Sign up for email updates from Cooperative Farming News

Facebook Twitter Instagram
Home > Archives > November 2009

November 2009

1st Thanksgiving Menu Debate Continues: No Pumpkin Pie?

By Jerry A. Chenault

It never fails. Every Thanksgiving meal at my parents’ house eventually leads to a discussion of what the official foods of a "real" thanksgiving are. I mean, we always end up playfully arguing about whether or not the pilgrims ate chicken & dressing, or green bean casserole...or was it really deer meat (venison) and partridge (quail)? When you really stop and think about it for a second, it does become a little puzzling.

I did a bit of research and found several scholarly articles concerning the history of Thanksgiving. The results were a bit surprising to me! For one thing, the feast between the Plymouth colonists and the Wampanoag Indians in 1621 wasn’t the only celebration to have occurred amongst the early pilgrim settlers in this land! Historians have recorded other ceremonies of thankfulness among other early European settlers, too! An earlier "thanksgiving," in December 1619, was held at Berkeley Plantation, Virginia, by a group of British colonists to give thanks and prayer to God for their healthy arrival after a long voyage across the sea. I guess they didn’t have turkey and pumpkin pie, huh?

The Native American Indians, including the Pueblo, Cherokee, Creek and many other groups, had harvest festivals and ceremonial dances to celebrate thanks for many centuries before the Europeans came over with their pumpkin pies and cranberry sauce. Speaking of that, the question now arises – what foods were on the table at that much-noted three-day feast in 1621? Not many of us were there to see; but there are at least two written records historians use for clues.

Edward Winslow wrote a letter to a friend in December of 1621 in which he described the feast and specifically named fowl, deer and "the fruits of our labors." Twenty years later, William Bradford’s book gave us a few more hints. There is much we still don’t know, like did they actually have wild turkey? Or were the fowl actually ducks and geese (or swans, eagles, etc.)? Maybe there was a variety since it takes a lot of food to feed 150 people!

Here’s a synopsis of what historians think MAY have been on the menu: seafood, like cod, eel, clams and lobster; wild fowl (as mentioned above), along with venison and seal. Seal?!? There is much disagreement over the Indian corn (likely it wasn’t fresh, anyway); but most agree there could’ve been radishes, carrots, onions, beans, peas, plums, grapes, acorns, walnuts, chestnuts, dried currants, etc.

Because we don’t know about their remaining supply of sugar, it is doubted the pilgrims had cranberry sauce at this time. We also do not know if the supply of pigs had held out or not either; but I’m betting it did. One last shocker – scholars tell us a recipe for pumpkin pie didn’t come along for 50 more years! But, the pilgrims regularly had stewed pumpkin. No pumpkin pie? There must be some mistake.

Has this information changed my view of a proper Thanksgiving meal? Nah. But it has made me even more ready for it! I can hardly wait!

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

Alabama 4-H Feeds the World

Tuscaloosa County’s Forestry Judging Team won the 2009 National 4-H Forestry Invitational, with Forrest Ford winning the overall high individual award. The knowledge which these young people learned will present them with tremendous opportunities for making a difference in the world.

by Amy Payne Burgess

You may have recently seen news reports of a suicide bomber who killed five UN World Food Program workers in Pakistan. You may not realize there are layers upon layers of Alabama connections to that terrible tragedy.

Let me first point out the immediate Alabama 4-H link. Along with teaching Belonging, Independence and Mastery, Generosity is a key 4-H value. You and your community helped raise the money used to purchase that Pakistani rice and corn through your kids’ "Alabama 4-H War on Hunger." And the food itself could have easily been produced by Alabama 4-H alumni, since in 2008 our state’s exports of crop production were $473 million. And were the food containers made from Alabama forest products or produced in Alabama paper mills? Possibly.

Alabama 4-H Club Members have provided thousands of meals to hungry children around the world through funds raised for the World Food Program.

Alabama 4-H “War on Hunger” activities are fun and inspiring.

Alabama is an important center in the world war against hunger. Alabama 4-H has worked with the Auburn University College of Human Sciences and the UN World Food Program to develop the world’s leading curriculum for training young people to fight the "War on Hunger." Anyone in the world can go to the World Food Program or Alabama 4-H websites and find dozens of our activities and project ideas for building kids’ awareness and interest in this crucial issue.

Today’s Junior Master Gardeners are tomorrow’s Nobel Prize-winning agronomists.

It’s quite an honor when one of your 4-H state staff is at a national or international meeting and a world diplomat says: "Oh, you are from Alabama 4-H! The group involved in the War on Hunger." Half the time they don’t know what 4-H is, but they are anxious to learn about the exciting youth leadership programs Alabama Cooperative Extension System provides our young people.

Alabama young people are deeply committed to making the world a better place. Auburn and Alabama A&M, along with Tuskegee, have strong international presences. Our students travel the world learning and teaching about agricultural production, fisheries, forestry and sustainable agriculture. At any given moment, you may find Alabama students wading in Thai rice paddies, planting conifer seedlings in Nepal or studying perch populations in Tanzania.

Auburn’s College of Human Sciences has taken the lead in building a network of world universities to work together in the effort against hunger ( and even offers a minor in Hunger Studies. And now Auburn Human Science grads are finding places of leadership on the world stage. Angela Montoya, a face familiar to folks in Alabama 4-H, has now taken her energy and wisdom to Rome where she works for the World Food Programme. And there is a new generation of leaders already coming along. For example, a group of Auburn High students, including some 4-H alums, are organizing schools, clubs and church groups in Alabama and around the world to take on that same challenge (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">

There is much we in Alabama can be proud of, but there are also reasons for us to bow our heads in shame. One out of every seven kids in our state lives in "food insecurity," what we used to call "goes to bed hungry." More than one out of five kids in our state lives in poverty. There are areas of our state just as poor and unhealthy as some third-world countries. Clearly, what we have been doing isn’t right – and hopefully today’s kids will be brighter, more committed and more principled in finding solutions than previous generations have been.

Lots of times, people may see Alabama 4-H activities as simply fun, "hands-on" learning activities. They are so much more. Our Junior Master Gardener Program (so generously supported by Bonnie Plants) can make an immediate and long-term impact on the lives of communities. Those young gardeners will be tomorrow’s agronomists, chemists and engineers who find amazing solutions to overwhelming problems.

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

Alabama Forage Conference 2009

by Dr. Don Ball

Statewide forage conferences have been held in Alabama on an every-other-year basis since 1997. Each has been a great success, with attendance averaging around 300 people. The 2009 Alabama Forage Conference will be held on the campus of the University of West Alabama in Livingston on Thursday, December 10. It promises to be the best yet, with experts from six states speaking on important topics. The conference agenda, information about speakers and the conference pre-registration form, is provided below. Note the pre-registration deadline is November 30, 2009.

DECEMBER 10, 2009

7:30-8:30 Registration- Exhibits Open
8:30-8:40 Welcome and Opening Comments
8:40-9:20 Low, Medium and High Input Beef Pasture Systems for Blackland Soils- Dr. Gerald Evers
9:20-10:00 Forage Crop Influence on Meat Quality of Grassfed Beef- Dr. Susan Duckett
10:00-10:30 Break
10:30-11:10 Hay That Gets the Job Done- Tom Keene
11:10-11:50 Opportunities with Improved Forage Varieties- Dr. Joe Bouton
11:50-12:00 Discussion/Announcements
12:00-1:00 Lunch
1:00-1:40 Tall Fescues of the Future- Jimmy Ray Parish
1:40-2:15 New and Neglected Forage Crops- Dr. John Andrae
2:15-2:45 Producer Panel- What Works For Me- Jim Lavender, Eric Smith
2:45-3:15 Break

CLOVER SESSION – Moderator- David Wahl
3:15-3:25 It’s Time To Get Excited About Clovers- Dr. Garry Lacefield
3:25-3:35 A New Pasture Paradigm- Dr. Don Ball
3:35-4:00 Recycling Nitrogen in Pasture Systems- Dr. Gerald Evers
4:00-4:20 Opportunities with Perennial Clovers- Dr. Garry Lacefield
4:20-4:40 Opportunities with Annual Clovers- Dr. Gerald Evers
4:40-5:00 Reflections & Summary- Dr. Don Ball

EQUINE SESSION – Moderator- Wade Hill
3:15-3:50 Basics of Horse Pasture Production- Dr. Mary Goodman
3:50-4:25 Nutritional Issues Related To Horses on Pasture- Dr. Betsy Wagner
4:25-5:00 What You Need To Know About Hay for Horses- Tom Keene

3:00-3:45 Invasive Plants- Dr. Steve Enloe
3:45-4:30 Pasture Weed Control- Dr. John Byrd
4:30-5:00 Control Of Fire Ants- Dr. Kathy Flanders

Dr. Gerald Evers is Regents Fellow and Professor with Texas A & M University where he has been involved in many types of forage/livestock research projects.

Dr. Susan Duckett is a meat scientist who formerly was on the faculty at the University of Georgia and who now is Ernest Corley Endowed Chair at Clemson University.

Tom Keene was agricultural manager on two famous horse farms near Lexington, Kentucky, was a hay broker for years and is now employed by the University of Kentucky to assist producers with marketing their hay.

Dr. Joe Bouton developed many important forage varieties while at the University of Georgia. He is now Senior Vice President of the Noble Foundation in Ardmore, Oklahoma.

Jimmy Ray Parish is a researcher in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences at Mississippi State University where he has initiated numerous forage studies.

Dr. John Andrae was on the University of Georgia faculty for several years and currently is Extension Forage Crop Agronomist at Clemson University.

Jim Lavender has a beef cow-calf operation in Tuscaloosa County, Alabama. The Lavender farm has a reputation for innovation and good management.

Eric Smith runs a no-nonsense, profit-oriented cattle business in Pickens County, Alabama, and is a leader in the cattle industry.

Dr. Garry Lacefield is Extension Forage Crop Agronomist at the University of Kentucky. He is widely-known as an expert agronomist and is in great demand as a speaker.

Dr. Mary Goodman is in the Agronomy and Soils Department at Auburn University where she teaches several courses and does forage ecology research.

Dr. Steve Enloe is in the Agronomy and Soils Department at Auburn University where he is an Extension Specialist whose focus is invasive plant control.

Dr. John Byrd is a long-time Extension Weed Control Specialist in the Department of Plant and Soils Sciences at Mississippi State University.

Dr. Don Ball is Extension Forage Crop Agronomist in the Agronomy and Soils Department at Auburn University.

Dr. Kathy Flanders is an Extension Entomologist in the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology at Auburn University.

Dr. Betsy Wagner is in the Auburn University Department of Animal Sciences where she does research and teaching in the area of horse nutrition.

Auburn University’s College of Agriculture Earns Accreditation for Humane Animal Care

Auburn University Professor James Bannon holds a copy of a 457-page report that earned the AU College of Agriculture international accreditation in the humane treatment of research animals.

By Alvin Benn

Auburn University’s (AU) acclaimed College of Agriculture has earned another award—one from an organization with a long title and an easy-to-understand mission.

It came from the nonprofit Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International (AAALAC) and honors the college for its humane treatment and care of research animals.

Approval places the AU College of Agriculture in the same accreditation company as the AU College of Veterinary Medicine and AU School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences.

Auburn Professor Jim Bannon, who oversaw the university’s accreditation preparation and compares the designation with a "Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval," couldn’t have been happier when he got word of the honor.

"To have a program accredited by a premier agency that signifies the best in animal care and research is quite an accomplishment," Bannon said, during an interview with Cooperative Farming News at the E.V. Smith Research Center in Macon County.

Accreditation certifies that Auburn's College of Agriculture maintains the highest level of animal care and can conduct even the most sophisticated research.

Just as proud as Bannon was Richard Guthrie, dean of the AU College of Agriculture, who said accreditation enables the university’s animal research program to compete "with the best programs in the nation."

"It certifies we hold to the highest level of animal care and have the capability to undertake even the most sophisticated animal research needed to support agriculture in the United States," said Guthrie.

Bannon and his staff worked hard on the project, one which took three years to complete and led to a 457-page detailed report filled with information about his department’s efforts to rank with the best in the world.

Agriculture experiment stations are located around Alabama and are involved in a variety of projects including animals. They are vital to continuation of the mission set forth at Auburn University since its inception.

These catfish at the College of Ag’s E.W. Shell Fisheries Center are trained. As soon as they hear the tractor, they’re at the surface right at the side of their cement pond.

"Very high standards are set for the care of animals in our research program," Bannon said. "They involve animals big and small, including rats, mice and guinea pigs."

Some of the research conducted by the department focuses on ways to cure or better treat illnesses like diabetes and heart problems. Research also is done on larger animals like beef and dairy cattle.

Bannon said the lengthy accreditation process had been discussed in past years, but never started. It is a daunting undertaking requiring hours of documentation and isn’t something to start without careful consideration.

"We felt we needed that level of accreditation because it says we’re doing everything we can that signifies excellence in animal care in our research programs," said Bannon. "The report we submitted describes in detail the programs and personnel involved, from those in upper administration to instructional staff."

The study was so intense, so detailed that much of the three-year program was devoted to program description. Much more than that was involved, of course, but it showed just how determined Bannon and his staff were to make sure the report was as close to perfection as possible.

Once the application was received by the international organization, four representatives were sent to Auburn for a site review. Paper descriptions are one thing, but, as the saying goes, "seeing is believing" and the inspectors were sent to the university to see for themselves.

The AAALAC inspection began in Fairhope at the Gulf Coast Research and Experiment Center where beef cattle are studied. At the same time, another team was at the Sand Mountain Experiment Station. Another team went into the Black Belt.

It took a solid week for the inspectors to do their job and when it was time to compare notes they used modern technology to discuss their findings and ask questions.

"Many programs involved in something like this have reviews in a conference room at a specific location, but we have so many experiment stations scattered around the state we had a video conference instead," Bannon said. "That gave the inspectors a chance to talk about their findings without having to travel to Auburn to do it."

Requirements in the care and treatment of research animals are specific and demanding, and Bannon’s team was more than up to the occasion. They had done their homework long before the teams arrived for the inspection.

"They looked for everything from the water the animals drink to the food they eat," he said. "They want to know how the food is stored and if it’s sealed off from rodents and insects, if the food is properly labeled and if it’s being used beyond the expiration date."

Bannon said there were some negative findings, but nothing serious. Accreditation of anything usually involves some need for corrections and improvements, so they weren’t unexpected.

"When they had their exit interview with us, they said we had a very good program, one with the fewest number of citations of any unit they had seen in a long, long time, so that made us feel pretty good," he said.

The inspectors couldn’t say when and if accreditation would come, but it was obvious from the tour and the findings it was almost a given. Three months after the teams arrived, accreditation was approved.

Such is not the case at some universities where negative findings are so extensive accreditation is not extended and those seeking it must return to the drawing board and try again. Some do. Some don’t.

In Bannon’s case, he knew he and his staff had done all they could to see that all the requirements were met. It then depended on the inspectors and a final decision by those involved in accreditation at AAALAC.

"I can’t worry about what I can’t control," said Bannon, 63, who was born and raised in Montgomery. "I was confident what we had done was sufficient to obtain accreditation and it meant a lot to us when it was granted."

Those unfamiliar with what accreditation means do not know how important it is for future work at universities and other entities around the world. In the U.S., that importance can be traced directly to Washington.

"You can almost forget about receiving some federal grants without accreditation," Bannon said. "At Auburn it was just a matter of not having pursued accreditation in the past. Having it now means some doors will open to us down the road and that’s a good thing."

Accreditation means AU’s College of Agriculture joins a select group around the world. It is now one of 770 universities, agencies, companies and institutions in 31 countries. Given the fact thousands are eligible to apply, those selected represent a small percentage.

Bannon has every reason to be proud of his department’s achievement. Some of the world’s most celebrated organizations, including the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the American Red Cross and the National Institute of Health are among those receiving the honor.

Making the list the first time out is quite an honor, but Bannon and his staff are well aware accreditation is not something that will last forever.

Those institutions receiving it must reapply every three years. There is every indication Auburn University’s College of Agriculture will go through the process again in 2012.

Too much work went into obtaining it not to seek re-accreditation, said Bannon.

Alvin Benn is a freelance writer from Selma.

Central Alabama Farmers Co-op to Host Regional Wild Game Cook-Off, Nov. 5th

West Central Alabama 2008 AWF winning team members from left to right, Doug Smith, Tim Wood, Irvin Lovinggood, David Hamilton and Jeff Cogle. Photo courtesy of AWF

By Grace Smith

If dishes like fresh, blackened speckled trout with a shrimp hollandaise sauce or succulent bacon-wrapped quail with a touch of brown sugar and cayenne pepper sound tasty to you, then mark your calendar for November 5 and make plans to attend the West Central Alabama Wild Game Cook-off hosted by Central Alabama Farmers Co-op in Selma.

The event kicks off at 6 p.m. and is sure to draw the best of both hunting and cooking enthusiasts. According to Tim Wood, general manager of Central Alabama Farmers Co-op, the contest is a preliminary to the Alabama Wildlife Federation (AWF) cook-off held each summer.

"There are about 17 regional cook-offs and the winners of each of those regions are invited to compete in the state competition held at AWF’s headquarters, Lanark, in Millbrook," Wood said.

This decadent fish dish was just one of the entries in the 2008 wild game cook-off. Photos courtesy of AWF

This is the third or fourth year Central Alabama Farmers Co-op has hosted the event and they are honored to host the event. Wood added it’s a great opportunity to not only generate interest in AWF, but also to attract some new customers to the Co-op.

According to Wood, the region usually has about 10-15 teams who come in early in the afternoon the day of the competition to begin preparing their culinary masterpieces. But the event serves as much more than a chance to show off cooking techniques.

Perhaps the most important purpose of the wild game cook-offs is to show how Alabama hunters and fishermen make use of their harvests by properly preparing them into delectable dishes. The cook-offs also serve as an opportunity to attract new members to the AWF, to raise funds for conservation projects thru the Federation and last, but certainly not least, to provide a venue for fun and fellowship with members of the AWF.

Competition teams spend the entire afternoon putting their special touch on their prized dishes in hopes of taking home the “Best Overall” dish. Photos courtesy of AWF

Wood said, "It’s a great time of bringing people together and it’s a grass-roots organization raising funds for education about our natural resources and conservation for the next generation."

For the Central Alabama region, Wood said the event also serves as a source of excitement for the upcoming hunting season.

"I think our people like to do it before the season actually comes in," he said. "It’s a great time for people to get their minds set on hunting season and to come out and anticipate how they’re going to prepare their game."

The Cook-off is divided into three categories: Fish, Fowl and Game, each receiving First, Second and Third place awards. Each category’s first place dishes will be considered for the "Best Overall Award" selection and the overall winner will qualify for the AWF state-wide contest.

An additional award will be presented to the team with the best decorated cooking area based on its creativity, originality and effort. This competition category is titled "Best Presentation" award and will be judged separately from the Fish, Fowl and Game categories.

For cook teams who come to help feed guests, but aren’t necessarily interested in competing in the cook-off, there is a new category for competition called "pot luck." This category is just for fun and should include only those teams who do not intend to compete in any other category. The winners of "Pot Luck" will receive awards, but they will not be eligible for competition in the State Cook-Off.

Cook teams may arrive after noon and should set up grills in the store’s parking lot. The Cook-off welcomes guests at 6 p.m., but judging will begin at 5 p.m. According to Wood, since this is a regional competition, teams can enter a dish in each category. Teams are asked to provide bite-sized samples of their "vittles" for 75 to 100 guests.

Delicious food is just one aspect of the West Alabama Wild Game Cook-off. The fun-filled event also boasts a silent auction and raffle featuring products that will entice any outdoorsman. Whether they’re vying for hot items in the silent auction, enjoying delicious dishes or just catching up with old friends, guests will be serenaded by live music throughout the event.

Teams interested in competing should contact Central Alabama Farmers Co-op, (334) 874-9083, or Dr. Lee Youngblood, (334) 872-2355, for entry form and complete rules. To be eligible for competition, cook teams must pre-register. Teams receive 5 free tickets to the event and one complimentary AWF membership which includes a subscription to Alabama Wildlife magazine.

General admission tickets are $50 for two guests and include one AWF membership and magazine subscription. Call Central Alabama Farmers Co-op or Dr. Lee Youngblood for ticket information.

"This competition is all about fun, education of natural resources in the state of Alabama and conservation practices," Wood said. "We enjoy the fellowship most of all—that is the key to this region’s Wild Game Cook-off success."

Grace Smith is an associate editor for AFC Cooperative Farming News.

After eating all types of delicious food they can imagine, guests browse the silent auction items at last year’s West Central region AWF Cook-off. Photo courtesy of AWF

Chasing Fall Color in Alabama

A pen and ink of the “Green Pitcher Plant” by Lisa Opielinski.

by Kenn Alan

For the last several years I have spent my November days winterizing the garden and moving tender plants into the greenhouses; canning the last of the harvests and laying plans for my holiday hibernation. However, this year has been totally different. The weather completely cooperated with my growing season. I had the best harvests ever here at the Tomato Tower, and the fruits and veggies matured at the optimal intervals, thus allowing me to eat some and put away some.

The weather has also been more like the old normal, where we have a gradual cool down instead of going from 88° to 38° within four hours. This has allowed me to do a little winterizing along the way and now, I’m caught up!

Since I suddenly find myself with a chance to breathe, I am going to chase some autumnal eye-candy and take a road trip to a place I have only heard fall color stories about - Little River Canyon.

Sure, I have been there before, but only in the spring or summer. I have heard stories about the trees’ explosion of colors this time of year and I have been following the naturalists’ reports on the peak. It just so happens their predictions place the prime time for viewing and photographing the colors on the weekend of November 7th and I’ll be there!

Wow! There’s more than just tree watching to do too! Saturday, November 7, is also the date set for Canyon Fest 2009 at Jacksonville State University’s Little River Canyon Center.

I toured their facility a while back and it is quite impressive. A registered LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) building, the Canyon Center is perched atop a scenic ridge just north of Fort Payne. If you approach the Center from the north on Alabama Highway 35 (Pumpkin Center, AL), you will see the magnificent structure appear over the ridge, towering up among the beautiful array of fall colors.

At the Canyon Fest, the area will be filled with a diversity of artists and entertainers, certainly the most talented in Alabama. According to Renee Morrison, the Center’s Field School Coordinator, there will be "public land groups, music of the Appalachian region, painters, sculptors" and more.

For the kids (and adults), Renee said she will, "lead an ‘un-natural hike’ where kids will be taught the ABCs of observation hiking." There will also be a snake exhibit among other activities.

One of the most attractive things to me about a festival is the food. The Canyon Fest boasts the "finest kind of handheld food in Alabama" with L’il Rob’s Organic Hotdogs. Sweet potato biscuits, barbecue and Annie’s Bakery of Ft. Payne will be there with home-made baklava & other Greek pastries!

Look for me at the Canyon Center or ask a helper where to find me there and let me give you a guided tour of one of our state’s premier nature education facilities.

Canyon Fest 2009. It’s a celebration of the environment and the arts!

Puff the Cat (1999-2009)

The Little River Canyon Center is located at 472 AL Hwy 35 in Fort Payne.

This article is dedicated to Puff the Cat (1999-2009), a garden writer’s friend.

Happy Thanksgiving Everybody!

Become a fan of Home Grown Tomatoes on Facebook. E-mail ( me with questions about Canyon Fest and other gardening topics. For more on this event or other gardening tips log on to Home Grown Tomatoes at

Citronelle 6th Grader Wins Big in National Fish Art Contest

Madelyn Howard’s (Citronelle) painting of a breaching sailfish not only took home top honors for the 2009 Alabama State-Fish Art Contest in grades 4-6, but she was also awarded second place in the Best of Show category for Grades 4-6 at the national State-Fish Art Expo held in August at the Mall of America in Bloomington, MN.

Each year Wildlife Forever conducts a national State-Fish Art Contest. Alabama’s State Freshwater Fish is the largemouth bass and State Saltwater Fish is the “fighting tarpon.” Three students represented Alabama in the national art contest: a fourth through sixth grade winner, a seventh through ninth grade winner and tenth through twelfth grade winner. Entries included a one-page composition about the fish.

The 2009 Alabama’s State-Fish Art Contest winners were spread throughout the state. Madelyn Howard, from Citronelle attends Lott Middle School, won for grades 4-6 with her painting of a breaching sailfish. Taylor Perkins, a 7th grader from Floyd Middle Magnet School in Montgomery, won for grades 7-9 by drawing a largemouth bass chasing a crankbait. Anna Riley, from Hoover is an 11th grader at the Alabama School of Fine Arts in Birmingham, won for grades 10-12 by drawing upon her creativity and sketching a pair of largemouth bass as part of the food chain.

Madelyn Howard also won 2nd place in the Best of Show category for Grades 4-6 in the Wildlife Forever State Fish Art Contest. Madelyn received the award during the State-Fish Art Expo held at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn. on Aug 1.

“Madelyn’s win at the State-Fish Art Expo showcases the artistic talent of Alabama’s students and draws attention to the diversity of fish species in our state,” said Barnett Lawley, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Commissioner. “We are very proud of her.”

The nationwide contest encourages young artists to draw and learn about state-fish from across the country. The students also compete for art scholarships to attend the Art Institutes International Minnesota. The contest is open to all students in grades 4-12. Entries are separated into three grade categories: 4-6, 7-9, and 10-12. Winning contestants from every state are honored in each category and have the opportunity to attend the State-Fish Art Expo.

Wildlife Forever is a non-profit conservation organization based in Minnesota that works to preserve America’s wildlife heritage through conservation education, preservation of habitat and scientific management of fish and wildlife species. Wildlife Forever projects in Alabama include the Alabama Goose Restoration Project, Flint Creek fish habitat improvements and the Tsinia Wildlife Viewing Area at Alabama’s Tuskegee National Forest.

Corn Time

Cow Pokes

Deer Research Facility Simulates Free-Range Environment

One of the deer in the research facility captured by a game cam.

By Mary-Glenn Smith

Two years ago, a team of researchers at Auburn University constructed a deer research facility within the boundary of the Piedmont Agricultural Experiment Station, near Camp Hill, in an effort to learn more about whitetail deer behavior and reproduction.

The team of researchers was led by Dr. Steve Ditchkoff, the visionary behind the research facility, who has been studying whitetail deer for many years. Ditchkoff began raising money for the facility four years prior to opening it. Through private donations and the help of individuals, the 430-acre enclosed research facility came to be in October 2007.

The facility contains an assortment of habitats including old pastures, hardwood uplands and bottomlands, planted pines and recent clear cuts that are naturally regenerating. A large creek runs through the property which provides water for the animals — even during the driest periods of the year. Various food plots are planted at the facility with different warm and cool-season forages to supplement naturally available foods.

An overview map of the research facility subdivided into sections allowing for easier recordkeeping.

"We wanted to be able to develop a deer research facility where we had intimate knowledge of every deer in the population, but we simulated a free-ranging population," Ditchkoff said about the deer lab. "Our goal for the lab is to develop a research environment where we have the ability to gain intimate knowledge of each individual in the population throughout their entire life while also maintaining ‘natural’ behavior."

Whitetail deer are the most studied wildlife species in North America. The whitetail deer has been studied for more than a century, but surprisingly there are still many questions going unanswered about the species so popular to hunters in the South.

"Generally there are three types of deer research done today," Ditchkoff explained.

"One of them is with deer pens—little one or two acre pens," Ditchkoff said. "They are great for having absolute control of your study animals, but they are not realistic from a behavior perspective. So you can’t answer a lot of questions about management and ecology."

The other commonly used research method is free-ranging animals. The animals are tracked by radio collars and are followed by an antenna. With this method the researcher knows where the deer goes for the most part, but nothing more.

"By using the radio collars, we can’t know everywhere it goes or how it dies," Ditchkoff explained. "So with this we don’t get the experimental control we would like."

"The third type is when you get hunter-harvested animals where you draw blood from the animal and that sort of thing," Ditchkoff said about the final commonly used method of research.

"The intent of the deer research facility is to try and combine the best of both worlds," Ditchkoff explained. "We want to be able to know every animal in the population but still have a free-range setting to study realistic behavior.

"We still do not know which males do the breeding. Or we don’t have the factors that drive high breeding success."

Throughout the years, people, mostly experienced hunters, have made several assumptions as to which male deer is most successful in reproduction based mostly on their own ideas and experience.

"There is no real data out there that has been documented with it, so nobody really knows what animals do the breeding," Ditchkoff said. "Yet we make lots of decisions as managers based upon assumptions that we have."

"Is it the largest male? Is the one with the biggest antlers, or the widest antlers or the tallest antlers? Is it the one with the highest testosterone levels or the oldest males," Ditchkoff questioned. "What factors drive these things? That’s what we are hoping to find out with this facility."

Right now there are about 80 animals in the deer research facility. Ditchkoff hopes to have the number up around 100 animals soon—about 50 males and 50 females.

"We didn’t bring in any external genetics to the facility," Ditchkoff said about the deer. "When we closed the gates we used what deer were in there."

The deer are recruited in the population naturally and die naturally in the facility. Data is collected and recorded on each animal, which is identified by a freeze brand on the shoulder and hip of the deer.

"We want to catch every animal in the population every year, which is probably unrealistic, but if we can get our hands on 60 or 70 percent every year, then over time we end up capturing every individual," Ditchkoff said. "We pull a tissue sample of the animal, which allows us to determine who the mom and the dad is. This helps us determine which animals do the breeding."

The research program and facility is largely dependent upon financial support from private individuals and organizations. Several individuals help to make the study of whitetail deer at the Auburn University deer research facility possible through physical labor and monetary donations.

"The feed for our facility is donated by SouthFresh Feeds which is near Demopolis," Ditchkoff said. "They have been gracious enough to assist with delivery of the feed. This assistance with feed delivery saves us considerable amounts of money each year."

For further information on the deer research facility, contact Dr. Steve Ditchkoff at (334) 844-9240) or ditchss@, or by visiting the website

Mary-Glenn Smith is an AFC intern.

DeKalb Co. Farmers Practice Precision Farming

Fyffe farmer Clinton Dobson, left, explains to James Huber, technician with the DeKalb Soil and Water Conservation district, how he is using his GPS to steer his tractors automatically and to control his spray coverage when applying commercial fertilizer, herbicides and insecticides on his 1,200-1,400 acres of Sand Mountain crops.

GPS Devices Revolutionize Their Work

By Cecil Gant

Two DeKalb County farmers have added a new wrinkle to their farming operations. It’s called GPS, Global Positioning System, and according to Glen McGee and Clinton Dobson, both of Fyffe, GPS devices are revolutionizing some of their work.

McGee’s primary use of GPS is to guide his application of chicken litter produced on his farm and spread on pastures and hay land.

He attaches the GPS unit to his tractor or spreader truck. The device takes a picture of the area on which the litter is to be spread. As his spreader truck, for example, dispenses the litter, a screen on the GPS unit shows McGee the exact area of the field where the litter is being applied. Thus, by noting the shaded part of the screen, McGee is guided as he drives over the field he is fertilizing. If he happens to get off course, a different color appears on the GPS screen to show him the area missed. He can then make an easy correction.

Glen McGee, of Fyffe, enjoys using his GPS for applying chicken litter and spraying chemicals to control weeds in his pastures. The system attaches to his tractor or spreader truck and takes the guesswork out of applications. According to McGee, the system “works like a charm.”

This Sand Mountain farmer also uses GPS when he sprays herbicide to control weeds in pastures.

"The system is really simple," McGee pointed out. "It helps me complete field applications productively, safely and comfortably with less operator fatigue. If I know my field well, I can even use the system after dark."

McGee and his wife, Lana, raise beef cattle and broilers. The $1,500 they spent on GPS equipment allows them to be more efficient on the 300 acres they devote to pastures and hay.

"We are anxious to improve our operations any way we can," McGee noted. "We started with a badly eroded farm several years ago, so conservation has been a priority. Thanks to such practices as establishing permanent pastures, cross-fencing, rotational grazing and taking advantage of new technology, like GPS, we have survived in the business we love."

Farmer Clinton Dobson is equally as sold on GPS. He started using the GPS guidance system last year and just this year added a GPS automatic steering system to his tractor.

"The steering system readily navigates curves in a field, and I’m really sold on it," Clinton observed.

Dobson said the same GPS rig can be transferred to other vehicles easily. He has two GPS units in operation now and may add an additional one soon.

"Actually, with the acreage I am currently farming, my savings in fertilizer and chemical costs paid for the GPS rigs the first year of their use," Clinton noted. "But a farmer would need at least 200 acres of crops to make purchase of the equipment cost effective."

Like McGee, Dobson is pleased with the results he gets from his GPS equipment.

But unlike McGee, he grows row crops which include corn, soybeans, wheat and potatoes. His scope varies from 1,200 to 1,400 acres. He applies commercial fertilizer, herbicide and insecticides to his crops with the GPS innovation.

Dobson noted the GPS device will keep an accurate count of the acreage being covered and can be precisely regulated for the amount of chemicals and fertilizer desired in an application.

This progressive conservation farmer grows all his crops except his potatoes using minimum tillage practices.

"Minimum tillage gives me year-round coverage of the soil with plants like wheat followed by soybeans," Dobson said. "Damaging rain water which otherwise would move readily over my sloping Sand Mountain land is cushioned and soaked up by the plant residue I leave on the soil."

In addition to minimum tillage, Dobson uses field borders and terraces as conservation practices on the land he farms.

"I’m just trying to keep technology from outgrowing me," the enthusiastic Fyffe farmer concluded.

Cecil Gant is a coordinator with the Sand Mountain-Lake Guntersville Watershed and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">

Do Whitetails Think You Stink?

If possible, it’s best to hang your clothes outside to dry. However, if you live next to a greasy restaurant or a gas station, or it’s late season and your clothes will freeze solid, it’s OK to dry them in a dryer. Regardless of how you dry them, when they are totally dry, seal them in a container that will keep any odors from penetrating them.

by Todd Amenrud

A lot has been written on the subject of a whitetail’s olfactory advantage. There’s no doubt, North America’s number one big game animal has one "serious snoot." Their sense of smell plays a role in basically every part of their existence. It’s really so sophisticated it’s hard for us to understand. As much as the subject is promoted, it’s a wonder some hunters don’t do more to battle it if they wish success. The question is "How far do you need to go to fool their nose?"

I am guilty of preaching the praises of "scent elimination." I believe so strongly in the Scent Killer System I may sometimes give "false security" to some hunters. I have seen these products fool a mature buck’s nose time and time again. But, some hunters seem to get the impression a good system of scent elimination will protect them from anything. Is scent elimination all you need? My answer is, "scent elimination is a needed step, and one of the most important. However, scent elimination is not a ‘cure-all’ for sloppy mistakes in the woods."

It matters which part of the hunt you’re executing as to how you should prepare to combat their olfactory order. Do you need to fool their nose now, three hours from now or ten days from now? Every time I enter their domain I go through many of the same steps—I shower with Scent Killer Soap and then head straight to the field. I don’t stay in places where bad smells may cling to me once I’ve showered. Brushing your teeth and using Scent Killer Deodorant are details I’d also recommend. All my clothes have been washed in Scent Killer Wash and dried outside or in a clean drier, and they aren’t put on until I get to the exact area I want to hunt or scout. Finally, my clothes have also been treated with Scent Killer Spray. This helps kill any odors in the clothes and, more importantly, helps take away the odors my human body is giving off.

Try some new technology to help reduce foreign odor. An Ozonics Scent Control Device helps to turn odor molecules into odorless ozone that simply falls to the ground.

When scouting or creating an ambush site, my basic system of scent elimination doesn’t vary much, but how I dress and how I prepare does. When scouting, knee-high, rubber boots and gloves are needed. When scouting or setting up a treestand, my biggest concern is "scent transfer." I don’t want an animal to know I’ve been there. That’s pretty tough when you’re up against a mature buck, but rubber boots and rubber gloves help me get away with a lot more. We can’t totally eliminate all foreign odors, but I am confident we can significantly reduce it to trace levels even a mature buck will tolerate.

Don’t touch anything unless it’s absolutely necessary. Every time you touch something, it’s like "pushing" your scent onto that object. Think about when you grabbed the branch to move it out of the way or when you walked to your treestand you passed through tall grass that touched above your rubber boots or when walking through some brush several pieces whacked your forehead. Those are all mistakes a mature buck will pick up on.

When setting up a treestand, scouting or creating a scent set-up, it is just as important to be wary of “scent transfer” as while you are hunting. You do not need to physically be there to educate a mature buck to avoid the area. If you have left human scent behind, often they will avoid that area and associate danger with it for some time after.

When setting up my treestand or when making a scent set-up, I will sometimes wear rubber hip-boots or even chest waders to do the work, and always some type of rubber glove or trapper’s glove. Even when wearing these protective covers, I’m still very careful not to touch anything unless I have to.

Several years ago, I believe the tiny detail of wearing trapper’s gloves was the difference in harvesting a 150-inch ten-pointer. I had set up in the right spot. Early in the morning I made an estrus bleat with my voice and this very respectable 5X5 came in fast and stopped. He was looking for exactly where the sound had come from. I had no chance for a shot even though he was only 20 yards. The buck angled away from me and cut my approach trail in the fresh snow. That sneaky buck sniffed every single step I had made and he tracked me right to the tree. He then sniffed the first three treesteps I had screwed into the tree. My next thought was that he was going to look straight up at me in the tree. He knew something was different, but he did not associate "human" or "danger" to the equation because I was careful about scent transfer. Tiny details pay off big in this area. I associate success on that buck to wearing rubber-bottomed boots on stand approach and screwing in my treesteps while wearing trapper’s gloves.

The item that varies most, pending on which aspect I’m involved in, is my footwear. When setting up a treestand, scouting or making a scent set-up, long, rubber boots and rubber gloves are great tools to aid in minimizing scent transfer. However, while actually hunting, a full-length rubber boot is a warm, moist, enclosed place, as is a rubber glove. They are a breeding ground for human scent molecules to form. When hunting, I prefer a rubber-bottomed pac-boot that allows my foot to breath. The "rubber bottom" is the important part. During early season the traditional knee-high, rubber boot is very popular. If you do wear these for hunting, wash them often, inside and out, and possibly rotate pairs. It is also a good idea when wearing rubber boots to give the area where the top of your boots and your pant leg meet a good dose of Scent Killer. This will help prevent human scent molecules from forming a gas.

Another detail I believe helps is scrubbing the inside of my vehicle with Scent Killer Soap. Once it is washed, no gas cans, fast-food or people who smell like smoke are allowed in it. (Those of you who smoke, I’m not getting down on you for smoking. I’m simply stating the fact "cigarette smoke DOES NOT attract whitetail.") Be a fanatic about keeping things as scent-free as possible.

Much of getting past the shrewd defenses of a buck is learning "how they use their nose and how to play the wind and thermal current." Here, experience is your best teacher and some type of a wind puffer or breeze detector the best tool. A fine, scent-free powder will help you see the wind and thermal current. You would be amazed at how currents can actually be flowing.

This season I’m trying an Ozonics Scent Control Device. This cutting-edge technology creates ozone which reacts directly with scent molecules from any source converting odors to pure oxygen. Ozone is a naturally-occurring cleansing agent found in the earth’s atmosphere and it can effectively remove human scent from the body, clothing and equipment of a hunter or sportsman. It also removes odors (natural and bacteria derived) in the air emitted from a hunter’s skin or mouth. I have the HR-100 model which has a rechargeable battery and is easily transported to a treestand or blind. You simply place it in your blind or treestand so your scent stream is covered.

It’s really a combination of scent elimination and hunter’s savvy that’s the best weapon against a buck’s olfactory protection. Keep things clean, pay attention to details and, when you watch deer, remember how they act and react under different conditions. Their nose is an arduous opponent, but even mature bucks can be fooled if you do things right.

Todd Amenrud is the Director of Public Relations, Territory Manager & Habitat Consultant for BioLogic.

Don’t Ignore Food Safety in Haste of Holiday Season

By Angela Treadaway

You are about to pull off a miracle, balancing your full-time job with all the demands of holiday entertaining — or so it seems.

You’ve carefully laid all the plans for a lavish holiday party for out-of-town family and guests, replete with all of those things that make the holidays so special — baked turkey, ham and finger foods.

Congratulations. But before you get too carried away commending yourself on this awesome feat, answer this question: Have you taken adequate precautions against foodborne illness?

Millions of Americans, in their haste to keep pace with all the demands of the holiday season, are likely to overlook basic hygienic practices around the kitchen. The fact only one drop of juice from a contaminated turkey or chicken is enough to cause food poisoning is a strong incentive to follow the following practices carefully.

Wash Your Hands

Mom’s constant admonishment to wash your hands is the cornerstone of safe food handling and preparation. Hands should be washed a full 20 seconds before and after handling raw products.

Kitchen sinks should be used only for hand washing associated with food preparation. Hand washing related to other household chores, like gardening, should be confined to bathroom sinks.

Bar soaps should be kept clean and left on a soap dish that allows water to drain. Otherwise, the soap is liable to become contaminated with germs like any other kitchen item. Pump-action liquid soap dispensers provide strong protection against contamination.

Avoid Cross-Contamination

Cross-contamination occurs when germs from one food are passed to another. This most often occurs when raw meat, poultry or seafood touch uncooked foods like salads and fruits. Cross-contamination can also occur when these foods come in contact with unwashed hands, utensils or countertops that have previously been used with raw meat products. This is why raw meat products should be stored on a plate or tray to prevent juices from dripping onto other foods.

Cutting boards for raw meat products should not be used for salads and other uncooked foods unless they have first been thoroughly sanitized. As an added precaution, finish preparing raw meat products and return them to the refrigerator or place them in the oven. Then, clean and sanitize your kitchen before starting work on other foods.

Dirty sponges, dishcloths and towels are breeding grounds for legions of harmful pathogens. Always use paper towels or freshly-cleaned cloths with soap and hot water to wipe kitchen surfaces.

Cook Safely

The first rule of thumb when cooking a turkey is to allow sufficient time — up to four days, in some cases — for it to defrost in the refrigerator. Be sure to place the bird on a dish or tray on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator to ensure none of the drippings come in contact with other foods while it defrosts.

The bird should be cooked within a day of defrosting. Before cooking, insert a meat thermometer into the turkey’s inner thigh closest to the breast to monitor its internal temperature. Whole turkeys should reach an internal temperature of between 160 and 165o F before serving.

Stuffing typically should be cooked separately from the turkey because by the time the temperature inside the turkey reaches a temperature hot enough to cook stuffing the turkey itself would be dried out. Stuffing needs to reach 165owhich would take a long time inside the turkey.

Never use recipes calling for raw eggs. All egg dishes should be cooked until they reach 165o F.

During microwaving, make sure there are no cold spots in foods. For best results, cover, stir and rotate food for even cooking.

Sauces, soups and gravies should be brought to a boil before serving.

Leftovers should be heated to at least 165o F before serving.

Follow the Two-Hour Rule

Potluck dinners are especially popular during the holidays, but there is a big risk if the food is left out for more than a couple of hours. All perishables should be returned to the refrigerator after two hours. Be sure to divide large amounts of leftovers into shallow containers for quick cooling in the refrigerator. Also, avoid stuffing the refrigerator. Cold air must circulate for the food to remain safe.

As an added precaution, make sure the refrigerator temperature is 40o F or below and 0o F or below in the freezer. Occasionally verify these temperatures with an appliance thermometer.

For questions on this article or anything related to food safety, preservation or preparation, contact your local County Extension Office or Angela Treadaway, Regional Extension Agent in Food Safety, Preservation and Safety, at (205) 410-3696.

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.


Evangelists Take Gospel and Cattle Improvement To Peru

Chase Hendrix teaching animal conformation.

By Glenn Crumple

In just eight days, with the help and support of our corporate sponsors and ministry partners from around the nation, Cattle for Christ International Inc. (CCI) was able to practically double the artificial insemination capacity of an entire country. Imagine the impact this will have on the genetics of their cattle, and the health and welfare of the people.

In July of this year, Cattle for Christ took a team of cattle professionals to the country of Peru, just one of the countries where CCI has been very active in pastor training, church planting, children’s ministries and economic development for over eight years. This trip, however, was unique in its purpose and scope. For years CCI has been trying to coordinate efforts to incorporate cattle management and genetic improvement practices into their evangelistic efforts so they could equip the people in poor countries to better feed themselves with meat and milk products. These important sources of nutrition are desperately needed around the world, especially by children. There are many obstacles (logistical, cultural, geographical, financial and regulatory) that make these efforts challenging, but the desperate needs of the millions of people around the world are just too great to ignore.

Team picture: (front row) Wilma Grandez; (second row) Sarahi Beltran, Glen Earnest, Glenn Crumpler, Larry Cochran, Jorge Moser; (back row) Stan Windham, Doug Townsend, Chase Hendrix, Edwin Martin and Travis Carnley.

In most Third World countries, the poor quality genetic base of the native cattle, the inability to provide adequate nutrition for the cattle and the lack of adequate herd health practices are all areas where there is much room for improvement. Though the people do wonders with what they have, they still need help to make major advancements in improving the quality and the production of their cattle which will enhance their ability to provide the nutritional needs of their people. These are all areas where we cattlemen, farmers and others involved in agriculture can make a difference if we work together. We can help meet both the spiritual and physical needs of the poor around the world in ways that are not degrading or creating dependencies like a welfare system. Instead, this will offer the people the training, equipment and genetic material to be able to work to provide for themselves and to help others.

This Peru team was made up of mostly cattlemen, all of whom are professionals in their respective fields: Jorge Moser of Missouri, an embryologist with Trans Ova; Doug Townsend of Florida, a semen sales representative and artificial insemination (AI) technician with ABS Global; Edwin Martin of Alabama, a dairy specialist and AI technician; Stan Windham of Alabama, a county agent and cattle/nutrition specialist; Travis Carnley of Alabama, a soil conservation and grazing management specialist; Glen Earnest of Georgia, a retired forester and AI technician; Chase Hendrix of Alabama, a state livestock judging champion; Larry Cochran of Kentucky, the chairman of the board of directors for CCI and a bilingual evangelist; Sarahi Beltran of Mexico, a bilingual children’s minister; and Glenn Crumpler, Angus breeder and Founder/President of CCI. The team was also assisted by Peruvian professionals consisting of a medical doctor, an agronomist and a veterinarian.

Doug Townsend and Glen Earnest teaching anatomy using reproductive tracts.

The 35 students for the training came from all the four geographical regions of Peru (Southern Highlands, Northern Highlands, Coastal and Amazonian), and included some of the Veterinary School faculty from three different Peruvian agricultural universities (only one of which currently has a veterinarian school). The students were the local cattle professionals of their respective regions, and were qualified and motivated to go home and teach others what they learned.

The curriculum included AI; reproductive anatomy and physiology; embryo recovery and transfer (ET); health management; nutrition; soil conservation; grazing management; parasite control; trait selection; castration; and semen collection and handling. The students spent mornings in the classroom and afternoons either working in practice reproductive tracts or live cows. Two full days were spent in tracts and three days in practice cows. We conducted a practice flush for all of the class and three live flushes for those who were attending the ET portion of the training. Three donors were flushed and nine transferable embryos were collected and implanted—resulting in five pregnancies. Fifty-six percent is not bad under these challenging conditions.

Stan Windham and Travis Carnley demonstrating artificial insemination.

As part of the training, we were able to take the class to the one and only bull collection facility in Peru and observe the collection of five bulls. The administrator of the stud also taught a class on the semen lab, and how the semen was tested and processed. This was a perfect lead in to our semen and nitrogen-handling class.

When the training was completed, thanks to the very generous help of Accelerated Genetics and the help of MVE, IMV and Continental Plastics, we were able to furnish enough supplies to give each student his own AI gun, sheaths, gloves, thermometer, straw cutter, lube, tweezers, and Accelerated Genetics AI manual and PowerPoint presentation on CD. We also had enough AI guns and supplies to equip four training stations in each of the four regions represented. These 16 new training stations will fill a critical need in the process of enabling these students to train others. We also left two new MVE semen tanks and 500 straws of Holstein semen, 500 straws of Brown Swiss semen and 200 straws of Brahman semen donated by Accelerated Genetics. They will be available free-of-charge to the students to breed their cattle, the cattle in their communities and to use to train others in the technique of AI.

Trans Ova provided enough supplies and equipment to conduct our ET training, to perform the live flushes and transfers, and to partially equip a new ET training center in the Amazonian region so the Peruvians can begin collecting and transferring embryos and training new embryologists. Rocky Mountain Microscope Corp. in Colorado donated the microscope we used for the ET work.

Edwin Martin with some of the children CCI helps to educate and feed in Peru.

CCI is currently in the process of sending 12 semen tanks and over 11,000 straws of quality, genetic defect-free Angus semen to introduce Angus genetics to the country of Peru. The semen, shipping tanks and shipping costs were all donated by Southern Cattle Company in Florida. With a growing middle class, there is an increasing demand for quality beef. What could meet that demand better than Angus genetics? This semen will be used to produce crossbred beef/dairy calves that can be dual purpose. There are a number of Simmental dairy cows that can be crossed with the Angus to make quality Sim-Angus cattle. The Angus semen will also be used to improve the beef cattle they already have and to one day breed their own purebred Angus cows.

In addition to the Angus semen, we are also currently working with John Downs of Southern Cattle Company and James Chenevert at GENEX in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to produce 100 quality Angus embryos that we will also send to Peru to establish their first herd of purebred Angus cattle. With the training, supplies and equipment we left in place—combined with the enthusiasm the cattlemen have for the genetic potential they foresee with Angus cattle—we are expecting great things for the breed, but especially for the people of Peru.

Without the help of the corporate sponsors already mentioned and our faithful donors who graciously partner with CCI, this life changing training and ministry could not have taken place. The students were required to provide their own transportation to and from the city of Lima. This in itself was a great investment and sacrifice on their part. Most of them took boats and/or bus rides between 24 and 37 hours to get to the training site. Once they arrived, because of the support of our donors and ministry partners, we were able to provide all of the housing, food (over 1,400 meals), transportation and training supplies for the entire duration of the training. Why is this important? First of all, without sponsorship the costs would have been insurmountable considering many of these men’s annual earnings for the entire family is $150 or less. Second, we wanted to show them the love of Jesus in a practical way. We wanted to show them God loves them enough that He would send us to give sacrificially of ourselves and our resources to bless them for His sake. They needed to see we were not in this to gain anything for ourselves, but only to help them—to show them God’s love and tell them of God’s plan of salvation through the sacrificial giving of His only son Jesus.

We started every morning and afternoon training sessions with worship, Bible study and testimonies. We had a Christian worship service at an abandoned church on Sunday. On the last night we were together, we again met for worship and served the students Communion (the Lord’s Supper for us Baptists), we gave them their own personal Bibles and we offered them the opportunity to accept Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior, which most of them professed they did.

As the service ended, the students began to share their own testimonies of how God had touched their lives during this week of CCI training. Because they saw we did not gain anything for ourselves but the opportunity to help them and to make Christ known to them, their hearts were thankful with gratitude and thanksgiving.

One of the university professors said, "This week has changed our opinion of Americans and of Christians. We have seen mission teams come and go in our country, but none have given of themselves as you have given. The Cattle for Christ team came to discover our real needs and help us meet them in ways we can incorporate and sustain in our culture."

Another made the comment, "We came here not knowing Jesus or how to artificially inseminate our cattle, but we are going home with both!"

Folks, it just doesn’t get any better than that!

Our plans are to conduct one additional follow-up training conference in July/August of 2010 in the Amazonian region of Peru before launching out to other countries where the training can be duplicated. Cattle for Christ has already been invited to bring teams to various African countries and Haiti as well as other South and Central American countries.

As you can imagine, this effort required the participation and generosity of a lot of people. We are so grateful to all of our corporate sponsors and ministry partners around the country who give generously of their time, resources and finances to make our work possible. Thank you farming families for all of your help. Together, with your generous support, we can continue to take cattle improvement and most importantly, the Gospel and love of Jesus Christ to the world, overcoming both physical and spiritual poverty.

Cattle for Christ was founded in 2001 with the goal of uniting farmers and ranchers for the purpose of taking the Good News and the love of Jesus Christ to the world in ways accountable to our donors and are efficient, effective and sustainable to the people we help.

To learn more about Cattle for Christ, the other work we are doing, about our CCI Angus and commercial cattle herds, or to discuss ways you can help us in our ministry efforts around the world, please contact Glenn Crumpler at (334) 333-4400 or

Farm Folk, City Folk… From a Farmer’s Perspective…

by Joe Potter

It was Monday, nearin’ mid-mornin’, when I walked through the old double-front doors of The Flat Rock General Store. Here I directed myself t’ward the old potbellied heater and a near full deck of Store regulars includin’ Slim, Essex, the widow Cora, Ms. Ida, my Daddy "Pop" C.C., Farlow, Willerdean, "Truth," Estelle, Bro., S.R., J.R., "Hatch," Heath and Dustin all gathered ‘bout the rear of The Store. There were my friends Orland Britnell, John Thorn, Roland Gargis and even the music man himself, Mr. Harley Hood. There was a few other community and area folk all a directin’ their efforts at swappin’ warmth with the old potbellied heater on a very crisp fall day.

Bro. had the floor and was a passin’ out flyers concernin’ the normal Thanksgivin’ supper down to the Baptist Church. Always held on the Tuesday night shy of Thanksgivin’, it is designed so as to not bother any other normal churchgoer’s weekly services or late-week family together time.

At this here point, there was several other topics throwed out, like huntin’, football, politics, weather happenin’s, even Bro’s Sunday sermon and who it was meant for.

Durin’ all this, Ms. Ida had scribed out along the back wall in red marker on white butcher paper, "FARM-CITY ACTIVITIES THIRD WEEK OF NOVEMBER."

She here further noted out loud that she had volunteered to help with the Lawrence County Farm-City activities on Thursday of that week. Nextly, she offered with farming (production agriculture) nearin’ less than two percent of the U.S.A. population, but everyone still eats, there is a serious story to be told.

Me being the pure country boy/ag man and retired county agent, I had to offer my perspective in a poem I had written back near ought five.


It is in my blood, it is what I choose to do.
Some men love to race cars, play golf, fish,
Ride motorcycles, have other interests too!!!

But the desire to farm gets me through.
It is my life blood, it is what I strive to do—

Work the cattle, gather eggs,
Build a fence, construct a barn, haul some hay,
Sit on a tractor—day after day,
Till the soil…plow, plant, harvest
…Operate a combine or cotton picker

Wish/hope—work, worry, pray…
Plan for a rainy day, it is a farmer’s way!!!

Attend a program or meeting,
…Fight for recognition and respect,
There is always work, there are some rewards,
At times a true sense of accomplishment or success—

Oft it just means a job well done
And maybe, just maybe, a “Thank You”!!!
From one or two, for what I do…

But, not to worry, farming is in my blood,
It is what I have chosen to do—

Yes, I say proudly, farming is what I do!!!
Do you know farming too???

Remember, we are all (100 percent) involved daily in consumption agriculture and to thank God often for Farmers!!!

Also, to thank God, not just at Thanksgivin’, but year-round for all our simple blessin’s like clothin’, transportation, shelter, communicatin’, jobs, water and especially family and friends.


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

Fayette 4th Grader Wins Gold and Silver Medals at Regional 4-H Horse Show

Cooper and Smooch, with Gold medal, Silver medals and other awards won in Little Rock.

By Don Linker

Cooper Dean, son of Steve and Jill Dean of Fayette rocked as he won a gold, two silvers and tied for Overall Reserve Hunt Seat rider for 2009 at the regional 4-H horse show in Little Rock, Ark.

Cooper’s parents own and operate the Kentucky Fried Chicken/Taco Bell and a local radio station in Fayette. They are both active in the 4-H horse program, with Jill being a volunteer leader in the Horse-N-Around club and Steve announces at the state 4-H show in Montgomery. Coach Jill owns Hunter Creek Stables where she teaches children and trains horses in the Hunter Jumper sport. With a mother who has over 35 years experience in the horse industry and has taught many local, state and national champions in the Hunter Jumper discipline, there are many more accolades in Cooper’s future.

Cooper, age ten, attends Fayette Elementary School where he is in the fourth grade, vice-president of the elementary school and is on the honor roll. His favorite subject is math, he enjoys playing baseball, and his favorite football team is the Alabama Crimson Tide, but his real passion is Hunt Seat. Young Dean spends a lot of time with his pony, Smooch’n on Me, affectionately known as Smooch, to stay ready for competition. Grooming, feeding, practicing with your horse, keeping your tack in shape and mucking stalls are all part of a winning combination. In 4-H, the youth do the work with coaching and encouragement from the parents, other adults and peers. Cooper knows with hard work, practice and coaching from Mom he can attain his goal of one day being a Grand Prix Jumper.

Cooper Dean with the Junior High Point Buckle he won in Montgomery. The buckle was awarded by the Alabama Horse Council.

How long have you been riding and competing?

"I have been riding since age four and began taking lessons at age five. This is my first year in 4-H, but I have competed in the Alabama Hunter Jumper Association (AJHA) since I was six years old. The AJHA has an annual show circuit we go to in addition to the 4-H state show. Smooch and I have really had a blast showing and making new friends."

Jill, what are the qualifications for getting invited to the Regional 4-H Show in Little Rock?

"Cooper had to compete and win a first place in Montgomery at the Alabama State 4-H Show. The state show consists of horse events in all disciplines as well as educational classes designed to increase the students’ knowledge of our equine friends. Cooper and Smooch won four first place awards and also won the highest award possible at the state show, the Junior High Point silver belt buckle, awarded by the Alabama Horse Council. This was a huge achievement because, according to Bob Ebert, director of the state 4-H show, this years’ attendance was the largest in the history of the event. The first place finishes in Montgomery qualified Cooper for the regional show which includes 4-H contestants from 13 Southern states. Alabama can qualify 40 horses and riders, but each state has their own qualifying requirements. The total horse entries for the show was 1,495, with horses and ponies both showing in the same classes.

Cooper and Smooch negotiate a trail course.

The first class event Cooper and Smooch competed in was Hunt Seat for mares. All 13 states’ first place winners, totaling 40 mares, were judged on conformation of the horse or pony and a 10-year-old boy from Fayette won the Gold Medal. Cooper was ecstatic, but there was more to come. In Pony Hunter Over Fences, the dynamic duo were near flawless, earning a silver award. Hunter Under Saddle had 108 entries and, due to so many, the class was divided into five heats so the judge could pick two to three finalist from each heat to go into the finals. This left a total of 15 competing in the finals. The Fayette pair claimed fourth place out of 108 horses. The final class, which was Hunt Seat Equitation Over Fences, had a total of 58 entries with many of the riders being 19 years old and having several years of riding and competing on their resume. Young Dean and his mount rose to the challenge by winning the silver medal. At the conclusion of the Hunt Seat competition, Cooper and Smooch had accumulated one gold medal, one fourth, two silver medals and had tied for Reserve Overall Hunt Seat rider for 2009.

Cooper’s hard work has paid off early in life, which make his parents understandably very proud. Jill stated she and Steve have to pinch themselves and ask "Is this real?"

Thank You card Cooper Dean sent to Lance Ezelle, manager of Fayette Farmers Co-op.

Jill also stated, that after coaching for over 20 years in the 4-H program, to qualify to participate is an honor and to win one of the championships is an unforgettable experience for her child and his pony, and they thank Mr. Lance Ezelle (manager) at the Fayette Farmers Co-op for their support and, of course, their great horse feeds.

"As Cooper left the show ring, the judge stopped him and asked if he polished his pony and of course the answer was ‘yes,’ but we know the great quality of the horse feeds we get from the Co-op helps keep his pony’s coat in perfect show-bloom condition," she said.

Cooper, describe the 4-H Southern Regional Championship?

"Well, it was a lot of fun and the best part is being with my pony and making new 4-H friends from all 13 states."

We at Quality Co-ops salute Cooper’s accomplishments and are looking forward to hearing of more from him and his pony in the future. I believe there are many more medals and championships waiting for him down the road.

Your local Quality Co-op supports youth in their equine endeavors and is dedicated to the events that further that purpose. We thank you for your patronage and will strive to earn and keep your business.

Don Linker is an outside salesman for AFC.

Feeding Facts

by Jimmy Hughes

As we enter into the fall, we do so this year in a different state of mind than over the past few years. Persistent rains throughout the summer and into the fall have left producers in a unique situation. I have visited with several producers who struggled to get the last cutting of hay cured and put up between the rains and shorter days reducing drying time. I have also talked with several store managers who have indicated the rains have delayed farmer’s abilities to over-seed or plant winter grazing for this winter and spring.

While these are negative conditions from the rainfall, the positive side is that hay should be plentiful and there appears to be an abundant amount of standing forage in most pastures I see throughout the state. This standing forage will present producers with an opportunity to carry their cows deeper into the fall before having to provide hay or other roughage supplements to meet the daily needs of their cattle.

To best utilize this standing forage does take some understanding of the characteristics of the product as well as knowledge of management practices. As the days get shorter, grass tends to mature and the rapid tender growth that is palatable as well as nutrient-rich comes to a rapid halt. This will leave you with a product lower in available nutrition and less desirable for the animal to consume. As this forage matures the lignin content in the forage itself will increase.

The lignin content in the cell wall of forages is what makes the grass "tuff," practically indigestible and cattle will tend to consume less of the product. This is one of the reasons why you can look across a pasture this time of the year and find areas heavily grazed while other areas of the field seem to be ignored by the cattle.

Also with an increase in cell wall percent and lignin comes an increase in neutral detergent fiber (NDF). NDF percent has a direct correlation with intake —- meaning the higher the NDF, the lower the amount the cow can intake and digest.

The bottom line is cattle consume less of the more mature, lower-nutrient grass leaving them in a nutrient-deficient situation. This will lead to cattle losing body weight and reduced milk production for those nursing calves. Producers who are utilizing standing forage must visually evaluate cattle for lost body condition. The last thing a producer needs is a cow going into the brunt of winter in a less than desirable body condition score.

The most common questions is whether there is a product or way to get cattle to consume the standing forage, to increase the nutrient availability of the forage and to add supplemental nutrition to the cow’s diet. The answer to all of these questions is yes. While a lot of producers like to provide a mixture of salt and cottonseed meal to cattle during this time of the year, I prefer to use other products over this "hot meal ration."

The name hot meal comes from the fact this ration will cause cattle to have a desire to consume more forage due to a burning in the gut from this ration. While cattle will eat more of the forage and this product will provide some additional protein, it will not help the cattle to break down the high lignin content of the forage. So while the cattle will eat the grass, they will not be gaining any additional nutrients from the increase in forage intake.

The product I believe will best answer the three questions above is Alabama Farmers Cooperative’s low-moisture block STIMU-LYX. While we have talked in the past about the use of STIMU-LYX as a way to supplement cattle during the winter, we have never discussed the benefits of using this product as a grazing management tool. The use of STIMU-LYX will offer the producer several benefits when utilizing standing forages like we have this fall.

The first advantage is as a grazing tool. Research has shown cattle will predominantly graze within close proximity of the block itself. This will allow you as a producer to manage your standing forage more efficiently. Place the tub in a certain area of your pasture and, as that area is grazed, then move the block to other underutilized areas of the pasture. This will allow you to more completely graze an area without leaving sections of your pasture under-grazed.

The second benefit the use of STIMU-LYX will offer is an increase in forage utilization. Research has shown that the use of highly-palatable, molasses-based, low-moisture blocks will increase forage utilization up to 30 percent. This increase in utilization will help you to get more from your forage, helping to maintain body condition and milking performance of your cow herd.

Also with the increase in forage utilization you will see an increase in forage breakdown. The consistent, constant intake of STIMU-LYX Blocks will increase the cow’s ability to break down high lignin forages making them more digestible to the animal. The saliva production manufactured by the constant licking of the block helps to regulate pH in the rumen. The pH stays at a more constant level for digesting forages, thus increasing forage breakdown and utilization.

Two specific products, HLF 30 and STIMU-LYX containing Tasco, are specifically designed for low-quality forage utilization like you will see in standing forages. Both products have proven to be very successful as a grazing management tool and as a way to increase the digestibility of high NDF forages. This will allow your cattle to extract more nutrients from the forage while also increasing forage intake.

Another benefit of STIMU-LYX over a hot meal ration is it will not only offer additional protein and energy, but will also provide the minerals and vitamins your cattle need on a daily basis. The product contains the levels to meet the daily requirements of all minerals and vitamins, excluding salt, when consumed at the rate of .75 pounds per head per day.

You will need to provide free-choice salt when feeding STIMU-LYX. Another benefit to the tub from a mineral and vitamin standpoint is over 90 percent of cattle will visit a low-moisture tub daily while only 50 percent of your herd will visit a dry mineral daily. This increase in mineral and vitamin intake will have a direct impact on the reproductive performance of your herd.

The final benefit to this product is that it will provide all these benefits at a low cost per head per day. Most producers can provide STIMU-LYX at a cost of around 32 cents per head per day. For this you get a complete mineral and vitamin supplement, protein, energy, grazing management and an increase in forage intake and digestibility. This might be the very best value you can find in the cattle business.

If you have a large quantity of standing forage, I would highly recommend you consider the use of STIMU-LYX Tubs as a way to manage this forage. Your local Quality Co-op will either have the product in stock or have the ability to get the product for you in a short period of time.

If I can ever be of assistance to you, or if you have additional questions concerning STIMU-LYX Tubs or the utilization of standing forage, please contact me at (256) 947-7886 or
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">

Jimmy Hughes is AFC’s animal nutritionist. If you would like to contact him, please feel free to call at (256) 947-7886 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it."> He looks forward to hearing from you or visiting with you in the future.

Goshen HS Ag Academy Hosts Benefit Rodeo

Proceeds of the benefit rodeo will help maintain the Ag Academy’s arena and provide care for horses that were donated to the program.

By Kellie Henderson

The Goshen High School Ag Academy is looking forward to a financial boost to its program from an upcoming benefit rodeo to be held at its arena November 20 and 21.

"I was grateful when two men from our community, Mark Johnson and Bobby Brown, came up with the idea of having a rodeo to benefit the Ag Academy, but I couldn’t have imagined how the idea would grow so quickly. It’s overwhelming," said Kelly Pritchett, Agriscience Instructor for the academy.

"I thought it would be a few of our students and maybe some other people from the community to compete, but to host a Professional Cowboy Association (PCA) sanctioned rodeo, and the first PCA rodeo for 2010 season point standings is amazing," said Pritchett.

Agriscience Instructor Kelly Pritchett talks with Hunter Royal of the Goshen Farmers Co-op about the upcoming rodeo. Pritchett says the Co-op is the go-to location for the Ag Academy’s plant and animal care supplies.

Bobby Brown, who along with fiancé Angela Killough owns Don Walker Western Wear and The Barn in Ozark and in Dothan, is no stranger to cowboys and cowgirls in and around Pike County. But his support of the Ag Academy goes beyond a connection to his customers. Brown graduated from Goshen High School in 1977 and said he’s hopeful about the impact the Ag Academy can have on the community he still calls home.

"Students of the Ag Academy are getting a good start at a potential career making up a large portion of this area’s economy, so it’s good for the students and good for the community, and that’s worth supporting," Brown said.

Because Brown wants to see the Ag Academy prosper, Don Walker Western Wear is providing sponsorship for the event, as is Goshen Farmers Co-op.

"We want everyone to come have a good time and raise money for the Ag Academy," said Brown.

Pritchett said the Ag Academy’s arena has been in place for over a year, and much of the funding for it was provided by Alabama Farmers Cooperative and Goshen Farmers Co-op, but the upcoming rodeo means more preparations are underway.

"The arena has to be reinforced, the ground itself has to be readied, a parking site has to be prepped and some bleachers will have to be moved, but Mr. Brown and Mr. Johnson are working to get things ready for us. We’re grateful for everything they’re doing for our students, and appreciate the Co-op’s continued support," said Pritchett.

Josey Owens looks for insects as part of the science course work students complete in the Ag Academy at Goshen High School. The benefit rodeo will take place at the Ag Academy’s arena November 20 and 21.

"They always do what they can to help us, and we appreciate the support of the employees and the local Co-op Board," she added.

In addition to the rodeo performance itself, a queen’s pageant will be held that week for girls ages 22 and under, including a horsemanship competition.

"Ages 13 to 22 will be required to do horsemanship which will be Tuesday, Nov. 17. If other girls would like, they can enter horsemanship as well as an individual event. The pageant will be Thursday, Nov. 19, at 6 p.m. at Goshen Town Hall. Anyone interested in the pageant should call Monica Law (334) 672-0859 or Rachel Owens (334) 430-3014 for more information," Pritchett explained.

Bobby Brown said Don Walker Western Wear will have a vendor booth set up at the rodeo, and concessions will be available.

"We’re still working on the details of concessions for the event, but we’ll reach an arrangement where any money cleared from concessions will go to the Ag Academy as well," said Brown, adding that use of all funds raised will be at the discretion of the Ag Academy.

Shawn Hughes and Levi Davis work on one of three greenhouses the Ag Academy hopes to make operational through funds raised by the rodeo sponsored in part by Goshen Farmers Co-op.

"The money will not only sustain current projects, but we have numerous plans for the future, too. We have general operating costs and student supplies are only part of the equation. We have three horses that were donated to the Ag Academy, so feeding and veterinary care costs are part of our regular expenses. We’d like to get our greenhouses operational, too. We have four fish tanks that will be housed in one greenhouse, and the other two will be for propagation," Pritchett said.

But the biggest project on the horizon for the Ag Academy is construction of a large barn Pritchett said will become the heart of their future activities.

"We’ve got the plans drawn, and we have taken some bids for the construction, but when the cost of metal materials skyrocketed, so did construction costs for the barn, so the project has been put on hold," said Pritchett, but she remains hopeful that fundraising projects like the upcoming rodeo will take the barn from blue print to reality.

"I really see that barn as a way to tie together the plant and animal science branches of the work our students are doing. Our goal is to eventually make the Ag Academy self-sustaining. With maybe a plant sale from our greenhouses in the spring and a rodeo in the fall, we could hopefully keep enough money coming into the program to fund upgrades and needed materials," said Pritchett.

Pritchett added that the Ag Academy, now in its fourth year, is serving students with a variety of ag-related interests.

"About two-thirds of students enrolled in the Ag Academy have college aspirations. Some have expressed an interest in veterinary medicine, some want to be ag teachers and some students hope to work on the family farm after high school, while others just enjoy getting to know more about agriculture because it’s such an important part of their backgrounds," she said.

Rodeo performances will begin at 8 p.m. each night. For more information, visit
or call Don Walker Western Wear at (334) 566-0044.

Kellie Henderson is a freelance writer from Troy.

Hand spinning Alpaca wool adds new twist

Bethany Schofield and Meg Manning demonstrating spinning at the My Sweet Alpaca Farm in Langston.

By Suzy Lowry Geno

If you drive by Sweet Home ALApaca in rural Blount County or My Sweet Alpacas a little farther north in Langston, you’ll probably notice the docile creatures humming contentedly as they munch across their neatly trimmed pastures.

But there’s a large group of folks who look across that greenway and don’t just see those four-legged creatures—they see sweaters, scarves, hats and even rugs!

A major part of the recent nationwide Alpaca Weekends held this fall at alpaca farms included demonstrations by many hand spinners utilizing spinning wheels and drop spindles.

Happy Cows Come From Lauderdale Co.

P.J. Cornelius says her 24 Jersey cows are “happy cows.”

Local Dairy Serves Local Need

By Susie Sims

According to television ads, happy cows come from somewhere west of the Mississippi River. According to Eric and P.J. Cornelius of Rogersville, happy cows come from Lauderdale County.

The Cornelius family started its dairy farm a couple of years ago with some acreage and used equipment.

Well, actually it began with one Jersey cow and the goal to provide fresh milk for the family.

Once the family purchased a cow and an automatic milker and then fed the animal, Eric quickly realized he could buy milk at $10 per gallon and still come out cheaper than doing it himself.

Dairy farmer Eric Cornelius checks the milk level in the pasteurizer.

Eric, who is an assistant principal at Lauderdale County High School in Rogersville, wanted an agricultural business his family could do together. He had been searching for the right business when he experimented with the milk cow.

He decided the dairy business was just right for his family, which includes his wife and four children.

The family has built Honest to Goodness Dairy from the ground up. They built a dairy barn for their 24 Jersey cows and are currently constructing the family home, which is on top of the dairy barn.

The entire structure looks like a giant red barn. Even though the barn and the milk-processing area are complete, the family’s living quarters are not completed.

P.J. said the children are involved with the dairy to varying degrees. Eric’s two oldest children, Taylor, 15, and Aaron, 13, are able to help with the more involved tasks, while the younger ones, Bella, 6, and Kellerann, 2, like to do what they can.

All totaled, the dairy produces about 500 gallons of milk per week, which is sold at local grocery stores.

Cream Line Milk

Honest to Goodness Dairy produces its all-natural non-homogenized milk and markets it to local grocery stores in Lauderdale County.

Though not thought of as the typical dairy cow, Eric chose Jerseys because of their high milk production and the nutritional content of that milk.

"Jersey milk is higher in protein, higher in calcium and it’s higher in butter fat," said Eric, when comparing Jersey milk to Holstein milk.

Eric said many old-timers have compared his milk to the milk they drank as a child, which came fresh from the cow.

Of course, today there are safety concerns and milk must be pasteurized before it is sold for human consumption.

The Corneliuses use a different method of pasteurization than is commonly used by commercial dairies. Instead of flashing the milk with a high-temperature process for a short time, Eric heats his milk to 145 degrees for 30 minutes, which pasteurizes the milk according to state standards, but preserves much of the taste.

"We vat pasteurize so the milk retains live enzymes and cultures," said P.J. "It also retains CLAs (conjugated linoetic acid) which aid in digestion and have been proven to fight cancer."

P.J. explained Honest to Goodness milk is considered cream line milk, which means even though it has been pasteurized it has not been homogenized.

Homogenization is a process that breaks up the fat particles in milk and keeps them suspended. Honest to Goodness Dairy doesn’t homogenize their milk so, as it sits, the cream will rise to the top and form a cream line.

Even though the dairy has worked hard to educate the public in Lauderdale County, P.J. said she occasionally gets complaints from people that the milk contains clumps.

"All you have to do is shake the milk before you drink it," said P.J.

Eric blames the lack of understanding on the fact many people today have never had anything but commercially-produced milk.

He is proud his milk has been compared to fresh milk.

P.J. said many people who purchase their milk are considered lactose-intolerant. But, because of the limited processing their milk undergoes, many of those people are able to consume the milk with no ill effects.

"I’ve had folk tell me that because our milk is non-homogenous, they can drink it without it hurting their stomachs," said P.J.

She said her research into the matter has pointed to the fact the larger fat particles in the non-homogenized milk don’t penetrate the stomach lining and cause the discomfort many people experience when they drink milk.

Size Matters

Eric explained his small dairy is able to produce non-homogenized milk where commercial dairies cannot.

"We can do it where a commercial dairy can’t," said Eric. "Because we work in small enough batches, we can produce a consistent product, where the cream level is basically the same. You can’t do that on a large scale."

All Natural

The Honest to Goodness Dairy produces an all-natural product. They use no fertilizers on their land and no pesticides.

The animals are allowed to graze freely and are offered a natural feed to supplement their diet.

Expanding Product Line

In response to customer inquiries, the Corneliuses are working on expanding their current product. In addition to the regular whole milk, the dairy is experimenting with several new products, like 2 percent milk, buttermilk and chocolate milk.

One day the dairy also hopes to produce ice cream, which is said to be even better when made with milk from a Jersey cow.

The family also produces a soap made from the cream, which is valued for its nourishing capabilities.

Taylor makes the soap and markets it under the name Harmony, which was the name of her first Jersey cow.

The soap is made from a chemical process called saponification. According to Taylor’s research, during this process, glycerin is produced naturally. Glycerin has long been used as a moisturizer for dry skin.

Contact and Purchase Information

Honest to Goodness milk can be purchased at Lauderdale County Big Star and Foodland stores.

Persons interested in more information about the Honest to Goodness Dairy or its products may call Eric at (256) 366-9059.

Susie Sims is a freelance writer from Haleyville.

Happy Hunting Ground

by Ralph Ricks

Fall has finally arrived and although the calendar called it "autumn" weeks ago, the weather has not been cooperating. As most everyone knows, we have received tremendous amounts of rainfall both this summer and fall. Food plots are mud bogs and dirt roads look like castle moats from the Middle Ages. This rain has accumulated and, although cooler weather is here, there is still a lot of water in the woods and we here in Alabama know that means mosquitoes.

Mosquitoes in the winter are something I can never understand. Up north, where it gets cold, I would guess they don’t have to worry about coming back from the deer stand about two pints low in blood. I would like for someone to educate me. Just how cold does it need to get to kill ‘skeeters? I have been hunting many times where it was downright freezing and still had to put up with the buzzing and biting of these voracious insects.

One story has been told of a South Alabama deer hunter who was perched in a tree one cold afternoon and overheard two mosquitoes talking on a limb above him. One asked if they wanted to eat him right there or take him down near the swamp. The other replied they should eat him there because if they went into the swamp, the big ones would just take him away from them. My dad said he’d seen some on the Bon Secour River that could stand flatfooted and mate with a turkey.

All of this is in the dead of an Alabama winter!

I have walked through ice-covered creeks and puddles on my way to a stand and gotten drained dry by mosquitoes.

I killed my first deer on December 3, 1983, and it was freezing. I have told friends and family this had to be the stupidest deer ever born to have the unfortunate luck to fall to my rifle.

It was a cool afternoon after some really hard frosts and, according to my high school biology, most of the bugs should have been dead or at least in suspended animation like our future astronauts will be. Possibly, as my dad used to say, maybe they didn’t read the book or take high school biology and didn’t know it was too cold for them to be active. But no, as soon as I picked out what tree to sit under, the swarm descended like a plague of old. I sat there with virtually no cover on the edge of the woods near some oak trees and killed mosquitoes. You can count the number of deer I have killed on both hands and feet but I really don’t think there is a number high enough for both the many mosquitoes I have killed or for the number of curse words I have flung at them over the years. As I sat there slapping bugs and telling them exactly what I thought of them, I finally decided enough was enough and I was going home. I checked the edges of my hunting spot one last time before getting up and walking out, and there he stood. I pulled the trigger for the first time on a deer and he dropped. If deer have a heaven, I’m sure several thousand dead mosquitoes making the trip anyway carried him there.

A few years later I decided to reason with the critters. I pointed out to them the woods were full of many different animals they could prey upon; I even told them of a nearby herd of cattle that would never even notice if two or three points of blood went missing. Mosquitoes either have A.D.D., just didn’t hear me or they don’t speak English; I’m not sure which, but they never left. They even followed me out of the woods and rode home in a nice warm truck for a while.

I think we need some sort of government program to teach them proper insect ways. Most well-mannered bugs have the good taste to either go into hibernation or at least die when winter comes. Even grizzly bears give it a rest for a few months when the weather is really bad.

I would invest in one of these devices that is supposed to run them off from your area, but with my experience, I hope they have made the devices strong enough to repeatedly smack ‘em with because that seems to be the only thing that works.

One sure-fire way to get rid of them is to find a use for them. As with most pests, once someone finds a way to make money or at least a use that accomplishes something, the pest dies out or at least the population declines.

Just ask a weed scientist at Auburn. When I was in school, there was a legend about the way they tried to cultivate weeds in order to study them and, yep, you guessed it, they couldn’t get them to grow. I have had the same experience feeding kudzu to my chickens this summer. As soon as both they and I figured out they would eat the leaves and got into the habit, the kudzu started dying.

So, outdoor men and women, you have a topic for this deer season. While you are spending countless hours of boredom on your stand, help me figure out some way to make money from mosquitoes. Anything goes, from hair gel to sandwich spreads to bio-fuel, as long as we have a use and a way to harvest them, they will decline to the point where we aren’t bothered by them anymore.

Somehow, when we find a purpose for these and other pests, they manage to understand English pretty good and skeedaddle …….hmmmmm.

Ralph Ricks is the manager of Quality Cooperative, Inc. in Greenville.

Hay Farmer

By Sam Colburn

Well, here it is that time of year, again.
Rounding up all of my hay equipment, my friend.
Greasing every fitting from bottom to top.
Because, when the hay is ready, I can’t afford to stop.
When the hay gets about waist high,
It’s ready to be cut, that I cannot lie.
Cut all day and on into the night,
Because you have to cut the hay when it’s right.
Asking God for some dry weather,
So the hay will dry as light as a feather.
Wet hay makes it hard to sell a little bit.
Unless, it’s used for mulching in a strip pit.
Because the mulching hay has gotten the price so high,
Good feed hay is getting hard to buy.
But, the poor farmer needs everything he can get.
What would we all do if the farmers were to all quit?
Right now the farmers are barely getting by.
But, if they quit, then hay would go sky high.
With the price of fuel and parts that we have to pay,
I know, at the end of the day, the farmer has to pray.
“Lord, help me through one more year.
“This hay cutting is getting something I fear.
“But, Lord, I know You are here for me,
“And it’s the way it will always be.”

Sam Colburn is a member of Walker Farmers Co-op in Jasper.

How's Your Garden

By Lois Trigg Chaplin

Fancy Compost Tumblers

Compost tumblers make composting kitchen waste easy in a handy spot just a few steps from the back door.

Make quick and easy compost at a price. There are lots of new compost tumblers on the market that keep the critters out and allow you to turn the pile with a hand crank. They make it especially easy to compost kitchen scraps in a handy spot just out the back door and the frequent turning allows you to make finished compost much more quickly than a simple pile. Depending on which model you choose, these composters range from a $100 to about $500 and make from 30 to 180 gallons of finished compost. Just in case there is a gardener in your life who "has everything," maybe this is one thing that would make a nice gift.

Dunce caps (Orostachys warenge) are one of several hardy, semi-evergreen perennial succulents that thrive on neglect.

Persimmons Are Popular Again

My father had a big Japanese persimmon tree and I looked forward to the soft, pudding-like sweet fruit. If you ate it before it softened, your mouth would pucker. It was awful. But today, there are "non-astringent" seedless varieties that are sliced and eaten crunchy. They are all the rage among gourmets. If you have room in your garden, try one. The trees will need about a 20-foot circle. Recently I bought a bunch of fruit from Petals from the Past in Jemison, but only one persimmon tree because a single tree will yield 150 pounds of fruit or more. This is too much to eat at one time, but it makes great bread! The fruit keep for a couple of weeks, too.

Sculptural Succulents

A recent trip to the desert landscape of Phoenix highlighted the beauty of the drought-tolerant, sculptural plants. There are lots of semi-evergreen perennial succulent plants that do well here in containers, on rock walls and other places where it gets hot and dry in the summer. In our climate, the thing threatening these plants is too much moisture. Plant them in containers with a little sand mixed into the potting soil. If they are in the ground, make sure the spot drains quickly after a rain. Some of the more popular types are dunce caps, sedums, and hen and chicks.

Variegated Flax Lily

The light-colored foliage of Flax Lily ‘Variegata’ is light and bright for the shade.

Although it looks like a big liriope, this grass-like plant is not. It’s called Flax Lily, Dianella tasmanica ‘Variegata,’ and it’s a great way to brighten up a shady spot in a bed and in pots. Hardy through zone 8, this is a plant needing protection in all but South Alabama. The upright, strappy leaves grow about three feet high and form a clump spreading by rhizomes. You see this plant a lot in California, where they like it for its tolerance to dry conditions once established.

Freeze Dried Geraniums? Almost!

Try holding on to your favorite geraniums through winter by lifting them out of their pots, knocking the soil from their roots and storing the bare plant in a cool, dry basement through winter. Put the plant in a mesh citrus bag and hang it so it gets air circulation. In spring, cut the stems back to four to six inches tall and plant again. Begin watering and fertilizing. If the plants were healthy, new shoots should appear from the old stems in two or three weeks.

A good crop of blackberries next summer starts with a good pruning in the winter.

Working With Landscape Fabric

Landscape fabric makes it easy to keep weeds down in large beds and between newly-planted shrubs and winter is a good time to lay it down. To lay it down right, kill all grass or weeds in the area first. You can lay the fabric overlapping the seams so there aren’t any openings for weeds to poke through. If you plant on a slope, use ‘pins’ or ‘fabric staples’ every three or four feet to help keep it in place. On level ground, it’s not necessary. Be sure to clean a bed completely before covering with fabric. Otherwise, many weeds will find a way to come through. Cover with two or three inches of bark or pine straw mulch. Don’t use compost as mulch because the weeds can sprout on top and send their roots down through the material.

Berry Good Clean Up

Remove dead stems from blackberries and raspberries if you haven’t already done so. They provide a place for diseases to overwinter attacking healthy, new growth in the spring. Plus, leaving the dead, thorny plants makes the berries harder to pick next year.

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

Initiative to Promote Black Belt Outdoors Launched

Goal of Effort to Spur Tourism, Create Jobs

The Alabama Black Belt Adventures, an initiative aimed at creating jobs and bolstering the region’s economy by promoting the Black Belt’s extensive outdoor recreational resources, was launched August 12, 2009, at the Southern Sportsman Hunting Lodge in Tyler, just east of Selma on Highway 80.

Several major figures in Alabama’s conservation and outdoor development efforts participated in the launch. Among them were Barnett Lawley, Commissioner of Conservation and Natural Resources; Director Neal Wade, Alabama Development Office; Jackie Bushman, founder of Buckmasters; and Ray Scott, founder of Bassmasters.

Commissioner Barnett Lawley said educating people about what the area has to offer will go a long way in attracting visitors and businesses. "This area has so much to offer, not just to Alabamians but to people from all over the country. From hunting to fishing to hiking to birding and so much more, there’s something here for everybody, and we want people to know that."

The Alabama Black Belt Adventures will communicate its message through a professionally-designed website as well as an extensive ad campaign and communications effort to the rest of the country. The website will include information about local outdoor facilities in the region, bed and breakfasts, museums, public and private lands accessible for outdoor recreation, landowner resources for habitat improvement, and many other amenities available to tourists.

"The goal is to take what the Black Belt already has—a beautiful landscape, abundant wildlife, ample outdoor activities, good people and businesses that cater to those wanting to experience the region—and use those things to attract more businesses, create more jobs and make the Black Belt an even better place to visit," said Jackie Bushman.

The Black Belt gets its name from the soil, which is rich in nutrients and unusually dark. In the past, the region was famous for its farmland, but in recent years the Black Belt has become a prime destination for outdoorsman both in and out-of-state.

For more information about Alabama Black Belt Adventures, please visit:

John Neighbors Takes a Chance with Satsumas

It’s a “13-Months-a-Year Job”

By Mary-Glenn Smith

From the first time John Neighbors ever tasted the sweet citrus fruit of a satsuma orange, he knew he wanted to grow some on his farm just outside of Alexander City.

"I got a good taste of them and decided, well anything that tastes this good, I need some of them," Neighbors recalled about the first time he tasted a satsuma while touring the Gulf Coast Research and Extension Center in Fairhope.

Citrus fruit is not usually found growing as far north as Coosa and Tallapoosa County, the counties where Neighbors’ farm sits right on the line, but Neighbors decided to take a chance and try growing some of the tasty fruit. In 1993, Neighbors planted three satsuma trees in his front yard and did surprisingly well with them.

Sign at the entrance to Neighbors Farm.

"There’s nothing like having satsuma trees close to your front door," Neighbors said. "It’s a good way to wake up in the morning. It takes about three to get your quench satisfied."

From the three satsuma trees in his yard, the venture grew and moved onto his farm located off Highway 259.

In 2000, Neighbors planted one 250-foot row of satsuma trees in high tunnels on his farm. When that was a success, he went back the next year and planted another 250 foot row And in 2002, he went back again and planted yet another 250 foot row of satsumas. He also decided to dip into growing even more citrus fruit, so he added seven Meyer lemon trees to grow among the satsumas.

"I have covers over the satsumas I put on the first part of December when I get through harvesting in October," Neighbors explained. "A satsuma is cold hardy, down to about 18 degrees. A lot people think that if it gets to freezing, it will kill them, but it doesn’t."

"Satsumas have been a very enjoyable part of my farming here," said Neighbors.

The Meyer lemon trees will produce about 300 pounds of lemons per tree and Neighbors already has a ready market for fresh citrus.

"Some people want them before they start turning yellow," Neighbors said. "They will buy them green."

Blueberries are just one of the many things John Neighbors grows on his farm.

Neighbors, who will turn 80 years old in September, grows much more than just satsumas and lemons on his farm. He has a variety of fruits and vegetables growing all over his farm: beans, corn, okra, peaches, plums, figs, cucumbers, muscadines, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, kiwis, blueberries, persimmons, squash, peas, clementines, limes and more.

"It’s about a 13-months-a-year job," Neighbors joked about the hard work that goes into growing the freshest fruits and vegetables.

He sells most of his fruits and vegetables straight off his farm. People will stop by, many of them heading to Lake Martin for the weekend, and pick up some of the fresh produce.

"I pick or you pick; it’s the same price," Neighbors said. "But you would be surprised at the number of people that like to bring their family up to the farm and pick it themselves."

"When I sell anything I want it to be number-one quality," he said.

He usually starts his day around 8:30 and doesn’t leave the farm until the last customer is gone sometime in the late afternoon.

On Saturdays, Neighbors sells his produce at the Farmer’s Market in Alexander City, which runs from June to the first of August.

"I could sell everything I produce right here at the farm, but I feel committed to help my city out," Neighbors said. "I helped get the farmers market started so I feel obligated to continue to support it."

Neighbors has been involved in farming most of his life, but it has not always been his primary source of income. He worked for the United States Postal Service as a rural letter carrier for 32 years. He later served eight years as the county commissioner, while also serving on the board of the Alabama Farmers Federation. Prior to his job as a rural letter carrier, Neighbors served in the United States Air Force with the 93rd Air Refueling Squadron during the Korean War.

Neighbors was a hay and cattle farmer having 150 brood cows and 125 acres in Coastal Bermuda hay while he was a letter carrier.

In 1954, Neighbors planted his first fruits – peaches and plums. Then in 1969 he bought the land where his farm is currently located from his aunt and uncle. At the time, the 107-acre spread was covered in pines and scrub timber. Once the land was cleared off, Neighbors planted six acres of blueberries.

"I decided six acres was too many blueberries," Neighbors said. "So I rooted up two of the acres and planted other crops."

"That was the day before antioxidants in blueberries were known about," Neighbors explained. "Now I have gone back to almost six acres of blueberries.

"Since then I have continuously had blueberries, peaches, plums, nectarines and blackberries. Now I am in the process of planting an acre of pomegranates because that’s going to be your next health food; it’s very high in antioxidants."

This year Neighbors has a half acre of pomegranates planted on his farm. He is also in the process of producing about 280 pomegranate plants to finish out his acre.

"This is my passion," Neighbors said as he steps back and looks proudly at his farm. "I just love watching various things grow."

Mary-Glenn Smith is an AFC intern.

Micro-Dairies Popular in Alabama

by Robert Spencer

Micro-dairy is the latest phrase for any small-scale dairy operation, and more recently seems to be becoming increasingly popular within Alabama. A micro-dairy offers potential for families, couples and individuals interested in operating a small-scale commercial dairy. They are generally family operated and utilize dairy cows or goats (hence the name dairy).

The number of animals per farm can range from one to 100-plus. Start-up costs are relatively reasonable in comparison to many business ventures, relative being the key phrase. The other major consideration is becoming familiar with regulatory agencies, complying with their regulations and accommodating scheduled inspections by regulatory agencies.

All it requires is for you to have time, patience and adequate financial resources. In recent issues of AFC Cooperative Farming News, you may have read articles on micro-dairies located across the state.

So what has happened to all the dairies? Over the years, across the nation, there have been significant decreases in the number of commercial dairies, mostly due to increased regulations and practical economics.

Existing commercial dairies tend to sell raw milk to big dairy cooperatives which transport the milk thousands of miles for further processing into milk, cheese and ice cream. But things are beginning to change; people are becoming increasingly aware of their food sources and options, and are seeking locally produced foods.

So where are these micro-dairies? There are websites like:, and countless others with information on small-scale and micro-dairies. All one has to do is a few simple Internet searches to find countless information. Visit you will be amazed to learn of the number of micro-dairies in the Southeast.

There are at least six or seven throughout Alabama, some of which are listed on the site, and many which are not. In Baldwin County there is Sweet Home Farm, just west of Anniston there is Wright Dairy, in Madison County there is 4 Maz Farm and in Limestone County there is Humble Heart Farms. Even Lauderdale County has a dairy owned by the Cornelius family, and this is just the short list.

Do opportunities still exist and where do you begin? Of course they do and it’s simple! The first thing to do is research; search the Internet, read articles, learn where the dairies are in your region (you may have to drive for a while) and make arrangements to visit with the owners.

An important resource is your local Extension office; their experts can help you learn more about what to expect and how to go about it in an efficient and practical manner. There are Extension experts like Boyd Brady, Wayne Robinson, Ilana Stover and several others. They can tell you how to order the Alabama Dairy Goat Handbook. Also, these professionals can direct you to experts at the Alabama Department of Public Health Inspection where you can learn more about requirements and regulations.

All you have to do is contact your local Extension office and ask how to contact one of these experts. It may not be for everyone; expect to encounter challenges and be aware of significant start-up costs, work lots of hours and be amazed at consumer demand once people learn what you have to offer. The more you learn, the more it will peak your interest.

Is it worth it all? As business starts to pick up and clientele repeatedly express their appreciation, you will begin to smile at the rewards. Not to mention the pride you will take in learning to produce a finished product and sampling your array of gourmet dairy products!

Robert Spencer is a contributing writer from Florence.

Minister Moonlights as Farmer, or Vice Versa

Jim Powell with his cow, Daisy.

By Jaine Treadwell

The Reverend Jim Powell could say his ministry started as a young boy when he preached to a captive audience of chickens in the chicken coop. If he did, that might explain how it is a United Methodist minister moonlights as a chicken farmer. Or maybe it’s the other way around – a chicken farmer who moonlights as a United Methodist minister.

But Powell doesn’t say he preached to chickens. He was preaching to congregations of real people long before he became interested in chickens, cows and plows.

Powell pastors two small United Methodist churches in rural Pike County, Williams Chapel near Brundidge and Tennille in downtown Tennille. When he’s not behind the pulpit, Powell manages a furniture warehouse in Troy, goes to night school to further his education and operates a small, but growing, farm in northern Pike County.

Jim Powell milking Daisy.

"I guess you could say that I’m a farmer," Powell said, with a smile. "I grew up in the country but not really on a farm. But I’ve always liked animals. I love riding horses. And when I got a chance to work around cows at the stockyard, I enjoyed that too. Over the years, I’ve had more opportunities to be around farm animals and I guess milk cows are my favorites."

Powell said beef cattle come and go and there’s little attachment to them. But ol’ Betsy’s there morning and night, and it’s easy to develop a fondness for a milk cow.

Growing up in the country and being around farm animals and working with them from time to time, a little farmer surfaced in the preacher boy.

"I guess it was always there — the farmer in me — but it wasn’t until recently that I got interested in having a small farm of my own," Powell said. "There’s so much emphasis now on healthy eating, exercising more and developing a healthier lifestyle. I just started thinking about it and decided I needed to do that."

Instead of joining a local health club and beating a path to a health food store, Powell put his hand to the plow, so to speak.

Jim Powell with his blue ribbon rooster, Combs.

"I started thinking a lot about what I was eating and where it came from," he said. "I realized there were a lot of preservatives and additives in foods that weren’t all that good for me—things that make chickens grow faster and cows give more milk. I started to be more curious about what I was eating and drinking."

The best way Powell found to satisfy his curiosity was to grow his own chickens and milk his own cow. He bought a couple of roosters and a few hens and also went in to the chicken business. He also bought two, four-year-old registered Jersey cows, Daisy and Rose, that he feeds corn, cottonseed meal, oats and coastal hay.

"I got some really good chickens — Welsummer and Marans," Powell said. "They produce dark eggs — chocolate eggs, they’re called — and you won’t find any better eggs or chickens anywhere. I feed them oats, corn, a little cottonseed meal and milk."

Milk? For chickens?

Powell explained the reason behind the milk.

"I hand milk Daisy and Rose twice a day, morning and night," Powell said. "They give about two and a half gallons of milk each and I can’t drink that much milk. So, I give the leftover milk to the chickens and they love it. Not many chickens can brag they get all-natural, fresh milk every day."

From the milk, Powell also gets butter.

"Yeah, I bought a churn and I have fresh butter every day," he said. "There’s nothing better than a fresh, buttered biscuit, scrambled eggs and a glass of fresh milk for breakfast. And what makes it even better is that I know exactly what I’m eating and drinking."

But life isn’t exactly a bed of roses for all the chicks on the reverend’s farm. A few of the chickens make it to the dinner table—Powells’ dinner table.

"Fresh fryers are good, too," he said. "I’ve got about 40 chickens and some of them are what’s for dinner. But I know they are free of hormones and other additives."

Powell also goes organic when it comes to the vegetables he grows.

"I don’t have a big garden, but it’s big enough so I can share the harvest with others," he said. "I grow just about anything you would find growing in a garden in South Alabama — corn, watermelons, collards, turnips, squash, peas, beans, cucumbers, peppers, egg-plant, okra. So with the garden, the chickens, and Daisy and Rose, I’ve got a good variety of good, nutritious and healthy foods to eat."

And to make the farm complete, Powell also has horses.

And, if he really wanted to get back to the ways of old, he could mount his steed and ride the circuit. Powell laughed at the thought but it’s a laugh that said, "I just might do that one day."

Until then, he’ll just continue in his reverse role of a country preacher. Instead of his congregation sharing their bountiful harvests with him, Powell is happy to share the fruits of his harvest with this flock.

Oats are Forage Favorite for Deer

Make sure lime and fertilizer are in the right amounts for oats.

by John Howle

Oats have to be my favorite food-plot food. Even though they are considered to be in the small grain family, they offer big forage gains over the course of hunting season.

Prepare for Planting

When the weather conditions are suitable and rainfall is adequate, oats show prolific, grassy growing during the early stages making the forage ideal for early deer season. Weather and rainfall we can’t control. However, we can control the right amount of fertilizer and lime so the oats will make optimum growth. The only way to do this accurately is through a soil test.

For the cost of a bag of fertilizer, a soil analysis can be conducted showing you the exact amount of fertilizer and lime, if any, is needed. If lime is needed, spread the lime and plow it in a few weeks before you plant so it will have time to begin neutralizing the soil.

Don’t be surprised if the soil report comes back recommending at least three tons of lime per acre if it is a wooded food plot that hasn’t been in agricultural cultivation. Bulk lime is by far cheaper than pelletized lime, so it might be worth your time to widen access roads allowing a spreader truck entrance into your food plots.

The soil test report will indicate how many pounds of fertilizer or lime to add per acre. With this in mind, it’s important to know just how many acres you are planting. Some GPS units have an acreage calculator, but if you are not technologically inclined and have to guess, remember to visualize a football field without the end zones. This is approximately the size of an acre.

An ATV-mounted seeder helps in covering ground quickly.


In Alabama, the most common times for planting are during September and October. However, if you are running late on planting due to excess rain amounts or missed a few ideal Saturdays because your favorite college football team was playing, November plantings can offer tender, grassy stage grazing for deer as well.

If the soil pH is in order, make sure the oats have adequate nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Nitrogen is the nutrient that makes grasses grow green and grow fast, but too much of a good thing can burn the plants. Follow the soil test report precisely when planting.

If you plant oats alone, the planting rate is around 90 to 100 pounds per acre. With a companion crop, like clover, the amount lowers to 60 to 90 pounds per acre. Since most food plots are in remote areas, it may be difficult to bring in a seed drill, and broadcasting may be the best method of sowing seeds.

Companion Clover

Oats in the grassy stage provide tender, succulent forage.

I always include a companion crop like clover. The roots of the clover fix nitrogen making even more growth promoting nutrients available to the oats. In addition, many of the cool-season clovers make their best growth in early spring. This allows the crop to serve double-duty for deer as well as turkeys. The turkeys can enjoy the maturing seed heads of the oats and get the benefits of tender clover leaves that are producing.

Clover seeds are tiny and expensive. Even though the typical rate for planting clover is around four pounds per acre, one ripped bag can result in a huge monetary loss. I remedy this situation by using a 64-ounce juice bottle that has been washed and dried. One juice bottle holds approximately four pounds of clover seed. Use a small funnel to pour the clover seeds into the juice bottle.

Weed Control

Another advantage to oats is the easy stand establishment. Once there is a good stand growing, weed competition is kept to a minimum. If weeds do appear, a broadleaf herbicide can be used to control them. Herbicides like 2-4D will kill most broadleaf weeds, and in some cases, if you have the oats growing in conjunction with white clover, the clover may still survive.

I’ve spoken with cattle producers who say 2-4D will kill their broadleaf weeds and only stunt or burn the clover, and ultimately the clover can bounce back. I’ve tried this myself. I sprayed a mixture of 2-4D trying to kill a few stands of white clover growing in a fescue and bermuda grass mixed field. The 2-4D stunted the clover, but it didn’t kill it. I would recommend trying this on a small area to make sure before spraying entire fields in an attempt to control weeds and keep the clovers.

Jake Howle examines mature oat seed heads.

Oat benefits

Oats are highly palatable to deer, and the grass and seed heads offer high-quality protein. Once the oats go from grassy stage to creating stalks and seed heads, cover for the deer is provided by high profile stalks. Deer are more likely to enter fields with cover that is chest high as compared with ankle-high growth.

Oats offer green growth over the course of winter and early spring providing deer and turkeys plenty of forage, especially when mixed with a clover variety. However, once summer appears and the growing season ends, the stalks continue to provide cover and potential bedding areas.

When late August rolls around, I mow the remaining stalks and seed heads to provide an ideal dove shoot. Many of the remaining seed heads, with proper timed mowing, will make soil contact and grow again. I once had three productive years of oat growth with one planting as a result of carefully timing the mowing of the mature seed heads.

A stand of clover like Durana White, red clover or arrowleaf clover will also continue to come back for a few years if cared for properly. If you know it is possible to get more than one year of growth from your plowing and planting, it will make you fertilize and plant that first stand carefully.

Oat seeds are relatively inexpensive and the leaves of most varieties are considerably wider than those of other small grains. Wider leaves mean more forage production, and this means less money and more grazing.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.

Peanut People

Pondering a Heritage of Hard Work . . . and Christmas Trees

Making progress refinishing the kitchen cabinets at Old Field Farm.

By Suzy Lowry Geno

What is wrong with hard work these days?

My solidly-built kitchen cabinets were custom-built for this house when my mama and dad built it back in 1965 when I was an eighth grader.

When we bought this farm in the late 1980s after my dad died, of course, the kitchen cabinets were included——by then with several coats of blue and yellow paint.

So being the obedient daughter, I immediately painted them a shade of blue I liked!

Years of wear and tear (and a few more coats of paint!) and a propane stove that wasn’t properly vented left a cabinet mess.

Since I generally have more time than money, about three weeks ago I began stripping the cabinets down to bare wood, sanding them (sanding takes at least one hour on both sides of the big doors!) and staining them pecan.

Suzy’s dad, Paul Lowry (in overalls), and her husband, Roy, in the early 1980s.

It’s been a slow, messy process.

The stripper works great! While I don’t usually like any type of chemicals, this strong stripper has saved me hours of work.

The cabinets are turning out pretty darn good, if I do say so myself. They’re not perfect, but I like the woodsy look. As of this writing, I’ll be working on them about seven or eight more days.

I shouldn’t really be surprised at the comments I’ve received, but it has amazed me at times.

Many folks visit the farm, primarily to buy my "farm fresh eggs from happy chickens" and other items like goat milk soap. Since my little farm "store" is just off my carport, they’ve been able to see my progress from week to week.

I cannot count how many times I’ve heard "why don’t you just buy new cabinet doors" or "it would be a lot easier just to have those cabinets replaced" or various other comments on that same theme.

Why is it so strange to see a graying woman outside actually doing physical labor? I come from a long line of hardy women who realized husbands were usually working hard either on the farm or at off-farm jobs to support their families.

The grandmother I look like, but never actually knew, was known throughout the community to "wait on no man." "Why she’d just hitch the horses up to the buggy whenever she got ready to go anywhere. She didn’t wait on the men," one elderly cousin told me years ago after telling me about my granny’s farm store where SHE sold free range eggs, cheese and butter!

The women worked hard in my family—and the men sure carried their loads, too.

I can remember my daddy strapping on a back brace of harsh leather and steel back in the late 1950s so he could go on to his carpentry jobs. Stay home on "sick leave?" There wasn’t such a thing.

He had to provide for his family.

Uncle Claude Houtten in an early “photo booth” photo.

Uncle Claude helped raise my husband, as his daddy "left the scene" early on for "greener pastures" out west.

Uncle Claude Houtten had that same work ethic. He worked so hard as a youth supporting his mother and Roy’s family that Uncle Claude didn’t have time to date….I guess following the rear end of a mule all day in rough Cullman and Morgan Counties sod didn’t leave much time for romantic thoughts or prankish young-men-type escapades.

Birthdays and even Christmases came and went with usually only an exchange of cards among the adults, and since Uncle Claude did a man’s work even back then, he was considered an adult way too soon.

Daddy and Uncle Claude have both been gone many years now. But as I’ve worked on those cabinets, I’ve had ample time to think back on their lives.

My daddy died suddenly of a heart attack in his huge garden picking green beans.

Since I was a "daddy’s girl," the fact I was grown and had kids of my own did not soften the blow.

That first Christmas seemed insurmountable without him.

I looked around and saw Christmas decorations, poinsettias and even small, decorated Christmas trees on graves surrounding his.

I could feel all those other families’ losses at Christmas. But I could also hear my daddy’s words to me if I spent "good hard-earned money" on something like a tree to put on his grave!

So I drove away with my then-carload of kids…

But my husband always says he can tell when those little wheels start turning in my brain!

The kids and I bought a small Christmas tree about two feet high. We wrapped two strands of twinkling Christmas lights around it and dug into our box of decorations for several that were small but had plenty of sparkle.

Roy said Uncle Claude had likely never had a Christmas tree and wouldn’t know what to do with that one.

But I reloaded the car with kids and the tree, and off we went.

Uncle Claude liked to watch out the big picture window in front of his modest rented house and watch the folks in Murphrees Valley go about their Blount County business.

So we situated the little tree in that window and plugged it in.

Uncle Claude, a man of very few words, just grinned that slight grin of his and patted Nathan on the head.

Roy doubted he’d ever plug it back up…

But we had practice for the Christmas program so we drove by nearly every night on our way to church.

And guess what? Every night, knowing just when we’d be driving by, Uncle Claude had the Christmas tree lit in all its tiny glory! And he would always be standing by it in the big picture window to wave as we went by.

Merry Christmas from Roy and Suzy Lowry Geno at Old Field Farm.

I couldn’t always see his face, but the kids and I KNEW he had that little grin!

The kids and I felt like we had bought daddy a Christmas tree that year—but we didn’t carry it to the grave where only his shell now lies.

So this year while I’m sanding and scrubbing, those little wheels in my mind are turning again…I don’t have a lot of money and we don’t "do" credit cards…but I know some former hard working country folk this year who will appreciate some homemade jelly and maybe some goat milk soap shaped like little Christmas trees….

Suzy Lowry Geno is a freelance writer who lives on a Blount County farm. You can reach her through her website at

Sumac: Know your plants

Smooth sumac (Rhus glabra) has many uses; but don’t confuse it with its toxic cousin, Rhus vernix or poison sumac.

by H. T. Farmer

Fall changes our surroundings and brings out the beauty in plants that might otherwise go unnoticed. One of the showiest native herbs this time of year grows along most rural roadsides and fencerows and is glowing electric-orange-red right now. The herb I am talking about is smooth sumac (Rhus glabra).

Sumac is a large deciduous shrub growing as tall as 20 feet. Some scientists consider it a tree, though most dendrologists will disagree. Sumac grows in most any type of soil, is drought-tolerant and can stand heavy rainy periods.

This herb has many uses. American Indians ate raw young tender sprouts as salad. The seedy, sour fruit can be made into a tart drink much like lemonade. The fruits can be chewed to stimulate saliva production and quench thirst.

The wood, bark and leaves are used as dyes and in tanning processes.

Medicinal uses include boiling bark to make a tea used to help menstrual aches, hemorrhaging and general stomach cramps. Tonics from the bark and berries are used as astringents, antiseptics and diuretics.

Smooth sumac attracts birds, butterflies and moths. Several moths and butterflies use the plant as a larval host including the hairstreak butterfly.

The plants are easily propagated by seed. They are naturally propagated with the help of birds passing the seeds through the digestive process thereby scarifying them. To grow your own plants from seeds; first, start with dry seeds at room temperature (65°-80°F), scarify the seeds by placing them in a glass container and cover them with concentrated sulfuric acid* (specific gravity 1.84) for two to three hours. Pour off the acid and wash the seeds very thoroughly with fresh water to remove any residual acid. Cover the seeds in dry sphagnum moss and place into a zip-close plastic bag then refrigerate for 30 days to stratify. Sow the seeds indoors or directly into the ground after the danger of frost has passed.

Remember smooth sumac very closely resembles poison sumac (Rhus vernix or Toxicodendron vernix). The leaves on smooth sumac are mostly toothed. Be sure you know the plant you are harvesting.

I’ll be back in December. Thanks for reading!

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

*Acid note: Always wear protective gear when working with acids. Never add water to the acid; it will spatter violently. Always add acid to the water. (Thank you, Mrs. Lieta Denson and congratulations on 100 trips around the sun!)

Thanksgiving in the 2009 Recession

by Baxter Black, DVM

This Thanksgiving I am thankful for many things large and small. For instance, on the world stage I am thankful Saddam Hussein finally got what he had coming. But I’m also thankful for more personal things like the fact there are still airports and convenience stores that have pay phones! They are as rare as a kind word for a legislator, but they are essential to us Verizaphobics!

I’m thankful we have not had a terrorist act in our country since 9-11 due to the strength and dedication of our troops who are still stationed around the world in harm’s way.

On a small note, it is comforting I can still find a restaurant that is not a chain store. One where the chef is really a chef and not a reheater!

I’m thankful to see roads being built and repaired as part of our economic stimulus plan. It’s long overdue and it is creating jobs.

Less world-shaking, I’m thankful I have friends and family who care enough to remind me of an anniversary, birthday or obscure paid bank holiday I probably would have forgotten. I think it stems from being part of the agrarian community where every day’s a holiday, or a work day, depending on your point of view. The livestock need feeding rain or shine, Sunday or Monday, July 4th or April 15th.

This year I am particularly thankful to the pharmaceutical companies and university research scientists who have given us the miracles of modern medicine. Everywhere I turn our countrymen are living longer, healthier lives. I have loved ones who have been victims of heart attacks, Parkinson’s or cancer that a generation ago was a death sentence, but today I can call them on the phone and talk about something else!

I’m thankful for the abundant, safe food supply brought to us by modern agriculture and taken completely for granted. Nobody goes hungry because there isn’t enough food produced. Repeat after me, "God is great and God is good, and we thank Him for this food."

I’ve always been aware I didn’t have to worry about my weight. I am thankful for that. Oh, sure, I wish I had a full head of hair, I didn’t have hay fever or I could sing, but, ya know, ya can’t have everything, so I’m thankful for what I do have.

And finally this Thanksgiving I’m grateful I have God in my life. It would be bleak if our existence on Earth had no purpose, no meaning. There wouldn’t be much point in having a Thanksgiving Day and that would hurt. Because this year I’ll be sitting at the table with my family, including Mother, who is 90. I count my blessings and thank God every time she smiles at me.

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,

The FFA Sentinel

by Philip Paramore

Alabama has had at least three FFA members to win the National FFA Prepared Public Speaking Contest. Earlier Sentinel articles contained the speeches by R.L. Jones of Carrollton who won the national contest in 1941 and Eddie Blizzard who won the national contest in 1975. This month’s article features the 1971 National FFA Prepared Public Speaking winner from the Woodland FFA Chapter, Bill Cofield. Cofield served as the 1970-71 State FFA President. The November 1971 issue of The Alabama FFA News published a copy of Cofield’s winning speech. Herewith is Cofield’s speech:

A Miracle in Our Time

A miracle is something that does happen that is out of the ordinary, unusual and often considered impossible. Let us start, here-and-now, to see if we can discover a new dimension in our thinking and in our lives – in short – a miracle in our time! I realize this is a difficult assignment for we live in an age of superlatives, of pressure, of rush and excitement. National and world events are harshly thrust upon us by the all-seeing eye of television. New discoveries and products come at us from every direction. For those of us who were born in the automobile age, today’s rocket age is overwhelming and overpowering. The thunder of the blast-off at Cape Kennedy crackles and roars in our ears. We are reduced to head-shaking wonder as we watch men orbit the moon and ponder: How is it all possible? But, if we look and listen we will hear and see the results of countless billions of blast-offs that are of far greater significance to mankind and his future.

The greatest blast-off in the world today is still the blast of a tiny seed - touched by the finger of God - putting forth a tiny green shoot that powers its way up, through and out of the crusty soil. Some scientists estimate that on a comparative basis, more brute power is exerted by the first thin, fragile stem as it thrusts up through a heavy, dense soil than was used to get Apollo 11 off the launching pad.

In any case, so far as mankind is concerned, the blast-off of an awakening seed and its food potential is far more important to mankind than any rocket launch. Why? Because the one single question most often asked at NASA or any other place is: "When and what do we eat?"

I suggest to you that there is as much excitement in the fields and in the laboratories of Agriculture as there is anywhere else in the world. Consider these facts:

1. That plants and animals are now biting bugs.

2. That we now have weed-destroying chemicals that can tell the difference between plant cousins.

3. That we are near the point in being able to decide before breeding whether a cow will give birth to a bull or a heifer.

4. That we are using the sex life of insects to induce them to breed themselves out of existence.

Yes, indeed! A miracle in our time! Think of it - five percent of the U.S. population produces enough food and fiber for the other 95 percent and still has enough left over to share with many of the less fortunate nations of the world. The U.S. today is the one and only nation to ever live in an "Economy of Abundance." This is being done at less cost to the consumer than ever before in recorded history of mankind.

The sheer abundance of food and fiber we have is a blessing enough, but we are even more fortunate than that. It takes fewer minutes of work today to buy television sets, boats, cars, swimming pools and dish washers. This is the American secret and the strongest secret weapon we possess. While it is unknown and certainly not acknowledged or appreciated by the average American, "Foodpower U.S.A." is studied and envied by every other nation in the world today.

Need I suggest to you that the balance of power in the world today and certainly in the future will depend on who can and will feed the masses of people?

How is it that we are allowed to live in the "Age of Abundance" in the United States when most of the world exists in the "Age of Scarcity"?

I do not profess to know the whole answer. But, I do know this: This great country and its private enterprise was not built by people who felt sorry for themselves; by people who staged sit-ins, riots, and burned and wrecked college campuses and homes; or by gutless and traitorous draft dodgers and flag burners.

This country is what it is by faith – by faith in man’s ability to profit from work; by pride in family, country and flag – and will prove it by fighting for it if necessary. America did not just happen as a part of a backlash. It was built by people who took pride in building – not in wrecking. A portion of the creed accredited to Abraham Lincoln put it so well over a century ago:

"You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich.

"You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.

"You cannot help men by doing for them what they could and should be doing themselves."

Through scientific research and improved farming methods the blast-off of seeds and its food potential grow louder and stronger each year. With this as a secret weapon, the United States holds a corner on the bid for world power. Along with our free enterprise system and man’s desire to better himself, there is no reason why America cannot continue to be the miracle of the world – A Miracle in Our Time.

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

Why We Regulate

Occasionally when people find out I am a veterinarian, they ask about what kind of practice I am in. When I tell them I am a regulatory veterinarian, they sometimes ask if that is a real veterinarian. Let me assure you a regulatory veterinarian is a real veterinarian. I have, in the past, mentioned in this column that regulatory veterinarians use such things as quarantines instead of antibiotics to stop the spread of disease.

I recently dealt with someone whose animals were placed under quarantine. He was not very happy. I probably would not have been very happy either if I were in his shoes. I think he eventually understood the regulation requiring the quarantine, which made it somewhat more palatable. But still, we regulatory veterinarians are not looked at as the "good guys who ride in with the white hats and save the day."

So today I want to share some thoughts on why we regulate. Then, if somewhere down the line you are the recipient of a quarantine or are required to have certain tests performed on your animals or animals you purchase, you will have some of my perspective on regulatory veterinary medicine.

Those of you who travel by air—and I do more than I care to—are aware of the increase of regulations enacted since 9-11. It is an inconvenience to have to take off my shoes and get my laptop computer out of its case when I go through security at an airport. I understand the reasoning behind the regulation, and I am happy to comply. But it is still inconvenient. There are other regulations I do not understand. For those, the inconvenience is much more annoying. I will have to admit that even in my profession, there are those who "never met a regulation they didn’t like."

Those veterinarians are in the minority, but they do exist. From my perspective, I want to be sure regulations are: 1) necessary, 2) beneficial to the majority of the flocks or herds in the state, 3) minimally intrusive and 4) practical or doable.

I am responsible for assuring the general health of the state herds and flocks. Therefore, if it seems I am not concerned about the inconvenience imposed upon someone who cannot move their horses or cattle off the farm until certain tests are performed, that is not completely true.

Because of my previously mentioned responsibility, I want to be certain the imposition is completely necessary. Even during these lean economic times, we do our best to accommodate the owner when we must do testing or perform other regulatory duties.

Then I want to be sure whatever regulations we enforce are beneficial for the greater good. There are regulations we impose to fulfill requirements by trading partners in other countries. Other regulations, like those dealing with diseases like brucellosis and tuberculosis, allow all cattle owners across the state to forego testing at stockyards or in preparation for sales or shipping out-of-state so long as we remain free of those diseases.

As I said before, we try to accommodate as much as possible. That is because we want to intrude upon people’s lives as little as possible. I have heard stories in other states of how regulatory officials are not helpful at all. Like a referee at a football game who throws the penalty flag, some regulatory officials are only too happy to tell a person what regulation is being violated, but offer absolutely no help or direction in correcting the situation.

That is not my philosophy. Here at the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries, one of our main objectives is to provide service. In my estimation, that means, if possible, to help people through whatever issues or crises they are dealing with involving animal agriculture.

I do realize there are occasionally people who are blatantly breaking the law. They know they are and don’t care. For those people, I will likely be less than accommodating.

Finally, is the regulation doable? Can it be accomplished? I often get calls in my office with people bringing a problem to my attention. Often the answer is that we have no regulatory authority over that issue or there is no regulation covering their problem.

I would love to have a regulation put in place that does not allow blackleg in the state, or says we do not allow horse colic in this state. If you are aware of those two diseases, you know we can write enough regulations to fill up a corn crib and we would still have calves die of blackleg.

There are diseases we do not have in Alabama that can be very economically devastating to the producers in our state. Because we are able to regulate interstate movement of animals by requiring certain tests or even to refuse entry of animals from certain geographic areas, those regulations are doable.

Regulatory veterinary medicine is indeed a piece of the puzzle, but it is not the complete picture. While we sometimes think regulations are an obstruction to agriculture, I can attest to the fact we have regulated many areas that have enhanced the health of our animals and in many cases have removed trade barriers with other countries.

As I said, regulations are a piece of the puzzle. Other pieces include producer participation, producer and consumer education, and many other aspects of animal agriculture. As we all work together we make animal agriculture better.

Now I’ve got to go feed the horses if I can find my white hat.

Workshop Showcases State’s Fall Fruit Harvest

Bobby Boozer points out similarities and differences between blackberries grown under shelter and those grown outside at the Chilton Research and Extension Center.

By Kellie Henderson

About 50 people braved a fierce October downpour and made their way to the Chilton Research and Extension Center for the Fall Fruit Harvest in Alabama Workshop. And after sodden boots were wiped at the door and raindrops shaken from umbrellas, those who made the wet trip were rewarded with tasty samples from the fields as well as information gleaned from the season’s plantings.

Inclement weather forced most of the afternoon’s events indoors, but sweet Alabama sunshine was halved and served with a spoon in the form of Golden Sunshine and Golden Dragon varieties of golden kiwi, a treat Dr. Bill Dozier explained is rare.

"Not only are the fruits unavailable, but because the patents for the plants themselves are still under negotiations, people can’t buy the plants to grow their own, so you will be among the few people to actually taste these," he told those in attendance.

The kiwi fruit were actually harvested well in advance of the October 15 harvest workshop, because kiwi must be chilled for extended time periods after harvest to become palatable. The Research and Extension Center vines were still green but no longer bore fruit at the time of the workshop. Dozier also passed around photographs of the vines when blooming and heavy with fruit.

Dr. Bill Dozier of Auburn University shows the yellow-fleshed kiwi he describes as a “really quality fruit” that can be grown by Alabamians from Baldwin County to Birmingham when the plants become commercially available.

"Both the Golden Dragon and the Golden Sunshine varieties of kiwi produce really quality fruit, and this is very valuable plant material. We feel they will be a tremendous opportunity for Alabama because they can be grown from as far south as Baldwin County and as far north as Birmingham," explained Dozier.

Many Alabamians recall being tricked by an older sibling or cousin into biting off the bitter pucker-of-a-lifetime in the form of a native persimmon, but Regional Extension Agent Gary Gray encouraged people to put aside the bitter memories and give larger oriental persimmons a try.

"There are more than two-thousand varieties of persimmon in China, and persimmons are easy to graft and propagate. Our native persimmon makes great root stock for grafting because it’s very cold-hardy," said Gray.

With a texture similar to that of a pear or soft apple, several non-astringent varieties of persimmon were available for tasting during the workshop, and the fruits are as pleasing to the eye as they are to the palate.

Armstrong satsumas, slices of several varieties of persimmon and frozen treats made from blackberries and muscadines were among the samples available to those who attended the Fall Fruit Harvest in Alabama Workshop.

"Oriental persimmons are really one of the easiest fruits for homeowners to grow because they require very little maintenance. Pruning and spraying may increase yields and the fruit’s appearance, but the trees will produce fruit with very little attention. This is also one of the few fruits that are a viable possibility for organic production in our state," Gray explained.

After Dozier and Gray gave their presentations, visitors to the research center had the opportunity to sample dozens of varieties of muscadine grapes, muscadine cobbler, blackberry lemonade, satsumas and other treats made from fruits grown at the research center. The rain relented, and puddles were still and glassy by the time people selected from the remaining presentations for the day, many of which were given in the field.

Under the nearby barn, Dr. Floyd Woods discussed the health benefits associated with various fruit crops and indoors Dr. Elina Coneva presented information on growing muscadines and bunch grapes in Alabama. The remaining groups were loaded onto various wagons, and tractors pulled them out into the wet fields to various crop locations.

Those who attended the workshop had the rare opportunity to taste Golden Dragon and Golden Sunshine kiwis, fruits not currently available to the general public because the plants’ patents are still pending.

Dr. Jay Spiers of Auburn University led visitors through rows of Satsuma Mandarin Orange trees, a fruit unfamiliar to some at the workshop. A small, easy-to-peel citrus fruit, satsumas are being grown commercially in South Alabama and their popularity is growing. Spiers shared information about fertilizing and other care for satsuma trees.

Bobby Boozer also led a group through the research Jim Pitts, Superintendent for the Chilton Research and Extension Center, and he have conducted at the research center on sheltered production of blackberries. In rows within yards of one another, identical varieties of blackberries were grown in the open and under shelter. Boozer explained that while spider mites were a problem for the sheltered plants, the yields of the sheltered plants exceeded that of the plants grown in the open for both varieties grown.

"By giving the plants a warmer, more protected start, we’ve seen an increase in the amount of fruit produced, and blackberries are a crop that doesn’t require a lot of space. Even small lots in more urban settings are large enough for blackberry production, and providing shelter for the blackberries made the plants more productive," Boozer explained.

Research center employees also answered a litany of other questions about shelters, support structures, cultivar selection, pest control and other plants not part of the workshop schedule as the meeting adjourned and the crowd trickled back toward their cars and trucks.

"Jim Pitts and the staff at the research center always do great work with their meetings, and this is the first time for this particular meeting. The rain probably scared some people off, but we were glad to see the crowd we had, and I feel like we would probably do it again," said Gray.

Pitts said he was likewise pleased with the turnout for the workshop.

"I was surprised at the number of people we had from areas outside the county as well. Some of these fruits are still largely unknown by consumers, so we have a real opportunity to educate people and create some awareness of things like golden kiwi, oriental persimmons and satsumas," said Pitts, adding fruit production is something a variety of people can pursue.

"Growing fruits like these is a great venture for people in our area who already grow peaches and want to add another area of cash flow to their operation. But the unique thing about fruit is people can start producing on small acreage with very little equipment. What we hope to do is let people touch and taste the high quality of fruit that can be produced and show there are some exciting market opportunities for these crops," Pitts concluded.

Kellie Henderson is a freelance writer from Troy.

You KNOW When a Horse Has Been Trained By Joe Bullard

Joe Bullard and 8-Horse Hitch World Champion Percheron Allstars Prince Glory.

By Suzy Lowry Geno

Joe Bullard is one of those rare people who have "the gift."

A renowned equine judge once told folks: "I can tell in a show ring or on a working farm if a horse has been trained by Joe Bullard.

"Joe doesn’t break horses; he trains them. And his quiet discipline is evident in the responses you see when they obey with all their hearts because they have a true desire to do so."

Joe’s training of Percheron and other horses, and the relationships he has with everything from his laying hens to Nubian goats, ducks, Guineas, Blue Heeler dogs, kittens and possibly the largest hog in Blount County, is the same.

"We’d probably have a lot better life if we just acted the way the animals do," Joe explained. "If you sit and watch them you can learn an awful lot. They never worry. They generally go about their lives like they should, working hard and then playing hard. You can learn a lot about human nature just by watching animals for an afternoon."

Spring Hill Farm visitor Kim Geno (left) and Joe’s girlfriend, Kim Sharpe Lewandowski, visit with a friendly mare.

Joe now concentrates primarily on the Percherons; selling, training and working them. But he is equally particular about the homes his animals go to. He was once offered more than $100,000 by a major theme park for one of his gentle giants—and he refused.

A roofer by trade, Joe also judges at horse, donkey and others shows across the North and Southeast.

But his heart is always at his Hamilton Mountain Road home at Spring Hill Farm, where he has 180 acres of his Grandfather, Eunice Massey’s, original 1927 farm. Other close family members now have the remaining of the original 400 acres.

"We’re hoping to keep it all together and not ever subdivide it," he explained. "There’s less and less farms left and, as long as we’re living, we’re going to try to keep this as it is."

Joe grew up on the farm plowing with mules and Belgiums, but saw a Percheron when he was 18 and fell in love.

Joe Bullard brushes Mary before she entertains visitors with immediate reactions to voice commands.

He still has one of the original two Percherons; Gracie is now 27.

Dixie, the other original mare, died at the age of 23. Coming when Joe called her to the pasture gate and dying of a heart attack just as she reached him, giving him one long, last soulful look as she breathed her last.

"She died that quick," Joe said. "She lived here on the farm all those years. I don’t guess she was the best horse I ever had, but I sure have some good memories."

The pasture now contains 44 Percherons, some donkeys and a small pony, Princess.

"I always wanted a pony growing up and never had one," Joe recalled. "So I bought her. She bosses everybody around—-even though she is about one-tenth their size!"

By next spring, Joe hopes to finish the transformation of this barn into a Visitor’s Center, “meeting hall,” and educational classroom.

Some of the current "stars" include five-year-old Hillcrest Melody, also known as Mary, an All American who stands 17.5 hands tall and weighs around 2,100 lbs. Mary strolls across the barnyard and home lawn obeying voice commands from Joe without hesitation. She’s trained for riding and pulling.

But she’s not the biggest on the farm.

Allstars Prince Glory, Glory for short, has won World Championships in the 8-horse hitch category in the Canadian Congress in 2004 and in Livingston, Virginia, in 2006.

Glory is also known as somewhat of a hero. In one of her competitions, one of the other horses in the hitch, owned by Joe and a friend, suffered an aneurysm.

A photographer at the scene took more than 140 photos documented how Glory responded before anyone else realized what was happening, carefully moving the other horses away from the sick one so she was not trampled as she fell.

This four month old foal, Mariah, will soon be leaving for her new home in California.

Glory stands at 18.2 hands and weighs 2,380 pounds.

Then there’s Jessa Duke Cloud who won the World Congress in 1998 in Ohio.

Mariah, now nearly four months old, is known as a "sport" horse, Joe explained, with regular feet and is fine-boned and long-legged.

"She’s probably as good-natured as I’ve ever seen. Her mother is the big (18.1 hands) dappled gray."

Packer, a huge gray stallion, was thought to be lost a couple of years ago when his pneumonia threatened to take his life. The surgery to remove a rib which left an opening for several days where his lungs could be cleaned daily is documented on more than 400 photos, many of which grace the walls of the Auburn Veterinary School.

Joe credits Dr. Rebecca Funk, with the Department of Clinical Sciences at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Auburn University, with saving Packer’s life and Packer’s happily sired many more foals since that time.

Joe himself has given seminars at Auburn on proper harnessing and other aspects of Percheron and draft horse care.

Percherons’ history is a little cloudy, but they can be traced to the La Peche district of Normandy, developing from a local heavy Flemish breed. There was Arabian and Spanish blood introduced along the way.

According to the Percheron Canada website, Percherons were first imported to the United States in 1839. Following World War II the introduction of more modernized equipment almost made them extinct, but a handful of farmers, particularly the Amish, kept the breed alive.

Around the 1960s others began to see the importance of the big mellow horses and today they’re used on many small farms for farming, plowing, traveling and logging.

Joe has more plans for his farm and horses.

His attractive barn features a wide walkway and individual stalls for whatever animal is needing special attention.

But the large second floor is being outfitted to host family and school reunions, church groups, quilting bees and educational events aimed at showing folks just how important smaller family farms are to our nation.

He hopes to open the farm to small groups by this spring. Hour-long wagon rides through the area and farm will be a highlight and, if you’re extremely lucky, you may even get to see some of the huge horses cooling off as they gracefully swim ACROSS the farm’s five-acre lake!

(One person said they knew Joe was a man after their own heart when they learned he heated his home with WOOD but had installed central heat and air conditioning IN HIS BARN!)

Perhaps Joe’s Sunday morning activities can best illustrate what he wants to show about his farm and best documents the relationship he has with his animals.

His uncle, Ottis Massey, lives "just across the road."

Recently on a Sunday morning, Joe carried Uncle Ottis just "up the road" to the church he attends, with Mary elegantly pulling the wagon.

Since it was already 10 minutes til church time, Uncle Ottis was afraid he’d be late. But Joe calmly told Mary to trot and she set off at a brisk pace. As they started down the hill a little further down the road, Joe simply told Mary "I think you’d better slow to a walk," and Mary immediately obliged.

"She listens intently—they all listen to every word he says," Kim Sharpe Lewandowski, Joe’s girlfriend, explained. "Sometimes it seems they live their lives just to make him happy."

Suzy Lowry Geno is a freelance writer from Blount County. You can reach her at

‘09 Walking Horse World Champions Foaled From Mares on Littrell’s Lauderdale Co. Farm

Horse lover Jack Littrell tells a story about his walking mule.

By Susie Sims

Two of the world’s best Walking Horses had humble roots in the Central Heights area of Lauderdale County.

Watch It Now and Call Me Ted each won high honors at the 2009 Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration.

Watch It Now claimed the title of Walking Horse World Grand Champion.

Call Me Ted was named World Champion Owner-Amateur Three-Year-Old Mare & Gelding Division A.

Both were foaled from mares on Jack Littrell’s farm in North Alabama.

Littrell has had a love affair with Walking Horses for most of his life. As a child he remembered seeing Go Boy’s Shadow named World Grand Champion in 1955. That solidified his fascination with Walking Horses.

Littrell with two of his newest hunting dogs. Their mother is “Bob,” a dog whose name still puzzles Littrell, who got the dog from a friend.

He competed when he was young and even gave professional training a go.

He served as a judge for the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration for four years during the 1970s.

Littrell is still proud an Alabama boy could grow up to serve as judge for such a prestigious event.

That pride has resurfaced now that the World Grand Champion has come from such humble roots.

Littrell takes a little pleasure in that Watch It Now came from his farm.

"Many champions come from big-name farms," said Littrell. "Even though I no longer own the horse, it’s nice to know a horse that special can come from somewhere like Central Heights."

He even likes the fact the champion was raised on Horizon Premium Equine feed from his local Co-op store in Florence and high-quality forage.

Lauderdale County native Jack Littrell converted his family’s old lumber yard into generous pens for his hunting dogs.

"Not everything has to be fancy," said Littrell. "I like it that a World Grand Champion can come from such simple beginnings."

According to The Walking Horse Report, Watch It Now comes from a line of winning horses.

Watch It Now’s dam, Bo-Mar’s Pride of Jubilee, is from the 1986 World Grand Champion Pride’s Jubilee Star. The mare has produced other successful show horses and dams, including two-time World Champion Sky Walk.

Watch It Now was trained and ridden by Jimmy McConnell, who captured his third World Grand Champion title in five years.

Of course, Littrell does not limit himself only to Walking Horses. He likes to keep a variety of animals around.

Central Heights native Jack Littrell shows off the buggy that inspired his collection.

Littrell, who lives on Shoal Creek with his wife, Patty, admitted most of his family would rather play in the water than fool with horses, but he can’t help himself.

He said he’s used to being the only horse nut around, recalling most of his family was involved with the lumber business and thought he was crazy to be messing with horses all the time.

"I couldn’t help it," said Littrell. "I love my horses."

Of particular interest to him is his walking mule, which he said is a sight to behold. Littrell once owned the 1995 World Champion Walking Mule, Big Nose Kate.

Buggy Museum

Adding to his eclectic variety of horses is Littrell’s extensive collection of horse-drawn buggies.

The collection started years ago when he came across a buggy built during the 1800s and made for travel. He was fascinated by the details on the buggy like the built-in step cover attached to the door.

He even has a sleigh on wheels that folks like to have their pictures made in.

"When it snows, we just set it off the wheels and away we go," said Littrell.

He has about 10 different buggies of various styles he stores indoor at his family’s old lumber yard.

In the Dog House

Besides horses and buggies, Littrell also has a great interest in hunting dogs, particularly English Pointers.

He has converted sheds from the old lumber yard into generous pens for his beloved dogs.

As you stroll down the shed with him, Littrell calls each dog by name. He recalls each animal’s lineage and hunting experience like it was written on a baseball card.

Littrell likes to take his dogs to Texas to hunt with friends.

Contact Information

Persons interested in contacting Littrell may call him at (256) 710-8926.

Susie Sims is a freelance writer from Haleyville.

Back to
Tickets & Deals