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June 2018

34 Years of Iconic Stories

Sandra Taylor retires from government service after more than three decades of telling, preserving and cherishing some of our most seminal historical moments.

by Alvin Benn
Sandy Taylor admires likenesses of civil rights marchers at an interpretive center in Lowndes County. Taylor has retired as superintendent of three important sites after a long career with the federal government. 
Federal workers at times find themselves putting up with snide remarks from those who denigrate their efforts.

Sandra Taylor hasn’t had that problem because her administrative abilities and big smile made her a hit wherever she went during a circuitous career that led to important promotions around the country.

Those days are behind her now because she has retired after 34 years with the federal government, working her way up the ladder from a student co-op intern in 1984 to positions with the U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service and the Grand Canyon National Park.
Taylor has overseen operations at federal facilities dealing with backgrounds on civil rights and voting rights histories in Alabama’s Black Belt region.

During her "twilight" years as a Park Service official, she was the superintendent at historic facilities involving Tuskegee Institute, the Tuskegee Airmen and the Selma to Montgomery Trail.

One of her most memorable assignments was overseeing development, construction and opening of Hangar 2 at the Tuskegee National Historic Site.

Each assignment involved important responsibilities, and she handled all three of her duties with aplomb.

If her job wasn’t a tourism whirlwind, it was something akin to it because it seemed the world was always watching Alabama.

One of the biggest events during her years in Alabama occurred in downtown Selma when then-President Barack Obama arrived to help mark the 50th anniversary of the Selma-to-Montgomery march.
A photo of a disabled civil rights activist who walked the entire 54 miles of the march. 
A crowd, estimated at over 100,000, clogged the streets in little Selma where spectators roared each time someone of importance got up and moved to the podium to make speeches.

"We were way, way back in the crowd when he (Obama) arrived," Taylor said. "It was amazing to see all the celebrities around us. It must have been like what my parents felt in the famous 1963 march on Washington."

Taylor is a history buff and familiar with events in a state that always seems to be involved in something interesting or politically controversial.

Her supervisory tenure in the region only lasted eight years, but it was filled with interesting developments.

"I always seemed to feel as if I was at a circus, but I turned out to be a part of it – not somebody in the stands watching," she said, as she broke into a big grin.

Her job was far from cushy because at any time her every move could come under scrutiny from upper-level bureaucrats. The pressure had to have taken its toll whenever Selma was in the spotlight.

Taylor, 65, was born in Erie, a little town in western Pennsylvania where a famous canal was its calling card … much like a certain bridge in Selma.

She earned two bachelor’s degrees and had a desire to do something important. She got her wish and became involved in a lot of interesting moments.

"It seemed the universe unfolded itself to me," she said. "I have been in places I never would have been able to be. I just showed up at the right time. At least it seemed that way."

It was obvious she did a lot more than just "show up" because important federal jobs aren’t handed out like popcorn. Applicants have got to have something special.

"Government employees realize they don’t make a lot of money, so they do all they can to help people," Taylor explained. "What we often get in return from visitors are ‘thanks’ for what we do. That is something we really appreciate."
This sign at the White Hall Interpretive Center describes the distance between Selma and Montgomery. 
Economic development has always been an important part of telling Alabama’s story to the world. It hasn’t always been favorable because of past problems, but today’s Alabama is a far cry from the 1960s, a dark period in our history.

Instead of cotton and civil rights issues, Alabama has been known as the "Detroit of the South" for many years as a result of new vehicles that roll off assembly lines by the thousands each day.

Agriculture hasn’t been forgotten, either. Joe Turnham, director of the Macon County Economic Development Authority, sees farming as an important, continuous part of Alabama’s future.

Turnham is no stranger to organic farming and agriculture in general but hasn’t overlooked Alabama’s proud past in many areas, including tourism.

He has praised Taylor’s importance in promoting Alabama’s history, especially when it comes to Macon County where Tuskegee continues to draw tourists from around the world.

Turnham said the Park Service that oversees the region’s many historic facilities has become a "community partner" in the development of the area.

In that regard, he has special praise for Taylor and her leadership.

"She has played an important part in the development of this part of Alabama," he said.

"When it comes to economic development, Sandy has been as good as anybody in the country during the years she has been the leader of the National Park Service’s programs here."

The federal agency manages all national parks, monuments, and other conservation and historical properties in America.

The Park Service employs about 27,000 workers who oversee 417 units. Of that number, 60 have been designated as national parks.

The glittering history of the Tuskegee Airmen, especially during World War II, has become a tourist magnet in past decades and Turnham hasn’t overlooked its importance.

As Taylor’s years with the Park Service entered their final stages, she could sit back, relax and count her blessings for having landed some of America’s most important federal leadership positions.

"I feel I have learned so much of American history in the special places that iconic stories are told, cherished and preserved," Taylor said.

Her years with the Park Service left her and her husband with many happy memories in Tuskegee, so much so that they fell in love with the area and have bought a house there.
At last report, they are becoming accustomed to life in the slow lane.

Alvin Benn is a freelance writer from Selma.

Ag Insight

by Jim Erickson

Textile, Apparel Imports Hit Record Levels

U.S. net textile and apparel imports increased to record levels in 2017, as demand for clothing increased along with the expanding economy.

Net imports in 2017 approached 16.2 billion raw-fiber-equivalent pounds, 2 percent above 2016. Textile and apparel imports surpassed 19.7 billion pounds in 2017, compared with 19.3 billion pounds in 2016.

Meanwhile, textile and apparel exports in 2017 were 3.5 billion pounds, similar to a year earlier. With net imports of synthetic fiber products rising for eight consecutive years, cotton’s share has declined considerably as growth in athletic-leisure wear has increased demand for synthetic fibers.

During each of the last four years, synthetic fiber products accounted for the largest share of net imports. In 2017, synthetic textile and apparel products contributed 50 percent, while cotton products accounted for 43 percent. Linen, wool and silk products, combined, added an additional 7 percent.

Although these percentages equaled those of 2016, suggesting at least a pause in cotton’s declining share, the percentages for cotton and synthetic products were nearly reversed just five years ago.

Population in Rural Counties Up Slightly

Between July 2016 and July 2017, rural (nonmetro) counties increased in population for the first time this decade, according to the most recent estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The shift in rural population change was quite small, from a loss of 15,000 people in 2015-16 to a gain of 33,000 in 2016-17. However, it continues an upward trend in all but one year since 2011-12, when rural counties declined by 61,000 people.

Population growth rates for rural areas have been significantly lower than in urban (metro) areas since the mid1990s. The gap widened considerably after the housing-market crisis in 2007 and the Great Recession that followed.

The gap between rural- and urban-growth rates has narrowed slightly in recent years, but remains significant. Urban areas grew by 0.82 percent in 2016-17, compared with 0.07 percent growth in rural areas.

The recovery in population growth for rural America during this decade has been much more gradual compared to previous rural population downturns.

Meat, Dairy Imports to Remain Low

Consistent with past years, import data for all of 2017 show the United States is a relatively small meat and dairy products importer. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s import forecasts for 2018 show an extension of this tendency.

In 2017, U.S. beef imports were 11.3 percent of total domestic disappearance. In 2018, forecasts for U.S. beef imports leave the ratio almost unchanged (10.9 percent).

The United States imports mostly lean beef from Australia, mainly for final use as hamburger and in processed and prepared food products.

On the pork side, imports accounted for just over 5 percent of disappearance last year. Based on forecasts, that ratio is expected to be somewhat smaller this year – 4.6 percent – due largely to increased domestic production.

Most imported pork comes from Canada and the EU.

Compared with beef, pork and dairy products, lamb imports typically account for over half of domestic disappearance. Most U.S. lamb imports originate from Oceania. In 2017, imports made up about 64 percent of disappearance. This year, the ratio is expected to be roughly the same.

For imported dairy products, most of which come from the EU and New Zealand, imports comprised about 3 percent of U.S. disappearance last year and is expected to be similar in 2018.

Changes Differ in Farmland, Cropland Values

Farm real estate (including farmland and the structures on the land) accounts for over 80 percent of farm sector assets and represents a significant investment for many farms. Two major uses of farmland are cropland and pastureland.

From 2003 to 2014, U.S. cropland values appreciated faster than pastureland, with cropland values doubling in real terms.

However, cropland appreciation varied over time and by region. From 2003 to 2008, cropland values appreciated almost uniformly across regions.

From 2009 to 2014, cropland appreciation was highest for the Northern Plains, Lake States, Corn Belt and Delta States. This reflected the relatively steep rise in commodity prices for the grain and oilseed often grown in those regions that made the cropland more valuable.

Conversely, from 2015 to 2017, the Northern Plains and Corn Belt experienced negative cropland appreciation, reflecting falling commodity prices and farm income.

Regional differences in land values may also be due to varying demands for farmland for nonagricultural purposes such as demand for oil and gas development in shale areas.

The leveling or decline of cropland values observed in the Northeast, Southeast and Pacific regions from 2009 to 2014 likely stemmed from the Great Recession that negatively influenced the value of cropland close to urban areas.

U.S. Pork Sales to Argentina to Resume

U.S. officials have announced the government of Argentina has finalized technical requirements allowing U.S. pork to be imported into Argentina for the first time since 1992.

Since the White House announced an agreement with Argentina last August, technical staff from USDA and the office of the U.S. trade representative have been working with Argentina’s Ministry of Agro-Industry on new terms for market access that are practical, science-based and consistent with relevant international animal health standards. The finalization of these technical requirements means U.S. exports of pork and natural swine casings can now resume.

The United States is the world’s top pork exporter, with global sales of $6.5 billion last year. Argentina is a potential $10-million-per-year market for America’s pork producers, with significant growth opportunities possible in subsequent years.

Signup Scheduled for 2017 Farm Disaster Aid

USDA will make disaster payments of up to $2.36 billion, as provided by Congress, to help America’s farmers and ranchers recover from hurricanes and wildfires.

The funds are available as part of the new 2017 Wildfires and Hurricanes Indemnity Program. Signup for the new program, authorized by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, will begin no later than July 16.

USDA’s Farm Service Agency will make these disaster payments to agricultural producers to offset losses from hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria and devastating wildfires.

The 2017 calendar year was a historic year for natural disasters and this investment is part of a broader suite of programs USDA is providing to rural America to aid recovery. The Act provided over $3 billion in disaster relief by creating new programs and expediting or enhancing payments for producers.

Farm Value of Fruit, Nuts, Vegetables
Forecast to Rise

The farm value of fruit, tree nut and vegetable production is projected to grow by roughly 2.7 percent annually over the next decade, reaching just over $65.8 billion by 2027, up from almost $52 billion forecast for 2018.

Some 40 percent of the value for 2027 comes from fruit, while tree nuts and vegetables account for 18 and 42 percent, respectively.

In addition to rising farm prices driven by general inflation expectations, production is expected to grow in all three categories, driving up value.

Production of fruit and vegetables, in the aggregate, is expected to increase by just less than 1 percent per year through 2027, while tree nut production is projected to expand by just over 2 percent annually.

Vegetable production projections are primarily influenced by expected growth in the pulse (e.g. beans, lentils) sector. Nut production projections reflect growing domestic and export demand for almonds, walnuts and pecans.

Projections for a 0.7-percent increase in fruit and tree nut value of production in 2018 reflect losses for Florida’s citrus crops related to Hurricane Irma. A quick recovery is expected, and production value for fruit and tree nuts is projected to grow at a faster rate beginning in 2019.

Are Your Vegetable Crops Protected from Aphids? - An Addendum

by Ayanava Majumdar

Editor’s note: Part of the original article on aphid management in the May issue was not complete. Here is the original and missing text for this section.

Aphid Management

Organic insecticides (Level 3 IPM Tactic): Any insecticidal approach should be the last option for producers. Aphid management with organic insecticide is a very common question asked at grower conferences, and it is difficult to answer.

Two years of organic products screenings have indicated that it is possible to slow down aphids in open field conditions with early insecticide applications, but constant rainfall in some years can be disruptive to persistence of those products that could result in control failure. Overall, it appears that Beauveria bassiana-based products (Mycotrol, Botanigard Maxx), oil blends (Pyola), insectidal soap, Chromobacterium (Grandevo) and pyrethrin (Pyganic) are some of the better materials for use in an early invasion.

Protection of natural enemies is more important for aphid control and insecticide use should be justified. Always rotate insecticides to discourage insecticide resistance.

Or link to the complete article here.

Border Collie Soliloquy

by Baxter Black, DVM

Just a word about one of the greatest genetic creations on the face of this Earth ... the Border Collie.

Faster than a speeding bullet. More powerful than a locomotive. Able to leap tall fences in a single bound.

The dog that all sheep talk about, but never want to meet. The fur that legends are made of. Makes coyotes cringe, sheep trip the light fantastic and eagles soar somewhere else.

Invested with the energy of a litter of puppies, the work ethic of an illegal alien and the loyalty of Lassie, they ply their trade on sagebrush flats, grassy fields and precipitous peaks from sea to shining sea.

"Away to me!" I command.

They streak and sail, zipping like pucks upon the ice. Black and white hummingbirds: in, out; up, down; come by.

Sheep. With head up, one eye cocked over their shoulder, asking directions. To the gate through the race. Mighty dog moves behind the bunch like a towboat pushing barges around a bend.

And heart. Do they try?

"Just let me at ’em, Dad!" Stay. "C’mon, I’m ready!" Stay.

"Can’t you feel me hummin’! Listen to my heart! It’s purrin’ like a cat! I’m primed! Aim me, point me, pull the trigger!"

"Away to me!"

It makes me feel like Robin Hood. He leaves my side like an arrow.

Workin’ dogs are like manipulating a screwdriver with chopsticks. Like doing calligraphy with a plastic whip. Like bobbing for apples. Like threading a needle with no hands. Like playing pool on the kitchen table.

There are no straight lines in nature. Only arcs. Great sweeping curves of sight and thought and voice and dog. Always having to lead your command about a dog’s length.

Sheep bunched like logs on the river. Dogs paddling in the current. Always pushing upstream. A ewe breaks loose. Then another, another. The log jam breaks. Dogs and sheep tumble about in the white water.

Calm again, they start back upstream.

Border Collies. Are they truly smarter than chimpanzees? Cuddlier than koalas? More dedicated than Batman’s valet?

Can they change course in midair? Drag Nell from the tracks and locate the missing microfilm?

Yes. I believe they can. They are the best of the best, the epitome of "above and beyond the call of duty." Head dog. Top Gun. I salute you, for man has never had a better friend.

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,

Breakfast, Work, Relax, Supper

by Herb T. Farmer
Whether you’re going to be doing a lot of physical work or intense cerebral work, you will certainly need an energy-banking, protein-packed breakfast! You should never start your day with just a bowl of cold cereal and milk. Cereal and a piece of fruit are just appetizers while you’re preparing the main course.

Quickie recipe: Dean’s Country Sausage (NOT Jimmy’s!) made in Attalla; brown 1.5-inch patties in a skillet, then dry off the fat on a paper towel. You may make gravy with the skillet drippings, or not.

While the sausage is cooking, in a separate pan, sauté some sweet peppers and onions with olive oil. (You may want to add some heat from chili peppers, as well.) Also, cook grits while the sausage is browning.

Toast three corn tortillas lightly and set aside. Whip three eggs and cook them, one at a time, in the fashion of an omelet. Place a bit of cream cheese and some of the cooked veggies in the omelets and fold to fit into the tortillas.

There you have it! A gluten-free breakfast you can prepare in 30 minutes or less. Enjoy!

The other day, there was a frost advisory in my area and I had a few plants still in nursery containers waiting to be planted. I covered them with a doubled sheet to protect them from the elements. Early the next morning, I uncovered and planted them.
The plants in waiting had to be covered up when a freeze was in the forecast. The result looked like a body covered at a crime scene. 
Later that morning, I took a drive and visited a neighborhood a little north of my home. The funniest thing made me belly laugh out loud. There, in front of several of the homes, were plants covered with sheets, rectangular and on the ground. It looked like a crime scene with bodies covered!

Spring ephemerals started blooming early in my neck of the woods this year. I didn’t take as many pictures as I usually do, but I did capture one especially beautiful bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis). It gets its name from the red juice that comes from the rhizome. The plant is toxic and so is the juice extract. The red juice is a natural dye used by some Native American tribes.
Bloodroot flowers sprang up all over the woods near the house. 
Walking around in the woods and admiring the beauty does come with some potential hazards. Ticks are out there, folks. Protect yourself properly and inspect thoroughly after each outdoor adventure – even if it’s just a walk around the garden.

DEET is the best-known deterrent for ticks, chiggers, mosquitoes, biting flies and other annoying little bugs you may encounter. I have tried lemongrass (Cymbopogon sp.) oil extract, mountain mint (Pycnanthemum sp.), etc. Somebody even suggested eucalyptus oil or Vick’s VapoRub. Sorry, none of them work on me. Repel with 40% DEET is my summertime cologne.

Nothing gets me going like that creepy crawly feeling I get when I find a tick traipsing across my body.

Is your garden planted yet? Mine is. I’m stepping up my game this year by adding several more varieties of thyme, rosemary and lavender.

So far, I have had only marginal success with lavender. Lady Lavender seems to be the hardiest here, but only lasts a few years before it dies. I have a couple of new cultivars I’ll tell you more about if they survive.

And the same goes for thyme and rosemary.

I’m concentrating on the muscadine vineyard because it went virtually unloved last year. I am adding about two dozen new plants that were propagated by layering from existing vines.

Most of the other vines are in their third year in the ground, so I am expecting some juicy berries for picking and snacking on in the field.
Always keep a vase on your outdoor tables, so you can keep it filled with beautiful cut flowers from your garden. Notice: This is not a ‘Bud’ vase! 
That’s one of my simple pleasures in life, eating fruits and vegetables right off the mother plants while I pick the bounty of my efforts.

I just picked my first patio tomato of the season. It’s called "Tasmanian Chocolate." I grew it from seeds I got from Renee’s Garden. Pretty tasty, it is. Can’t wait till the rest start ripening. These will look great in a green tossed salad! I eat my yard.

Okay. That’s all the time I have for now. It’s time to relax in the porch rocker with a cool libation and wave at the passersby on the road. And I see a pan of cornbread in my future for supper.

Hmm. Maybe a pork chop, too! Maybe two pork chops!

Sorry, I missed you in May. I missed that pesky deadline. Please understand I mostly write close to the time you’ll receive the column. But, alas, I wrote this column two months ago, and last month’s column never happened.

Yep! It’s time for wine.

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

Thanks for reading! I truly appreciate each of you.

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.

Calling All Catfish Fans

Bama’s Best Catfish Restaurant Challenge is back! Nominate your favorite catfish eatery now.

by Debra Davis
Bama’s Best Catfish Restaurant Challenge is back for its third year, and the Alabama Catfish Producers hope to reel in new fans with the contest.

"Few things are more Southern than delicious catfish," said Alabama Catfish Producers Chairman Sid Nelson, of Epes. "When consumers eat catfish, we want them to make sure they’re getting U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish, and we want to know who’s the best when it comes to preparing our favorite fish."

The Alabama Catfish Producers, a division of the Alabama Farmers Federation, is sponsoring the annual contest. Catfish lovers are asked to nominate their favorite restaurant through the Alabama Farmers Federation Facebook page or at Nominations end June 12, 2018.

"Our farmers sponsor the contest to encourage consumption of the wholesome, nutritious catfish we raise," Nelson said. "We’re thankful for all the restaurants in Alabama that serve our home-grown product, and we appreciate their customers."

Fried is probably the most popular way catfish is prepared, Nelson said, but it’s also delicious broiled, baked, sautéed and blackened.

No matter how it’s cooked, Southerners crave catfish and, through the challenge, customers can share why their favorite restaurant is Bama’s Best.

Four finalists will be selected from the nominations for the Bama’s Best Catfish Restaurant Challenge. A team of judges, including an Alabama catfish farmer, will visit finalists in late July. Restaurants will be asked to prepare their most popular catfish dish for the judges.

The winner of Bama’s Best Catfish Restaurant Challenge will be announced in August, National Catfish Month. Additionally, each finalist will receive a plaque; the winner will receive a plaque and cash prize; and all four will be featured in Neighbors magazine. Additionally, a "People’s Choice" award will be selected from the nominations.

Hale County catfish farmer, Townsend Kyser, was among last year’s judges. Kyser, president of Catfish Farmers of America, said the experience gave him an opportunity to thank restaurants that serve only the best fish to their customers.

"It was awesome for me to see people so passionate about preparing a product I produce," Kyser said. "Each of the restaurants we judged made me proud to call myself a catfish farmer."

Last year’s winner, David’s Catfish House in Atmore, is owned by Rob Faircloth. He served judges a house special of catfish and grits topped with gumbo. His restaurant also won the coveted People’s Choice Award.

Debra Davis is the publications director for Alfa.

Chef's Corner

When it comes to cooking, strive for enjoyment rather than perfection.

by Brian Taylor

I have a neighbor, let’s call him John, who lives close to the elementary school in my neighborhood that is on the way home for a majority of the children in the area. John really likes his grass. He takes time to meticulously cut his lawn diagonally and even ropes it off so it remains pristine. To be fair, it’s a nice lawn. Yesterday, on the way home, a few kids stepped on John’s grass. He didn’t like that very much and took pictures of the kids, all around 8 years old, found out where they lived and complained to their parents. As I said, John likes his grass. He feels as though a lawn should remain perfect and is a thing to look at and to accentuate the home. That’s his prerogative … it’s his yard after all.

My yard isn’t perfect; it has dead spots, a little dirt and even some rocks. There are balls in my yard, bikes, maybe even a little trash at times (sorry neighbor!). My lawn isn’t groomed. If it was, it wouldn’t look like it for long. I don’t mind kids stepping in my yard, playing football, soccer or just taking a shortcut. I prefer laughter and enjoyment over a look of perfection. It’s my yard … my choice.

Some folks are like John when it comes to cooking. They feel like they need to follow the recipe exactly and seek perfection. When things don’t work out for them, they may get frustrated or upset when things didn’t turn out the way they anticipated or look like it did in the picture in the book. I like to think of cooking like I think of my yard: It’s there to be enjoyed and not to be taken too seriously. Recipes are a guide, an outline, to me; one that can take on tweaks and alterations. I’ve found, as long as you’re cooking with a little love for your family, friends or neighbor, I promise, everything will be perfect – even if it doesn’t look that way.
Thin Sliced Catfish 


Servings: 4
  • 2 pounds catfish fillets
  • Oil, for frying, such as vegetable, peanut, or canola
  • 1½ cups yellow cornmeal
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tablespoon Cajun seasoning blend
  • Salt
  • 1 large lemon, cut into wedges
Wash and inspect catfish fillets, removing any imperfections. On a raised cutting board, lay a fillet. Using a razor-sharp, thin-blade boning knife, start at fillet’s tail end and move knife along middle, slicing fish into a long, thin strip. If there is skin attached, slice meat just above it and discard skin. Continue until all fillets are thinly sliced.

In a deep fryer or large pot, add oil to a depth of 4-6 inches. Heat to 375°, as recorded on a fry thermometer.

In a large, metal mixing bowl, add cornmeal, flour and seasoning. Combine. Add a batch of fish fillets and toss to coat evenly; shaking off any excess coating. Add fish to hot oil and fry until golden brown. Remove to a wire rack over paper towels and salt immediately. Continue frying quickly in batches until all are fried golden brown delicious (be careful not to overcook).

Garnish with lemon wedges. Serve immediately on a platter with shoestring French fries, coleslaw and tartar sauce.
Jerk Catfish 


Servings: 4
  • 1/3 cup chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 Tablespoon sesame seeds
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons ground allspice
  • 1½ teaspoons dried thyme
  • ½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1¼ teaspoons salt, divided
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne
  • 2½ Tablespoons cooking oil
  • ½ teaspoon vinegar
  • 2 pounds catfish fillets
In a blender, puree onion, garlic and sesame seeds with brown sugar, allspice, thyme, nutmeg, 1 teaspoon salt, black pepper, cayenne, oil and vinegar. Heat broiler. Lightly oil a broiler pan or baking sheet.

Sprinkle both sides of catfish fillets with remaining salt. On prepared baking sheet, place skinned-side down. Evenly spread spice mixture over fish.

Broil about 6 inches from the heat if possible, until well-browned and just done, about 5 minutes for ¾-inch-thick fillets.
Catfish Etoufee 


Servings: 2-3
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1 cup sliced celery
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 (14-ounce) can stewed tomatoes
  • Pinch cayenne pepper, optional
  • 1 pound catfish fillets, cut into 4 portions
  • ¼ teaspoon Creole seasoning
  • ¼ cup reduced-fat sour cream (optional … not traditional, but
I like the creaminess and zip it brings)

In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Add flour and cook, stirring until the flour is brown and fragrant, about 1 minute. Add onion, celery, garlic, bell pepper, tomatoes and cayenne. Bring to a simmer. Cover and cook on medium-low, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are very soft, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle catfish with Creole seasoning and place in saucepan. Reduce heat to maintain a low simmer, cover and cook until catfish is just cooked through and opaque, 8-10 minutes more. Remove from heat. With a slotted spoon, remove catfish. Stir sour cream into vegetables. Serve catfish over stewed vegetables.

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

Commodity Producers Conference Registration Open

by Marlee Moore

Tours, seminars and the Alabama Farm & Land Expo are highlights of the Alabama Farmers Federation’s 46th Commodity Producers Conference in Montgomery Aug. 2-5. Conference registration closes June 18 at

Farm and industry tours Friday in central and southeast Alabama will spotlight the state’s diverse commodities.

  • Blue Tour: Pike County’s KW Plastics, Golden Boy Foods, Virtual High School and Whaley Pecan Co.
  • Green Tour: Bullock County’s Wehle Center and Sedgefields Plantation, and Macon County’s The Wildlife Group
  • Orange Tour: Pike County’s Riverview Farms, JKH Farms and the Pioneer Museum
  • Purple Tour: Montgomery County’s Alabama Supreme Court, Maxwell Air Force Base and SweetCreek Farm Market
  • Red Tour: Macon County’s Moore & Davis Nursery, Lee County’s Jordan-Hare Stadium at Auburn University and Tallapoosa County’s Whippoorwill Vineyards
  • Yellow Tour: Montgomery County’s Foxwood Farms, AL Farms, Pintlala Cattle Co. and Campo Del Rio Ranch
Saturday seminar topics include the farm bill, forest products, horse health, forages, food security and more. Contests in the Women’s and Young Farmers divisions continue throughout the conference.

The Alabama Farm & Land Expo is back for the second year the afternoon of Aug. 4 and is open to the public.

At the closing banquet, the 2018 Outstanding Young Farm Family will be announced. Entertainment from the Southern gospel trio Heartline will conclude the conference.

Marlee Moore is an ag communications specialist with Alabama Farmers Federation

Corn Time



Extension Corner: "Climate and Crops"

Alabama Cooperative Extension System’s iBook is chosen as a finalist for 2017 Best Book of the Year in Education.

by Maggie Lawrence
Alabama Cooperative Extension System’s "Climate and Crops" iBook was named an international finalist for 2017 Best Book of the Year in Education.

Bradley Metrock, organizer of the international iBooks Author Conference and CEO of Score Publishing, said the designation honors the best books in Apple’s iBook Store.

"Each year, as part of the international iBooks Author Conference, the community of educators, designers and entrepreneurs from all over the world nominate digital books created using Apple’s software on the basis of excellence and uniqueness," Metrock said. "‘Climate and Crops’ was nominated in the Science Education and Overall Education categories. In both instances, it went on to become a finalist, selected from hundreds of nominations from across the world."

Dr. Gary Lemme, ACES director, called the award a truly exceptional recognition.

"Having ‘Climate and Crops’ selected from the thousands of iBooks released annually reflects the quality work done by our Extension specialists and communications professionals," he said. "‘Climate and Crops’ is unique among the other iBooks recognized.

"It is not a textbook targeting college students and professionals but rather focuses on helping Alabama farmers adjust to contemporary climatic variability to sustain the profitability of family farms."

Dean Paul Patterson of Auburn University’s College of Agriculture called the honor an important recognition of the research done by Dr. Brenda Ortiz, an ACES precision agriculture specialist and associate professor in Auburn University’s Department of Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences, and others.

"Auburn is proud of the work Dr. Ortiz and her colleagues have done in developing this iBook," Patterson said. "It is an excellent example of how information on developments in science related to climate variability can help farmers make more profitable decisions.

"Also, it is an excellent primer for the interested reader in how climate variability affects all of our lives."
Dr. Brenda Ortiz discusses irrigation with Jim Lewey, of LC Farms in Samson. 

Multistate Effort

Ortiz served as the lead author for the book. Twenty-five climate and crop experts, specializing in agronomy, entomology, plant pathology, climatology and weed science contributed to the report. They were from four of the Southeast’s leading research universities: Auburn University, the University of Georgia, the University of Florida and Florida State University. ACES specialists representing several scientific disciplines also contributed.

Auburn Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences Department Head Dr. John Beasley called the award an important recognition for the scientists’ work.

"This validates the critical importance of the ‘Climate and Crops’ content," Beasley said. "Understanding the impact of climate in crop production will continue to be paramount among factors affecting our food supply."

Helping Farmers Manage Risk

Ortiz noted the free iBook that has earned multiple national honors can enhance farmers’ profitability.

"It outlines potential farming climate scenarios and the agronomic risks typically associated with these scenarios," Ortiz explained. "It also outlines risk-management strategies growers can adopt in response."

Funded by a grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, the iBook focuses on the Southeast’s five major row crops: corn, cotton, peanut, soybean and wheat. It features multiple interactive options, including videos, interactive graphics and images related to insects, diseases and weeds.

Each chapter includes basic considerations associated with crop production. Additionally, they cover potential climatic conditions that may occur during the growing season and how these affect the principal crops in terms of planting; crop growth and development; insect, weed and disease pressure; and harvesting. Along with the risks, farmers are provided with the most effective management strategies to deal with each of these climate scenarios.

Intended to be a comprehensive resource for farmers, crop consultants and ACES professionals, "Climate and Crops" provides a valuable resource for school teachers who want to introduce their students to how farming practices adapt to new findings about climate variability.

Learn more about "Climate and Crops" at

Maggie Lawrence is the news unit manager for Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

FFA Sentinel: Alabama FFA District Contest

Engaging Alabama’s Youth Through Agricultural Education

by Andy Chamness
Over 4,000 Alabama FFA members have competed in District FFA Eliminations this past fall and spring.

Alabama FFA seeks to promote premier leadership, personal growth and career success in all its members. It also strives to live up to our motto: Learning to Do, Doing to Learn, Earning to Live, Living to Serve.

As FFA members across the three districts in Alabama converged upon the campuses of Wallace State Community College in Hanceville, Jefferson State Community College in Clanton and Enterprise High School, they represented the very best of their schools and counties. These shining stars of their respective high schools’ agricultural programs and FFA chapters duked it out for the coveted top spots, allowing them to compete at the state level in hopes of continuing to the national FFA contests and convention.
Arab brings home the second-place banner for Nursery-Landscape: Ben Isom, Amanda Lynn, Scott Butler, advisors (not pictured); Cody Wagner, Zachary Stewart, Caroline Webster, Drew Hetler, members. 
West Point High School places first in Livestock: Ethan Lake, advisor; Brice Wells (High Scoring Individual), Kody McCullar, Caroline Thompson, Landon Bullard, members. 
Left, at the 2018 North District Eliminations, Jayden Parris of Fort Payne High School wins the top spot in Agricultural Construction & Maintenance. 
Fort Payne wins third in Nursery-Landscape: Garry Bell and Richard Camp, advisors (not pictured); Avery Payton, Hunter Noles, Dakota Bowling and Andrew Burt, members. 
Cullman Middle School receives the third-place banner in Forestry: Lucas McCollum, advisor (not pictured); Andrew Conway, Zac Edwards, Forrest Calvert, Evan Richards, members. 
Stepping out and standing up into leadership roles is just one piece of the puzzle for FFA members. Steven Allen, left, Clements, wins second place in Extemporaneous Speaking and is with Jacob Cosby, advisor. 
I remember back to my time as an FFA member and the excitement of just making it out of the county competition for the opportunity to compete at district. Then to hear your FFA chapter name called as a top four finalist, knowing you have the opportunity to advance to state competition, was very exciting.

As I watched the future of Alabama and American agriculture on the awards stages, I don’t think that feeling has changed all that much. These young agriculturists are passionate about FFA and agriculture … and make no bones about it. They were passionate about winning their contests.
These contests are broken down into three types: career development events, leadership development events and talent development events. They test the knowledge of FFA members, and range from livestock evaluation and horticulture-related industries to speaking and talent events such as string band and quartet.
Elkmont takes the top spot in Agricultural Mechanics: Ben Maples, advisor; Kayla McNatt, Corey Sims, Cody Watkins, Branden Long, members. 
FFA members work hard all year to prepare for their district contests, and so do the teachers who train these teams and the parents who support their FFA members. You see, being in an agriculture class and getting involved in FFA is no longer just for farm kids. This truly is an avenue for every student enrolled in agricultural courses at their local high school. On a daily basis, teachers challenge their students to get out of their comfort zones and reach for their full potentials.
Madison County Career Academy displays their third place Agricultural Mechanics banner: Scott Cheyne, advisor; Luke King, Aaron Wethington, Andrea Shockley and Preston Craddock, members. 
At the North District Eliminations I met Steven Allen, from Clements FFA Chapter, who competed and placed second in the Extemporaneous Speaking contest, and will advance to state. Because of that experience, he is considering taking his FFA career to the next level and running for a district office next year.

In FFA, you will find story after story of students who recalled their agriscience teacher getting them interested in FFA. Through this opportunity, many doors were opened to them and they got to meet new lifelong friends as well as gaining skills to be competitive in today’s workforce.

As both an agriculture teacher and agriculture-education state staff member, I can’t think of a better way to get students engaged in project-based, experiential learning than through agricultural education and provide them an avenue to showcase what they have learned through FFA. District Eliminations are just one of those opportunities.

Oak Grove places second in Floriculture: Ron Harris, advisor (not pictured); Haley Humphryes, Natalie Widener, Jazmin Contreras, Maddie Jackson, members. Winning chapters and members for all three district eliminations are on Alabama FFA’s website, 
As more and more Americans are curious about where their food comes from, it is very important we have educated, young agriculturists with a passion and knowledge of education and who also have a desire to share agriculture with the rest of America.

It is equally important we recognize those who make this opportunity possible for these young agriculturists. Partners such as Alabama Farmers Cooperative, who sponsor the three district competitions; colleges and high schools, who host our events; teachers, who work the events and train the students; and principals and parents, who support the programs on a local level, are all vital components of FFA’s success.

The district eliminations are complete and they are just that, eliminations. Only some moved on, but every FFA member had an impact on the success of the contests. They ventured out of their hometowns to compete at a higher level and meet new FFA members from other parts of the state.

FFA is truly a student-led organization and without our students we would not have the hope of a bright future for agriculture in our great nation.

If you are interested in learning more about Alabama FFA or how you can collaborate or become involved in the country’s largest youth organization, feel free to visit us at or at

Congratulations to all the winners. They will be advancing to the state level CDE in June.

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

Fly Control

by Jimmy Parker

As summer begins and temperatures start to rise, flies will return with a vengeance if they have not already. Several studies have shown that flies cost the American cattle industry in the neighborhood of a billion dollars each year. There are many kinds of flies and the bloodsucking ones such as horn flies, stable flies and horseflies cause the greatest damage to a producer’s checkbook, with horn flies most often being the costliest of the bunch.

Even though cattle come straight from the factory with a preinstalled fly swatter, flies tend to worry and cause cattle to change their grazing patterns, often causing them to eat and produce less. The physical acts of twitching, throwing their heads and swishing their tails also use energy that could be put to better, more profitable uses.

Studies have shown weaned calves lost up to a half pound of average daily gain with heavy horn fly populations and weaning weights were reduced by 10-20 pounds when the brood cow herd had a moderate fly population. If we do a little quick, easy math, a producer is feeding weaned calves for 100 days (to make the math easy) and they gain a half pound less per day. That is 50 pounds less, making a loss per calf of $50 at $1 per pound or $62.50 at $1.25 per pound – a good bit of money.

That seems to make fly control a no-brainer for summer stocker folks.

The cow-calf situation is similar. It was mentioned earlier that the loss of 10-20 pounds has been shown in several studies with a moderate fly problem. Let’s split the difference and say the weights are reduced 15 pounds and the market value is $1.40 per pound; that would be a loss of $21.

In either situation, some type of fly control will more than pay for itself.

There are other fly problems to consider. Of the flies that bother livestock, many can carry or transfer diseases among the animals. It is thought flies are a contributing factor in the spread of some forms of pinkeye, with face flies being the main culprit. It is theorized that face flies may also serve as vectors for other serious diseases such as IBR. The bloodsucking flies such as horseflies are thought to spread anaplasmosis.

The loss of one cow or calf will pay for the whole herd’s fly control for a long time.

I think it is fairly clear that controlling the fly population makes sense. What does that have to do with feeds or feeding? Sometimes … not much. There are plenty of sprays, rubs and pour-ons that will do a good job as long as they are rotated properly to prevent the flies from developing a resistance. But those can be a bit time-consuming (unless you have a method of self-application such as a back rub) and require repeated applications.

The solution many producers have chosen to use is feed-through larvicides. There are several and your local Quality Co-op will normally have a product containing Rabon or Altosid. They will be in block or loose mineral form. Both are effective and should be fed from just before fly season starts until well into the fall. We are a bit past the start, but it is still not too late to do some good.

Keep in mind the life cycle of the flies when you are using these products. With most of the relevant fly species, the mature females will lay their eggs in fresh manure and the larvae develop there, molt into pupa and become flies in two to three weeks, depending on temperature and other weather factors. One female will lay 400-500 eggs. If left untreated, the fly population will explode. Feed-through larvicides will not kill adult flies – unless you swat them with the bag – but they will prevent the eggs from developing into mature flies. This hopefully will break the cycle and drastically cut down on the economic impact. Keep in mind that patience is required because it will be two to three weeks, at best, before you see a reduction in flies. Often producers using feed-through products will also use an insecticide to reduce the number of adult flies to give the cattle some immediate relief.

There is no perfect solution, but feed-through larvicides are a great option – especially if the herd is somewhat isolated or your neighbors also feed it to their cattle and don’t share their flies with you. Feed-through products are much better when used in conjunction with an adult insecticide.

One final note: Please do not use fly-killing dewormers at a low dose to handle the fly population. They kill the flies for a good long time, but over time the worm population will build resistance and you will be left with no effective way to deworm. This creates a problem that will cost more in the long run than the flies.

Jimmy Parker is AFC’s animal nutritionist.

Grilling Safety for Summer

by Angela Treadaway

With news stories about food contamination and harmful chemicals appearing almost weekly, it is not surprising that many would-be chefs are taking food preparation more seriously, particularly food safety. Grilling, in fact, is one area of food preparation that needs particular scrutiny.

Is Grilling Safe?

Grilling gets a bad reputation because more people are likely to feel ill after a summer barbeque than after an indoor meal. In reality, however, many cases of food poisoning and upset stomachs are not caused by grilling at all but may be the result of overindulgence at a picnic, spoiled dairy products such as mayonnaise in potato salad or overexertion (hiking, flag football, etc.) too soon after a meal. Yet with proper preparation and attention to hygiene, grilling is a safe and delicious way to cook meats and vegetables.

Proper food safety has many steps, from buying the food to disposing of leftovers.

Grocery Shopping

Safely grilled food begins with safe grocery shopping. When buying food to grill, remember these safety tips:

  • Buy meats last so they are not refrigerated for the shortest period of time.
  • If possible, buy meats that are still frozen.
  • Place meats in a plastic grocery bag away from other foods so juice does not drip on other items.
  • If necessary, transport food home in a cooler to keep it cold.
  • Freeze meat immediately if it will not be used within one or two days.

Getting Ready for the Grill

Before firing up the grill, food must be properly prepared so it can be safely cooked.

Thaw meats completely before grilling so they will cook more evenly.

Never thaw meat on the counter – thaw in the refrigerator or in cool water.

If using a marinade, reserve some for basting or flavoring instead of reusing the sauce that has been in contact with the raw meat. If a marinade must be reused, boil it first to kill any bacteria.

Consider precooking meats by boiling or microwaving to lower the amount of grilling time and ensure doneness.

Wash vegetables to be grilled thoroughly before cooking.

If grilling at home, keep meats refrigerated until time to grill.

If food needs to be transported to a park or campsite, store it in a cooler in the shade. Do not open the cooler frequently and do not store other foods or drinks in the same cooler.

Use clean utensils and platters when handling food.

Wash hands thoroughly before handling food or placing it on the grill.

On the Grill

While grilling, it is vital to follow certain precautions to ensure food safety. Grilling is more challenging than lighting a fire.

Meat should reach a healthy internal temperature to be thoroughly cooked: poultry, 180 degrees; burgers, 160 degrees; pork, 160 degrees; and steaks, 145 degrees for medium rare cuts and 160 degrees for medium cuts.

Browning and char is not an accurate indicator of thorough cooking; use a meat thermometer to check for doneness.

If grilling meat and vegetables on the same surface, use separate utensils to handle each type of food and do not allow meat drippings to fall onto vegetables.

Use a clean platter for cooked meat; do not place it on the same platter used for raw cuts.

Keep meat hot until served by moving it away from the fire but keeping it on the heated grill.


Proper grilling safety should also include serving precautions to ensure that cooked food does not accidentally become contaminated before it is eaten.

Wash hands thoroughly before eating or handling food; if restrooms are not available, use anti-bacterial gels or wipes.

Discard burned or charred portions before eating; several studies have indicated soot from char may contain carcinogens and other dangerous chemicals.

Cover food on the table to prevent flies or other insects from enjoying a free meal and spreading germs.

Do not use insect repellents or other harsh chemicals near food, and choose a table away from restrooms or other insect-attracting locations.


Grilling safety precautions should not end when the meal is over. Leftovers need to be treated carefully to ensure they are still safe.
Try to gauge portions properly to avoid leftovers if possible.

Store leftovers in the cooler immediately and refrigerate as soon as possible.

Food left out for more than two hours should be discarded.

Leftovers must be reheated to safe internal temperatures before being eaten.

More Grill Safety

There is more to grilling safety than just safe, thoroughly cooked food. Both charcoal and propane grills can be dangerous if used improperly, and even delicious food can be unappetizing after a grill accident. To prevent problems:

  • Use proper grilling equipment and fuel.
  • Keep children away from the grill area.
  • Do not leave the grill unattended.
  • Trim excess fat from meats to prevent flare-ups from drippings.
  • Use barbeque utensils and heat-resistant mitts to protect hands.
  • Grill only in a well-ventilated, open area.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher nearby while grilling.

In Conclusion

The majority of food bacteria grow from 40 to 140 degrees. Keeping food at proper hot or cold temperatures is critical for food safety.

Grilling can also be dangerous, however, if the food is not handled appropriately. From the grocery store to leftover storage containers, following proper grilling safety tips can help make summer barbeques a tasty tradition without fear of accidents or illnesses.

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.

How's Your Garden?

by Lois Trigg Chaplin
Cyperus alternifolia is most commonly used as an outdoor potted plant or houseplant. 

Umbrella Plant

Are you the gardener who loves your potted plants to death by overwatering? If so, Cyperus, aka umbrella plant, is just the plant for you!

There are many umbrella plants, but Cyperus alternifolia is most commonly used as an outdoor potted plant or houseplant. The upright stems topped with umbrellalike foliage make it a handsome, sculptural choice for a container. It is not cold-hardy, so needs to be moved indoors in winter.

The key is keeping the moisture level consistent so it never dries out. This is a good candidate for drip irrigation. In fact, drip is an easy way to keep all outdoor potted plants watered during the summer. It takes a little time on the front end to set up, but pays off in saved time and happy, healthy plants. Look for drip irrigation kits for container plants that often have enough line and emitters for several containers.

In its native habitat, umbrella plants grow in water, so it’s at home in a water garden, too.
Annabelle hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens “Annabelle”) is a great flowering shrub for the landscape. 

Annabelle, a Tough Beauty

A great flowering shrub for the landscape, Annabelle hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens Annabelle), opens like a symphony. The blooms start out low key, reach a crescendo of 8- to 12-inch white clusters in early summer, ease into fall with a few more blossoms and then gradually fade.

As the flowers fade, you can cut the stems at ground level and hang them to dry. They don’t shed, making excellent dried bouquets. Sometimes the blooms get so big they get top-heavy and bend over in a rain. If this becomes an issue, prune in winter; this encourages branching and more, but smaller, blossoms.

This hydrangea is an improved version of one growing wild throughout Eastern forests from New York to Florida. Unlike French hydrangea, you can count on it to be cold-hardy.

There is no blue one, but pink varieties include Invincibelle Spirit, Bella Anna and Ruby.

Although it will tolerate full sun, it wilts badly in the heat of the day, thus is best in partial shade, especially afternoon shade.

Annabelle grows 3-5 feet tall and even wider, so give it plenty of space.
It is impossible to control pickleworms once they burrow into fruit. 

Pickleworms Love Cucumbers, Too

I have learned to plant my cucumbers as early as possible to get a good harvest before the pickleworm population builds up. Pickleworms burrow inside the flowers, fruit and tips of the cucumber and squash relatives. You may be seeing the pests soon, if you haven’t already. Their light-colored excrement, or frass, outside their entrance hole is a telltale sign of their presence.

Pickleworm larvae are green with black spots when young, and white to green as they age, or bronze if feeding on orange- and yellow-fleshed cucurbits.

Pickleworm moths spend winters in Central and South Florida, and migrate northward as the spring progresses. By midsummer, they have found Alabama, and continue to breed here until freezing weather kills them. That is why it’s important to get your cucumbers and squash planted as early as possible after the last frost. If you have pickleworms now, remember this next year when you plant.

One way to avoid pickleworms is to shield the plants with a light, spun-polyester insect barrier at night, when the egg-laying moths (adults) are active; uncover the plants during the day to give bees access to the flowers.

Another option is to grow Diva cucumber that can be kept covered all the time because it does not need pollination to set fruit. Diva is a 2002 All-America Selection.
A stem buried while still attached to the mother plant will root to create a new plant that can be cut away and transplanted. 

Starting New Landscape Plants

It is easy to multiply many favorite landscape plants by ground layering, done by simply bending a stem to the ground where it can root. The key is scratching some bark from the bottom of the stem to expose the cambium so it roots more easily. Make sure it is buried about 1-2 inches deep into the ground. Hold the leading end of the stem in place upright with a stake. Next year, you can clip the rooted stem from the mother plant and transplant it to a container or another spot in the garden.

Just about any plants with soft, flexible stems that can reach the ground will propagate this way. Some popular ones include rose, holly, forsythia, azalea, American boxwood, wax myrtle, blackberry, raspberry, grapes, clematis and trumpet honeysuckle.

Gift Ideas for the Garden Dad

Is there a father in your life who enjoys working in the garden? Father’s Day is a chance to get him a nice garden gift. Is there something he would enjoy, but would not buy for himself such as an extra-nice pair of goatskin or lambskin gloves, or a four-wheeled garden cart that can be easier to manage than a wheelbarrow? A gift certificate at your local Quality Co-op can be put to good use anytime, too. A person who gardens loves a useful gift.

Lois Trigg Chaplin is author of “The Southern Gardener’s Book of Lists” and former garden editor of Southern Living Magazine.

If You Don’t Plant It – It Won’t Grow

by Glenn Crumpler

As I write this, several things are going on concurrently spurring my thoughts for this article. First of all, farmers in the Southeast are as busy as bees working in the fields – preparing the land or planting. There has been a lot of seed put in the ground the last few weeks and there will be many tons more sown in the next few weeks. Praise God for the timely rains and the spring-type weather this year in southeast Alabama. As good as the planting season has been, there has to be great anticipation and hope of a great harvest!

Second, we finished our second round in a six-week period of incubating a clutch of 42 eggs from our own flock. In the first round, 17 eggs (41 percent) were fertile, 15 chicks hatched (36 percent). This last batch only had 10 fertilized eggs (24 percent), only 7 live chicks (17 percent). This is a drastic decrease in fertilization from previous years where we averaged 39 (93 percent) and 36 (86 percent) hatching. For some reason, the roosters are not getting the job done.

The third event is going on as I write. In western Oklahoma, ranchers are dealing with the second bout of vicious wildfires in 12 months. These wildfires are moving 30-70 mph across the prairies. So far, hundreds of thousands of acres, dozens of homes, countless miles of fence, vast numbers of cattle and at least two ranchers’ lives have been lost to these massive wildfires – and they are only 3 percent contained. A state of emergency has been declared for 52 of their 77 counties!

It was just this past August (10 months ago) that Cattle for Christ donated and delivered nine herd bulls to Oklahoma and Kansas ranchers who lost most of their cattle in the 2017 wildfires. We believe that providing them with top-quality herd bulls was the most strategic and effective way we could help them to rebuild their herds with good and productive genetics to help boost their income by positively affecting the progeny of their herd.
I will always remember the profound statement our Cattle for Christ Texas Representative Greg Cowan made during an interview with a film crew from the Oklahoma Farm Bureau, who was covering the relief efforts.

"What we are doing here is not about Cattle for Christ," he stated. "We are here planting seeds of the Gospel; planting seeds of God’s love and hope in the hearts of these ranchers who have lost everything. Just as these bulls we brought will plant seed in these cows to produce a crop of good calves, we are planting seeds of love and hope in anticipation of a harvest in the hearts of these ranchers for the Kingdom of God."

All three events have at least one thing in common: the planting of seed! Without planting seed, there can be no harvest! This is true, as far as I know (and I am not a botanist or biologist), for all livestock, fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, cotton, grains, grasses and other crops grown on a large scale. At some point, they have to produce seeds to propagate themselves – whether by sexual or asexual means and by some means those seeds have to be sown.

Not only is this principle true for crops, animals and mankind, it is also true for good and evil! Another truth is that all of us are seed sowers – whether we know it or not. The Bible says we should not be deceived. "… God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life." (Galatians 6:7-8, NIV).

Farmers and ranchers can relate to and validate the universal phrase, "you reap what you sow." According to "The Jeremiah Study Bible," the phrase has four underlying principles:

  • Investment – you reap IF you sow, but sowing costs something.
  • Identity – you reap what you sow.
  • Increase – you reap more than you sow.
  • Interval – you reap later than you sow.
No matter if it is row crop farmers, livestock or poultry producers, gardeners or tree farmers, I have never met a successful farmer who sat around and did not go to the trouble and expense to prepare the land, and to sow what he wanted to harvest. I have never met a successful farmer who did not work diligently to ensure he did all he could do, when it needed to be done, to make the crop as productive and profitable as he could make it. I have never met a successful farmer who did not do everything he could to harvest the crops as soon as they were ripe.

Every farmer and rancher knows there is great risk and investment in sowing and doing everything needed to produce and harvest the crop. A good row cropper knows that seeds are very expensive and never cuts costs by sowing low-quality seeds or ones untested for germination and purity. A good rancher knows the herd sire is the most important and valuable investment in the herd because the bull will influence every calf that hits the ground. A good rancher conducts a breeding soundness evaluation before every breeding season to ensure the bull is capable of reproducing.

There can be no harvest without the investment of a lot of labor, time and finances to acquire and sow the seed – and even then you are not guaranteed a harvest. Droughts, floods, cold weather, market fluctuations … you name it and it can and has happened before, during and after planting and before, during and after the harvest!

However, as farmers and ranchers, we do not give up or quit just because it is hard, risky and comes with uncertainty and dependence on many things we cannot control. We show up – regardless of the weather, the time of day or night, our own personal comfort or discomfort – and we work until it is done!

After all, a significant responsibility for the physical health and survival of the entire world rests on our shoulders.

So let us get back to the spiritual aspect of seed sowing, cultivating crops and reaping the harvest. If we do not invest whatever is needed to sow the spiritual seed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in all the world, don’t nurture those who receive the seed and help them to grow spiritually, there will be no harvest – we will have produced no fruit with our lives.

We cannot sow the seeds of the Gospel if the Gospel seed in our own lives has not taken root, produced fruit and made seed for us to sow.
If you are reading this, you need to know God is a holy, loving and just God. Sins (evils) we have committed, and we all have, separate us from the right relationships with Him. The wages of sin is physical and spiritual death, and separation from God. But because of God’s great love for us, He sent His only Son Jesus to come to us as God in the flesh to show us how to live, to show us God and, most importantly, to pay the price for our sin by giving His life as a ransom for ours. Through His death, He took the punishment for our sins upon Himself so we could be reconciled with God the Father.

After His death, He rose from the dead, conquering death – the ultimate penalty of sin – so we, too, can have eternal life. When our physical bodies die, we will live for eternity in a new body that will be unperishable and incorruptible.

He promises that when we by faith put our trust in Him and accept His free gift of eternal salvation, our sins are forgiven and we are born again into the Kingdom of God. He then commands us to turn away from our sin, allow Him to be the Lord of our lives, and to go and sow the seed of the Gospel by sharing this truth of His love with others. He commands us to sow that seed, knowing that not all the seeds will take root and produce fruit … but we are to sow anyway.

Luke 8:11-15 explains the parable of the sower and the soils this way: "… The seed is the Word of God. Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the Word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the Word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the Word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop."

Has the seed taken root in your heart? Are you cultivating it? Are you producing spiritual fruit? Are you sowing the seed? The fruit of a Christian’s labor is seen in the lives of others. Their eternal destiny is at stake!

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

It Happened Again

One of my Angora rabbits and the spinning wheel I just sold. 
by Suzy McCray

It happened again yesterday.

It happened so dramatically that it couldn’t and can’t be ignored.

And, to top that, it has happened three times in the last five days.

So here I am with my plans changing, AGAIN!

I was all set to write a "farmy"-type article about how you need to carefully consider all the animals and other projects you begin on your homestead or farm so you don’t overtax not only your finances but your energy as well. And how the friendly folks at your local Quality Co-op can help you every step of the way – from planning through fruition!

But then it happened yesterday. And I am compelled to share. (And I’ll get around to that other somewhere in this article, I promise!!!)

What happened? Let me see if I can tell about this without crying on my computer keyboard and shorting all the electronics.

Many of you know about the spiritual journey we have been traveling for nearly a year now (and me for nearly six years now).

I’ve written before how I don’t believe in a "name it and claim it" Gospel ... because Christ and the disciples repeatedly told us we won’t have an easy time on this Earth.

But God picks times when I need Him the most to simply do something that is out of this world, literally, and way too big to be a mere coincidence. (Some of you might remember there’s a whole chapter in one of my books simply titled, "Coincidence, I don’t think so," about this very thing.) But when it happens again and again, my poor human brain is still reeling; and my heart and soul are still soaring!

We have been trying to sell a house in another part of the county. We won’t benefit as much financially because of ongoing things in our lives but we have needed it to sell to simply get us moving even more toward the new work we have to do. But like all homes (it was built in 1968 and is an earth-sheltered home), even when it was placed under contract, there are many, many things that must be completed before the loan inspection is complete.

Although I always try to lean on my faith, my personality is just one where I see the glass as half-empty too many times. But those are when God steps in and my heart nearly leaps out!
There was something we HAD to pay that was nearly $400 and it had to be paid yesterday … and we didn’t know about it until that morning.

While $400 doesn’t seem like a lot of money in the overall scheme of things, when you are already stretched to the max, it IS a lot to suddenly have to deal with.

As I waited in line with my fiancé’s bank card to make that payment and get things on the way for yet another link in the home-loan inspection, my cell phone rang. I usually don’t answer numbers I don’t know. But I answered that one thinking it might have something to do with the house.

A lady’s voice asked, "Is your spinning wheel still for sale?"

Yes, it was for sale (and had been for many months). I told her I’d call her back just as soon as I got back into my truck.

Five minutes later, she simply told me she wanted it and could she drive from DeKalb County and pick it up yesterday afternoon.

So God replaced most of the money I had just had to spend ... right then, right there.
Coincidence? I sure don’t think so.

Monday morning, we were eating breakfast. The phone rang. It was a local business letting me know someone anonymously had paid off a huge bill I owed ... for no reason.

And go back a couple more days to Saturday morning. Income taxes, those dreaded words. I won’t go into personal details BUT God stepped in again in a mighty way.

We are sure not anything special. But our God sure is! We’ve been down in the valleys so much during the last few months, sometimes it seemed we’d never see the light. And we’ve still got some pretty big mountains to hike up! But God will be right there beside us, catching us (mainly ME) when we stumble, calming our souls when despair tries to rear its ugly head.

We continue to reevaluate things on the farm. We are down to around 80 chickens and roosters, six rabbits, one turkey (Thomas), several ducks, six goats and seven guineas.
Currently, that is a feed bill we can handle, as we sell eggs from the hens and I continue to sell goat milk soap.

But I’ve had to learn many hard lessons.

Just because I love a cute cuddly animal, whether covered in feathers or fur, too many of those "pets" can literally bankrupt a small homestead like ours.

If an animal can’t contribute something to the farm, he or she shouldn’t be here.

It’s too easy to fall into the trap of wanting every animal you see, especially when you first start out. I had lofty goals. But so many years of running this farm by myself (even for many years before my husband’s death) meant I couldn’t accomplish everything I’d hoped.

I’m a romantic. But I’ve had to face a tough dose of reality during the past few years. Now God is showing me how I can still enjoy my farm, still live off the land as much as possible, and still have a little income to keep things going.

Expanding our garden and our tiny greenhouse are two things we did that don’t take hardly any capital outlay, but can make big benefits. Not only is it cutting way down on our own groceries, but we can not only sell the surplus vegetables but also the extra heirloom plants.

That’s where Blount County Farmers Co-op (and your local farmers market or Quality Co-op) can really make a difference. They can tell you what plants are best for your area. They can help you start out with seeds or with Bonnie plants already healthy and ready to set out.

In the fall and spring, they can get you started with the right fruit trees, grapevines or other berries for our climate.

When you do get animals, they can advise you on what they should eat, how often and how much it will likely cost to feed them each month.

I’ve written before how the late Jerry Sterling at Blount Co-op advised me over two decades ago to get Golden Comet chickens (also known as Red Stars). Those initial chicks, and all those since, have been a perfect fit for my little homestead!

As we continue on our journey on this little homestead and in our lives, I want to thank you all for your advice and especially for your prayers! Look for more farmy articles from me in the future and look back over the archives on the website if you want to review how my Simple Times column has progressed over the past 11 or 12 years!

I remain that SIMPLE, little gray-haired homesteader, relying on God’s Grace!

Suzy McCray is a freelance writer living on a small homestead in Blount County. She can be reached through Facebook.

June Lawn and Garden Checklist


  • Get any remaining warm-season vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, eggplants ...) in the ground.
  • Plant a new batch of bush beans every couple of weeks.
  • Plant sweet potatoes.
  • Most varieties of pumpkins should be planted in June for harvest in October.
  • Daffodil clusters should be divided every three years to ensure good blooming.
  • Gladiola corms can still be planted for successive blooms.
  • Irises and daylilies can be divided even while in bloom. This is useful if you want to keep flower colors separated. Remove any remaining flowers, cut the top third of leaves into a fan shape to reduce transplant shock and replant the divisions as soon as possible.
  • Plant annual flowers in tubs or large containers for the porch or terrace. Make sure there are holes in the container’s bottom to provide good drainage.
  • Plant hydrangeas where they can receive morning sun and afternoon shade.
  • This is a good time to repot houseplants if you have not already done so.


  • If you haven’t done a soil test, do one this year. It will point you in the direction you need to go to amend your garden and lawn.
  • Check vegetable plant foliage for signs of nutrient deficiency. Contact your Quality Co-op for advice.
  • Vegetable garden plants, other than legumes such as beans, lentils, peas and peanuts, need a regular supply of nitrogen fertilizer beginning five or six weeks after planting.
  • Organic gardeners can side dress with compost or manure, or feed with fish emulsion for a nutrient pick-me-up.
  • Give container gardens a weekly feeding or use a slow-release fertilizer as instructed on the label.
  • Fertilize roses after each flush of flowers.
  • Do not fertilize fescue lawns until September.
  • Fertilize the lawn with a 3-1-2 ratio of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.
  • Feed water lilies and other aquatic plants in home water gardens.


  • Deadhead the developing seed pods from rhododendrons and azaleas to improve next year’s blooms. Be careful not to damage the buds that may be hidden just below the pod.
  • It’s hedge sculpting and trimming time!
  • Keep deadheading annuals and perennials for long-season blooms.
  • Prune climbing roses after blooming.
  • Prune suckers and water sprouts from all fruit trees.
  • Pinching, in the horticulture world, refers to a specific type of pruning. Two plants commonly pinched are chrysanthemums and basil. When the plant is small, just pinch out the tip of each stem. This tissue will be soft, so you can remove it easily just using your fingers. Continue to do this as the plant grows. Pinching forces the plants into a bushier shape. For mums, this results in a stockier plant with more flowers. Stop pinching mums the first of July. In the case of basil, it produces more branches with more leaves for harvesting and tends to delay flowering somewhat.
  • Pinch back tall-growing fall bloomers such as asters, monarda and helianthus to make them stockier.
  • Pinch back any annuals that might be getting a little leggy.
  • Hurricane season begins June 1; it’s not too late to have trees checked and trimmed.
  • If you want to prune or shear evergreens, do so as soon as the new growth starts to turn a darker green.
  • Groom hanging baskets by removing old flowers and lanky shoots.


  • Monitor plants so they get deeply well-watered. Water early in the morning. Flowers in particular prefer morning watering. This also reduces the likelihood of problems with powdery mildew and blackspot.
  • As the weather dries out, container-grown plants may need daily watering, especially if exposed to the drying sunlight.
  • Warmer and drier weather means it will be necessary to water and mist houseplants more often.
  • Adding mulch to flower beds and around garden plants will help the soil retain moisture during the summer months.
  • Fix leaky hoses.
  • Check irrigation systems for broken sprinklers.
  • Trim limbs and remove weeds interfering with sprinkler operation.
  • Vegetable gardens need 1 inch of water each week. When soaking rains skip your neighborhood, water slowly and deeply to encourage roots to travel away from the hot ground surface. This also reduces runoff and moistens the soil several inches down. To slow evaporation, water early in the morning when temperatures are lower and the air is still.
  • Consider adding rain barrels or cisterns to capture and store water for the dry times. Your county cooperative Extension system office has details on this and other irrigation ideas.


  • 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. Pay attention to the number of days to wait before harvest, and to the crops and pests on the label.
  • Before killing it, know whether the pest you are seeing is friend or foe. It’s easy to see creepy crawlers and immediately think they should die. Get a good bug book, then use the appropriate controls to minimize damage.
  • Be alert to slug and snail damage ... seek and destroy ALL slugs!
  • Check both sides of leaves for eggs and nymphs of garden pests.
  • Check roses for mildew, aphid, black spot or other disease problems, or insect infestations. If any appear, take steps to control it right away.
  • Scout trees and shrubs for nests of bagworms, especially evergreens such as arborvitae and junipers.
  • Make your own insecticidal soap spray to control aphids. Use 1 tablespoon of pure liquid castile soap to 1 gallon of water. Spray affected plants. Do NOT use detergent. Test a plant sample before spraying.
  • Protect ripening berries from birds with nets or row covers.
  • Put a couple of drops of mineral oil on corn silks within a week after they appear to prevent corn earworm.
  • To protect bees pollinating many of our crop plants, spray pesticides in the evening after bees have returned to their hives.
  • Check with a wildlife biologist in your area before installing bat houses. If you live near a river or lake with cliffs and overhangs to be used for rearing their young, bats won’t come inland. But, on the other hand, if you are told they can be attracted, consider the fact that one big brown bat can eat 3,000-7,000 insects each night!
  • After a period of time, birds will no longer be bothered by a scarecrow. They will even start building nests on it. Switch tactics weekly. Try tying pieces of glass, colored cloth or tin to loose strings so the wind can blow them and clash them together. Buy a fake owl and put it out one week, then hang rubber snakes around the garden the next week. Keep ‘em guessing and away from your harvest!
  • Avoid blossom-end rot in tomatoes, peppers, squash and watermelons by maintaining uniform soil moisture. See your local Co-op for possible calcium-application recommendations.
  • Weeds can make this time of year feel more like a burden than a blessing. Keep the weeds pulled before they have a chance to flower and go to seed. Otherwise, you will be fighting newly germinated, weed seeds for the next several years.
  • Change the water in bird baths regularly. Standing water may become a breeding ground for mosquito larvae.


  • Remember to keep a record in your garden journal of what is planted where and what varieties you grew. You will want this information next year for garden rotation and to remember what vegetable varieties you liked – or did not like.
  • Work around the humidity (early morning, late afternoon/evening).
  • At exactly noon June 15, set your sundial for 12:00 to get the most accurate time reading throughout the summer.
  • Clean rows of early crops as soon as they are through bearing, and use rows for replanting or keep them fallow for fall crops.
  • Continue to mound the soil up around your potato plants. It does not harm the plant if the soil covers the stem. As potatoes begin to die back, reduce watering. When the plants look more dead than alive, it’s time to dig potatoes!
  • Cultivation is arguably the most important thing you can do this month. Work soil deeply, add compost and weed. Be careful not to injure plant roots.
  • Harvest vegetables such as beans, peas, squash, cucumbers and okra regularly to prolong production and enjoy peak freshness.
  • Keep tomato plants staked as they grow and suckers pinched out. This makes for larger tomatoes. Don’t pinch off suckers of caged tomato plants; train the limbs to stay within the cage. Fruit from caged tomatoes are generally smaller than staked tomatoes, but more plentiful.
  • The secret to healthy, relatively pest-free plants is healthy soil, rich in fungi, bacteria and other microscopic life. Using organic matter ensures this invisible biosphere has plenty of food to develop a strong web of life below the surface of the soil.
  • Involve the kids or grandkids in growing vegetables. It’s fun, it’s easy and it builds kids’ enthusiasm for gardening and eating healthy – because they tend to eat what they grow!
  • Almost all vegetables are best when harvested early in the morning. Overnight, vegetables regain moisture 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 afterward.
  • If you haven’t already, stop harvesting asparagus and let the fernlike fronds mature.
  • If you suspect bees haven’t found the tomato plants, pollinate the blossoms yourself. Do this by gently tapping the open blossom with a pencil. For maximum effectiveness, do it three days in a row.
  • There are several indicators for ripeness of watermelon. The vine tendril closest to the fruit dies and turns brown when ready to harvest. Also, the underside of the fruit will turn from white to yellow. Finally, thumping a ripe melon should give a dull thud as opposed to a ringing, metallic sound when immature.
  • Use both hands to pick peas, beans and cucumbers to prevent breaking stems.
  • Some herbs such as basil and parsley are good additions to the vegetable garden. Others prefer drier conditions and little fertilizer. Herbs from the Mediterranean region such as lavender, rosemary, thyme, marjoram, dill and oregano will have greater concentrations of essential oils if given lots of sun, very well-drained soil and very little fertilizer
  • Mow frequently enough to remove no more than one-third of the grass blade at a time. If the weather becomes hot and dry, raise the cutting height of your mower.
  • Depending on cultivars, mow St. Augustine to 3 inches and zoysia to 2 inches, leaving enough of the blade to shade the soil and conserve moisture.
  • Don’t bag or rake grass clippings; let them lie on the lawn to return nitrogen to the soil.
  • Replace constantly declining turf in dense shade with a mulch or ground cover.
  • Don’t let compost heaps or bins completely dry out or it will not cook. Turning the compost pile to aerate it will also hasten decomposition.
  • Mulch around woody plants after cleaning away weeds and grass, but don’t pile thick against trunks. Two-inch depth is plenty, starting several inches or so away from trunks.
  • This is a good time to take cuttings to propagate many shrubs. Most stems would be classified as semihardwood cuttings in June and July.
  • To get the color of crape myrtle you want, purchase a containerized plant now while it is in bloom at the nursery. Evaluate the mature size and form of different cultivars. Mature shrub sizes are 18 inches to 15 feet and trees 25-35 feet. Avoid planting next to home foundations due to a vigorous root system. Also avoid planting close to walks, driveways and swimming pools due to the wind blowing the blooms. Selecting the right cultivar for the right location will bring appreciation for the vivid blooms and exfoliating bark minus the troublesome pruning.
  • Adjust ties on trees and shrubs to prevent girdling of stems.
  • Make sure climbing roses are securely tied into position.
  • Stake tall flowers to keep them from blowing over in the wind. Add a stake to each planting hole during transplanting and tie the stem loosely to the stake as the plant grows.
  • Build, repair or paint trellises, arbors and lawn furniture.
  • Start a water garden.
  • Change the oil and air filter in gas-powered equipment as instructed in manuals.
  • Edge beds to make a clean line and define them, and keep edges clean with regular fine-tuning with grass shears. A well-cut edge makes a big difference.
  • Ethanol-enriched gases have a shorter storage life; buy smaller quantities or add a stabilizer.
  • Before pouring gasoline into the fuel tank of a 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.
  • Make sure the birds have food and fresh water in birdbaths or shallow dishes in the garden.

Keeping Our Powder Dry

by Dr. Tony Frazier

Time sure has a way of getting away from you without being noticed. I just realized that last month’s article marked the beginning of the 15th year I have had the privilege to be able to use this publication to provide information that I think is important to producers and consumers. Those of us involved directly in the regulatory side of animal agriculture, plot and plan and strategize all the time about stuff that will never get off the ground without the participation of producers. Alabama Farmers Cooperative has provided me with an excellent soapbox and I cannot begin to say how much it is appreciated. It has allowed me to, hopefully, shed some light on why we regulate and implement surveillance programs for things such as meat inspection, laboratory issues and foreign animal diseases.

Speaking of foreign animal diseases, I do want to spend some time emphasizing the importance of continuing to be on guard for things that might raise antennas concerning them. We spend a lot of time studying local diseases we believe could devastate animal agriculture, but there are other diseases occurring on a regular basis outside the borders of the United States. Some of the less-devastating diseases may not spread across the country like wildfire but could wipe out a herd or two or a hundred before being contained. Some of the FADs are also zoonotic, meaning they can be spread from animal to man. There are several reasons we need to be vigilant and keep FADs out of our country. So far as I can see, we just don’t need another disease to have to deal with.

How much better would we be if West Nile virus, a FAD prior to 1999, had never crossed into our borders? In 2017, WNV was active in humans in every continental state of the United States except Maine. WNV is a good example of a disease that came in and spread with the aid of wild birds, making us have to list it as a domestic disease, develop vaccines and realize that it was here to stay.

That deal about wild birds really does make it hard for us to circle the wagons and contain a disease. There is an old saying that I will paraphrase. "When a FAD gets into wildlife, you are in the toilet." That was the case with WNV.

Not all FADs are a threat to wildlife. Not all FADs spread quickly. Some are spread through ticks or mosquitoes, making their threat seasonal. Yet all FADs have one thing in common: They were not established in our country. We want to try to keep it that way.

As I looked at a list of FADs, the disease known as glanders stood out to me. Glanders has not been seen in the United States since 1940. Early in my veterinary career, I would occasionally run across an old timer who would tell me about having a horse years ago with farcy, another name for glanders. It can be transmitted to people, but is primarily a disease affecting equines. It is caused by the bacteria Burkholderia mallei. (The name of the bacteria is not important. Unless you plan to be on a TV gameshow, I wouldn’t try to remember it.) It is important to know the disease is fatal 90 percent of the time if not treated. It may also be used as an agent in a biological attack. It has been used that way before, during WWI for example.

Glanders has sporadically been reported in many parts of the world, mostly in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Central America and South America. I guess the fact it exists as close as Central America is something we should be concerned about. It’s not like the bacteria are going to drift up to North America on the jet stream or air currents. But, what about people who visit farms while on a missionary trip in Central America? We constantly have people coming back into the United States from countries where glanders occurs.

I was discussing FADs with the director of the Foreign Animal Disease Research Laboratory and Training Facility. He said it was his belief that, with as many people entering our country daily from countries all over the world, the disease agents – viruses, bacteria, etc. – are entering our country, but just not making it out to a farm. We have at least 150 people every day entering the United States from areas stricken with the Ebola virus. That is reason enough for us to not become complacent.

So, if you are a horse owner, would you know a case of glanders if you saw it? I think I would at least suspect it, but I can’t guarantee I would know it. Generally, you see a bunch of nodular and ulcerative lesions all over the horse’s body and in its nose. The sores produce some extremely contagious, sticky pus.

I remember back in my days of private practice, I saw a horse with a bunch of nodules all over its body. They turned out to be some pretty severe reactions to horsefly bites.

I guess the larger point I want to make is that a lot of times FADs look like other domestic diseases, especially if the domestic disease is one that is not frequently seen.

Here is the place you come in. We need you to be the boots on the ground helping us with FAD surveillance. If you are an animal producer or a friend of a producer, there are certain things that should send up a red flag to make you suspect a FAD. Here is a list of conditions you need to at least report to your local veterinarian or to me:

  • Large die-offs.
  • An abnormal number of animals sick at the same time without a known diagnosis.
  • Hemorrhagic diseases (bleeding from nose, mouth, rectum).
  • Neurological diseases.
  • Any other disease that seems unusual or out of the ordinary.
There is an old saying that came from the days when people used muzzle-loading rifles and had to add gunpowder to be able to fire them. The saying was, "Keep your powder dry." It is used today to say, "Always be ready."

We need you to help us be ready for any introduction of a foreign animal disease.

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

License Dollars at Work

Where do your hunting and fishing license dollars go?

by Chuck Sykes

It seems like quite a bit of my time each year is spent "beating dead horses." I know that sounds strange, but here is what I mean.

The Harvest Record Regulation has been on the books since 2007, and I still must preach at seminars each year about filling out the harvest record before moving a harvested animal. Inevitably, several people in the crowd who have hunted for years have no clue what I am talking about.

Another example is the "How We Are Funded" speech. I’ve given this lecture hundreds of times over the past five years and I still run into people who think we receive general fund tax dollars to provide services.

A final example is the "I don’t hunt or fish. Why should I buy a license?" comment I get at many of the functions I attend each year. This one above all else hits a nerve with me.

So, rather than me beat that dead horse again, I wanted to give Chief Matt Weathers an opportunity to highlight one – using a timely example – of the many reasons why everyone should buy a license.
On March 19, 2018, the National Weather Service issued a storm advisory and predicted a possible tornado. At around 9 p.m., a tornado struck Jacksonville, home to Jacksonville State University and the WFF District II office. Jacksonville and JSU were heavily damaged. 

Law Enforcement Chief Matt Weathers:

One hundred and ten years ago, when the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources was created, the great majority of this state’s population hunted and fished. It was a way of life and, in most cases, served to feed households. Today, hunting and fishing remains a way of life for many, but these activities are seen more as recreational and less for the subsistence of families.

Today, as they have since the 1930s, the hunters and fishermen of Alabama pay for their local game warden and many of the state’s conservation programs through license-purchase revenues without using any of the state’s general fund budget monies. Alabama sportsmen provide additional law-enforcement officers in a way that goes very much unnoticed by the average Alabamian.

Though times have changed, the day-to-day activities of your local conservation enforcement officer remain, in many ways, as they were a century ago. Hunting and fishing license-compliance checks are a necessary daily routine; and responding to and investigating reports of illegal hunting activities are a staple.

Modern conservation enforcement officers, however, have a much broader spectrum of duties. They teach hunter-education courses and investigate hunting accidents, teach courses at the state’s regional police academies and are constantly seeking to educate the public about conservation-related issues. They also assist all other state and local law-enforcement agencies on a routine basis. This assistance to other law-enforcement agencies is where Alabama’s nonhunting and nonfishing population receives a great benefit provided by their hunting and fishing peers.
Over the last two decades, officers of the Law Enforcement Section of the Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division have deployed to assist in the relief efforts. 
On the evening of March 19, 2018, the National Weather Service issued a storm advisory and predicted a possible tornado event impacting Northeast Alabama, northern Calhoun County specifically. At around 9 p.m., a tornado struck the city of Jacksonville, home to Jacksonville State University and the Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division District II office. Jacksonville and JSU were heavily damaged.

Conservation enforcement officers from across District II responded immediately.

"I loaded my truck with the tools I knew would be valuable to help people," Conservation Enforcement Lieutenant Michael Casalini stated. "We’ve responded to events like this many times over the years and have come to understand what is needed during times like these."

Conservation Enforcement Officers assisted with search and rescue, traffic control and general response to calls for assistance.

"The people of Jacksonville genuinely appreciated the help we were able to give them," Conservation Enforcement Officer Ben Kiser said. "The simplest things such as cutting up a tree blocking someone’s driveway helped tremendously."

Over the days to come, over 20 game wardens would assist in Jacksonville. Each of those acts of assistance was provided by our license-buying sportsmen.
Cutting up a tree blocking someone’s driveway helped tremendously and was greatly appreciated. 
ADCNR is actively involved with the Alabama Emergency Management Agency. When the Emergency Operations Center in Clanton is activated, ADCNR officers are among those who respond to staff the center until the event is over. When a major weather event threatens our state, the response efforts, supply chain and restoration of order are all coordinated through the EOC.

Over the last two decades, officers of the Law Enforcement Section of the Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division have deployed to assist in the relief efforts for Hurricane Ivan in Alabama and to Mississippi for Hurricane Katrina. In 2011, officers were sent to several counties across our state to assist with lifesaving efforts in the wake of the April 27 tornado event. They have been deployed to countless smaller-scale local disasters in the years since. The relief efforts in many of these cases lasted for weeks, and the benefit of having trained, equipped and eager game wardens who could respond cannot be measured. Your local game warden has a wealth of experience in operating independently in terrible conditions and making critical lifesaving decisions when the state is in need.

Take comfort in the fact that you, as a licensed sportsman of our state, provide for this and that, if you find yourself in need, Alabama Conservation Enforcement Officers will be there to assist as they have for over 110 years.

As you can see, your hunting and fishing license dollars do a lot more than simply manage, protect, conserve and enhance the wildlife and aquatic resources for the sustainable benefit of the people of Alabama. Hunters and fishermen gladly buy licenses each year that help support services for the entire state. So, do your part and purchase a license … and help me stop beating this dead horse!

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

Memories of Sour Grass

by Nadine Johnson

I began to write this story several days ago. Its creation was interrupted by the death of a very dear cousin. Yesterday, two of my three sons and I journeyed from Mobile to Troy for her funeral. The sons talked and I listened.

I was also constantly aware of various wild flowers and other plants along the way. I believe there was a constant growth of sour grass every foot of the way.

Actually, this was a trip down memory lane. We ate lunch at The Chicken Shack in Luverne. From there, we traveled through Glenwood and on to Henderson. As we passed Charles Henderson Grammar School (the building is long gone, but I saw it in my mind’s eye), I imagined young Nadine there during recess eating sour grass; then on past Hopewell Cemetery (plenty of sour grass there) and past the house I grew up in. (The house is gone but again it was there in my mind’s eye.) And then on to Troy.

Sheep sorrel (Rumex acetosella) is better known as sour grass. As I write this, unplowed fields along the roadsides are adorned with the red flowering of this very beneficial herb. Each year, as this happens, I am carried back in memory to my grade-school years.

My school days began in September 1936. I attended Charles Henderson Grammar School, located in the Henderson community of Pike County. There are many memories of this long-gone but not-forgotten place where I learned my ABCs and read about Dick and Jane.

Each spring, around Easter time, the school yard produced a crop of the wonderful plant called "sour grass." Each recess, we children enjoyed eating it. Did we wash it first? Of course not. And no one worried about germs. Today’s society would be all bent out of shape if their child ate something without washing it first. However, no one thought about it during my childhood days.

Years later, I became an herbalist. Soon I began to hear about a product called Essiac Tea. Thanks to a nurse named Rene Caisse (that is Essiac spelled backwards), many cancer victims were treated and benefitted by taking a mixture containing sour grass. This mixture is now available in a capsule form and simply named "E-Tea."

The story goes that Rene Cassie was given the tea in 1922 by an Indian medicine man who claimed it would purify and balance her body. She recovered from breast cancer and lived to age 90. She also treated many others with this tea and had outstanding results.

In 2000, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Its growth was discovered at a very early stage and was surgically removed. Before I was diagnosed, I began to take one capsule of E-Tea daily. I continue to take this as a precautionary measure. I have had no further indications of cancer.

E-Tea capsules contain burdock root, sheep sorrel herb, turkey rhubarb root and slippery elm bark.

Consult with your doctor before taking alternatives.

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

PALS: Pitching in to Eradicate Litter

Highland Home School gets involved to keep Crenshaw County clean.

by Jamie Mitchell
Pictured from left are Raymond McGough, Crenshaw County PALS Coordinator; Jamie Mitchell; and Cliff Maddox, principal of Highland Home School. 
Highland Home School in Crenshaw County is now a member of the Alabama PALS Clean Campus Program! Thanks to Crenshaw Area Coordinator Raymond McGough and Principal Cliff Maddox, Highland Home is fully on board with keeping their campus and community litter free!

In a recent visit to Highland Home School, I met with over 800 students to teach them the importance of making a lifelong commitment to litter prevention. We wanted to emphasize that preventing and cleaning up litter is not just a one-time event. I explained that if each student would pick up one piece of litter a day, we could pick up around 5,600 pieces of litter in one week! There is power in numbers! I also explained the opposite … if we all let one wrapper blow away per day, we could also contribute a huge amount of litter to the ground each day.

Crenshaw County has a renewed commitment to keeping their roadsides litter-free. This spring, volunteers picked up hundreds of bags of litter totaling several tons of litter. With the students on board in the community, we hope the roads of Crenshaw County can remain litter free for many years to come!

The goal of the Clean Campus Program is to get students involved. Whether they can do a lot or just a little, with everyone pitching in we can eradicate the litter problems throughout our state. When students become aware, they begin to care. Once they understand the problem, they get excited about becoming a part of the solution.

Let’s work together to get more schools signed up in the Clean Campus Program! If a school near you would like to participate in our anti-litter movement, please have them contact me at or 334-224-7594.

One of the most wonderful things about the Clean Campus Program is that it is FREE to all Alabama public and private schools, thanks to ALFA and Alabama Farmers Cooperative.

Jamie Mitchell is the PALS State Clean Campus Coordinator.

Pesticide Safety

by Tony Glover
Make sure the insect on your garden tomato flower is not beneficial such as this bee. 
Extension agents hear every kind of mistake imaginable when it comes to pesticides and their use. One county agent was asked how to control crickets on a back porch and he gave advice on products that should work, only to be called and fussed at for poor product results. The county agent took the time to visit the man, who claimed he could not sit out on his porch because of the incessant chirping. The homeowner had the agent sit on the porch with him to wait on the chirp and, sure enough, about every 45 seconds, he heard the very consistent and monotone chirp. He looked around and then asked the homeowner if he had a D battery while he reached for a smoke alarm above the door. Problem solved.

All problems are not so easily solved. A couple of years ago, I received a call from a client whose property bordered a large soybean field. Her question and my response went something like this:

"Can you tell me what has taken the buzz out of the bees this year?"

"What do you mean by that?"

"Normally the bees make a loud buzz when collecting pollen and nectar from my holly bushes. This year they are there, but there is no buzz."

"Have you had your hearing tested lately?"

"My hearing is perfect young man."

"Do you have any ideas why this has happened to only your bees?"

"Yes, I believe the herbicide used on the GMO soybeans has taken the buzz out of the bee."

"Well, that is a new one on me, but I will let you know if I get other reports of the buzz going out of the bees."
Adult corn earworm, Helicoverpa zea, resting in a tomato field. 
My point with these two stories is to illustrate both the importance of identifying the pest correctly and to have a good understanding of the potential impact on nontarget organisms when using any pesticides or chemicals. When used properly by home gardeners, they are valuable management tools to protect plants against diseases, weeds and insect pests. However, used improperly, they pose a serious risk to public health, nontarget organisms and the environment.

You can contribute to a safer environment by using pesticides wisely. Purchase and use only what you need. Do not dump them in the trash or down the drain. Mix the needed amount and spray all the mixture in an appropriate manner. After use, rinse sprayers and containers three times, applying the rinse water to the target site. Throw only triple-rinsed containers in the trash.

Follow these tips to be a smart shopper and protect the environment:

  • Identify the pest to be controlled. Beneficial insects should not be misidentified as pests and should be left alone. Contact your county Extension office for assistance with identification.
  • Match a pesticide product with the identified pest. Target pests are listed on the pesticide label.
  • Calculate the amount of pesticide needed before you purchase. Then apply the label-recommended amount; do not apply more than the recommended rate with the attitude that if a little works a lot will work better.
Follow these tips on mixing pesticides:

  • Pick a well-ventilated area to mix pesticides. Do not mix on hard surfaces or concrete
  • Always read the label before measuring.
  • Put on appropriate safety equipment before opening the container. Wear eye protection, rubber gloves, a long-sleeved shirt and long pants.
  • Measure the proper amount of product required. Do not overuse!
  • Fill sprayer with two-thirds the amount of water needed, then add the measured pesticide product. Rinse the measuring container and pour rinse water in the sprayer. Fill sprayer with the required amount of water and spray on the target plant or site.
The eggs of a Colorado potato beetle, Leptinotarsa decemlineata, on a tomato plant. 
Hopefully, these tips will help you avoid a chemical-use problem, but accidents happen.

Just this morning as I was writing this column, I was asked to advise a client who spilled a small container of a pesticide in the back seat of her car. I gave her the same advice I always give for a small chemical spill: call the manufacturer. The product should have an 800 number for the manufacturer somewhere on the label. They also have a number for a major spill that may require professional cleanup services.

As we enter the heaviest chemical-usage time of the year for home gardeners, please be safe. Remember, the product label is the legally binding description of the proper and safe use of any product.

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

Photo Clarification From the May Issue of AFC Cooperative Farming News

Editor's Note

In this photo from our May issue about Farm Co. in Columbiana, the young lady was not identified. Her name is Cricket Griffin. She is the daughter of Jamie, manager of Mid-State Farmers Co-op.

Prospective Plantings

by Max Runge

The United States Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Services’ "Prospective Plantings" was released at the end of March. It shows the projected acres U.S. farmers intend to plant in major crops in Alabama and the United States (Table 1). The reality is that actual acreage will vary from these projections, but it is an indication of the mindset of production agriculture. Changes in commodity prices, inputs, trade, etc., combined with weather events may have significant effects on the crops that go in the ground.

Closing prices for corn and soybeans were up across the board after the Prospective Plantings report was released. The predicted acres being lower than 2017 acres were viewed as bullish or positive for those commodities.

Many analysts develop their own reports for various entities invested in agricultural commodities. The average from the analysts’ prereport estimates was higher than USDA predications and was reflected in the market reaction.

In Alabama, soybeans acres were predicted to be the same as 2017, while corn acres were projected to be up 4 percent and cotton up 8 percent. Peanuts acres were the big loser in both Alabama and the United States, coming in with 18 percent fewer acres. Were these predictions a surprise?

The March Grain Stocks report was also released about the same time as the Prospective Planting report. The Grain Stocks report indicated that both corn and soybean stocks were larger than expected. 2017 displayed record production for U.S. soybeans and a large corn crop, so increased stocks are not surprising.

For 2017, Alabama yields were at or near record-setting for most commodities. USDA-NASS estimates Alabama’s corn yield was 167 bushels per acre and soybean yield of 46 bushels per acre. These were the highest average yields ever for the state. Peanut yields were second highest and cotton was third highest for the state. It was a very good year for Alabama crops. These high yields helped Alabama producers overcome relatively low commodity prices.

What can we take from these reports? First, remember that Alabama producers have an advantage over Midwest growers in that we have a diversified portfolio of crops we can grow. Corn, cotton, and soybeans are grown statewide, and peanuts are being grown over a larger portion of the state. In the Midwest, primarily corn and soybeans are produced. From a recommended best management practice, we need to remember our crop rotation plan and try to maintain it.

A quote comes to mind from one of our better producers, who said, "Don’t sacrifice long-term agronomic goals for short-term profits."

Crop rotations provide many benefits, but need to be evaluated periodically to ensure they help you meet long-term agronomic goals and make it as profitable as possible.

Total U.S. acreage for the principal crops is close to last year’s, and we can only guess what the 2018 yields may be. With the carryover stocks we have, anything near normal yields will keep price at current levels or below. It is important for producers to estimate their cost of production to make the best decisions for their operation. Last year, our high yields helped to offset low commodity prices, but it is unlikely record-high yields are sustainable.

How will your operation be impacted by yields returning to normal, combined with low commodity prices?

The next report related to U.S. acreage will be in USDA, NASS’s "Acreage," to be released June 29, noon EST.

Max Runge is an Extension specialist with Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

Responsible Ag

Albertville and Elberta Farmers Co-ops

by Sharon Cunningham
Mark Searels, manager at Albertville Farmers Co-op 
Drop by and say hello to one of our newest managers. Mark Searels has hit the ground running at Albertville Farmers Co-op. Searels and his crew have years of knowledge to help with your fields, crops or almost any type of critter you have. The Co-op is located on Highway 431, on the north side of town, making it easy to get to.

If you are new to country life or looking for an upgrade, plan a visit to see the line of Mahindra tractors and other outdoor equipment available. Inside you will notice chain saws along with a service and parts department to help keep you ready for all the strong winds that may come.

Congratulations to William Carlew, manager of Elberta Farmers Co-op, and his hard-working group for completing the Responsible Ag certification for the main store and the bulk fertilizer warehouse, located a few blocks away.
Elberta Farmers Co-op 
They have a full gas station and tire shop for any of those incidents that may happen on the road. Inside the store, you will find some items that always need replacing such as the DEF fluid for your truck, straps for the trailer or those missing gloves.

When weather allows, the store hosts a monthly Chicken Swap! All feathered friends are welcome with their humans.

And since this is the time of year to brighten your yard, take a walk through their garden center. With all the colorful blooms and lush greens, you are sure to bring some late spring and summer beauty to any space.

The town of Elberta is rich in German history and offers several festivals during the year. The Co-op is located just a few miles from Gulf Shores’ beaches. As you are heading south, make sure to plan a few minutes to stop by.

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

Sean of the South

Sean Dietrich, who considers himself “an adopted son of Alabama,” thrills and inspires countless fans with his unique musings and storytelling recorded in his blog, books, podcasts and music.

by Carolyn Drinkard

Sean Dietrich, better known as "Sean of the South," says he is a thinker, a watcher and a talker, but not a writer. His thousands of loyal fans would disagree. Not only is he an accomplished writer but also a master communicator. In fact, many of his followers believe Dietrich carries on a daily dialogue – just with them!

Dietrich was born in Missouri, but his family eventually settled in Walton County, Florida, where he and his wife Jamie now live.

Dietrich writes often about his parents. He believes he inherited his talkativeness from his mother, whom he affectionately described as "the most talkative person I have ever known," adding that "she could still whip up a conversation with a brick." His storytelling ability, however, came from his father.

Dietrich’s childhood deeply influenced his writings. At the age of 12, his father committed suicide, leaving what he would later refer to as "a shadow I thought would never lift." He quit school early, went to work to help his mother and sister, and drifted through a host of "loser jobs."

That shadow lifted when he met his wife Jamie.

"She was the rest of my life in a dress. ... She’s done things for me. She let me cry on her shoulder when my boss fired me. She held my hand, in an ambulance after I totaled my truck.

She tutored me in college algebra. She helped me piece together my education. She told a fatherless flunky he was every bit as smart as anyone else. She loved me. I just felt like telling you about the reason I believe in God. Her name is Jamie."

Jamie grew up in Brewton and, when they married 15 years ago, her family welcomed him into their fold.

Dietrich felt that Brewton became his hometown, because he truly felt he belonged there.
Jamie Dietrich, right, travels with her husband and schedules his events. At a speaking engagement in Grove Hill, LeeAnn Moore and Jamie discovered they had mutual friends from Brewton, Jamie’s hometown. 
Dietrich calls himself "the adopted son of Alabama" or "the adopted son of Brewton." He uses an outline of the state as his logo, and he titled his blog Sean of the South after the song, "Song of the South," recorded by the country group, Alabama.

Dietrich has written his blog for over four years. At first, he used 460 words and posted it at exactly 11:27 each night. Through the years, however, he has made some noticeable changes.

"I’ve become more gabby!" he laughed. "Brevity is my discipline. Now, I can feel when I hit 500-550 words!"

His writing process has also evolved. He uses a computer, although he misses the callouses on his fingers from holding a pencil or pen.

"Now, I vomit on the page and then go back," he laughed. "I labor more now. I never thought I’d enjoy the writing process as much as I do. I’m really trying to speak to myself first. I find I’m looking for people without even knowing it: single mothers, mechanics, dental students, pain-pill addicts, homeless drunks, county prisoners, veteran amputees, immigrant students, preachers, burnt-out bartenders, football coaches, nurses, electricians, factory workers, janitors, writers. …

"I felt overlooked for a long part of my life. I guess I have a soft spot for the overlooked."
In Dietrich’s stories, the plot holds readers spellbound until it suddenly makes a U-turn, leading to an unexpected surprise. At the end, readers gain a greater awareness, better understanding and clearer vision. Many readers comment that Dietrich’s words have given them just what they "needed" or he helped them at a difficult moment in their lives. Others say that he should "buy some stock in Kleenex!"

Amanda Walker, another popular South Alabama writer, offered this observation.

"Sean Dietrich writes on another frequency," she said. "He is good at finding the best of us in the most ordinary places. He accepts people as he meets them. He is not afraid to look at circumstances straight. And then he has a way of mirroring them into words we can all relate to on some level."
Sean performed in Monroeville at the old courthouse, where the play, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” is performed each year. 
Dietrich’s honesty and simplicity connect him to his readers, but he also splices his lines with humor. He snickers about playing "53 verses of ‘Amazing Grace’" at a nursing home or sniggers about deliberately using the word "good" incorrectly in front of an English professor. He lauds church ladies who "will live forever through their casserole recipes," but laments that "Pillsbury’s tube-biscuits are taking over the universe."

Some of his most heartfelt moments come when he muses about his 13-year-old coonhound Ellie Mae, who is usually riding shotgun in his pickup. Her recent death brought one of his most poignant tributes, thanking her for "making my life complete."

"Even though she smells like rotten oysters and stale armpit hair, she has made my life perfect," he wrote.

Dietrich is also a gifted musician and his writings reflect his inner musical conversation. For years, he has played guitar, piano and accordion with various bands. He plays by ear and is blessed with perfect pitch – gifts given only to a chosen few. He had dreams of becoming a jazz musician, until he had an encounter with reality. He tried out for the music program at Florida State. When a professor placed a written piece before him, he was unable to read it.

"I had always been able to fake it, but not then," he recalled.

His life plans changed after this incident, and he began to write. He wrote about things he knew: a world filled with forgotten people.

"It took me a long time to realize who I was," he mused. "I don’t really have a message. At first, I just wanted to make people laugh, but then my own history started to get involved, and things took a change. My writing has become more meaningful."
Sean Dietrich has gained a loyal following with his stories about the unnoticed in society. He calls his blog “Sean of the South.” (Photo credit: Joseph Victor Stefanchik 
Dietrich has gained widespread recognition and respect with his works appearing in Southern Living, South Magazine, Yellowhammer News, Good Grit, the Bitter Southerner, Thom Magazine, Tallahassee Democrat, Neighbor’s Magazine, Alabama Living and numerous newspapers. The author of nine books, he is in demand as a speaker all over the South. He now has over 46,000 devotees who follow him daily on his Facebook page. He also offers collections of his stories and music in podcasts at

Like the wind, Sean of the South goes down red-dirt roads; through rural, farming communities; and into small towns, watching, listening and singing songs of faith, hope and love.

"Nothing lasts. Not hateful things, not good things. Not ugliness, not beauty. Not football games, back pain or kidney stones. Not newspaper delivery jobs. Not life. Not death. Not childhood wheelchairs. Not the dirt beneath you. There is one thing that will outlive this cotton-picking universe. You already know what it is. So find a person who needs some. And give it away."

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

Southern Translation

SENTENCE USAGE: "Durin' the winter when Uncle Bob couldn't work the fields, he practically lived in his wood workin' shop buildin' a pickup truck load of toys and such for the church bazaar. Them thangs sold like hotcakes!"

What does a sale have to do with breakfast food?

Hotcakes cooked in bear grease or pork lard were popular from earliest times in American. First made of cornmeal, the griddle cakes or pancakes were, of course, best when served piping hot and were often sold at church benefits, fairs and other functions. They were so popular that by the beginning of the 19th century "to sell like hotcakes" was a familiar expression for anything that "sold very quickly, effortlessly and in quantity."

The Co-op Pantry

by Mary Delph and Jena Klein

There are lots of things to celebrate this month. Summer will officially be here … regardless of our strange weather this year. It is time for picnics and pool parties.

June is National Fresh Fruit and Veggie Month. Our gardens are producing ripe veggies as well as fruit and nuts being ready to harvest. If you don’t have a garden, I urge you to buy locally grown items at your neighborhood farmers market. Fresh is always best!

In this part of the country, another important item is celebrated this month: iced tea. That is one of the things I associate with living in the South.

Then we have the various foods or drinks with a special day in June … literally too many to list. I am just going to feature some great recipes this month.

Happy June!
~ Mary

For July, we will be featuring recipes containing blueberries and pickles, and making baked beans, ice creams and pickles. Of course, any of your favorite dishes served at Independence Day and Memorial Day cookouts would be great.

August is National Catfish Month. We will let Chef’s Corner take care of the catfish recipes. We will be featuring kiwifruits (yes, they can and do grow in Alabama), oysters, peaches, watermelon, zucchinis and goat cheese.

We are always interested in anyone who would be willing to be interviewed and share some of her … or his … favorite recipes with us. Contact us if you are interested.

We would love to hear from you … for recipes or to be our featured cook.
~ Editor

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


  • 1 (20-ounce) can pineapple chunks
  • 2 large firm bananas, cut into ¼-inch chunks
  • 1 cup green grapes
  • 1 (15-ounce) can mandarin oranges, drained
  • 1 medium red apple, sliced
  • 1 medium green apple, sliced
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
In a cup or small bowl, drain juice from pineapple. In a large bowl, combine the pineapple, bananas, grapes, oranges and apples. Set aside. In a small saucepan, combine sugar and cornstarch. Add orange juice, lemon juice and pineapple juice. Stir until smooth.

Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Cook and stir for 2 minutes. Pour over fruit; mix gently. Cover and refrigerate until served.

Note from Mary: This fruit salad can be served at any meal of the day – including breakfast dish.


  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ small yellow bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • ½ yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 (15-ounce) can diced fire-roasted tomatoes with garlic
  • 2 ounces crumbled feta cheese
  • 4 large eggs
Heat oven to 375°. Place two small, shallow baking dishes on a rimmed baking sheet.

In 8-inch skillet over medium heat, heat olive oil. Add bell pepper and onion. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until tender, about 6 minutes. Add tomatoes. Simmer 3 minutes, until slightly thickened. Divide between baking dishes. Sprinkle feta cheese on each baking dish. Crack 2 eggs into each. Place baking sheet with dishes in oven. Cook about 15 minutes, until whites are just set.


  • 1 cup pecans, finely chopped for rolling
  • 4 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 4 cups (16 ounces) shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1½ teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons dried parsley
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper (I use coarsely ground pepper)
  • 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon hot pepper sauce (optional)
  • Oil, to grease hands
  • Plastic wrap
In a shallow dish, spread pecans. Set aside. In a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment), mix cream cheese until smooth. Add cheddar cheese. Mix until just combined. Lightly sprinkle remaining ingredients except oil over cheese mixture. Mix until thoroughly combined. With lightly greased hands, portion cheese mixture into four pieces (or two, if you want larger cheeseballs) and roll each section into a round ball. Coat in pecans. (One easy way to do this is to hold the cheeseball in one hand and scoop up the pecans and press them onto the cheeseball with the other, turning the cheeseball as you go and letting the excess pecans fall back into the dish. This also helps pecans go a little further). Cover each cheeseball in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until ready to serve.


  • 4 (6-ounce) fillets catfish fillets
  • 2 Tablespoons dried parsley
  • ¾ teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon dried basil
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon butter, melted
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
Heat oven to 350°. In a 9x13 baking dish, arrange catfish fillets. In a small bowl, combine parsley, paprika, thyme, oregano, basil and black pepper. Sprinkle herb mixture over fish. In another bowl, mix lemon juice, butter and garlic powder. Drizzle butter mixture over fish. Bake until fish is easily flaked with a fork, about 20 minutes.


  • Parchment paper
  • 2 (4-ounce) packages sweet chocolate baking bars
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • Coconut-Pecan Frosting (recipe provided)
  • Chocolate-dipped toasted pecan halves, garnish
Heat oven to 350°. Lightly grease three 9-inch round cake pans. Line bottoms with parchment paper and lightly grease paper.

In a large microwave-safe bowl, place baking bars and water.
Microwave on HIGH for 1-1½ minutes or until chocolate is melted and smooth, stirring once halfway through.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt.

In another medium bowl, place butter and sugar. With electric mixer on medium speed, blend until fluffy. Add egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating just until blended after each addition. Stir in chocolate mixture and vanilla. Add flour mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed just until blended after each addition. Beat egg whites at high speed until stiff peaks form. Gently fold into batter. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Remove from oven, and gently run a knife around outer edge of cake layers to loosen from sides of pans. Cool in pans on wire racks 15 minutes. Remove from pans to wire racks; discard parchment paper. Cool completely, about 1 hour. Spread Coconut-Pecan Frosting between layers and on top and sides of cake.
Garnish, if desired


  • 2 cups chopped pecans
  • 1 (12-ounnce) can evaporated milk
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • ¾ cup butter
  • 6 egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • 2 cups sweetened flaked coconut
  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
Heat oven to 350°. In a shallow pan, spread pecans in single layer. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until toasted and fragrant, stirring halfway through. Cool completely (about 20 minutes).

In a heavy, 3-quart saucepan over medium heat, cook evaporated milk, sugar, butter, and egg yolks stirring constantly, 3-4 minutes or until butter melts and sugar dissolves. Cook, stirring constantly, 12-14 minutes or until mixture becomes a light caramel color, is bubbling and reaches a pudding-like thickness.

Remove pan from heat. Stir in coconut, vanilla and pecans. Transfer mixture to a bowl. Let stand, stirring occasionally, 45 minutes or until cooled and spreading consistency.

Note from Mary: This is a very labor-intensive recipe, but, once you take a bite, you will realize it was well-worth it!

The Opposite of Fast Food

Slow-cooker deer neck roast is worth the wait.

by Christy Kirk

Sometimes I think my children don’t believe me when I tell them my family did not eat out a lot. When I was their age, my family still lived in Anniston. There were a limited number of fast food restaurants back then, and going to one was a special treat.

Like a lot of mothers who also worked outside the home, mine somehow managed to have a delicious dinner on the table almost every night. Even after we moved to Huntsville, we still ate the majority of our meals at home and they were usually meat and threes, plus a side of slaw, sliced tomatoes, green onion and cornbread or rolls.

The busier a family gets, the harder it can be to provide healthy options when you have limited time for preparation. In the early 1980s mom got a Crock-Pot. The slow cooker made it possible to throw ingredients together and then ignore them for 8-10 hours while going about your business. Dinner became much easier.

Meal planning when you are rarely at home is hard, but one thing Jason and I rely on is our slow cookers. One of the easiest ways to have a healthy family meal ready upon arrival home is throwing all your ingredients into a slow cooker before leaving for work. Pot roast has always been a family favorite. Tender beef, potatoes, carrots and onions soaked in the meat’s simmering broth all day and were ready by the time we got home from school.

We eat beef and pork roasts, but we also slow cook deer neck roast that some people don’t bother to save. If you like to use every part of the deer possible, don’t throw it out. When cooked slow and at a low temperature, deer roast is just as tender as beef or pork and just as easy to make. If you prefer, you can cut the meat from the bone in chunks before slow cooking. However, if you cook the roast whole, the meat will practically fall off the bone. Just use a slotted spoon to make sure you find all the meat steeping in the juices.

Below are some delicious, timesaving recipes for deer roast including Jason’s flavorful recipe. Most of them include cooking staples so you won’t have to run by the store for more ingredients. While slow cooked crock pot deer roast isn’t fast food, it will definitely save you time and effort at your family’s next meal.
Deer Neck Roast 


  • 1 deer neck roast, about 4 pounds
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 2 Tablespoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 2 cups water, or enough to cover about 2 inches of bottom of roast
In large slow cooker, combine all ingredients. Cook on high for 8-10 hours. Serve alone or over biscuits or rice, pouring some broth over top.


  • 1 deer neck roast
  • 2-3 pounds potatoes, peeled
  • 2 medium yellow onions, chopped
  • 2 pounds carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 32 ounces chicken or beef broth
  • Salt, pepper and garlic powder, to taste
In large slow cooker, combine all ingredients. Cook on low for 6-8 hours, or until meat is cooked through and falls off the bone.


  • 1 deer neck roast
  • 1 package taco seasoning
  • Butter or oil
  • 1 beer
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • Water
Coat roast with taco seasoning. In a skillet on high, add a little butter or oil. Brown meat. Place meat in a cooker. Add beer, onion and just enough water to cover the meat. Cook for several hours, until the meat falls off the bone. Cooking time depends on size of roast.
Remove bones. Serve with tortillas and taco toppings.


  • 1 deer neck roast
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Ground mustard, mixed with a little water
  • 1 pound bacon
  • Toothpicks
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1 beer or water
Heat oven to as hot as it will get. In a pan, place a large piece of foil; ends need to be high enough to prevent leakage and be sealed tightly at top. Add roast.

In a small bowl, mix salt, pepper and mustard to make a paste. Rub mixture over whole roast. Cover with bacon. Use toothpicks to keep strips in place. Pour in beer/water. Wrap foil tightly.
Place in oven for about 15-20 minutes. Turn heat down to 225-250°. Cook several hours.

Meat is ready when it is cooked through and fork tender.


  • 4 cups water
  • 1 pack onion soup mix (we like Lipton’s)
  • 1 package brown gravy mix
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 deer neck roast, cut in two pieces
  • 1 small onion, minced
In a slow cooker, add first 4 ingredients, Stir together. Add deer roast and onions. Cook on low all day. When meat is cooked through, pull out bones (about 4-5 big pieces) and tendons (2). Shred meat with a fork. Serve with juice over rice.

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

Why does my performance horse have a weak topline?

There are many contributing factors, so a multifaceted treatment approach may be needed.

by Dr. Bill Vandergrift
Many high performance horses present with weak toplines, characterized by little or no fat covering either side of the spinal processes and poor muscle definition along the spine from the withers to the coupling and hip. Performance horses require a strong back to properly balance themselves and power through movements required for racing, galloping, jumping and dressage. A horse with a weak topline is not expected to perform to the best of its ability.

The causes of weak toplines are many and often interrelated. To improve the topline, one needs to determine the primary cause. Often, it is much more involved than simply trying to feed more.

Common factors contributing to a weak topline include:

  • Gastric ulcers
  • Intestinal inflammation
  • Chronic pain
  • Sore back
  • Subluxation of vertebrae
  • Inadequate nutrition
Many performance horses show with gastric ulcers, intestinal inflammation or both. When a horse suffers from gastric ulcers/intestinal inflammation, nutrients are not adequately digested and assimilated. Additionally, metabolic hormones (cortisol, insulin, growth hormone) are adversely affected, resulting in poor utilization of energy and protein substrates. The net result is the inability to increase muscle protein and effectively metabolize energy sources. A horse in such condition cannot build muscle or build fat on its topline, no matter how much it is fed. Furthermore, intestinal inflammation is often also noticed with a sore back and tight hamstrings.

I recommend omeprazole for gastric ulcers, and physical therapy, massage and chiropractic adjustment for sore back and tight hamstrings.

Chronic pain alters metabolic hormone profiles, especially cortisol, that decreases nutrient utilization and increases muscle breakdown. A horse in a chronic state of breaking down muscle will almost always have a weak topline.

Causes of chronic pain include microfractures, tendon/ligament injuries, osteoarthritis, strained muscles, spinal subluxation(s) and hoof pain caused by navicular syndrome, laminitis or sesamoiditis. A horse suffering from chronic pain will subconsciously adjust its use of muscles in an attempt to relieve pain, resulting in an unbalanced horse with a weak topline.

I recommend an evaluation by a veterinarian or chronic pain expert because the horse may not show any visible signs of lameness, making it extremely difficult to isolate the source of pain.

Subluxation of spinal vertebrae is also common. Unaligned spinal vertebrae interfere with normal muscle innervations. Muscles lacking adequate innervation cannot function normally, resulting in atrophy. Interruption of normal muscular innervation also affects other organ functions such as the digestive system and immune system.

Physical therapies such as aquatic treadmills, swimming, TheraPlate and massage combined with proper chiropractic adjustment can be extremely effective.

Nutrition can also play a significant role in helping horses strengthen a weak topline. I recommend for a horse with gastric ulcers/intestinal inflammation Triple Crown’s Alfa-Lox Forage to buffer the digestive system and support cellular regeneration of the digestive tract; Triple Crown Senior to support healthy fermentation in the large intestine, in combination with omeprazole to heal and prevent gastric ulcers; and for nerve impairment, a vitamin E supplementation.

In severe cases, I include amino acid supplementation such as L-carnitine, L-leucine and beta-alanine that is known to improve muscle protein synthesis. These amino acids can be found in high concentration in whey protein or a supplemental product such as Triple Crown’s Alfa-Lox.

It is also imperative to provide high-quality-forage sources to horses exhibiting weak toplines. Four to 7 pounds of alfalfa hay or cubes per day can be extremely beneficial to horses in need of extra condition. Utilizing a feed with 10 percent fat or more will provide concentrated calories without making the horse too hyper, especially if it is a fiber-based feed such as Triple Crown Senior.

Weak toplines can be a multifaceted problem. Utilizing a systematic approach to rule out or address each issue, beginning with the most prevalent, can successfully correct this common condition. Your horse’s attitude and performance, as well as your enjoyment, will increase, too.

For more information about Triple Crown and their complete horse feed line, call 800-451-9916 or visit

Dr. Bill Vandergrift is the founder of EquiVision Inc., an international equine nutrition consulting company, working with clients in North America, Ireland, England and Japan. He formulated the Triple Crown Nutrition feed line. Dr. Vandergrift and his wife Janice own and operate EV Farms in Versailles, Kentucky, a full service broodmare-boarding and sales-prep facility. You can find more information about his company and other articles at

Winter Forages in Review

Layout of paddocks with varieties 
At the first of this year, I published an article about establishing winter forage at the Winfred Thomas Agriculture Research Station in Hazel Green. The seeds for this demonstration project were planted November 2017 and should have been planted about September. The five three-quarter-acre paddocks included rye, wheat, winter peas, clover and a mix of all four. This was an attempt to demonstrate how winter forages would fare and provide seasonal nutrition for meat goats, sheep and a few young cows.

In February, we moved the few young heifers off to be with the other cows. And, in March, we moved the few sheep to be with the primary flock.

While we occasionally allowed the livestock to briefly graze the forages, we did not really allow them to spend a whole lot of time grazing until early April, when only the goats remained. By that time, we had a short in the electric fence and the weak flow of electricity couldn’t deter the kids that were anxious to sample the lush vegetation.
The rye did well. There were a few patchy areas that could have been filled with clover. 
While visiting the paddocks the first of April, I took several photos of the paddocks to show how well the varieties did or did not perform. As I drove along other adjoining pastures, I noticed the grasses, legumes and other vegetation were still very dormant and offered livestock little or no grazing. That is when I began to feel much better about my demonstration project, knowing the winter forages have given our livestock an early start on nutritious grazing vegetation, reduced need for supplemental grain and almost eliminated the need for hay.

Based on six months of observation and this article being written about mid-April, here are my observations:
The clover came on strong. Next time, I will blend it with wheat and rye. 
  • The winter peas never did well. Very few seeds sprouted and what did were killed by the harsh cold temperatures of January and February.
  • The rye, wheat and clover did very well. They were productive, and provided valuable nutrition for the livestock in early spring when none of the grasses and other vegetation were available.
  • The mix also did well. It offered the livestock a variety of nutritional vegetation.
This was also a learning experience for me. For the most part, I was pleased. However, one species did not fare well. Overall, I highly recommend livestock producers plant winter grazing forages, evaluate your options and talk to local farmers to see what has worked best for them.
The wheat came on strong. Note the drab vegetation in the adjoining pasture in the background. 
Sometimes in agriculture we hear about new, highly recommended concepts that perform well in controlled situations with total disregard for cost. For this project, the cost and practicality of the type of seeds chosen were important considerations. As mentioned earlier, the only failure for this project was the winter peas. While I am not sure why they failed, I will try something else next time – maybe some type of winter tillage radish or turnips.
This is the paddock with the mixture of rye, wheat, clover and winter peas. 
Overall this project was a success. The rye, wheat and clover were good choices. They were prolific and provided good nutrition for the livestock. Also, when they expire during the heat of early summer, they will provide viable organic matter.

I encourage all livestock farmers to consider the same practice.

Robert Spencer is interim facilities manager for Alabama A&M’s Agribition Center. You can contact him at

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