feed finishing the cattle because grass-fed beef has less marbling; that typically means less flavor.

"Most healthy things taste like cardboard," Hammond said, "but this the most flavorful beef I’ve ever eaten. I prefer it to any other product."

Out of over 150 carcasses harvested recently, Hammond only had two that did not score mid-Choice or higher grade. Roughly 40 percent of the Gyulais product is Prime grade.

Why choose Gyulais over Wagyu? Price. Wagyu beef can cost $60 or more per pound. Hammond is introducing Gyulais to the market at around half that price. Gyulais is currently available for purchase from both Lauderdale County Co-op locations, South Court Street in Florence and in Elgin.

Gyulais beef is also available to be served in restaurants. Please contact Hammond by calling 256-740-1114 or by email at for more information.

Susie Sims is a freelance writer from Haleyville.

Before You Have a Cow, Read This

by John Howle

“He will also send you rain for the seed you sow in the ground, and the food that comes from the land will be rich and plentiful. In that day your cattle will graze in broad meadows.” Isaiah 30:23 (NIV)

You can order the book, “Before You Have a Cow,” from

June is a great time to see Isaiah 30:23 coming to fruition on farms all across the South. After last year’s incredible drought in Alabama, it’s refreshing to see all the warm-season growth. There are a few things you can do to not only preserve but also improve your property for grazing animals this summer.

One of the best resources I have found in years for building soils comes from a book, "Before You Have a Cow," written by Dr. Allen Williams and co-authored by Teddy Gentry, member of the world’s best country music group, Alabama. The book gives tips on how to make money in the cattle business without going bankrupt through the expenses of fertilizer, herbicides and supplemental feeding.

Healthy Soil

According to Williams, who holds a Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in animal science from Clemson University and a Ph.D. in genetics and reproductive physiology from Louisiana State University, what’s going on beneath the soil surface is what’s most important.

"If you have healthy soils with microbial populations, you will also have living organisms such as a variety of insects, dung beetles and earthworms," Williams said. "An acre of this soil can contain up to 4 tons of living organisms in the top 8 inches."

Close Enough to Perfect but No High Cotton

In the book, Gentry recounts his first royalty check from RCA Records in 1980 for $61,000.

"I asked my wife Linda what I should do with the money, and she said, ‘Why don’t you buy your grandfather’s farm?’"

Gentry bought the 60-acre cotton farm for $1,000 an acre with the dream of raising cattle. After years of research and study, Gentry, in the fall of 1988, started to plan the beginnings of the South Poll breed of cattle that have been bred to be hearty, have longevity and fatten efficiently on grass alone.

"My grandfather’s old cotton farm was worn out in 1980 when I started growing grass, but through organic and natural practices, over a 25-year period, it has healthy soil with plenty of earthworms, dung beetles and microbial action."

Getting Started With High Density Grazing Techniques

John Lyons, of Piedmont, uses the mob grazing technique and says polyrope is the easiest electric fence wire to use.

Williams has consulted with thousands of producers across the United States, Canada and Mexico, and many of his clients have been able to dramatically reduce the amount of fertilizer and herbicide applied. Many of them have sold their haying equipment, opting to buy a few bales just for emergencies such as drought or snowfall.

So how is it done? In a nutshell, Williams’ philosophy involves the use of intensive, mob grazing techniques. He begins with a soil test to determine the microbial content of the soil. Once the forage is high enough to be grazed, the process begins. First, the cattle will graze through high-stock density, aka mob grazing. This puts a lot of animals on a small area for a short period of time with long rest periods between grazing.

The mob grazing results in clipping the top portions of the forage, and the cattle will stomp down the remaining forage adding manure and urine as they go. This lays down a layer of nutrient-rich fertilizer, and the stomped-down thatch keeps moisture in the soil, allowing root systems to go deeper. This thatch layer does many things. It begins to stimulate organic matter beneath the surface, and the moisture and manure begins to bring in the dung beetles and earthworms that drill and work the manure into the soil. During periods of drought or extreme cold, this layer of protection also allows the grass continued growth.

No Weeds – Good Seeds

According to Williams, there’s no such thing as a weed. The cattle train themselves to eat the weeds that often have high levels of nutrients, and the mob grazing virtually eliminates the need for herbicide.

"I even have photos of cattle with thistle in their mouth, once they’ve started eating all the growth present in the paddocks," he said. "You will also see native seeds that haven’t been around for years begin to germinate once the soil health is restored to a higher, organic level."

The cattle are often left in the small paddocks for no more than a day before being moved to the next paddock. The more paddocks you have or the more you can subdivide the grazing during the growing season, the better off soil and grass-growth health will be. Williams recommends a 50/50 philosophy on grazing.

"Graze 50 percent and leave 50 percent when you rotate the cattle," he added. "This gives you adequate nutrition for each animal while achieving a good trample with the forages so you lay down a solid layer of ground litter. This ground litter becomes new, organic matter."

Low Cost

Dr. Allen Williams, co-author of “Before You Have a Cow.”

The best part of this soil and grass management technique for cattle is the low capital investment.

"All it really takes is an initial investment of fence chargers, electric polywire, polywire reels, T-posts, insulators and some tread-in posts," Williams said. "I put a single stand of polywire about 30-32 inches off the ground."

Your local Quality Co-op is the best source for purchasing your electric fence supplies. John Lyons from Piedmont has been using these practices for years with his South Poll cattle, and he has watched his soil’s organic health increase. Lyons has to feed very little hay in the winter because he is able to stockpile a lot of his pastureland through mob grazing.

To order the book, "Before You Have a Cow," call 336-766-9900 or visit You can also type "Before You Have a Cow" in a Google search bar and find ways to order this book.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.

Beware of Summer Slump

Management Options for Fescue Pastures

An Angus cow shedding a discolored winter coat stands in fescue.

by Jackie Nix

Tall fescue has long been associated with a syndrome known as summer slump (aka fescue foot or fescue toxicosis). An endophyte fungus within the fescue plant produces alkaloids causing adverse symptoms including decreased weight gains, weight loss, decreased feed intake, reduced milk production, higher body temperature, increased respiration rates, rough hair coat, unthrifty appearance, loss of blood flow to extremities, excessive salivation and poor reproductive performance. Symptoms seem to be worst during hot summer months.

Dealing with Summer Slump

There are several management options available to cattle producers to help lessen the symptoms of summer slump:

  • Replacement of Infected Fescue Pastures. When attempting replacement, take a spray-and-smother approach. First, spray the infected field with an effective herbicide; second, seed a cover crop to smother the field; then, reseed with the desired new forage crop. The smother crop should be a fast-growing annual forage (millet or sudangrass in the summer or wheat, rye or oats for fall). It is usually a good idea to renovate small portions of the farm at a time.
  • Rotation to Non-Fescue Pastures. Rotating cattle off fescue pastures during hot summer months increases animal performance for several reasons. First, because fescue is a cool-season forage it stops growing during hot summer months. Rotating cattle into growing, warm-season pastures simply gives them more to eat. Secondly, high temperatures seem to intensify the negative effects of the endophyte toxins. Moving cattle to noninfected pastures eliminates this interaction. Cattle need to stay off infected-fescue pastures for the entire summer to gain benefits. Taking cattle off for only a few weeks at a time will not greatly reduce summer slump symptoms.
  • Dilution. Interseeding infected fescue pastures with legumes helps dilute the total toxins ingested as well as increasing the overall nutritional content in the pasture. These legumes must be managed to allow reseeding each year. And even with special management, many need to be manually reseeded periodically. It is also important to fertilize for the legume (limiting the amount of nitrogen) in order to allow the legumes to thrive.
  • Mineral Supplementation. Research has shown that copper levels are lower in endophyte-infected fescue vs. endophyte-free fescue when grown under identical conditions. These differences are most pronounced late in the growing season. These findings support observations of decreased copper status in cattle grazing infected fescue. In research conducted in Virginia, cattle grazing endophyte-infected fescue exhibited decreased copper status as opposed to cattle grazing endophyte-free fescue. However, the magnitude of this decrease was greater than the difference between the forages. This demonstrates that endophyte not only decreases the total amount of copper present in the fescue but also negatively affects bioavailability of copper for the animal. This makes sense when you consider the typical symptoms for fescue toxicosis closely resemble those for copper deficiency. These symptoms include rough, discolored hair coats; slow-shedding winter coats; decreased conception rates; increased days open; hoof problems; and depressed immunity. For all of these reasons, lowered copper status plays a large part in the fescue toxicosis syndrome. Proper supplementation with a high copper supplement can help alleviate some of the fescue toxicity symptoms.

How Can My Cattle Avoid Fescue Toxicity?

Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet that will allow you to avoid the negative effects of the fescue endophyte in all situations. However, by using a combination of the management techniques mentioned in conjunction with a good mineral/vitamin supplementation program, you can reduce the negative impacts of summer slump on your cattle herd.

The SWEETLIX Fescue Balancer line offers premium nutrition especially designed to combat the negative effects of fescue forages in a variety of product forms for your convenience. For those who prefer a loose mineral, we offer SWEETLIX Fescue Balancer with Mag Mineral. For those who prefer the convenience of pressed blocks, SWEETLIX Fescue Balancer with Mag Block and SWEETLIX Fescue Balancer Protein Block with Mag are available.

SWEETLIX Fescue Balancer products have been scientifically formulated to take into account the unique biological factors associated with fescue forages. Supplement bioavailablity is crucial, especially those in areas with high levels of antagonists in the water or soil. Research has shown a combination of organic and inorganic copper was as effective at maintaining liver copper levels during antagonism as feeding five times the National Research Council’s requirement from copper sulfate. For this reason, SWEETLIX Fescue Balancer products contain BioPlex, an organic source of copper, zinc, manganese and cobalt, and Sel-Plex, an organic selenium as well as inorganic source for optimum bioavailability and performance. SWEETLIX Fescue Balancer products also contain FEB-200 to help support overall performance and help cattle attain maximum genetic potential on fescue forages.

SWEETLIX Fescue Balancer products have all been designed to deliver enhanced magnesium levels and deliver NRC-recommended levels of essential trace minerals. Due to known factors associated with copper and zinc, these products deliver twice NRC levels of copper and zinc in accordance with those findings.

Any cattle producers who utilize fescue pastures and observe rough, discolored hair coats (red tinge on black hair or loss of pigment around the eyes); slow-shedding winter coats; decreased conception rates; increased days open; hoof problems and/or depressed immunity should consider use of one of the SWEETLIX Fescue Balancer products. Ask for the SWEETLIX Fescue Balancer by name at your local Quality Co-op. Visit to learn more about this and other SWEETLIX supplement products for cattle.

BioPlex, Sel-Plex and FEB-200 are registered trademarks of Alltech

SWEETLIX is a registered trademark of Ridley USA Inc.

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.

Breaking New Ground

Auburn trustees greenlight construction of three new agriculture facilities.

Press Release from Auburn University

Construction will begin this summer on three new College of Agriculture facilities the Auburn University Board of Trustees signed off on at its April 7 meeting in Auburn.

The project list includes an 8,150-square-foot administration building at the Charles C. Miller Jr. Poultry Research and Education Center as well as a 5,000-square-foot Poultry Infectious Disease Biocontainment Research Facility and a 4,550-square-foot Fish Biodiversity Lab. All three facilities will be located on the north Auburn campus.

College of Agriculture Dean Paul Patterson said he appreciates the board’s unanimous support for the construction projects.

"Auburn’s poultry science and fisheries, aquaculture and aquatic sciences programs are already recognized nationally and internationally for excellence in research and education," Patterson said. "These new facilities approved by the board will advance the two programs’ standing as global leaders and, at the same time, strengthen our research and teaching infrastructure here at Auburn."

The Miller Center administration building that Auburn trustees approved is part of an initiative begun in 2009 to relocate the Poultry Research Farm from the site it has occupied for four decades on the south side of campus to Auburn Lakes Road in north Auburn. The administration building, scheduled for completion in spring 2018, will feature a multipurpose meeting room, a conference room and prefunction area, a business center and offices for support personnel.

The estimated cost of the building is $2.95 million, to be financed by gifts and College of Agriculture funds.

"This administrative building will serve as the gateway to the research farm and also a site for the poultry science department’s academic and extension activities," Patterson said.

Poultry sciences’ new infectious disease research facility, meanwhile, will significantly enhance Auburn poultry scientists’ capabilities for working with highly infectious disease agents and live birds once it is completed in summer 2018, said Don Conner, Department of Poultry Science professor and head.

"Beyond providing the required biologically safe environment and ensuring Auburn meets and exceeds state and federal compliance standards, this facility is essential for recruiting and retaining faculty and graduate students, not only in the College of Agriculture but also in the College of Veterinary Medicine," Conner said. "Most importantly, it will allow us to provide the new knowledge and technology to address diseases threatening the economic performance of Alabama’s poultry industry."

The $2.7 million disease lab will be located on Auburn Lakes Road, about a mile south of the Miller Center. University General Fund dollars will finance construction of the facility and the $2.1 million Fish Biodiversity Lab to be built at the School of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences’ E.W. Shell Fisheries Center, 3 miles north of downtown Auburn on Alabama 147. The facility is estimated for completion in summer 2018.

The biodiversity lab that works closely with federal and state agencies on the conservation of nongame freshwater fish species has been housed for many years in a decades-old Woodfield Drive building the university now intends to raze to make way for a new performing arts center.

Much of the work in the Fish Biodiversity Lab focuses on the impact that human activities such as road and bridge construction have on nongame fishes in streams and rivers. A key area of that research is bioacoustics – investigations of the sounds fishes and other vertebrates produce and hear.

The new facility will feature state-of-the-art wet labs, a soundproof room for the bioacoustics research, a hormone collection and acoustic playback lab, a specimens-processing and -examination lab, and an ichthyology teaching lab complete with Auburn University’s substantial teaching collection of fishes, one of the largest in the region. Other elements will include office spaces and a boat storage facility.

Cadet Cavalry

Lyman Ward Military Academy creates a first-of-its-kind cavalry detachment.

Cadet Shayne Gatoux works on his sword skills while riding.

by Cindy Boyd

Southern Industrial Institute was founded in 1898 by Dr. Lyman Ward. Following Lyman Ward’s death in 1948, the board of directors established a military department. The school changed its name to Lyman Ward Military Academy and ended its elementary and co-educational programs. Ward is now grades sixth through 12th. In 1966, the school became a member of the JROTC program and is currently assigned to a retired officer and NCO by the Department of Army. The current president is Dr. Roy Berwick, retired U.S. Army Colonel and a former student of LWMA.

LWMA sits on 300 beautiful acres in Camp Hill. Within this stunning and historic setting, there is a beautiful barn with stables and pastureland. It is in this setting you will find Tactical Officer, Master Sgt. Shawn D. Farnsworth, U.S. Army retired 2015. Farnsworth was an infantryman and a combat veteran of Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom. During his service, Farnsworth served as the noncommissioned officer in charge of Fort Carson’s Mounted Color Guard, part of one of five cavalry detachments in the U.S. Army today. His cavalry consisted of a 1,500-acre historical ranch owned by the U.S. Army with 21 men, 20 horses and two mules. He is now a member of the U.S. Cavalry Association, a private organization that preserves U.S. Cavalry history and facilitates competitions at Fort Reno, Oklahoma, each year in September.

Master Sgt. Shawn D. Farnsworth gives a jumping demonstration.

Farnsworth has many duties as tactical officer at LWMA. Some of these include ensuring the safety of cadets, adhering to cadet regulations and school policies, and mentoring. Farnsworth is with the cadets from the moment they are awakened in the morning until the time they go to bed at night. He is a mentor, a disciplinarian, a teacher, a helper, an inspector and so many other titles including a father figure to these boys who are entrusted in his care and the care of LWMA. When he retired, Farnsworth wanted to do something with the same satisfaction as being in the Army. He enjoys watching the kids grow mentally, learning the lessons of life, becoming men, making the right choices and "being a role model to kids who maybe didn’t have the opportunity of a mentor in their life is very gratifying. These boys need leadership in their lives." With this responsibility and with his past duties and love of horses, Farnsworth found a way to bring his present job and his passion together. He is building a program to inspire, teach compassion and turn hard work into an area most of these boys are completely unfamiliar with.

Shawn enjoys his time in this pastoral setting mentoring Cadet Josh Haldeman, of Newman, Georgia.

Farnsworth is building the Lyman Ward Cavalry Detachment. This detachment will be the first of its kind and he is starting it from the ground up. The Lyman Ward Cavalry Detachment has the property, the barn, the Cadets and its leader. This program has been funded solely by Farnsworth and Berwick. At this time, the cadets are learning basic horsemanship and beginner riding skills such as balance, posture, sitting at trot and canter. Most of the cadets have never been near a horse, much less ridden one. Farnsworth wants each cadet involved in the program to leave Lyman Ward as an intermediate rider with a compassion that can only be taught by the horses. He also wants to take the Lyman Ward Cavalry Detachment to Fort Reno to represent their school.

This program has immediate needs and long-term goals and wants. Farnsworth estimates about 10 cadets will join the program. These cadets are in great need of proper riding attire, especially boots. Horses owned by Farnsworth have been brought to LWMA and are kept in the one fenced area near the barn. Because of the poor nutritional value of the grass in their grazing area, they are given feed daily. Farnsworth has built them a stable area that is in need of shavings.

They also need a 90-foot round pen with sand. In the future,they would like to build an arena and a larger, fenced area for the boys to safely ride and the horses to graze. If you would like to help in any way, you may contact the school at 1-800-798-9151. All donations are tax deductable.

Cindy Boyd is a freelance writer from Montevallo.

CHEF'S CORNER: Summertime Sizzles

With Grilled Alabama Catfish

by Brian Taylor

Summertime is upon us and I can’t think of a better time to gather with friends and family and enjoy the outdoors. In this issue, I will give you a great recipe for Alabama farm-raised catfish on the grill that should be a big hit for those hot days at the lake or pool. There is also a wonderful way to cook whole catfish, other than the traditional fry (that we all love!). And, just in case you cook too much, I’ll give you a way to utilize any leftover fish you might have for a midnight or midmorning snack. Hope you enjoy!


Filleted or whole, Alabama farm-raised catfish is great on the grill for summertime outdoor gatherings.

2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 boneless catfish fillets
Olive oil, for brushing

In a small bowl, mix paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, thyme, oregano, cumin, salt, pepper and cayenne. Season catfish fillets liberally with seasoning all over.

Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and spread the coals evenly over entire surface of coal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Brush fillets lightly with oil all over. Place catfish on grill and cook until blackened and fish flakes easily with a fork, about 3 minutes per side.

Transfer fish to a platter and let rest for 5 minutes.


6 whole catfish, cleaned (about 1-1½ pounds each)
4 ounces butter, (1 stick) melted
2/3 cup lemon juice
Dash Tabasco sauce
1 teaspoon prepared mustard
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon salt, preferably kosher
1 teaspoon pepper, freshly ground
1 teaspoon chili powder

In a bowl, whisk together basting sauce ingredients.

On well-oiled grill or grilling basket over medium coals, place catfish. Grill, basting frequently, for about 20 minutes; turn and continue grilling for about 15 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork.


Smoked Catfish Dip

8 ounces catfish fillet cooked (use leftover from other grilled recipes or bake in oven)
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened slightly
1½ teaspoons liquid smoke
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon salt
Dash pepper sauce (e.g. Tabasco)
½ teaspoon paprika

In a bowl, using a stand mixer or hand mixer, blend well all ingredients. Taste; adjust seasonings to your liking. Be careful adding more liquid smoke, a little goes a long way! When ready to serve, try adding a light sprinkling of paprika over the top for decoration.

Brian Taylor CEC, CCE is the corporate executive chef for SouthFresh Farms.

Corn Time



Farm of Distinction

Chambers County’s Langley Farms

2017 Alabama Farm of Distinction winners Elizabeth and Chris Langley of Langley Farms in Chambers County are seated in the new John Deere Gator they won April 6 at the State Farm-City Awards luncheon in Birmingham. In addition to the Gator sponsored by SunSouth, Tri-Green and Ag Pro John Deere dealers, the Langleys won an engraved farm sign courtesy of Alfa Insurance and the Alabama Farmers Federation, and a $1,000 gift certificate from Alabama Farmers Cooperative. Joining the Langleys are, from left, their children, Chelsea, Chandler and Christopher Langley; Jim Allen, AFC; Carl Hunt and Lynne Morton, TriGreen; Lester Killebrew, SunSouth; Kenneth Williams, AgPro; Tom Tribble, John Deere; and Alabama Farmers Federation President Jimmy Parnell.

by Marlee Moore

Chris and Elizabeth Langley, of Camp Hill in Chambers County, were recognized for having Alabama’s 2017 Farm of Distinction at the Farm-City Awards Thursday in Birmingham April 6.

As this year’s winner, Langley Farms received $12,000 in cash and prizes, and will represent Alabama in the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year contest at the Sunbelt Ag Expo Oct. 17-19 in Moultrie, Georgia.

Chris began farming as a teenager, raising goats, rabbits, chickens and pigs. He later used proceeds from sales to purchase his first beef heifer and logging equipment.

Today, Chris Langley Timber and Management Inc. operates three fully mechanized logging crews, and Langley Farms includes a 320-cow commercial beef herd on 2,650 acres of timber, hay and grazing land.

"My philosophy of farming is the harder you work and the more you put in it, the more you’ll have and get out of it," Chris said. "You’ve got to be mechanically minded, creative and think smart at all times. And if you do those things, you will be successful."

The Langleys were selected for the Farm of Distinction title from six finalists including Tony Beck of TWB Farms in Crenshaw County, Dakota and Amanda Caraway of Caraway Farms in Covington County, Todd and Hope Cassebaum of Cassebaum Farms in Baldwin County, Bill and Carol Freeman of Timberland Cattle in Lamar County and Nick and Freida McMichen of McMichen Farm in Cherokee County.

Alabama’s Farm of Distinction received a John Deere Gator from SunSouth, TriGreen and AgPro dealers; a $1,000 gift certificate from Alabama Farmers Cooperative; $2,500 from Swisher International; and an engraved farm sign from Alabama Farmers Federation and Alfa Insurance. All six finalists will receive a $250 AFC gift certificate.

Judges Jim Allen of AFC, Chris Cline of AgPro and Dr. Deacue Fields of Auburn University visited the farms March 1-3.

Alabama Farm-City Committee Chairman Jeff Helms said the Langleys are an outstanding example of the faith, family values and work ethic that make agriculture great.

"Chris and Elizabeth are a true team," Helms said. "They’ve passed on a love of farming to their four children and generously share their experience, passion and farm with others interested in agriculture. We were blessed to have an outstanding field of finalists and are excited to have the Langleys represent Alabama at the Sunbelt Expo."

The Langleys are county and state leaders in the Alabama Farmers Federation and Alabama Cattlemen’s Association. Past honors include being named the state’s Outstanding Young Farm Family in 1996.

Marlee Moore is an ag communications specialist with Alabama Farmers Federation.

FFA Sentinel: Alabama FFA District Competitions

Growing Leaders, Building Communities, Strengthening Agriculture

by Andy Chamness

Spring is a busy time of year for Alabama FFA members, advisors, alumni and state agriculture education staff. So much is going on around the state and cabin fever is giving way to summertime fun. Remember the old adage, "It takes a village …." Well, that is certainly true in the world of Agriculture Education and FFA in Alabama. Alabama has three FFA Districts: North, Central and South. Each has its own set of district competitions. The district level of competition is the step between local events and the state-level event in June. While some contests are specific per district such as Scrapbook in the South and Zero Turn Compact Tractor Driving in the Central, the spirit of competition is alive and well. It takes a village of folks to make the district-level events a reality.

FFA is about growing leaders, building communities and strengthening agriculture. It is also about bringing people together. Agriculturists, in fact all of us, share a common bond. That bond is the development of civilization and community. FFA is a launching pad for its members to discuss the agricultural topics of the day, meet new friends and discover places in our state unknown to them before. Places like Slapout, Smuteye or how about Normal or Screamer? Students meet other students from across the state they might otherwise never would have had the opportunity to meet.

Clockwise from right, Brianna Payne, Lincoln FFA Chapter, placed first in the Central District Creed Speaking LDE. The Samson FFA Chapter placed first in the Livestock CDE and will represent the South District at the state competition. The Cherokee FFA chapter will represent the North District in the Conduct of Chapter Meeting LDE at state competition. The Thorsby FFA Chapter displays their banners after the Central District FFA Eliminations.

This year’s series of district contests began in March at Enterprise High School with the South District Eliminations. Yes, that is the home of the Boll Weevil statue. In April, the North District Eliminations descended upon Wallace State Community College in Hanceville. What better county – Cullman – than one of the most agriculturally diverse in the state? This year’s district contests wound up in Clanton in the shadow of the giant peach off I-65. Chilton County is another agricultural hotspot in Alabama. The Central District Eliminations was hosted by Jefferson State Community College and the Chilton County Performing Arts Center.

The Hillcrest High School of Evergreen attends the South District FFA Eliminations.

As said, the district eliminations are just that … eliminations. This round of competition determines what FFA chapters or members will represent their district at the Alabama FFA state contests. Competition is only one part of a much bigger picture for FFA. FFA promotes growing leaders, building communities and strengthening agriculture. Through those areas, the FFA is about creating opportunities for its members.

Growing leaders? FFA is the premier agricultural youth leadership organization in the country. Students learn how to approach agriculture from a multifaceted viewpoint. The skills attained through parliamentary procedure, public speaking, string band and quartet competitions allow students to grow in their abilities to speak and/or appear in front of a group. This builds confidence while using agricultural concepts and topics as a basis for the member’s speech or music selections. Each of these events are held at the district level and the winners advance to state level competitions. These skills and the self-confidence contests provide allow teachers and advisors to develop the agricultural leaders of tomorrow.

Building communities? As mentioned, all three district events are held in communities with strong ties to agriculture.

William Jennings Bryan said, "Burn down your cities and leave our farms, and your cities will spring up again as if by magic; but destroy our farms and the grass will grow in the streets of every city in the country."

FFA members across Alabama are building their communities by participating in agriculture education and FFA. Community service and crime prevention are areas highlighted in FFA. Through district events, FFA members can showcase their communities as well as their FFA chapter.

Strengthening agriculture? Franklin Roosevelt said, "We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future."

The West Limestone FFA Chapter wins first place in the North District Forestry CDE and will advance to the state event.

How true! That is the summation of FFA. An organization that builds our youth around agriculture and the love and respect for agriculture as a profession secures everyone’s future. Agriculture has certainly changed over the last century, but to tackle new issues we need motivated, out-of-the-box thinkers behind the wheel of the tractor and in the boardrooms of each and every agricultural enterprise in the world. FFA is the jumping-off point for our leaders of tomorrow. Students who understand group dynamics, genetics and even how to safely operate a tractor.

Ben Castleberry, Pell City FFA Chapter, holds his first place Extemporaneous Speaking Banner.

Events such as the district eliminations don’t happen overnight. A special thank you goes out to Alabama Farmers Cooperative for their partnership in making the events possible. AFC’s support of Alabama FFA is an investment in the future of agriculture and agribusiness. To the teachers in each district who organized and assisted with events, the regional Ag Improvement Specialists who spent hours with teachers and members preparing for the events, and to the district and state officers who worked tirelessly to make these events a success, thank you.

Across Alabama this spring, approximately 3,000 FFA members competed in one of the three district eliminations. Some of them will advance to the state level and some even on to the national level. For all of the students who attended the district eliminations and the students who are back in those towns across Alabama studying agriculture, keep up the hard work, the practice and the development of the future of agriculture. You truly are the future.

Just one last quote, from Roman philosopher Seneca, "Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity."

FFA members, thank you for the time you put into FFA and growing as a leader, building your community and strengthening agriculture. Event results and photographs may be found by visiting the home page of

Andy Chamness is the education specialist serving the Central District FFA.

Formax Fly Control IGR Breeder Mineral

by John Sims

It’s fly season and, if you haven’t started your summer fly mineral program, now is the time to begin. Our Formax IGR minerals use methoprene insect growth regulator for feedthrough horn fly control. Formax IGR minerals are a proven, cost-effective way to increase weight gain, improve reproduction and reduce the spread of disease by reducing the horn fly population on your farm.

For producers who realize the importance and benefits of a highly fortified mineral, we want to introduce Formax Fly Control IGR Breeder Mineral. This and all Formax minerals are specifically formulated for cattle in the Southeast. Our soils, forages and annual rainfall make our mineral needs different from other parts of the country. We use small particle size as well as MINTREX chelated trace mineral technology to improve absorption. We weather coat the minerals to protect them from rain and humidity.

Formax Fly Control IGR Breeder has very high levels of vitamins A, D3 and, especially, vitamin E to help fight summertime stress in your animals. Copper, zinc and manganese levels have also been elevated and chelated for superior reproduction, immunity, hoof integrity and overall physiological function.

If you are currently using our Silver line of Formax minerals, this has the same trace mineral and vitamin package plus IGR has been added for horn fly control.

Keep flies off your herd and improve their performance this summer with Formax Fly Control IGR Breeder.


Calcium (CA) (Min) 18.3% (Max) 21.3%
Phosphorus (P) (Min) 4.0%
Magnesium (Mg) (Min) 2.0%
Potassium (K) (Min) 1.0%
Salt (NaCl) (Min) 13.5% (Max) 16.5%
Copper (Cu) (Min) 1,800 ppm
Selenium (Min) 26 ppm
Manganese (Mn) (Min) 5,400 ppm
Zinc (Zn) (Min) 5,400 ppm
Vitamin A (Min) 200,000 IU/lb
Vitamin D3 (Min) 20,000 IU/lb
Vitamin E (Min) 100 IU/lb

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

Got Monster Cabbage?

The Newsom family says, “Try Bonnie!”

Four generations of Bonnie Plants Believers! Daryl Newsome, center, with his children, Addie and John Tyler, show a cabbage measuring 36 inches across. The family uses only plants from Bonnie. "My grandmother, Emma Newsome, wouldn’t use anything else but Bonnie Plants. She always told me they were the best, and she was right," Daryl said. His father, Johnny Newsome, uses only Bonnie Plants, and Daryl is teaching his children to do the same in their family garden. The Newsomes live in Sandflat and share their bountiful harvests with family and neighbors.

Home Grown

Grass-fed beef and pasture-raised pork are a thriving business at Twin Springs Farm.

by Rebecca Oliver

John and Cary Robbs sold over 6,000 pounds of meat last year from their farm.

Between two springs in Winterboro, you’ll find green pastures where John and Cary Robbs are producing quality, grass-fed beef and pasture-raised pork for a growing customer base purchasing over 6,000 pounds of it last year.

John and Cary wanted to offer locally raised, grass-fed beef to their catering-business customers. But soon the grass-fed-beef and pasture-raised-pork businesses became their only business.

"This has been good to us and we enjoy it more than anything," John said.

In 2009, John and Cary bought their first Devon cattle, consisting of five cows and one bull. Today, the couple have over 60 head of Angus and Devon cattle.

Devon is the oldest breed of cattle in America. According to John, they make a good pair with Angus.

Cary attributes Twin Springs Farm’s success to John’s research.

"He researches everything. He read that Devon cattle convert grass better than any other breed; so we bought our first Devon bull," Cary explained.

John likes for his cattle to be moderate in size. The cows at Twin Springs range in weight from 800-1,000 pounds.

"I care more about the size of my calves. If I see a cow that isn’t giving everything to her calf, she doesn’t stay in our program," John stated.

The calves at Twin Springs enjoy an afternoon of grazing.

John and Cary keep a few heifers to add to their herd each year, but steers and most of the bulls get sold for meat.

"We value quality over quantity," John said.

In addition to grass-fed beef, John and Cary also started to produce pasture-raised pork.

"We feed our pigs a ration from the Co-op. So they’re not totally grass-fed, but they stay out in a pasture," John said. "This is how pigs are supposed to live."

John said Talladega County Exchange employees have helped Twin Springs in the pig business with their advice.

"We had pigs before, but when we got in this business we realized there was a lot we didn’t know," John recalled. "Every person at the
Co-op is a source of information for us."

The pigs at Twin Springs are all registered Berkshires. John’s research found that the Berkshire breed is more docile and doesn’t destroy land by rooting.

Cary’s grandchildren can pet the pigs and always ask about the pigs by name when they call.

"We have a rule here: If the grandkids or my wife names an animal, it has to stay here forever," John said. "So, not everything makes it to the market."

The Robbs take their meats to the Pepper Place Market located in downtown Birmingham every Saturday and also sell from their freezer on the farm.

"We have loyal customers who come back every week," Cary said. "They understand that we may not always have what they want in stock but they’re patient because they understand we grow everything ourselves."

The Robbs agreed their customer base is built on trust. According to Cary, there’s a greater offering of produce at Pepper Place Market, but that doesn’t stop people from stopping by their table to check out what they have.

"People value the fact that we’re honest about how we raise our animals," John said. "We’ve found people don’t care so much about a certification as they do how the animal was treated."

John said customers want to know the animal is raised locally on a farm and treated humanely from the pasture to the market.

A representative from Pepper Place Market visits Twin Springs Farm biannually to verify the animals are produced onsite and cared for. All items sold at Pepper Place must be raised by the seller on a farm they own or rent.

The Robbs’ customer base comes mainly from the Pepper Place Market and Facebook. They don’t ship their meats, but allow customers to pick it up directly from the farm or the local market.

"Grass-fed beef has a different taste than grain-fed and it’s a taste you have to get used to," John said. "When we have people who have never tried it before tell us they want to buy a half or a whole cow, I always recommend they try a pack of hamburger meat first. But once you’ve acquired the taste, it’s wonderful."

Rebecca Oliver is a freelance writer from Auburn.

How's Your Garden?

by Lois Trigg Chaplin

What Are Pirate Bugs?

This minute pirate bug is eating whitefly nymphs.

Some insects are in the garden to help by eating the very pests you want to control. Beware of this before spraying to control any insect pest. One year, I sprayed for whiteflies before taking a closer look at the situation and ended up creating a problem that was eventually worse by also killing predators that were present. The little bug pictured here is called a minute pirate bug. It feeds on whiteflies, aphids, mites, small caterpillars and thrips. If you find this fellow in your garden, leave him alone to reproduce. The tiny black and white pirate bugs are about a quarter-inch long. You will find them on leaves, stems or flowers of many types of plants – wherever there is something for them to eat. Pirate bugs are also capable of biting humans much like a mosquito. However, some people are extra sensitive and some are not bothered at all. Just in case, now you know what they look like!

Still Time for Eggplant

Look for the last of the transplants still available in garden centers to grow your own eggplant this summer. Plants will bear fruit in seven to eight weeks. By now, transplants may have been growing fast in their pots. If oversized or root bound, gently slice through the outer roots of the root ball on the surface on two sides to slightly untangle pot-bound plants. Fertilize plants with a liquid plant food at planting to encourage new growth. Although it seems counterintuitive, it is best to pick off any flowers and young fruit present on the plant at planting. This helps the young plant put energy into new growth instead of fruiting.

Vitex and Daylily Great Combo

Vitex and daylilies are an easy-care combo.

You’ll enjoy your landscape more when there is always something interesting happening with bloom, fragrance or leaf color. One great combo for the transition from spring to summer is vitex and daylily. Vitex, also called chaste tree, grows into a small tree sporting purple blossoms in the summer. Fast growing and easy to prune, vitex is easy to care for just about anywhere in the landscape, including a large container. Bees and hummingbirds will visit its blooms, too. Here it is pictured on top of a wall where it is under planted with daylilies. Consider reblooming daylilies that will bloom most consistently if they get some sun, and regular water and fertilizer. Prune the lower limbs of the vitex high enough so the daylilies will get good light in the morning and afternoon.

Are the Bees Abundantin Your Garden?

Bees are important pollinators, so be careful when and what you use to control unwanted pests in your garden to not harm them.

This spring we noticed fewer bees in our garden, and I don’t mean just honeybees, but also the many native bees that live in the ground and sheltered places in the shrubs and woods in our neighborhood. We always leave the collards, parsley and cilantro to grow tall and bloom just to feed the early bees, but this year, with the exception of carpenter bees, the visitors were few and far between. There should be many native bees living in our gardens. These are important for pollinating crops. Even if you don’t have fruit trees or vegetables at home, don’t discount the importance of providing a good habitat for these pollinators. The majority of the food we eat depends on pollinators; grocery store shelves would be sparse without them. Unless you are allergic, learn more about how to encourage bees, or at least not do anything that hurts them such as spraying certain insect killers, mosquito sprays, etc. around the house without awareness of the bee population. You can learn more about pollinators in Chapter 7 of "Alabama Smart Yards," a publication of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, by typing this partial web address, A/ANR-1359/ASY_chapter7, in a search bar.

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

June Lawn and Garden Checklist


  • 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.
  • Plant a new batch of bush beans every couple of weeks.
  • Plant sweet potatoes.
  • Time to plant pumpkins for Halloween. Check the back of the seed packet for the variety you want to raise and calculate the correct planting.
  • It’s not too late to reseed or overseed the lawn. Be certain to keep newly seeded areas well-watered.
  • Gladiola corms can still be planted for successive blooms.
  • Plant annual flowers in tubs or large containers for the porch or terrace. Make sure there are holes in the bottoms to provide good drainage.


  • Side dress vegetables with commercial fertilizer, compost or manure, or foliar feed for mid-season pick up. Do not use nitrogen fertilizers on legumes.
  • Check plant leaves for signs of nutrient deficiency. Address any problems with your local Alabama Cooperative Extension System office or Quality Co-op store personnel.
  • Fertilize your lawn this month with a lawn fertilizer containing a 3:1:2 ratio of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.
  • Add liquid fertilizer to annuals growing in containers and window boxes every seven to 10 days.
  • Fertilize flowering shrubs such as rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias as soon as they have finished flowering with a rhododendron- or evergreen-type fertilizer.
  • Your roses will need to be fertilized each month through the summer.


  • Pinch suckers off staked tomato plants. It’s not as necessary on caged plants except to help contain the plant in the structure.
  • It’s hedge sculpting and trimming time! If you want to prune or shear your evergreens, do so as soon as the new growth starts to turn a darker green.
  • Keep up on deadheading, for long season bloom.
  • Pinch chrysanthemums to encourage them to be bushier and have more blossoms. Pinch them again, every 6 inches or so, as they grow until about mid-July or until flower buds beginning to form.
  • Prune suckers and water sprouts from all fruit trees.
  • If any shaping needs to be done on spring-flowering shrubs, vines or trees, prune this month before new flower buds are formed for next spring. Plants such as forsythia, spirea, weigela, wisteria, quince, Lady Banks roses, Carolina Jessamine, dogwood, redbud and azaleas are examples.
  • Remove dead foliage from spring-flowering bulbs after it has died back naturally.
  • Be on the lookout for dead, damaged or diseased wood in trees and shrubs; prune them out as discovered. Ditto with suckers and water sprouts.


  • After your vegetable garden is well established, it is best to water it thoroughly once a week rather than giving it a light watering every day. That way, a deeper root system is encouraged to develop that will later help the plants tolerate dry/hot weather.
  • Water early in the morning, rather than in the heat of the day or in the evening. This helps to avoid evaporation and foliar disease.
  • As the weather dries out, container-grown plants may need daily watering, especially if the pots are exposed to the drying sunlight.
  • Keep your lawn green by providing 1-1.5 inches of water per week.
  • Fix leaky hoses.
  • Adding mulch to flower beds and around garden plants will help garden soil retain moisture during the hot months of June and July. There are various types of mulches to choose from, including both organic and inorganic materials. Popular garden mulches include bark chips, grass clippings, stones, garden fabric or plastic, and straw.
  • Set up a rain barrel for irrigation.


  • Identify problems before acting, and opt for the least toxic approach. Cultural, physical and biological controls are the cornerstones of a sustainable pest management program. Use chemical controls only after identifying a pest problem and carefully read the pesticide label.
  • Put mineral oil on corn silks to prevent corn borer damage. It is imperative to choose the right time to apply mineral oil to the corn ear. If you apply the oil before pollination, the ear will not pollinate properly, resulting in a failed crop. When the silks have turned brown on the ends, pollination is complete. Use a dropper to place five drops of mineral oil at the tip of the corn ear, where it will travel down the interior of the husk to any existing larvae.
  • To avoid or help stop blossom-end rot on tomatoes, apply calcium nitrate as a side dressing at a rate of 4 ounces for 7-10 feet of row. Mix the side dressing carefully into the first inch of surface soil and avoid getting it on the leaves. Also mulch your plants to ensure consistent moisture.
  • To protect bees that pollinate many of our crop plants, spray pesticides in the evening after bees have returned to their hives.
  • Be alert to slug and snail damage ... seek and destroy ALL slugs!
  • Change the water in your bird bath regularly. Standing water may become a breeding ground for mosquito larvae.
  • Check your mulch and reapply on bare spots, before the weeds move in. Keep the weeds pulled, before they have a chance to flower and go to seed again. Otherwise, you will be fighting newly germinated weed seed for the next several years.
  • Check roses for mildew, aphid, black spot or other disease problems or insect infestations. If they appear, take steps to control them right away.
  • Japanese beetles are back! Check with your local Co-op store for a remedy.
  • Keep the birds off ripening berries with nets or row covers.
  • Look up in evergreen trees for nests of bagworms.
  • 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 buying or building and placing bat houses in your yard.
  • The best way to gain maximum benefits from predatory insects such as lady bugs is to maintain an environment encouraging their long-term, natural establishment near your garden. A mixture of crimson clover and hairy vetch used as a cover crop will provide them needed habitat while improving the soil. Switching to insecticidal sprays that breakdown readily will also help.
  • Check new plant growth for aphids. Aphids, or plant lice, can weaken plants and delay growth.
  • 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.


  • Work around the heat and humidity in early a.m. or late afternoon/evening.
  • Most vegetables attain their best eating quality when allowed to ripen on the plant, but often this peak quality is reached before the vegetable (i.e., cucumbers, squash, okra, sweet corn, peas and beans) is fully mature.
  • At exactly noon June 15, set your sundial for 12:00 to get the most accurate time reading through the summer.
  • Be prepared for June drop of fruit. They’re just thinning out to a manageable crop size. Clean up any fallen fruit.
  • Continue mounding the soil around potato plants. It does not harm the plant if the soil covers the stem. Tubers near the surface exposed to sunlight will turn green and slightly poisonous. For best results, harvest Irish potatoes when two-thirds of the tops have died down. Store potatoes in a cool, dark place.
  • Give your compost a turn.
  • If the weather becomes hot and dry, raise the cutting height of the mower.
  • If you haven’t already, stop harvesting asparagus. Let them grow foliage and build up reserves for next season.
  • Make sure your climbing roses are securely tied into position. Prune them after blooming.
  • Stake tall flowers to keep them from blowing over in the wind.
  • Tap under tomato plants’ bloom clusters with a pencil or stick to encourage good pollination.
  • When it gets much above 90 degrees, tomato plants will go into survival mode and lose blooms and even young fruit. In anticipation of July and August, plant Bonnie tomatoes that do better in the heat of summer. Go to On the opening tomato page scroll down to other benefits and click on heat-tolerant for a complete selection. Your Bonnie retailer might only have a few of these to choose from, but you’ll at least have a list to go by.
  • Keep on top of harvesting vegetables to be assured further fruiting. Almost all vegetables are best when harvested early in the morning. Overnight, vegetables regain moisture 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.
  • Be gentle with garden plants while harvesting vegetables. If vegetables are not easily removed when twisted or pulled, use a knife, scissors or hand pruners. These tools help prevent tearing or breaking of a plant that could lead to disease infection. Also, be careful not to step on stems or foliage while harvesting.
  • Harvest turnip roots when they reach the size of a tennis ball or larger (2.5-2.75 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.
  • 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.
  • The best time to harvest most herbs is just before flowering, when the leaves contain the maximum essential oils.
  • To get the color of crape myrtle you want, purchase a containerized plant now while it is in bloom.
  • Build, repair or paint trellises, arbors and lawn furniture.
  • 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.
  • Start a water garden.
  • Involve the kids or grandkids in growing vegetables. It’s fun. It’s easy and it builds kid’s enthusiasm for gardening and eating healthy – because they tend to eat what they grow!

Keep it Simple With Striped Bass

Just one of these monsters can be enough for the whole family.

by Christy Kirk

Rolley Len with the 11-pound striped bass she caught.

Both of my children love going to Lake Martin. It doesn’t really matter if it is the middle of summer and the water is high or if it is before the water is released in the spring. But they know, once the water level rises, the ritual of overnight fishing will begin again.

My daughter Rolley Len is always ready to go to the cabin, and she never wants to miss out on a trip to the lake. She especially likes to go with Jason and his dad, her Pop-Pop, when they put limb lines out overnight. Spending lots of time on the water with them over the years means Rolley Len has consistently learned more and more about the art of fishing. She is also very observant and pays attention to all the details.

One Sunday, she returned home from fishing with Jason and I asked how her trip was. Instead of just giving me a quick summary, she began giving me a step-by-step account of her adventure.

"First we had to get everything ready and loaded," she said. "Then we went on a boat ride to the bank where we tied the lines for the fish.

"We set all of our lines out, but you have to leave everything for several hours at least. So we went back to the cabin for a while. If the fish don’t bite within about two hours or if it’s raining, then you just have to wait and go back in the morning to check the lines again."

Checking the lines late at night or as early as you can wake up may not sound like much fun to some kids but Rolley Len doesn’t mind putting in the time. She definitely enjoys the end result: fresh-caught fish at her next meal. And she actually makes it sound easy.

"Get your fish, take ‘em home and clean ‘em up. Delicious!"

They usually bring home a mess of catfish to batter and fry, but, on this outing, Rolley Len had an 11-pound striped bass. In the photograph, it looks almost as big as she is, but it was probably not even at its full adult weight yet. Striped bass can be 15-20 pounds.

This one was big enough to feed all four of us with some left over. Stripe holds up well whether it is pan-fried, baked, seared or grilled. Jason cooked this one on a gas grill with some Old Bay and lemon juice. Serving it with rice and corn on the cob made a very economical dinner with little effort.

There are lots of ingredient combinations that work well with striped bass, but most recipes I have found keep it simple with just a few flavors blended together. Here are a few delicious combinations for you to try this summer.


Grilled Stripe

1 whole striped bass, filleted
Extra-virgin olive oil
Old Bay Seasoning
Salt and black pepper, to taste
Cooking oil spray

Preheat grill. Slice fillets into pieces about 6 inches long. (They will be easier to handle without breaking apart when turned.) Rub fillets with EV olive oil. Season them with Old Bay Seasoning, black pepper and salt. Spray hot grill with nonstick cooking spray. Let it burn off. Grill fish on medium-low heat for about 4 minutes per side. Fish will flake with a fork.


2 pounds striped bass, filleted
1 stick butter
1 Tablespoon garlic, chopped (or more to taste)
1 lemon (juice and zest)
Ground black pepper

Preheat grill. Rinse fish fillets and pat dry with a paper towel. Put fillets in refrigerator until ready to grill. In a skillet over low heat, melt butter. Add garlic. Juice lemon into pan. In small bowl, combine lemon zest and pepper, to taste. Stir lemon mixture into garlic mixture. Let simmer for about 5 minutes.

Lay out a sheet of aluminum foil big enough to hold fillets on a baking sheet (makes it easier to transport fish from kitchen to grill). Place fish skin side down on foil. Use a spoon to pour butter mixture over fish. Sprinkle salt on each fillet. Close foil to prevent leakage.

Place foiled fish on grill. Poke 5-6 holes in foil. Cover grill and cook until the fish is firm and flakes with a fork. Fish needs to cook for 10-20 minutes. Cooking time will depend on size of fillets. Do not flip fish as it cooks.

Remove fish from grill and foil; serve.


½ cup soy sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
2 or 3 small onions or 1 large onion, peeled and sliced
1 dried or fresh chili pepper, optional
½-¾ cup water
About 1½ pounds striped bass fillet, about 1-inch thick

In a skillet just large enough to hold fish, combine soy sauce, sugar, onions, pepper and water. Turn heat to medium high. Bring to a boil.

Add fish and adjust heat so mixture bubbles, but is not boiling. Cook 8-10 minutes, turning once or twice, until fish is coated with a brown glaze and cooked through. Serve with white rice, spooning sauce over fish and rice.

Note: For variations of these striped bass recipes, try adding or exchanging these ingredients: Lime juice, orange or lemon juice/zest, minced garlic, diced onion or ginger.

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

Know Your Small Ruminant First Aid

by Robert Spencer

Goat and sheep producers need to know some basic vital statistics and what supplies to keep stocked for administering first aid to their animals in an emergency. This will enable them to be more confident with their decision-making process when it comes to treating sick or injured animals, and providing details to a veterinarian should the situation arise.

Life expectancy for goats and sheep could average eight years. They may live longer, with prime productivity ranging from three to six years. There are always exceptions to the rules.

These are a few items that would serve in a first-aid kit.

Vital statistics are:

Yes, the vitals for goats and sheep are almost identical and knowing this should eliminate confusion.

Some first-aid supplies to keep stocked include a supply container; a sharpie box (for used needles); 3, 6 and 12 cc syringes; 18- and 20-gauge needles, both ½- to ¾-inch long; several size drench syringes; iodine or navel spray; wound spray; lamb or Pritchard nipples; and empty soft-drink bottles (4-6 ounce and 12-16 ounce). The latter two are in case you need to bottle feed the newborn or young. You might also want to purchase some goat colostrum from a dairy goat producer and keep stored in the freezer no more than two years.

Other healthcare supplies to keep on hand include a weak kid feeding syringe, elastic wrap or gauze, thermometer, blood-stop powder (cornstarch is an option), propylene glycol, hydrating powder and latex or nitrile gloves.

Keep some old towels and newspaper on hand, just in case. And keep dental floss around for tying off navel cords of newborns. Scissors are essential.

When it comes to injections, there is subcutaneous (under the skin) and intramuscular (into muscle tissue). When it comes to administering most injectable medicines, they will be done subcutaneously. Read the label or consult with a veterinarian when in doubt. Having a working relationship with a veterinarian is a very good idea. Paying for a few farm visits will go a long way to getting over-the-phone advice when needed.

Injured or sick animals are already stressed; keep them in a quiet, low-light situation and confined away from other animals. Make sure the animal has access to shade, protection from elements, water, hay and a small amount of grain. When approaching a sick or injured animal, use a calm voice, move slowly and avoid sudden movements. Assess the situation, take notes, have help if needed and be prepared to treat as deemed appropriate. Whether the animal is sick or injured, isolation is important to the animal and to protect other animals from contagious diseases.

Sheep are more tolerant of pain than goats, but, if either are grinding their teeth, they are in pain. Many of the medicines safe for humans such as Bismuth sulfate, aspirin, etc. are safe for small ruminants.

When an animal has been injured or sick, recovery may be slow and the animal will likely require close supervision. Otherwise, a relapse may occur and the animal’s vigor will quickly diminish. Keep sick animals in isolation for at least 30 days. Depending on the severity of the injury, an animal may need to be kept isolated for a few days to a few weeks. Be prepared to re-administer health care should the animal have a relapse. While death is an unpleasant issue, do not allow the animal to suffer.

There is no easy button for administering first aid when it comes to health care for small ruminants. Knowing vitals and having a variety of supplies will minimize stress on animals and owners.

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

PALS: Bear Exploration Center is Going Green!

by Jamie Mitchell

The Green Team is setting the bar high at Bear Exploration Center! This impressive group of students, led by Mary Bonikowski and Sarah Francis, is doing everything from heading up recycling to organizing cleanups on their campus. They even regularly make posters to discourage littering and to encourage recycling and helping clean up!

I spoke recently to Bear’s Green Team so they could get a better idea of why the work they are doing is so important. The students learned about how litter affects not only humans, but also animals can eat litter and make themselves sick. They also learned that even throwing out apple cores and banana peels near roadways is a bad idea because it can bring animals closer to busy roadways.

The students learned that litter is also very costly to our state. According to PALS Litter Laws Brochure, every mile of highway contains approximately 16,000 pieces of litter. It is estimated to cost around 30 cents per piece of litter to cleanup. Litter can also be quite costly to the person who litters. In Alabama, individuals who litter can be fined up to $500.

The Green Team also learned how easily litter travels in wind and water, so we discussed how important it is to find a trashcan or recycling bin immediately when finished with a bag of chips or bottle of water. Places like parks, ballfields and even schoolyards are places that easily get littered with single-use wrappers and packaging.

Bear’s Green Team agreed that they would do their part to keep their trash where it belongs!

Thank you to Bear Exploration Center’s Green Team for all you are doing! We are so happy that Bear is a part of the Clean Campus Program!

We are always accepting new applicants for the Clean Campus Program. If a school near you is interested, please have them call me at 334-263-7737 or email me at The Clean Campus Program is FREE to all Alabama public, private and county schools. Schools may also sign up for the Clean Campus Program online at

Jamie Mitchell is the PALS State Clean Campus Coordinator.

Seeing What's Not There

by Glenn Crumpler

We are always thankful and encouraged when cattlemen, ranchers and others donate cattle, equipment, feed, seed and other supplies to help us grow and maintain our Cattle for Christ cattle herds in Alabama and Texas. In fact, we could not do the work of the ministry both at home and around the world if it were not for the cash and noncash donations of those who give sacrificially to make our work possible. It was on one of these trips to pick up donated cattle over 500 miles from home when I found myself on the road during the Easter weekend.

This gave me a good excuse to visit overnight in the home of a young family I rarely get to see, but love very much. They live near the farms where I was scheduled to pick up cattle early the next Monday morning. As we were getting ready for bed Saturday night, the father of the home asked me, "Guess what little Johnny says he wants for Easter?" I replied, "I don’t know. What?" Little Johnny replied with a smile, "I want a cross necklace."

That response really made my heart glad. Especially since I had been praying for little Johnny and his family for a long, long time. In fact, he and I had just returned home from going out by ourselves to see an Easter drama at a local church in his hometown. As we watched the realistic drama of the last week of Jesus’ life, I identified each character and we discussed every scene as they were played out according to the Gospel of Mark. I knew that, because the family rarely attended church, little Johnny had not been adequately exposed to the Gospel message and that many of the words and stories would be unfamiliar to him.

In fact, one of the primary reasons I planned my trip so I could visit with this family on Easter weekend was so I could intentionally expose this little boy to the story of Jesus and remind his parents of the importance of the cross in their own lives. I also hoped that, because I was there on this special weekend, they would all attend church with me so they could be in a setting where they could better sense the presence of the Holy Spirit and be reminded of just how much God loves them and desires to have a renewed relationship with them. I hoped that, by attending church for the first time in a very long time, they would be reminded of what they were missing by not being actively involved in Bible study, private and corporate worship, Christian service and fellowship with other Christians.

The daddy of this little boy I had known and loved since he was just a child. He had been a student in one of my youth groups many years ago and I had personally had the privilege of leading him to faith in Christ. Through the years, I had witnessed him growing and maturing in his faith and sharing his faith with others. I still remember many of the Scripture verses he had memorized as a child and teen that had a great impact on his life. I had seen the hope and joy he once knew when he was in the center of God’s will for his life. I had also seen God work many miracles in his life through the years that affected not only his life but the lives of many others – including mine. I knew he had once committed his life to Christ and he knew what it was like to be in the right relationship with God, with himself and with the Body of Christ, but I also knew that somewhere along the way he had lost his way and was now in a place that was a dry and foreign land. Somewhere along the way, he had lost sight of the cross and, when that happened, he also lost much of the love, peace, joy and hope that only the cross of Christ can provide. He had also lost sight of the calling God has on his life and of the plans God has for his life and the lives of his wife and son; plans to prosper them and not to harm them, plans to give them hope and a future – plans that never change!

Now back to my story. The next morning, we awoke to find little Johnny’s mother had made sure the Easter Bunny came to visit while we were asleep. That was a good thing, because his Dad and I had not thought a thing about it. Mixed in with a large basket full of candy, there was also a small box containing a silver necklace just like the one pictured here.

Little Johnny could not wait to show me the cross necklace he had received in his Easter basket. I know his mother had nothing but good intentions and that she picked out what she thought was the beautiful, sterling silver cross necklace her son had asked for, but I could not help but notice something unusual about this necklace that made a good spiritual point. Though it was pretty and shiny, and at first glance looked to be a cross necklace, it was in fact a necklace without a cross! The sterling silver rectangle was there, but the cross itself had been cut out and removed. It was a cross-less necklace! It was void of the cross.

I wonder how many of us who believe and profess to be Christians actually live a cross-less life. A cross-less life may look good at first glance, but it is void of and lacking the power, peace, joy, love, purpose and hope that only comes through a true, steadfast and fresh relationship with the Christ who shed His blood and gave His life in exchange for ours on the cross so we can have eternal life. Without the cross, there is no real peace, joy, love, power, purpose or hope for this life or for eternity.

I do not mean we do not believe in what Christ did on the cross but that unless we stay focused on that atoning work of Christ on the cross and stay in close, right relationship with Him we allow anything and everything to replace the cross in our lives. Take for example this picture.If the cross is removed, anything we put in its place can become the object of our worship and what we put our faith and hope in. Nothing can replace the cross but most anything can be put in its place! It may be money, our profession, our baptism or confirmation, our family, a hobby, other relationships, our good works, our self-righteousness, community service, church membership or even our local church itself that we use as substitutes to fill the void, but nothing can replace the cross of Christ in our lives!

If we do not guard against it, we will find ourselves satisfied with something like a nice shiny object that looks the part but is absent of what is most important. We will find ourselves preaching a cross-less Gospel that is without cost or is culturally pleasing and inoffensive but that does not have the power to save, to change or to bring hope to our lives and our world.

The Bible says, " … without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness." (Hebrew 9:22 NIV) "And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross." (Philippians 2:8) "Then He said to them all, ‘Whosoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.’" (Luke 9:23) "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son." (John 3:17-18)

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

Short and Sweet

Strawberry season is coming to a close, so it’s time to starting planning for next year.

by Tony Glover

Our strawberry season in Alabama is literally short and sweet, and it is quickly drawing to a close right now. However, the planning and preparation work will soon begin for next year’s crop. Strawberries are a perennial crop that is primarily managed as an annual, planted in the early fall and harvested in the spring. Once the crop stops producing, the plants are killed and a second crop of some sort is often planted on the plastic to get further use out of it and the drip irrigation system.

Now is an excellent time to look back at the season and to make plans for next year.

Morgan County Extension Coordinator and longtime strawberry grower Mike Reeves said, "The past season is fresh on your mind now with all of the production challenges experienced this year. This is the best time to visit with other producers and specialists to begin making plans to tweak the system of your operation for next season."

If you are currently a strawberry grower or you are making plans to grow a crop for next spring, you need to make plans to attend a program being offered by Alabama Cooperative Extension System June 8 at 6 p.m. The Morgan County Extension office will be the host site for a commercial grower meeting called "All Things Soil." It is relevant to growing strawberries. Their office is located at 3120 Highway 36 West in Hartselle.

Featured speakers for the evening will be Dr. Edgar Vinson, Alabama Extension Specialist; and Dr. Allen Straw, Virginia Tech Extension Specialist.

Vinson will be talking about this year’s variety trial results from the Thorsby Research Station.

Straw will cover everything related to soil management and strawberry production. This will include topics such as soil/bed preparation, fumigation, herbicides, soil fertility and nematode control. Straw is recognized as one of the foremost authorities on strawberry production in the southeastern part of the country.

This wonderful opportunity is provided free of charge by ACES, Alabama Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, and some local Farmers Federation offices in north Alabama. A meal will be provided if you preregister by June 6. Please contact the Morgan County Extension office at 256-773-2549 or email at You may visit to learn more details and to get directions to the Morgan County Extension office.

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

Southern Translation

SENTENCE USAGE: "Oh, Sonny! You got the short end of the stick having to ride with that obnoxious choir director … all he’ll do is talk about what a wonderful singer he is."

How does one get the "short" end of a stick?

To get the short end of the stick is to come off worst in a bargain or contest.

The expression "the ... end of the stick" comes in many forms. The majority of these refer to getting the worse or, occasionally, the better part of a bargain. They inserted an adjective that indicate the bad outcome is "short" or "blunt" (or their synonyms or antonyms). There is also the phrase "getting the wrong end of the stick" that has a different meaning of "having the facts wrong" or simply "being mistaken."

Taking the occurrence of these in search engines as a guide, the four forms rank in popularity of current usage like this:

  • Short/shorter/long
  • Wrong/rough/right
  • Butt/blunt/pointy/pointed/thick
  • Nasty/dirty/worst/a crude street name for feces

Both meanings of the phrase, bad bargain or wrong facts, originated with a negative connotation. The "long end of the stick" and "right end of the stick" were coined later as simple opposites of their respective original form.

The "worst end of a bargain" form of the expression is quite an old phrase and, in keeping with its mediaeval origins, originally referred to a staff, rather than a stick; for example, the phrase occurs in Nicolas Udall’s "Apophthegmes," that is to "saie, prompte saiynges," 1542:

"As often as thei see theim selfes to haue the wurse ende of the staffe in their cause."

The jump from staff to stick was made explicit soon afterward when John Heywood published his notable reference work, "The Proverbs, Epigrams and Miscellanies of John Heywood," 1562:

"‘The worst end of the staff,’" we now say ‘wrong end of the stick.’"

Heywood makes it eminently clear that, in the 16th century, "the wrong end of the stick" meant the same as "the worst end of the stick." The meaning of that phrase didn’t change; people didn’t start getting the wrong end of the stick in the sense of "being mistaken" until the mid19th century. The earliest use I can find of the phrase in that context is in the British political magazine The New Monthly Magazine, 1850:

"I am so stupid – I am so apt to take things up in a wrong light. In fact, I am always getting hold of the wrong end of the stick."

"The short end of the stick" is by far the most commonly used form of the phrase. That is rather odd, in that the ends of sticks can be dirty or pointy, they can even be iridescent or hirsute, but it is difficult to see how they can be short. This has spawned the suggestion that "short" is simply a euphemism for another, cruder word for "poop" – after all sticks can be "poopy" and that form of the phrase is also commonplace.

The date of "the poop end of the stick" makes this theory at least plausible, in that the phrase was known in that form by the mid19th century, as in this example from" The Swell’s Night Guide," 1846:

"Which of us had hold of the ‘poopy’ end of the stick?"

I can find no examples of "the short end of the stick" with the current figurative meaning that predate that example.

To take the case for the opposition to the "short" equals that other word for "poop" premise, it isn’t difficult to find examples in print of people grasping "the short end of the stick" that are clearly intended to be literal that a real stick was involved. What a short end of a stick is still unclear, but it seems that others, in the 19th century at least, knew what it meant. The jury is still out.

Sweet Success

The Honey Combs of Marion Junction

Paul and Lori Combs with their daughters, Sarah and Caroline, stand outside the Southern Ambrosia Apiary in Marion Junction.

by Alvin Benn

Bees and people seem to have a lot in common and, for that reason, there’s a continuing buzz in the Black Belt over one of the region’s sweetest businesses.

The official name of the product is Southern Ambrosia, but an appropriate nickname could well be "The Honey Combs."

The driving force behind the business is Paul Combs, 53, who has plenty of help from his wife Lori and daughters, Sarah and Caroline.

They live in Marion Junction, a quiet little community about 10 miles west of Selma.

Many of those who live here rely on jobs or attend schools in Selma. For 25 years, Paul has kept busy during daylight hours as an Alabama Power Company technician.

During the past 11 years, he has also found time to become a beekeeper, spending many of his waking hours looking after millions of tiny, aggressive insects that help to augment the family’s income.

His experience during all those years convinces him that his hives have been home to 7.5 million bees.

Paul shows no signs of slowing down because he’s not only busy as a bee in his chosen profession but is also learning more every day about bees and what makes them tick … or buzz.

He thanks his lucky stars that he’s handled both activities with aplomb without wearing down to a frazzle.

In a way, taking care of bees is a relaxing interlude when he’s not repairing refrigerators and other appliances for those who rely on him to make sure the milk doesn’t curdle.

Much of his Southern Ambrosia chores take place out in the country where he enjoys relative isolation during bee season.

A downpour did not keep Paul Combs from handling his bees at Southern Ambrosia in Marion Junction.

"Working with bees is a lot different from what I normally do every day," he said. "I’m always in contact with customers for my wage-and-hour job."

Although he’s become so well-known in some parts of the Black Belt for his beekeeping activities, some of his customers are surprised to learn that’s what he does in his spare time.

Those who know about his bee business are amazed at his stamina because of the hours required to make his bee business successful.

He puts in a full day for Alabama Power and, when he’s finished, he heads for his bee hives to see how his little buddies are doing.

"People are fascinated by honeybees and many want to know why they seem to be dying,"Paul said. "I let them know that problem has been easing up of late."

Paul’s honey-making sideline began with a few boxes where the bees originate. He never thought it would grow to the extent it has today.

"We’ve got about 150 boxes today," he explained. "Other beekeepers have a lot more than that, but I’m satisfied with what I have now."

He said June is the optimum time of the year for beekeepers, who view that month as being similar to planting season for farmers.

"The clover is blooming and that means we’re as busy as the bees in their colonies," he said. "It’s either put in the long hours or run the risk of losing a lot of potential revenue."

Equipment needed to produce Southern Ambrosia is in a building near the family abode and everybody pitches in to help.

"I borrowed $10,000 for the equipment I needed for my bee business and paid it off in 18 months," he stated. "I’m proud of that."

Assisting Paul with his business are Danny Lassitter and his wife Mary Ann. Everything else is handled by the four Combs.

When the last bit of honey has been retrieved from the hives, it’s up to Lori and the girls to put the finishing touches on what has become a popular product throughout the Black Belt.

(From left) Mary Ann Lassitter, Lori Combs and Caroline Combs share duties during their honey operation.

Sarah and Caroline handle everything from bottling the honey to applying attractive labels on each one.

Sarah will be a sophomore at Judson College this fall while Caroline is in the sixth grade at Morgan Academy in Selma and is as energetic as her older sister.

"We have a lot of pride in what we do and are grateful to the Lord for giving us this business that’s become a success," Lori said.

Unlike some honey companies that use plastic bottles, the Combs family prefers glass containers because Lori says, "There’s something special about glass."

Dave Oliver, who owns Dave’s Market in the Valley Grande community north of Selma, is ecstatic over how well Southern Ambrosia has been selling at his store.

"The honey is so clear and attractive in the glass containers that I think that’s one of the reasons people keep buying it," Oliver said. "Of course, the taste is the main reason."

Many fans of Southern Ambrosia honey are attracted to what they describe as a buttery flavor. Paul said the unique taste is derived from the area’s expansive clover fields that have become the main ingredient.

"I’m using it now with my coffee," he said. "I didn’t like it at first but it’s become a daily event for me when I have my first cup of honey-flavored coffee in the morning."

Judy McKinney, who owns and operates a farmers market in nearby Orrville, attributes Southern Ambrosia’s success to the area’s soil, calling it "amazing."

"The soil is responsible for more than just honey, too," she said. "It also produces awesome fruit and vegetables that have huge health benefits."

Paul said clear proof of Southern Ambrosia’s popularity can be found in 55-gallon drums that store the honey between November and March.

"You don’t normally fill six 55-gallon drums with honey unless people really like it and we’re very happy over sales," Paul said.

None of it could be possible, of course, without queen bees to keep the colonies growing. Each box has a queen, prompting the drones and worker bees to remain active.

"Queen bees can live up to five years and lay thousands of eggs, but when they begin to lose their vitality it’s time to requeen them for mating purposes," Paul explained.

Bee stings go with the territory, but Paul is prepared with proper coverings when he inspects the hives.

The more he’s around bees, the more he’s convinced they are highly intelligent little creatures who are only answering nature’s call and are relatively docile unless provoked.

"They’re smart enough to let you know if you’re getting too close to them," Paul added. "I’ve had some bump into me without stinging me; so that’s saying something."

Alvin Benn is a freelance writer from Selma.

The Co-op Pantry

by Mary Delph and Jena Klein

Happy June, everyone. The weather is great … nice and warm. Our national foods of the month were: dairy, fresh fruit and vegetables, and papaya. I tried to find some unusual recipes showing the versatility of combining foods to make something splendid.

Next month will be July and we will celebrate our country’s independence, have picnics, go swimming and all the good summer stuff we love. The national foods we will observe for July are: baked beans, beets, blueberries, horseradish, ice cream, lasagna, pickles, raspberry cake and wheat. These foods are just perfect for our summer fun. Please send in your favorite recipe and share with your friends and neighbors.

The national foods for August will be: catfish, goat cheese, kiwifruit, lemon (lemonade, lemon juice, meringue pie, etc.), mustard, panini, peach, raspberry cream pie, rye and watermelon.

These should give you all kinds of choices for recipes (yes, you can send more than one)!

Of course, we are still looking for cooks to feature. So let us know if you are interested.


3¼ cups white sugar, divided
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
¾ cup butter
3 eggs
6 very ripe bananas, mashed
1 (16-ounce) container sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking soda
4½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)

Preheat oven to 300°. Grease four 7x3 loaf pans. In a small bowl, stir together ¼ cup white sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Dust pans lightly with cinnamon and sugar mixture.

In a large bowl, cream butter and remaining sugar. Mix in eggs, bananas, sour cream, vanilla and 2 teaspoons cinnamon. Mix in salt, baking soda and flour. Stir in nuts. Divide into prepared pans. Bake for 1 hour, until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.


2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
½ cup butter, softened
2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a medium bowl, cream together cream cheese and butter until creamy. Mix in vanilla; gradually stir in confectioners’ sugar. Store remaining frosting in refrigerator after use.


1 cup fresh strawberries, chopped
1 medium banana, peeled and sliced
1 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt
1 cup ice

In blender, add all ingredients. Cover and blend on high speed until smooth. Makes two and best if served at once.


8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 (7-ounce) jar marshmallow cream
3-4 Tablespoons milk, if desired

Mix cream cheese and marshmallow cream with an electric mixer. If mixture is too thick, you may add a few tablespoons of milk until you get the consistency desired. Serve with fresh fruit such as strawberries, kiwi and melon.


1 mango, peeled, seeded and cubed
1 papaya, peeled, seeded and cubed
2 mandarin oranges, peeled and segmented
2 kiwis, peeled and sliced
½ fresh pineapple, peeled, cored and cubed
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, room temperature
1 (7-ounce) jar marshmallow fluff
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

In a large bowl, gently toss together mango, papaya, oranges, kiwis and pineapple.

In a medium bowl, blend cream cheese, marshmallow and vanilla extract on medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy. Topping can be poured over fruit or left in a separate bowl for dipping


1 ripe papaya, peeled, halved and seeded
1 cup fresh pineapple chunks
12 fresh raspberries
1 Tablespoon lime zest
1 Tablespoon fresh mint leaves
2 thin slices (¼-inch) peeled fresh ginger
2 cups fresh tangerine juice or orange-tangerine juice
6 ice cubes
Honey, to taste (optional)
2 bottles Champagne

Puree papaya, pineapple, raspberries, lime zest, mint and ginger in a blender until completely smooth. Add juice and ice; blend until ice is crushed. If the mixture is too tart for your taste, add 1 tablespoon honey at a time, blending after each addition, until it’s as sweet as you like. Refrigerate until chilled, at least 1 hour or up to 1 day.

To serve, stir the mixture and divide among 8 glasses. Very slowly top each drink with Champagne. Gently stir, if necessary. (You’ll have about two-thirds of a bottle remaining; top off drinks as desired.)

Make Ahead Tip: Prepare, cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day or freeze for up to 1 month; thaw overnight in the refrigerator.

Note from Mary: This beverage can be prepared and will taste just as good if you choose to use non-alcoholic Champagne. You should be able to find it easily in any of the larger grocery chains.


4 cups strawberries, sliced, divided
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 cup fat-free ricotta cheese
½ cup (4 ounces) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
¼ cup powdered sugar
1 Tablespoon water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup amaretti cookie crumbs (about 8 cookies)
½ cup frozen reduced-calorie whipped topping, thawed
2 Tablespoons slivered almonds, toasted

Place 2 cups of strawberry slices and granulated sugar in a blender or food processor, and process until smooth. Set strawberry puree aside. In a medium bowl, combine next 5 ingredients. Stir well with a whisk. Spoon 2 tablespoons cookie crumbs into each of 4 parfait glasses. Top each portion with 2 tablespoons strawberry puree, ¼ cup strawberry slices, and 3 tablespoons ricotta mixture; repeat layers. Drizzle remaining strawberry puree over each serving. Chill for 2 hours. Top each parfait with 2 tablespoons whipped topping and 1½ teaspoons almonds.

Note from Mary: This recipe cuts out some calories and fats, making it one of the healthier parfait recipes I have come across.


4 slices bacon
1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed or two 9-ounce packages frozen cut or French-cut green beans
¼ cup onion, chopped
1 Tablespoon butter
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper (optional)

In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp, turning occasionally. Transfer bacon to paper towels to drain, reserving 1 tablespoon drippings in skillet. Crumble bacon; set aside. Meanwhile, cook green beans, covered, in lightly salted boiling water for 5 minutes; drain. Place beans in a large bowl of ice water for 5 minutes. Drain well. Add partially cooked green beans, onion and butter to reserved drippings in skillet. Cook and stir over medium-high heat about 5 minutes or until crisp-tender. Stir in bacon and pepper before serving.

June Healthy Recipe

Diabetic Pineapple Cream Pie

1 slice: 212 calories, 9g fat (0 saturated fat), 0 cholesterol, 322mg sodium, 24g carbohydrate (0 sugars, 0 fiber),
3g protein.

Diabetic Exchanges: 2 fat, 1 starch, 1/2 fruit.

1 (20-ounce) can crushed pineapple in natural juice (drained well)
1 (1-ounce) package sugar-free instant vanilla pudding mix
1 cup low fat sour cream
1 (9-inch) low-fat graham cracker pie crust
1 (8-ounce) carton sugar-free or low-fat whipped topping

Mix pineapple, pudding mix and sour cream together. Pour into crust. Spread whipped topping on top and chill until set. Serve!!

Note from Jena: I got this recipe from Mary Campbell at the dentist office in Albertville. Mary was doing my adjustment and we got to talking about healthy recipes. The dentist who used to practice there was diabetic and Mary said they would make this pie for him all the time. It is simple, easy and tastes great – not to mention HEALTHY & GOOD FOR YOU!! My kind of recipe. Since Mary gave me the recipe verbally, I looked up the diabetic exchange information – I think I got it right!

Hats off to Mary Campbell for this one – I love it. Definitely a keeper!!

Mary Delph is an associate editor with AFC Cooperative Farming News.
You may email her at Jena Klein is with the AFC Wellness Program.

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

The Healing Nun

by Nadine Johnson

In March 2014, I was visited by an interesting couple from west Mobile. I’m going to call them John and Jane. They had a very interesting story to tell. Now their story is going to be shared.

Jane had been diagnosed with osteoarthritis that, of course, causes any victim to suffer pain. Her pain appeared to be more severe than average. They had talked with and received advice from "The Healing Nun."

The Healing Nun had advised them to contact Nature’s Sunshine products to obtain Tei Fu lotion and use it as a rub to control some of the pain. They made the call and were given my telephone number. Our later visit was enjoyed by all three of us.

Jane took the nun’s advice and began to use Tei Fu lotion that John (an outstanding caretaker) applies as needed. She decided to also take Skeletal Strength. A recent conversation confirmed she continues to use these alternatives and gains benefit.

I’ve written about Tei Fu lotion before. (I call this "Glorified Ben Gay.") It is composed of Chinese herbs. You might remember that I apply it to my bunion when it is hurting. After the application, I can forget the bunion and go to sleep.

These words are printed on the bottle of Skeletal Strength: "Provides nutrients for proper structural system function. Vital for bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons and skin."

I had never heard of "The Healing Nun" before and wanted to learn more; therefore, I searched online. I found more than one healing nun and spent a morning’s entertainment reading their interesting stories. My readers might enjoy doing the same.

This triggered the memory of a very pleasant event in my life that I’ve decided to share. First, I will tell you I was a grown woman before I met a Catholic. There simply were none in the rural region where I was raised. As a young adult, this changed. I am not Catholic but I definitely respect their religion.

From 1954 to 1969, I was office nurse for Dr. Jane Day in Montgomery. I was in daily contact with St. Margaret’s Hospital (primarily with admissions). Sister Carmilite, an outstanding woman, was the hospital’s administrator during those years. She was admired by all who knew her and all who knew of her.

One day, I received a request (or was it a summons?) to appear at Sister Carmilite’s office at a certain time. At the appointed time, I appeared promptly at her open door. I knocked lightly to say, "I am here." She was seated at her desk, directly facing the door. Of course, she was dressed in a severe habit that was the style of the day. She left me standing for a short time (that seemed like forever). She looked straight at me with her hands folded under her chin. Finally she said, "I am so happy to finally meet the great Nadine."

I do not remember another word that was spoken. Why was I summoned? I do know we had a short, but very pleasant, meeting. Many years have gone by and I still do not know what I had done to earn this remark that was most likely the greatest compliment I ever received.

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

Thrips Infestation Management

A new online tool offers guidance to cotton producers.

April 1 marked the launch of a free, online crop-management tool designed to help cotton producers in Alabama and the Southeast get the upper hand on thrips, the region’s most consistent pest of seedling cotton.

Developed at North Carolina State University, the Thrips Infestation Predictor for Cotton tool integrates many years of weather, thrips-population and cotton-growing-pattern data from cotton fields in Alabama and across the Southeast to forecast when thrips infestations will be largest and risks of injury to young cotton plants highest.

Thrips feed on the foliage of seedling cotton, slowing plant and root growth, making the plants more susceptible to environmental stressors later in the growing season and reducing yields.

"By using the new, location-specific tool before planting, growers can see which fields are at the greatest risk of suffering thrips damage and be prepared to use more aggressive management strategies in those areas," says Alana Jacobson, an Auburn entomology assistant professor who specializes in the biology and ecology of row-crop insect pests. "Or, they can decide to adjust the planting dates in those fields."

The Thrips Infestation Predictor incorporates years of data from cotton-producing states in the Southeast to help determine conditions for potential thrips infestations and the risk of thrips injury to young cotton. Jacobson, along with Alabama Extension entomologists Ron Smith and Tim Reed, has collected such data from Alabama cotton fields and provided it to the tool-development team led by George Kennedy, the NCSU entomologist under whose direction Jacobson completed her doctorate in entomology in 2012.

"This tool is based on many years of data collected from across the region, and it has proved accurate through years of testing," Jacobson said. "It has performed great at my test sites here in Alabama, but we need feedback from users statewide to identify locations where the model’s predictions may not be accurate so the model can be refined or updated. Producers’ inputs also will help us identify how to improve content and make it more user-friendly."

Because of the weather, thrips populations and the timing of thrips’ dispersal from their overwintering hosts into cotton fields are extremely unpredictable from year to year. Most farmers now use insecticides as preventive measures, applying the chemicals to seeds before planting, in furrows when they plant and over the top when the young plants are most susceptible to thrips damage. Jacobson said the new forecasting model will allow growers to identify the precise fields where intense scouting, monitoring and supplemental foliar sprays will be required.

"Instead of making additional foliar applications over their entire crop, farmers can target the fields that need the more intense management, and that can help them cut production costs and save time," Jacobson explained.

In recent years, thrips in some cotton-producing areas have shown signs of resistance to the neonicotinoid insecticides commonly used for control. Last year, Jacobson collected thrips from cotton crops around the state and submitted them to NCSU for analysis to determine the abundance and distribution of resistant populations.

"We have to figure out better ways to manage the pests, and the Thrips Infestation Predictor is a step in that direction," Jacobson said. "Our goal is to minimize insecticide use, not only to prevent full-scale resistance but, more importantly, to use more sustainable production methods and help producers operate more efficiently, effectively and profitably."

The Thrips Infestation Predictor for Cotton can be found online at Producers can learn more about how the tool was developed and the principles behind it in a webinar.

Value-added Agriculture

Are value-added products the next step for your farming business?

by Angela Treadaway

Are Value-Added Products Right for You?

Direct marketing and value-added products are two of the best strategies farmers can employ to improve net profitability. Value-added products can open new markets, enhance the public’s appreciation for the farm and extend the marketing season. In fact, adding value to agricultural products beyond the farm gate usually has several times the economic impact of the agricultural production alone. This offers the farmer a much larger potential to capture a larger share of the food dollar.

Most agricultural producers receive a much smaller portion of the consumer’s dollar than do food processors, especially processors who produce brand name items (e.g., Sunkist, Del Monte). Capturing those additional dollars by adding value to farm or ranch products is a goal of many producers in the United States today.

What Is Value Added?

At the most basic, a value-added product simply means any product or action that helps raise the value of your products or business, or something you can add to a product enabling an increase in your profit margin. You also may hear the term "value-added opportunities" that relates more to actions taken such as making jam from an organic berry harvest, making a unique cheese on your dairy farm, fire roasting vegetable crops for the farmers market, packaging organic products together in a special way to increase their value, hosting farm tours or educational workshops … the list could go on infinitely.

Many growers are inviting the public onto their farms to harvest their own produce. These farms known as pick-your-own, or PYO, are attractive to farmers because there is reduced labor required for harvesting and they can sell produce that is too fragile to ship. PYOs do, however, require long working hours and more liability insurance. With the right location and crop offerings, PYOs offer an opportunity to diversify existing farm businesses.

Value added might mean something slightly different to nearly every person who owns a farm and is hoping to raise or make products from the items grown. The breadth of crop production – from grains and oilseeds to fruits and vegetables; from nursery and landscape crops to herbs and handcrafting items such as pine needle baskets or grapevine wreaths. It is different for every farm. You don’t always have to farm a large number of acres to have a value-added product either.

Increasing Profits and Enjoyment With Value-Added Products

At best, value-added endeavors increase profit, but value-added products and opportunities have other perks as well such as:

  • Personal fulfillment. Maybe there’s a hobby you’ve always wanted to pursue or a product you’ve always really wanted to produce. Considering this hobby or product as something value-added for your business can help you both fulfill that personal dream and make more money.
  • Excitement. OK, it’s not as if making jam is akin to skydiving but growing the same crops year after year can result in boredom. Anything gets mundane and routine if you do it often enough. Value-added endeavors can add some diversity and excitement to your work routine.
  • Marketing value. Never underestimate how cool niche products can look to consumers. Organic veggies are available everywhere, but if consumers can also pick up organic cut flowers or dried herbs at your farm stand, then you start to stand out. The same goes for jam made from organic berries.
  • Fun and learning. It’s fun to try new things, and value-added products can increase your organic knowledge in a new niche area.
  • Eco-friendly aspects. Value-added items and opportunities are very eco-friendly; for the most part because they usually utilize the resources you already have, and keep new land use and new raw-material use to a minimum, or both.

Starting a Value-Added Enterprise

One of the first things you should do when considering a value-added business is to decide on the products you want to create, the implications of creating these products and the steps involved in beginning the business. These steps will vary depending on your skills and location, and which overseeing agency you will need to work with. The National Sustainable Agriculture Assistance Program’s publication, "Adding Value to Farm Products: An Overview," is a good place to begin.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development has a list of resources you should review when considering a new value-added venture. The information from several universities includes topics and articles covering a value-added enterprise. There are grants you could possibly apply for on this website as well as ones for small producers who want to do value-added products. Just go under Value Added Producer Grants. If you do research online, look for articles from the Extension system and other educational sources to find trusted information.

A producer who wants to start selling value-added products needs to research the buying habits, tastes, income levels and proximity of potential customers. Knowing customer needs can help producers decide what to sell. Advertising can be as simple as a roadside stand, selling at a couple of different farmers markets or you could go as far as to do a direct mail flyer or putting ads in local papers.

Building a new business is difficult and takes hard work. But, for all the uncertainty, there are ways to craft a successful value-added business strategy. The key factors in a detailed business plan are:

  • Operations plan – flow of the business, quality and cost control
  • Personnel plan – needs, skills and training
  • Sales plan – including challenging but realistic goals
  • Management plan – strengths, weaknesses and resources
  • Investment and financial plan – cash flow planning


Beyond business planning and market research to get to know the customer, the essential elements for success in a value-added business can be boiled down to four key ingredients for business managers:

  • Adapt to market changes.
  • Be open to exploring new ideas.
  • Operate more as a resource manager than as a producer.
  • Realize the importance of networking and the need to develop alliances.

Managing resources and exploring new ideas means you will constantly need to be looking at new ideas of ways to increase your profits. That may seem tedious, but that is precisely what adding value is all about.

The sky is the limit if you can just find the right products and markets to match. There are many resources online for you to search for new ideas as well as ways to manage your business.

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.

Who's in Charge?

by Baxter Black, DVM

Sometimes we forget who’s in charge.

There has been so much concern lately regarding man’s ability to change the environment. We worry about cutting down the forests, damming up the rivers, endangering the species, warming the globe and paving the wetlands. We have begun to wonder, somewhat self-righteously, how on Earth did the Earth ever survived without us!

Then we have extreme weather.

We watch floods in Arizona, avalanches in the Rockies, blizzards in the breadbasket and the mother of all storms closing airports from Albany to Atlanta! Secretaries of state, lettuce growers, Sierra Club members who always paid their dues, cowboys, geniuses and self-made millionaires all huddled in their little holes waiting for public service to turn the lights back on.

Human beings are pretty small potatoes when Mother Nature decides to put us in our place. And those of us who live on the land seldom need reminding of our status in the pecking order.

When you have to leave your four-wheel drive out on the road for a week and walk the half mile to the house, it’s a humbling experience for both you and for General Motors.

When you can’t feed for three days and only lose two cows, you are thankful.

When the flood washes away the machine shed, but spares the house, you consider yourself lucky.

When the temperatures in your orchard doesn’t reach freezing as predicted, you know you’ve been spared.

It has to do with deadlines.

People of the land meet a different kind of deadline. It is not man-made. A reporter must meet an arbitrary deadline … like this column. I must have agreed on the deadline and it can’t be changed.

But every livestock producer, fruit grower or wheat farmer plays the odds. He gets his work done on time only to find God has changed his deadline! We can only do the best we know how and hope for a little luck.

I was a grown man the first time I saw the ocean. I watched the waves wash upon the shore. The timeless inexorable cycle of nature impressed me to the bone. I realized, in spite of our good intentions, our technological advancements and our privileged place on earth, that man is just a water skipper on the pond of life.

From the smallest snowflake to the most awesome volcano, we are reminded that someone else is in charge.

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,

Why do we do what we do?

It’s a simple question all hunters should ask themselves.

by Chuck Sykes

John Dawson Bell and Chuck Sykes had a successful hunt in Elmore County during John’s spring break.

I attended a meeting in Atlanta with approximately 30 representatives from numerous state and federal agencies. Trust me, something I’ve learned in my tenure as director is that any meeting with an acronym containing more than five letters is typically one I don’t want to attend, especially during turkey season. This meeting had seven letters in the name. This was the first time I had attended one of these meetings and, out of the group of 30 participants, I knew only two. One of whom was our staff forester Drew Nix.

After the first day of the meeting, we all met for dinner. Something else I have learned is more business can be accomplished over dinner than while poring through notes around a conference table. During the dinner conversation, three of the ladies at the table were discussing their love for birdwatching. I couldn’t resist telling them of my love of birdwatching as well. In fact, I informed them I would be leaving Atlanta after dinner and driving back to Montgomery because I had a 9 a.m. meeting at the office. But, I would be going birdwatching before work.

Of course, all of you understand what I was talking about, considering the date of the meeting was March 29. But, these nice ladies didn’t know me or my obsession with turkey hunting. I went on to explain how I prefer to do my birdwatching early in the morning. I described in great detail the enjoyment I receive by being in the woods long before daylight and the anticipation of hearing the woods wake up in the morning. I explained how I can always count on the barred owl to be responsive when I blow my owl call. Then the cardinals chime in shortly after daylight begins to break. Next will be the calls from the crows. By this time, the woods are alive with sounds.

All of a sudden, the most glorious of all bird sounds can be heard – the gobble of the wild turkey. I had fed them enough line that, if I was a fisherman, I could have snatched and gut hooked them! It was at that point they realized my idea of birdwatching and theirs was much different. But, it did stimulate a great discussion about hunting. I explained how much I enjoyed hunting, harvesting and cooking wild game. One of the ladies asked a very important question that I think all hunters should ask themselves, "Why do you do what you do?"

It’s an honest question – if you think about it coming from someone who really doesn’t understand how hunters think. It does sound a little insane to get up hours before daylight, drive into the woods in full camouflage, remain motionless for hours on end hoping to see a turkey, work all day, go home and tend to household chores, spend time with family, go to bed, and then do it over again the next day. The older I get, the harder it becomes to live on five to six hours of sleep per night for weeks on end. But, I do it every year because I don’t want to miss one single opportunity to be in the turkey woods.

So, why do I do what I do? First of all, I think for a lot of us, the instinct to hunt is purely innate. As a little boy, I was given my first BB gun and what did I do? I hunted birds. No one taught me how to do it, it just came naturally. As I matured, so did my weapons and the size of game I pursued. By the time I was 8, I had harvested my first deer, and my first turkey was taken at 10. However, I still carried around a pellet gun and honed my stalking skills on birds, squirrels and other small critters. So, I guess first and foremost, it’s just a basic instinct to hunt.

Second, I also greatly enjoy the art of the hunt, and will never apologize for developing the skills and knowledge to be successful, including harvesting the animal. Knowing what to do and when to do it to beat a turkey gobbler in the battle of wits in his backyard is my ultimate reward. I went to Auburn University and graduated with a degree in Wildlife Science with the mindset of learning how to produce healthier wildlife populations. This was not with the purest of intentions. I wanted to grow more deer, bigger bucks and more turkeys in order to have more of them to hunt.

The third reason was to eat. Again, it goes back to instinct. Hunt it, kill it and eat it. It gives me a sense of pride to know I am able to go to the woods and provide a meal for my family. Unfortunately, too many people think meat comes from Publix or Winn Dixie. I’m not worried about it being 100 percent organic, cage-free, farm-fresh protein, either. It just tastes good. So, I guess we hunters were well ahead of the curve when it comes to being healthy and eating organic.

As I’ve grown older, my mindset as a hunter has definitely changed. At the outset, I just wanted to kill something. That changed to wanting to kill bunches of something; the higher the number meant you were a better hunter. Or so I thought. At some point in my early 20s, I turned into a manager, not just a killer. I now enjoy the process of managing wildlife and watching it flourish more than just the kill.

The first three reasons are definitely still there and will never change. But now, the most important reason I hunt is to pass along knowledge I’ve gained through years of trial and error, four years of higher education, monumental screw-ups, and hours upon hours of blood, sweat and tears that have been poured into property and wildlife management. Most of this is knowledge that reading a book can’t produce. My degree gives me the basis for people to listen to me once. My practical experience is what keeps them listening.

I’m very grateful for the lady asking why I do what I do. It made me evaluate my motives. I think it would be a good thing for all hunters to prepare themselves so they too can respond appropriately if a nonhunter asks them that same question. As our parents teach us at an early age, "You can only make one first impression." Make it count.

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

“I Wish I Could Give My Son a Wild Raccoon”

by Suzy Lowry Geno

Baby raccoon

One person belittled (to put it nicely!) my intelligence.

Another woman talked of how uncaring I was toward others.

Then a man, who I know only because he lives in my same rural county, verbally attacked me on social media, bringing up things from my personal life from about three decades ago AND even discussing my writing abilities. His final jab toward me was saying (falsely, I might add) that I used to be a liberal and he didn’t know what had happened to me!

All because in three different instances and days apart (including talking with an older cousin who I often have animated political discussions with), I said something someone else did not agree with.

Somehow it seems folks will say things on social media they once would not have dared to say in real life, hiding behind their computer keyboards or phones. If you make any kind of political comment, you may be bashed verbally and personally.

It seemed half the folks in the country were arguing about our president’s actions, only to be superseded by comments in Alabama after our governor was forced to resign amidst a scandal.

It’s enough to make an original back-to-the-lander like me retreat to that cabin in 100 acres of backwoods far away from civilization!

But before we shuck it all and give up on life as we know it, I’d like to share some encouragement I’ve found from several folks who died quite some time ago.

A lot of you are familiar with the series of "Foxfire" books, where students interviewed old timers in their Georgia hills and hollers about what their lives were like as youngsters growing up in a much simpler time. Even though those books were mainly published in the late 1960s and early 1970s, they are still popular and new copies are still available to buy on the internet.

But many may not be as familiar with another similar selection. In celebration of our country’s Bicentennial in 1976, students from around the country interviewed 39 of the then-older generation, in the Foxfire style, asking them to provide stories of value to all their children across the nation.

Although I’ve read and enjoyed the South-centered "Foxfire" series for years, I’d never heard of this particular book until about two weeks ago when I was blessed with a large collection of older homesteading books.

The title of "I wish I could give my son a wild raccoon" had me hooked from the beginning!

The interviews include an Eskimo teacher in Alaska, spending her last years writing about her community’s unique culture; a North Carolina banjo maker; an Illinois fireman; a Louisiana Cajun trapper; the granddaughter of slaves; and many, many more. Unique in where they grew up, how they lived, how they were raised, and even how some were facing their deaths.

But the wonderful thing is that each story reflects the diversity of our American experience. They each and every one share the same common values and beliefs they would like to preserve and present to their children, grandchildren and others in their communities!

Each chapter is a different interview by a different group of students. Intriguing titles include:

  • "If one instrument doesn’t care about the other ones, they won’t make music. Just noise."
  • "Nature makes people the same all over."
  • "If you don’t work, you have liquid hands."
  • "Don’t come in here with your mouth poked out."
  • "I’ve been Jim Crowed."
  • "Friends are a lot nicer than money."
  • "I lived mostly on deer and elk for about 20 years." And so many more.

All valued education, but not necessarily education they’d received in public schools. While many such as Eskimo leader Emily Brown eventually earned degrees way past her master’s, some only went through basic third grade, but then educated themselves not only through the school of hard knocks but also through reading everything they could get their hands on.

There’s talking of raising chickens, selling eggs, raising hogs, and selling that; hunting alligators for two years; rising to milk cows and goats before trudging to school; and those wishing to pass on how to catch catfish in the river when it’s beginning to rain; and how to make stink bait out of the lining of a cow’s stomach ....

As the introduction explained, "This is not often a look at the past through rose-colored glasses … a nostalgic tour through the good old days."

In many ways, it is a series of cautionary tales such as Emily Brown’s talking about the mistakes the early missionaries made with native cultures in Alaska; and Ada Allen relating stories she’d heard from her slave ancestors and how she herself had been Jim Crowed as she tried to live her ordinary life.

But as Charles Schroeder said in his interview in "I wish I could give my son a wild raccoon," "I think the future of America will always be great. I don’t think there is any doubt about this. We make mistakes, we do strange things for our particular time, we pass judgment on ourselves, and we think about our early times ...."

He goes on to say that he wishes he could pass on to his son the idea that what he was doing in his own life was important in this country and in this world.

"An idea that the part of America that HE grew up in will be just as important as the one I’m telling you about today," Schroeder added. "I wish I could pass all of that on to him, and to you."

So what does this all have to do with insults on social media, arguing about the president and even being somewhat embarrassed by the turns in our state government?

These tales of these common people – people just like you and me, although raised in different parts of the country under many different circumstances – all stressed the simplicity of their lives.

All valued hard work, persistence and faith in God.

If we can get back to those three simple things, wouldn’t our world just be so much better?

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

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