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May 2015

4-H Extension Corner: Stem, Pathways to New Opportunities

Alabama students engaged in soap exhibit at the Sci-Quest Center in Huntsville.

by Wendi Williams

Imagine a world without science, technology, mathematics or engineering. Without science, man would not have walked on the moon. Without technology, we would not have computers, the Internet or even smartphones. Without mathematics, we would not have measurements or time. And without engineering, we would not be able to apply science, math or technology to create or to design new inventions. That’s why programs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, better known as STEM, are so critical for youth today and to the future of our world.

Each year Alabama Extension works with educators and educational school systems to introduce youth to science, technology, mathematics and engineering disciplines through STEM programs such as "Ready? Get SET to Explore Forensics" offered through the Urban Affairs and New Nontraditional Programs unit on the campus of the Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University. Although junior and senior high school students learn the art of forensic science that is used to collect and to examine data in a court of law, "Ready? Get SET to Explore Forensics" is so much more. Students not only have a chance to visit sites such as Huntsville’s Sci-Quest Center, an interactive science center, but local colleges and universities to learn about STEM courses of study, and new and emerging careers. In addition, they listen to college students – not much older than themselves – talk about STEM research projects, and engage in discussions with educators and professionals working in STEM careers.

After attending STEM Day activities at AAMU students remarked,

"Food and agriculture are more interesting than I thought."

"I learned that jobs in STEM-related areas are increasing."

"I learned that old systems can be used to create something new and interesting."

Isn’t that what learning is all about?

We currently live in a fast-paced society driven by STEM innovation including food and bioscience, engineering, computer and information technology, as well as careers in health, and environmental and social sciences. America’s congressional leadership has even recognized STEM programs as vital to the nation’s economy and its competitiveness in a global market. They worry, however, about a possible shortage of STEM workers to meet the growing demand of STEM jobs or whether there are enough students pursuing STEM education and occupations. As a result, more funding is being appropriated for STEM instruction, increasing and sustaining youth and public involvement in STEM activities, and ensuring undergraduate students are exposed to even greater STEM experiences.

Alabama Extension educators also work to enhance programs such as "Ready? Get SET to Explore Forensics" so critical to youth in Alabama. Besides, where would we be without STEM advances in industries such as agriculture that paved the way for George Washington Carver to discover the many uses of the peanut at Tuskegee Institute to AAMU scientists discovering ways to eliminate peanut allergens in food today?

Perhaps we now have a greater understanding as to why science, technology, mathematics and engineering are vital to our existence just as youth are vital to our future. Imagine how we could change the world by making STEM disciplines accessible to every child in Alabama and across our great nation. Young people deserve to discover pathways to new opportunities through STEM education. They deserve to be equipped with the skills they need to compete in a global job market.

Wendi Williams is the Extension Communications Specialist at AAMU.

A Distinctive Choice

Seated in the John Deere Gator they won are Connie and Rickey Cornutt of Marshall County, Alabama’s 2015 Farm of Distinction winners. Sponsors, standing from left, are Jim Allen of Alabama Farmers Cooperative, Kenneth Williams and Chris Cline of Snead Ag, Lynne Morton and Jay Hamlett of TriGreen Equipment, Lester Killebrew of SunSouth and Jimmy Parnell of Alabama Farmers Federation.

Marshall County’s Cornutt family is honored as recipient of Alabama’s 2015 Farm of Distinction.

by Debra Davis

Marshall County grain, soybean and beef cattle business was named Alabama’s 2015 Farm of Distinction at the Alabama Farm-City Awards April 2 in Birmingham.

Rickey Cornutt of Cornutt Farms near Boaz has been farming most of his life, but he said he’s never enjoyed it more than the last few years.

"I’ve always wanted to farm. I graduated high school, went to college for 1 year and decided I wanted to come back to the farm," Cornutt said. "We went through a lot of lean years in the 1980s and ‘90s. It’s been good the last 5 or 6 years."

Cornutt and wife Connie were selected for the award from a field of four finalists across the state. As this year’s winner, Cornutt Farms received more than $12,000 in cash and prizes and will represent Alabama in the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year contest at the Sunbelt Ag Expo Oct. 20-22.

Cornutt, who farms in partnership with his brother Chris, began with just 25 acres. Today, Cornutt Farms covers more than 2,000 acres and includes 1,200 acres of corn, soybeans and wheat; 250 beef cows; and 150 acres of hay. But, unlike farms in the Tennessee River Valley, the Cornutts’ fields aren’t hundreds of acres in size. In fact, just moving equipment and keeping up with leases can be a big job.

"Out of that 1,200 acres, we have about 42 different landlords," Cornutt said. "Probably, the average size of a farm would be maybe 20-25 acres. There’s a lot of moving down the road. It’s been a challenge, but that’s just Sand Mountain."

Because his farm is interwoven with the community, Cornutt said it’s important to be courteous with drivers and respectful of neighbors whose property adjoins his fields.

"I feel like, to be a good neighbor whether you are a farmer or not, you need to be kind to one another. There’ve been times when people don’t understand why we work late at night or why we are working on a Saturday. I feel like being a good neighbor is just part of being a good person."

The Cornutts’ prize package included a John Deere Gator from SunSouth, TriGreen and Snead Ag dealers; a $1,000 gift certificate from Alabama Farmers Cooperative; $2,500 from Swisher International; and an engraved farm sign from Alabama Farmers Federation and Alfa Insurance. AFC awarded a $250 gift certificate to each finalist.

The other finalists were Lance and Heather Whitehead of Fayette County, Mitch and Dawn Lazenby of Lee County, and Joe and Edria Todd of Henry County.

In addition to running his farm, Cornutt is president of the Marshall County Farmers Federation and is a member of the Federation State Soybean Committee. He also serves on the board of directors of DeKalb Farmers Co-op and Marshall County Soil and Water Conservation District.

The Cornutts are members of Gum Springs Baptist Church and have two daughters, Leslie Baugh, 26, and Cara, 19.

Despite the challenges inherent in farming, Cornutt said he wouldn’t choose any other way of life.

"There have been some lean times, but God has blessed us," he said. "He’s allowed us to keep doing what we’re doing, and we’re thankful for that and we give Him the glory for it."

Debra Davis is Alfa’s Publications Director.

A Safe Investment

Auburn University Animal Sciences student Audrey Pugh shows her dairy calf at Little International.

With a growing world population, a degree in agriculture guarantees a future for graduates.

by Michelle Bufkin

A college degree is truly an investment for parents and students alike, no matter who pays the tuition. One of the biggest worries for parents is if their student will be able to get a job with his or her degree after graduation. Multiple articles in the past few years have stated that agriculture is a dying industry and a useless degree. People argue that a degree in agriculture does not provide the guarantee of a job, but there is astounding evidence discrediting these assumptions.

"We are going to be trying to feed 9 billion people by 2050 with the same number of acres of arable land. The opportunities for a person who has a graduate degree in agriculture are great now, but they are going to be really, really excellent going into the future," said Timothy Burcham, dean of agriculture and technology at Arkansas State University.

No matter what people think, everyone has to eat, and as we all know that is not possible without agriculture. This in itself provides the agriculture industry with a solid foundation for the future. There are three organizations that especially prove that agriculture is a growing industry and provides jobs; these are The National FFA Organization, 4-H and land-grant universities.

The National FFA Organization is growing exponentially, which shows that there is still a strong interest in agriculture.

Robert Giblin, writer for the American Farm Bureau Federation, said, "Millennials are often generations removed from any direct connection to farming. Yet, record numbers of young people are putting on iconic, blue corduroy FFA jackets as the organization has become a pipeline for highly attractive careers. Membership in FFA reached 610,240 in 2014 - that’s an increase of 30,000 in just 2 years."

One of the main reasons for this growth is that the National FFA Organization expanded from just "cows, sows and plows" to explore all of the opportunities the agriculture field has to offer. The National FFA Organization now prepares its members for more than 300 agricultural careers such as traditional agriculture to law, business, marketing, food science, communications, education and many others.

Another organization that has continued to grow and nourish interest in agriculture is 4-H. A recent Tufts University study found that 4-H members are four times more likely than the rest of their peers to contribute to their communities during grades 7-12; twice as likely to be civically active in grades 8-12; and twice as likely to participate in science, engineering and computer technology programs during non-school hours in grades 10-12. It also concluded that senior 4-H girls are three times as likely to take part in extracurricular science programs. The 4-H program has also expanded their focus from strictly traditional agriculture to a broader focus on all aspects of agriculture including leadership training along with other career skills. Both of these organizations are helping prepare young people for a successful life in agriculture; they are also helping to prove that agriculture is thriving.

Dr. Brandon Wilson said, "I think any student looking at colleges should consider job placement after they graduate."

Obviously, job placement is extremely important. It is one of the main reasons most students attend a university. So, therefore, the third piece of evidence comes from Auburn University, a land-grant university. Why does information from Auburn matter? Because while FFA, 4-H and other organizations can help prepare youth for a career, their college is where they will find their career. But rest assured, it is not just Auburn that offers these opportunities, it is any land-grant university. Auburn University College of Agriculture assures nervous parents that their students will receive all of the necessary skills to graduate with a degree and a job offer. Auburn University has multiple degree options with100 percent job placement after graduation. Graduates of certain majors have three to five job offers by the time they graduate.

Giblin writes, "… Undergraduate enrollment in agricultural programs increased 20 percent from 2006 to 2011, up to 146,000 students. Most colleges and universities report that this growth is continuing."

It makes no sense for that number of students to study agriculture if it is not a useful and necessary field. Studies have proved that there are double the job openings in agriculture each year than there are graduates. That should be proof enough that agriculture is still a viable field.

Instead of thinking agriculture equals just farming, we need to look at it and say, agriculture equals industry, agriculture equals jobs, but, most of all, agriculture equals a future. Agriculture is faced with numerous issues that will have to be solved in order to feed the world’s growing population. To be solved, these issues will need to be tackled by intelligent people who are equipped with the necessary knowledge. 4-H, FFA and obtaining an agriculture degree provide part of that knowledge. So when you or your child starts thinking about involvement in agriculture or getting an agricultural degree, rest assured that the entire world still has to eat, which guarantees job security.

Michelle Bufkin is is a freelance writer from Auburn.

Adding True Value

Alden Holley, owner of Holley True Value in Selma, holds a large tray of colorful marigolds from Bonnie Plants Inc. in Union Springs. Holley has many customers who wait for the Bonnie Plants truck to arrive to be first in line for their favorite flowers and vegetable plants.

Mom-and-Pop business survives by offering unique inventory.

by Alvin Benn

An American institution has been slowly fading away due to the emergence of bigger stores, all-purpose grocery stores and on-line shopping.

Sprinkled across the country and particularly revered in rural areas are businesses known as "Mom-and-Pop" stores that, in the past, have primarily been operated by families from Connecticut to California.

Some remain, of course, but far too many have closed in past decades as encroaching competition from large businesses have claimed small stores that once provided livelihoods for thousands of families.

Surviving in the face of all that competition is Selma’s Holley True Value store, a business that’s managed to weather the storm by offering unique items not normally found in many Alabama stores.

Holley’s has an unusual inventory including a little bit of everything, even including mice and rats for owners of hungry pet snakes. A mouse goes for $1 while rats are bigger and sell for up to $10.

Owner Alden Holley buys the rodents, preferring not to raise them. He once sold lizards, but dropped that item several years ago because he said the profit margin wasn’t sufficient to keep them as part of his inventory.

Tina Adams loves Bonnie Plants flowers and can’t wait to take her petunias home as Alden Holley of Holley True Value helps her.

Need a thick, black rubber plunger for bathroom emergencies? You can get one for about $7 at Holley’s. Nearby and on display are thousands of nails neatly arranged in small bins according to size. A few feet away is a large gumball machine offering a quarter treat for youngsters.

Randall Smith, a salesman for Danco, a plumbing supply company, spent several hours recently taking inventory of all the items he has provided for many years.

"They probably carry at least 500 items of mine," said Smith, who has provided supplies to Holley’s for the past 14 years. "They do a good job taking care of customer needs. You don’t always see that at the bigger stores, not like you’ll see here."

Holley’s may not sell hoop cheese, soda crackers and R.C. Colas that once were staples at country crossroad stores, but, "We’ve got the best popcorn you’ve ever had," according to the owner who literally grew up in the store.

At the age of 33, Holley’s days are spent in his little office or out front meeting and greeting customers he knows by their first names.

Rita Sumlin, a 30-year employee at Holley True Value, holds what she calls the “Cadillac” of pecan pickers.

The store has 7,500 square feet of merchandise. The size increase is due to acquisition of adjacent, vacant businesses over the years.

The latest additions to his store, located at the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Street and Water Avenue in downtown Selma, once served as a bar, a grocery and a furniture business.

The store was Holley’s playground as a toddler and it wasn’t unusual to see him crawl around rows of plumbing supplies and pet food.

He may not have been able to read the labels but he had fun looking at them as well as the customers who dropped by to buy things and watch him grow up.

He eventually became the boss, but that hasn’t been a problem for his staff. Many have worked at the store longer than he’s been alive, but they treat him with respect because they know how hard he works during the week.

Alden Holley and supplier Randall Smith of Guin chat about inventory and other matters affecting Holley True Value in Selma.

"We do the best we can," said Holley, a third-generation owner who doesn’t have to be reminded about bottom-line dependence. "We live off the loyalty of our customers. That’s our livelihood."

That’s why he isn’t afraid to come up with products not normally found in bigger stores, occasionally offering monkey and kangaroo food for those who might have them as pets.

"You can call them oddball requests, but we get them here from time to time," Holley said. "I’ve had people ask me to have monkeys for sale, but I haven’t done that and don’t plan to."

Tiny goldfish and frogs splash around in small aquariums in back of the store. Just before Easter, Holley’s provides "peeps" and baby chicks for customers who have come to expect them for their children.

Bonnie Plants are customer favorites at the store, especially during the spring when a new shipment arrives and people line up to buy flower and vegetable plants.

An avid collector of unusual items, Holley keeps some of them near his desk. One is a rusty device that once produced match boxes once a coin was inserted. Near it is an old parking meter.

"A friend of mine had it at his house," Holley said. "It’s supposed to be one of Selma’s original meters. I just keep it at my office."

He said he keeps his store as competitive as possible, but refrains from advertising "loss-leaders" to attract customers.

"We don’t need to do that because our prices are competitive and even better than what some of the bigger stores charge," Holley said. "Our customers know that because they haven’t stopped coming after all these years and we’re proud of that."

Holley’s father inherited the store from his grandfather and asked him what he wanted to do as far as his future was concerned.

"My daddy had reservations about passing the store on to me because he knew all about the headaches that were part of running this business," Holley recalled. "But, it’s been my life and I enjoy every day I work here."

Changing times caused the Holley family to adjust their mercantile thinking and they’ve been able to keep their customers coming, whether to buy a bag of 75 cent popcorn or to pick up some Bonnie Plants flowers.

He went to Wallace Community College and got an education in machine tools, but, in the back of his mind, he just knew he’d be running the family business.

Holley isn’t a stranger to hard work and long hours because he once worked at a catfish farm in the area and it often involved working all week long.

He met his wife Karen at a Selma grocery store and they have a 2.5-year-old son who became introduced to the store not long after he was born.

That means he’ll probably be crawling around rows of merchandise just like his dad once did.

Alvin Benn is a freelance writer from Selma.

Ag Insight

China’s rice imports sets new record

Rice imports by China are expected to set a new record in 2015, surpassing 2014 levels by 200,000 metric tons and marking the fourth consecutive year of record imports. Rice imports surged in 2012 to more than 7 times the average of the previous 5 years, and continued to grow each year thereafter. China remains the world’s largest rice producer and consumer, and has been largely self-sufficient in rice for more than 30 years and, until recently, was typically a net rice exporter. In 2012, China surpassed Nigeria to become the world’s largest rice importer. Vietnam and Burma are the largest suppliers of rice to China, along with Pakistan and Thailand. The United States is currently unable to ship rice to China due to ongoing disagreements over phytosanitary issues. China’s record imports are not due to a short crop or tight supplies, but are the result of much lower prices for imported rice than for domestic rice, and continued growth in use partly due to an increasing population. As the world’s largest rice consumer, even small dietary shifts can have a large effect on the supplies needed to meet consumer demand and China is increasingly turning to the world market to feed its appetite not only for staple commodities such as rice but also fruits, vegetables, meat and other consumer-oriented products.

India’s imports of oilseeds on the rise

Production incentives for Indian oilseeds are being eroded by declining prices for imported vegetable oils, down to a 6-year low. Indian rapeseed area fell 7 percent in 2014/15 to 6.6 million hectares. Peanut production is down 4.6 million hectares (15 percent) from 2013/14, continuing a shift by Indian farmers to competing crops such as cotton. Similarly, sunflower seed area is down 13 percent in 2014/15. Cottonseed production is estimated to be nearly flat in 2014/15 and soybean production increased about 10 percent, reflecting an improved yield. Total oilseed production will be down about a half million metric tons from the previous year and 1.2 million metric tons from 2012/13. To make up for lower domestic production, India’s imports of vegetable oil are forecast to be up more than 10 percent in 2014/15, the fourth consecutive year of growth. This trend has turned India into the world’s top importing country for vegetable oil, and a major factor in determining global prices.

U.S. disposable income spending on decline for food at home

Between 1960 and 2007, the share of disposable personal income spent on total food by Americans fell from 17.5 to 9.6 percent, as the share of income spent on food at home fell. The share of income spent on food purchased in grocery stores and other retailers declined from 14.1 percent in 1960 to 5.5 percent in 2007. At the same time, the percent of income spent on food purchased at restaurants, fast-food places and other away-from-home eating places increased from 3.4 to 4.1 percent. The share of income spent on total food began to flatten in 2000, as inflation-adjusted incomes for many Americans have stagnated or fallen over the last decade or so. In addition, between 2006 and 2013, food-price inflation has been greater than overall inflation, making food more costly. In 2013, Americans spent 5.6 percent of their disposable personal incomes on food at home and 4.3 percent on food away from home. This chart appears in the ERS data product.

U.S. agricultural trade a surplus with China

In recent years, growth in United States-China agricultural trade has accelerated. During calendar years 2012-13, U.S. exports of agricultural products to China averaged $25.9 billion per year - a tenfold increase from the late 1990s. Sales to China doubled during 2004-08 and doubled again during 2008-12, while the share of U.S. agricultural exports going to China rose from about 3 percent during the 1990s to 18 percent during 2012-13. China became the largest overseas market for U.S. farm products in 2010. U.S. imports of agricultural products from China rose at a slower pace, reaching $4.4 billion in 2013 - agriculture is one of the few sectors where the United States has a trade surplus with China. During 2012-13, the United States accounted for over 24 percent of China’s agricultural imports by value and was its leading supplier of oilseeds, cotton, meat, cereal grains, cattle hides, distillers’ dried grains (mainly used for animal feed) and hay. Soybeans account for more than half of the total value of U.S. agricultural exports to China, averaging $14.1 billion during the 2012-13 calendar years, and are also the largest U.S. export of any type to China, accounting for about 11 percent of the value of total U.S. exports to China.

American Beautyberry

American beautyberry is a perennial shrub with multi-season beauty and usefulness. Inset, a close-up of the plant’s fruit.

by Tony Glover

Callicarpa americana, the American Beautyberry, is so prevalent in Alabama it may not be appreciated as a multipurpose plant as highly as it deserves. It is a great garden perennial shrub with multi-season beauty and usefulness that is well suited to almost any garden situation. I call it a perennial and a shrub because you can treat it somewhat like an herbaceous perennial by cutting it back hard each winter, but it is, technically speaking, a woody shrub. If you have them growing wild on your property, they are probably blooming now or will bloom very soon. However, the blooms are not extremely showy. The big show for this plant comes later with the bright purple-colored fruit abundant in late-summer and fall. They also have fairly nice yellow fall-foliage color which is an additional ornamental quality.

Although this plant is most often found in the coastal plains and Piedmont, it grows very well in almost any soil found in Alabama. It is very drought tolerant, but will not survive long in a very poorly drained soil. This plant will grow in partial shade or under pine trees, but it will stay looking better and bloom and fruit more profusely in full sun. I suggest you mass several plants together for maximum impact. They can get from 3-8 feet tall and would, therefore, work well towards the rear of a perennial border. If you would like a native substitute for the somewhat invasive lantana, the beautyberry comes closest to filling the bill. The bloom period is shorter and not as showy, but it makes up for it in the fall with the showy fruit and nice fall color.

The purple-fruited forms are the most common, but white forms are occasionally found in the wild and readily available from nurseries. A mass planting mixing the white and purple form is striking and will add fall interest to an often less-than-colorful fall flower or shrub bed. The roots, leaves, fruit and branches of the plant were used by several Native American tribes for various medicinal purposes. The fruit are very bland which may explain why the birds wait until late in the fall to consume them. Either they are finding more palatable fruit or they become tastier the longer they remain on the plant. At least 10 species of birds feed on the fruit and it is an important food source for bobwhite quail. Several wildlife species feed on the plant and fruit, but deer are particularly fond of the foliage.

The stems covered with fruit make an excellent addition to any flower arrangement. The fruit retain their color very well. You can learn more about drying and preserving flowers and plant materials by visiting the Extension website,, and searching the publications list with the keywords "drying flowers."

The plants are easy to propagate from seed or softwood cuttings in early summer. They often produce seedlings near any current plantings that can be dug and moved at any time of the year with good success. Pruning is normally done in winter, but any time before they start their spring growth is fine because they flower on the new growth. They can be pruned as hard as you like based on the size plant you desire. If you prune them back near the ground, you will have a shorter more manageable plant. If you need a taller shrub, prune them back to 2-3 feet tall.

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

April Turkey Season ... May Turkey Recipes

Rolley Len Kirk with Jason’s turkey after their hunt.

by Christy Kirk

If you want your children or grandchildren to become interested in hunting without feeling like you are pressuring them, just leave one of your turkey calls lying around the house. It will not be long before your children discover the joy of the gobble. The delicate features of some calls are not always appreciated by the young, and there is always a chance that a beloved call will be broken. But there are some more durable options they can play with and learn from such as a gobbler call.

Over the years, Rolley Len and Cason have discovered Jason’s calls he had left lying around the house long before either of them spotted their first turkeys in the wild. Jason has a variety of different calls including box, mouth, slate, locator, crow and owl. There is something irresistible about the rattling warble of a turkey that makes kids get excited. Pretty soon they were running around the house on the hunt for the wild turkeys in their imagination.

Rolley Len and Cason both learn well with hands-on experience, so practicing with the calls at home will give them the confidence they will need in the field. As they have gotten older, Jason has shown them different calls he has and explained how they work. Listening to the kids practice their turkey calls is a great way to spend time with them. It will make them better at calling and will build their self-assurance in their abilities. It can also be pretty funny.

Another reason turkey hunting is good for children who "learn by doing" is that turkey hunts do not have to be a quiet adventure. Not only do you not have to be completely quiet, you actually need to make loud noises periodically to lure the turkeys to you. Although hunting for other game can be a silent sport, parents can actually talk to their children during a turkey hunt about the experience while in the field waiting for birds. This makes the whole activity an in-the-moment, interactive learning experience.

Sometimes I don’t realize how much they have learned about wildlife and hunting until we sit and talk about it. One night, Rolley Len was sharing her thoughts about turkey hunting with me. She mentioned that it can be hard because they can fly away into trees to roost and get away from predators. Waiting for them to come back down can be hard on a young hunter, but both Rolley Len and Cason are learning patience and persistence.

They are both getting pretty good at spotting turkeys both on the roadside and in the woods, which is good because turkey fingers are very popular at our house. Unfortunately, the turkey population in our area has been dwindling over the years mostly because of wild hogs eating the turkey eggs. We hope that something stops the decrease and we start seeing more turkeys.

Besides teaching character skills that will last a lifetime, turkey hunts are an opportunity to introduce your young children to hunting without having to worry about some of the other factors involved during other seasons. The weather is usually warmer, and there is no requirement of quiet.

Jason and the kids go turkey hunting a lot in April, so May will be a great time for our family to try out new recipes. Turkey fingers and turkey salad are staples, but here are a few different options to try for yourself at your next meal.

Wild turkey legs and thighs look more like duck than a farm-raised turkey or one you would buy in a store. The meat is much darker, but can be used the same way. Many people only use the breast of a wild turkey because of the many tendons in the dark meat. Wild birds do a lot more walking so they have more tendons in their legs. After cooking in the crockpot, tendons should be removed as you pull the meat from the bone. To me, the meat from the legs and thighs is as tender as a slow-cooked roast. It works well whether served pulled, as a salad, or in a wrap or sandwich.

Turkey wrap

Turkey Salad

2 cups turkey, diced

1 cup celery or cucumber, sliced

¼ cup olives or 1 hard-boiled egg, chopped

1-1½ cups mayonnaise

Salt and pepper, to taste

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Chill in the refrigerator before serving. This is great for making a "chopped salad." Just dice the celery or cucumber and olives or eggs in smaller pieces, and serve on a bed of lettuce.

Turkey Croquettes

2 cups cold roast turkey, chopped

2 Tablespoons celery, chopped

1 cup thick white sauce (recipe below)

Smidge nutmeg

1 egg, beaten

2 Tablespoons water

¾ cup fine bread crumbs

Grind turkey very fine. Add celery, heated white sauce and nutmeg. Mix well. Chill. Mold into croquettes. Roll in crumbs. Dip into egg mixed with water. Roll in crumbs again. Fry in hot oil 2-5 minutes. Drain well. You may also reserve some white sauce to drizzle on the croquettes after they cook.

White Sauce

2½ Tablespoons butter or margarine

1 Tablespoon flour

1 cup milk, divided

1 teaspoon salt

Melt the butter in a skillet. Remove from heat and add flour while stirring into a smooth paste. Add 1/3 of milk and stir until smooth. Add remaining milk and salt. Cook until smooth and thick. This takes about 15 minutes.

Crockpot Turkey

1 bone-in turkey, disjointed and skin removed

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon garlic, minced

1 teaspoon seasoning salt

1 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

½ cup water

Rub the olive oil on the turkey pieces. Combine garlic, salt, pepper and Italian seasoning. Rub on turkey pieces. Place turkey into crockpot and add water. Place lid on the pot and cook on low for 5-6 hours or until tender and cooked through.

Turkey Spinach Casserole

1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed

1 (10-ounce) can condensed cream of celery, chicken, mushroom OR broccoli soup, divided

1 cup water

2 Tablespoons butter or margarine

1 (6-ounce) package chicken flavor stuffing mix (or use your own dressing recipe)

2 cups cooked turkey, chopped

1/3 cup milk

1 Tablespoon Parmesan cheese, grated

In a large saucepan, combine spinach, half of soup, water, butter and contents of seasoning packet from the stuffing mix. Bring to a boil. Separate spinach with a fork as it cooks. Cover and reduce heat. Simmer for about 5 minutes. Add stuffing crumbs to mixture. Pour into an ungreased 2-quart baking dish. Scatter turkey over stuffing. Stir milk into the remaining soup and pour over the turkey. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes or until heated through.

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

Battling Bloat

Baking soda is only a valid treatment for bloat caused by acidosis (also known as grain bloat). Always consult with your veterinarian when dealing with bloat.

Baking soda isn’t a magical cure-all for goats.

by Jackie Nix

Anyone with a hobby goat will invariably be told to feed it baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) at some point. It’s promoted as a cure for everything from bloat to urinary stones. Most of the time, this advice is misplaced. Let’s discuss what the function of baking soda is and what it does and doesn’t do.

Sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3) is a biochemical that buffers the rumen. What this simply means is that it keeps the rumen pH stable. This is important because the microbes that digest hay thrive in a pH of 6.0-6.8 while grain-digesting microbes thrive at a pH of 5.5-6.0 so we need to keep rumen pH within a narrow window for rumen health. Also, pH directly affects the ability to absorb certain nutrients.

So, yes, sodium bicarbonate is very beneficial. But what most people don’t realize is that the ruminant animal produces its own sodium bicarbonate in the saliva without being fed baking soda. During the act of cud chewing, copious amounts of bicarbonate are transferred into the rumen. Goats fed long-stem forages (grazing pastures or receiving hay) will produce more saliva (and thus bicarbonate) than goats fed grains or finely ground hay that don’t require cud chewing.

Since goats rarely have an issue with rumen pH being too high, we will focus on the issues occuring when it drops too low. This condition is called acidosis. When rumen pH drops, a vicious cycle begins. As the pH drops, the grain-digesting microbes thrive while the fiber-digesting microbes do poorly. One of the by-products of grain digestion is lactic acid. So the more grain these microbes digest, the more acid is produced and the lower pH goes. Eventually, the pH drops so low the microbes die and the rumen stops contracting. Rumen contractions normally move gas produced as a by-product of microbial fermentation toward the esophagus so it can be belched out. When contractions stop, gases get stuck and can fill up the rumen quickly causing grain bloat. To treat grain bloat, one has to treat the acidosis. Under this condition, releasing the gas through tubing or a trocar in addition to giving a drench of sodium bicarbonate is the correct course of action. Be sure you are actually dealing with bloat and not just a full rumen before initiating bloat treatment. I’d recommend enlisting the help of a veterinarian if you are inexperienced in doing this yourself.

Conditions where supplementation with baking soda may be appropriate (i.e. conditions ideal for acidosis development):

- Feeding of high levels of grain (should only be doing this for dairy does in heavy lactation or for goats being fattened for slaughter).

- Shifting from long-stem forages to a chopped forage (such as silage or Chaffhaye).

- Feeding of finely ground feed (such as hog feed). Pelleted or texturized feeds are best for goats.

- Drenching in cases of known acidosis.

In severe scours where the animal is off-feed, it will provide some electrolytes and help prevent a secondary case of acidosis.

Situations where feeding of baking soda provides no benefit:

- Goats on all-forage diets or those receiving very little supplemental grain.

- Goats experiencing frothy bloat caused by the grazing of lush legumes like clover or alfalfa or small grains like wheat or rye. Baking soda will provide no relief at all for this type of bloat.

- Urinary stone prevention – first, baking soda doesn’t affect urinary pH. Second, the urine needs to actually become more acidic in order to decrease the formation of stones and baking soda neutralizes acidity.

Ok, so giving free-choice baking soda isn’t always necessary. But can it cause any harm? The answer is … yes. Sodium bicarbonate is a source of sodium. Normally, animals receive their sodium via salt (NaCl) which provides equal amounts of both sodium and chloride. The correct ratio of sodium to chloride in the diet is 1:1. When your goat eats baking soda, it is more likely it is doing so to get sodium than it is for some need for extra buffering. Given that sodium is the critical limiting element in salt consumption, when animals consume a lot of baking soda, they are getting their sodium needs met so they won’t need to eat as much salt that can throw off chloride levels. Also, when the salt source is a free-choice, balanced mineral supplement, you are also limiting the intake of these other critical minerals like copper and selenium.

The best way for the hobby farmer to keep goats healthy is to feed a forage-based diet. Give them access to all the good-quality hay or pasture they want. Grass or grass-mixed forages are more than adequate for pets or those in light production. Alfalfa is not necessary. Also, give goats continuous access to a high-quality mineral supplement containing balanced levels of macro- and micro-minerals as well as vitamins. No free-choice baking soda is needed in this scenario.

For those who choose to give free access to baking soda no matter what, it is very important you monitor the intake of salt-containing mineral supplements to make sure they are receiving adequate amounts. Consult the mineral label to find desired intakes. With SWEETLIX Meat Maker minerals, an adult goat (not a mini breed) should consume roughly 1 pound of mineral per month. Thus one 25-pound bag should last about three months for eight adult goats.

In summary, baking soda provides buffering action in the rumen and is a desired treatment for goats at high risk for acidosis. Baking soda can interfere with salt intake. The average pet goat owner can avoid problems by feeding a grass forage-based diet with free-choice access to clean water and a high-quality mineral supplement such as SWEETLIX 16:8 Meat Maker.

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

Blunt Your Nails and Keep on Paddling

by John Howle

"I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man." – George Washington

I was recently reading a news story in The Times-Georgian recounting a breaking and entering incident that resulted in the theft of an elderly woman’s green beans.

"Someone broke into a storage building of a Whitesburg, Ga., home, but took only a case of home-canned green beans. According to a Carroll County, Georgia, Sheriff’s Office report, a deputy was called to a residence on Thursday on West Highway 5 in Whitesburg. The 83-year-old resident said she hadn’t been to the trailer behind her house since late January, but that she was there Thursday and noticed that it had been broken into.

"The woman told the deputy that someone had entered the storeroom with a wheelbarrow and ‘loaded it with belongings to steal.’ The only items missing, she said, was a case of quart-sized jars of green beans that had been canned last summer. The victim valued the vegetables at $100."

Now, if you want to make an 83-year-old woman boiling mad, steal her canned green beans. Anyone who has ever gone to the trouble of preparing the garden, planting, picking, stringing, cutting and canning green beans, you know how valuable these vegetables really are. A tin can of green beans is no comparison to freshly canned garden green beans in glass jars.

Being a Southern lady, this elderly woman would probably have given the thief a jar of green beans if the individual was hungry, but, instead, she found her food storage pantry broken and raided. Let this be a lesson to all gardeners and canners of high-quality food, keep your pantry padlocked, your shotgun loaded and don’t mess with Granny’s Green Beans.

Turn the nail upside down and blunt the tip with a hammer to keep ends of planks from splitting when driving the nail.

Tap the Tips

When constructing a board fence or repairing planks on the side of a barn, you will often have to drive nails into the ends of the planks into the stud or the fence posts. There’s nothing more frustrating than driving a nail into the last couple of inches of the board and watching the wood split when the nail is halfway in.

This problem can be remedied by drilling pilot holes in the ends of the planks before driving the nails. That sounds great, but who carries a cordless drill in their pocket ready to drive pilot holes whenever a need arises on the farm. Instead of drilling pilot holes, there is another solution.

Before you drive the nail into the end of the plank, blunt the sharp tip of the nail with a hammer. Once the tip is blunted with a few solid licks of the hammer, the nail is no longer driven in with a wedge effect. This often prevents splitting the ends of boards that are attached.

If you move the cattle to new grazing before clipping the grass below 3 inches, re-growth of the grass will be faster.

Secure Summer Grazing

There are tons of reasons to rotationally graze cattle, but one of the most important is for the regrowth of grazeable grass. The University of Kentucky’s College of Agriculture conducted experiments with orchardgrass to prove this point. The grass clipped to 3.5 inches at the beginning and end of the month was compared with grass clipped every week to a height of one inch. After six days of regrowth, the grass that was only grazed twice a month and no lower than 3.5 inches grew at a much faster rate during the resting period than the continuously grazed grass.

Basically, the rate of re-growth after grazing is related to the amount of leaf area remaining and carbohydrate reserves in the root system. In other words, forages such as orchardgrass and fescue will re-grow at a speed in direct relation to how much leaf tissue is left above ground. The more leaf tissue there is above ground, the faster the re-growth will occur.

Allowing resting periods and avoiding close grazing is good policy, especially if you want grazing insurance against occasional summer droughts. According to the Kentucky findings, University of Georgia researchers also reported weakened stands of fescue as a result of repeated close grazing, and these weakened stands also resulted in more undesirable weed growth. The Kentucky report also stated that shortening grazing periods to three to seven days increases utilization of pasture grass 50-65 percent.

Keep Paddling

As the weather warms this May, take a kayak or canoe on the scenic rivers of Alabama and enjoy the outdoors. Here’s a tip to make sure you stay in your watercraft as you go through those occasional rapids that I learned from guides on whitewater trips.

As you approach the rapids, don’t stop paddling. This can cause the craft to be turned sideways in the rapids and tip your boat over. Instead, keep paddling at a continual pace through the entire rapids. This helps keep the craft straight and stable. Adjust your paddling on each side of the craft to stay streamlined with the current and you’ll stay in the boat and stay dry.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.

Can Do

Follow these tips for success in home canning this season.

by Angela Treadaway

Start with a research-tested recipe. Just because a recipe is in print, doesn’t mean it’s safe for you and your family. Start with a recipe that has been tested to make sure that the product is safe and high quality. A great place to begin is with the recipes from the National Center for Home Food Preservation, states such as Alabama have recipe books that have been developed to ensure safe canning no matter where you live in the state:

Use recipes that are up to date. We all want to continue with those tried-and-true recipes, but canning recommendations have changed dramatically over the last 15 years. If you are using recipes that date before 1994, then it’s a good idea to set those aside and find an up-to-date recipe that has been tested for safety.

Start with equipment in good working order. A boiling-water canner should have a flat bottom, so that it fits nicely on the stove top, and a tight-fitting lid. A pressure canner will have either a dial gauge or a weighted gauge. Dial-gauge canners should be tested every year for accuracy. Most county Extension offices will test dial-gauge canners for free! (This is certainly true in Alabama.) If you have a Presto dial-gauge canner, or any other type of pressure canner with a dial gauge, contact your local county Extension office and see when you can have yours tested. Replace canner gaskets every 2-3 years. At this time, a steam canner is not recommended as a replacement for a boiling water canner. There is information to help you successfully use your pressure canner: Using Pressure Canners,

And one final note on canners. Don’t use a pressure cooker, sometimes called a pressure saucepan, as a pressure canner. A pressure canner holds a minimum of four quart jars and has a pressure regulator capable of measuring up to 15 pounds of pressure.

Assemble jars and other items. Use only standard home canning jars, not old mayonnaise jars, and check these to make sure they are not chipped or cracked. Always use two-piece lids; purchase lids new each year (the sealing compound will break down in storage) and sort through screw bands to make sure they are not rusted. It’s fine to reuse canning jars, as long as they are not chipped or cracked. Garage sales can be great places to locate used canning jars, just make sure they were designed for canning. Other items that come in handy for home canning include jar fillers, tongs and lid wands.

Leave your creativity behind! Home canning is one area where being creative can lead to food safety disasters. So begin with an up-to-date, research-tested recipe and carefully follow the directions. Don’t make ingredient substitutions, unless they are allowed, and follow the recipe directions through all the steps. Don’t substitute dishwasher canning, oven canning or open-kettle canning for an approved canning method - boiling water canning or pressure canning.

And remember, at the end of the day, a sealed canning jar does not indicate that the food inside is safe. A sealed jar simply means the jar is sealed. You can do a lot of things wrong and still get a jar to seal! As a safety precaution for properly canned foods, boil low-acid foods (i.e. vegetables, meats, fish) 10-11 minutes before eating to destroy any botulism toxin that might be present. If food looks spoiled, foams or has a strange odor during heating, throw it out.

Follow these easy steps for safely preserving your garden’s bounty to enjoy all year round.

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.

Cattle Producer Presentations

Linda Newman, Banks, received the 2014 Spirit of BCIA Award.

2015 BCIA Awards recognize exceptional performance.

The Alabama Beef Cattle Improvement Association presented its annual awards at the 72nd Alabama Cattlemen’s Association Annual Convention in Huntsville.

The Alabama BCIA awarded Linda Newman, Banks, with the 2014 Spirit of BCIA Award.

The Spirit of BCIA Award is in honorable memory of Jamie Cates and Jamey Clary, and the spirit in which they both actively supported Alabama BCIA. This award recognizes and honors an Alabama BCIA member who exemplifies the commitment to BCIA performance principles within their own cattle operation, and who has also sought to promote the BCIA program to their fellow cattle producers. This spirit of leading by example and the drive to cheerfully help others represents how Jamie Cates and Jamey Clary both served Alabama BCIA and their fellow cattlemen.

Linda Newman has played an active leadership role in Alabama BCIA, previously serving on the Board of Directors as a commercial representative and as president in 2013. She currently serves as an at-large producer representative.

Newman and her husband Cyril began processing records with BCIA in 2000 and still actively maintain herd records. She has been an advocate for Alabama BCIA, enthusiastically recruiting fellow cattle producers to maintain records and take advantage of BCIA opportunities.

Newman Farms is an example for fellow cattle producers with their commitment to performance through use of performance-evaluated herd sires and active recordkeeping. The husband-and-wife team has earned numerous BCIA Gold Star Cow Awards and two Most Improved Herd Awards. Newman Farms was honored as an Alabama Century Farm of Distinction in 2003 by the Alabama Department of Agriculture and also as the 2014 Beef Producer Award from the Pike County Farmers Federation. Linda Newman exhibits a positive portrayal of the beef story and what of Alabama BCIA symbolizes to her fellow cattlemen.

Randy Moody, Madison County, presented with the 2014 Richard Deese Award.

The Richard Deese Award is presented to individuals who uphold the principles of performance testing and genetic improvement of beef cattle in Alabama. The award has been presented since 1986 and is given in honor and memory of Dr. Richard Deese, who was the Extension animal scientist in charge of the BCIA program in the 1970s and early 1980s. Since 1986, cattle producers, Extension professionals and beef industry supporters have received the award.

For his dedication to the principles of performance evaluation and genetic improvement of beef cattle in Alabama, Randy Moody, Madison County seedstock breeder, was honored with the 2014 Richard Deese Award. Moody serves as a prominent leader and advocate of BCIA bull performance evaluations, especially through the North Alabama Bull Evaluation Center. He has been a member of Alabama BCIA since the late 1990s and has previously been awarded as the 2008 Alabama BCIA Purebred Producer of the Year and a recipient of the 2012 Spirit of BCIA Award.

Moody served as Alabama BCIA president in 2009 and currently serves as a purebred representative on the BCIA Board of Directors. As a prominent leader and advocate of bull performance evaluations, Moody has earned the respect of BCIA members and leaders alike.

The Alabama BCIA named Winslow Farms in Autaugaville the 2014 Alabama BCIA Commercial Producer of the Year.

Winslow Farms, owned and operated by Ricky and Karen Tucker, began in the 1950s with Angus and Hereford crosses. Today, the third-generation cow/calf operation has 150 breeding females with an Angus and Simmental cross herd base.

Ricky and Karen Tucker, Winslow Farms, were named 2014 Alabama BCIA Commercial Producer of the Year.

Performance records for all cows, sires and calves are maintained through the Alabama BCIA commercial recordkeeping program. Whole herd recordkeeping has been maintained through Alabama BCIA since 1986, and on-farm performance records have been steadily maintained since the early 1980s.

Winslow Farms markets preconditioned feeder calves in August through the Producer Feeder Calf Sale, a cooperative tele-auction, marketing cattle from producers throughout the region at an opportune selling time. A 90-day fall calving season is planned to allow for the August sale. Winslow Farms has been annually honored with numerous BCIA Gold Star Cow Awards for more than 10 consecutive years.

The Alabama BCIA named CK Cattle, Chuck and Katie Madaris of Hope Hull, the 2014 Purebred Producer of the Year.

CK Cattle is a multi-generational, family-owned Chiangus, Angus and SimAngus seedstock and commercial cattle operation run by Chuck and Katie Madaris, Charlie and Carrie Madaris, Bradfield and Kathleen Evans, and their children Ellis Ann and Shep.

CK Cattle has been producing high-quality cattle since 1979, when the operation began with the purchase of four Angus pairs. Today, CK Cattle runs 650 breeding females. Artificial insemination is a key genetic tool within their breeding program. Proven AI sires and CK herd sires are used for predictability and environmental adaptability.

The Alabama BCIA was a significant influence in the development of the CK bull market. The goal to market 2-year-old bulls has been successful, providing customers with older bulls, ready for an extended breeding season in large herds.

CK cattle markets 140 bulls in the Alabama BCIA Fall Round Up Bull Sale, the It’s All Black and White Bull Sale, and by private treaty. The cattle operation also annually markets 100 bred heifers and approximately 50 cows and three loads of feeder calves.

CK Cattle strives to market high-value cattle and operate efficiently to ensure continued profitability into the future.

The Alabama BCIA is a non-profit organization seeking to promote, educate and facilitate the use of performance data, recordkeeping and marketing opportunities to improve the Alabama cattle industry. Formed in 1964, BCIA cooperates with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System of Auburn University under a formal agreement.

Choosing Sides

The politicians need to listen to 99.9 percent of the hunters.

by Corky Pugh

In a fight picked by captive wildlife interests through heavy-handed attempts to move regulatory authority from state wildlife agencies to agriculture departments, the hunting community in America is falling in ranks on one side of the line or the other.

The line in the dirt is the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, the very essence of why we enjoy abundant wildlife and related recreational opportunities in this country.

Ironically, high-fence and game-breeder special interests, which have historically been low-key and purposefully not on most people’s radar, sparked the fight through bold moves to wrest control from state wildlife agencies, with the goal of reducing oversight by wildlife professionals concerned about the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease and other devastating wildlife-borne diseases.

Over the past 1.5 years, a high-drama political slug-fest has occurred in the Missouri legislature. A bill was passed transferring regulatory authority over captive wildlife from the Missouri Department of Conservation to the Missouri Department of Agriculture. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon vetoed the bill upon the urging of the mainstream hunting community in their state.

All the major hunting and conservation organizations in Missouri weighed in against the bill. Even Bass Pro Shops founder John L. Morris urged the Governor’s veto.

Still feeling their political muscle, the captive wildlife interests attempted to over-ride the Governor’s veto, failing by only one vote to do so.

More recently, in West Virginia, the captive wildlife interests succeeded in taking regulatory authority from the Wildlife Division and giving it to the Agriculture Department through passage of a similar bill.

Such legislative actions reflect a lack of understanding that the narrow special-interest groups of high-fence operators and game-breeders are not representative of the mainstream hunting community. Unwitting elected officials, the vast majority of whom do not hunt or really understand hunting-related issues, are easily duped by high-priced lobbyists talking about economic impact and growing bigger antlers.

Because most politicians do not routinely hear from rank-and-file hunters, they are easily misled into believing that shooting artificially-bred deer in enclosures represents the mainstream. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In Alabama, for instance, there are an estimated 197,000 deer hunters. Of these hunters, only 200 have a high fence. This means that only one-tenth of one percent shoot deer in high fences.

The list of mainstream hunting organizations lining up in favor of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation and against the captive wildlife special interests is growing. The Quality Deer Management Association, National Rifle Association, Ducks Unlimited, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, National Shooting Sports Foundation and others including, most recently, the Boone and Crockett Club have taken positions in favor of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation.

The Boone and Crockett Club, the official record keeper of North American big game animals, has historically refused to recognize animals taken in less-than fair chase situations, including escape-proof enclosures.

The Boone and Crockett Club, in a position adopted January 8, 2015, stated,

"The Boone and Crockett Club maintains that selective breeding and artificially growing deer and elk with unnaturally large antlers to be sold and then shot in a put-and-take situation is not representative of traditional hunting, and these practices should be discouraged. The captive-cervid industry is ignoring the fact that society rightfully expects hunting to be conducted ethically. If hunting is perceived as less than fair (i.e., less than desirable, reputable and legitimate) our society may no longer tolerate hunting in any form."

The Boone and Crockett Club, in establishing the background for its position, stated,

"Historically, non-hunters have proven to support hunting when it is conducted ethically and show less support for hunting when it is viewed as unethical or just killing for a trophy. The purpose of breeding and shooting operations is to provide their customers with more assured kills of unnaturally grown, large-antlered trophies; their motivation is profit. The customer pays based on antler size; their motivation is collecting trophies. Anti-hunting groups, in order to confuse and rally the public to accept their views, often misrepresent hunting as the shooting of penned deer and elk; their motivation is the elimination of all hunting. There is a distinction between breeding and shooting operations and the ethical hunting of wild, free-ranging game that needs to be made clear to the non-hunting community.

"The captive-cervid industry uses selective breeding, artificial insemination, regimented feeding, and pharmaceutical drugs to achieve unnaturally large antlers. Such intensive manipulation of the natural characteristics of wild deer and elk is a major departure from what occurs in nature, and it challenges our common understanding of the terms wild and wildlife. It does not appear that breeding and shooting operations considered the ethical implications of how far they should go in manipulating wildlife to satisfy the desires of a few. Nor did they think about the value the rest of society places on wild creatures and natural systems. The sole purpose for vastly exaggerating antler size to reach proportions that could never be attained in nature was commercial gain."

The politicians need to pay attention to 99.9 percent of the hunters.

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

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

Corn Time

Cow Psychologist

by Baxter Black, DVM

Doc, I’ve got a heifer that just had a calf. She’s not accepting it very well. Can I bring her in for psycowlogical counseling?"

It all started with that call from the worried cowman. My veterinary specialty of cow psycowlogy has gained popularity since my article appeared. It was titled "Paranoia in Dairy Cows (Doctor, somebody’s always tryin’ to take something from me!)."

I let the heifer get comfortable on the straw.

"Now, Miss Bo ...."

"Call me Char."

"Char, tell me why you feel uncomfortable with your new calf."

"It reminds me of my past."

"How did you and your mother get along?"

"Same as any cow-calf pair, I guess. Although, she was pretty high in the peckin’ order. It put a lot of pressure on me to achieve.

"Like at the branding. I had to be first! Unfortunately, they let the local banker and the vet rope first. Took forever!

"I remember when I first got my horns. A lot of other heifers hadn’t started growing horns yet. They were jealous, It wasn’t my fault the bull calves thought I was attractive.

"But everything turned sour when they ear tagged me! Yellow! Can you believe it, yellow! I’ve never been so embarrassed!

"Then I got a 104 temperature! I felt so left out. I was hospitalized, intravenous injections and everything!

"Finally, last spring I met this bull. We made plans. He had a future, had cute rounds, too! I was blind to what was going on around me. I didn’t believe the rumors that he’d been seen with other heifers. Then it was too late!

"I had a tough gestation, morning sickness, and strange cravings for mint silage and bone meal. Then I had little Billy.

"I don’t know, I guess, I’m just depressed. Is this all there is to life ... eat grass, have a calf?"

"Char," I said, "You’re a cow. You’ve got to accept it. You’ll never run in the Kentucky Derby or hunt pheasant. You’ll never dance on stage or sing like Miranda.

"Be satisfied with the bovine things you do well."

She looked at me and nodded, "Yeah, I guess you’re right, Doctor," And she left.

As I reflected on Char and my unique veterinary specialty, I realized how lucky I was to have a job that was so satisfying and so easy.

Yup, the world would be a kinder, gentler place if everyone had the IQ of a cow.

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,


Cultivating Energy

Bill Kyser, a catfish farmer in Hale County, switched his pond aeration systems from diesel to electric power. “Electrical aerators are more efficient and much more environmentally friendly.”

USDA Rural Development offers loans and grants.

by Debra Davis

Alabama farmers and small rural businesses can apply for guaranteed loan financing and grant funding that could save them money and conserve energy.

The Rural Energy for America Program Renewable Energy Systems and Energy Efficiency Improvement Loans and Grants are part of the 2014 Farm Bill. U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development administers the program, and applications are accepted year round.

"These efforts help farmers, ranchers and small business owners save money on energy bills, reduce America’s dependence on fossil fuels, support America’s clean energy economy and cut carbon pollution," USDA Rural Development State Director Ronnie Davis said. "Several Alabama catfish and poultry farmers have received grants and are reaping financial benefits from the upgrades."

Davis said grant funds could be used for energy-efficiency improvements such as high-efficiency heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems; insulation; lighting; cooling or refrigeration units; doors and windows; electric, solar or gravity pumps for sprinkler pivots; switching from a diesel to electric irrigation motor; and replacing energy-inefficient equipment. Most REAP funding for Alabama has gone to farmers using the energy efficiency program, including Hale County catfish farmer Bill Kyser, who switched his pond aeration systems from diesel to electric power.

"Electrical aerators are more efficient and much more environmentally friendly," Kyser said. "Our electrical bill has tripled, but that was the idea. Our diesel fuel bill was cut in half, and now we’re getting twice as much aeration for 20 percent more money."

Davis said other ag-related applications could include irrigation systems and drying for farm commodities such as peanuts and small grains. Agribusinesses such as cotton gins and drying facilities also may qualify for energy-efficiency grants. Program funding includes grants for up to 25 percent of eligible project costs; guarantees on loans up to 75 percent of eligible project costs; or combined grant and loan guarantee funding up to 75 percent of eligible costs.

Guaranteed loans can be used to buy, install and build renewable energy systems to include biomass, geothermal, hydropower, hydrogen, and wind, solar and ocean generation.

More information and applications are available at local Rural Development offices or at


Fact vs. Fiction

It is amazing how fast misinformation travels and the hardships it creates.

by Chuck Sykes

I have, on numerous occasions, written about things that happen during my speaking engagements. One thing that is a bit depressing is how often I see misinformation completely overshadow the facts. Unfortunately, I deal with this on a daily basis. I have even added another slide to my presentation. I simply show a static picture of the Outdoor Alabama website and remind people that all rules and regulations can be found in one spot and not to rely on what their friends tell them.

The fact is rumors and half-truths circulated by misinformed people can destroy positive programs and years of hard work. This fact was made even more evident to me at the Conservation Advisory Board meeting February 28, 2015. During this meeting, Marine Resources Division Director Chris Blankenship and I provided PowerPoint presentations to the CAB, media representatives and the public on issues related to our respective divisions.

Blankenship focused his presentation on the results of the "Snapper Check" system, approved by the CAB last year and implemented during the state’s 2014 red snapper season. Snapper Check was a mandatory program that gathered fishing data from both private recreational and charter boat fishermen. These fishermen were required to report all snapper caught during the nine-day season.

Since the inception of the three buck limit in 2007, successful hunters are required to fill out their harvest record at the site of the kill. Now, WFF staff are requesting hunters record their harvest into the game check system.

Approximately 78 percent of the charter vessels and 46 percent of the private vessel trips reported their harvest through the Snapper Check system. Considering the MRD had less than a month to advertise and promote this system, they had tremendous participation and I applaud Blankenship and his staff for a job well done. The Snapper Check program was hailed as a tremendous success that assisted the MRD in gathering scientific data to more effectively manage the red snapper resource for the citizens of the state.

Game Check, on the other hand, yielded a less than 3 percent compliance rate during both the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 deer seasons. Game Check was called out as "big brother" watching over you and too much government overreach by its critics and, therefore, reduced to a voluntary program. How can virtually the same program be met with polar opposite opinions? Was compliance in Snapper Check higher because it was mandatory? Was it a completely different user group that was more educated on facts about the program? Was it because Snapper Check gathered evidence against the strict regulations of the Federal Government?

Let’s take a closer look at each program to see if we can determine if one is more overreaching than the other.

Why were the programs needed? The MRD believed the federal assessment of red snapper numbers was inaccurate. Consequently, they believed the MRD could more effectively manage the resource than NOAA. So, they needed to gather data to prove the resource could provide much more fishing opportunity to sportsmen. Snapper Check was the program to provide MRD with the data they needed.

The Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division needed data to more effectively set seasons and bag limits throughout the state. WFF was not comfortable basing recommendations to the CAB solely on a mail survey garnering response from approximately 3 percent of the licensed hunters in the state. This methodology did not take into account exempt hunters (those under 16, those over 65 and landowners hunting on their own property). Considering the fact that more than 35 states use a system similar to Game Check to manage their resources, WFF felt it could provide solid harvest numbers on which to base harvest regulations.

The two programs, Snapper Check and Game Check, seem to be very similar in their intended purposes.

Information required by each program: Snapper Check required each vessel that caught red snapper to report the number of anglers, fish harvested and dead discards, vessel registration, county of landing and type of trip (private or charter). The Game Check system for deer asks for a hunting license number, county of harvest, sex of the deer and type of property (private or public). The two programs do not seem very different on the information requested.

Ways to report data: A fisherman could report data into Snapper Check via a smartphone app, our website at, a toll-free telephone number and via paper reports that could be filled out at selected boat ramps. A deer hunter could report a harvest into Game Check via a smartphone app, our website at or a toll-free telephone number. I’m still not seeing a major difference between the two programs.

So, what is the difference in the two programs? Nothing, as far as I can tell, other than public perception. I can only speculate on why the perceptions were so different. Was the volume of misinformation circulating around the Game Check program what led to poor participation? While fishermen understood Snapper Check could give them more opportunity if they participated in the data-gathering process, hunters appeared to believe the data would take something from them. This is where the misinformation and rumors derailed the Game Check system. Hunters didn’t seem to realize it’s very possible that Game Check data could show WFF should provide more-liberal bag limits.

If MRD gains control of the red snapper fishery, will participation decline? Should WFF make Game Check mandatory? I wish I knew the answers. All I do know is WFF is not comfortable making management decisions based on analyzing less than 3 percent of the data. As a business owner, would you like to plan your future on less than 3 percent of information? I daresay a banker who makes business decisions by only knowing 3 percent of the money coming and going through the bank would not be in business very long.

Do you as hunters want to stake the future of hunting and wildlife management for future generations on 3 percent? I certainly don’t.

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

How's Your Garden?

Bonnie Plants' new iPhone app is free from the App Store.

by Lois Trigg Chaplin

Try the HOMEGROWN with Bonnie Plants App

Would you like to take digital pictures of your garden and make notes on your phone, then save them to reference later? Bonnie Plants has a new iPhone app that will do that. As a gardener who likes to track the progress and harvests in my garden, I love this feature. I can capture pictures in the garden, attach notes and record it by date. A year from now it will be most valuable when I want to see a history of my tomatoes. The app is a great resource for beginning gardeners, too, giving growing information and variety information about vegetables, herbs and insectary flowers to help beginners grow successfully. Other features include a 10-day weather forecast, hands-free dictation so you don’t have to type, and a way to share your pictures and notes to Facebook and Twitter. There are also choosers to help you select from Bonnie’s many tomato and pepper varieties and ready suggestions for collections such as a pizza garden, easy herbs, salsa fixings and others. Download the FREE app from the App Store and give it a try. Bonnie wants suggestions on how to make the app more helpful, so send your feedback in an email to customer service.

Easy, Long-lived Herbs

The best way to get good-quality, fresh herbs for cooking is to have your own plants to cut from whenever a few leaves are needed. Packs of cut herbs from the grocery store are often wilted and expensive. Annual herbs such as basil and dill are great in a vegetable garden, herb garden or container. With perennial herbs, you have the benefit of their presence near your kitchen door for many years; just establish a permanent spot for them. The perennial ones I have found to be most dependable through summer and winter without troubles are chives, garlic chives, oregano, mint, rosemary, lemon balm, lovage, horseradish root and thyme. If you have some shade, no worries, as all of these will grow without full sun, too.

Late Tomatoes

When setting out your tomato plants, remember that the later it gets, the more likely the fruiting season will coincide with the really hot weather of July and August. When that happens, fruit set will take a pause. Be patient with plants that get caught in the heat; just keep them healthy and they will set fruit again when the nights cool down a little. In the meantime, be sure to include varieties that are most tolerant of hot weather. These include Heatmaster, Heatwave, Summer Set, Phoenix, Florida 91, and all the cherry and grape tomatoes.

Match Plants to Location

This is a commonsense tip, but it bears repeating because sometimes we get excited about a plant only to find out the hard way that we really didn’t have the place for it. Before selecting any new landscape plants, know what kind of location the plants prefer. Tags offer some help, but it’s easy to get a lot more details online these days. Find out if a plant prefers sun or shade. How cold hardy and heat tolerant is it? Does it need soil that is well-drained, or will it tolerate heavy, wet soil? Don’t buy something blindly and then find out your yard does not provide the right environment. Do your homework to make the effort count.

Can you find the eggplant, tomatoes and herbs in this picture? It’s hard to tell them from the ornamentals!

Veggies in a Flower Bed?

One way to grow a few vegetables in places you already have prepared is to add them to a flowerbed. This bed contains two Japanese eggplants next to Wendy’s Wish salvia and other ornamentals, adding their own beauty to the flower border. Beyond them are also a couple of tomato plants and some potted herbs. Some neighborhood HOAs won’t allow vegetables in the front yard (or even in the backyard in some places), but, if you make them part of an attractive planting, they will likely be more acceptable (and probably not noticed). Who’s to say that an eggplant isn’t pretty? The large leaves add a nice texture to the planting. A hot pepper plant loaded with red fruit is also beautiful. So if you’ve wanted to grow a veggie or herb but don’t have a designated garden, put it in with your flowers. Just be careful that there are no pesticides used that are not also labeled for the vegetable or herb.

Plant for the Monarchs

Milkweeds (Asclepias species) are critical plants for monarch butterflies because they lay eggs and rear their young on these wildflowers. In addition, the monarchs appreciate some good nectar flowers to feed on as they migrate from the Northern United States and Canada to Mexico. Scientists tracking monarch butterflies have observed a steep decline in their numbers over the last 2 years and suspect the decline is due to loss of habitat. You can check for a lot more information on how folks are pitching in to make sure there are more milkweeds in our landscapes and fields for the butterflies to breed and feed on. May is a good month to set out milkweed plants in your garden. If you can’t find them locally, try online sources for species such as Asclepias tuberosa, A. curvassica, A. incarnata and A. syriaca that grow well here.

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

I Wouldn’t Make a Good Cowboy

Brooke is the latest blessing in the Crumpler family. Her birth is just one example of all the things we take for granted in our daily lives.

by Glenn Crumpler

I have often wondered how I would make it, or if I would even enjoy, being a cowboy out West. Don’t get me wrong, the horses, the clothes, the lifestyle, the long days, the work and such, I know I would enjoy. I could wear the clothes and ride a horse here in Alabama if I wanted to, and we already work the long days – so these are not the deal breakers.

My doubts arise when I think about the differences in the ways the cattle are managed. I like being a cattleman because I enjoy being with the cows. I like to watch them. I like the smell. I enjoy the challenge of breeding them to try to have a calf better than its mama. I enjoy the anticipation of what the calf will look like and if it will be a bull or a heifer. I love watching the calves grow off. I know each one by name or number.

Here in Southeast Alabama, we can graze cattle year-round on summer and winter grazing. We can run a cow/calf pair on an acre of grass during an average year on average pasture. If you do controlled or intensive grazing on improved pastures like we do, most years you can increase the stocking rate to 1.5 pair per acre, and in a really good year two pair per acre. So on 100 acres of intensively managed improved pasture in an average year, we could expect to run 100-150 pair.

With the cattle restrained to such a small area, we can see the cattle all day long if we want to just by looking out the window. If we want to examine them closely or check out a potential problem, we just hop in the truck or the four wheeler and drive across the road to see what is going on. If there is a calving problem or a sick or lame animal, it does not take us long to get the animal to the catch pen where we can restrain it in the chute and take care of the problem. We have saved a lot of cattle that would have otherwise not made it on their own, especially when it comes to calving problems, lameness and respiratory problems.

Out West, it is not uncommon for a rancher to need 10-28 acres of land per cow/calf unit. To run the same 100 pair of cattle we run on 100 acres, they would need from 1,000-2,800 acres of land. To run 150 pair, they would need 1,500-4,200 acres. When you do the math, this converts to an area from 1.5-6.5 square miles of land to run the same number of cattle.

Perhaps you are beginning to see why I would question if I could or would want to be a cowboy instead of a cattleman. Imagine how long it would take to even find all the cows and baby calves, much less to examine them and take care of emergencies. Because of the heavy brush and rough terrain, most of the checking would have to be done by horseback. If a cow is off by herself calving or has fallen back due to sickness or a sore hoof, she is on her own and vulnerable to all the predators.

When you find one that needs help, walking her back to the catch pen is not an option, so you do the best you can with a rope and whatever you have with you. Finding most of them on an average day would be very unlikely. For many of these large ranching outfits, they gather the cattle once or twice per year for working, branding and weaning calves for market. Other than that, they may never see a particular cow between workings. Only the fittest survive! The cowboy still cares about the cows, but, due to the terrain and conditions, he is just not able to see about them like we do here.

I reckon what I enjoy is the shepherding part of the job. A shepherd is with his flock. He knows them individually. He walks with them. He provides for them. He ministers to them. They are always under his watchful eye and never out of his sight. He lets them out of the fold in the morning and he carefully inspects each one as he leads them into the safety of the fold at night. If one is missing, the shepherd knows it. If one needs help, the shepherd helps it. The good shepherd knows, loves and cares for his sheep.

This whole idea came back to me last week when my daughter Ashley gave birth to our second granddaughter and our sixth grandchild. Little Brooke was born five weeks early. There had been a lot of complications and Ashley had been in and out of the hospital for several weeks. During the caesarian delivery, Ashley developed a bleed from a tear in her uterus and it took two surgeons over three hours to get the bleeding under control. That was scary enough.

Two days later, the doctors said little Brooke, weighing only 4 pounds 11 ounces, was having apneic episodes where she would stop breathing and that she was having seizures. When I received the phone call, the jet from UAB Hospital was already in the air to evacuate her.

I will never forget as I watched little Brooke leading up to the time the jet arrived, thinking about, despite her challenges, how blessed she was and how blessed we all are as her family, that she could have access to the care she was receiving. In most parts of the world, Ashley would have probably died giving birth and all Brooke’s daddy and the rest of us could do would be to watch little Brooke die also.

Acts 17:26 says, "From one man, God created all the nations of men. He determined the exact times and places that they should live."

There are so many blessings we take for granted, so many opportunities we think everyone has, so much compassion we see as normal and so much technology we assume everyone has access to. What we think of as normal, as expected or as being entitlements, 95 percent of the world would see as miraculous! In the end, the truth is that we had no more choice in being born where we have this kind of care than a cow has in whether it will be raised in Southeast Alabama or West Texas – only God knows why – it was His decision.

But God knows all His children wherever they are. They are the flock of His field and the sheep of His pasture. He takes care of the little birds and the flowers of the field, and we can depend on Him to take care of us. Even the hairs on our head are numbered and known by Him.

I thank God that Ashley and little Brooke have come through this and are healthy, happy and well – so many others were not so fortunate. But I am even more thankful that God is there and is sufficient for us even if things do not turn out the way we want them to. We thank God for every day, every person and every blessing, but, most of all, we thank Him for Himself, for His love for us and the eternal Hope we have in Jesus Christ.

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

It's an Honor

Dr. Don Ball was recently presented the 2015 Distinguished Grasslander Award by the American Forage and Grassland Council.

Don Ball is presented the 2015 Grasslander Award.

by Katie Nichols

The American Forage and Grassland Council awarded Dr. Don Ball, alumni professor in the Department of Crop, Soil and Environmental Soils at Auburn University, the 2015 Distinguished Grasslander Award at its annual conference in St. Louis.

The Distinguished Grasslander Award is presented to individuals who, during their careers, have served the forage and grassland segment of agriculture with distinction.

"My goal has always been to use my time as efficiently and effectively as possible in providing information about forage crops to the public so as to increase profit, enhance lifestyles and protect the environment," Ball explained.

Alabama Extension Director Dr. Gary Lemme said Ball has made a lasting mark in many areas of Extension research.

"Dr. Ball’s Extension programs and advice have increased the profitability of cattle producers and the management of millions of acres of pastures and hay land in the United States," Lemme said. "Dr. Ball continues to be a role model for modern Extension specialists because of his ability to translate emerging research into everyday management recommendations that can be implemented by farmers and cattle producers."

Ball began work with Alabama Extension in 1976, when he was hired as the Extension Forage Crop Agronomist. He served in this capacity until January 2011. He is currently a consultant with four Oregon Forage Seed Commissions.

Ball registered the Bermudagrass ecotype "Russell" and now there are more than 50,000 acres of this grass in the Southeast. He conducted dozens of on-farm trials, and wrote many popular and technical articles, as well as several national-oriented forage and livestock publications.

In addition to his recent honor, Ball has received many Extension honors during his career: the Auburn University Extension Excellence Award in 1988, the Professional Excellence Award in 1991, the Agronomic Extension Excellence Award in 1993 and the Distinguished Service Award in 1999.

Katie Nichols is an Alabama Extension writer.

It's Weaning Time

The added profitability one producer obtained while using the CPC Grower program. Price your different options and determine which lets you sleep better at night. The bottom line is: If we can’t help you make more money, then you may not be around for a long-term relationship. Let’s do this together and let us try to help you increase your profits to help sustain and grow your operation.

Make the most of your stocker operation with CPC Jump Start and Grower, available at your Quality Co-op.

It’s weaning time in Alabama. It’s time to wean those calves from our late-fall and winter calving cows. Many producers chose to background or stocker those weaned calves and sell them for delivery 60, 90 or even 120 days out. It’s also time to decide the feeding options to use on those cattle. Many have used a commodity or a simple 50:50 commodity blend and some prefer using a complete feed to achieve added gain. With that in mind, let’s consider our management and all of the options we have in front of us.

Consideration, first, has to be given to whether the calves have been raised on your farm or if they are comingled from several sources. If the cattle have been raised on your farm or ranch, the calves can be fed the ration they will be grown on prior to weaning. If this is the case, the calves should transition easily on to full feed. If the cattle are purchased from several sources, producers should consider hand feeding CPC Jump Start to help with the stress of weaning, vaccinating and being started on a different feed source. Regardless of the source of the calves, plenty of good-quality hay and clean, fresh water should be available at all times.

Those that chose to feed a commodity or 50:50 blend need to consider some of the advantages and disadvantages of this type of program. Most producers feed these cattle with self-feeders and allow them to eat all they desire. Commodity blends tend to cost less than complete feeds, but this stems simply from the fact that they are not complete in their supply of nutrients for optimal gain. In addition, some metabolic problems such as bloat and acidosis can also accompany the free-choice feeding of commodities and their blends.

In contrast, complete feeds tend to cost more per ton, but have fewer of the metabolic problems associated with feeds lacking a complete nutrient profile. However, many times they are actually less expensive when looked at as cost per pound of gain. Yes, most of the time complete feeds put on a pound of gain for less cost. Less cost always equals more profit.

With the high value of cattle, death loss can be a factor that has a profound impact on profitability. Losing one or two cattle to mortality can affect the profitability of your operation significantly. Likewise, cattle performing poorly because of a nutritional deficiency or metabolic issue can suck profits right out of your pocket.

These points were brought to light recently in a field trial here in Alabama. One group of cattle were provided free choice access to a SHP, DDG blend and gained 2.7 pounds per day with a cost per pound of gain of $0.97. A second group of cattle with similar genetics gained 3.35 pounds per day with a cost of gain of $0.78 per pound. This increased efficiency and added weight gain resulted in additional profits of $83.07 per head. I don’t know about you, but that helps put extra beans on my table.

Additionally, cattle fed CPC Grower tend to be in more acceptable body condition than those fed blends. The mineral-vitamin component and the nutritional balance of the feed promote more lean body growth. Lean body growth has also been recognized by feed yards to allow cattle to come in and perform at an acceptable level for them.

As you begin grouping your calves post weaning or putting groups of calves together, take a look at the CPC programs offered at your Quality Co-op store. These quality complete feeds should improve the cost of gain, cattle health and cattle condition at your operation. They should help maintain cattle health and acceptability to buyers. More and more buyers recognize the CPC programs and the performance of the cattle grown on these programs. The cattle adjust to the feed yard well and their performance is predictable.

Learning the Basics

Students from around the state attended spring judging clinics hosted at Auburn University’s College of Agriculture Feb. 10-11.

Hundreds of high school and middle school students attend Auburn’s Spring Judging Clinics.

by A.J. Watson

Students looking to sharpen their agricultural skills and gain knowledge of higher education opportunities evaluated their options during spring judging clinics hosted by Auburn University’s College of Agriculture Feb. 10-11.

"Our spring judging clinics give us a chance to have high school and some middle school students on campus to train them and help them prepare for their upcoming FFA Career Development Events," said Amanda Martin, College of Agriculture student recruitment and alumni relations coordinator.

The event is sponsored by the Alabama Farmers Federation, Alabama Cattlemen’s Association, Alabama Poultry & Egg Association, Alabama Horse Council and Wayne Farms.

Four Alabama Farmers Federation divisions - Alabama Soybean Producers, Alabama Pork Producers, Alabama Meat Goat & Sheep Producers, and Alabama Wheat & Feed Grain Producers - donated more than $3,500 to the judging clinics this year.

"This is an excellent educational opportunity for students to come to Auburn and learn about the commodities we deal with," said Guy Hall, Federation pork division director. "It’s not just good for students; but it’s good for teachers. It allows both groups to learn about multiple facets of agriculture under one roof."

Martin said, since its inception in 2010, the clinics have grown from 200 attendees to 800.

The clinics, or CDEs, at this year’s event included soil texture, livestock, dairy, nursery/landscape, forestry, meats, floriculture, poultry, horse and parliamentary procedure.

State FFA Sentinel and White Plans High School senior Colton Farley said livestock CDEs have helped him in competition, but they have a more practical use, too.

"I live on a farm, and we raise five different species of livestock, so judging livestock is also going to help me on the farm," he said. "When I look for a breeding animal, I’m going to have to look for the fundamentals of a good breeding animal. You want one that’s structurally sound; one that will last longer on a farm than most animals so you can have a little more longevity of her breeding cycle."

While students get two days out of school for the clinics, Sylvania High School Agriscience teacher Joey Haymon said those absences yield positive gains inside the classroom.

"It’s a good opportunity to learn the basics of the competitions, so it makes it easier for us to teach it when we get back to the classroom," he said.

For state FFA Treasurer and Geraldine High School senior Cody Maddox, new clinics such as parliamentary procedure showcase the diverse career fields available to agriculture students.

"My goal in life is to become an attorney, so parliamentary procedure will be used a lot when I’m an attorney," Maddox said. "I grew up on a farm and I have 16 head of beef cattle, so I have an interest in agriculture. I plan to major in agricultural business economics with a minor in political science, and I plan on specializing in ag law."

A.J. Watson is the Ag Communications Specialist for Alfa.

May Lawn and Garden Checklist


  • If you haven’t already, plant warm-season Bonnie vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and squash.
  • Tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and eggplant are members of the nightshade family. They like similar growing conditions, but should not be planted adjacent to or in succession from year to year because they all are susceptible to the same diseases.
  • Plant sweet potato slips.
  • Apartment dwellers with a patio getting at least six hours of sun a day can easily grow peppers in containers.
  • Gourds may be planted in May.
  • Repair your lawn by filling in the bare spots by slightly loosening surface of the soil and sow a good quality lawn seed over the area evenly. Tamp the seed in gently and water. Keep the patch moist by covering with light mulch of lawn clippings.
  • Lift and divide overcrowded clumps of daffodils and other spring-flowering bulbs.
  • Add water lilies to your pond when the water temperature reaches 70 degrees.
  • May is a good time to divide herbaceous perennials you want to propagate or that are getting too big. Dividing will also help the plant to produce new growth.
  • Plant a few gladioli corms every week from now until early July for continuous summer cuttings.
  • Plant container-grown trees and shrubs. Stop planting bare-root trees and shrubs.
  • Early spring annuals such as pansies and calendulas will soon fade with summer’s heat. Clean out the beds and plant summer-flowering annuals.
  • Caladium bulbs can be planted anytime this month.
  • For best results, transplant perennials before they are 6 inches tall, and don’t disturb spring bloomers until fall.
  • May is not the ideal time for planting new perennials, but they seem to be for sale everywhere. Plan to plant them, but pamper as well. Perennials planted this time of year will require extra watering to help get established.


  • Apply a high-nitrogen, summer lawn fertilizer to encourage a healthy-looking lawn.
  • Work lime in the soil around your old-fashioned hydrangeas to produce pink flowers or aluminum sulphate for blue.
  • Fertilize azaleas, rhododendrons and camellias after they bloom with a fertilizer made for acid-loving plants.
  • Annuals planted recently should be fed on a monthly basis throughout the spring and summer.
  • Fertilize bulbs after blooming.
  • Lightly side dress perennials with an all-purpose, 5-10-10 or 10-10-10 fertilizer. Avoid spilling the fertilizer on the plant, and use care not to damage the shallow roots when you cultivate it into the soil.
  • Fertilize warm-season grasses such as St. Augustine, zoysia, Bermuda and centipede. Stop fertilizing cool-season grasses such as fescue and bluegrass to prevent heat damage.
  • Many summer-blooming tropical plants such as hibiscus and mandevilla bloom on new growth. Fertilize to encourage more growth and flowers.
  • Be sure to use fresh potting mix in your containers – old soil has fewer nutrients and may contain harmful bacteria and fungi.
  • To refresh your understanding of pH: pH refers to the acidity of the soil and is measured by the number of hydrogen ions present in the soil. pH is a logarithmic scale based on the power of 10. For example, a pH of 6.0 is 10 times more acidic than pH of 7.0. Therefore, even a little change in pH can make a big difference. A pH of 7 is neutral, less than 7 is acid and greater than 7 is alkaline. Most plants like a pH between 6.5 and 7.
  • Fertilize roses monthly with a complete fertilizer or special rose food.
  • As the growth rate of your houseplants increases with the seasons, adjust your feeding schedule to provide additional food. Feed your plants a good all-purpose houseplant food at half of the manufacturer’s recommended rates, increasing the proportion slightly to accommodate growth spurts. Overuse of fertilizers can cause root and foliage burn, as well as the death of the plant.


  • Got mums? From now until the beginning of July, you can make chrysanthemums bushier and more productive if you pinch one-half inch off of each stem when they’re 6 or 7 inches high.
  • Promptly remove spent flowers from any plant unless your intent is to harvest the seeds. It consumes the plant’s energy to produce the seeds and, in many species of plants (especially annuals), removing the dead flowers will promote further blooms.
  • Prune out any frost damage on evergreen shrubs.
  • Remove any reverted green shoots on variegated (leaves with two colors) evergreens to prevent them reverting to a single color.
  • Take softwood cuttings of deciduous shrubs such as forsythia and hydrangea.
  • Prune spring-flowering trees and shrubs soon after they bloom. Since they begin setting next year’s flower buds in late summer, it’s important to have them pruned and fertilized before then.
  • Lightly prune evergreens, making sure not to cut back to bare branches.
  • Deadhead perennials and bulbs throughout the blooming season.
  • Remove any sucker growths from fruit trees as soon as they appear.
  • Pines and other conifers can be kept to a compact size by pinching off the new growth "candles."
  • Complete pruning of climbing roses to insure a good supply of new wood for next year’s flower formation.
  • When you prune, pinch and trim, try rooting the cuttings to make more plants.
  • Trim hedges (check for nesting birds first).


  • Collect rainwater in a rain barrel for irrigation.
  • Make sure lawns and gardens receive an inch of water per week.
  • Hand water new transplants until they become established.
  • Water your lawn in the morning to discourage fungus diseases.
  • Mulching around the base of your plants will help them to retain moisture around the roots.


  • Address insect, disease and weed problems as soon as you spot them.
  • Labels provide directions on how to mix, apply, store and dispose of a pesticide product. Always read and obey labels on crop protectants and herbicides.
  • Slugs and snails are out in full force right now. Be sure to take steps to control them now, before they have a chance to reproduce and devastate your garden.
  • Continue to watch for thrips, red spider mite, caterpillars, white fly, leaf rollers and scale.
  • Be on the lookout for lace bugs and aphids this month.
  • Examine conifers for the egg sacs of bagworms and remove before the eggs hatch.
  • Keep a vigilant eye on the roses. Continue to spray for black spot and mildew control. Also keep them sprayed for aphids and other pests.
  • Hoe regularly between rows on hot days to make sure the weeds dry up and die.
  • Molehills are often a problem in spring and traps are the most effective way to deal with this problem.
  • The first flowers you’ll see will be your weeds. Work to eliminate the weeds (roots and all), before they have a chance to go to seed, or you will be fighting them for years to come!
  • This is the time to eliminate lawn weeds by hand pulling, or the application of a "weed and feed" fertilizer ... before they go to seed!
  • Control weeds to reduce competition for water and nutrients.
  • Don’t let vines get out of control – remove or cut them back while they’re manageable.
  • Carefully examine your houseplants for pests and problems. It is much easier to fight an insect infestation or disease in its early stages than to wait ....


  • Take photos of blooming plants you enjoy and put them in your garden journal so you’ll know what to buy for your own garden!
  • Keep up with the vegetable harvest to encourage your plants to continue producing.
  • If you haven’t already, put your houseplants outdoors on a shady porch so they can enjoy the summer heat while protected from strong sun and wind. You can also bury potted houseplants up to the rim in planting beds to add texture.
  • Check to see if your houseplants are root bound. Water them thoroughly and carefully remove them from their pots. If the roots have compacted around the outside of the root ball, it is time to repot.
  • Clean pond filters.
  • For maximum flavor, don’t let zucchini get more than 8 inches long.
  • Give your clay and plastic pots a boost on sunny patios. Elevate pots onto boards to lessen the damaging effects on plants from heat radiated off the hot concrete.
  • Mulching is a garden maintenance chore that only needs to be done once a season. A 3- to 4-inch layer of mulch is usually a good measure of how much mulch to spread. A good time to mulch is soon after planting, but it can be done anytime. Mulching is important for a couple of reasons. Mulching reduces the needed amount of weeding and helps the earth retain water so you’ll need to water the garden less frequently. It also gradually breaks down and provides nutrients to the soil.
  • Put supports in place now for tall herbaceous plants or those with heavy blooms before they are too tall.
  • The compost pile should be getting a lot of use these days, both in utilizing this prime garden resource and adding fresh garden refuse to it. The compost pile should be kept damp. Frequent turning will turn your garden waste into plant food much faster.
  • Work rain-compacted soil around plants and flower beds to provide aeration. Use shallow cultivation to prevent root damage.
  • Remember, birds are still nesting. Keep the feeder full!

Meeting a Need

AADA is now offering a new loan program for equipment sheds.

AADA is now offering a new loan program geared for the construction of equipment sheds. Given the cost of machinery, it just makes sense to get this equipment out of the weeds and put it under cover. Equipment life is enhanced, maintenance can be regularly accomplished, weather-related rust is minimized and repair costs shrink. Simply said, "building an equipment shed is cost effective."

Equipment shed loans can be tailored to support individual needs. Basic features include new construction, a 3.5 percent fixed rate, a 5-year amortization and loans up to a maximum of $35,000. Verifiable collateral and a credit check are required as part of the approval process.

AADA constantly strives to provide monies for projects that stimulate profitable production/marketing practices for Alabama farmers. Over the years, AADA has helped with chicken house construction, hay barn loans, commodity barn loans, cattle working facility loans, drip irrigation and cold storage loans for fruit and vegetable farmers, plus a few bridge-type operating loans. We’ve also done some environmental-type loans for a few hog producers. Now, we’re turning our attention to the machinery side of farming.

If you are in need of an equipment shed, give AADA a call. For more information, contact Harold McLemore or John Gamble at 334-240-7245 or Visit for additional information and applications on all loan programs offered by AADA.

New Peanut Executive

Caleb Bristow has been named Executive Director for the Alabama Peanut Producers Association.

Caleb Bristow joins the staff of Alabama Farmers Federation as APPA Executive Director.

Press Release from Alfa

Caleb Bristow of Henry County is the new executive director for the Alabama Peanut Producers Association, a division of the Alabama Farmers Federation. His first official day was Feb. 16, but he was introduced to peanut farmers at the APPA Annual Meeting in Dothan Feb. 12.

Federation Governmental and Agricultural Programs Director Brian Hardin said Bristow’s strong work ethic was developed growing up on a family farm in Columbia.

"We are fortunate and thrilled to have Caleb join the APPA and the Federation family," Hardin said. "He will provide excellent leadership with his natural talents. Caleb is a smart, hard worker who has a great ability to connect with people and make them feel comfortable."

Bristow’s family raises nearly 3,000 acres of peanuts and cotton, and has a herd of beef cows. He is a two-time Auburn University graduate, earning his master’s degree in Agronomy (weed science) in 2012 and his bachelor’s in Agronomy and Soils in 2010.

Bristow said the Federation’s reputation as a conservative, family-friendly organization representing farmers on the state and national levels were the things that attracted him to the career move. But mostly, he said, it was an opportunity for him to help farmers.

"I am very excited about this opportunity," Bristow said. "I am ready to work not only with farmers but also for farmers."

In addition to working with farmers to help improve their livelihoods, Bristow said he would also be a "peanut promoter."

"Peanut farmers produce a delicious, healthy food that is safe and affordable," Bristow said. "Helping encourage consumers to eat more of what our farmers grow is an exciting opportunity I’m looking forward to."

APPA President Carl Sanders said Bristow represents the future of peanut farming.

"Caleb’s energy and enthusiasm will serve farmers well as we navigate a new farm bill and spring planting begins," Sanders said. "His first-hand knowledge of the peanut industry will allow him to understand what our farmers need and help them get it."

Hardin and Sanders both praised the work done by Jim Cravey, who has served as APPA interim executive director for more than a year. Cravey, who retired from the Federation in 2006 as Commodity Department director, will continue to work for APPA through Bristow’s transition.

Bristow, 26, and his wife Freda live in Headland. He previously was a manager and salesman for Kelly Ag in Headland and is a member of Gamma Sigma Delta, Auburn’s Honor Society of Agriculture. He can be reached at the APPA office in Dothan at or 334-792-6482.

One Question Begets Another

These photos demonstrate why focusing on forage management begins when forage production is in its prime. Left to right, something is better than nothing as shown in this area grazed by sheep and goats (Feb. 22, 2015). There is nothing left to measure here in an area grazed by horses (Feb. 22, 2015).

Factors affecting forage production include: soil quality (pH), soil fertility (N, P, K), forage species (grasses, legumes, forbs and browse), seasonal forages (cool or warm season), forage density, stage of production (boot, leaf, etc.), forage height, grazing pressure and stocking rates, rotational grazing practices, periods of rest between grazing, rainfall, temperatures, average daily sunlight and more.

There are a multitude of factors including forage quality to consider when estimating carrying capacity. Becoming familiar with pasture areas and conditions will help determine: how long paddocks can be grazed and frequency of rotation, seasonal production and variation, and where improvements are needed. Failure to consider some of the aforementioned concepts will become evident next spring when pastures are in bad shape due to overgrazing/overstocking; then forages are slow to recover, and weeds become more prevalent.

In working with seasoned producers, I have learned to ask new and beginning farmers questions such as: How much forage production will your land provide throughout the year? Will you keep your stocking rate low enough and utilize rotational grazing to ensure forage availability during winter months? Are you willing to cull animals when drought occurs and forages diminish? And, how late into the winter can you extend your grazing season before needing to provide supplemental hay and feed? Now is the time of year to consider winter forage needs by planning to stockpile forages towards the end of summer, establish winter forages in September and adjust livestock stocking rates throughout the year as needed.


Barnhart, S., "Estimating Available Pasture Forage." PM 1758. Iowa State University. Retrieved Feb. 20, 2015

"Measuring Available Forage." National Drought Mitigation Center. Retrieved Feb. 20, 2015

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

Pals: Enviornmentally Enthusiastic

Rucker Boulevard Elementary students pledge to be a Clean Campus for second year in a row.

by Jamie Mitchell

For the second year in a row, Rucker Boulevard Elementary School in Coffee County has made a pledge to be a "Clean Campus" school. I went to Enterprise in the fall to do my 30-minute program to the first, second and third graders; and I just went back this spring to present it to the fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade classes.

Principal Sheree Hardrick has led the charge for Rucker Boulevard Elementary to be a part of the Clean Campus Program. Hardrick called me early in the school year to schedule the dates for my programs. She has also implemented a successful recycling program at the school. Each classroom has a bin for paper and cans, and there are special bins around the school for plastic, as well. The school has even installed a composting area used for making fertilizer for other projects on campus!

The students of Rucker Boulevard share the principal’s enthusiasm for the environment. They were very attentive and interested in hearing how they could help keep Alabama and their community litter free. In addition to keeping their school campus clean, I encouraged them to coordinate cleanup days outside of school with baseball teams, church groups, Girl Scout groups, etc.

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

Jamie Mitchell is the PALS State Clean Campus Coordinator.

Playing Offense

Being Proactive in Today’s Environment

by Dr. Tony Frazier

The best defense is a good offense." That quote has been credited to at least three different people over the years. There was Vince Lombardi, famous Green Bay Packers coach. Then there was Jack Dempsey, 20th-century prize fighter. And probably the earliest to be credited with the quote was Carl von Clausewitz, 19th-century Prussian military theorist. In fact, I once used the quote and somebody asked me who said that. I told them I did just now. I figure I might as well take credit for it since I occasionally get blamed for something I am not responsible for. Now what was I talking about. Oh, yes, it was being proactive or playing offense when dealing with some of the issues we face in agriculture today. There are times when we should stand on sound science and not give in to many of the myths, misconceptions and outright lies those in production agriculture face every day. Then there are times that, if we are not on offense, we will end up on defense … and often to our detriment. When we wait to play defense, we find ourselves defending against cumbersome regulations created by people who are not searching for the truth.

It is my belief that most people want to know what the truth is and, if given the facts, will be satisfied. There is another group that believes everybody from the U.S. government to the local animal control officer is out to get them. This group is reluctant to change their views, even when you present them with the facts. Then there is a third group who seem to have an agenda. They may or may not know the facts, but for their own personal reasons, the facts do not matter. They spend a lot of time keeping the middle group stirred up and trying to get converts from the first group. Unfortunately, I find a lot of this bad information on the Internet. And unfortunately, a lot of people get their "facts" from the Internet. And you know what they say, "If it’s on the Internet, it has to be true."

I suppose those of us involved in the production and sustainability of food could just say, "If you don’t like the way we produce it, don’t eat it." Certainly when we see grocery and restaurant chains with signs saying "hormone-free meat" we know there is no such thing. All animals and even plants have hormones. The plant hormones are known as phytohormones. I guess animal hormones are bad and plant hormones are good in some people’s eyes. Interestingly, I recently learned something from someone who was doing research on estrogen in chickens that was naturally occurring for the chicken’s ovaries. He said, when the people at the university cut the grass, it had enough clover in it that it falsely moved the estrogen values higher.

I guess I want to get to the point of playing offense or being proactive. One area where we are proactive is disease surveillance. I have read on some websites that say we actually have diseases we do not report and expose the public to such diseases as avian influenza and bovine spongiform encephalitis. The fact is, in order to be proactive, we do a tremendous amount of testing both on a routine basis and targeted animals (targeted are those at a higher risk to have the infectious agent). When something is found, we do not even have the opportunity to not report it – not that we would. I remember back in 2006 when we had a positive BSE cow in Alabama; there were times that I was getting my information at the same time CNN was getting theirs. USDA and I, as well, believe it is better to be on the offense than try to defend why there was a delay in getting information out.

Another example of playing offense is some new regulations aimed at antibiotic use in food animals. Interestingly, many of the antibiotics used in food animal production are not even used in humans. But, when you hear the 30-second sound bite on the evening news, we get the impression that farmers are responsible for all of the antibiotic resistance that exists. Never mind everyone who is prescribed a 10-day course of amoxicillin and decide to stop taking it after five days because they "feel better." I know of poultry companies that are going antibiotic free because that is what many consumers are demanding, even though the science supports the judicious use of antibiotics.

I often wonder what kind of world my future grandkids and their kids will grow up in. We live in a world today where the people who produce the food find it more and more difficult to keep the ball on their side of the court and play offense. As issues like animal rights, water rights, antibiotic use, climate change and environmental issues continue to swirl around, farmers may, more and more, find themselves having to defend against perception. I think, as much as possible, we should still rely on a good offense and have a defensive plan in our pockets. As the old saying goes, "A man with plenty of food has plenty of problems. A man without enough food has only one."

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

Savory ... Herb of the Year

by Nadine Johnson

Savory has been determined The Herb of the Year. For that reason, I’ll write about it. My favorite mail-order supplier offers six varieties of savory including "summer" and "winter." I have chosen summer savory as my subject.

Summer savory (Satureia hortensis) is an annual that is easily grown from seed. It grows to an average height of 15 inches. It prefers full sun in average, well-drained soil. It has tiny, narrow, lance-like leaves that bear a purple tinge and an aroma much like thyme. Bees love its tiny white (or sometimes pink) flowers.

Savory is native to the Mediterranean area. According to legend, it was carried to England during the reign of Caesar Augustus. When the English came to America, they brought it with them. My curiosity makes me wonder if it sailed on the Mayflower.

My growing days are over, but once upon a time I grew this dainty plant in a good-size pot. Some people like to grow herbs in lovely, tiny pots. Of course, when you grow in a tiny pot, you get a tiny plant. Therefore, you have very little herb with which to season culinary creations. I consider this impractical.

Yes, savory is a much enjoyed culinary herb. One source says it is used especially in sausage, stuffings, soups, green beans and vinegars. Another source says it is used in teas, herb butter, peas, rutabagas, eggplant, asparagus, parsnips, salsify, onions, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, squash, garlic, liver, fish and quince chutney. It appears this herb is good in most recipes.

Research reveals that by adding savory to our food we possibly avoid some unpleasant health situations such as intestinal disorders including cramps, nausea and indigestion. It even prevents the formation of intestinal gas if added to our dry beans. It is an astringent; therefore, it can help to prevent diarrhea.

Savory is one of the herbs that should be avoided by pregnant or breast-feeding women.

Mint is beneficial in more or less the same health situations as savory. Since mint is a tried, true and safe herb, I use it for medicinal purposes and savory as a culinary herb.

Here’s a healthy recipe you might like to try.


2 cups dry lentils (washed)

1 cup meat (ham, chicken or beef), chopped

½ cup each onion, celery and carrots, chopped

3 Tablespoons parsley, chopped

1 clove garlic

¼ teaspoon pepper

½ teaspoon dried savory (or 1 teaspoon of fresh)

2 cups canned diced tomatoes

2 Tablespoons wine vinegar

Combine all ingredients (except tomatoes and vinegar) in covered soup kettle. Simmer for 1½ hours. Add tomatoes and vinegar (and salt if desired). Simmer 30 minutes longer. Makes 8-10 servings.

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

Sponsoring the Masters

AFC and Bonnie Plants are recognized for their sponsorship of Alabama’s Master Gardeners Association.

In 2009, the Alabama Master Gardeners Association implemented a Conference Sponsor Program. Since then, Alabama Farmers Cooperative and Bonnie Plants have been major sponsors. This continued support was recognized at the AMGA 25thAnnual Conference in Cullman on March 24 during an awards ceremony. Accepting the award from Kathie Bass, AMGA, for Bonnie Plants was Sharon Capps, center, and for AFC was Jim Allen.

Spring Cleaning

by Stephen Donaldson

Most of us who live on farms or ranches don’t take much time to have regular cleaning. We find ourselves too wrapped up in day-to-day chores. We get too caught up in the tasks of the day. It wasn’t until this past weekend that I realized how the cleaning I am talking about can save you both time and money.

We spent this past weekend sorting through the cow herds, culling cows, sorting poor doers and pulling subpar calves. The replacement heifers were scrutinized for quality and soundness. Those that didn’t make the cut were sorted off to be sold. Calves that were behind and small were grouped to be fed in order to be marketed with the larger cattle. Bulls were pulled, in order to keep the calving season close to our 75-day window. Cows were grouped based on their different stages of reproduction and those with the highest nutritional demands were placed in pastures to take advantage of ryegrass.

These chores seem counterproductive because they lack the excitement of selling cattle and receiving a check or the excitement of calving season. These mundane tasks could be the secret to increase your profitability. They are easily put off or forgotten altogether. The importance of these tasks is to make sure you do the little things that will help insure your success in the cattle business. These tasks are the ones separating those who receive a premium for their cattle from those whose cattle are discounted.

First, let’s concentrate on the cow herd. Over the course of a cow’s life, she goes through changes in her ability to raise a calf. Many times, due to the cow’s health, production can wane. She needs a "pick me up" to regain her productive status. By sorting and grouping these cattle, you can provide the proper nutrition to bring them back to their production potential or, if they don’t respond, you can sell them. Also, when sorting and grouping the cows, it is a perfect time to vaccinate and deworm your cow herd.

Second, it’s a good time to sort smaller calves off that are having a tough time keeping up with the growth of the other calves. These calves can be placed in a separate feeding area and creep grazed or fed to help them catch up to the other calves. If they can grow enough to catch up to the other calves, you will have a more uniform set of calves to market. The problems with the slow-growing calves are usually easily solved with feed and routine veterinary treatment.

Finally, it’s a good time to concentrate on your herd sires. For those who have a controlled breeding season, "spring cleaning," timed when the breeding season is over, is the perfect time to pull the bulls out of the pasture. After removing the bulls, they need to be dewormed and any routine veterinary services need to be performed. After processing these bulls, they need to go into small loafing lots and fed back to proper condition until the next breeding season rolls around.

I have referred to spring cleaning in this article, but the timing of this cleaning depends on your particular breeding season or seasons. It needs to coincide with the times these practices can be employed with the greatest convenience to both you and your animals. I urge each of you to collaborate with your local veterinarian to plan the proper health plan for your herd. Your veterinarian will best understand the health challenges in your specific area.

This is also a great time to reflect on your operation and analyze its strengths and weaknesses. Pasture fertilization, hay production, weed control, mineral programs, breeding seasons, breeds, crossbreeding options, marketing and supplemental feeding programs are all areas to look and make improvement. Fortunately, for you as a producer, your local Quality Co-op store can solve all of your problems with one stop. The store can supply everything from animal health and animal nutrition needs to all you need for maximum grass and hay production. Cattle production is an ever-evolving process requiring producers to be nimble and change to maximize production and profits.

To keep up with the changing beef industry, producers must stay educated on production practices and consumer demands. To adapt to these changes, pick strategic times to implement changes so they have the least negative impact on your operation.

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


by John Sims

It’s Fly Season! Your cattle need relief from the pest that causes the most economic damage to the cattle industry … the horn fly. Besides transmitting disease, flies cause stress and reduce grazing, which reduces weight gain of calves and performance of cows and bulls.

Research has shown STIMU-LYX has as much as 30-40 percent higher participation than conventional dry minerals. This means more cattle are consuming the product so more manure is treated to break the lifecycle of the fly. This means better fly control and better vitamin/mineral consumption by the herd.

The benefits don’t end there. STIMU-LYX will increase the amount of grazing your cattle have this summer by helping them digest forage more efficiently. This leads to heavier calves and better body condition, which leads to better reproductive performance.

Don’t let flies rob you of profits this summer. Use STIMU-LYX Fly Relief IGR and watch your flies decrease and your profits increase.

This product is an all-natural protein supplement for beef calves and cattle. It contains (S)-methoprene insect growth regulator for continuous feeding to cattle through the horn fly season as a method to help prevent horn fly emergence from manure of treated cattle.


Crude Protein (Min) 19.00%

Crude Fat (Min) 5.00%

Crude Fiber (Max) 2.50%

Calcium (Ca) (Min) 1.40%

Calcium (Ca) (Max) 1.60%

Phosphorus (P) (Min) 0.60%

Potassium (K) (Min) 2.00%

Magnesium (Mg) (Min) 0.25%

Cobalt (Co) (Min) 3 ppm

Copper (Cu) (Min) 300 ppm

Iodine (I) (Min) 13 ppm

Manganese (Mg) (Min) 850 ppm

Selenium (Se) (Min) 6.6 ppm

Zinc (Zn) (Min) 900 ppm

Vitamin A (Min) 80,000 IU/lb

Vitamin D (Min) 8,000 IU/lb

Vitamin E (Min) 80 IU/lb

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

Stop Guessing about Gobblers

Turkeys have eyes seated at the sides of their heads so they see a much wider field of view. In addition, they have focus of that entire area! Their eyesight for picking up movement and discerning colors is also better than ours. (Credit: Nick Biebach)

Three Key Points for Tom-Taking Consistency

by Todd Amenrud

Spring brings with it one of my favorite things to do – call turkeys! I say "call" turkeys rather than "hunt" turkeys because I enjoy calling in birds for others or just calling them in just for the "call-up." The deception and fooling the bird into thinking I was another turkey is my "kick." In almost 30 years of turkey hunting, I’ve had the opportunity to learn from some of the best and I’ve been taught that there are a few keys to consistency. While there are numerous important points that can mean the difference between a 25-pounder hanging on a limb by its spurs and an unused tag, the following three subjects are among the most vital.

The Importance of Reconnaissance

Scouting is possibly the most important element of hunting anything, but especially turkeys. Learning roost locations, strutting zones, grit sources, bugging habitat and the lay of the land can mean everything. Now and again you may call a gobbler through a fence or blow-down, or over a creek or road, but don’t count on it happening often. You want to position yourself within an area they have utilized before that’s easy for them to access; scouting will teach you your best options.

Learning where that bird is going to be at certain times of the day is important. Keep a journal if necessary. If you get them to answer your calls, write down the time, place and the call he answered to. If you "take their temperature" while scouting, it can make it easy when it’s time to hunt. After the tom is finished with his hens, many times they go day after day to preferred strutting locations. Make note of these spots and the different avenues used to access them.

Find set-up locations offering the birds easy entry. Don’t set up on the opposite side of obstacles like a river, fence, drainage or bunch of blow-downs and expect to call a bird to you. Make it simple for the turkey to get to you. Look for turkey sign in the form of tracks, feathers, droppings, etc. - it’s much easier to call birds into spots they routinely utilize.

Trail cameras can be used for gathering information on turkeys just like for whitetails. Use the cameras to help you develop a pattern. Week to week their patterns may change, but day to day they are more reliable.

Some hunters don’t have time to spend scouting; others may hunt property away from where they live. If either is the case, question neighboring landowners, outfitters, sporting goods stores, registration stations or the local conservation officer. Landowners and other hunters can usually provide you with the most recent information, which is typically the most valuable.

If you scout well in advance of the hunt, remember the birds might be doing something a bit different when hunting actually rolls around. If you’re scouting a month or two before the season, the birds may have different daily routines and possibly inhabit different areas when the season arrives. During the spring, they are transitioning out of their winter patterns and most will form smaller groups and possibly move into different locations within their home range. The most reliable information will be gathered within a week before you actually hunt.

Learn How to React to Natural Turkey Biology

Knowing what to do if a tom "hangs up," stops gobbling to your calls or is traveling with live hens (as examples), is important if you wish to have consistent success. Natural turkey biology can sometimes make turkey hunting seem difficult. You can read about what to do or watch DVDs on how to handle different situations, but experience is the best teacher. Three attributes that will help you score regardless are persistence, patience and hunter’s savvy.

Not every set-up is going to result in gobblers running to meet your arrow or load of shot. Persistence is important – trying again and again is how we learn. If you don’t give up, it will happen. Whether you back out, circle around and try again on the same bird or go running and gunning to try and find one that feels like being social, persistence is more important than being a good caller.

It took me many years to learn patience. In fact, it wasn’t until an accident I had 10 years ago that forced me to be less mobile that I learned how important patience is in turkey hunting. I had always been one to want to move if a bird wasn’t answering me. However, more often than I care to admit, after gallivanting around putting in miles trying to find a hot bird, I would return to my original set up to find a gobbler fanned-out where my decoys were originally. I’m actually a better turkey hunter now after my disability has forced me to be less mobile and more patient.

A little hunter’s savvy can go a long way. Even if you’re new to turkey hunting, but are a longtime woodsman (or woman), knowing the woods, how other animals act and how to play what Mother Nature deals you can be "a feather in your cap" (pun intended).

Get the Gear, Get the Gobbler

Having the correct equipment, knowing how to use it properly and how you will perform with it is equally as important as our other points. Some of the most essential paraphernalia will be your camouflage, calls and decoys - and let’s not forget your gun or bow.

If you hunt with a bow, you must be able to hit a target the size of your fist that will probably be moving, at whatever distance you determine to be your maximum confident range. If you hunt with a shotgun, you must know your boundaries and how different loads pattern. Either way, when you loose the arrow or pull the trigger, you must know your limitations and only take ethical chances you determine will be a "killing shot."

Remember, turkeys can see color better than you or I and have eyes seated at the sides of their heads. Because of this, they see a much wider field of view. They can see over 200 degrees. That alone is amazing, but if you think about the fact that they have perception, or "focus," of that ENTIRE AREA, that’s amazing! We can catch movement out of our peripheral vision, but can only focus on the area we are directly looking at. A turkey has focus of their entire field of view. Their eyesight for picking up movement is also better than ours. I believe camo from head to toe is important. Colors that aren’t natural or movement is what will get you busted. Give me good old’ Mossy Oak Bottomland and I can blend into most turkey-hunting backgrounds.

I don’t consider myself to be a great turkey caller, but I harvest my fair share of toms. I’m good enough to be in demand for turkey hunting seminars, to answer questions and to demonstrate calls, but, if you get a chance to listen to someone who’s really good, they blow me away. So I can attest - you don’t have to be a great caller to kill a tom. In my opinion, rhythm is the most important part of calling turkeys. You need to make the sound somewhat technically correct, but getting the cadence or pulse to resemble a hen turkey is more important than being able to yelp pristine and crisp.

The final tool I wouldn’t enter the turkey woods without are decoys. Where sometimes I’ll go without a blind, I never go without decoys. I don’t always use them, but I always have them. Decoys can accomplish a few tasks for you. They attract the bird(s) closer, draw the attention off of the hunter and a decoy can even be used as a yardage marker if needed.

In my view, the true essence of turkey hunting is the "call-up" and the trickery in your set up. I want to create a set up that seems so real and appealing that a gobbler has to come to interact. I enjoy the call-up no matter what means is used to harvest the bird. In fact, I enjoy calling for other people as much as when I hunt myself.

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

The Co-op Pantry

Kathy Lindsey is our featured cook of the month. We are delighted to have someone who is not only a great cook but who has actively worked with agriculture in Alabama until her (sort of) retirement.

Lindsey was born in Birmingham in 1945. Her parents were J.B. and Margie Sorter Warren. They were both schoolteachers in Lawrence and Morgan counties, so they touched the lives of many children. Her dad was the local 4-H leader at Danville High School for years and helped establish the Morgan County Steer Show. Lindsey actually participated in the Steer Show from 1960-1964.

"It was a great learning experience for me!" she stated.

Kathy Lindsey

She went to school at Morgan County High School (now Hartselle High) where she graduated in 1964. Afterwards, she spent 1 year at Florence State Teachers College where she majored in Secretarial Science.

Lindsey has two children, Shane and Justin. Shane is married to Selena Sandlin Lindsey and they have two children, Emma, 14, and Cal, 10. Justin is married to Brooke Moore Lindsey. They have one daughter, Alli, who is 3 years old.

Lindsey worked at the ASCS (now FSA) offices in Morgan and Lawrence counties from 1966-1982. Then she worked at Interstate Billing in Decatur for about a year. In 1984, she felt blessed to become an Administrative Assistant with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System Office in Morgan County. Lindsey spent 23 great years with Extension. She tells me that it was a truly wonderful experience.

"I made many good friends there. I retired in 2008, but they call me back to work occasionally at the office. I enjoy going back to work with former co-workers and new employees as well," she said.

I have kept the column short this month to add as many wonderful recipes as we possibly can in our printed edition.

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


Medium size venison roast
2 cans Golden Mushroom soup
1 envelope dried onion soup

Brown roast in a black skillet. Put in crockpot. Add mushroom soup and dried onion soup.

Do not add water. Cover and cook about 8 or 10 hours on low.

Note: This is the best recipe ever for venison roast and was shared with me by Mike Reeves, regional Extension agent in Morgan County.


4 chicken breasts
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 (16-ounce) can sauerkraut, drained (press out excess liquid)
4 slices natural Swiss cheese (each 4x6)
1¼ cups bottled Thousand Island salad dressing
1 teaspoon parsley, chopped (optional)

In a greased baking pan, place chicken. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place sauerkraut over chicken. Top with Swiss cheese. Pour dressing evenly over cheese. Cover with foil and bake at 325° for about 1½ hours or until fork can be inserted in chicken with ease. Sprinkle with parsley to serve.


Deep dish pie crust
4 medium tomatoes, thinly sliced or diced (drain on paper towel)
5 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
Parmesan cheese (optional, but I always add it)
1 cup mayonnaise
2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded

I slightly bake my pie crust first. Add tomatoes on bottom of pie shell. Sprinkle with basil. Sprinkle with bacon. If desired, you can then add some parmesan cheese. Mix mayonnaise and cheese together and spread on top. Bake at 350° for 25-30 minutes until cheese is melted on top.

Note: I prefer to slice my tomatoes. If you like fresh tomatoes, you are going to love this recipe!!


1 (16-ounce) carton sour cream
9 eggs
1 (1-pound) package sage or maple sausage, browned and crumbled
1½ cups cheese

Mix all ingredients together and bake at 350° for 35 minutes. Can be cut in squares or kept in refrigerator and cut off square each morning. Microwave to warm and enjoy.


1 9” pie crust (baked according to package directions)
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
2½ Tablespoons corn starch
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
2 Tablespoons strawberry gelatin
½ teaspoon red food coloring
1½ cups strawberries, sliced
1 (9-ounce) container whipped topping

Bring water, sugar and corn starch to a boil. Boil until clear. It will be very thick. Remove from heat. Add lemon juice, gelatin and food coloring. Let cool for 45 minutes. Add strawberries and stir. Pour into cooled pie shell. Refrigerate for 2 hours or longer. Serve with whipped topping.


4 chicken breasts, cut into pieces, divided
1 can cream of chicken soup, divided

1 large skillet cornbread
2 Tablespoons sage
1 medium onion, chopped
2 eggs, hard-boiled, chopped
1 stick butter, melted
1 can cream of chicken soup
3-4 cups chicken broth

Mix all dressing ingredients together. Layer in crockpot; ½ can of chicken soup, 1/3 dressing, ½ chicken, 1/3 dressing, ½ chicken, 1/3 dressing and ½ soup. Cover and slow cook on low for 3 hours. Serve while hot. Yield: 6 to 8 servings.

Note: This recipe never fails and is delicious!


1½ cups sour cream
1½ cups mayonnaise
1 (1-ounce) package Ranch salad dressing mix
1 small pan Mexican cornbread, divided
2 (11-ounce) cans whole kernel corn, drained
3 large tomatoes, chopped
1 large bell pepper, chopped
2 (16-ounce) cans pintos, drained
10 slices bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
2 cups cheddar cheese, divided

Mix sour cream, mayonnaise and Ranch mix until smooth, set aside. Crumble half of the cornbread in bottom of large serving bowl. Mix corn, tomatoes and bell pepper together. Layer one can of pintos, half of the corn and tomato mixture, half the cheese, half the bacon and half of ranch mixture; repeat.


2 eggs
1 cup sour cream (may substitute buttermilk)
¼ cup oil
1 cup cream style corn or whole corn
1½ cups corn meal mix
1 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons green peppers, chopped
2 jalapeno peppers, chopped
1 cup cheese, grated
¼ cup onion, chopped

Heat greased iron skillet. Mix all ingredients. Pour batter into skillet and bake at 425° for 25 minutes.


1 quart squash, sliced
Onions, sliced
2 eggs, beaten
½ cup cheddar cheese, grated
½ cup mayonnaise
Cracker crumbs

Cook squash with onions and drain. Add eggs, cheddar cheese and mayonnaise. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add crumbs on top. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes.

I am looking for cooks of all ages, cooking traditions and skill levels to feature in this column. I want to hear from those in Alabama as well as our out-of-state readers. The simple requirements for being a featured cook are to love to cook (and eat) and to share your story with us. Get those recipes coming! Any featured cooks during 2015 will receive a free copy of our new cookbook. - Mary

The FFA Sentinel: A South African Experience

Lacey Newman at South Africa’s largest Green Canyon.

by Lacey Newman

My name is Lacey Newman and I am currently serving as the 2014-2015 State Secretary of Alabama FFA. This past January, I had the opportunity to travel to the beautiful country of South Africa through the International Leadership Seminar for State Officers. This seminar is held for past and current state officers from all over the United States and is based on developing cultural intelligence through agricultural education in foreign places.

On January 3, I made my first flight ever from Atlanta to the Washington-Dulles Airport. There I met with 74 state officers and our wonderful facilitators, finding out I was the youngest person attending the trip. We had orientation learning about the "Dos and Do nots" of the South African culture and got to know one another. In South Africa, something that would normally cost $1 in the United States is about 9 cents, the humidity is very low across the country and during our winter it is their summer.

Langplaas Farm

The next day, we drove to the airport, went through customs and began our 16.5-hour flight to Dakar, South Africa. In Dakar, we stopped for fuel and then flew another two hours to the Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg.

On January 6, we attended a South African Presentation at the International Convention Centre led by Agricultural Ambassadors of the U.S. embassy in Pretoria where we were informed about the agriculture in South Africa, and the trade between the United States and South Africa.

Also, this day we visited the Inyoni Crocodile Estate in Brits where over 8,000 crocs are raised and harvested. That afternoon we went to the Langplaas Farms that specializes in butternuts, beets, carrots, sweet potatoes and onions.

That week, we also had the opportunity to visit with Senwes-Bunge, a leading agribusiness company in South Africa; the Taaiboschbult feedlot with 26,000 head of cattle; and the Beestepan Farm that is a family-owned farm on 17,000 hectares where they specialize in corn, potatoes and cattle production.

One of my favorite parts of the trip was when we went to Kruger National Park on January 10. Kruger is the first national park that was proclaimed in South Africa and covers an area of over a third of the entire country. This park is known for the Big Five: lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos and buffalos, and also has zebras, antelopes and many other species.

The farms were incredible, but it was on January 12 that my life changed. We drove about three hours from our hotel to a town called Soweto where we visited the Kliptown Youth Project. Kliptown was a shanty town where the amount of disease and numbers of orphans were enormous. I fell in love with the children and realized how much I took for granted back home with the blessings I did have. That day will forever be a turning point in my life.

The last few days of our trip were spent in Capetown. There we visited Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years, Table Mountain – one of South Africa’s natural wonders – and Camp’s Bay Beach.

This trip to me was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, not because it was in another country but because it was two weeks spent with the best of the best. The relationships made and the memories created will last an lifetime. Making this trip, facing fears and enduring new things has helped me to grow as a person, and I cannot wait to share my story with each and every person who I come into contact with.

Lacey Newman is serving as the 2014-2015 Alabama FFA State Secretary and is a member of the Reeltown High School FFA Chapter in Notasulga.

Weed Invasion

This area is covered in cogongrass. Young pine seedlings have been overcome by the destructive weed.

Cogongrass, now found in Southwest Alabama, will completely take over an ecosystem, if not controlled.

by Carolyn Drinkard

Just like kudzu and fire ants, cogongrass has become a major problem for Southwest Alabama landowners. Many believe cogongrass came into the Port of Mobile in packing materials in the early 1900s. Unknowingly, work crews helped to spread the seeds as they worked to bush hog or grade the roadways. Now, the largest invasion can be found south of Highway 80, but it continues to move northward.

Cogongrass is sometimes mistaken for native grasses like broomsedge or Johnsongrass; therefore, correctly identifying this nuisance weed is necessary before any management or control program can begin. Cogongrass can grow as high as 5-6 feet with fluffy silver-white flowers that bloom in late March. The yellow-green leaves seem to rise directly from the ground in an overlapping, rounded appearance. The blades are about an inch wide with a whitish, off-centered midrib. The plants often have thatch surrounding the base and grow in dense, circular patches.

The 29 foresters and technicians of the Scotch Land Management Group in Fulton work tirelessly to identify, manage and control cogongrass on the 430,000 acres owned or managed by the company. Scotch has been in the timber-growing business in Southwest Alabama and Southeast Mississippi for over 120 years.

Steve Crowley, left, president of Scotch Land Management Group, and George Robertson, chief forester, are at the forefront of identifying, controlling and managing cogongrass on the 430,000 acres owned or managed by Scotch Land Management.

"We are actually hiring people to look for cogongrass in a program we call ‘Reconning for Cogongrass,’" explained Steve Crowley, president of Scotch Land Management. Workers are sent into areas to specifically look for cogongrass. When cogongrass is spotted, the searchers use their electronic data collectors to record GPS coordinates, so a spraying crew can later find the exact patch.

Scotch began spraying cogongrass back in the ‘90s. Because of the vast amount of acreage, the spraying programs must begin in late spring, using both Scotch and outsourced crews. They spray twice from late May until frost, using a combination of two herbicides, glyphosate and imazapyr. Using two herbicides catches both the top and bottom of the plants. The top of the plant is easier to destroy than the rhizome that spreads rapidly beneath the ground and forms a thick, dense mat, choking out other vegetation. If not treated, cogongrass can produce nearly 6,000 pounds of rhizomes per acre.

If the infested area has younger, less-established plants, the Scotch crews will till the area from spring until fall. But for older, more-established areas, spraying works best. Sometimes, a well-established area will require 3 years of attention before the established plants are destroyed.

George Robertson, chief forester for Scotch Land Management, said that spraying is a defensive action.

"The cheapest thing to do is keep cogongrass from spreading," he explained. "We are fanatical about not spreading this to other areas."

Cogongrass spreads through the air and through rhizomes beneath the surface. The seedpods often have as many as 3,000 seeds per head, which can be blown through the air, transported on the fur of animals, or moved by any dirt-moving pieces of equipment that disturb the soil. The seeds can remain viable for 13 months. Often, after timber is thinned, the dormant seeds get enough sunshine to spring to life in areas that previously showed no signs of cogongrass.

Scotch crews use many preventative measures to keep the invasive plants from spreading. They require equipment owners to wash and clean all equipment before bringing it onto any Scotch property. Scotch foresters mark all cogongrass areas with bright yellow flags. They prohibit anyone from disturbing these areas. They also ask the public to report patches to the Forestry Department or to their office, with GPS coordinates, if available. Then, Scotch will go out to mark and verify the patch.

Scotch Land Management also oversees and leases vast areas for hunting. They make sure those who lease this land are aware of the dangers of spreading cogongrass. Whenever a hunter secures a Scotch lease, he is given information about cogongrass. The foresters explain proper bush hogging and plowing techniques to prevent spreading. Those who do not follow these regulations can lose the right to hunt this property.

"Anyone interested in wildlife habitat or economic return from their land has to engage in prevention and treatment of cogongrass," Crowley added.

Left unchecked, cogongrass will choke out native grasses and rob timber of necessary nutrients. It will also kill younger pine seedlings. Cogongrass is very flammable, and it burns hotter than native vegetation.

Crowley explained that eradication is very expensive and takes much time and effort.

"We look for cogongrass 12 months a year," he stated. "I’m proud of Scotch and the people we work with. They have allocated the money to control it. They have been visionary in seeing that cogongrass will become an even bigger problem. It’s a battle we have to win or it will take over our ecosystem."

Robertson compared cogongrass to cancer.

"It may not be deadly today," he explained, "but it will be on down the line."

Scotch Land Management, LLC
P. O. Box 38
Fulton, AL 36446
Phone: 334-636-4424

Email: or

Carolyn Drinkard is a freelance writer from Thomasville.

Weeds, Trees, Wonderment and Bees

Though invasive here, the wisteria is a beautiful, fragrant bee plant.

by Herb T. Farmer

Sauerkraut failure! @**%&! Oh well. Something jarred the crock and knocked the weight off the ferment. That, along with me not observing it daily, resulted in a nasty, moldy, putrid batch of potential botulismic yuck! I’ll start over and photograph the crock daily in order to keep an eye on the progress.

In the meantime, let’s talk about spring. After all, it’s rated one of the top five seasons, according to a recent consumer poll.

The battle against weeds here continues, as I refuse to use pre-emergent herbicides on the farm. I do, however, use glyphosate on these seemingly unstoppable wisteria (Wisteria sinensis) seedlings. The bees love the flowers, but the vines are awfully hard to manage.

Wisteria vines covered a pine tree a few years back when I was too ill to work the land, and the result was not good. In a matter of just 2 years, the wisteria smothered the tree and it had to be taken down.

Speaking of removing trees, there were several trees that had to be felled here on the farm due to disease and location to a building project.

I am no arborist, so I hired a certified professional to take them down. Since they are in an area difficult to get to with their heavy equipment, I saved a few bucks by having them drop the trees where they were and remove the limbs. They piled the limbs so I can access them and cut them into firewood. The tree pros also cut the trunks into 12- to 14-foot long logs.

I plan to take my portable chainsaw sawmill and cut some planks for a later project. Of course, it may be fall before I get around to it. No problem. Those logs aren’t going anywhere.

Be sure to hire a professional to remove trees. I can fell a tree, but these were too big for my comfort zone. Besides, when the arborist told me how he was going to take them down, I realized I would have done it all wrong. Ask your tree professional if they are a certified arborist.

The beauty, textures, scents, tastes and sounds of spring really get me going.

There are so many shades of green that I tend to forget until everything begins to leaf out. Yes, even the wisterias leaves are beautiful this time of year. Purples, lavenders, blues, and deep reds, pinks and fuchsias make up eye candy for anyone who loves colors. Even the yellows of dandelions (Taraxacumsp.) and lactuca (Lactucasp.) seem to stand out more this time of year.

The sweet scent of wisteria fades to the intense perfume of the native azaleas, followed by the honeybees’ seasonal favorite, privet (Ligustrumsp.).

Did you ever pull the style and stigma from a honeysuckle flower (Lonicera japonica) to taste the sweet nectar droplet from the base? It’s just one of the simple pleasures I have enjoyed since childhood.

Oh, and the strawberries! Strawberries are producing like crazy this year! I just had a couple of them on my cereal this morning.

The blackberries and blueberries are beginning to show fruit. I’m certain they will be ready to begin harvesting in just a couple of weeks.

Last month, there were several flocks of Cedar Waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum) that flew through on their northern migration. Hundreds of these beautiful songbirds in each flock stopped by to feast on the holly berries and juniper berries.

The wonderment of spring makes me smile. Everything looks, feels, tastes, smells and sounds happy … just like it’s supposed to this time of year.

Texas tarragon is a great heat-tolerant perennial that can be used as a substitute for French tarragon.

How is your herb garden growing this season? Here on the farm, the Texas tarragon (Tageteslucida) is just beginning to come up in the marigold bed. Rosemary (Rosemarinusofficinalus) is blooming and so is the garden sage (Salviaofficinalus). All of the mints are luscious and fragrant. The echinacea are coming up nicely. All of these are Alabama Grown plants that have been planted for several years.

Well, everything is just right here on the farm! I hope it is at your home, too!

Now, how about a recipe? Don’t laugh. This recipe is one of my all-time favorites for lunch when you can’t stop for a hot meal.

Behold the bologna and cheese sandwich!

2 slices white bread

1 thick slice or 2 thin slices of your favorite bologna (I still buy mine in a 3-pound chub and slice my own)

1 slice cheddar cheese


Tomato slices

Evenly apply your favorite sandwich spread to both slices of bread, being careful not to miss any areas and not to leave glops in the middle. Place bologna on one slice of bread, then cheese, then lettuce, and, finally, tomato slices and cover with the other slice of bread.

That’s just plain old Alabama goodness! Eat up!

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

Thanks for reading!

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

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

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

Wired and Unwired

by Suzy Lowry Geno

Yesterday, in between rain storms, I searched throughout my farm’s fields for dandelion blooms so I could begin making dandelion jelly.

This morning, my chores included feeding goats, chickens, ducks, guineas and rabbits, and then gathering eggs before carrying in the seven armloads of firewood my woodburning heater will consume before this time tomorrow.

There’s some early sage drying in the dehydrator.

And I’m hoping to have a little practice on my spinning wheel using a combination of Angora rabbit fiber and sheep wool before the day is through.

This could have been a typical day on this land in the 1930s and ’40s when the Granny I never got to know was roaming these hills, gathering eggs and making butter.

But there’s one big difference and it’s been exemplified again this week.

I’ll complete this article shortly and then send it wirelessly through the Internet to my bosses Jim and Joyce, whom I have only met face to face once or twice in the approximately 8 years I’ve been writing for them.

The words never touch paper until they are printed in the paper copies of AFC Cooperative Farming News.

Likewise, the photos that would have required me or someone else to spend hours in a smelly dark room a couple of decades ago are now taken with digital cameras, down or uploaded to my computer, and sent across those same airwaves, touching paper only later when the article goes to press.

You’re probably thinking, "Well, so what?" Most folks utilize the Internet these days. And that’s true. Whether it’s on a desktop computer, a laptop, tablet or a cellphone, the majority of folks spend their days tethered to the worldwide web in one way or another. The person who is NOT connected is usually the exception to the rule at this point.

BUT, I believe in the simple life ... and so do many other back-to-the-landers homesteading types who are swelling the countryside once again and wanting to live far away from the beaten path. But this is different from any of the back-to-the-land movements of times past. In the 1930s and ’40s, folks who decided to try the simple life and moved far into the woods seldom even had a lined telephone, more less access to everybody in just about the entire world!

And think about Henry David Thoreau during his experimental living time at Walden Pond during the mid-1800s. The solitude and silence were the two things he treasured.

But, if you look at social media, there are whole "groups" who are "off-the-grid" or call themselves "simply solar" or are involved in "survival living" full time; yet their computers are right there with them in the wilderness! That computer may be powered by the sun or even wind power, but it still connects them to the world.

I can remember when folks who lived remotely often turned to HAM radios to have some contact with the outside world, even if it were just in case of medical emergencies, and that hasn’t been but about three decades ago!

Two happenings made me start thinking along these lines ... my homestead is completely "wireless" now (yes, I know I’m behind the times, but it’s still amazing to me!) ... so I can be out in my tiny general store or snuggled in bed and just keep on working (or keep on learning!).

According to an U.S. Department of Agriculture estimate in 2013, 70 percent of U.S. farms have access to a computer, but only 40 percent of farmers overall reported using the Internet for business.

But those statistics change according to the age of the farmers. According to the American Farm Bureau’s 2010 Young Farmers and Ranchers survey, nearly 99 percent of all farmers and ranchers between the ages of 18 and 35 have access to and use the Internet and nearly three-fourths of those in that age group surveyed had a Facebook page!

And income has some bearing on usage as well. Another 2010 USDA report showed that more than 70 percent of farms with sales of more than $250,000 annually use the Internet for farm business.

USDA says farmers use the Internet for everything from marketing crops, increasing work flow, ordering equipment, utilizing GPS when planting or fertilizing crops, or keeping current with regulations. But several in the surveys mentioned social media as ways to explain agriculture to those not familiar with family farms!

Computer equipment also monitors major chicken and broiler houses, and can keep up with milk production in major dairies.

But, the other thing that got me thinking this week, in addition to going completely wireless, was the finding of a November 15, 1997, newspaper column written by friend Darrell Norman about me "finally" entering the world of "telecommuting" at that late date.

While the rest of us were struggling and still sending our articles in by fax, Darrell had rigged up an old computer with a mobile phone MacGyver style so that he could send articles directly to any newspaper even if he was covering something out in the boonies.

While his article about my connection to the worldwide web was slightly comical, but really informational, one statement he made I think sums up everything that has happened.

"But this electronic nervous system does not just connect machine to machine, it connects person to person," he noted.

As I get older, I find myself sinking further and further into the ways of the simple life: being close to nature, making a living from my homestead, and being content and satisfied to be at home and stay there.

But I don’t have to be like one of those poor pioneer women who were so isolated that they literally went insane from cabin fever because of their isolation.

If I need information or help or just want to see what’s going on in the world, I don’t have to leave my homestead. I can simply pick up my tablet or walk into my office and turn on the desktop computer and the world is instantly at my fingertips.

I can remember early on in my goat-raising endeavors (and when I’d only been on the Internet a short time) sitting in my office floor with a baby goat dying in my lap, while frantically "talking" by computer with a much more knowledgeable person at a computer site called "goat911." While I couldn’t save that precious baby, having someone to let me know I had done all I could was priceless.

I sell a lot of things made by the Ohio Amish in the little general store on my farm. But the main things I sell are things I create.

One of the best sellers is a special goat milk soap for oily skin. It is an OLD AMISH recipe for the specialty soap, made by the Amish for generations ... the Amish told me about it, BUT I printed the recipe from the Internet!

For about two decades, homesteaders like me have been talking about the pros and cons of computers and the Internet, and a lot of our discussions have been ON the Internet.

I think what I have learned is that computers and the Internet are like any other tools. Just as an ax is only as good as the woodsman who swings it, the benefits of the Internet are only as good as the person’s aim who is utilizing it.

My goal is to eventually be completely "off the grid" as some of my friends are, not tethered to a power company or a community water line ... but don’t worry, you’ll still be able to find me easily ... I’ll be that little gray-haired homesteader writing on the Internet about the simple life!

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

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