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March 2009

AFC Leadership Charts Course for Uncertain Times

By Alvin Benn

Alabama Farmers Cooperative (AFC) had record earnings last year, but that was "yesterday" and AFC President Tommy Paulk has announced an austerity program to cope with dramatically changing times that have not been good.

Details of the plan, which range from curtailing growth, reducing debt, cutting the work force and streamlining operations across the state, were detailed at AFC’s 72nd annual membership meeting on Feb. 5 at the Wynfrey Hotel.

"We are in uncharted waters," Paulk told hundreds of AFC members. "None of us, with the possible exception of the few among us who lived through and remember the Great Depression, have ever seen times like this."

The austerity program comes in the wake of a weakening economy resulting in millions of job losses, personal spending cut to the bone and worries mounting in homes across the country.

The AFC president began his annual address by commending members for their efforts during 2008, especially in the Grain Division which, in the words of AFC Chief Financial Officer Dan Groscost, had a "spectacular year."

Grain ended the year with revenues of $134 million and earnings before taxes of nearly $9 million. That compared with revenues of just under $50 million for 2007 and earnings before taxes of $2.7 million.

Bushels of grain more than doubled, from 9.8 million in 2007 to 20.2 million in 2008.

AFC’s Bonnie Plants also had a record 2008 with sales of $172 million and earnings before taxes of $18.6 million. Groscost said sales last year were $30 million higher than the previous year while net margins were $3.7 million higher.

To illustrate his presentation of just how far-reaching Bonnie Plants has become around the United States, Groscost displayed a large map of the country on a screen showing Bonnie operations in 49 states along with the Canadian province of Ontario.

He said the division has 51 growing stations and, at its seasonal peak, employs more than 200 workers.

The Feed, Farm and Home Division also had a solid 2008 with sales of $43.7 million and earnings of $1.5 million.

Considering market conditions, Groscost said 2008 "represented solid management throughout all areas of this organization," but he pointed out in his report that "continued discipline and financial management" will be the key in meeting 2009 goals "in a challenging economic environment."

In his keynote address, Paulk said it is not easy to forecast the future, but told members methods that have worked in the past are good examples to use when it comes to preparing for hard times.

Following are some of the steps already set in motion or will be for the rest of the year. Paulk said the new policies are intended to:

*REDUCE the work force through attrition initially, but if that doesn’t work we may have to go beyond that. "We have already begun this process with three retirements in December. Their duties have been assumed by others already on the payroll."

*PASS on any acquisitions and new investments, no matter how attractive they might be. The only growth we will pursue will be in market share and even that must come without the need for new bricks and mortar or expensive inventories.

*REDUCE our seasonal borrowing by moving seasonal debt to term to the extent we have assets to back it. We will sell our corporate offices under a lease-back arrangement, limit forward contracting for grain and, for at least one more year, pay 20 percent of patronage in cash.

*MANAGE accounts receivables with conservative credit policies as well as aggressive collection policies and increased utilization of outsourced credit programs like FarmPlan.

*INSTILL discipline in managing and monitoring inventories, expenses and margins.

*UPGRADE information systems hardware and software so fewer people can access more information and use it to make smarter, faster decisions in managing our Co-ops.

The belt-tightening decisions by AFC directors are similar to steps being taken by private and public organizations around the country in the past year as the unemployment rate reached the 7.5 percent mark the day Paulk gave his "State of AFC" address.

The president offered a "good news, bad news" view of the previous year in his annual report, countering positive with negative results in an effort to balance conditions and present a realistic picture for members.

He said the plan approved by AFC leaders should "help us ride out these tough, uncertain times" and it is not "very pretty or exciting…it’s just necessary."

In addition to reducing debt and curtailing growth in the coming months, Paulk said "we must divest ourselves of under-utilized or non-performing assets."

He also stated it is imperative for AFC leaders to "use our influence and, in some cases, our authority to ensure our member Cooperatives adopt and embrace those same policies."

"Everyone on this team must carry his or her own weight, plus a little extra until times get better," Paulk remarked.

To that end, he said, AFC has contracted with Terracon Consultants to conduct limited compliance assessments for each store in the AFC system "and provide us with recommendations to address any concerns they discover."

Paulk stressed the importance of a team concept; one requiring individuals as well as groups to work together for the betterment of the parent organization.

As an example, he mentioned the importance of each Cooperative to step up its debt collections.

He said when one Co-op fails to "reign in" accounts receivables, the lingering debt "becomes a liability to the rest of us." The same applies to managing inventories, expenses and margins.

Paulk noted Co-ops within the system "have a proud history of generosity" in authorizing AFC to help when one of them has a problem and "stumbles."

"But there is a limit to the amount of help available these days and when self-sufficiency cannot be restored, we are forced to consider mergers and, in some cases, closures," Paulk said.

He said some of those steps have been taken during the past year and "while none of us likes it, we will do what is necessary to protect the viability of this cooperative system and I know you understand that."

Alvin Benn is a freelance writer from Selma.

Alabama Ag in the Classroom Summer Institute 2009 Acceptance Policies Announced

Workshop Runs June 16-18, 2009 • Marriott at Capitol Hill in Prattville

The Alabama Ag in the Classroom Summer Institute workshop will include integrated agricultural activities for grades K-6 and field trips to active farms. Participants will receive innovative materials and teaching strategies to increase student knowledge of the nutritional and economic importance of the food and fiber systems in their daily lives. Activities incorporate language arts, science, social studies and mathematics skills as well as those found in the Alabama courses of study and on the Stanford 9 Test.

The Alabama Ag in the Classroom (AITC) Planning Committee has established the following criteria for selection of applicants to attend Summer Institute 2009.

1. Applicants selected to attend must be:

• Full-time K-6 classroom teachers

• K-6 home-school teachers, who instruct more than two children in a single family

• Home school area coordinators

• K-6 librarians

• Administrative personnel, including superintendents, principals and administrative assistants currently working in grades K-6

• Alabama Cooperative Extension System Agents who work with K-6th grade students and/or teachers on a regular basis

• Alabama Soil and Water Association District Coordinators who work with K-6th grade students and/or teachers on a regular basis

2. Applicants must submit an application form provided by the AITC Planning Committee.

3. Preference will be given to first-time attendees. Participants of past Summer Institutes will be placed on a waiting list.

4. Applications must be received before April 15, 2009. Following the deadline, a Selection Committee will review the applications and recommend participants.

5. The Institute will be limited to 95 educators and applicants will be selected on the basis of an application form provided by the Alabama Agriculture in the Classroom Planning Committee.

6. The Selection Committee reserves the right to limit the number of participants permitted to attend from each grade level and from any one school.

Roundtrip mileage to the workshop location, lodging, meals and workshop materials will be furnished to participants. Applicants must be present at the workshop location from 10 a.m. on Tuesday, June 16, until noon on Thursday, June 18, and must attend all scheduled activities to receive a stipend.

Alabama’s Moderate Climate Proves Perfect for Kiwifruit

James Spiers (left), Bill Dozier Jr. (center) and Bryan Wilkins have been working closely with kiwifruit development at Auburn University.

By Alvin Benn

It’s unlikely kiwifruit will ever rival peaches as one of Alabama’s most popular treats, but Auburn University (AU) scientists and researchers are working hard to make it at least more palatable to the public if only given a chance.

Bill Dozier and Jim Pitts have already shown, while kiwifruit may be indigenous to China and New Zealand, Alabama’s moderate climate most of the year also provides a perfect place to grow it.

Dozier and members of his staff in Auburn and Pitts, who oversees operations at the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station (AAES) in Chilton County, have studied kiwifruit for years and have gained national reputations for their research.

Above, the green kiwifruit is a bit tart, but the golden variety has a sweet taste. Below, Matthew Price checks kiwifruit buds throughout their dormant period at the research facility where he works in Chilton County.

Now, something special has happened—an agreement in which Auburn University and China’s Hubei Academy of Agricultural Sciences’ Institute of Fruit and Tea are co-developers and co-owners of two new varieties of kiwifruit.

The agreement is in its patent pending stage right now, but Dozier and Pitts are confident it will lead not only to big sales of the new varieties, but revenue enhancements for several entities as well.

"If all goes like we think it will, there could be a lot of money involved in this partnership," said Dozier. "The University and the Chinese group as well as the growers all stand to benefit financially from the agreement that has been reached."

Pitts said the nutritional value alone of kiwifruit is a super selling point, but admits: "It may also take time to acquaint people to its color, taste and other benefits."

Dozier, who is a professor in the AU Department of Horticulture, has been assisted by James Spiers, assistant professor of fruit crops, and Bryan Wilkins, research associate, in successful studies in Auburn and Chilton County.

These kiwifruit buds are “resting” through the winter and will be ready for consumption later this year.

Originally known as the Chinese Gooseberry, kiwifruit owes its new name to slick New Zealand exporters who came up with flashier moniker, something with a bit more pizzazz. That’s how "kiwifruit" was born in the 1950s.

The Kiwi bird is New Zealand’s national symbol and often is used to promote the little "Down Under" country near Australia.

Before that name came along, it was known alternately as a Mascaque peach or pear, as "wood berry," "hairy bush fruit" or even "wonder fruit." Whatever the name then or now, it’s the shape and taste that have attracted a lot of attention around the world.

The two new varieties being perfected by Auburn scientists and researchers are known as Golden Dragon and Golden Sunshine. They have smooth skin and a golden color inside. They are also much sweeter than the somewhat tart, more familiar fruit that is fuzzy brown on the outside and egg-shaped with a green interior color.

Golden Sunshine is one of the new golden kiwifruit varieties being developed at the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station in Chilton County.

Chilton County has been known for its peach production since the late 1940s and honors the fruit every summer with a week-long festival. It’s a multi-million dollar crop and the celebration commemorates its importance to the county and region.

AAES researchers have been studying kiwifruit without much fanfare since 1985 to see if it would be feasible to grow it as a productive crop. After more than two decades of research, its obvious results have justified the decision to grow kiwifruit in both Central and South Alabama.

"We know with certainty kiwifruit will grow here and grow well," Pitts told Jamie Creamer of the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station’s Office of Communications.

Kiwifruit has amazed and pleased researchers because it’s been able to flourish in all kinds of weather conditions throughout the year. That includes chilly temperatures that, at times, have hurt peach crops in Chilton County.

AAES researchers have believed for years kiwifruit production could not only be possible, but profitable as well. They felt that way long before the agreement was reached with Chinese officials to co-develop the two new varieties.

Unlike peaches, which are supported by sturdy trees and can be picked from their limbs, kiwifruit is grown on trellises which support a much heavier load—the fruit and the branches. Pickers must be careful not to squeeze them too much during harvest time because they are much more fragile than peaches.

Vines holding the kiwifruit can reach heights of 25 feet or more. That’s why sturdy trellises are needed to support the weight of the fruit and the branches.

Developers of the golden-hued kiwifruit point to several advantages over traditional green kiwifruit. For one thing, the golden variety is sweeter, has less acidic content and tends to be more attractive to consumers looking for appearance as well as taste.

With no pun intended, Dozier believes there is a "golden opportunity" for success with the golden kiwifruit once the patent is firmly secured and production can begin.

He said major fruit marketers should be interested in offering the Golden Dragon and Golden Sunshine kiwis to consumers around the country.

The standard kiwifruit often is used as a garnishment with other food, but can also be consumed "as is." The "golden" kiwis are as delicious as a peach just picked off trees in Chilton County orchards, according to Dozier. Pitts said kiwifruit’s nutritional value makes it worth eating either alone or as an ingredient in fruit cups and other recipes.

Instead of grabbing a peach off a tree in some orchard, those who taste kiwifruit usually cut it in half and scoop out the contents. The skin can be consumed, but, with a hairy exterior, it may not be visually "ripe" for the occasion. In New Zealand, kiwifruit lovers have their own special spoons to dish out the delicious interior.

Pitts said appearance may be one of the reasons why peaches have an advantage over kiwifruit. He said it and other U.S.-grown fruit tend to change color as they ripen. Not so for kiwifruit which retain its outer color throughout its ripening stage.

Money has a way of talking, however, and those who grow peaches may one day learn just how lucrative kiwifruit can be for them.

Dozier said, if the fruit catches on in Chilton, growers could realize a return of up to $50,000 an acre as compared to $4,000-6,000 an acre for peaches. He also said once patent details are completed "we can license the kiwifruit to major nurseries so that growers can buy them and begin production."

"It would appear right now that the golden varieties represent a good supplement to peaches," he said. "One reason is the fact that the kiwifruit we’re developing ripen later in the year while peaches usually are picked by late summer. This would give Chilton County and others who grow peaches a year-round product to sell."

Matthew Price, Pitts’ top assistant at the research facility in Chilton County, keeps an eye out for development of kiwifruit "sleeping" behind a large green windscreen fence just across the road from his office.

"We make sure we check these trellises as often as possible," said Price, who looks closely at buds that aren’t expected to sprout until later this year.

Foreign kiwifruit growers and those in California ship it across the U.S., but they are not as readily available in large quantities as peaches, plums, apples, blueberries and other forms of fruit when they are in season.

Educating the public about kiwifruit could be a major hurdle, but Pitts said Alabamians are slowly learning more about it. It’s been that way during the past two decades since it was introduced to the area.

Pitts said when the first kiwifruit was made available, school groups would drop by to tour the experiment station and he never missed an opportunity to test their knowledge of the new fruit.

"I’d ask them to raise their hands if they could tell me what it was and only a few did," he said. "Some would even try to eat a few. Now, it’s a different story. The children are aware of what kiwifruit is."

Alvin Benn is a freelance writer from Selma.

Trellised kiwifruit vines getting watered.

Chicken and Egg Festival Coming Up, April 18-19 in Moulton

The 5th annual Alabama Chicken and Egg Festival (AC&EF) is scheduled for April 18-19, 2009, at the Lions Club Fairgrounds in Moulton. Offering poultry-related food and entertainment, highlights of the AC&EF include a chicken clucking contest, egg toss competition and eating contests where contestants stuff their faces with chicken wings and hard boiled eggs. The new "Down on the Farm" area will feature a Bluegrass music stage, state of the art farming equipment, antique tractors, demonstrations by quilters, farriers, saddle makers, basket and broom makers, and more. Attendees also have the opportunity to see over 100 chickens representing 25 different varieties with the live bantam chicken display.

Returning for 2009 is the Alabama Farmers Co-op (AFC) Agricultural Photo Contest. Amateur photographers are invited to submit photographs of agricultural interest. Photos must be related to agriculture from any location within Alabama. The competition is divided into four themed categories: Life on the Farm, Livestock, Crops and Agriculture Families.

Jim Allen, AFC’s director of Advertising and Public Relations, stated, "The contest has been a great source for photos we’ve used in ads around the state promoting the country lifestyle the Co-op represents."

Prizes will be awarded for each category with $125 for first place, $75 for second place and $50 for third place. In addition, each participant will receive two free tickets to the 2009 Alabama Chicken & Egg Festival. For complete contest rules and entry form, see page 9 or visit and click on "Contests." There is no entry fee and the deadline for entries is March 23.

Shopping connoisseurs or those simply in search of unique, handmade items should make plans now to attend the Arts and Crafts fair that will be open Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

"This year, the Arts and Crafts fair will be held in the new Down on the Farm exhibit area," said Co-Chair Faye Gonzales, "and will feature only handmade crafts and one-of a-kind items."

According to Event Coordinator Vicki Morese, The Simple Life Farm, located in Winston County, will offer handmade goats’ milk soaps, beeswax lip balm, solid lotion made with beeswax and goats’ milk lotion. The Simple Life Farm has been in continuous operation in various forms of agriculture since 1890. Other unique items that will be available for purchase are pottery, handmade teddy bears, jewelry and cane baskets.

Booth space is still available. Each 10’x10’ booth space is $50 for members of the Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce and $75 for nonmembers. There is no additional charge for electricity. The deadline for applications is April 1. For more information, call Faye Gonzales at (256) 565-8316 or Shelia Norwood at (256) 974-0424 or to download an application, visit
and click on "Vendor Application."

The AC&EF announces a new egg crushing contest for this year’s event where contestants will be walking away literally with egg on their face. Sponsored by Dr. Don Beach, Egg Roulette is a contest where two contestants are provided with six eggs where five eggs are hard-boiled and one egg is raw. At the sound of a whistle, each contestant must immediately select an egg and smash it to his forehead. The loser of the game is the first person to have egg on his face. The winner advances in the single bracket tournament for a chance at winning $500 for his designated charity.

"Egg Roulette is a great opportunity for us to have fun with our local elected officials while raising money for local charities," said Dr. Don Beach.

Festival organizers are searching for non-profit organizations to participate. Each organization will provide an elected official to play on their behalf. A registration form is available for downloading at and click on "Contests." The deadline to register is April 1.

"I am honored to be a part of the 2009 Alabama Chicken and Egg Festival," added Dr. Beach. "With the proceeds of the Festival now benefiting the newly established Lawrence County Arts Council, the citizens of Lawrence County will be exposed to a broad range of arts and cultural experiences they may otherwise not have the opportunity to experience."

The Egg Roulette contest is scheduled for Sunday beginning at 2 p.m. Additional questions may be emailed to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">

Other activities scheduled for the Alabama Chicken and Egg Festival include live entertainment by popular regional bands and local favorites, motorcycle chicken run, Little Chick Beauty Walk, Egg Drop for Future Engineers competition and a "Guitar Hero" competition. Daily admission to the festival, which includes musical entertainment, is only $3 per person and free for those under 5 years old. Festival organizers are also allowing re-entry where attendees may leave and return the same day.

Sponsors already committed for the 2009 festival consist of Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce, ARAMARK, Wal-Mart, Smith Poultry and Hardware, Marshall Durbin, Alabama State Council on the Arts, Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association, CB&S Bank, International Paper, Bank Independent, RE/MAX Valley Pros, Regions Bank, Joe Wheeler EMC, Pepsi-Cola, Southern Printing, City of Moulton, Alabama Farmers Co-op, Lawrence Medical Center, The Burch Agency, David Burt Agency, Dr. Don Beach, Arrie’s Bliss, Roosters, NHC Healthcare, Alabama Bureau of Tourism & Travel and Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries.

Education Partners are University of Alabama in Huntsville Engineering Department, Alabama Cooperative Extension System and Auburn University Poultry Science Department. Media sponsors include WAAY TV Ch. 31, WALW 98.3, Valley Planet, Moulton Advertiser, 100.3 The River, WDRM 102.1, WTAK 106.1, Hot Stuff and Southern Family Magazine.

For the latest updates, visit the Festival’s website at To request a media kit or for an assortment of poultry-related photography, call (256) 905-0700.

Co-op Employees Honored for Years of Service at Annual Meeting

Co-op employees were honored for their years of service at the 72nd annual meeting for Alabama Farmers Cooperative in February. All awards were presented by Lawrence Smith, Chairman of AFC’s Board.

35 Years

Doris Middlebrooks (right), AFC Grain Department, received her 35 years service award from Lawrence Smith, Chairman of AFC’s Board, at AFC’s 72nd annual board meeting.

(no Photo)

Dennis Thomas, Bonnie Plants

30 Years

Wayne Ward, right, Pike Farmers Co-op

Johnny Lott, right, Bonnie Plants

Mike Gilmer, right, Bonnie Plants

John Gamble, right, AFC Grain Division

Mitchell Cooper, right, AFC Management Services

20 Years

Russell Gibbs, right, Central Alabama Farmers Co-op

Cindy Potts, right, AFC Main Office

Beth Turner, right, AFC Computer Services

15 Years

Stacy Dawson, right, AFC Feed Farm & Home Division

Larry Murphy, right, Lauderdale County Co-op

(no photo)

Joe Stuart, Bonnie Plants

Tina Terry, right, AFC Main Office

10 Years

Elton Gibson, right, Aliceville Farm Supply

Thomas Thomas, right, Calhoun Farmers Co-op

5 Years

Ronnie Neely, left, Dekalb Farmers Co-op

David Riggs, right, AFC Feed, Farm & Home Division

Glenn Smith, right, AFC Grain Division

Cow Pokes


Easy Gardening... Irish Potatoes

By B. Dean McCraw, Texas A & M

Since the average American eats about 125 pounds of potatoes and potato products each year, Irish potatoes are one of America’s most popular vegetables. Irish potatoes are a cool-season crop; they grow best in early spring and late fall when the days are warm and the nights are cool. Although the potato is a cool-season crop and the edible part of the plant is an underground stem called a tuber (not a root), the tops of the plant will not withstand frost. Potatoes need full sun for best production.

Soil Preparation and Fertilization

Potatoes do best in a loose, well-drained, slightly acid soil. Poorly drained soils often cause poor stands and low yields. Heavy soils can cause tubers to be small and rough.

Remove rocks, large sticks and trash from the soil before spading. Spade the soil 8-12 inches deep. Turn the soil over to cover all plant material. Work the soil into beds 10-12 inches high and 36 inches apart. Bedding is very important for drainage.

Because potatoes need adequate fertilizer in early season, apply most of the fertilizer just before planting. Use two to three pounds of complete fertilizer like 10-20-10 for each 30 feet of row in bands two inches to each side and one inch below the seed piece. The fertilizer should not touch the seed piece. To apply the fertilizer, flatten the beds so they are six to eight inches high and 10 to 12 inches wide.

Using the corner of a hoe or stick, open a trench about four inches deep on each side of the bed. Apply half of the fertilizer (about two cups for each 30 feet of row) in each trench. The seed pieces will be planted in a row between the two bands of fertilizer.

Preparation of Seed

Irish potatoes are not grown from seed like most other vegetables. Instead, pieces from the potato itself start new plants. Home gardeners should purchase good seed potatoes free of disease and chemicals. Do not buy potatoes from a grocery store for planting.

The seed potato contains buds or "eyes" which sprout and grow into plants. The seed piece provides food for the plant until it develops a root system. Too small a seed piece produces a weak plant. Large seed potatoes for the spring crop should be cut into pieces which weigh about 1 1/2 to 2 ounces (about the size of a medium hen egg). Each seed piece must have at least one good eye. Cut the seed five or six days before planting. Hold the cut seed in a well-ventilated spot so it can heal over to prevent rotting when planted in cold, wet or very hot weather. Plants killed by a late spring frost will not come back if the seed piece is rotten. One pound of seed potatoes will make nine to ten seed pieces.

Seed usually is more available in the spring than in the fall. Many gardeners choose to buy extra seed in the spring and hold it over for fall planting. To do this, keep the potatoes in a cool, humid spot like the bottom of a refrigerator. Do not save your potato seed more than one year. This can cause buildup of virus disease which will reduce yield.


Potatoes should be planted when the soil temperature four inches deep reaches about 50o F, or about three weeks before the last spring frost. Potatoes should be planted in February or early March. If planted too early the tops can be frozen off by spring frost. For a fall crop, plant about 110 days before the first expected frost.

Use a hoe or stick to open a trench about three inches deep down the center of the bed. Drop seed pieces 10 to 12 inches apart in the trench. Step on each seed piece after dropping it to assure good contact with the soil. Cover the seed about three inches deep. If covered too deeply, the plants will be slow to break through the soil and will be more subject to disease and seed decay.


The most common types of Irish potatoes are red or white. Most red varieties store longer than white varieties. Most white varieties have better cooking qualities than red varieties. Many gardeners plant some of each in the spring. The whites are used first and the reds stored for later use.

Care After Planting

All tubers produced on a potato plant come from above the seed piece. Since the seed piece is planted only three inches deep, soil must be pulled toward the plant as it grows. This allows a place for the tubers to form. Some gardeners use a thick mulch for this purpose. Tubers formed in a soft mulch often are smoother and better shaped than those grown in soil. This is especially true if the soil is heavy.

As the tubers enlarge they must be protected from sunlight. Exposure to sunlight causes them to turn green. A thick layer of mulch applied when the plants are eight to ten inches tall can reduce soil temperature and increase yield and quality.

The soil moisture supply should be kept constant during growth. The plant must have adequate moisture and fertilizer when the tubers are forming. This usually occurs when the plants are six to eight inches tall. Apply one cup of fertilizer for each 30 feet of row beside the plants when they are about four inches tall. Water the fertilizer into the soil. This is especially important on sandy soils.

Moisture stress followed by irrigation or rainfall can cause growth cracks and second growth. If the rainfall is accompanied by hot weather, the rest period of developing tubers can be broken and can cause the tubers to sprout in the soil. Too much water causes enlarged pores on tubers and makes them rot easily in storage.

Potato plants usually produce flowers and sometimes produce fruits. The fruits bear the true seed of the potato plant. They look like small tomatoes but cannot be eaten. Potato plants do not cross with tomato plants.

Harvesting and Storing

Potatoes are ready to harvest when the tops begin to die and the skin becomes firm on the potato. The skin is set when it does not scrape easily when rubbed with the thumb. Skin set can be speeded by cutting back the tops of the plants. Most of the potatoes should weigh 6 to 12 ounces at harvest. Harvest small, "new potatoes" during the growing season by carefully digging beside the plants with the fingers.

To harvest potatoes, dig under the plants with a shovel or spading fork. Keep the fork eight to ten inches away from the plant to prevent cutting the potatoes. Raise the plants and shake away the soil. Potatoes should be dug when the soil is moist. If it is too wet, the soil will stick to the potatoes. If too dry, clods will bruise the potatoes. Pull the potatoes from the vines and handle them carefully to prevent damage since damaged potatoes do not store well.

Allow the potatoes to dry, then store them in a cool spot with plenty of air movement. Most potato varieties are ready to dig 95 to 110 days after planting.


Potatoes are troubled by several diseases. Treatment of seed pieces with a fungicide prior to planting can be helpful.

A good rotation program is effective in controlling most potato diseases. If possible, do not plant potatoes in the same place more than once each three years. Do not follow or precede potatoes with eggplant, okra, pepper or tomato. Seed piece treatment is especially important if your garden is too small for adequate rotation.


Irish potatoes contain two percent protein and 18 percent starch. They are an inexpensive source of carbohydrates and provide a good quantity of vitamins and minerals when properly prepared. Green areas on potatoes should be peeled away before cooking.


After the potatoes are dug, place the tops in the compost pile. The spring potato crop often can be followed with a summer crop like Southern peas.

Feeding Facts

By Jimmy Hughes

It is with great optimism we are hopefully experiencing the final few weeks of winter and can look forward to warmer days right around the corner. With this in mind, I am going to use this article to do a little "spring cleaning" to cover several issues cattle producers need to consider in the coming weeks. I hope this will answer some commonly asked questions this time of the year.

The first consideration as the grass starts to green up is grass tetany. Grass tetany is associated with a build-up of potassium nitrate reducing the bioavailability of magnesium in a cow’s diet. This most commonly occurs in cool-season grasses experiencing rapid growth during early spring and late fall of each year. Prevention is the key to eliminating this nutritional disorder in cattle. Cattle consuming a mineral providing 12-15 grams of magnesium per head per day should not experience any problems with grass tetany. I recommend providing a mineral containing at least 10 percent magnesium for 30 days prior to the time cattle will be most susceptible to grass tetany. Cattle will need to be offered this mineral in a free-choice form until forages mature and are not experiencing the rapid growth occurring early in the growing season. Your local Co-op offers a wide range of minerals and blocks to supply magnesium in the daily diet of your animals and in a highly available form.

Another consideration is making a decision on a complete mineral for the summer months. Most producers supplement cattle during the winter months with either feed or blocks providing minerals, vitamins, protein and energy. During the summer months while cows are not receiving supplementation, their requirements for minerals and vitamins will continue. Consumption of minerals and vitamins will probably increase during the summer months to replace those lost due to sweating from the extreme heat in Alabama. We recommend a general all-purpose cattle mineral to meet the cow’s needs. Also, additional management is usually required during the summer to make sure the product is being provided on a daily basis. It is easy for mineral and vitamins supplementation to be ignored during the summer when most producers do not check their cattle as closely as they do during the winter. Your local Co-op has a variety of free-choice minerals and feeders that will fit the bill.

We are also happy to introduce a STIMU-LYX® Mineral Tub formulated to meet the mineral and vitamin requirements of Alabama cattle during the summer. Like all other STIMU-LYX® supplements, this product will be readily-accepted and cattle will consistently go to this supplement on a daily basis. This is very important when trying to get your cattle bred for next year’s calf crop.

Another mineral product we offer for your consideration is one specifically formulated to reduce the affects of fescue toxicity on cattle. The affects of fescue toxicity is due to an entophyte causing cattle to be unthrifty, maintain winter hair, poor reproduction performance, poor growth and, in extreme cases, loss of tails and hoofs due to restriction of blood flow to these extremities. Research has shown supplemental trace minerals like copper and selenium along with high levels of vitamins A, D and E have been effective in reducing the effects of fescue toxicity. We offer products specifically designed for cattle on infected fescue. Your local Co-op team is ready to assist in selecting the right product for this situation.

Another spring consideration is deciding what to do for external parasite control. External parasites cost cattle producers billions of dollars each year in lost weight and in the spread of diseases like pink eye. A producer has a variety of options when selecting an external parasite control program. A producer can select from sprays, rubs, tags, pour-ons or feed-through products added to minerals or blocks. While all these products are effective in external parasite control, I suggest you consider several different options when putting together an external parasite control program. Most producers implement a program including sprays along with feed-through products like Rabon® or an IGR added to complete minerals or blocks. These products can be in a loose mineral form or could include a fly control block in Sweetlix® or STIMY-LYX® line of products. As always, your local Co-op has a variety of these products on hand this spring and they will be glad to assist you in putting together the most effective and cost-efficient program you can put together.

I also suggest you implement an internal parasite control program this spring. A lot of producers skipped this practice last fall as a way to help offset the increased cost of feed, fertilizer and minerals. If that is the case in your operation, I recommend you do not skip this important practice this spring. Internal parasites reduce the cost ability to utilize forages in the most efficient manner possible. While grass is young and at its highest nutritional value, cows treated for internal parasites will gain weigh faster, produce more milk and breed back quicker than those not treated. While most other inputs have been increasing in cost, internal parasite control products have either maintained or, in some cases, experienced a reduction in cost. A cow can be treated for internal parasites for less than $3 per head and the return on your investment will be a lot greater than any return we are currently seeing in the stock market. You should consider a branded-product over the less costly generic products flooding the market over the past few years. A branded-product was manufactured in a way to assure the producer a high-quality product performing in the way the manufacturer states on the label. I regularly talk to producers who have switched from generics back to branded-products because of a more consistent performance. Your local Co-op has special spring pricing on branded parasite control products allowing treatment of cattle at the lowest cost ever.

A final consideration for producers this spring is on whether or not to creep feed calves. Creep feeding calves is very helpful in increasing the growth of your calves, but it also reduces the pressure on your brood cows and summer grass. This combination will lead to heavier weaning weights, cows in better body condition, better reproductive performance and more grass. Feed cost has stabilized from last fall and agriculture economists seem to believe cattle prices will rebound later this year. Lower-cost feed and higher-priced calves are the perfect combination when deciding to creep feed your calves. We offer a selection of high-quality creep feeds along with a variety of creep feeders to allow you to creep feed your calves in a safe and efficient manner. Consider creep feeding as a way to gain additional dollars this calving season.

While I am sure there are other considerations for your cattle operation this spring, I believe those covered in this article are good starting points. As always your local Co-op is always ready to offer advice, quality products and excellent customer service to assist you in any manner possible.

Jimmy Hughes is AFC’s animal nutritionist. If you would like to contact him, please feel free to call at (256) 9477-7886 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it."> I look forward to hearing from you or visiting with you in the future.

Franklin Co. Co-op’s Karen Linker Earns E. P. Garrett Manager of the Year Award

AFC President Tommy Paulk (right) presented Karen Linker, manager of Franklin County Co-op, with the coveted E.P. Garrett Manager of the Year Award. Her husband, Don (left), an outside salesman for AFC, was there to provide support.

By Alvin Benn

Running a successful business requires a total team effort and Karen Linker of the Franklin County Co-op was the first to acknowledge that fact when she received the E.P. Garrett Manager of the Year Award for 2008.

"This would not be possible without Kristy, my staff and my family," Linker said after being named manager of the year at Alabama Farmers Cooperative’s 72nd annual meeting on Feb. 4-5 at the Wynfrey Hotel in Birmingham.

She referred to Kristy Martin, her assistant manager, along with employees Brandi Hood, Rowland Looney, Greg Harville, Billy Cooper and Randy Cook—a loyal staff who helped her resuscitate a business that had been on its last legs earlier this decade.

When Linker arrived at the Co-op in 2002 as a bookkeeper, she may not have known much about the intricacies of agriculture, but she did know people are people no matter what their surroundings.

AFC President Tommy Paulk (right) presented the keys to a new Chevrolet truck to Karen Linker, manager of Franklin County Co-op, at AFC’s annual meeting. It’s hers to drive for the year.

She was a quick learner, too, and, a year after her arrival and promotion to manager, smiles began to replace frowns on both sides of the counter because of Linker’s belief in a two-word path to business success.

"‘Customer service’ is the reason we’ve done so well," said Linker, who was surrounded by well-wishers and family members not long after AFC President Tommy Paulk announced her selection as manager of the year. "When you make people feel welcome, they will keep coming back."

Linker became only the second woman to be honored with the coveted cooperative manager-of-the-year award. Frances Dahlke won it in 1978 — making Linker the first female recipient in three decades.

During his introduction of the manager award, Paulk began to outline accomplishments of the winner. It didn’t take long for many in the packed hotel ballroom to begin looking over at Linker because they knew immediately she was the one he was referring to.

They were well aware of what she had accomplished since becoming manager and those who didn’t were soon apprised of her success by Paulk.

He said once she had been promoted from bookkeeper to manager, the business "began the ascent of a store that had struggled for years and was on the brink of closing."

"Today, the Franklin County Co-op is a profitable, viable business providing valuable services to its members," said Paulk.

The annual award is not based on popularity. Co-op managers must show in their records how well they’ve done during the year. Many have good years, but it takes a special manager to become best of the best.

In the five years since Linker has been manager, the Co-op in Russellville has shown a 165 percent growth in sales. In 2008, sales were $2.8 million with accounts receivable at a solid 99 percent current rate.

The Co-op’s profit growth has increased five-fold since Linker took over, said Paulk, who added she is "very much a people-person and knows a manager is only as good as the people who work for her."

During her 13 months as a bookkeeper, all Linker had to do was look around the Co-op and see things weren’t being handled properly, especially on the management level.

Prior to joining the Co-op, Linker had worked in hotel management and helped unemployed Alabamians apply for benefits. Dealing with people in various capacities and walks of life had, unknowingly, helped her prepare for the best job she’s ever had.

"The Co-op was in bad shape when I was promoted," she said. "They were talking about closing it and I had some ideas I thought would help save it."

She said the first thing she did was "just be what I’ve always been and that’s a people-person. That’s something I’ve been all my life."

It didn’t take long for Linker and her staff to rebuild the trust between area farmers and the Co-op staff who served them.

Linker told the Franklin board of directors that, while it would be quite a challenge for her, she felt she was up to the task and was eager to try and turn things around.

Growing up in the Morgan County community of Hartselle, Linker learned the value of hard work, dedication and good ethics from her parents, Leslie and Fay Odell. She made sure to thank them when she received her award.

Farmers who walk into the store today are treated like members of the Co-op family with everybody referred to by their first name.

"Karen’s not only my boss, but my best friend," said Martin, who has been Linker’s right arm since taking over as manager. "She deserves this award more than anybody. She has done a wonderful job."

Martin said it must have been a no-brainer when the Franklin County Co-op Board of Directors began looking for a new manager.

"They knew they had a winner when they saw her for the first time," she said. "Karen has shown them since taking over that she not only could do the job, she has done it."

Paulk pointed out to the large crowd that becoming manager also provided Linker with an unexpected benefit — a husband.

"It’s where she met Don Linker while he was working for a local dairy," Paulk said. "They were married in 2003 and combined two families into one."

The AFC president then presented Linker with icing on a very special cake when he turned around at the podium and gave her the keys to a new Chevrolet pickup truck for her use during the year.

Standing right behind her were her proud husband and members of their family who were on hand for her big moment.

Alvin Benn is a freelance writer from Selma.

GARDEN VEGGIES: Nutrient Superstars with a Strange History

By Angela Treadaway

Growing your own vegetables is a great way to improve the quality of your diet. Involving children in the garden will encourage them to try new, nutritious foods. Vegetables are low in saturated fat and have zero cholesterol. Most contain significant amounts of vitamins and minerals. Here are some hidden benefits of some of the vegetables you may be considering for your garden.

Tomatoes: There is nothing like a fresh Alabama-grown tomato in the summertime. Although technically a fruit, most consider the tomato a vegetable. It is believed the tomato is native to the Americas. Its origins trace back to the early Aztecs in South America around 700 A.D. Tomatoes are a rich source of lycopene which has been shown to help fight some cancers, heart disease and macular degeneration (a cause of blindness in the elderly). Tomatoes also contain vitamins C and A. Tomatoes that are vine-ripened are higher in vitamin C than greenhouse tomatoes. Fresh tomatoes contain more vitamin C than those processed or cooked.

Greens: Collard greens are thought to be relatives of the ancient vegetable, wild cabbage, which was consumed in prehistoric times. Originating in Asia Minor, collard greens spread to Europe and then to the United States in the 17th century. Turnips are one of the most commonly-grown and widely-adapted root crops. They are members of the mustard family, but unlike many other vegetables, produce a plant that is desired for both their leaves and their roots. This feature is especially desirable for many Southerners, because we tend to be thrifty and want to use every part of everything. Perhaps the best quality of greens is that they contain rich amounts of nutrients like vitamins C, E and beta-carotene, which are all powerful antioxidants. Studies have shown a diet rich in antioxidants can help fight off diseases like atherosclerosis, colon cancer, osteoarthritis, diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. Greens are also an excellent source of folate and vitamin B6. These vitamins help keep blood homocysteine levels low. Studies have also shown high levels of homocysteine can damage blood vessel walls, leading to increased risk of blood clots, heart attack or stroke.

Peas: The Chinese believed their emperor, Shu Nung, discovered peas 5,000 years ago. Called the Chinese Father of Agriculture, he is said to have wandered around the countryside observing and collecting plants, looking for those which might be suitable for food or medicine. Potential edibles were fed to a dog, then a servant and, if both survived, the emperor himself would taste the new food. All types of peas are good sources of fiber, protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, thiamin, folate, iron, and phosphorus. Frozen peas retain their color, flavor and nutrients better than canned peas, and are lower in sodium.

Squash: Squash has an ancient history originating back to 3000 BC, where the Ancient American Indians commonly consumed what they called "the apple of God." There are two main types of squash: summer and winter. Winter squash varieties — like acorn, butternut and buttercup — are picked at the mature stage. They have hard shells with firm flesh and seeds. Zucchini and other summer squash varieties, which are harvested at the immature stage, have soft shells and tender, light-colored flesh. Other varieties of summer squash include patty pan, yellow crookneck and yellow straightneck. Summer squash are 95 percent water. The high water content makes summer squash a low-calorie food. A cup of raw zucchini contains only 20 calories. Summer squash are generally a good source of vitamin C and potassium.

If you are interested in learning more about how to preserve these nutritious, antioxidant filled goodies, contact your local County Extension Office. The Alabama Cooperative Extension System is one of the only educational institutions left who provide food preservation information. You can also go on our website to find many handouts on food preservation and gardening at

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

Bonnie Plants’ unique fertilizer is a step beyond the norm and is also organically based.

Try Bonnie’s Unique Soy-Based Fertilizer

I count on the well-rooted transplants sold by Bonnie Plants to start my tomatoes and other important spring garden crops. They buy me time. I learned recently one reason the transplants are so healthy looking is a unique fertilizer Bonnie uses to grow their plants. It is a patented formula made from soybean seeds containing enzymes and many of the life giving chemical compounds found in a seed. Although the label states only the nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium content, this organically-based formula offers biological benefits beyond mineral nutrition. If you’d like to give it a try, it will be sold in many outlets along with Bonnie plants this spring.

Is That Iris Blooming Again?

Iris rebloomers are well-suited to North Alabama, but require special care.

Have you seen iris bloom in summer or fall? If so, you’ve experienced a rebloomer, the latest "gotta have" among iris aficionados. Breeders have been working on this particular trait for a while and there are more and more varieties now available that will bloom more than once if properly cared for. Generally, iris that bloom more than once are better suited to North Alabama. Some names of rebloomers include Queen Dorothy, Feedback, Pink Attraction, Immortality, Plum Wine, Grape Adventure, Autumn Burglar…love the names. According to an iris hybridizer I met some time ago, the key to getting a good rebloom is you must have a clump, so be patient and give them a year or two to establish. Each rhizome blooms only once. Sprinkle a little fertilizer around them, not on them, after their first bloom. Also water deeply once a week in midsummer. Irises grow best near the surface of the ground so don’t plant too deeply.

Blueberries Are a Great Home Fruit

Grow your own blueberries and enjoy their taste year round -- if you can keep them away from the birds.

Those delectable berries selling for $1 a handful at the grocery store can be ours for pennies if we want to grow our own. Most of the best hybrid blueberries for Alabama are descendants of Southern native rabbiteye blueberries (Vaccinium ashei) and are superbly well adapted to our area. The ideal time to plant is fall and winter, but if you hurry, there is still time to get some in the ground. Blueberries are native to acid soils; they need a pH of between 4.5 and 5. Add plenty of peat moss to the planting hole or use compost made from pine bark, which is also acidic. When planting, make a wide, but not deep hole. Set the plants so the top of the rootball is level with the surface of the ground and don’t be tempted to pile soil deeply over the top of the roots. Like azaleas, blueberries have very fine, hair-like roots that don’t take well to smothering. You can put a light layer of pine straw (which is acidic) over the bare ground to help retain moisture. Watering is very important at first; if possible, use a soaker hose to water your plants regularly during the first couple of years. Water deeply so the roots will follow the water down into the ground. Deeply-rooted plants will tolerate drought better down the road when the babying ends. Fertilize with an acid-forming fertilizer like azalea-camellia food or cottonseed meal. Because they freeze so well, it’s hard to have too many blueberries as long as someone in the family has time to pick them. Having a lot also makes it easier to ignore the birds, otherwise you’ll need to cover your precious few with bird netting at fruiting time. Recommended varieties for Alabama include Climax, Woodard, Premier, Tifblue, Centurion and Powderblue. In coastal South Alabama, try some of the introductions from the University of Florida like Beckyblue and Bluecrisp, which are hybrids of Southern rabbiteye and Northern highbush.

Swiss Chard Adds Color to Your Meals

Swiss chard is a nutritious and tasty green you can plant now and enjoy in spring, summer and fall.

Swiss chard seems to get more attention as an ornamental than an edible, but this is a nutritious and tasty green you can plant now to enjoy in spring, summer and fall. The stems of Bright Lights, a well-known variety, include gold, red, white and shades in between. Plant seeds or set out transplants this month. Harvest the young leaves to add some pretty color to your salad. You can cook larger leaves lightly by sautéing with a little olive oil. The wilted leaves make a healthy bed over which to serve pasta or a chicken breast. In the summer, the bigger leaves may be a bit tough and perhaps more strongly flavored than you’d like. If this is the case, use them "as is" for a beautiful leafy garnish or "platter" on which to serve a scoop of chicken or potato salads.

Learn Bird Songs Online

Perhaps you recognize every bird on your property simply by its song. If you can’t, but would like to, there are several websites that have short audios of different bird songs you can listen to for free. No tapes or CD! They also include pictures and information about each bird. Check out the possibilities at and follow the birding links. A smaller collection also resides at Be careful, you may find yourself listening and forgetting about everything else. Do it when you have time to explore, as nature offers the songs of more than 500 North American birds. It’s fun to compare what the different species of a varied group like quail sound like in another part of the country.

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

If You Have a Small Farm…

Zebus waiting for Susan Stephens to give them some cow treats.

Get a Small Cow

By Suzy Lowry Geno

Motorists have been known to stop abruptly in the middle of Tabernacle Road and stare at the small, hump-backed cattle contentedly munching grass.

"What are those things?" is the question Susan and Eddie Stephens have become accustomed to answering for those "just passing by," friends and family.

"Those things" are Miniature Zebu cattle, thought to be one of the oldest cattle breeds in the world, and well-suited to Alabama’s hot summers and humidity.

Landscaping with herbs: Planning your kitchen garden

By H.T. Farmer

Lately, I can’t say enough about using herbs as accents in your landscape. In fact, in my opinion, herbs should be the primary focus of all landscapes. Lay the landscape plans using perennial herbs and then add the annuals. If there’s room after that, you can always put in an Encore® azalea or two.

Let’s start with planning your kitchen garden with a few culinary herbs.

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) should be a definite starting plant. Not only is this herb great for cooking, but the blooms will attract bees and the plants are pleasing to the eye in a landscape. Choose the rosemary that suits the plan. For example: Tuscan Blue rosemary grows tall and wide (three to six feet in both directions) whereas, Blue Boy usually only grows to about 12" tall making it a good border plant.

Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) is a must for your kitchen garden. Used in soups, stews, poultry dishes and eggs, this herb has a strong value when it comes to culinary purpose. The blooms are also favored by bees and we all know how valuable it is to have them in your garden.

Sage (Salvia officinalis) is also good bee and butterfly attractant. When dried, sage makes a great seasoning for poultry, seafood and soups. Make a bouquet garnet with sage, bay leaves, whole black pepper corns and thyme and add it to your stew while cooking.

Bay (Laurus nobilis) can make a nice pyramid-shaped evergreen tree when kept pruned. In the South (zones 9-11), bay trees can grow as high as 50 feet! In zones 7b to 8b, it is easily managed at eight to 16 feet. Bay leaves are used in many different savory dishes. Used dry or fresh, bay is a plus for any kitchen garden.

Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) is a biennial herb used for all kinds of savory dishes. It also makes a great garnish and a nice accent plant as well. Though it is a biennial, it sometimes grows similar to a perennial in warmer climates; lasting three to five years before it dies.

Rosemary and thyme can also be found in prostrate cultivars. Plant these varieties when you need a groundcover to accent your plantings.

This should get you started on your landscaping with kitchen herbs project. I’ll have more suggestions next month, including a list of annual and tender perennial herbs to be used for color and flavor in your garden.

Thanks for reading!

If you have any questions about uses for any herbs, e-mail me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">farmerht@yahoo.comand I’ll tell you all I know. As always, check with an expert, like your doctor, before using any herbal remedy.

Long Stem Roses Can Sometimes Be Propagated After Enjoying

By Kenn Alan

I have been getting e-mails from readers who received roses last month. Probably Groundhog Day or President’s Day gifts; maybe they were even a Valentine’s Day love offering. For whatever reason, folks have been wondering if they can propagate the long stem roses they received.

I said, "Definitely, maybe!"

Long stem roses go through a lot of trauma to get from their growers in South America to your dining room buffet. So, it’s not surprising they may not root or, at least, not as easily as roses you cut from your bushes outside.

No matter, some long stem roses will actually put out some new leaf growth after you receive them. If this happens, then by all means try your hand at rooting them.

When you get long stemmed roses you should immediately fill a basin with cold tap water. Place the rose stems into the water and trim off the bottom 1½ inches of the basal end. The reason this is done under water is because the rose stem will actually suck into the stem whatever it is exposed to. Capillary action will allow water to be taken up into the stems if they are cut under water giving the fresh roses an important boost.

If you notice your roses are starting to break (put out fresh foliage), trim off the bloom, injure the stem, dip it into a rooting hormone then stick it.

Here’s what I mean: Trim off the bloom to make the cutting stop using any energy to produce a flower. Mother Nature then takes over and tries to sustain the species by making roots (in theory). Then injure the basal end of the stem by removing some of the outer portion (epidermis) with a knife or your fingernail. After removing about one inch of the epidermis, dip the basal end into a rooting powder like Rootone® then stick your cutting into your propagation medium (perlite and bark or sand). Keep the cuttings under mist or at least make sure they don’t dry out. The cuttings should call us within about 21 to 28 days and send out roots within 45 to 60 days.

Notes on rooting roses in general:

• I prefer using rooting talcs on rose cuttings. The liquids tend to contain alcohol which seems to burn some roses.

• Patented roses should never be asexually propagated without expressed written consent of the owner of the intellectual property. Unless the gifted roses come with a statement of patent, I believe they are fair game and the plant police won’t hassle you!

• Don’t over-water your rose cuttings and keep air circulating around them to aid in preventing pathogens from attacking them.

Good luck with your rose cuttings! E-mail me and let me know about your efforts in propagation roses.

E-mail me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it."> if you need further information on plant propagation.

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I hope you’ll all tune in each Saturday from 8-10 a.m. CDT for Home Grown Tomatoes. If you aren’t in the local coverage area, tune in on the Internet by going to and follow the links to listen live!

For more on these and other gardening tips log on to Home Grown Tomatoes at

Looking for Time Well Spent in March

Episode 19: Saturday and Sunday, March 7 & 8

Jim goes to Summerdale in Baldwin County and visits with Wes Moore, owner of Alligator Alley. This show will get you up-close and personal with some of the biggest of over 150 gators roaming there.

Grace takes us to the West Alabama town of Camden where many young people spent last summer developing a talent for artwork while learning a deeper appreciation for the artists of the Blackbelt area.

Chuck and fisheries biologist, Kevin Rhoades, discuss the benefits of using lime to improve the productivity of a farm pond.

Episode 20: Saturday and Sunday, March 14 & 15

Jim goes to a farm outside of Shorter to find out just how much work and time Sam Mitchell puts into making an heirloom saddle.

Grace will introduce us to Mississippi State freshman Josh Maples whose work on his family farm in Elkmont has not only helped develop a successful farming operation but has also helped develop his character of hard work and dedication.

Chuck and Jody Pagan, chief biologist for 5 Oaks Wildlife Services, discuss the importance of Green Tree Reservoirs in waterfowl management.

Episode 21: Saturday and Sunday, March 21 & 22

Jim travels to Limestone County to visit Belle Chévre cheese creamery and discusses with owner, Tasia Malakasis, her passion for the nationally-recognized goat cheese produced there.

Traveling to the East Alabama town of Beulah, Grace will visit with former FFA member Colton Sykes whose work in Forestry and Wildlife Science has given him national recognition and a desire for hard work.

Chuck explains the importance Green Tree Reservoirs play in overall waterfowl management.

Episode 22: Saturday and Sunday, March 28 & 29

Jim goes to Greene County to meet with Jim Bird, a man whose hay bale artwork has fascinated motorist driving along U.S. Hwy 43 for nearly 20 years.

Grace takes us to Gadsden to visit with up-and-coming country music sensation Laura Dodd, who shares with us her rise to fame and stardom.

Chuck travels to Central Georgia to meet with Buford Sanders of the Georgia Forestry Commission to discuss the benefits of prescribed burning and witness demonstrations of several burning techniques.

Lost Weekend

By Baxter Black, DVM

In the movie Long Kiss Goodnight, Samuel L. Jackson’s character practiced a habit of saying out loud to himself, "I’m putting my car keys on the dresser" "...on the kitchen counter" "...on the nightstand" as he laid down the object. It is a great mental mechanical memory device. It has worked for me but I don’t think I would have ever thought about saying, "I’m dropping my glasses in the dog’s water bucket."

Mule deer season opened on Friday. My son and I drove to Davidson Canyon. From the highway to the unimproved road we put my new purchase to the test. It is a 1997 one-ton, long bed, extended cab, four-wheel-drive diesel with 244,000 miles. It’s white. We call it the Polar Bear.

Pulling a 16-foot gooseneck with three horses we squeezed by, crashed through, crawled over, scraped under and climbed up the rocky trails that would have frightened a yeti! It is my own monster truck! We stopped, unloaded the horses and rode out. Within an hour we had slid up on six does and a buck. The chase ensued. We had purposely lowered the volume on our walkie-talkies so they would only vibrate and not spook the wildlife. As can happen, we lost contact. My son lost his walkie-talkie before he lost the buck! Tracking back was fruitless since we couldn’t call it, the walkie-talkie, I mean. We’d turned off the ringer.

At lunch we took a break.

"Where’s your other saddle blanket?" I asked.

We both agreed he had started with two. The country was so rough there was no point goin’ back to try and find it. We finished the day’s hunt, loaded up and came home. It was then I discovered my keys were missing and I couldn’t find my glasses!

The next day we changed country and hunted afoot. Again, we saw deer but no bucks. Back home by early afternoon I realized I couldn’t find my wallet or my hunting license. Which was humiliating since the one I lost was, itself, a replacement for the original, which I had also misplaced. Cost me $4.

Sunday I took a day trip back to Davidson Canyon with my GPS. I had the foresight to enter the location of where we had parked on Friday. Lo and behold I walked to within 10 feet of the keys! They were so grateful to be rescued they actually leaped up into my arms! Later I found my wallet in my other pair of boots. Hunting season was over so the license didn’t matter. I bought another walkie-talkie. As you might guess, one isn’t much good by itself and when I cleaned out the dog’s bucket...well, you know that story.

But somewhere in the Arizona desert is a pack rat’s or raven’s nest lined with red and black threads with a strip of fluorescent orange ribbon poking out. As to how it might have happened, I’d rather not discuss.

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,

New AU Bahiagrass Proves to be More Winter-Hardy

By Dr. Don Ball

Bahiagrass occupies more acres of land in Alabama than any other forage species. However, someone who lives in North Alabama might find that statement hard to believe because most of the bahiagrass in Alabama is in the southern one-half or so of the state. This hardy grass, which is native to South America, can be grown on soils and sites ranging from drought-prone sands to fairly heavy clays and from upland sites to wet-natured bottom fields.

Bahiagrass can be used for either pasture or hay, but is most commonly used for pasture. Although a number of hybrid bermudagrasses have a higher yield potential, bahiagrass has a longer growing season and consequently provides more calendar days of grazing. Unlike hybrid bermudagrasses, bahiagrass can be propagated by seed and is quite tolerant of a wide range of fertility regimes. Once established in an area in which it is adapted, it will persist almost regardless of how it is managed.

Pasture acreage in North Alabama is dominated by cool-season forages, especially tall fescue. While cool-season forage species can provide a good supply of nutritious pasture forage in spring and autumn, production in summer is poor. Warm season pasture forage options in North Alabama and areas with similar climate are limited, but another option is now available in the form of the variety ‘AU Sand Mountain’ bahiagrass developed and released by Auburn University (AU).

This variety originated from a patch of Pensacola bahiagrass planted in the early 1960s on what is now the Sand Mountain Research and Extension Center near Crossville. Over time, nature selected the hardiest plants and in 1984 Dr. Edzard van Santen, a plant breeder in the Department of Agronomy and Soils at AU, collected seed from this ecotype and began working with it. Since then it has been included in numerous yield trials in Alabama and in several other states.

The variety has been proven to be more winter-hardy than other bahiagrass varieties, and will expand the area of adaptation of bahiagrass farther north. The exact northern limit is not known, but is likely at least as far as Central Tennessee. In the upper portion of the area where bahiagrass has been commonly grown, AU Sand Mountain has consistently yielded better than other varieties. However, the farther south the new bahiagrass is grown, the less likely it is to outperform currently available varieties.

AU Sand Mountain bahiagrass will provide another warm-season perennial grass option for livestock producers north of the area where bahiagrass has typically been grown. It may be particularly useful in areas where a warm-season perennial grass is needed, but sites and soils are too moist for good bermudagrass production. (Note: In some areas bahiagrass may outcompete other perennial forages, so plantings should be limited to areas where there is no concern about this occurring.)

In addition, this variety will provide a higher-yielding bahiagrass option for persons in the northern portion of the area in which this grass is presently commonly grown. Persons interested in obtaining seed of this new variety should contact Dr. Jim Bostick, Executive Vice President of the Alabama Crop Improvement Association, at (334) 693-3988.

Don Ball is an Extension Forage Crop Agronomist with Auburn University.

News From Your Local Co-op

Steve Bray Recognized by
Jay Peanuts Farmers Co-op

Steve Bray was recognized by Jay Peanuts Farmers Co-op’s Board at their annual meeting. Steve is retiring after 33 years of service with the Co-op. Pictured from left are Misty Bray, James Richard Dixon, Cecilia Bray, Steve Bray, Derek Bray, Jordan Bray, Allison Dixon, Mitzi Dixon, Makenzie Bray and Henry Dixon.

Peanut People

Riding Side-by-Side Useful on the Farm, on the Hunt, or Just for Fun

There's plenty of gear-hauling room, comfort for two and ability to navigate tough, muddy trails. The Rhino's dumping bed and tailgate also make hauling game easy.

By John Howle

The first time I saw a side-by-side, my thoughts were, "So this is what it looks like when you breed a pick-up to an ATV." What began as a way to travel around the work-site or the golf course has now become the most popular modes of transportation around the farm or on the hunting trail.

These little rigs are referred to by many names: side-by-sides, UTVs, off-road utility vehicles, recreational utility vehicles and many names referring to large or aggressive animals like Rhinos, Mules, Gators, Rangers and even Bad Boys. For the purpose of this article, we’ll just refer to the pickup/ATV hybrid as a side-by-side. Regardless of the name you use to refer to them, they are truly useful around the farm or on the hunt.

I’ve recently had the opportunity to put one of these side-by-sides to the test at Macola Creek Farms in Cleburne County this past winter. The side-by-side was a Yamaha Rhino 450 Auto 4 x 4. The 421 cc engine provided ample power to tow loaded utility trailers and haul rounded-over loads of firewood out of steep, remote woods. For a complete tractor-like pulling capability, you can fully lock the four-wheel drive differential and place the transmission in low range.

The plush, bucket seats provided all day driving and riding comfort, and the passenger grab handles and seat belts provided extra security in tough terrain. The low profile doors provided enough height to keep mud and debris out of the vehicle and gave extra protection in tilted terrain.

With over a foot of ground clearance, a dumping bed, grab handles and roll bars, the structural design of the vehicle is well-suited for work and safety, and the fully-independent four-wheel suspension results in agile handling and an extremely smooth ride. The suspension gives the same nimble feel as an ATV, and we were able to effectively herd and drive cattle with the Rhino 450.

The gas tank holds 7.9 gallons of fuel, but after using the 450 all day, it’s hard to see the gas level go down because of the fuel-efficient engine. With a total vehicle weight of 1,105 pounds, the Rhino 450 was able to haul well more than the recommended 400-pound bed capacity and 1,212 towing capacity. However, even though the unit will haul heavier than recommended loads, you have to remember you will eventually want to stop. Overloading the side-by-side can cause you to put too much confidence in the brakes, and sliding and other dangers can result.

The Rhino's bed holds plenty of square bales of hay, firewood and farming tools. The suspension and agility of the side-by-side also allow for easy herding of cattle.

On the Farm

There are plenty of times when you need to patch a section of fence beyond walking distance from the house. Maybe the area is steep and remote and you just don’t want to pull the truck in there. You’ll probably need a roll of barbed wire, wire stretchers, bucket of staples and fence ties, pliers, claw hammer and chainsaw. There’s not enough storage space for these items on the traditional ATV, but the side-by-side has the hauling space for all these items, as well as seat room for an extra rider whom you want to show the value of a strong work ethic.

If it’s time to plant the garden or the food plot, the side-by-side’s bed has ample room to haul fertilizer, lime, seeds, as well as the tools to get the seeds into the ground. Large, ATV sprayers can be a bulky load for the traditional ATV; however, in the bed of a side-by-side, you have much more stability for spraying even in rugged terrain. When it comes time to harvest your corn, peas and other produce, the side-by-side’s convenient bed will haul a few hours’ worth of picking, and dump the load with a click of a lever.

On the Hunt

One of the biggest advantages to the side-by-side over the ATV during the hunt is the ability to haul out large game. A fair-sized deer on the back rack of an ATV can be an unstable and clumsy load. However, the side-by-side’s bed holds the harvest more securely. Another option you would want to consider is the dumping bed. Whether it’s a deer or a load of gravel, the dumping bed can be a labor-saver.

Taking part in land management activities is much easier with the side-by-side. Trailer hitch implements can be pulled with power and stability by the rear hitch on the side-by-side, and the four-wheel-drive models with low range will pull with the power of a tractor. The comfortable ride for two is convenient for scouting land and general leisure, and the rear bed is plenty large enough to carry chainsaws, lime, fertilizer and other tools necessary to develop food plots and manage the land.

When it comes to two-person transportation, the side-by-side definitely works better than the ATV. While it is possible for two hunters to ride an ATV, most will tell you they feel more comfortable riding side by side rather than front and rear.

Just for Fun

A side-by-side is simply fun to drive. Convincing your spouse to agree to the purchase may not be as fun. A typical scenario might be:

"Honey, we really need one of those side-by-side’s to help us manage this land."

"Why is that, dear? We only own two acres."

"Well, don’t forget about that goat I bought. We are technically in the livestock business now, and I was considering buying a flock of laying hens this spring."

The side-by-side is truly a utility vehicle, and utility means useful. Even if you are not checking the cows, fixing a fence or hauling fertilizer, a side-by-side like the Yamaha Rhino 450 provides both riding enjoyment for the entire family and serves as a faithful working partner in the woods or on the farm. For more information on the Yamaha Rhino 450, visit

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.

Smaller Boats Provide Bigger Opportunities for Sportsmen

By Ben Norman

Size and weight of larger boats often prevent outdoor enthusiasts from accessing remote waters. One of these smaller, easily transportable craft may be just what you need to access areas others seldom visit.

Being on a lake, river or bay in a large boat while relaxing on a soft pedestal seat is certainly one of America’s favorite ways to enjoy fishing. But what about those small rivers, bayous, oxbows and backwaters that larger boats just can’t negotiate? Waters like these call for a small, lightweight craft that can maneuver in mere inches of water.

Trailering a large boat on a long trip can also tax one’s patience. Business trips or family vacations often carry outdoor enthusiasts to some of the best hunting and fishing areas in the country, but many times circumstances dictate we leave the big boat at home. If you fall into any of these situations, you may want to consider one of the following small crafts.

Ben Norman carries one of Ron Chapman’s 55 pound pirogues to a farm pond.


For years the pirogue (pronounced pe-row or pi-rog) could only be found in the swamps of Louisiana and other coastal marsh areas. Pirogues are pointed at both ends and have a flat bottom with a hard chine. They are usually 10-16 feet in length and are narrow with flared sides. A pirogue can carry one to three persons, depending on length and width.

Ron Chapman ( has been building fiberglass pirogues for fisherman and duck hunters for 29 years.

"For years the pirogue was used primarily for duck hunting, but in the last ten years we have been shipping our fiberglass pirogues all across the United States to fishermen. We sell pirogues to people who don’t want to trailer a boat around. Properly secured on top of the family sedan, you hardly know a pirogue is there," said Chapman.

Chapman said fishermen have realized the pirogue is excellent for getting across shallow water to good fishing areas.

"We are getting a lot of orders from fishermen who lash a pirogue inside their bass or other type boat. When they get to water too shallow or with too many obstacles for the larger boat, they launch the pirogue, fish the skinny, obstructed water and return to the mother boat. These little boats weigh in the 50-70pound range and are ideal for this type of ‘piggybacking’," said Chapman.

Because of their lightweight and streamlined construction, pirogues are excellent for car topping. Pirogues are ideal for crossing mud flats to get to duck blinds and prime fishing spots. They are not open water boats and can be a bit tipsy until one gets used to them, but they are hard to beat for accessing remote sheltered waters.

Car Toppers

Car toppers are usually small, thin gauge aluminum Jon boats or V-bottom utility boats. Where the square-bowed Jon boat got its’ name is still debated. One theory is a man named Jon scaled down a Mississippi river flat boat and the locals began calling them Jon boats. It matters little where the name originated; the fact is this is arguably one of the most popular boat designs in this country. Small, aluminum Jon boats are relatively easy to car top. A 12-14 foot Jon boat capable of carrying two adults will weigh more than a pirogue or canoe, but they make up for the added weight in stability. The square stern and bow design wastes no space and the bow seat serves as a seat for a boat occupant or as a rest for a bow-mounted trolling motor.

The small aluminum Jon boat is a favorite for sheltered waters and can be carried on top of your car or in the back of a pickup or SUV.

Waterfowl hunters often favor Jon boats because they are easy to camouflage with native vegetation and their flat bottom offers a more stable shooting platform. Light, narrow Jon boats can be rowed, paddled or propelled by small gasoline or electric motors. They can negotiate water as shallow as five or six inches and offer more stability than canoes or pirogues.

Jon boats are more readily adaptable to adding clamp-on seats, canopies and other basic creature-comforts. When considering weight, stability and initial cost, a small aluminum Jon boat has a lot to offer.

For those fishing more open water but who still want a boat that can be carried on top of the family car or in the back of a pickup, the V-bottom utility may be the best choice. The sharper entry of the V-bottom will provide a smoother ride in choppy water than a Jon boat will. Most V-bottom utilities will weigh more than a Jon boat of comparable length, but these two to three-person boats can be found in 12-foot models weighing in the 120-130 pound range, about the maximum for most car-topping. While the V bottom has a better ride, it requires deeper water than the other boats mentioned.


When someone mentions a canoe, many people get a mental picture of someone riding down raging rapids and getting wet from head to toe. Some canoeists look for just this kind of action, but canoes are also excellent for fishing, photography and for getting to remote hunting areas.

Lonnie Carden, an authority on canoes, said it is important to match the canoe design to the purpose for which it will be used.

"When selecting a canoe that will be used primarily for fishing and hunting on lakes and slow moving rivers, I like a 14-17 foot flat-bottom or shallow-arch model with a mid-depth of at least 13 inches. This type canoe will provide the hunter and fisherman more stability and freedom of movement and can maneuver in four to six inches of water, depending on load," said Carden.

For those who plan to use a small outboard or trolling motor, the square stern canoe is an option. Although small motors can be mounted on most any canoe with a clamp-on side-mount, this is usually not as satisfactory as a transom mount. Square-stern canoes are considerably heavier than double-ended canoes and don’t paddle as well.

Modern canoes constructed of aluminum, fiberglass and Royalex in the 14-17 foot models are available in weights from 55-75 pounds. Carden recommended Royalex because of its lightweight and durability.

"I’ve seen Royalex canoes folded in half after hitting an obstruction and then returned to normal with very little hull distortion," said Carden.

Canoes offer the traveling outdoor enthusiasts access to remote areas via a light, easy to paddle craft. Canoeing is a safe sport as long as one uses common sense, learns the basics and doesn’t exceed their skill level. Anyone new to canoeing should take a canoeing course or read Introduction To Paddling by the American Canoe Association.

Folding Boats

The folding boat has been popular with sportsmen and motor home enthusiasts for years because of its lightweight, portability and stability. Look close and you will see motor homes with what looks like a surfboard attached to the side. In all probability it is a Porta-Bote.

The Porta-Bote folds to 4-inches flat and is hard to beat for portability and sea-worthiness.

Porta-Bote (1-800-227-8882) has been manufacturing 8-14 foot folding boats for 30 years. They are manufactured from ¼ inch polypropylene, the same material in some bulletproof vests.

John Petralito has been using a 12-foot Porta-Bote powered by a 5 h.p. outboard for years.

"I’ve used my folding boat in all kind of water across this country. I’ve even been three miles out in the ocean trolling on a calm day. I tried the inflatables, car top skiffs and kayaks, but the folding boat works best for me," said Petralito.

Petralito can unload his boat, assemble it and be underway in 10-15 minutes.

"I fish anything from small ponds to rivers with brisk current. I’ve had my boat is places with a lot of rocks and snags and never had a puncture," he stated.

The 12-foot Porta-Bote (69 lbs.) can be used on larger waters and offers good stability.

The light weight (69 lbs.) and good stability the boat affords is what sold him on the Porta-Bote.

"I just have to stand up and stretch every now and then, and this boat has the stability for that. If you don’t want to pull a trailer and have minimum storage space, this is the perfect boat. I even know one guy who keeps an eight-footer behind his couch," said Petralito.

The Porta-Bote’s sea-worthiness is accomplished in part by the boat’s ability to flex when encountering waves. The manufacturer said the boat will flex up to 12 percent when hit by a wave. This flexing of the hull acts as a shock absorber and provides a "softer" ride than a rigid hull boat.

Smaller boats have their limitations, both in sea-worthiness and creature-comforts. But if you need a light weight boat that can be lashed to the family car, requires no launch ramp and will enable you to access those secluded spots teaming with fish and game, one of the above may meet your needs.

Ben Norman is a freelance writer from Highland Home.

Supporting Our Military Kids

When a military parent returns home, Yellow Ribbon helps the family reintegrate. 4-H’s Operation: Military Kids helps provide service and support to children during Yellow Ribbon events.

By Amy Payne Burgess

Those of us who work with Alabama’s children realize it can be really hard being a kid these days. Sure, childhood and adolescence have always been challenging: your body is changing, you are trying out new roles, your emotions are on a roller coaster and you are trying to define your own identity and values. You want to be loved and accepted, but you also want to be independent and self-sufficient. Unfortunately, modern culture, with its lightning pace and community disconnection, has ratcheted up the anxiety level. Add in a truly grim economy, and the notion of "carefree" youth can seem like a naïve dream.

Many kids’ families have been disrupted by a wide-array of factors over which they have no control. Within our own families there may be bread-winners who have lost jobs because of factory or business closures. And in every community, there are good kids whose parents have gotten into trouble with the law or with substance abuse. Alabama 4-H has been very much aware all of these kids and families need our support, yet one group of disrupted families requires special attention. They are the kids whose moms, dads or guardian family members are in our nation’s military service.

You never know what heights 4-H military programs may take you to!

Can you imagine what it would be like if your mom or dad, or any great anchor in life, had been faced with multiple deployments to Iraq or Afghanistan? There are thousands of kids like that in Alabama, although the wave of community caring following September 11 seems to have diminished, and 4-H remains deeply committed to our military families and military kids.

Alabama 4-H has our own Military Outreach Coordinator, Charlene Hines. Charlene (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it."> is housed at Auburn University and works with our National Guard, Reserves and active-duty military families through a program called "Operation: Military Kids." She is also Alabama 4-H’s liaison to the thriving military 4-H programs at Fort Rucker, Redstone Arsenal, Anniston Army Depot, Maxwell Air Force Base and Gunter Annex.

Following the start of the U.S.’s military campaigns in the Middle East, 4-H joined with the Department of Defense to develop a wonderful outreach to children whose parents were being called to duty. In Alabama, we coordinated a state-wide forum so Alabama’s governmental, social and educational institutions could hear, straight from the kids, what their lives were like. Their stories were poignant: a teen girl who had been assigned major responsibilities for the family poultry operation, children who were being moved from family member to family member, disrupted homes and missing childhood.

4-H Robotics and Rocketry programs are especially popular at Redstone Arsenal.

Operation Military Kids provides a wide array of support to the children of Guard, Reserves, and to active-duty military. For example, Hero Packs are provided to children when a family member is being deployed. A Hero Pack is a backpack given to the child at deployment in recognition of the sacrifice the child is making. It includes a journal, a disposable camera, and a photo album, so the child can record all the great events Mom, Dad or the other caring family member may be missing while on duty.

Another 4-H program, "Speak Out for Military Kids," gives military youth a voice in educating their communities about the special stresses military children encounter. You may have seen some of the newspaper stories 4-H military kids have included in your local newspaper. Perhaps some kids whose parents were deployed talked to your Lions or Rotary Club or to your school’s PTA. This program provides a great opportunity to link military and non-military children together, with young people educating their peers and their communities on the nature of their lives.

Alabama 4-H is deeply involved in an interactive training program called "Ready-Set-Go." Ready-Set-Go is offered to educate the public on the deployment cycle and its impact on children. This important information is available to civic groups, faith-based groups, educators – anyone who deals with children whose parents may be in service.

Fort Clover, Alabama 4-H’s camp for military kids, proves the old saying: “If it isn’t fun, it isn’t 4-H!”

Alabama 4-H also provides our popular "Fort Clover" and a dozen more camps that either include military kids or are designed just for military kids. These all focus on one thing too many military kids miss out on: just having the fun of being a kid. We are especially pleased to be developing a new camping experience for military kids with special needs and another camp for young people who are working through the loss of a family member.

But no story of Alabama 4-H military programs would be complete without a tip of the hat to those wonderful volunteers and staff who work with families on our military installations. Some of the young people who pass through Alabama’s military bases may end up attending a dozen different schools with a whole new set of schoolmates and teachers and a whole new place to try to fit in. For them, 4-H programs will provide great continuity. If you were involved in a 4-H fitness program in Germany, you can pick it right back up in Dale County. You can use the same 4-H photography skills if your family moves from Vandenberg to Redstone.

Yes, it can be challenging being a young person. With caring, committed adults – like 4-H staff and volunteers – the challenges become opportunities and the 4-H values of Belonging, Independence, Generosity and Mastery can form the foundation for a great life to come.

Amy Payne Burgess is a 4-H Regional Extension Agent for DeKalb, Marshall and Cherokee Counties.

Taleecon’s Scott Hartley Named Top Environmental Steward

AFC President Tommy Paulk (left) honored Scott Hartley, manager of Taleecon Farmers Co-op, with the Environmental Stewardship award.

By Alvin Benn

"Green" is a word that applies to much more than money these days as Alabama Farmers Cooperative (AFC) encourages Co-op managers to develop strategies and work-place practices that will continue to protect the environment.

During the events at AFC’s annual meeting, Scott Hartley’s continuing efforts for environmental stewardship proved to reward him as he was honored in receiving President’s Environmental Stewardship Award for 2008.

Hartley manages the Taleecon Farmers Co-op, which is inclusive of Tallapoosa, Lee and Macon counties. Since his management appointment in early 1997, Hartley immediately went to work improving the location for the Co-op’s members and the community.

AFC President Tommy Paulk said, "His commitment to the environment has been positive and effective for the Co-op and the communities in the area."

"We can look back today and realize we were ahead of the curve," he said. "Our company recognized farmers are probably our greatest stewards of the land in any segment of our society and they don’t get enough credit for it."

Honoring an AFC member each year for environmental stewardship programs is one way to do just that and Paulk pointed to Hartley as a good example of why the recognition has been so successful. He said Hartley has worked his way through several positions since beginning his employment as a management trainee in 1994. They included stints as an outside sales representative, sales manager and other jobs.

Among many of Hartley’s improvements at Taleecon Farmers Co-op is the installation of a four-foot-wide French drainage system surrounding the fertilizer facility along with other methods of drainage and erosion prevention. Upon the construction of the chemical warehouse, many strategies and methods were in place to accommodate for the security, segregation and containment of crop protection products.

"We’ve always had a practice of sweeping fertilizer spillage back into the bins," Hartley said. "We don’t let spillage lay out in paths where the rain can wash it off. We are very conscious of what we do to help the environment."

Hartley likes to focus on the key to it all: WE – every Co-op employee who each and every day works together in order to take the best care of our facility, our inventory. The results help to preserve our environment. In the area of employees, Scott believes he has the best in his staff of Julia King, J.W. Yarbrough, James Caldwell, Johnathon Baker, Ben Zellner, Leighanna King, Will Folmer and Allen Dozier.

"I’ve been with Co-ops for 15 years and I have several more years of work ahead of me," said Hartley, 41. "Right now I’ve got diversification on my mind that includes new equipment lines."

One of Hartley’s biggest fans is Roger Waller, AGRI-AFC, LLC, who received the environmental stewardship award last year and was on hand to applaud his friend when the award was announced.

Waller stated, "From day-one, he’s been using good environmental stewardship practices. He took a place that was absolutely nothing and converted it to a state-of-the-art environmentally sound facility."

Waller said he and other Co-op leaders read nominations submitted for the environmental award and then travel to those sites to see the facility for themselves.

"This was not the first time Scott has been nominated," Waller said. "He’s worked hard on environmental stewardship programs for years and his practices put him in line for the award which he certainly deserves."

Hartley lives in Loachapoka with his wife, Heather. He attended Auburn University.

Alvin Benn is a freelance writer from Selma.

Team Roping - Fun to Watch, Even More Fun to Do

Team roping proves to be exciting for spectators as well as those involved. Be sure to check out one of the upcoming team roping events in the upcoming months.

By Ashley Smith

Combine skill, horsemanship, team work and luck in a fast, furious and fun event for all. Team roping proves to be all of these things and more for ropers from ages ten to 75. With competitions on the local, state and national levels, cowboys and cowgirls get a chance to rope steers and win big. Quality Co-ops will sponsor four team roping events in the upcoming months. For those interested in participating and those in the stands, these team roping events are not to be missed!

A standard rodeo event, team roping competitions evolved from the common ranch procedure of securing a steer for branding or doctoring. Two cowboys rope the front and hind ends of a steer and then stretch him between the two horses. Over the years, the method became a competition and eventually an official rodeo event.

Jr. Loopers of the 2008 Alabama Championships were all smiles as they competed for bragging rights. Winners included (standing from left) Brennett Brantley in the 10 to 12 division, Kash Miller in the 8 to 9 division, Lane Moore in the 6 to 7 division and Josie Harville in the 5 & under division with Ed Allen of Allen’s Roping Production, organizer of team roping competitions. Photo by Lone Wolf Photography

In competitions, a steer is located in a chute with a cowboy on his/her horse on either side of the chute. The run begins when the steer is released from the chute. A barrier distance is established, giving the steer a short lead, usually amounting to some 10-15 feet. Once a steer reaches appropriate barrier distance, the chase begins. The header, or first roper, approaches the steer on its left side. The cowboy throws a loop and ropes the steer around his horns or neck.

Any remaining rope in the header’s hand is securely dallied, wrapped around his/her saddle horn. The header then directs his horse to the left of the arena, maneuvering the steer behind the horse. The second roper, known as the heeler, must complete the roping task. The heeler approaches the steer from behind and throws a loop that must encircle both hind feet on the steer. He stops his horse and dallies his remaining rope around his saddle horn. The run is complete at this point.

In less than the time it has taken to read this description, the roping team completes their activities. Typically, teams complete the entire sequence of activities in less than 15 seconds with very competitive and skillful teams taking less than six seconds! Timing is important as the team who performs their job the quickest is proclaimed the winner.

Fun to watch and even more fun to participate, team roping allows two cowboys the opportunity to work together. With team roping, teams may consist of male-male, female-female or male-female teams. Young and old alike may participate, even on the same team.

Teams pay entry fees to compete. The teams participate in roping competitions for prizes, money and various awards. The team roping events are in March (Pensacola, FL), April (Montgomery), June (Tuscumbia) and August (Montgomery). These events lead to the week-long national team roping competition held later in the year in Oklahoma.

Ed Allen, of Allen’s Roping Productions, organizes these team roping competitions through his rodeo company. He has been in business with his wife Kandi for the past 12 years.

"Lots of people travel the team roping circuit," shared Ed. "The April event in Montgomery is quite large. It usually draws 1,100-1,600 teams from at least 20 states."

The prize money ($160,000 to $200,000) draws teams to compete. The Montgomery event in April is sanctioned by the United States Team Roping Association. In its 11th year, Quality Co-ops have been there the entire time, supporting an event drawing many of their customers (and those who may not but should be!).

"Team roping has grown over the past 11 years," stated Ed. "We are pleased Quality Co-ops continue to believe in the event and the people who participate in the event."

Ed proudly shared the team roping events are free for spectators who find that the fast-moving competitions are exciting to watch.

Most team roping events are four-steer average competitions. In order for one team to be declared the winner, they must catch four steers consecutively while also having the quickest cumulative time. Roping four steers with a team time less than any other could result in a saddle, a buckle or prize money.

Team roping has increased in popularity throughout the Southeast. It has particularly grown in popularity as a family event. A number of families enjoy horsemanship activities; team roping allows for a new dimension in horsemanship while including more than one person. Team roping is an event one can enjoy for many years. Children as young as five years old can participate in a children’s junior looper contest to help them gain confidence and learn more about team roping. Instead of live steers, children rope imitation steers. The junior looper contest is open to children ages 5-14.

If you are interested in competing in an upcoming team roping event, contact Ed Allen at (256) 749-0541 for more information. He gladly shares information with others on this life-long and exciting activity.

Ashley Smith is a freelance writer from Russell County.

The Co-op Pantry

On a special stool made just so she could reach the stove, 6-year-old Judy Lou Allen stood in her grandmother’s kitchen learning a love for cooking that would stay with her for life, and Judy said her grandmother taught her food doesn’t have to be fancy to be delicious.

In the years that followed, Judy kept the words of her grandmother Eula Osborn in mind as she continued to cook.

"One thing I will always remember she told me was that when you have a new recipe make it just like it says, but next time put your own spin on it," reminisced Judy.

"I never really appreciated until I was older how much her patience meant when I was learning to cook," said Judy.

Now a grandmother herself, Judy practices a kindly patience of her own with her four-year-old grandson Matthew.

"One of his favorite things is for us to roll out refrigerated sugar cookie dough and make Hand Cookies. He’ll lay his hand over the dough and I’ll trace it with a small knife to bake cookies in the shape of his hand. We’ve decorated them like turkeys and peacocks and with all kinds of edible decorations, and he tells people his Nanna makes the best hand cookies ever," Judy said, adding pleas from Matthew to stay with Nanna and Papaw are the most precious sounds she’s ever heard.

Judy and husband Mack have two children, and Judy said they both enjoy cooking.

"My son Chris shares some of my passion for cooking and is very good at the grill. My daughter Sarah didn’t share my love for cooking when she was growing up," said Judy, but added Sarah (now living in Washington state with her husband who serves in the U.S. Navy) e-mails mom with low-carb recipes she likes.

Judy and Mack are proof that opposites attract, and their attitudes about cooking reflect the sentiment.

"There is no good reason for me to have to cook when there is a Hardee’s and a steak house just right down the road," said Mack.

Judy stayed home to raise her children when they were young, but has been driving buses for Lawrence County Public Transportation and the Lawrence County School System since 1993. In addition to making her regular routes, Judy also delivers Meals on Wheels, and she said every part of her work is personally rewarding.

Even though they have jobs off the farm, Mack raises cattle and hay on their small farm south of Moulton, and Judy still enjoys cooking even though she cooks less often than she once did.

Judy still doesn’t like complicated recipes anymore than her grandmother did, and she favors what she calls "true Southern traditional dishes" but keeps an eye out for recipes with just a bit of a twist. Judy said the recipes she chose to share this month are simple and so easy.

"So many recipes you see on TV and the Internet call for things you just can’t find in the local grocery stores. You won’t find any complicated recipes in my collection; just ‘good old comfort food’ everybody will love. They are recipes of my most requested dishes stored in my recipe library on my computer for easy access when family and friends call and ask for one of them," she said.

Kellie Henderson is a freelance writer from Troy.

Turnip Green Soup

1 smoked turkey sausage link, cut into small chunks
1 package mild Italian sausage
1 onion, chopped
1 bag frozen turnip greens
1 (32 oz) box chicken broth
1 (15 oz) can black beans
1 (10 oz) can Rotel tomatoes
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 envelope Knorr vegetable soup mix

Take sausages out of casings and crumble into a skillet; sauté with onions and turkey links over medium heat until done.

Transfer sausage mixture and remaining ingredients to a pot and bring to a boil. Simmer for about one hour. Serve with cornbread. Enjoy.

Note: After browning sausages and onion, all ingredients may be added to a slow cooker if desired.

Southern Cornbread Salad

1 batch cornbread, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 (14.5 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15 oz) can niblet corn, drained
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 medium red onion, chopped
1 large green bell pepper, finely chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
3 boiled eggs, chopped
1 jar pimentos, drained
1 cup sweet pickle relish
2 cups sharp Cheddar, grated
1 (8 oz) bottle ranch dressing
1 pound bacon, fried crisp and crumbled

In the bottom of a large glass bowl, place cornbread cubes. Layer beans, corn, onion, bell pepper, celery, eggs, pimento and then pickle relish in that order on top of cornbread.

Add cheese on top of this then spread ranch dressing evenly over cheese. Cover. Refrigerate for at least two hours, even better if refrigerated over night. Top with bacon when ready to serve.

Salmon Patties

1 (14 ¾ oz) can Pink Salmon
4 Tablespoons self- rising flour
4 Tablespoons corn meal
4 tablespoons buttermilk
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 small onion, finely chopped
Salt & pepper to taste
2 cups bread crumbs
4 Tablespoons vegetable oil

Mix salmon with flour, meal, buttermilk, egg, onion, salt and pepper. Chill mixture for an hour. Shape into patties. Dredge patties in bread crumbs. Cook in preheated skillet in vegetable oil. When crispy, turn over and brown on the other side.

Old-fashioned Meatloaf

1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground turkey
1 ½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
¾ cup onion, chopped
½ cup bell pepper, chopped
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes with juice
1 cup quick-cooking oats
1/4 cup BBQ sauce

Preheat oven to 375o. Mix all ingredients well; shape into a loaf. Place in a large baking dish.

¼ cup BBQ sauce
¼ cup ketchup
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 Tablespoon prepared mustard

Mix ingredients for topping and spread over loaf. Bake for one hour.

Okra and Tomatoes

4 slices bacon
1 cup yellow onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon chicken bouillon or base
1 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon hot sauce
2 cups frozen sliced okra

Render bacon in a large saucepan, cooking until crisp. Remove from pan and dice into small pieces, reserving drippings in pan. Add onions and garlic to the skillet with bacon drippings and sauté over medium heat until tender. Add all remaining ingredients, except okra, and bring to a boil, stirring to avoid burning. Reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add okra and let stew until the bright green color begins to fade. Serve hot.


¾ cup flour
½ cup oil
1 bag frozen seasoning blend (or ½ to 1 cup each of diced onion, celery and peppers)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 (32 oz) box chicken broth
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 (10 oz) can cream of chicken soup
1 (10 oz) can tomato soup
2 cups chicken breasts strips, diced
½ to 1 (14 oz) bag medium ready-to- eat shrimp
2 smoked turkey sausages
1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
1 (16 oz) bag frozen sliced okra
1 Tablespoon gumbo file’
1 Tablespoon Old Bay seasoning
1 dash Worcestershire sauce
Pinch red pepper
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix flour and oil over medium heat to make a DARK roux. Stir continuously about eight to 10 minutes. Cook seasoning blend (or diced veggies) in roux for about four or five minutes. Add garlic and cook two minutes more. Add chicken broth, tomatoes and soups, stirring to combine. Add all remaining ingredients into four quart pot. Place on low heat and cook for approximately one hour.

Cola Chicken

4 skinless boneless chicken breasts
1 cup ketchup
1 (12 oz) can diet cola
½ cup onion, diced

Sauté chicken in nonstick skillet until lightly brown. Pour catsup, onions and diet cola over the top. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes.

Uncover, increase the heat slightly and continue to cook until the sauce becomes thick and adheres to the chicken and chicken is completely cooked through.

Cake Balls

1 (18 oz) box strawberry cake mix
1 can cream cheese frosting
1 package chocolate bark (regular or
white chocolate)
Wax paper

Prepare cake according to package directions for a 9 by 13-inch sheet cake. After cake is cooled completely, crumble into large bowl. Mix thoroughly with cream cheese frosting. (It may be easier to use fingers to mix together, but be warned it will get messy.) Roll mixture into quarter-size balls and lay on cookie sheet. Should make 45-50 by hand or use a mini-ice cream scoop to yield slightly more. Refrigerate for several hours or freeze to reduce chill time. Melt chocolate in microwave per directions on package or use a double boiler. Using a spoon or fork, roll balls in chocolate and lay on wax paper until firm.

Note: Judy recommended melting only a few pieces of chocolate bark at a time in a double boiler because it keeps the chocolate warmer and easier to work. She also suggested the following cake and frosting combos: fudge cake mix and frosting, butter pecan cake mix and caramel frosting.

Blue Baby Shower Punch

¾ cup sugar
2 (1/4 oz) packages unsweetened blue Kool-Aid powdered drink mix
1/2 gallon water
1 (64 ounce) can Hawaiian Blue Punch
1 (10 ounce) can frozen Pina-Colada mix, thawed
2 liters 7-up or Sprite (to taste)
½ gallon vanilla ice cream

Mix together sugar, Kool-Aid and water according to the package directions. In a punchbowl, combine punch, prepared Kool-Aid, thawed Pina Colada mix, and 7-Up or Sprite. Add scoops of vanilla ice cream. Serve and enjoy!

Beef Stroganoff
(15-minute meal)

1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground turkey
½ teaspoon garlic salt
1 medium onion, chopped
½ teaspoon pepper
2 Tablespoons dried parsley flakes
1 (10 oz) can cream of chicken soup
8 ounces sour cream
1 (12 oz) package wide egg noodles, prepared by package directions

Brown beef and turkey with garlic salt, onion and pepper; drain. Add parsley and continue cooking until meat is richly browned. Add soup and mix well. Simmer 10 minutes. Add sour cream and stir until heated through. Serve over hot cooked noodles.

Judy’s Easy Potato Soup Recipe

1 (16 oz) bag frozen hash browns, shredded or Southern style
1 medium onion, diced (about 1 cup)
1 (32 oz) box chicken broth
1 (10 oz) can cream of chicken soup
1 (10 oz) can cream of celery soup
3 cups milk
Salt and pepper

Simmer hash browns, onion and chicken broth for about an hour. Add the undiluted cans of soup, milk, salt and pepper. Heat through.

It’s as easy as that! If you want it thicker, you can throw in some instant mashed potato flakes or buds, and the amount of milk may be adjusted to reach desired consistency. Serve with bacon bits and shredded cheddar cheese.

Note: Judy prefers the Southern style hash browns because they make a chunkier soup.

Judy’s Cabbage Soup

1 ½ pounds ground beef
1 (14.5 oz) can stewed tomatoes
1 (16 oz) can tomato juice
1 envelope onion soup mix
1 cup carrots, finely chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
1 large green pepper, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 large head cabbage, washed and roughly chopped

Brown beef; drain fat. Put tomatoes, juice, onion soup, carrots, celery, peppers, onions and cabbage in a large kettle or Dutch oven along with the beef. Simmer one hour on medium heat.

The FFA Sentinel

By Philip Paramore

From past Sentinel articles, historical events of the 1960s and 1970s culture, social climate and FFA events have been intertwined. As in today’s society, past historical happenings, coupled with the ever technological changes, continue to influence culture, the social climate and, of course, FFA.

This article will feature the school year 1972-73. Events to trigger one’s mind back to that year include the killing of Israeli athletics at the Munich Olympic Games in September 1972 and the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in January 1973 to legalize abortion in its landmark decision of Rowe v. Wade. And probably the most well-known event to affect Alabamians almost 37 years ago was the attempted assassination of Governor George Wallace in Laurel, Maryland, as he was campaigning for president in May 1972.

The Alabama FFA Reporter (known hereafter as the Reporter) was in its second year. As stated in previous Sentinelarticles, the forerunner to the Reporter was the Alabama Future Farmer magazine and The Alabama FFA News. As in almost every first issue for the current school year, highlights of the immediate past State FFA Convention were announced; and the September-October 1972 edition of the Reporter was no exception.

There were 1,200 FFA members who attended the 1972 state convention. Wesley Patterson of Cullman was named State Star Farmer and Eddie Woerner of Foley received the Alabama Future Farmer of the Year award. Hanceville’s quartet racked up its first place win in the re-initiated quartet competition.

The Bay Minette Chapter won the string band contest, Enterprise prevailed in land judging, Thomaston triumphed in livestock and Collinsville abounded in dairy. The J. P. Pennington team won the new agricultural mechanics contest, and Neil Outlaw of Hartford received the M.K. Heath (Animal Health) Award.

Future state officer Spencer Means of Eutaw won the prepared public speaking contest. Means placed second in the Tri-State (Alabama, Florida and Puerto Rico) Contest. The state’s five most outstanding chapters were designated as Crossville, Wetumpka, Section, Waterloo and Sparkman. Jerry Lee Davis of Vina was decreed state champion corn grower. Highland Home received the Governor’s Citation as the best entry in the Building Our American Communities Program. Fifteen FFA members received first place awards in the FFA proficiency program. And 514 local farmers were elevated to State Farmer status.

Elected as state officers for 1972-73, continued the September-October 1972 issue of the Reporter, were Steve Fowler, Wicksburg Chapter, president; Roger Page, Red Bay Chapter, vice president; Terry Johnson, Geraldine Chapter, secretary; Tim DeLoach, Weogufka Chapter, treasurer; Ronald Turner, Citronelle Chapter, reporter; and Clifton Homan, Gordo Chapter, sentinel.

A spotlight article in that issue was Randy Gillespie of Speake. Gillespie was named the state proficiency winner in poultry production. He shared a 40 percent interest in a family laying operation, which consisted of 320,000 layers (producing approximately 288,000 eggs per day) and 175,000 pullets.

The Illinois, Central and Gulf Railroad and the Standard Oil Company sponsored a leadership workshop for state FFA officers from Alabama and Mississippi in late June 1972 at Mobile. In July, Standard Oil Company conducted a three-day FFA visitation for Alabama and Florida FFA State Officers at Mobile as well.

Two Alabama FFA members, Greg Hawkins, Pell City, and Jimmy Griffiths, Foley, were selected to play in the National FFA Band at the 1972 National Convention at Kansas City. Also four state agribusiness teachers were nominated to receive their Honorary American Degree. They were Earl Gardner and B.P. Whitten, Centre; John Yates, Town Creek; and H.B. Thompson, Enterprise.

Mrs. Mary George Waite of Centre, chairperson of the Alabama FFA Foundation, was to receive her Honorary American Farmer Degree at the national convention. "Mrs. Waite," said the September-October 1972 Reporter, "personally moved Alabama from near the bottom in FFA contributors to second in the nation. Additionally, she initiated the program of organizing banks to provide premium money for district FFA contests."

In the same issue, T. L. Faulkner, director, Vocational-Technical-Higher Education, State Department of Education, announced three shifts in personnel which affected agribusiness education. B.P. Dilworth was elevated to branch director of Program Supervision for the Division of Vocational-Technical and Higher Education.

Because of Dilworth’s advancement, H.W. Green was named state supervisor of Agribusiness Education. Paul B. Holley, a 26-year veteran employee of agribusiness education, was the third personnel change announced by Faulkner. Holley was replacing Green.

The November-December 1972 Reporter was packed with highlights from the National Convention held during October of that year. Alabama had four first-places in proficiency competition. They were Randy Gillespie, Speake Chapter, poultry production; Jerry Whatley, Cullman Chapter, placement in process; John Robert, Gardendale Chapter, placement in agriculture production; and Dalton Eason, Jr., Fayette Chapter, forestry management.

The Crossville Chapter received a gold emblem in the chapter contest. The Citronelle Chapter received a silver emblem in the chapter safety contest while the Boaz Chapter received a gold emblem in the BOAC competition. There were 27 Alabama FFA members who were bestowed the degree of American Farmer. Of the 27, the West Point, Evergreen and Sparkman chapters had three degree recipients each.

Former State Supervisor and State FFA Advisor, B.P. Dilworth was given a Distinguished Service Award for his "illustrious promotion of FFA," according to the November-December 1972 issue.

Also in that same issue were the results of the FFA fair exhibit winners at the State Fair in Birmingham, the South Alabama State Fair in Montgomery and the National Peanut Festival in Dothan. (During this time at the State Fair and South Alabama State Fair there were five chapters with exhibits. There was one first place, two seconds and two thirds.) Speake was first place at the State Fair; Southside and Jacksonville were second places; and West Point and Lexington were third places. Goodwater was first place at the South Alabama State; Chelsea and Goshen were second places; and Clio was third. The National Peanut Festival winners were Cottonwood, first, and Clio, second.

The Alabama Sears FFA Bull Show was held at the South Alabama State Fair in Montgomery. Winning the show in1972 was the Guntersville Chapter with a Brahman bull. The Gaylesville Chapter won second with its Polled Hereford entry; the Clanton Chapter was third; followed by Aliceville, fourth; and Sidney Lanier, fifth. Other chapters participating were Kinston, Dozier, Linden, Cleveland and Priceville.

And the final event for this month’s article is the Hartford, Alabama, and Litchfield, Minnesota, story.

"A mutual interest in peanuts has brought two local FFA chapters and two rural communities, geographically separated by a span of 1,350 miles, and fused them in warmest friendship," stated the November-December 1972 Reporter.

An invitation was sent to an Alabama FFA’er to participate in the first International Peanut Butter and Dairy Festival in Meeker County, Minnesota. The invitation included an all-expense paid trip to Minnesota. One stipulation was the boy and his family had to be peanut farmers. Those making the trip were Neil Outlaw, Hartford FFA member, his parents, and his FFA advisor, Paul Dean, and Mrs. Dean. According to the article, the Alabamians were treated royally.

"So cordial was their reception in Litchfield, the Hartford people made immediate plans to reciprocate. Enlisting the whole Hartford community – town council, civic clubs, school personnel and everybody – the Outlaws and Deans played host to Brent Schultz, Litchfield FFA member, his parents and his FFA advisor, Bruce Cottington," the article stated.

While in Alabama, the Minnesota delegation visited Governor Wallace. They also toured a peanut butter manufacturing plant, took in Dothan’s National Peanut Festival and got first-hand exposure to peanut production.

The article concluded with the following comments by Cottington. "I believe in FFA. The FFA is superior to all organizations in rendering better rural development. When you get down to it, aside from inspiring leadership, FFA exists to practice brotherhood and honor rural opportunities and responsibilities."

Philip Paramore is an Education Specialist with the Alabama Department of Education.

The Importance of Record Keeping

By Dr. Tony Frazier

I am a government employee and I hate paperwork. Can I say that in public? Well, I guess I have, so I’ll say it again. I hate paperwork. I wonder if I say it three times in a row and click my heels together, all of the paperwork would disappear. Probably not. You are probably familiar with the old saying, "The job isn’t finished until the paper work is done." The government version of that is, "The job isn’t finished until the paper work is done… triplicate."

The fact I dislike paperwork does not in any way diminish the importance of it. We use the term paperwork when in reality we could substitute recordkeeping. In fact, when we use recordkeeping, I feel better about it already. Keeping records is important in many aspects of life. If you don’t think so, ask someone who has been audited by the IRS. And as I said earlier, the government believes in keeping records. While it may be cumbersome and tedious, it is very important.

I have a friend who is 50 years old and recently needed a copy of his original birth certificate. All he had to do was call some government agency with the State of Alabama and, like magic, two days later, it appeared in his mailbox (for a nominal fee, of course). The point is the birth certificate was recorded 50 years ago. That was back in the days before computers. Although I am fairly sure all of those old records have been scanned into a computer for data storage, it was not always done that way.

It was not until recently you could store the amount of information contained in enough encyclopedias to fill the Atlantic Ocean on something the size of a pinhead (well, maybe I exaggerate.) Nonetheless, I am reminded of the emphasis we place on keeping records when I occasionally visit our records room in the basement of our building. We keep items like brucellosis vaccination charts, brucellosis test records, TB test charts and health certificates. That information may come in handy as long as the animal is alive, and sometimes becomes even more important when the animal dies or is slaughtered, especially if a disease like TB is discovered.

Finally, to get to the point, I would like to emphasize the importance of producers keeping records. A recordkeeping system can be as simple or elaborate as you want it to be. The foundation of a recordkeeping system is individual identification. Individual identification should at a minimum include some type of permanent ID like a brand, metal tag or RFID (radio frequency identification device). I realize owners of small herds of livestock or horse owners may know every animal by their names, but once the animals experience a change of ownership, they may go under an alias or an assumed name….thus, the loss of identity to any previous farm.

For my purpose, beyond individual identification, I would like for you to keep on a sheet of paper in a notebook, drawer, shoe box or something the information of where the animal came from and when, where and to whom the animal was sold. When we do epidemiological investigations (somewhat like you would see on the TV show "House,"but not as exciting) for animal diseases, we have seen the complete spectrum. There are producers who have records of every animal that has resided on their place, including medical and production histories. Then there are those whose typical answer to a question might be, "You’re kidding me? You want me to remember where I got a black cow that I sold three years ago? Do you have any idea how many black cows have come and gone on this farm over the last 20 years?"

The fact is the information we are trying to ascertain is where the disease may have originated and what other animals may have been exposed. It is also a matter of economic importance. The speed, or lack of speed, of an epidemiological investigation may have an effect on how soon a farm quarantine can be released. And, in extreme cases, it may effect how soon borders are reopened to our products. Often lack of records will result in testing of animals that may not have been necessary if proper records existed.

In diseases like BSE, though not contagious from animal to animal, our international trading partners require we make every attempt trace the positive animal to the farm of origin. Diseases like bovine tuberculosis (which is not going away), brucellosis and contagious equine metritis (CEM) (which we are dealing with now) require us to trace these animals to be able to quarantine and test potentially exposed animals. Having accurate records is a tremendous help controlling the spread of disease.

I encourage each producer to develop some type of recordkeeping system for the movement of animals onto and off the farm. While it is strictly voluntary, the National Animal Identification System can meet those needs, develop some type of system that works for you. Hopefully, you will never be called upon to retrieve information for the purpose of disease tracing, but when needed records are an invaluable asset.



By Joe Potter

It was Monday nearin’ straight high noon as I entered The Flat Rock General Store. The Store was layered full with heaviness toward people, talk and the aromatic smell of hot country vittles. It was eatin’ day down to The Store.

There along the back wall on white butcher paper, in red marker, Estelle had so penciled the eatin’ day’s menu:

Meatloaf sandwiches
Fish cooker fried taters
Catsup in bulk
Mini pecan pies
Southern sweet tea
Coffee or cold drinks

Essex, Ms. Ida, the widow Cora, Willerdean and Estelle were servin’ up the savory vittles to all the regulars includin’ Bro., S.R., J.R., "Hatch," "Truth," Farlow, my Daddy "Pop" C.C., Heath, Dustin and the latecomer, the music man himself, Mr. Harley Hood. Several other folk had found their way down to The Store for eatin’ day: the Sears repairman, UPS delivery lady, two Cat servicemen, Mr. Wilton Fortenberry from over to PPPP in Russellville and Mr. L.O. Bishop, farmer and bar-b-que man from Allsboro. Willerdean had invited her old boss, John Thorn from over to Waco. He brung along Orland Britnell and two helpers to partake of eatin’ day.

Talk turned quiet as all the folk gathered was a consumin’ and fillin’ up on the vittles. Bro. testified to Essex, as he returned to the end of the counter for seconds on meatloaf, that bein’ a certified Baptist minister, he knowed good eatin’ and the meatloaf was near biblical manna from heaven. Hearin’ Bro.’s words of praise for the meatloaf, several other eatin’ day comers seconded Bro.’s testimonial.

Slim hearin’ Bro.’s praise words, offered the meatloaf was prepared and left in The Store cooler overnight by the "Meatloaf Fairy." Slim further commented the "Meatloaf Fairy" usual made appearances before family reunions, revival, decoration/homecomin’, summer picnic gatherins’, Fourth of July, etc., etc. He also noted there was occasion when the "Meatloaf Fairy" would special deliver a meatloaf personal for his own utilization and not designed for public sharin’. Several folk listened and carried looks of total wonderment as Slim continued to heap praise on personal appearances by the "Meatloaf Fairy."

Talk jumped quickly to the widow Cora’s mini pecan pies as J.R. and "Hatch" professed with a near-single twinness they had each found one. Both were grinnin’ and funnin’ with the widow Cora about the pure-fact there was a full pecan half in her mini pecan pies.

Bro. noted personal, as he directed himself toward the old double-front doors, the widow Cora’s mini pecan pies and Willerdean’s fish cooker fried taters were near heavenly also. Several other folk offered praise testimonials toward the vittles as the gathered crowd begin to disperse toward afternoon chores, duties and obligations.

Like Slim, I do purely believe in the "Meatloaf Fairy" and was actual able to collect upon her magic meatloaf recipe for sharin’… Facin’ the pure possibleness she just might not make an appearance at your premise.


1 envelope of dry onion soup mix
2 pounds ground beef
1½ cups oats
2 eggs
¾ cup water
1/3 cup ketchup

Preheat oven to 350o. Combine ingredients. In a large bakin’ pan, shape into loaf. Bake 1 hour or until done. Um—um—good!!! Leftover eatin’ good, but ther’ll never be any left for later...


I’m ambidextrous—I can cook, but I had rather eat her cookin’…

Joe Potter is a former vocational agriculture teacher, FFA advisor and retired county agent (Colbert County).

Tippin’ Toms with a Bow

Where should you shoot for on a gobbler? A head shot if they’re close enough. If you think about it, their head isn’t much smaller than their vitals area. With a head shot, a miss is a miss, there’s no wounded bird. And nothing puts them down quicker than a broadhead to their head. (Photo credit to NWTF)

By Todd Amenrud

Turkey hunting is no easy task, especially for us bowhunters. For an archer, it doesn’t get much more challenging than putting a precise shot on a bird that is probably moving and has a kill-zone the size of your fist. Having to be sitting or kneeling and then drawing a bow is a different story than sitting with your shotgun propped up on your knee. I like to hunt turkeys with both a bow and shotgun, but when it comes to bowhunting there are a couple tools that can make our challenge much easier than using the same tried shotgun basics.

What type of set-up you are planning on will have an influence on how difficult it will be to get away with the motion of drawing our bows. Are you using a blind and decoys, will you have a buddy call the bird past you, or are you relying on natural cover and your hunter’s savvy?

A blind can be a huge asset. This way you’re concealed when you make the drawing motion. I’ve harvested more gobblers without using one, but in certain situations I feel a blind increases your odds for success significantly. Sometimes you’re in situations where there’s not enough time to set one up, or the lay of the land prohibits it.

There are many companies manufacturing portable blinds that are light and easy to set up. When hunting whitetails from a ground blind, you’d better have the blind "brushed-in" and well camouflaged. For turkeys, it seems you can set-up in the middle of a bald field and they will come right to you. If you don’t wish to carry around a portable "pop-up" style blind, you can also use natural materials or make an "L"-shaped structure with a piece of camo cloth or netting.

There are several tried tactics to get longbeards into a killing zone. One decoy tactic that works well if you don’t have a blind is to have the bird’s keen eyesight obstructed by his fan, which leaves you free to draw your bow

Calling can be different for the bowhunter as well. You may use the same call arsenal as any other hunter to start the tom to you, but once he gets close you’d better have both your hands on your bow and be ready to draw. For just this reason it’s a good idea to master a diaphragm or some type of mouth call.

The other tool I wouldn’t enter the turkey woods without is decoys. Where sometimes I’ll go without a blind, I never go without decoys. Decoys can accomplish a few tasks for you. They attract the bird(s) closer, draw the attention off the hunter and, if you need, a decoy can be used as a yardage marker.

I almost always carry two hens and some type of a male turkey decoy – jake or gobbler. I feel the male decoy is the key to bringing gobblers in close. Now there are some full-bodied, full-strut decoys that really work well. Some place a real turkey fan in and they are very realistic.

I used to try to lure the gobblers past me with the decoys, drawing my bow when they got behind a tree or when their fan obstructed their view, which isn’t a bad technique. However, a tip from an old bowhunter taught me a different tactic. A strutting decoy is the main focus of this set-up. Place your hen decoys how you wish but, when you set up the male decoy, put it out about ten steps away, but make sure the decoy is facing you. Use a stick on either side of the decoy to make sure it doesn’t pivot and stays facing you. The greater majority of the time a gobbler will wind up in a face-to-face, full-strut confrontation with your male decoy. This will typically leave you faced with a "full strut fan" protecting your movement from their keen eyesight which gives you an opportunity to draw your bow.

If you hunt for a challenge, it doesn’t get much more challenging than putting a well-placed arrow into a spot about the size of your fist that is probably moving. Mike Berggren poses with an Eastern gobbler harvested with archery equipment.

Now, whether you use this tactic or not, where do you shoot the bird? Many tell you "right up the rear" is a good shot. In all honesty, if you’re not worried about ruining the beard or fan, it is a good shot choice. However, I prefer to wait until the tom starts to turn at an angle. Now there are two choices - body or head. If they’re close enough, a head shot is the way to go. If you think about it, their head is only slightly smaller than their vitals. If you happen to miss, there’s no wounded bird. And, if you hit, nothing puts them down faster than a broadhead to their head.

For a body shot, I suggest imagining the bird "plucked." Some suggest aiming for the wing socket or the base of the drumstick. That’s fine if the bird is facing exactly broadside to you. But that hardly ever happens. That’s why I say a "plucked bird." In full-strut the bird looks like a much larger target than is actually there. I don’t like to admit it, but I’ve shaved my share of feathers. A 3-D turkey target will help you to learn shot angles.

I often get asked: What is the best bow, arrow and broadhead combo for turkey? My answer is "an accurate one." My set-up this spring will be a Hoyt AlphaMax that fires a Carbon Express Maxima Hunter shaft tipped with a Rocky Mountain Snyper two blade. There are many different combos that will work, but I’ll tell you why I chose each of my components.

First, my bow - I like a shorter axle-to-axle length so I can sit with my butt right on the ground while shooting. This way I can stay still for much longer than if I where kneeling. My AlphaMax is only 32 inches "axle-to-axle" so I’m not scraping my cam in the dirt when I draw. It’s got high let-off and a brace height of seven inches so it is easy to draw and hold, and very forgiving.

Energy is the reason I choose a carbon arrow, and precision and accuracy is the reason I chose the Carbon Express brand. There are many reasons to choose a carbon arrow. Specifically for turkey hunting, a carbon arrow absorbs more energy from the bow and is faster than other materials. Ever seen a whitetail "jump the string"? A turkey can do the same thing to a slow-moving shaft from a noisy bow.

For big game, like whitetail or elk, I want all of the arrow’s energy to stay contained in the projectile. My goal is for a pass-through shot and the arrow to be sticking in the ground on the opposite side. For turkey, I want the energy to be transferred to the target. An expandable, mechanical-style head will typically deliver an extra-wide cutting diameter which means more energy is transferred to the target.

For me, the whole "essence" of turkey hunting is calling the gobblers into a set-up. Obviously, if that’s all it was, I would never take a gun or bow into the woods with me. So harvesting a bird is a goal, but not necessary for a positive outing. If you’ve never tried bowhunting for turkey, or maybe you’ve not had any luck yet, a blind and decoys can start you on your way to success.

Too Old To Garden? Nonsense!

John Kelly grew up during the depression which inspired him to grow food for his family from the time he was married in the 1940s. He’s had a beautiful garden every year since then, always sharing his bounty with family and friends. The photo was made in the summer of 2005 when Mr. Kelly was 83 years old.

By Jerry A. Chenault

"Granny, you’re too old to be out there workin’ in that dang garden! When you gonna quit that foolishness anyway?"

Ever heard such a thing? I’ll bet you have. Some well-intentioned young person trying to convince an older person to stop having and working a garden. Should they? I mean, is gardening only for the young and the strong? Let’s consider, shall we?

Most of us have heard time and time again the warnings from physicians about those who retire and "sit down" somewhere. They just "rust out," don’t they? They sure do. It isn’t hard to decide (from a scriptural viewpoint, that is) if man was meant to labor or to lazy-boy recline. By the way, senior citizens are our most sedentary group (they get almost no exercise) and now watch more television than any other age group! Do they need a garden? Hello?

But what about those who can’t bend a lot? Or those with arthritis and bursitis? That’s what "enabled gardening" is all about! The benefits out-weigh the risks about a ton in most cases.

What are those benefits? Do you recall feeling more peaceful after a walk outdoors or in a wooded area? Ever felt like you had more energy after a brief stint spent pulling some weeds in a flowerbed? The seemingly magical benefits you felt are the same ones that can help others with things like stress relief. Gardening with individuals who have disabilities can show surprising results in reducing stress (and also improving motor skills, by the way). Just 20 minutes of weeding or watering produces measureable and visible stress-reduction in many individuals.

Earl Brewer found a raised border around his tomatoes not only contained the plants but also gave him a place to rest as he worked. The photo was taken in August of 1990.

Gardening also has some real emotional benefits. Interaction with and care-taking of plants often gives individuals a different sense of their place in life and can often divert thoughts of self and their own negative situation. Gardening stimulates the senses while empowering the gardener with some real creative and controlling opportunities. This pleasure, combined with the socialization gardening often brings, many times creates changes in behavior, emotional expression and feelings of self-esteem. Disabled gardeners often feel a huge change in dependency due to the independent functioning gardening allows.

It is no small wonder that following World Wars I and II veterans hospitals found great success in the treatment of disabled soldiers through garden therapy. We’ve known it for a long time; but it seems too simple to be true! As early as 1699, Leonard Maegar, writing in the "English Gardener," advised his countrymen "to spend their spare time in the garden, either digging, setting out or weeding; there is no better way to preserve your health."

Dr. Benjamin Rush, pioneer psychiatrist and researcher, and signer of our Declaration of Independence, declared even in his time that "digging in the soil has a curative effect on the mentally ill." Dr. Rush also found people who stayed busy with gardening and other endeavors were less likely to need medical treatment.

Gardening is an activity that can be adapted to all sorts of special needs, from raised beds for people in wheelchairs or on walkers (or for those who need to sit and reach rather than stoop and bend), to gardens for the blind that emphasize the other senses. It can be done. Just remember, start small to avoid the discouragement of an overwhelming garden to maintain.

The garden for the developmentally-disabled at the Bill Stewart Center in Moulton is an example of an enabling garden. Built as a project of the Urban Affairs and New Nontraditional Programs division of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, this garden utilizes raised wooden bed areas (either 4' x 8' or 4' x 16') as an area accessible to the clientele of the Center. Their self-esteem and empowerment grows right alongside the plots of vegetables and flowers.

The following are tips for successful enabling gardens:

• Handle sizes can be adjusted by utilizing foam tubes or using commercially made grips or tools. Foam tubes may be purchased from medical supply stores or at plumbing supply centers (as hot water line insulation). Foam hair curlers (medium to jumbo size) may also be used to slip over tool handles for easier grip and use.

• Tools with arm splints can be used to assist with gardening and these may be tax-deductible expenses.

• Pathways for wheelchairs need to be smooth and at least three feet wide. Wheelchair accessible bed areas need to be no more than five feet wide if accessible from all sides, or two and a half feet wide if used from only one side. Height will be determined by the user (approximately 24" if used from a chair) and may be as high as 30" if used for a standing gardener.

• Hanging baskets can create planting areas where none exist and can even be housed "double-decker" style. They can be lowered by ratcheting pulley system or by a long metal pole with a curved top hook.

• Deep boxes, barrels and tubs can be used to make bed areas and normally need to have at least 12" of potting soil/bed depth.

• Water accessibility is a must and needs to be close to the site. The area cannot be muddy (if wheelchair accessible) and needs to have a spigot at 24" to 36" above ground. Hand levers should be used rather than round spigot controls which must be hand-turned.

• Mulch around plants will greatly reduce the need for weeding and watering. Soaker hoses or drip irrigation help to eliminate the need to drag water hoses and are more efficient watering methods.

The following tips on enabled gardening come from the Washington State University Master Gardeners:

• Choose plants that appeal to senses other than sight. For instance, plants with differently textured leaves: soft like lamb’s ears or rough like heliotrope. Scented plants like herbs and fragrant flowers. Plants to listen to when they rustle in the breeze.

• Tie a cord around the handles of small tools to make retrieval easier if they are dropped.

• Use gloves to protect hands and help maintain your grip on tools.

• A large magnifying glass helps to see small plants and seeds.

• Wear an apron or smock with large front pockets to carry seed packets and tools.

• Use a piece of light-weight plastic pipe to help you sow seeds without bending over.

• Carry a whistle. A short blast can alert others if you need help.

• Rig hanging planters with a pulley to lower them for watering.

• Grow vining varieties of peas and beans that can be trained up a trellis to make harvesting easier.

• To limit bending and stooping, use containers or raised beds for planting.

A thoughtfully-placed tool storage shed or cabinet (and possibly just a mailbox mounted on a fencepost or raised bed edge) can be a real "enabling" feature for an enabling garden. Tool pouches that can be hung on a wheelchair or a walker can also be real assets to gardeners, according to Joyce Schillen, author of "The Growing Season." Schillen said those with arthritis, disabilities, injuries or other health problems that can make gardening difficult without some special consideration are ironically . . . the ones who could benefit most from gardening. We couldn’t agree more.

Jerry A. Chenault is with the Urban R.E.A., New & Nontraditional Programs.

Victory Gardens are Now AS Appealing as Ever

Each year Bonnie Plants gives a $1,000 scholarship to one lucky third-grader in each state for participating in their Third Grade Cabbage Program. Pictured is Olivia Dawson, age 8, daughter of Stacy (AFC Feed Department) and Connie Dawson. Stacy said Olivia came home from West Morgan Elementary School fired up about her Bonnie cabbage plant and immediately put it in Lloyd Haddock’s garden (Olivia’s grandfather) in Florence where she goes to care for it once a week.

By Kellie Henderson

While most people would instantly recognize the iconic American images of Uncle Sam and Rosie the Riveter on government posters meant to inspire and encourage a nation at war, fewer people today realize the U.S. government also considered Victory Gardens an important part of the home efforts during the World Wars. Advertised as a way to make ration stamps go farther, Americans were encouraged with slogans like "Our Food Is Fighting" and "Grow More in ‘44" to grow their own produce in backyard Victory Gardens.

While ration books are now a faded memory, a renewed interest in victory gardening is emerging. Current economic shortfalls make the idea of stretching food dollars as appealing as ever for many people who have never turned a spade of garden soil, while other groups propose a return to the Victory Garden as an environmentally friendly measure.

According to the Living History Farms website, victory gardening was not a solution to shortages of fruits and vegetables, but a way to conserve commercially-available canned goods for soldiers and reduce the labor and transportation needed to bring produce from farm to production facilities to grocers. That same desire to reduce the amount of fossil fuels needed to quickly ship fresh fruits and vegetables today is spurring those in search of a greener lifestyle to look to their own backyards for fresh produce.

So regardless of why people are interested in growing more of their own food, where do these budding gardeners begin?

Dennis Thomas of Bonnie Plants offered some simple tips and strategies for getting started.

These are some of the many posters used during World Wars I and II to promote Victory Gardens in American households. Their messages are just as appropriate today -- encouraging the health and economic benefits of fresh, home grown vegetables.

The first step Thomas suggested is choosing a space for your garden, a relatively flat area getting plenty of sunshine. For most vegetables, that means at least six to eight hours-a-day of direct sunlight. And for a family of four, Thomas advised a garden plot of about 16x24 feet, warning many beginning gardeners become too ambitious and create a garden requiring too much daily maintenance as the summer stretches on. After initial plantings, Thomas said an average vegetable garden can be maintained in about 30 minutes a day, making it a feasible undertaking for even working families.

And Thomas recommended a raised bed for easy care of plants and greater control over weeds and soil, but cautions soil can be costly.

"Old manure mixed with potting or garden soil is great, but buying soil and the 50 or so landscape timbers to create a raised bed can be about $400 in initial investment," said Thomas, making the decision to create a new garden bed a potentially costly endeavor.

In addition to preparing a bed, the cost of purchasing tools, fertilizers or soil amendments and other supplies may make backyard gardens more daunting than they first appear. But if the idea of fresh, nutritious produce picked warm from your own garden sounds too good to pass up, the information novice gardeners need is easier to find than ever.

Bonnie Plants website offers a cadre of information on everything from creating new garden beds to estimating the yields of various types of plants with numerous photos and projects to inspire gardeners of all skill levels. The Learn and Grow Library is easy to navigate by topic and detailed photographs share basics for beginners as well as tips for tackling some of the vegetable gardens’ trickiest problems. Just click on the link to the Learn and Grow Library

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System can also be a vitally important tool for gardeners. Extension agents can provide information to help in the planning of new gardens and diagnose problems in established gardens. Local Extension experts may also be more familiar with resources and challenges specific to your area, and the Cooperative Extension System’s Master Gardener Program provides opportunities for trained volunteers to assist with gardening projects throughout the community. Additionally, the Master Gardener Helpline (877-252-GROW) can provide quick answers for questions arising in the garden. To contact your local Extension office, look under your county’s listing in the phone book or visit

And the friendly staff at your local Quality Co-op is available with the tools, seeds, plants and garden supplies needed to get your garden started and keep it performing beautifully all season long.

If you’re still not sure transforming a part of your lawn into a vegetable garden is a project you can handle, consider starting smaller. A container garden featuring some easy to grow patio tomatoes and herbs is a simple project even young children can enjoy. Flower gardeners may consider incorporating a few vegetables into a sunny corner of their existing garden, or talk with green-thumbed neighbors about helping out with the purchase and care of this year’s plants in exchange for the opportunity to learn and share in the harvest. And in more urban areas, community gardens offer people the opportunity to work with and learn from their neighbors while growing nutritious, delicious produce.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates 20 million Victory Gardens were planted during the 1940s as people looked for ways to show their patriotism and support for soldiers, harvesting nearly as much fresh produce as commercial vegetable growers at that time. Today, victories like spending family time in the garden or finding children want to eat vegetables they helped grow may be enough to revive the tradition of backyard gardening.

Kellie Henderson is a freelance writer from Troy.

Wasted Hay & Lost Sales

By Robert Spencer

Any farmer who produces and sells round bales of hay may not realize hay loss due to improper storage can result in more than minimal outside waste, it could result in lost sales. Wasted hay is also a loss of nutrients because it bypasses livestock and goes right back into the soil. I am not suggesting hay be stored in some type of shelter (although it is a good idea), but making simple efforts like storing round bales on wooden pallets, used tires or raised mounds of gravel can minimize waste. And, come time to replace that old round baler, consider buying a new model that uses net wrapping rather than string. The net wrapping allows rain to roll off the bale rather than be absorbed into the bale. Also, some states may offer cost share assistance for building hay storage facilities.

This past year, I have noticed more farmers using round bales of hay to feed horses and goats. In the past, it was primarily cattle farmers who utilized round bales. Large bales of hay were almost unheard of for feeding horses or goats, too much concern about mildew and toxicity. Round bales not exposed to excessive moisture and degradation make an ideal supplemental food source for large and small ruminants, and horses. Setting out round bales of hay in appropriate hay racks (off the ground) is a lot easier (with the use of a tractor), more economical and requires less labor than putting out square bales on a frequent basis.

North Dakota State University’s (NDSU) publication "Minimizing Hay Loss and Waste" (AS-1190; Gaebe, Randy; Lardy, Greg & Hoppe, Karl; edu/pubs/ansci/range/as1190w.htm) shared the following information and diagram showing waste:

· Store bales on a well-drained location – Bales soak up moisture if placed on a wet or poorly-drained site, causing a large layer of spoiled hay on the bottom of the bale. The storage site should drain away in all directions. A well-drained, four to six-inch coarse rock base will minimize bottom spoilage. Rock base may need to be deeper depending on the weight of equipment used to store and retrieve bales as well as the soil type.

· Do not store bales under trees or other areas where drying ability is compromised.

· Store bales end to end – The arrangement of large round bales in outdoor storage can significantly influence the amount of storage loss. Under most conditions, position bales end to end in long lines. If more than one line of bales is needed, space adjacent lines at least 10 feet apart. This will minimize snow buildup between rows and allow the sun to reach the back row. Stacking large round bales usually increases losses. Stacking tends to trap moisture and limit drying action from exposure to the sun and wind.

· Store bales in rows which run up and down the slope with a north/south orientation – A southern exposure is best to promote rapid drying following precipitation.

· Indoor storage and bale covers – If bales are to be marketed or stored for more than one season, indoor storage or bale covers should be considered. Remember the outer four-inch-thick layer of a six-foot-diameter round bale contains about 25 percent of the total bale volume (See Figure 1 below). Studies have shown outdoor storage losses range between five and 35 percent depending on the amount of precipitation, storage site location and original condition of the bale. Storage losses are usually reduced by approximately two-thirds with indoor storage and by one-half with good plastic covering outdoors.

I have seen situations where someone bought round bales that have been stored directly on the ground and much of the bottom part of the round bale had decayed. While the buyer may proceed with the initial purchase of the hay, they may not come again.

Take a look at some simple economics. For the sake of convenience, let’s assume a round bale weighs 1,000 pounds and costs $40. That puts a per pound value of four cents per pound. Say (based on the NDSU diagram) we lose the outer six inches/33 percent or 330 pounds; at four cents/pound that comes to $13.20. In most cases, it’s the buyer who experiences those losses, not the seller. So the seller will probably not realize the loss. But let’s consider the buyer, if the buyer does not want partly-rotted hay and does not appreciate the loss in volume and nutrition, not to mention a risk with moldy hay, they will probably not go back to the seller. Such a situation could result in loss of sales for multiple bales at $40 per bale (our supposed price); 10 x $40 = $400.

And let’s consider "word-of-mouth" advertising. Good word-of-mouth advertising is the best form of advertising; bad word-of-mouth advertising can really hurt a farmer. Also, if a farmer is unable to sell his hay, it sits in the field and rots. Not only is that lost sales, but a waste of nutrients, especially if fertilizer and lime were used to produce the hay.

So, the $13.20 worth of hay can be more significant than we realize. Lost hay sales can add up to several hundred dollars very quickly. So, what to do? Spring is almost here and hay season is just around the corner. Now is the time to consider accumulating abundant numbers of used wooden pallets or tires for storing hay off the ground. Or, order several loads of gravel and build mounds for storing hay. Minimizing hay loss and maximizing market potential is the key to increasing the likelihood for profitability.

Robert Spencer is a contributing writer from Florence.

Water is Life

Locust Fork fourth grader Lily Patterson models her award-winning t-shirt design chosen for the 2009 Water is Life Festival.

By Suzy Lowry Geno

Locust Fork fourth grader Lily Patterson knows how important clean water is on her grandfather’s, Stephen Graveman, dairy farm at Snead. Not only does there have to be clean portable water for the cattle to drink, but there must be water to clean the equipment, water the corn and hay for feed, and much more.

That’s one reason Lily’s t-shirt design was chosen as first place to be reproduced on every t-shirt given to the approximately 700 Blount School System fourth graders and 60 presenters who attended the annual “Water is Life” Festival held March 6th at Wallace State Community College in Hanceville.

Lily’s design, outlined with the shape of Blount County, also showed one of Blount’s Covered Bridges, to represent the importance of water on the county’s tourism; a deer grazing to represent the importance of water on wildlife and hunting; a John Deere tractor cultivating a field to show the importance of water on the many vegetable crops grown within the county; and the county’s river system, which provides recreation and some of the county’s drinking water.

Stephen Guesman adds sprinkles to the “edible aquifer” in one of the hands-on classroom activities.

Donna Martin, the Blount School System’s elementary curriculum coordinator, said the event “gets kids actively engaged. It shows them how important it is to protect the ground water of Blount County while still having fun learning about it.”

According to Mark Butler, the Ground Water Festival’s coordinator who works with the Blount Soil and Water Conservation District, “The students participated in hands-on learning activities focusing on what groundwater is; the importance of water to all life; the water cycle and ground-water’s role in it; the interdependence of plants, trees, wildlife, soil and water; and the effect of human actions on water and all nature PLUS the need for responsible human action.”

One of the most popular activities was the making of “edible aquifers.” We sat in on Friends of the Locust Fork River volunteer Stephen Guessman as he taught in one classroom.

Each student was given a clear plastic drinking cup filled with water. To that water each student added candy sprinkles for contaminants, rocks (which were actually sour gummy bear candies!), soil (which was ice cream) and other items.

Blountsville Elementary fourth grader C.J. Herndon reacts after drinking some of his “edible aquifer” in Stephen Guesman’s classroom.

Each student was then given a straw to suck the water from the cup, just as a spring or a well pump brings the groundwater to the top by suction.

Guessman pointed out as the students sucked in the sour-but-drinkable mixture, “You’ll see the suction makes the pollutants even worse.”

Guessman also distributed flyers showing how to dispose properly of motor oil, chemicals, paint and batteries, giving recyclable drop off points for each.

Making rain sticks were also fun. In different classrooms in the Business Education building, Sharon Leader and Rebecca Shew told how different cultures celebrated the importance of spring rains on their crops.

Rice and dried beans were added to sealed cardboard tubes which were decorated with paints and feathers. As they were shaken they sounded like rainfall.

The festival was held annually for several years but had not been held since 2004. Mitchie Clegg Neel, who is now retired but who was instrumental in the earlier festivals, dropped by to say how delighted she was to see the festival resurrected.

Blountsville Elementary fourth grader Karli Butler adds rice and beans to a cardboard tube in the activity where “rain sticks” were made to celebrate the rainfall.

“It’s especially important for our children because we all need to be more mindful of protecting our groundwater,” Neel remarked.

Martin agreed and noted, “These students are our future and they’re the ones who will be responsible for taking care of the groundwater for their generation and generations in the future. We need to make sure they realize protection should be a priority.”

Martin also stressed the good job Butler and Polly Morris have done in coordinating the event.

All of Blount County’s water departments sponsored the festival by giving cash donations and providing volunteers who helped in planning and at the actual event.

Steve Pass, Cleveland Utilities manager for the past 20 years and who coordinated volunteers for the festival, remembered an experiment several years ago where colored dye was placed in a spring in northern Blount County and was detected in the aquifer three counties to the South.

He stated, “Wellhead protection is the word. If you pollute something into the water, it might not have an effect that day or even the next day, but you can be assured it will have an effect on all our water.”

Pass had earlier noted most folks probably don’t spend their days thinking about the farmer scanning the skies to see if there’s even the faintest possibility of a rain cloud, a local water authority employee checking the water’s purity, a government inspector checking to make sure a factory doesn’t discharge chemicals into a nearby river or even the wildlife in your area searching the area’s lakes and streams for a soothing drink.

Pass noted, “Water truly is LIFE and that’s one thing we hope to impress on these youngsters. They will be the ones making the decisions in the future and if we start them out at a young age seeing this importance, hopefully it will stay with them for the rest of their lives.”

Students enjoyed “green entertainer” Steve Trash’s 45-minute magic show and numerous other activities.

While most of the county’s field trips have been canceled because of budget constraints, the festival paid for the bus transportation for the fourth graders. The Wallace State location was chosen because it had adequate rooms for the many activities, with the college graciously not only hosting the event, but being one of the events sponsors.

Fourth graders from Appalachian, Cleveland, Susan Moore, Southeastern, Locust Fork, Hayden and Blountsville attended.

Rodney McCain, Oneonta Utilities Superintendent, said his only regret was the Oneonta Elementary fourth graders did not attend, but he expressed hope those students would attend next year’s event.

Sponsors in addition to Wallace State, Oneonta Utilities and Cleveland Utilities included: the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service; Blount County Board of Education; Alabama Department of Environmental Management; Wal-Mart; Cullman Coca-Cola; Blount County Water Authority; Pine Bluff Water; Tyson; Blountsville Utilities; First Baptist Cleveland; the towns of Hayden, Snead and Nectar; Jack’s; Natural Resources Conservation Service; Pump and Process Equipment Company; Blount Soil and Water Conservation District; CAWACA and Helms Hay Farm.

Most of the sponsors had volunteers on-hand either as presenters or helpers.

With the weather clear and in the 70s and enthusiastic smiles all around her, Martin announced, “This has just been a great day!”

Suzy Lowry Geno is a freelance writer from Blount County.

Workshops encourage kids to harvest benefits in the garden

Attendees build their Gallon Greenhouses. Pictured from left: Shirley West, Conservation Education Specialist; Cynthia Tucker, Straughn Middle School; Tanya Bales, Covington County 4-H Agent and Lindsay Kimbro, Crenshaw County 4-H Agent.

By Kellie Henderson

Spring days often lead students to daydreams of escaping the classroom for fresh air and sunshine, but recent workshops are encouraging teachers and others who work with children to bridge the gap between the classroom and the great outdoors.

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System, the Alabama Wildlife Federation, Bonnie Plants and the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources sponsor workshops on Developing Youth Gardening Programs. Conservation Education specialist Doyle Keasal, one presenter at a workshop held in Covington County, said children harvest tremendous benefits when they spend time gardening.

"Gardening at school leads to increased student confidence and self-esteem," said Keasal, adding the problem-solving opportunities provided by school gardens also help students develop patience and cooperation.

Luci Davis, state coordinator for the Junior Master Gardener program, showed teachers and extension coordinators how to make newspaper sombreros to protect children from the sun while gardening, a project taken from the JMG curriculum.

"And you can get kids to eat anything if they grow it. They may decide they don’t like it, but they will try new foods they’ve grown themselves," stated Keasal.

Junior Master Gardener Coordinator Luci Davis, another presenter, agreed with Keasal.

"Take radishes, for example, something you would never think of a child enjoying. But when they plant the seeds and anxiously wait for those radishes, kids will eat them like candy," said Davis.

Teacher Cynthia Tucker, who attended the workshop and is planning to start an outdoor classroom at Straughn Middle School as she did at a previous school, said she had seen children willing to eat new foods as well.

"I actually had parents tell me their children would never have eaten like that at home," she said, illustrating the excitement her students had shown about eating soup made from the vegetables they had grown in their outdoor classroom.

With presenters and those in attendance sharing personal anecdotes from previous experiences, presenters also answered specific questions about gardening in general, providing sound information on everything from preparing a new garden bed to drawing soil samples and ideas for theme gardens.

Conservation Education Specialist Doyle Keasal talked about the abundance of information given on ordinary seed packets and the varieties of academic skills students can practice in the garden.

"Regardless of what type of garden an outdoor classroom features, keeping the project manageable and accessible is key," said Keasal.

"You can’t garden without touching and being active. Weeds won’t die by just looking at them, so the garden needs to be one students can handle, with some guidance from a teacher or volunteer," remarked Keasal, adding gardening can be an excellent springboard to other curricular areas.

"How many times do students ask why they’ll ever need to know a certain concept or set of skills? When young people garden, suddenly science, math, writing, and health and nutrition all take on practical applications," Keasal explained.

And in addition to the teachers and Cooperative Extension Coordinators, Dee Bennett of Pike Liberal Arts School in Troy also brought three high school students who are working with their school’s garden.

"We were able to build the garden with grant funds from Steps to a Healthier Alabama, and they harvested cabbages, brussel sprouts, lettuce and other crops in the fall. We’re planning now for our spring garden, looking for produce they can harvest before school gets out for summer," said Bennet, a point Keasal said is important to consider.

Covington County 4-H Agent Tanya Bales (left) and Crenshaw County 4-H Agent Lindsay Kimbro study a seed packet as part of the Gallon Greenhouse project they learned at the Youth Gardening Workshop.

"No one wants a garden on campus that becomes an eyesore, so thinking about who will care for a garden during the summer months or other breaks in the school calendar is key," said Keasal.

In addition to the wealth of gardening information, the workshop also featured activities and lessons for the classroom relating to gardening, a concept Luci Davis said is central to the Junior Master Gardener Program.

"It’s not all dirt work by any means," explained Davis during her first activity of the workshop in which she demonstrated how to make a sombrero from newspaper.

"Activities like this prepare students for work in the garden while allowing them to be artistic and creative. It also gives teachers an opportunity to talk about recycling or sun exposure," continued Davis, illustrating the ways the Junior Master Gardener Program can help teachers in the classroom as well.

And Keasal said the other lessons young people take away from a school garden are more important than the veggies or flowers themselves.

"Students can learn more about environmental stewardship and the impact people can have on the world around them. Gardening is also an opportunity to help children understand where their food and fiber really comes from, and donating food they grow to local food banks or soup kitchens is a great way for young people to learn about compassion and community service," Keasal said.

For more information on the Alabama Wildlife Federation’s Outdoor Classroom Program, visit Or to learn more about the Junior Master Gardener Program in Alabama visit or for nation-wide information.

Kellie Henderson is a freelance writer from Troy.


Jerry Peak, museum director, pointed out a date of Dec. 25, 1937, on one of the depression era pieces.

By Jaine Treadwell

Quilts. Say the word and it stirs memories among those who have had some association with them.

And, these days, who hasn’t?

In earlier times, quilts were things of necessity. They were the bedding keeping the chill off on cold winter nights. At other times, the colorful patterns brought simple beauty to the home.

When people could "do better," the much-used quilts were relegated to the back of closets, between the mattresses or the garbage dump. But, in recent years, quilts have made a comeback as articles of nostalgia and ways to express creativity through the art of quilting.

Bea McKnatt (left) and Shanny Sansom, both members of the Pioneer Quilters, examine the quilting on the back of one of the quilts on display at the Quilt Show at the Pioneer Museum in Troy.

Grandma’s old quilt has become an heirloom her blood and kin argue over. Mama’s quilt made for the newborn is a treasure to be cherished for generations to come. And, little Suzy’s first quilt square has found a permanent place in a shadowbox on the wall.

With all of this in mind, the Pioneer Museum of Alabama in Troy is sponsoring its 50th "Pieces of History Quilt Exhibit," which includes more than 100 quilts, some right off the frame and others dating back as early as the late 1700s.

The "Pieces of History Quilt Exhibit" opened on Valentine’s Day and will run through March 31.

"We are very excited by the response to the ‘Pieces of History Quilt Exhibit,’" said Jerry Peak, museum director. "We have a wide variety of patterns and a wide range of age. The oldest quilt we have in the exhibit is a ‘feather’ quilt belonging to the museum. It was made by the grandmother of Mrs. Sam Passmore in 1775 in South Carolina and brought to Monticello by Mrs. Passmore in 1820."

Quilts on display at the ‘Pieces of History Quilt Exhibit’ at the Pioneer Museum in Troy include (from above, clockwise): three quilts (from left): piece, Grandma’s flower garden and a variation of the star pattern; Trip Around the World pattern; Dixie Rose Confederate quilt; and two quilts (from left): a piece quilt and a string quilt.

To place the quilt in history, Peak said the story is the Passmore family stood by the roadway and watched as the Indians were driven West by soldiers in 1832.

Peak said in addition to the beauty and creative genius of the quilts on exhibit, each quilt offers a unique "storycard" with a history of the quilt giving a glimpse into the past.

One of the really unique "patterns" in the exhibit is a "Trip Around the World" quilt belonging to Louise Moody.

It is a one of the many quilts in her grandmother’s collection with no recorded history. However, Bea McKnatt, a member of the Pioneer Quilters, said the quilt dates back to the early 1900s. The quilt top was quilted by the quilters at Ramer Methodist Church.

What is so interesting about this quilt is each row that goes "around the world" is a match, except for four rows. The lady who pieced the top evidently ran out of material that matched and just used what she had.

Shanny Sansom, also a Pioneer quilter, said there are literally thousands of variations of quilt patterns.

"Many of the quilt patterns had different names," she said. "Dutch Rose was also called Hearts and Gizzards. Some patterns had as many as seven or eight different names."

Some quilts have "exacting" patterns while others, like "string quilts" were made from scraps with no rhyme or reason.

"But, in the early years, their main purpose was to keep people warm," Peak said.

However, many of the early quilters found time to fulfill their desire to be creative while still making something practical for her family.

Carol Glayre said during the War Between the States, many women made quilts for the soldiers, both Confederate and Union.

"These quilts were given to the soldiers who often had little else to keep them warm," Glayre said.

Many of these quilts were made from scraps and were, therefore, inexpensive to make and were often string or piece quilts. The pattern was not important. These quilts were strictly for warmth.

"After the war, women continued to make quilts as fundraisers for orphans, widows and injured soldiers," Glayre continued.

One such quilt was made by Terry Clothier Thompson and called Dixie Rose Confederate Memorial Quilt.

Glayre’s 1860s’ reproduction "Dixie Rose" quilt is on display in the "Pieces of History Quilt Exhibit" and is made from 1860s reproduction material.

"The material I used is reproduction prints from that era," she said. "I also used authentic stencils from that era, so my quilt is an accurate reproduction of the Dixie Rose Confederate Memorial Quilt, except for the size."

Glayre’s quilt is 98x108 inches and made to fit a queen-size bed.

"Back then, a bed would have been 54 inches in width and no more than 80 inches in length," she explained. "That would not have worked with today’s bed size."

The "Pieces of History Quilt Exhibit" has many storycards making the exhibit even more interesting. But the beauty and workmanship of each quilt make it a worthy entry in a show telling the story, not only of the history of quilting but the creativity and skill of women yesteryear and today.

The Pioneer Museum of Alabama is open from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and from 1 until 5 p.m. on Sunday.

Admission is charged. Special group rates are offered for groups of 25 or more. For more information, call (334) 566-3597.

Jaine Treadwell is a freelance writer from Brundidge.

‘Pieces of History’ Quilt Show at Pioneer Museum of Alabama

Jerry Peak, museum director, pointed out a date of Dec. 25, 1937, on one of the depression era pieces.

By Jaine Treadwell

Quilts. Say the word and it stirs memories among those who have had some association with them.

And, these days, who hasn’t?

In earlier times, quilts were things of necessity. They were the bedding keeping the chill off on cold winter nights. At other times, the colorful patterns brought simple beauty to the home.

When people could "do better," the much-used quilts were relegated to the back of closets, between the mattresses or the garbage dump. But, in recent years, quilts have made a comeback as articles of nostalgia and ways to express creativity through the art of quilting.

Grandma’s old quilt has become an heirloom her blood and kin argue over. Mama’s quilt made for the newborn is a treasure to be cherished for generations to come. And, little Suzy’s first quilt square has found a permanent place in a shadowbox on the wall.

Bea McKnatt (left) and Shanny Sansom, both members of the Pioneer Quilters, examine the quilting on the back of one of the quilts on display at the Quilt Show at the Pioneer Museum in Troy.

With all of this in mind, the Pioneer Museum of Alabama in Troy is sponsoring its 50th "Pieces of History Quilt Exhibit," which includes more than 100 quilts, some right off the frame and others dating back as early as the late 1700s.

The "Pieces of History Quilt Exhibit" opened on Valentine’s Day and will run through March 31.

"We are very excited by the response to the ‘Pieces of History Quilt Exhibit,’" said Jerry Peak, museum director. "We have a wide variety of patterns and a wide range of age. The oldest quilt we have in the exhibit is a ‘feather’ quilt belonging to the museum. It was made by the grandmother of Mrs. Sam Passmore in 1775 in South Carolina and brought to Monticello by Mrs. Passmore in 1820."

To place the quilt in history, Peak said the story is the Passmore family stood by the roadway and watched as the Indians were driven West by soldiers in 1832.

Quilts on display at the ‘Pieces of History Quilt Exhibit’ at the Pioneer Museum in Troy include (from above, clockwise): three quilts (from left): piece, Grandma’s flower garden and a variation of the star pattern; Trip Around the World pattern; Dixie Rose Confederate quilt; and two quilts (from left): a piece quilt and a string quilt.

Peak said in addition to the beauty and creative genius of the quilts on exhibit, each quilt offers a unique "storycard" with a history of the quilt giving a glimpse into the past.

One of the really unique "patterns" in the exhibit is a "Trip Around the World" quilt belonging to Louise Moody.

It is a one of the many quilts in her grandmother’s collection with no recorded history. However, Bea McKnatt, a member of the Pioneer Quilters, said the quilt dates back to the early 1900s. The quilt top was quilted by the quilters at Ramer Methodist Church.

What is so interesting about this quilt is each row that goes "around the world" is a match, except for four rows. The lady who pieced the top evidently ran out of material that matched and just used what she had.

Shanny Sansom, also a Pioneer quilter, said there are literally thousands of variations of quilt patterns.

"Many of the quilt patterns had different names," she said. "Dutch Rose was also called Hearts and Gizzards. Some patterns had as many as seven or eight different names."

Some quilts have "exacting" patterns while others, like "string quilts" were made from scraps with no rhyme or reason.

"But, in the early years, their main purpose was to keep people warm," Peak said.

However, many of the early quilters found time to fulfill their desire to be creative while still making something practical for her family.

Carol Glayre said during the War Between the States, many women made quilts for the soldiers, both Confederate and Union.

"These quilts were given to the soldiers who often had little else to keep them warm," Glayre said.

Many of these quilts were made from scraps and were, therefore, inexpensive to make and were often string or piece quilts. The pattern was not important. These quilts were strictly for warmth.

"After the war, women continued to make quilts as fundraisers for orphans, widows and injured soldiers," Glayre continued.

One such quilt was made by Terry Clothier Thompson and called Dixie Rose Confederate Memorial Quilt.

Glayre’s 1860s’ reproduction "Dixie Rose" quilt is on display in the "Pieces of History Quilt Exhibit" and is made from 1860s reproduction material.

"The material I used is reproduction prints from that era," she said. "I also used authentic stencils from that era, so my quilt is an accurate reproduction of the Dixie Rose Confederate Memorial Quilt, except for the size."

Glayre’s quilt is 98x108 inches and made to fit a queen-size bed.

"Back then, a bed would have been 54 inches in width and no more than 80 inches in length," she explained. "That would not have worked with today’s bed size."

The "Pieces of History Quilt Exhibit" has many storycards making the exhibit even more interesting. But the beauty and workmanship of each quilt make it a worthy entry in a show telling the story, not only of the history of quilting but the creativity and skill of women yesteryear and today.

The Pioneer Museum of Alabama is open from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and from 1 until 5 p.m. on Sunday.

Admission is charged. Special group rates are offered for groups of 25 or more. For more information, call (334) 566-3597.

Jaine Treadwell is a freelance writer from Brundidge.

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