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November 2015

100 Yards Away and Out of Sight

Know the rule about supplemental feeding.

by David Rainer

Two years ago, the Alabama Conservation Advisory Board approved a change in the definition of "area" where it is legal to hunt deer and feral hogs when supplemental feed is on the property.

The regulation states: "As it applies to the hunting of deer and feral swine, there shall be a rebuttable presumption that any bait or feed ... located beyond 100 yards from the hunter and not within the line of sight of the hunter is not a lure, attraction or enticement to, on or over the area which the hunter is attempting to kill or take the deer or feral swine. This regulation does not apply to public land. Out of line-of-sight means obscured from view by natural vegetation or naturally occurring terrain features."

Since that "area" definition was spelled out, a couple of conclusions can now be made: hunters who abide by the rules and regulations have a much better understanding about when and how supplemental feed can be distributed to wildlife, and there are still outlaws who don’t follow the rules no matter how well they are defined.

"The ones we’re ticketing now are doing the same thing they’ve always done," said Kevin Dodd, chief of enforcement for the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division. "They’re pouring out a pile of corn about 15-20 yards in front of their stand, sitting there and staring at it all day. Now that the regulations allow people to feed as long as it’s 100 yards away and out of sight, you’d think that a lot of people would seize upon that opportunity. No, they just want to hunt over bait, and 100 yards is too far for them to shoot, I guess.

"The ‘area’ definition has clarified the regulations for the landowners who want to legitimately participate in supplemental feeding and be able to hunt on the same piece of property. For those who want to hunt over bait, it hasn’t changed much."

Dodd said some of his enforcement officers have reported that some hunters are stretching the rule change to its limits.

"We are seeing several instances where people are pushing the envelope," he said. "They’re putting the feed 101 yards away behind a clump of bushes. But for the most part, people are feeding well beyond 100 yards and clearly out of sight. Either that or the feed is 18-20 yards in front of them. Ninety-nine percent of the tickets we’re writing are for bait within 60 yards or less. I worked with an officer last weekend who said he made more than 15 deer-baiting cases last year, and the farthest one was for 45 yards on a food plot. And we’re not talking about a sprinkling of corn. We’re talking a five-gallon bucket of corn piled on the ground."

A "rebuttable presumption" clause was also included in the regulation. That means if a Conservation Enforcement Officer finds evidence of baiting then the hunter can still be ticketed.

WFF Director Chuck Sykes, who was in private wildlife management before he joined the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, said hunters and landowners have an option when it comes to supplemental feeding.

"Here’s the way I look at it: the Legislature was going to pass a bill for this to happen," Sykes said. "We don’t need the Legislature to be involved in wildlife management issues. Philosophically, whether you agree with the feeding or not, the best situation for hunters in Alabama is if the Conservation Department controls it. We can administer the program.

"For example, heaven forbid, we have some kind of disease break out in Alabama in October and the Legislature is not in session. We would have to wait until the Legislature was back in session in February to try to change that law that would ban feeding where it would not concentrate animals. It would probably never happen. The way it is now, if we see a problem during hunting season, the Commissioner can enact an emergency regulation where we can shut down the area definition overnight. This would give us an opportunity to educate the hunters as to why they need to stop feeding. We need to be able to regulate and change on the fly. If it’s by statute, it may never get changed."

Sykes did point out that supplemental feeding is not a panacea for every landowner or piece of property.

"Supplemental feeding, when used properly, is a great management tool," he said. "When it’s used improperly, it’s terrible. It’s just like anything else; it’s how you use it. It’s not a magic bullet. You can’t go out and pour a pile of corn and expect to kill a 160-inch deer. It doesn’t work that way. It’s one piece of a management program. If you want to use it, that’s fine. If you don’t, that’s fine, too. We’re not making you put feed out. It’s a choice.

"There’s been corn out since I was big enough to walk. Every convenience store, feed store and grocery store sells corn. If there’s a problem with a disease, you’re concentrating animals by placing feed, so it has an increased opportunity to spread. As far as I know, that hasn’t happened in Alabama. I’m not as concerned about the deer as I am the turkeys and birds. If people will just make sure they have aflatoxin-free corn and it’s clean, that should reduce the chances."

Sykes pointed out that corn isn’t going to do much for the deer herd in terms of overall health and antler growth.

"You need feed with 16- to 18-percent protein from February through October," he said. "When the does have little ones and are lactating, and the bucks’ antlers are growing, they’ve got to have protein. Corn is like candy. It’s energy. In the winter, when it gets cold, corn will help them out when they need energy to stay warm.

"But a supplemental-feeding program is totally different than baiting. With supplemental feeding, you’re doing it for the wildlife. With baiting, you’re being selfish and trying to kill something instead of getting out and hunting. That’s just being lazy, and it’s against the law."

As the opening day of the archery deer season fast approaches, Dodd reminds hunters that harvest records are mandatory for anyone who is hunting deer or turkeys.

"We’re still running into folks who don’t have their harvest records or they’re not maintaining their harvest records," Dodd said. "They have to have the harvest record on their person whether they kill one or not. But if they shoot a deer, they have to record that harvest before they move it."

The harvest record still must be maintained whether or not hunters participate in the Game Check program.

"Game Check is voluntary, but the harvest record is mandatory," Dodd said. "I think we’ve had the harvest record in force for nine years now, so everybody should be familiar with it."

Dodd also encourages hunters to make sure they follow the hunter orange requirement to wear either a hunter orange vest with 144 square inches of orange or a full-sized, hunter-orange hat. A small logo or printing can be on the hat, but camo orange is not considered legal.

"And don’t forget about treestand safety," Dodd said. "Wear a high-quality safety harness. And take a few minutes to inspect your climbing stand or ladder stand you left in the swamp last year."

Dodd also reminds hunters and concerned citizens to call GameWatch at 800-272-GAME (4263) to report any game-law violations.

David Rainer is with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

1874 Revisited

UDC members Ellen Williams, left, and Sylvia Brown dressed in authentic costumes to welcome over 200 guests attending the dedication of the cabin.

Wagarville’s Sullivan cabin has been restored true to its early rural Alabama lifestyle.

by Carolyn Drinkard

Less than a mile from the intersection of Highways 43 and 56 in the Wagarville community of Washington County stands a piece of history: the Gibeon J. Sullivan cabin. For its architectural significance, the cabin was listed in the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage in 2010 and fully restored as a museum in 2012 by the Private Gibeon Jefferson Sullivan Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

Gibeon Jefferson Sullivan was a Confederate soldier who served in the Wilson’s Guards, a volunteer company composed of men from Washington County. This unit later became known as Company A of the 32nd Alabama Infantry out of Mobile. Considered a hero by many in this small community, Sullivan was captured at the Battle of Nashville and taken to Ohio, as a prisoner-of-war. In June 1865, Sullivan and two other men from Washington County were released and made their way back home.

The Sullivan cabin was decorated during the Christmas season by Carolyn Knight. She used traditional greenery from the area, the way the Sullivan family would have decorated in 1874.

Sullivan built his cabin on the east side of Bassett’s Creek in 1874. He died in 1914, and family members owned the cabin until 2009, when his descendants James and Myra Lankford donated it to the Private Gibeon Jefferson Sullivan Chapter of the UDC. The UDC moved the cabin from its original site to its present location on land donated by other Sullivan family descendents Mac and Nelda Sullivan.

The Sullivan cabin is similar to many other homes found in Southwest Alabama in the 19th century. The double-pen cabin has two rooms, joined by a breezeway or "dogtrot" that helped cool the house during summer. Sullivan used round, peeled logs that he notched with an ax and an adz. In fact, Sullivan’s original ax marks can still be found on some of the logs. The spaces between the logs are covered with thin sheets of wood. Some of the floorboards are as wide as 20 inches, with large sills beneath. Sullivan quarried the limestone for two large fireplaces. The spraddle roof covers both the front and back porches. Sullivan partially enclosed the back porch to add two rooms as the family increased.

The cabin has a full-length front porch. One unusual feature of the porch is that Sullivan built a "cooling board" on one end. By nailing three boards together and fitting them between two logs, Sullivan made a platform that extended to a bench, built on the edge of the front porch. This board platform was used to carry a body to the Sullivan cabin, where it was then prepared for burial. In the Wagarville community, family and friends would gather at the cabin to show their respect for the deceased and offer assistance to the family.

A large crowd attended the dedication of the cabin. Jerrold and Laura Syphrit made chicken and dumplings, cornbread, and cherry and apple pies over open fires and coals to demonstrate how meals were cooked outside in the 1860s.

After receiving the cabin, the UDC set out to restore it. UDC President Ellen Williams wrote and received two grants from The Daniel Foundation of Alabama. Williams also served as the liaison for three grants received from the Thomas L. Turner Trust of Clarke County. Hiring experienced movers to relocate the cabin proved to be the UDC’s largest expense. The home had to be moved in two parts and then put back together again. In addition, the fireplaces had to be taken down.

The UDC members were able to complete the restoration at a lower cost, however, because so many dedicated individuals helped. Williams, and her husband, Herman, were both instrumental in the restoration. He did the carpentry, plumbing and electrical work.

Even though the interior furnishings are not original, the UDC has worked hard to keep the furnishings true to the 1874 era and to the lifestyle enjoyed by the Sullivan family.

Billy Harrison built most of the furniture in the cabin. He used heart lumber from Herman Williams’ and his own stockpile. All the furnishings were true to the 1874 era and to the lifestyle enjoyed by the Sullivan family. Harrison demonstrates how the bed key was used to tighten the ropes.

"The two pen (front) rooms are filled with furniture and accruements that would have been available during the lifetime of Gibeon Sullivan," Williams explained. "The furniture also represents pieces that would have been within his subsistence-farmer income."

Billy Harrison, whose wife Bonnie is a UDC member, built most of the furniture. Harrison used old boards from heart lumber to make a table, two benches, a washstand, mantel and two square tables in each pen room. The cabin still has its original shutters. Other period accents have been added throughout the home.

Using plans found on the Internet, Harrison built the rope beds for the bedrooms. The rope beds traditionally had no springs or slats. Because the ropes would eventually stretch, they had to be tightened periodically with a wrench or bed key. After seeing a picture of the bed key, Harrison made one in five minutes. Williams pointed out that many believe the familiar, old saying of "sleep tight and don’t let the bed bugs bite" could have come from using these rope beds.

Bonnie donated an old quilt that was made by her grandmother Welthy Brunson when Brunson was only 16 years old.

Numerous other volunteers helped in the restoration. Community members brought heavy equipment and smoothed the area for the cabin to rest. Jerrold Syphrit hauled limestone from Gainestown, and Ricky Powell rebuilt the chimney and fireplace. After Alabama Historical Commission advised the UDC to add a catering kitchen and half-bath for visitors’ comfort, a local business gave the group a discount on the installation of a septic tank. James and Carolyn Knight maintain the flowerbed around the historical marker and the crepe myrtles and roses in the old iron wash pots. The UDC did add electrical service and one of its members pays the bill each month.

"Many times during the restoration, people stopped by and most of the time they commented, ‘I remember my grandpa had a house just like this!’" Williams recalled.

Williams believes the Sullivan cabin is one of only three cabins of this type left in Washington County. Williams is especially pleased that younger people will personally get to see a style of architecture normally only found in a book.

Ellen and Herman Williams were both instrumental in the restoration of the Sullivan cabin. Ellen wrote and secured the grants and spent hours volunteering her time. Herman did the carpentry, electrical work and plumbing.

"I am an avid student of the War Between the States," Williams added. "When I see the very ax marks and wooden pegs made by Pvt. Gibeon J. Sullivan, I am awed that I was privileged to have been a part of restoring this home, built with the same hands that fired a rifle at Murfreesboro and the Battle of Nashville and other engagements."

Bonnie echoed Williams’s pride.

"We had an outpouring of people wanting to help us, but it would never have been done without Ellen’s leadership and dedication. She made everybody want to help! She is a true lover of the South and our heritage," Bonnie said.

The UDC is proud of their restoration of the Sullivan cabin and invites everyone to visit. Their hard work has allowed countless visitors the opportunity to step back in time, remember those who gave so much for others and reflect on how blessed Americans are today.

For more information or to schedule a tour for individuals or groups, call 251-246-9850. There is no charge for a tour, but the UDC does accept donations.

Carolyn Drinkard is a freelance writer from Thomasville.

4-H Extension Corner: A Door to the World

Shakeba DuBose, left, was a former 4-H member with Denise Shirley, county Extension coordinator for Tuscaloosa County.

A lifetime of success, defined by superhuman determination, is a result of an Alabama girl’s experience in 4-H.

by Jim Langcuster

A couple of years ago, attorney Shakeba DuBose, while working to establish her own law firm, was presented with the added challenge of setting up her own company website.

Not to worry; she learned the rudiments of web design and set it up herself.

Challenges, even daunting ones, have never been a problem for DuBose. She possesses what, in the view of many friends and family, amounts to a superhuman capacity for overcoming difficulties, nettlesome and calamitous alike.

She acquired her remarkable coping skills the hard way, in the small, rural west Alabama hamlet of Bellamy – no traffic light to be seen – located a good 15 miles from the big city of Livingston, a small university town and regional hub, and 20 miles from Demopolis, the largest town in neighboring Marengo County. If her remote location wasn’t bad enough, there was the added challenge of attending the area’s underfunded public high school, effectively segregated and, in material terms, not far removed from Alabama’s troubled segregationist past.

But she had two remarkable advantages working for her: not only that dogged, superhuman determination but also support from friends and family who cared for her future.

One of these supporters, the one she still remembers today as her lifetime mentor, was Denise Shirley, Extension coordinator for Tuscaloosa County with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, whom DuBose describes as the first person outside of her family who took an active interest in her success.

"Shakeba looked for every opportunity. This was a few years before the Internet, when mail was still our primary way of communicating with 4-H’ers, but she would carefully pour over every one of those 4-H letters and flyers, looking for every opportunity to participate and to excel," Shirley recalled.

Starting as a fifth grader, DuBose used these opportunities to build a bridge to her future – and what a future it would be. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in Healthcare Management from the University of Alabama; a Master of Business Administration and a Master of Health Services Administration from Arizona State University; and, finally, a law degree from the prestigious Maurer School of Law at Indiana University.

Dubose, who is still in her 30s, has served as general counsel for a healthcare company, an adjunct college faculty member and an assistant attorney general for the State of Ohio. She now heads her own law firm, The DuBose Law Firm and TDLF Healthcare Compliance Consulting Group, located in Columbus, Ohio, and specializing in healthcare law.

Curiously, though, it wasn’t public speaking, the usual choice of 4-H activities for an aspiring attorney, that transformed DuBose. While she competed in her share of public speaking competitions, dairy demonstrations were her thing – her passion and her specialty. In fact, she became so caught up in these demonstrations that they became known as "Shakeba’s dairy demos" among her friends.

It not only became an all-consuming passion but one that instilled her with an appreciation for self-mastery; however, perhaps most important of all, with the sense of achievement that comes from being recognized as the go-to person within a discipline or field.

"I had to have the first-place ribbon every year, because that was my area of expertise," she laughingly recalled. "And I carried that passion into my professional career. I wanted to be the go-to person in dairy as a young 4-H’er, just as today, I strive to be the go-to person in healthcare."

But Shirley and 4-H opened up another door as well: a view to the big world beyond Bellamy.

"4-H took me to so many places and, without it exposing me to these new places and people, I don’t know where I’d be."

One of her most cherished memories is her 4-H trip to Washington to commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King’s historic march.

Those 4-H trips opened new vistas to people and ideas.

"The school I attended had only about 500 students, mostly black children with a handful of white kids," she said. "Then I’m exposed to a world of people of many different backgrounds who weren’t like me and who had very different ideas – those were wonderful experiences that I wish every child could be afforded."

These experiences helped ignite another deeply held passion that sets DuBose apart from many others: an all-consuming zest for life and for new experiences – to borrow David Thoreau’s timeless phrase, a deep yearning "to live deep and to suck all the marrow out of life."

She’s determined to treat herself to one big adventure a year for the rest of her life. So far, that’s included skydiving on a whim in Las Vegas; snorkeling in the Red Sea off the coast of Egypt; taking cooking lessons in Barcelona, Budapest and Venice; as part of a trust exercise, climbing a 30-foot cliff in Arizona’s Sonora Desert; and, recently, shark snorkeling in Cancun.

Measured by what DuBose achieved in her life, it is little wonder that Shirley considers her the most determined 4-H’er who ever passed through her door.

"She really was the most persistent child I ever knew as a 4-H agent," Shirley stated. "She never gave up and she also showed a willingness to step out where other kids didn’t."

Jim Langcuster is a writer on contract for Extension Communications.

A Better Hunter

Alabama Hunting & Fishing Almanac moonrise/moonset times can improve your hunting experience.

by Corky Pugh

The Hunting Heritage Foundation is happy to announce the publication and distribution of the 2015-2016 4th Edition Alabama Hunting & Fishing Almanac with 26,000 copies published in partnership with the Alabama State Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation and Alabama Farmers Cooperative. AFC and H. T. Hackney Co. have distributed the Almanac to over 500 retail outlets across the state for free giveaway to customers.

The Almanac is now also available electronically at and through a major partner,, an innovative Internet-based shopping venue for hunters. The publication may be downloaded for free at either site. Another major partner, Great Days Outdoors Magazine, has sent the Almanac electronically to subscribers as a free bonus issue.

The Alabama State Chapter of NWTF provided major funding for the Almanac as a part of NWTF’s "Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt." initiative. This initiative recognizes that all the good habitat work undertaken by NWTF and others is for naught unless we also work to sustain the broad base of hunters.

Hunters Pay for Wildlife

As NWTF CEO George Thornton put it, "The past has proven we won’t have sustainable wildlife habitat unless hunters are involved. Hunters pay for 80 percent of the budgets for state wildlife agencies that drive the research and work to restore essential habitat for game and nongame species."

To learn more about this two-pronged initiative, go to This laudable direction on the part of NWTF helps to move the entire hunting community out of the single-focus approach so prevalent in the past.

Also of note is that NWTF has reached across species-specific lines at the national level, signing a memorandum of understanding with Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever, all organizations that share a common vision.

This is the kind of synergistic leadership that is needed if hunting is to remain strong. Only by casting aside the parochial, competitive ways of the past and adopting the collaborative, cooperative way can we overcome the obstacles that confront us.

Partnership at Work

The Hunting & Fishing Almanac is made possible through just such collaboration. With the help of NWTF, AFC and H. T. Hackney Co., we are pleased to be able to provide this ready-reference guide on hunting and fishing for retailers to give to their customers free. This partnership results in getting the Almanac in the hands of rank and file hunters and fishermen through hundreds of stores at the local level. and Great Days Outdoors have greatly expanded the reach of the Almanac by making it available electronically.

How to Use the Almanac

The moonrise/moonset times in the Almanac can be used to determine the best times to hunt deer. According to Tom Hayes, who wrote "How to Hunt the Whitetail Deer," "Except for a brief early-morning and late-evening feeding period, the whitetail normally gets up with the moon and lies down with the moon.

"Though hunting is generally poorest at the time of the full moon and is generally best when the night is totally dark, at all times – during favorable weather – when the moon rises during the daylight hours the days will be above average for hunting while at those times when the moon rises during the hours of darkness hunting will produce below average results."

For example, the special Youth Deer Season is open Nov. 13-16 this year. Looking at the Almanac, these dates fall during a period of the new moon and, most significantly, on days when the moon rises during daylight hours and is up all day. Youth Deer Days this year should offer excellent hunting opportunity – if the weather cooperates. Take advantage of this special opportunity to introduce a kid to hunting at a prime time.

The Almanac is a 32-page, calendar-based guide to hunting and fishing seasons and regulations. The user-friendly text has proven popular with all kinds of hunters, the avid and not-so-avid. Every hunter counts the same in paying for management and protection of wildlife resources enjoyed by all of society. This is why it is so important to keep the base of hunters broad.

An additional 1,000 copies of the Almanac have been custom-printed for other businesses, such as Finchburg Grocery and Gettin’ Outdoors Radio with Big Daddy Lawler.

The corporate citizenship displayed by H. T. Hackney Co., AFC and other partners is a real asset. Keeping people hunting and fishing not only pays for putting conservation enforcement officers and biologists on the ground and in the water but it drives a huge economic engine.

Hunting amounts to a $1.8 billion economic impact annually in Alabama. Freshwater fishing adds another $780 million. The two activities are responsible for $1.7 billion in direct retail expenditures, spinning off $155 million in state and local taxes every year in Alabama.

To learn more about the role hunters play, go to

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

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

Ag Insight

by Jim Erickson

Coalition endorses plan to reduce food waste

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency have announced the United States’ first-ever national food waste reduction goal, calling for a 50 percent reduction by 2030.

As part of the effort, the federal government will lead a new partnership with charitable organizations, faith-based groups, the private sector, and local, state and tribal governments to reduce food loss and waste in order to improve overall food security and conserve the nation’s natural resources.

The announcement came just days before world leaders gathered at the United Nations General Assembly in New York to address sustainable development practices, including sustainable production and consumption.

Use of conservation practices varies

Some conservation practices to mitigate the environmental effects of agricultural production are more widely adopted than others, according to USDA statistics.

No conservation practice has been universally adopted by U.S. farmers, USDA stated. Variation in their adoption is due, at least in part, to differences in soil, climate, topography, crop/livestock mix, producer management skills and financial risk aversion.

These factors affect the on-farm cost and benefit of practice adoption. Presumably, farmers will adopt conservation practices only when the benefits exceed cost, although government programs can increase adoption rates by helping defray costs.

The potential environmental gain also varies. Ecosystem service benefits (such as improved water quality and enhanced wildlife habitat) depend both on the practice and on the location and physical characteristics of the land.

Farms with nontraditional activities on the rise

The number of farms engaged in non-traditional activities has increased significantly in recent years.

Nontraditional farm activities involve innovative uses of farm resources such as growing/selling value-added products (such as fruit jams, preserves, cider, wine, floral arrangements and beef jerky), selling directly to consumers, providing agritourism/recreational services and using renewable-energy-producing systems such as solar panels, wind turbines and biodiesel.

Showing the largest growth were farms with renewable-energy-producing systems. In 2012, about 57,000 U.S. farms produced renewable energy, more than double the number in 2007. By 2012, 63 percent of renewable-energy-producing farms had installed solar panels, which drives this increase.

The number of farms with income from agritourism/recreation increased over the five-year period by 42 percent, with the largest increase in smaller agritourism farms with annual receipts under $5,000.

Water quality trading efforts expanding

USDA and EPA are taking steps to expand markets for water quality benefits generated on farms, ranches and forest lands.

Water quality trading is an innovative approach to reduce pollution and efficiently achieve water quality goals. Trading is based on the fact that sources in a watershed can face very different costs to control the same pollutant. Trading programs allow facilities facing higher pollution control costs to meet their regulatory obligations by purchasing environmentally equivalent (or superior) pollution reductions from another source at lower cost, thus achieving the same water quality improvement at lower overall cost.

USDA and EPA signed a partnership agreement two years ago to advance water quality trading and other market-based approaches providing benefits to the environment and economy. A recent workshop attracted over 200 participants from across the nation involved in water quality trading.

Among other activities, USDA also has announced grants of more than $2 million designed to build and promote new water quality trading resources. Included was a grant to the National Association of Conservation Districts to develop guidance materials and engage in outreach and training to increase participation of soil and water conservation districts in nutrient trading programs.

Enrollment deadline extended for Margin Protection Program

The deadline to enroll for the dairy Margin Protection Program for coverage in 2016 has been extended until Nov. 20, 2015. The voluntary program, established by the 2014 Farm Bill, provides financial assistance to participating farmers when the margin – the difference between the price of milk and feed costs – falls below the coverage level selected by the farmer.

Producers can use the USDA’s Farm Agency Service online web resource,, to calculate the best levels of coverage for their dairy operation. The secure website can be accessed via computer, smartphone or tablet.

Producers enrolled in 2015 still need to make a coverage election for 2016 and pay the $100 administration fee. Although any unpaid premium balances for 2015 must be paid in full by the enrollment deadline to remain eligible for higher coverage levels in 2016, premiums for 2016 are not due until Sept. 1, 2016. Also, producers can work with milk marketing companies to remit premiums on their behalf.

To enroll in the Margin Protection Program, dairy farmers should contact their local FSA county office.

Fed steer prices fall from historic highs

Although 2015 fed steer supplies remain historically small, prices have recently fallen from the record-high levels reached during the first and second quarters of 2015.

Prices have been trending lower since April 2015, and in July and August fell below the levels of the same time a year ago.

The recent decline in fed steer prices is driven by negative margins faced by packers during the summer months. As a result, slaughter data suggests packers may have slowed the pace of slaughter to improve their margins, subsequently driving fed steer prices lower.

A continued reluctance of packers to expand their slaughter could put further downward pressure on the price of these cattle in the months ahead, especially if it creates a backlog of fed steer supplies into the fourth quarter, when demand typically shifts away from grilling items to traditional holiday items such as turkeys and hams.

Four Alabama organizations receive USDA grants

The USDA has announced grants totaling $8.4 million to support the work of 54 partner organizations in 35 states in providing training, outreach and technical assistance for socially disadvantaged, tribal and veteran farmers and ranchers.

Recipients and their grant amounts include Alabama A&M University, $180,791; Alabama State Association of Cooperatives, $200,000; Tuskegee University, $200,000; and the United Christian Community Association, $114,300.

The grants are administered through USDA’s Office of Advocacy and Outreach 2501 Program. Since 2010, more than $74 million has been invested through the 2501 Program to leverage the work of 304 local partners. The 2014 Farm Bill reauthorized the program and expanded assistance to include military veterans.

U.S. ranks as world’s largest ethanol exporter

The United States is the world’s largest producer and consumer of ethanol and also ranks as the world’s largest exporter of the product.

Between 2001 and 2014, global biofuel production and use grew rapidly, driven by a combination of rising gasoline prices, falling prices of biofuel inputs and policies mandating use of renewable fuels. These same factors also led to an expansion of global trade in biofuels.

Prior to 2010, the United States relied partly on imports to meet domestic demand. But, beginning in 2010, the nation emerged as a net exporter of ethanol, reflecting the blend wall that limits the ethanol content of gasoline used in most conventional vehicles to 10 percent. At the same time, demand for biofuels from other countries, particularly the European Union and Brazil, continued to grow.

The United States has remained a net exporter of ethanol each year since 2010, and since 2011 has been the world’s largest exporter.

In 2014, oil prices declined by more than half, pressuring U.S. ethanol consumption; however, the market remained strong due to U.S. government policies mandating ethanol use, the use of ethanol as an octane enhancer and the large export market.

Beefing Up the Next Generation

Paige Teague, one of the contestants, is interviewed by Randall Weiseman while the judges take notes.

The Alabama Beef Ambassador Program offers youth an opportunity to educate consumers about beef.

by Michelle Bufkin

The future of agriculture lies in developing today’s youth to not only become better farmers but to also be better advocates for agriculture. In today’s society, most people are four generations removed from the farm. This means there are numerous consumers who have little-to-no idea where their food comes from. The best way to change that is to educate farmers and ranchers on how to bridge that gap. The Alabama Beef Ambassador Program strives to provide that education.

The Alabama Beef Ambassador Program is a state level of the National Beef Ambassador Program. At both of these programs, participants are evaluated in four categories: media interview, issues response, consumer demonstration/simulation and another interview focusing on their education and outreach activities. In the last category, participants have the ability to choose three equally weighted activities/events designed to advocate for beef with youth and/or millennial audiences. Contestants may choose from social media outreach via Facebook, campus event or youth classroom presentation.

The judges take time to deliberate over contestants’ scores. The judges (from left) are Jenny Britton, Bob Britton, Darrell Stokes and Caleb Beason.

Beef Ambassadors located across the nation go into classrooms, daycares’ after-school programs and attend youth-organization activities where they make presentations about their personal experiences with beef and the beef industry, including industry messages on nutrition, animal welfare, environment and other key topics. National Beef Ambassadors increase consumer reach through their attendance at promotional events during consumer expos, health fairs and in-store demonstrations.

Alabama has become one of the leading states in supporting this national program. Alabama Beef Ambassador is an amazing program directed toward the youth of our state to help develop them as beef promoters.

This year, students had the unique opportunity of being interviewed by Randall Weiseman, network program director for Southeast Ag Net. This put the students in a situation where they were forced to think about their answers more thoroughly and provided them with real-world experience about what to expect from a media interview. Following the conclusion of the program, Weiseman and other judges explained the best way to answer questions for the media - by answering them completely, focusing on the positive and always reiterating your point.

From the ABAP, Amanda Reeves was selected as the senior representative and Shaler Hankins was selected as the junior representative to the NBAP. Participants were also selected to serve on Alabama Beef Ambassador Teams. The senior team selected was Reeves, Coffee County; Jeffery Calvert, Lauderdale County; and Paige Teague, Clay County. The junior team selected was Wyatt Walker, Lauderdale County, and Hankins, Lauderdale County. These teams will not only promote the beef industry but will also provide the students with necessary advocating skills. The emphasis of the ABAP is to provide the students with education, youth development and adaptive leadership skills - all while they share their stories of the beef industry.

"The ABAP strives to provide an opportunity for youth to educate consumers and youth about beef nutrition, food safety, the economic value of the beef industry and stewardship practices of the beef industry," said Dr. Donald Mulvaney, a professor in Auburn University’s Animal Sciences Department.

"I learned two things from programs like this. I learned how to make a decision and how to back it up with logical reasons. I hope y’all learn this as well," Darrell Stokes, Montgomery Stockyards and one of the judges, told the participants.

Logical reasons are much easier for consumers to believe as opposed to opinions. This program provides youth with researched information they could use to help convince consumers that beef is safe, healthy and important. Bob Britton, director of the research units at Auburn University, was another judge. Britton’s favorite part of the program was seeing the young students describe their passion for the beef industry.

"This program is essential because today’s youth are bombarded with anti-beef messages," Mulvaney said.

So many people are unaware of where their food comes from. They look online for answers, but most of the links are sharing negative information. We, as agriculturalists, are greatly outnumbered and that gap will continue to grow. This is why equipping the next generation with the information and skills to promote the beef industry is absolutely necessary.

Evelyn Brown’s passion for the ABAP started strongly in 2011. She says the program is built on the strong ethics of leaders in the beef community and it has proven to strengthen youth development. That is the reason she believes so strongly in the program. Brown is the chair for the ABAP and currently sits on the board of directors for the American National CattleWomen; she is also the past president of the Alabama CattleWomen’s Association.

The ABAP represents a partnership among the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association, the Alabama CattleWomen’s Association and the Department of Animal Sciences at Auburn University. Any Alabama youth between the ages of 9 and 20 with current abilities and potential to be trained will be eligible to be nominated to the 2016 Alabama Beef Ambassador Program Workshop that prepares youth for the state contest, membership on the Alabama Beef Ambassador Team and the national competition. The program is supported by the Alabama Beef Check-off Marketing plan.

Michelle Bufkin is is a freelance writer from Auburn.

Celebrate the Harvest

by Steve Crumpler

My wife loves to gather produce. She loves to pick up potatoes, especially sweet potatoes, and "oohs" and "ahs" over how big they are. She finds great joy in looking at a bushel of green beans or beautiful apples. She delights in a big yellow tomato.

In agriculture, the main thing is the harvest. It always has been. It always will be. Everything we do is for the harvest. Without the harvest we go broke. Ultimately without the harvest we die of starvation. The harvest is a really big deal.

And when the harvest is abundant and safely gathered in, we are glad. We celebrate. We rejoice. We give thanks to God, who blessed our labor and provides our crops, flocks and herds to produce and increase. God gave us strength to work and land to work on. He sent sunshine and rain. We recognize that He is the One who protected us from our enemies and provided peace and stability without which agriculture is impossible.

Life depends on the harvest. The harvest depends on God. We depend on God. We cannot survive without His help.

One of the major feasts of Israel in the Old Testament was the celebration every year at the conclusion of the harvest. The Feast of Tabernacles or Booths (Leviticus 23:39-44) lasted for seven days and it was an annual event. It was a reminder to the people that God is the one who gives the harvest and that we are to celebrate and rejoice and give thanks and praise to Him.

Life is not just about hard work, long days and constant busyness. Life is meant to be enjoyed and celebrated. It is OK to be happy. It is good to be glad. God wants us to take time to have a good time with each other in His presence. He commanded it. He expects us to do it. He knows we need it. And true joy and gladness are always found in the company of thankfulness, gratitude, humility, love and faith.

The Bible speaks of the cycle of planting and harvesting, and sowing and reaping in many passages; and in those passages, God makes precious promises and assurances to His people. Psalm 126:5-6 (KJV) is one of those promises: Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy. He who continually goes forth weeping, bearing seed for sowing, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.

There are several life lessons found in agriculture:

  • If you want to eat, you have to work.
  • We are not in control. We are not God.
  • God is in control. He is God.
  • We are totally dependent on God. We need Him.
  • God is good. He is faithful. He provides for His people. He loves us.
  • God blesses faith and obedience, and He punishes sin.
  • If I do my part, God will always do His part.
  • You reap what you sow.
  • You reap after you sow.
  • You reap in proportion to how much you sow.
  • Be thankful, rejoice and give God the praise for the harvest.
  • You demonstrate your faith and gratitude by giving a portion of the harvest back to God.
  • Just as there is an agricultural and material harvest, there is also a Spiritual one.

The Bible often uses agricultural metaphors to teach spiritual laws of sowing and reaping. The spiritual realities are just as true and dependable as the agricultural and material truths. The apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 6:7-10: Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that he shall also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due time we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good to all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.

Paul also wrote in 2 Corinthians 9:6: … He which sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly, and he which sows bountifully shall reap also bountifully.

Jesus told a parable about an unfruitful fig tree. He was not trying to teach us how to grow figs. He is warning us about the danger of not being useful and pleasing to God who has the right to expect a harvest from us.

… A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. Then he said to the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I came seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground? And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down. (Luke 13:6-9)

Jesus talked about workers to gather in a spiritual harvest.

And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the Kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. Then saith He unto His disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He will send forth labourers into His harvest. (Matthew 9:36-38)

Just like in agriculture, the harvest is the main thing in life. The most important things are not the physical and material but the spiritual and eternal. We devote much time, energy, effort and attention to producing a harvest in agriculture or to making a profit in business and that is necessary and good. It is God’s plan for us. And we celebrate and rejoice when we gather in the harvest and know that our work was not in vain. But how much more valuable and how much more important is the spiritual harvest. God created us to bear fruit for Him. Jesus died and rose again to change us, save us, transform us and make us a new creation. What a joy and privilege it is to see His purposes realized and fulfilled in our lives and to know that He finds joy in us, and we find our joy in Him and His people. What a blessing to be able to participate in His harvest as we work with Him in spreading the gospel of the life, death, resurrection and coming again of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus says in Luke 15:10: … there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.

Knowles Shaw, 1834-1878, wrote this great hymn about the harvest, "Bringing in the Sheaves."

Sowing in the morning, sowing seeds of kindness,

Sowing in the noontide and the dewy eve;

Waiting for the harvest, and the time of reaping,

We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

(Refrain) Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves;
Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

Sowing in the sunshine, sowing in the shadows,
Fearing neither clouds nor winter’s chilling breeze;
By and by the harvest, and the labor ended,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

Going forth with weeping, sowing for the Master,
Though the loss sustained our spirit often grieves;
When our weeping’s over, He will bid us welcome,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

Steve Crumpler is Glenn’s brother.

Corn Time


Developing a Marketing Plan

by Robert Spencer

Last month’s article talked about the fundamental aspects of having a plan for entry into small-scale livestock production. This article will focus on developing a marketing plan, an essential component of any business plan or loan application. A well-designed plan will include aspects such as marketing options, potential markets, logistics to markets, fair market prices, production lines, goals and objectives, executive summary, etc. The ultimate goal of any marketing plan should be profitability or demonstrate potential for profitability. While this sounds like a lot, developing a marketing plan is readily accomplished when done one step at a time. And, remember, these plans are flexible and will be modified from time to time.

For example, let us assume you will be raising meat goats and sheep, live in Athens (North Alabama) and want to begin developing a marketing plan.

Executive summary – This goes at the beginning of your marketing plan and is a paragraph or two highlighting each component of your marketing plan, with minimal detail. It needs to capture the essence of your plan and capture the interest of your reader. If it does not, they are unlikely to read the rest of your plan.

  • Breeds – Do your research and decide what breeds work best for your situation. You will want to consider grow-out rates, hardiness (parasite tolerance and health), and advantages and disadvantages to each breed. Reality is you will want to consider cross-breeding to gain hybrid vigor (hardiness).
  • Production intent – Assuming your plan is to raise meat animals, a significant portion of your herd should include:

- Brood stock (ex. 20 females, 2 herd sires) – While this may sound like a small herd; you may want to grow your production numbers into your market potential through reproduction and acquisition of additional brood stock.

- Male animals – Most male offspring will be terminal animals and some sold as herd sires.

- Female animals – A small portion of female offspring will be retained as replacement animals, some sold as brood stock and a few sold as culls.

- Let’s assume you will initially have 15 animals to sell per year.

  • Marketing Options – Direct market, indirect market, retail and/or wholesale

- Direct market – Selling animals directly to consumers. This might involve animals being processed on your property; consumers purchasing and transporting animal to be processed elsewhere; you delivering animal to processor and consumer picking up processed meat; or selling to a convenient livestock sale barn that specializes in goats and sheep. Each scenario has its advantages and disadvantages.

- Indirect market – This tends to involve a person buying the animal from you and reselling to another market. Some people choose livestock sale barns or have buyers come to their farm and the buyers take animal elsewhere.

  • Potential Sale barn locations and distances (round-trip from Athens): Cullman, 101 Miles; Russellville, 128 miles; Columbia, Tenn., 135 miles. Knowing this will help estimate cost of transportation (see marketing table).
  • Fair-market price – This is a vague term and varying number. Seasonal market demand and number of potential buyers are determining factors. Let us set a fair-market price for young goats or sheep, about 60-80 lb., male, in very good body condition. In the marketing table, we will assume goats bring $2.50/lb. live weight and sheep bring $2/lb. live weight.
  • Goals and objectives – This includes financial resources, facilities, production and marketing plans, and how you plan to grow your operation as marketing opportunities increase, etc.

While this is a brief summary of a marketing plan, it should help give you an idea of how a well-thought-out plan should appear. There are many components to a marketing plan and it will take some time to develop. The intent of a marketing plan is to convince the reader and lays out a "road map" of how you plan to move forward with plans. Remember, in a business plan, profitability should be your goal; your marketing plan is how you plan to get there.

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

Dove Hunting

(From left) Rolley Len Kirk, Hadley Fields and Cason Kirk have fun running around and helping retrieve the birds during one of the dove shoots.

by Christy Kirk

When I asked Cason what his favorite thing about dove hunting was, he said, "Shooting." However, in all the photos I saw, I didn’t see him even holding a gun although I am sure he did at some point. In most of the pictures it looks like he is having a lot of fun running around with the other children instead of shooting.

When Jason takes Rolley Len and Cason to a dove field, it is a lot like camping out or tailgating. Multiple families show up with children of all ages and levels of hunting experience. If you put a bunch of active and imaginative children together in an open field, they will have a blast. They can stir up birds, practice their shooting, retrieve the birds or make up games to play. It can be good exercise and entertainment and result in some healthy competition.

According to Rolley Len, the kids’ games got pretty competitive on their last shoot. She said they were told that whoever had 15 birds by the end of the day would get a big prize. The bag limit is actually 15 per day, and Jason said he has never been able to shoot that many in our area in one day. Although the contest was tough, the offer of a prize for 15 birds motivated several boys and girls into action. There was a lot of swiping each other’s birds in an attempt to win. Rolley Len said that her favorite part of the dove shoot was all the creeping and sneaking around, and snatching of birds.

Dove hunting is one of the best hunts for young children because they don’t have to control their noise level or sit still for a long period of time. Even though there was a consistent ruckus going on around the field, there were still many teachable moments. The kids learned more about dove hunting from the grownups. They practiced their aim taking shots with their Red Rider BB guns. They also learned how to spot a fallen bird and handle a dead bird. Cason said he had not learned how to clean them yet, but it won’t be long though before they are cleaning and cooking the birds they shoot themselves.

Since dove shoots last for hours and are inherently social, everyone brings plenty of food like barbecue, baked beans and grilled hot dogs to keep parents and children full through the day. If you already have birds from an earlier shoot, these recipes would be a great addition to your next outdoor meal.

Dove breasts are small, so make sure you have enough for you and your guests. Depending on whether you are making an appetizer or an entrée, a serving is between three and eight breasts. The dove poppers can be cooked on the grill and the fried dove breasts can either be cooked on site or cooked at home and reheated over the fire.

For dove seasons by zone and bag limits, visit

Dove Poppers

Deboned dove breasts

1 jar whole jalapenos

1 (8-ounce) container cream cheese

Bacon, cut in half


Salt and pepper, to taste

Rinse and dry dove breasts. Slice jalapenos in half lengthwise and remove seeds. Stuff cream cheese into the open cavity of each jalapeno. Place a dove breast on top and wrap in half a piece of bacon securing with a toothpick. Repeat with all breasts. Grill breasts over medium-high heat for 15-20 minutes or until bacon is crisp, turning once. Salt and pepper to taste.

Pan-Fried Dove

Pan-fried Dove

1 cup buttermilk
2 cups all-purpose flour
1½ Tablespoons paprika
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
12 dove breasts, deboned, rinsed and patted dry
Oil, for frying
Hot sauce, optional

Pour buttermilk into a shallow bowl. In another shallow dish, combine flour, paprika, salt and pepper. Dredge dove breasts in buttermilk and then in flour mixture until just coated.

Pour about ¼-inch cooking oil into the bottom of a deep skillet (cast iron if you have it) and bring to 350°. Fry dove breasts in batches for about 2 minutes, turning once during frying. Remove dove to a platter lined with paper towels to drain. Serve with your favorite dipping sauce such as ranch, ketchup or pepper jelly.

Note: This recipe reminds me of fried chicken livers.

Chicken-fried Dove

1 cup flour, sifted

¼ cup Panko bread crumbs

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

1 egg

Oil, for cooking

3 dove breasts, deboned and cut into ¼-inch pieces

Mix flour, Panko, garlic powder, salt and pepper in a bowl. Beat egg in a separate bowl. Heat a deep skillet (cast iron if you have it) to medium high temperature. Add oil to cover the bottom of skillet.

Add dove breasts to beaten egg and then toss in flour. Place dove breasts in oil and fry on both sides until golden brown. About 2-3 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels and serve with ranch, ketchup or other favorite dipping sauce.

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


Entertainment for November

Marigolds keep blooming right up until the first killing frost.

by Herb T. Farmer

Over the years I have seen seasonal traditions change. Family moves away, some die off. Some of the holidays we held dear are no longer important while retailers try to get your attention for that one holiday that happens next month.

Last month, I walked into a Home Depot store and was nearly choked to death by the smell of fake cinnamon. Yep. They had their Christmas decorations out already and some sort of nasty cinnamon air freshener that went into my nose and throat and triggered a coughing, sneezing fit that was the spectacle on aisle one.

When I walk into a hardware store or home center, I want to smell lumber!

Thanksgiving is still a staple for mainstream November holidays. Grocers look forward to that day of food.

Other celebrated days that bear mentioning are Día de los Muertos or Day of the Dead on November 2 and Small Business Saturday on the day after Black Friday.

Day of the Dead is a fun holiday to celebrate. Also known as All Souls Day, it’s a good time to celebrate the memories of family, friends and pets. It’s also the official day of the marigold. Millions of marigolds are grown for the celebration.

It is believed that the spirits of the deceased visit the living and the vibrant colors and scent of the marigolds aid the spirits in finding their altars. African marigold (Tagetes erecta) is the most common marigold used. Cempasúchil or flower of the dead can mean any flowers, but most nurseries grow the T. erecta or T. patula (French marigold) for this event. I grow both of these here on the farm, in addition to the Mexican marigold (Tagetes lucida) aka Texas tarragon.

Some celebrations are just bound for stardom, like the one my neighbor down the road started a few years back. On the second Sunday in November, he and his wife host a Godfather party. Costumes are optional, but I have been known to show up in a pin-striped suit, depending on how hot the weather is. It starts around noon and goes until about 9 p.m. Everybody brings an Italian dish, so it’s definitely a pot luck event. This year I’ll be making pizzas again. They’re always a big hit and I cook them in cast iron skillets.

All of the food is set up in their dining room, drinks in the kitchen and it is not a formal, sit-down dinner. It is a grazing fiesta!

The point of the party is to celebrate the good food and watch all three of the "Godfather" movies that are shown on a huge inflatable projection screen in their darkened barn. Between films, they show Animaniacs cartoons, some of which pay tribute to the Mario Puzo films.

Party goers are encouraged to sound off with familiar lines in the movie such as singing along with James Taylor at his concert.

"Leave the gun. Take the cannoli."

Then there’s the big turkey day. I must admit. I love turkey. I love the flavor; I love the aroma it makes while roasting in the oven; and I love all of the flavorful byproducts it makes.

Even if I share Thanksgiving with friends on that day, there will still be a bird roasted that evening at my house.

Let’s have some recipe therapy!

Pizzas cook best in seasoned cast iron cookware.

Simple pizza crust

½ ounce active dry yeast

2 teaspoons granulated sugar

16 ounces warm water

5 cups sifted bread flour

2 teaspoons salt

4 Tablespoons olive oil

In large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water. Allow the yeast to bloom (10 minutes). Stir in flour, salt and oil. Let rest at least 10 minutes.

Preheat oven to 450°. Oil your cast iron skillets (recipe is for a double batch). Press pizza dough into skillets making sure to keep it as level as possible with edges up the sides to form a dough dish. Dock the dough with a fork and prebake for 5 minutes. Add toppings and bake until golden brown.

Toppings: Pesto, Italian tomato sauce, salami, pepperoni, Canadian bacon, Italian sausage, fresh tomatoes, sundried tomatoes, bell peppers, jalapeño chilis, roasted garlic, onions, olives, mushrooms and cheeses. If you don’t precook your Italian sausage, then be sure to place it on top of the pie to insure food safety.

Place cut lemons under breast skin. All buttered up and almost ready for roasting.

Fun with turkeys!

Cut a lemon in half. Place cut side down under the skin on the breasts. Rub breasts, legs and thighs with butter. Roast according to size and weight chart, and tent with foil to prevent skin from burning. The lemony flavor imparted into the breasts is wonderful!

Enjoy your holidays!

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

Thanks for reading!

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

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

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

Figs Are Fun

Figs are fun and easy to grow, but two cold winters and a cool spring have led to a late-producing crop this year.

by Tony Glover

Figs are so commonly found on old home sites across the South that many people think they are native to the region, but that is not the case. Figs are believed to be indigenous to Western Asia and were first distributed throughout the Mediterranean. The first record of figs in the English-speaking world was in England in the 1500s and then the Virginia Colony in 1669. They quickly spread all across the Deep South where they grew and produced good crops with little care and no major disease or insect pest. They are also fairly well adapted to all soil textures as long as the soil is not too acid or too wet. They prefer a pH of 6 and 6.5, typical of most food crops.

For those of us in the mid-to-upper zone 7, the main problem we have with figs is cold winters that may kill young plants or kill older plants back near the ground. The last two winters have been tough on us fig lovers. I have had several calls this year asking why the figs were not ripe at their normal time in north Alabama. The answer relates to a unique quality of figs and how they fruit. Most fruit trees produce fruit on previous year’s growth, but figs can actually produce fruit on both old and new growth. This explains why in some years you have some fruit ripe in early summer followed by the main crop that ripens several weeks later.

In our area, the crop produced on the previous year’s wood, called the breba crop, is not particularly large or reliable, especially in the northern part of the state. After cold winters with significant wood loss, you won’t see any breba fruit. However, because figs also produce on the new wood, the second or main crop may still be produced.

These facts about figs help us solve the question of why the figs were so late this year and will have a hard time ripening before the cooler weather comes. The two consecutive cold winters and the relatively cool spring this year have weakened the trees and new growth was greatly delayed. Since the new growth was slow to come out, the fruit were slow to start and they simply did not have enough summer to ripen. This is a common problem for gardeners in the Pacific Northwest who actually grow varieties that produce larger breba crops because the fruit on the new growth almost never has enough summer to ripen.

Often, after figs are killed back near the ground, they make nice long new shoots of regrowth the following summer. That has been the case for most people in north Alabama this year. This vigorous new growth is perfect for propagating new fig trees. Figs are easy to propagate because they root very easily. There are several ways to propagate them. The most common method is to root cuttings taken in late winter or early spring. You may have success by simply taking cuttings of 1-inch diameter wood about a foot long in the winter and storing them in the refrigerator until spring, and then burying the bottom half of the cuttings in the ground and keeping the spot well-watered the first spring and summer.

For a better chance of success, place a half sheet of newspaper tightly into the bottom of a 4- or 6-inch-deep plastic pot. Put a little sand or a good-quality potting mix in the bottom of the pot, then stand one to four cuttings upright in the pot, filling the pot the rest of the way with more sand or potting mix.

Water the pot thoroughly, and set it in a very bright, but not a direct sun, location. It should be warm – at least 70 degrees. If you cannot keep the air temperature above 70, provide bottom heat to bring the soil temperature up. Cover the pot with an empty 2- or 3-liter soft drink bottle with the lid on and the bottom cut out. Do not water the cuttings again until they are very dry. Lift the pot occasionally to test for dryness. If the pot is very light, set it in a pan of water, and let it soak. When you see vigorous growth, it is time to harden off the new plants. Remove the bottle cap, and see how the plants do. If the plants look to be thriving after a few days, remove the bottle. If the plants begin to wilt, cover them again with the bottle.

After a few days, it will be time to pot up the new plants. Don’t do this just because you see leaves growing. Sometimes there will be four or five leaves and few if any roots. Wait until you see vigorous growth. Pot the plants in individual plastic pots (1-gallon size) and apply a light application of liquid fertilizer. In four to six weeks, depending on the vigor of the variety and the weather, the plants will be ready either for a larger pot or for in-ground planting. When you plant them in the ground, keep them well-watered until they are very well rooted. This usually takes one summer of careful attention. A 2- or 3-inch layer of mulch will help the new plants conserve moisture, keep the new roots cooler and provide cold protection the first winter.

Figs are a fun and easy fruit plant to grow in our area. They are interesting fruit because they do not require pollination at all to produce their delicious seedless fruit. One plant is likely all you will need unless you want to make a winter’s supply of fig preserves. Because they produce fruit parthenocarpically (without pollination), they tend to fall off easily under stress. In our area, the stress is usually a drought during fruit enlargement. You may want to place a soaker hose around the plant and give it a weekly soaking while the fruit are maturing.

For more information, visit and search the keywords "fig production."

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

For the Thrill of It All

Eight seconds on a bull.

Lady bull rider is upholding her daredevil image.

by Jaine Treadwell

Cheryl Page Yawn is the wife of a preacher man.

But the preacher’s wife has long been keeping company with the devil – the daredevil.

Cheryl’s daredevil ways started when she was 9 years old. Her dad, Harry Page, was a rodeo stock contractor and prided himself on having the very best stock. His little blond-headed live wire was running around the rodeo arena and the cowboys asked her if she would like to ride a bull.

"Can I, Daddy? Can I?" Cheryl asked.

At that moment, she was hooked and destined for a life of adventure.

"I guess I’ve always been adventurous," Cheryl recalled. "I can remember driving the tractor when I was 6 years old with Daddy sitting up on the front sowing seeds. I’m an only child and I got to do a lot of things I wouldn’t have gotten to do otherwise."

At that time, Page was driving 18-wheelers and Cheryl was often on the road with him.

Cheryl Yawn and her husband, Bob, have their own plane and “love” flying together.

"We were living in Louisiana and Daddy drove long distance to states in that part of the country," Cheryl said. "I helped him load and unload the truck. I loved being on the road.

"My parents, Harry and Mary, were always doing something fun on weekends. We had dune buggies and we went mud riding. We had a boat and I learned to ski. I loved the adventure of it all."

When Page became a rodeo stock contractor in the Montgomery area, the rodeo opened Cheryl’s eyes to real adventure. She started competing at junior horse shows in barrel racing, pole bending, potato racing and keyhole racing.

"I loved keyhole racing because your horse had to stop and turn on a dime," Cheryl said. "There was excitement in that. Daddy and I competed in personal pickup. I would stand at one end of the arena and Daddy would come riding wide open to pick me up. He would hold onto the saddle horn and crook his arm. I’d grab on his arm as he flew around and he would sling me on the horse behind him. It was one smooth move and we crossed the finish line first many times."

When Cheryl was 14 years old, she was running barrels at a rodeo and several cowboys challenged her to ride the bull. She did and quickly became "the lady bull rider."

"I’d ride the bull as an exhibition before the rodeo started," she said. "The rodeo producer would publicize that a 14-year-old girl would ride the bull and a lot of people would come to see me."

Cheryl was also a part of the clown act and would sometimes be positioned as a fan in the stands. After a cowboy was bucked off the bull, she would climb the fence and run into the arena and "shoo" the bull away from the rider, much to the surprise and shock of the rodeo fans.

Cheryl won many ribbons in horse shows, but her first trophy came at the Miller’s Ferry Junior Rodeo when she won the steer riding competition. She also competed in jackpot rodeos and won "a little money."

Later, she was riding a bull at Miller’s Ferry and was thrown into a fence post.

"I threw up my arm to keep from hitting my face on the pole," she said. "I broke my arm and was in a cast for seven months, but I loved the thrill of it all."

Rodeos provided adventures for the adrenalin "junkie," but she also found other adventures including bungee jumping, scuba diving, skydiving, whitewater rafting, hang gliding and soaring. She obtained a blue belt in Hapkido, a Korean style of karate.

At age 20, Cheryl found her true love, flying. She obtained her private pilot’s license and continued to earn ratings and licenses including a multi-engine rating and a commercial license, then the top license, the Airline Transport Pilot license.

Since October 1985, Cheryl has flown more than 7,000 hours in all types of aircraft and in every weather condition. She has experienced lightning strikes, fog as thick as meringue pie, frozen runways and St. Elmo’s fire.

Yawn and Russell stand by her plane a few minutes before they takeoff.

Even with logging all those hours as a pilot and surviving those dangerous situations, Cheryl was a bit nervous on Sept. 12, 2015, as she waited at the Troy Airport to repay a favor from her high school days.

Even at a young age, Cheryl expressed an interest in flying. Obie Russell of the Briar Hill community in Pike County knew the thrill of piloting an airplane. He gave Cheryl her first flight manual and encouraged her to pursue her dream.

"Uncle Obie, as he is affectionately called, inspired me to follow my dreams, and had it not been for him, I might not have realized my dream of flying," Cheryl said. "For 20 years, we’ve been planning for me to take him flying. When we finally got the opportunity, Uncle Obie had not been flying in 50 years. He was100 years old and I was determined to take him up."

Cheryl took Russell "up" for an hour. She flew him over his home in Briar Hill and other places of interest around Pike County. That was the most rewarding flight of her life.

"And, hopefully, his," Cheryl said. "Of all the things I’ve done to satisfy my adrenaline needs, flying with Uncle Obie ranked right up at the top."

When pressed as to her greatest adventure yet, Cheryl said she has had no experience more exhilarating than that of owning and driving her own racecars.

Cheryl Yawn and her “pink panther” were favorites at the tracks. Racing stock cars was one of her most exciting adventures. She had two race cars, one for racing on asphalt and the other on dirt tracks.

"I had one car for racing on asphalt tracks and, later, one for dirt tracks," she said. "There’s no thrill like racing at top speed in a pack of 24 stock cars."

Cheryl Yawn has had hundreds of thrills in her lifetime and she owes them all to her parents for their love and support over the years.

"They have been with me in all that I have done," she said. "Even though I’m their only child, they’ve allowed me to spread my wings and fly."

And, before she embarks on any adventure, Cheryl says a prayer.

"I always ask God to protect me," she said. "I have a wonderful relationship with Jesus and I live by his word in Philippians 4:13, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."

Today, Cheryl and her husband, Bob, pastor of Luverne United Methodist Church, have their own plane. Pushing the edge of the envelope is a natural part of their lives. Cheryl always has her eyes open for the next great adventure in her life. After all, she is an adrenaline junkie and she has a daredevil image to uphold.

Jaine Treadwell is a freelance writer from Brundidge.

Give Life a Chance!

Shelby Humane Society staff and volunteers with some of the animals available for adoption.

Shelby Humane Society has made significant progress in improving the lives of pets in their community.

Shelby Humane Society was founded in 1977 and serves as the only open-intake animal care facility in Shelby County. We do not provide field services; our role is to provide the housing and care of unwanted, neglected, abused and abandoned pets in our county.

While our work is often daunting, we have made tremendous strides in improving the lives of pets in our communities. Through innovative programs, community support, strong leadership, and dedicated staff and volunteers some pretty amazing things have occurred.

Prior to 2008, our intake was increasing yearly and our "reactive" handling simply was not working. Communities cannot adopt or transport their way out of this problem.You must address the problem at the root and the root to animal population lies within unaltered pets producing litter after litter simply to be taken to their local animal shelter.

Left to right, one of the most important programs the group offers is low-cost spaying/neutering of pets. The result has decreased annual intake by about 60 percent.

The most important program we have is our low cost (sometimes free) spay/neuter program. Thanks to a private donor, we have facilitated over 12,700 surgeries for "owned" pets. This program has decreased our annual intake from over 7,200 in 2008 to less than 5,000 in 2014. Since 2008, our live-release rate has increased from a dismal 35.4 percent to 71.3 percent in 2014.

We also have a robust adoptions program that now places over 2,000 animals annually into homes. In addition to our standard pet placement adoptions, we also offer felines for adoption that are not typical lap kitties. We struggled with the consistent flow of free-roaming cats arriving in traps simply to be euthanized. We are now able to place "barn cats" into areas that need a working cat. Adoption fees are waived on these cats; they are sterilized, vaccinated, de-wormed and ear-tipped. People will adopt these cats to control vermin populations damaging to their feed, crops, etc.

Left to right, the live-release rate has more than doubled since 2008. A robust adoption program now places over 2,000 animals a year into homes.

Shelby Humane Society has made significant progres. Our success is a direct result of the community, volunteers, donors and staff who believe in our mission and support us. While there is a tremendous amount of work to accomplish, we are committed to continuing to work tirelessly to provide the animal care needs in our communities and GIVE LIFE A CHANCE!

For more information regarding our programs please contact Jennifer Freeman at 205-610-0938 or email

Holiday Turkey Tips ...

From Thawing Through Leftovers

by Angela Treadaway

Are you planning on preparing a turkey for Thanksgiving? Planning ahead can make the traditional Thanksgiving meal safer and less stressful. Here are some tips from your local county Extension office to help make this year’s holiday meal a success.

Before purchasing your turkey, make sure you have ample space in your refrigerator. Turkeys look smaller at the grocery store, so be careful not to underestimate the size of your bird. Think about using a cooler to thaw and store your turkey. The turkey should be kept on ice and should stay 40 degrees or below to prevent bacteria from growing. Storing the turkey in a cooler will free up space in your refrigerator and will help keep the raw turkey juices from contaminating other items in your refrigerator.

Thawing and handling

Never defrost a turkey on the counter! Turkey can be thawed in the refrigerator or in cold water. The refrigerator method is the safest and will result in the best finished product. Leave the bird in the original packaging and place in a shallow pan and allow refrigerator thawing time at a rate of 4-5 pounds per 24 hours. To thaw in cold water, keep turkey in the original packaging, place in a clean and sanitized sink or pan and submerge in cold water. Change the cold water every 30 minutes. The turkey will take about 30 minutes per pound to thaw. Cook the turkey immediately after it is thawed. Do not refreeze. If buying a fresh turkey, purchase it only one to two days before the meal and keep it refrigerated or on ice. Once thawed, remove neck and giblets from the body cavity and keep bird and parts refrigerated at 40 degrees or below until it is ready to be cooked.

Always wash hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling the bird.

Cooking and stuffing

The single most important thing to know about cooking a turkey, no matter the cooking method, is that it must be cooked to the proper internal temperature as measured with a food thermometer. An unstuffed turkey will generally take 14-20 minutes per pound to cook and a stuffed turkey will take additional time.

Stuffing should be prepared and stuffed into the turkey immediately before it’s placed in the oven at 325 degrees. Mix the wet and dry ingredients for the stuffing separately and combine just before using. Stuff the turkey loosely, about 3/4 cup stuffing per pound of turkey. Bake any extra stuffing in a greased casserole dish. Cooked inside or outside the bird, all stuffing and dressing recipes must be cooked to a minimum temperature of 165 degrees. (For optimum safety and more even cooking, it’s recommended to cook your stuffing in a casserole dish.)

Take the temperature! Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh, not touching bone. Cook to a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees as measured with a food thermometer. If the turkey is done and the stuffing is not yet 165 degrees, remove the stuffing from the turkey and place it in a greased casserole dish to continue cooking to temperature.

Safe carving and serving

It’s best to let the turkey rest for 20 minutes before carving to allow the juices to set, so the turkey will carve more easily. Use a clean cutting board with a well to catch juices. Remove all stuffing from the turkey cavity. Make sure your knife is sharp before you start carving.

Storing leftovers safely

Remove the stuffing and carve the extra turkey meat from the bones. Within two hours, store any extra turkey, stuffing or other leftovers in shallow containers and put in the refrigerator or the freezer. Use cooked leftover turkey, stuffing and gravy within three to four days. Cooked turkey keeps for three to four months in the freezer. When using leftovers, reheat the foods thoroughly to 165 degrees or until hot and steaming; bring gravy to a boil before serving.

For more information on safe food handling and cooking, please contact your local Extension office.

Happy Holidays from your county Extension staff! We hope you have a safe and joyous season. Please try the Turkey and Broccoli Quiche recipe. Let us know what you think.

Turkey and Broccoli Quiche

2 (9-inch) ready-made pie crusts, baked by package directions

4 eggs

1 cup low-fat or skim milk

¾ teaspoon garlic salt

Pepper, to taste

1 (10-ounce) package frozen, chopped broccoli, cooked by

package directions

¾ cup cooked, chopped turkey

¼ cup carrots, shredded

¼ cup onion, finely chopped

¾ cup low-fat cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350°. In a mixing bowl, combine eggs, milk, garlic salt and pepper. Mix well. Pour extra liquid from broccoli and let broccoli cool; squeeze broccoli to remove some more water. Make sure broccoli is well-drained. Layer turkey, vegetables and cheese into each pie crust. Pour egg mixture over both. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until top is brown and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Let stand 5 minutes before cutting.

Makes 12 servings

calories 270 | total fat 16 g | saturated fat 6 g | protein 16 g | carbohydrates 17 g | fiber 2 g | sodium 450 mg

Angela Treadaway is a Regional Extension Agent in Food Safety. For any questions on food safety or preparation of vegetables, contact her at 205-410-3696 or your local county Extension office.

How's Your Garden?

A young collard leaf makes a great foil for a few flowers in a small vase.

by Lois Trigg Chaplin

Collards in Arrangements

Collard leaves are handsome for a flower arrangement and last a long time, too. Cut a leaf from the plant with as long of a stem as possible and simply put it in water like a flower stem. You can also create arrangements using multiple leaves. The waxy nature of the leaf keeps it from wilting quickly. If you change the water every couple of days to keep it clean, fresh leaves easily last a week or so. So this Thanksgiving, surprise your guests with more than one way to put collards on the table!

Apps for Invasive Plants

Invasive Plants in Southern Forests is one of many apps helping to identify troublesome plants.

I recently heard Dr. Nancy Loewenstein from Auburn University give a presentation on invasive species in Alabama. It’s quite alarming to see how these species have spread and, in some cases, choked out all growth to completely take over ecosystems. Such is the case with the popcorn tree, or Chinese tallow (Triadica sebifera), in wetlands of Louisiana. Bradford pear is another that is rapidly becoming a pest as it crosses with callery pears; its seeds are spreading throughout the countryside and are capable of forming thorny, impenetrable thickets. Invasive plants cause millions of dollars’ worth of damage to lands in our state and elsewhere. Just think kudzu, honeysuckle and privet! They have long been out of control. However, by learning about others, you can help prevent a future problem on your land or on the roadsides. Learn which plants are potential problems at Check your app store regularly (search invasive plants) for updates on apps that help with invasive-plant identification in the field. A few even include reporting so you can help notify others of the locations of these plants.

Protecting Camellias

If your camellia blossoms have turned brown from petal blight, you can help reduce reoccurrence of the disease by cleaning up the soil at the base of the plants. Fungus spores are in the soil and mulch under the plants. Rake away old mulch and plant debris from below camellias and throw it away in a garbage bag. Then put down a layer of clean mulch around the plants. This helps reduce the source of re-infection when your plants bloom.Overwintering Half-hardy Herbs

If you have some precious herbs that aren’t reliably cold-hardy, you can increase their chances of survival by moving them to a protected spot. Lemon verbena is the one I usually go to extra trouble for because it is not easy to find the plants for sale in the spring. You can cover containers with a mound of pine straw or move them under a deck or other area where they are closer to the radiated heat from the house and out of the wind.

Espaliered Sasanqua Camellia

Training a shrub so that it hugs a wall is an old, artful technique that can be very handy in tight spaces. Smaller varieties of sasanqua camellia lend themselves well to this kind of training.

Tulip Planting Time

How do you get those lovely tulips pictured on the sales cards of packages to actually bloom again a second spring or maybe even a third? One way is to start with cultivars with the best chance of re-blooming. These include Parade, Golden Parade, Oxford, Golden Oxford, Jewel of Spring, Don Quixote and Red Riding Hood. There are also a few tulips that are native to warmer climates and adapt to our climate pretty well. These have the best chance of coming back. They are Tulipa bakeri, T. clusia, T. eichleri, T. bataliniiand T. saxatilis. It is also absolutely imperative that the bulbs have excellent drainage. Any chance of soggy soil in winter will keep them from coming back. Put a little bulb food in the planting hole and fertilize again after they bloom. Never cut back the foliage; let it stay until it naturally yellows and dies back in late spring.

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

It’s a Matter of the Cow’s Design (and Cost)

by Stephen Donaldson

Every few years, as costs continue to escalate, there is a renewed interest in feeding cattle commodity-blend feeds and abandon feeding hay. Tractors, equipment and even plant nutrient costs make producers feel that hay production just isn’t feasible. Add to that the variable weather conditions we experience in the South and hay production becomes downright frustrating. However, there just isn’t a better alternative for most producers.

The first consideration we must look at is that cattle are designed to be foragers. Ruminants, by design, have been blessed to have the ability to digest cellulose. Cellulose is one of the most commonly occurring compounds in the environment where cattle function. Cellulose is the energy-rich compound contained in all plant species. The unique feature allowing cattle to utilize this compound is their symbiotic relationship with bacteria living in their rumen. It is from these bacteria that cattle receive their nutrition. The bacteria are responsible for breaking down feedstuffs indigestible to monogastrics.

Since cattle are receiving most of their nutrition from these microbes, we need to feed the microbes and foster their health. Forage-digesting microbes flourish in an environment with a neutral pH. Feeding grain and feed stuffs with high carbohydrates pushes ruminant pH to acidic levels and decreases forage digestion. So, in short, cattle are more suited to forage diets. One final thought, cattle fed diets with high concentrations of grain are susceptible to more metabolic disorders and tend to naturally have more hoof and leg problems than cattle fed high-forage diets.

The second consideration to converting your cow herd to an all-feed diet is cost. Producing hay, while more expensive than it was in years past, is still the most economical way to feed brood cows. This past summer, good-quality hay could have been purchased for $80 per ton. That hay along with 5 pounds of AFC Brood Cow Supplement should cost about $2.14 per cow per day for a 1,200-pound cow. If we look at the cost of feeding a commodity blend with no hay to these same cows, it should cost no less than $150 per ton. That would equal a daily cost of about $3.15 per cow. So, as you can see, feeding hay saves about $1 per cow per day.

Additionally, if those cows are nursing calves, the calves will require some sort of extra feed, other than the nutrition they receive from their mamas. After about 2 months of age, they will start consuming hay and supplemental feed. This is the perfect time in their life to start creep feeding.

I will agree with most producers that most of the hay grown in the South lacks sufficient quality to be the only winter supplement fed to cows. The other factor to consider is the increased size of the modern commercial cow requires some sort of supplementation along with hay for them to reach their genetic potential. AFC Brood Cow Supplement is the perfect addition to supplement nutrients. It is formulated to provide additional nutrients and not affect forage digestibility.

The amount of supplement to be fed will vary from farm to farm – depending on hay quality, stage of production of the cattle, breed of the cattle and the weather. Farmers must pay strict attention to the body condition score of their cattle and adjust supplementation accordingly.

While the thought of buying a blended feed seems to make sense from an efficiency standpoint, it has many pitfalls. Costs can run extremely high. It doesn’t fit the physiology of the cattle. Long-stemmed roughage must be fed so the rumen can function properly. High-grain diets tend to decrease the longevity of cattle because of increased feet and leg problems. These problems make feeding only blended feed less attractive.

There are times in commercial cow/calf production where feeding complete feeds may be practical. These times are usually during extremely adverse circumstances such as drought or in times when forage is limited. This should be a practice that is only implemented during adverse conditions.

In beef production in the South, success should follow those who feed good-quality forage with adequate supplementation. So pay attention to forage fertilization, proper hay production and to the cows’ body condition scores to successfully grow and sell calves from your beef operation.

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

It’s Egg Making Time!!!

by John Sims

It seems like more and more people are raising their own chickens for egg production. Those chicks you got at the local Quality Co-op this spring are maturing into laying hens. This month, I wanted to spotlight our CO-OP laying feeds and explain the differences between them.

Alabama Farmers Cooperative manufactures three different layer feed products for home egg production. CO-OP laying feeds are formulated to provide all the necessary protein, energy, vitamins and trace minerals for high levels of production. They contain the correct levels of calcium for proper shell development. The high-quality ingredients we select for our feed production ensure maximum production as well as health and well-being of your flock. You can choose either pellets or crumbles (mash) to decide the particle size needed for your birds or your feeders.

Always provide fresh, clean water, adequate feed levels and plenty of space for your birds to help prevent disease or poor performance.

CO-OP 16% Egg Ration Pellets or Crumbles

This feed is formulated to be fed to mature laying hens with free-roaming access.

CO-OP 18% Laying Pellets or Crumbles

This feed is designed to be fed to laying hens and pullets. The higher protein level is ideal for laying pullets and pen-raised birds with little access to additional protein sources.

CO-OP 22% Laying Pellets

This feed is formulated for maximum egg production and hen growth. It contains excellent protein and energy levels for game birds and birds under stress with higher nutritional requirements.

Alabama Farmers Co-op is vigilant in producing high-quality, safe feeds so you can enjoy the rewards of raising and managing your own flocks and livestock. To find a Quality Co-op store near you, go to

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

Just One Link

Agriculture plays a critical role in national security.

by Dr. Tony Frazier

I don’t know about most of you, but I find that the more TV channels I have access to, I still struggle to find much that is worth swapping an hour of my time to sit down and watch. That is one reason I appreciate RFD TV. They offer an alternative to the garbage I find on most channels. I am not advertising for you to watch RFD TV. I do not know anyone involved in the network. But I am generally drawn to a channel devoted to the American farmer, food production and the rural way of life.

Recently, as I tuned to see what was on, RFD was having a town hall meeting with various presidential candidates, giving each their own 30 minutes or an hour to answer questions from various agriculture groups such as the cattlemen’s association, 4H and the American Farmers’ Federation. On that particular day, the candidate wanted to make a statement before the questions began. Obviously knowing the audience who would be watching, he made a very pro-agriculture statement. The statement he made was profoundly true and, in my estimation, it is a statement the whole country, especially our urban neighbors, should hear and take to heart. His statement was (slightly paraphrased), "I believe America is a great country because of agriculture. We are able to be great because we have an abundant and safe food supply."

I have believed, for a long time, that, while agriculture is not the single factor making us a great country, it is a key critical component allowing us to be great. The fact that each farmer is able to feed 155 people today, a huge increase over the 26 people each farmer could feed in 1960, allows us to be a great nation. Now I am not so naïve as to believe that hunger does not exist here in the United States, but I believe it is more of a distribution problem than lack of food. I suppose we throw away enough food that goes bad in our refrigerators, the grocery store produce and meat departments, and other areas of waste.

I have visited with friends who have been on mission trips to other countries where the No. 1 priority in people’s lives is to find enough food to get them through until tomorrow when the priority will be to find enough food to get them through to the next day. That tends to re-enforce the statement, "A rich man has many problems; a poor man has only one." A country without enough food cannot be a great or a secure one.

The term food security was first tossed around back in the mid-1990s. The term referred to people having access to sufficient, safe, healthy food to live a healthy, active life. It is estimated that there are around 900 million people around the globe who are chronically hungry. I am fairly certain I do not even know what it means to be hungry. I am thankful for that. I think God has blessed us so abundantly with the ability to have access to an abundant food supply that we pretty much take it for granted. Because of our abundant food supply, we sometimes struggle with the issue of what we are going to eat, but not if we are going to eat.

As a regulatory veterinarian, I consider it a huge honor to be involved in animal agriculture and the health of our State of Alabama herds and flocks. Alabama contributes greatly to our national security in several different ways. We have several military bases. We have a number of high tech companies that work with the Department of Defense to develop cutting-edge equipment and technology used to protect our country. But the fuel that powers the machine is produced by our farmers. We have about 700 thousand beef cows that have calves that go to market annually. We process about 22 million broilers weekly here in Alabama. I take it very seriously that protecting animal agriculture is not only economically important to our state, but it is important to the security of our country.

Over the past two or three years, we have seen certain products in the meat case and on the restaurant menus become more expensive. I recall a couple of years ago hearing people complaining about the price of pork. But when I explained the loss of about 7 million baby pigs due to a new virus that hit the industry, they understood the price increase. Anyone paying close attention to the evening news knows that the increase in the price of eggs was a result of the loss of millions of chickens due to the avian influenza virus.

As I write this column, there will be a period of time between now and the time you read it. We are currently working extremely hard to have plans in place to deal with highly pathogenic avian influenza if it occurs here in Alabama. Through a cooperative effort between the Alabama Department of Agriculture, USDA, the Alabama Poultry and Egg Association, commercial integrators and producers, and our agriculture colleges, we are honing our response plans so there will not be a negative significant impact on our food supply. We also continue our surveillance for other diseases that could devastate animal agriculture in our state.

Another tool in the toolbox that allows us to be a secure nation is the word safe concerning our food supply. Our state meat inspection program, working with USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service, works to make sure the meat products produced in state-inspected establishments are safe and wholesome. As life expectancy in the United States has increased from about 47 years in 1900 to 77 years by the end of the century, one factor credited with this increase is safer and healthier foods.

We continue to use all of the tools available in the toolbox to make sure that, when we go to the grocery store, restaurant, drive-through or the refrigerator, we have enough and a variety of animal agriculture products available. This allows us to spend time and energy on other issues that make our country safe and secure. Regulatory veterinary medicine is just one link in the chain of animal agriculture. We, along with other stakeholders who are also links in the chain, work hard to make sure your No. 1 priority is to figure out what you will feed your family tomorrow.

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

Management for a Monster Buck

Adding protein to their diet will promote antler development in whitetail deer.

by Jackie Nix

White-tailed deer antler growth cycle taken from Univ. of Missouri Extension Antler Development in White-tailed Deer: Implications for Management.

Every hunter knows the thrill of catching that first glimpse of a monster buck. Your heart starts pumping, you catch your breath and your palms go sweaty. It’s a moment that is hard to forget. But what few realize are those exceptional racks don’t just happen by accident. It takes careful management to develop bucks into memory makers.

Antlers, unlike horns, undergo a cycle of shedding and regrowth each year. Males typically shed their antlers in the late winter/early spring in response to increasing daylight and decreasing testosterone levels. Regrowth begins immediately as the body mobilizes nutrients to restart the process. Early growth antlers are high in water and soft to the touch. They are made up of roughly 80 percent protein and only 20 percent ash (minerals). During late summer antlers begin to contain more minerals and harden. Growth continues until late August or September when the decreasing daylight triggers blood flow to cease and the drying of the velvet. And as you know, velvet is shed to reveal the hardened antlers.

Antler growth is dependent on three factors: age, nutrition and genetics. Since you can do very little to influence genetics at your hunting club, let’s focus on what is within our control, age and nutrition.

Antler growth is directly correlated to maturity and maxes out around 6 years of age. (Taken from Univ. of Missouri Antler Development in White-tailed Deer: Implications for Management.)

As bucks mature, they exhibit better antler development. First year fawn bucks start to see growth of "buttons" at around 4-5 months of age. Most male deer show their first noticeable racks at 1-2 years of age and these can range from spikes to several points. Typically, males increase in antler size every year up until about 6 years of age. Therefore, in order to increase the pool of bucks with large racks, it is essential to allow enough males to fully mature. Many clubs and landowners achieve this through implementing a minimum criteria for harvest. This could be number of points, spread, antler score, etc. There are resources online that can help you to develop criteria to better manage your own deer population for optimum maturity.

The other factor in antler development you have the power to influence is nutrition. The process of antler growth and shedding is nutritionally taxing for bucks. Mother Nature helps in this respect in that the period of growth (spring/early summer) is the period when forages, forbs and browse are often at their peak nutritional quality. However, we also know that Mother Nature is fickle and doesn’t provide this bounty consistently from year to year. For this reason, planned food plots and supplementation are so important, especially during trying environmental conditions.

Supplementation in terms of food plots, bagged feeds and supplement blocks is crucial for consistently large racks year after year. Because early antler composition is mainly protein, protein intake during spring and summer months is crucial for final rack development. One study showed a 20-inch difference in antler size between two groups of 4-year-old bucks fed an 8 percent protein diet versus a 16 percent protein diet. Mineral and vitamin supplementation is important not only in terms of the hardening of antlers, but overall to enhance rumen microbes’ ability to efficiently utilize other feed sources. Bucks receiving proper mineral and vitamin supplementation will have the building blocks they need for overall health and vitality. And as we all know, a healthy buck is going to eat more, thus ingesting more protein and enhancing antler growth, and so on.

The SWEETLIX Corn-Lix Deer Block contains 10 percent crude protein in addition to visible whole corn for energy along with essential minerals and vitamins. These convenient pressed blocks can be placed anywhere on your property where deer congregate. While these blocks are designed for year-round supplementation, they are especially important during spring and summer months due to the nutritional needs of bucks at this time. The use of blocks like these is particularly important during dry periods or any other times food plots can’t keep up with deer demands. Using SWEETLIX Corn-Lix Deer Blocks is just good insurance to make sure deer on your property are getting what they need to produce the trophy deer you are looking for come next hunting season. Ask for SWEETLIX Corn-Lix Deer Blocks by name at your local Quality Co-op or visit or call 1-87SWEETLIX for more information.

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

November Lawn and Garden Checklist


  • Any plant that comes bare-root should be planted this time of year. Dig out the hole well to provide plenty of loose soil for roots to spread in, and be sure to add compost and fertilizer. Once firmly planted, add mulch on top to insulate the soil and the fragile roots while they get established. By planting in fall, you’ll give them time to build up energy for spring growth.
  • Most spring and summer perennials can still be divided through early winter. Water well before and after dividing.
  • If you have a rose that has outgrown its spot, needs better light or you just want it in an area that’s more easily viewable and enjoyable, November is a good month to move them.
  • If you haven’t put spring-flowering bulbs in the ground already, hop to it. This is actually a great time to get bulbs, because they’re often 50 percent or more off as companies move their stock out. Bulbs look best in massed plantings, so think about that as you plan things out.
  • Set out new strawberries or move rooted runners early this month.
  • Sow poppy seeds now for flowers next May.
  • Now that summer is over, and so are summer flowers, it’s time to replace them with winter-hardy flowers for color. Pansies are the No. 1 choice for blooming bedding plants. They’re hardy, will bloom over a long season and come in a wide array of colors. Other bedding plants to plant now include snapdragons, calendula, ornamental kale/cabbage, and pinks or dianthus.
  • Plant a few bulbs in pots for forcing. Paperwhites, hyacinths and early-blooming tulips and daffodils are good choices.
  • Plant wildflower seed in a bare, prepared soil, very lightly cover and mulch with a thin layer of straw.
  • Don’t forget the interest plants with berries can add to the landscape. Pyracantha, all kinds of hollies, nandina and beautyberry are just a few of the choices available for bright, winter interest.


  • Late fall and early winter is an ideal time to adjust highly acidic lawn and garden soils. Most grasses, except centipede, and most vegetable garden plants prefer a slightly acidic to neutral soil pH. The only way to know for certain if your lawn or garden needs an application of agricultural lime, and how much is needed, is to have the soil tested for pH. Most soils, however, do not require yearly applications. Test to be sure.
  • Before planting spring-flowering bulbs, mix in some lime and a balanced fertilizer, like 10-10-10 or a special bulb mixture (9-9-6) into the soil.
  • If you have procrastinated applying the most important lawn fertilization of the year − the application of a winter fertilizer − to condition the grass for winter survival, do it before December. The fertilizers to use are the ones with "winterizer" on the bags and are complete (contains all three elements: nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium) analysis with 3-1-2 or 4-1-2 ratios.
  • New idea for broadleaf evergreens: It has been recently determined that applying a water-soluble nitrogen fertilizer this time of year will improve the plant’s vigor without promoting vulnerable new growth during the winter.


  • Delay pruning trees and shrubs until late winter, except for minor shaping and to remove dead and diseased wood.
  • Prune your evergreens to shape.
  • Perennials can be cut back after the frost; however, many perennials give the garden an interesting look in the winter and still provide cover and food for wildlife. Consider waiting until spring to cut them back.
  • Cut chrysanthemum stems to 2-3 inches from the soil once they have begun to die back.
  • Cut the tops off your asparagus plants and add a winter dressing of aged manure to the bed.


  • Drain and insulate hoses, standpipes and other fixtures. With frost comes broken pipes, unless you act ahead of time. Drain all your outdoor water fixtures and cut their water supply so they won’t fill up. Put hoses in storage, and insulate your standpipes to prevent cracking and ice damage in the winter.
  • Prepare for winter rainstorms. Dig trenches to divert heavy runoff and add heavy rocks to the base of a raised garden bed to help stabilize it.


  • Be aware that some bulbs such as daffodils and iris aren’t very interesting to gophers and can in fact make a great protective ring around tender plants like young apple trees. Others such as tulips are a gopher’s delight and need to be planted in cages and containers or you won’t see them come spring.
  • To help prevent rose diseases, rake the beds of any fallen leaves. Removing and replacing the mulch exposed to the rose foliage is a good idea as well. These leaves and exposed mulch can harbor blackspot spores that can overwinter in the leaves.
  • Watch for cool-season mites on junipers, conifers, azaleas, hollies and camellias. Infested leaves turn gray or brown and may fall prematurely. Heavily infested shrubs and conifers may die. Use the white-paper test: Place a piece of white paper under the stem and shake a stem of the plant, then see if any mites show up on the paper. They’re smaller than a period at the end of a sentence.
  • Continue to watch for insect, slug and snail, or disease damage throughout the garden and take the necessary steps to control the problem.
  • Inspect trees and shrubs for bagworm capsules. Remove and destroy them to reduce next year’s pest population.
  • For fruit trees, it is a good time to apply the first application of dormant spray (the first of three applications needed between now and about Valentine’s Day, to get the job done). Most trees want a lime sulfur spray. Use copper for preventing peach leaf curl. Also, scale and other hard-to-kill insect pests may be overwintering on your trees or shrubs. Pecan and fruit trees, euonymus, camellias and holly are favorite hosts. Spray with dormant oil, following label directions on the container to avoid plant damage. Protect any winter annuals from the oil spray.
  • Remove all mummified fruit from fruit trees, and rake up and destroy those on the ground. Also rake up leaves from around fruit trees to help control insect populations and remove disease-causing organisms that overwinter on leaf debris. You will help reduce rodent populations by removing all fruit remaining on the tree or on the ground.
  • Protect trunks of fruit trees from rabbit damage with tree wraps.
  • Remember, every weed you pull now will be many less to pull in spring.
  • Control dandelions, henbit and chickweed before spring green up.


  • Consider the Co-op when buying holiday gifts for your favorite gardeners!
  • Clean and fix all hand tools. Repaint handles or identification marks that have faded over the summer.
  • Sharpen all blades and remove any rust. Apply a thin coat of oil on steel implements to protect them from rust.
  • Clean power tools of all plant material and dirt. Replace worn spark plugs, oil all necessary parts, and sharpen blades. Store all tools in their proper place indoors.
  • Winter heating dries the air out in your home considerably. Help your houseplants survive by misting them or placing the pots on a pebble-filled tray of water to ensure adequate humidity and moisture.
  • Empty and sterilize, with a mixture of 1:9 parts bleach and water, terra cotta and ceramic pots and store in a protected area such as garage, shed or basement to prevent cracking.
  • Clean out any remaining leaves from your pond.
  • Make sure the canes of climbing roses and other vining plants are securely fastened to their supports. Winter winds can severely damage unprotected plants. Also, newly planted trees or shrubs should be staked to protect them from wind during winter storms. Keep them staked until the roots have a chance to develop and anchor them.
  • Use small markers when planting bulbs or late-starting spring plants in the perennial garden to avoid disturbing them when you begin spring soil preparation.
  • Camellias will soon be coming into bloom. First the sasanqua and later the popular camellia japonica. Select new varieties for a winter planting while in flower.
  • As caladiums fade, dig up the tubers while you can still find them. Store them in a dry, cool place. Use dry sawdust or peat moss to help keep the tubers from rotting.
  • If you have deciduous trees, keep on top of the leaves. If you compost, shred the leaves before composting, or run a lawn mower over them. If not shredded, they will mat and take forever to decompose, making a slippery, gooey mass in your compost pile or beds.
  • If you’ve purchased gourds this year as decorations, plan to grow them yourself next year. They make great garden projects for kids.
  • Be sure not to store apples or pears with vegetables. The fruits give off ethylene gas that speeds up the breakdown of vegetables and will cause them to develop off flavors.
  • Cover lettuce, spinach, chives and parsley with floating row covers before the first hard freeze.
  • Hill up soil around leeks to begin the blanching process.
  • Later this month after your last mowing, service your mower before putting it away. Drain the gas tank by giving the lawn one last cut to run the gas out or use a gasoline stabilizer − untreated gasoline can become thick and gummy. Remove the spark plug and add a few drops of oil to help lubricate the cylinder. You can then replace the spark plug now or wait until the spring.
  • Trim away dead foliage, uproot weeds, compost the leavings and cultivate the beds to leave them smooth and even for next year. While you’re at it, work in some mulch and compost to condition the soil.
  • Make sure your bird feeders are full for your avian visitors. They’ll appreciate seeds and suet during the cold winter months. Don’t be surprised if you see squirrels as well looking for things to snack on. If you start noticing mice and rats under the feeder(s), consider adopting a cat.
  • Get your garden journal out and start planning for next year!

Pals: Reuse It

Washington Co. elementary schools make great progress in first year of PALS program.

by Jamie Mitchel

Last year I wrote an article after visiting all five of the elementary schools located in Washington County. I was invited back to visit the schools again this year, so I jumped at the opportunity to see how things had changed. The schools included in my visit were McIntosh, Chatom, Millry, Leroy and Fruitdale.

What a difference a year makes!! Melanie Stokley, a retired school teacher and member of the local Alfa Women’s Committee, created a "Reuse It" competition after my last visit. All schools held a competition to see who could make the most creative items from recycled materials. The winning students received a monetary prize from the Alfa Women’s Committee. Stokley also encouraged the schools to participate in the PALS’ Annual Poster competition. Sarah Morris from Chatom Elementary even received a Statewide Honorable Mention award for her poster!

Students from three Washington County schools enjoy a program from PALS campus coordinator Jamie Mitchell. Clockwise from above are students from McIntosh, Millry and Chatom.

There have been great strides made in Washington County this past year, but the work continues. Stokley’s next mission is to work to bring recycling to Washington County. She is in the process of finding grant money and other resources that will allow these schools to start recycling programs. She plans to build on the success of the "Reuse It" competition as well as have the schools participate in the poster competition again.

Can a school near you use information on keeping Alabama more beautiful? I would love to provide your local schools with more information on the Alabama PALS Clean Campus Program. I can personally help them get a program started! Just have them give me a call at 334-263-7737 or send me an email at

Jamie Mitchell is the PALS State Clean Campus Coordinator.

Perseverance Pays

Sam Johnson visits Selma’s memorial to those who served in America’s wars.

Vietnam vet invests war experience in family and farm.

by Al Benn

Farming provided lessons in responsibility for Sam Johnson as he grew up in Dallas County, but he wondered if he’d ever see it again after one errant step nearly cost him his life in Vietnam.

He was a lance corporal and fire team leader on May 7, 1967, as he led a group of Marines on a search-and-destroy mission in Quang Nam Province where thick forests dominate much of the landscape.

Then, it happened. Hurrying through the thick foliage with his M-16 rifle at the ready, Johnson stepped on a buried land mine. He knew immediately it might be his last step.

"I waited 30 seconds to die," he would say in the years that followed his close call. "But, I was lucky. I survived."

Johnson in his USMC dress blues in 1966.

When he opened his eyes after the blast and realized he was still among the living, he reached behind, searching for a first aid kit that would help stem the flow of blood that was mixed with sweat and covered his face.

Lance Cpl. Jerry Henry, his best friend in their platoon, rushed to his side with his own first aid kit. A corpsman was right behind him with emergency treatment to save Johnson’s life.

Johnson’s will to live kept him alive as excruciating pain coursed through his body. He had lost part of his right hand including his index finger as well as serious damage to both feet.

Worst, perhaps, were hundreds of tiny pieces of metal from the land mine that tore through his body. Most remain in his arms, legs and torso.

As he lay on his back in the jungle, wondering if he was going to live or die, memories of his farm in Alabama helped pull him through. He knew his family was waiting to welcome him home one day.

He was airlifted out of the war zone to hospitals for treatment that would last more than a year. Recovery was slow and painful, but he knew it beat the alternative.

In the nearly 50 years since he escaped death in that jungle during Operation Union, Johnson has been buoyed by his time in the Marine Corps. It is, in effect, his second family, one that has always been with him ever since he returned to civilian life.

He hasn’t worn his dress blue uniform since his boot camp graduation picture at Parris Island, S.C., but he doesn’t really need it to express his pride in the Corps. It’s with him almost every minute of his life.

Johnson tried for years to find out what happened to Henry and decided to examine the computerized "Virtual Wall" that contains the names and basic details of those who were killed in Vietnam. When he saw Henry’s name, he was devastated. Henry had died in combat two months after Johnson had stepped on the mine.

"I cannot describe the emptiness that I feel," said Johnson, in a written tribute to his friend on the wall. "You disregarded your own safety to come to my aid."

In a painful haze after being wounded, Johnson recalled Henry’s encouraging words to him as he lay in the jungle.

"Those guys from Birmingham, Alabama, are tough; right, Sam?" Johnson remembered Henry telling him in an effort to lift his spirits.

"I don’t recall responding, but your words will always remain with me. You were a true example of a tough Marine with class and understanding," Johnson continued in his tribute.

After his long rehabilitation period, Johnson was discharged as 100 percent disabled. He knew strenuous farming might be out of the question as far as his future was concerned. Ditto for brick masonry, a trade he gained before joining the Marine Corps.

The sixth of 14 children raised in Marion Junction, 15 miles west of Selma, Johnson stays in close contact with his siblings. Remarkably, they’re all alive and make it a point to get back home for family reunions every other year.

"We raised cotton, corn and other crops as we grew up," said Johnson, during an interview at the Selma-Dallas County YMCA where he works out to stay in shape. "I was a young boy when I started picking cotton. I put it into a little sack I carried on my side from daylight to dark."

He also learned to maneuver horses named Prince and Mary into positions to dig furrows for row crops. They had a single plow, but it got the job done.

When he wasn’t plowing, he was busy early in the mornings collecting eggs from the family’s chicken coop or working in the garden to provide vegetables they’d need through the year.

Johnson, now 68, wasn’t the only member of the family working the fields, of course, but, as the middle child, he soon learned that he’d be a mentor to his brothers and sisters.

"Because of our age differences, he pretty much raised us," said David Johnson, 56, a retired Air Force senior master sergeant living in Atlanta. "Sam was a father-figure for me and the others. He taught us all responsibility. We knew we’d need it to get along in life."

Their brother’s strength and determination to recover from his war wounds as well as his perseverance in the face of persistent pain have been inspirations for everyone in the family.

"Sam made sure we did our homework and pitched in to help around the house," David said. "His service in the Marines also made me want to serve our country."

Damage to his right hand made it nearly impossible for Sam to resume his bricklaying work, so he enrolled at Alabama State University under the GI Bill and graduated with honors in business administration.

After spending five years working for a state agency, Johnson entered private industry at International Paper Co. where he spent more than two decades in the Human Resources Department.

In between commuting to Montgomery to attend ASU and getting periodic medical checkups, Johnson began to "shop" at Sears once he got a glimpse of Thomasene Smith, who was a manager at the Selma store.

"I kept going in pretending to look for clothes, but it developed into a lot more than that," Johnson said, flashing a big smile.

They were married on Nov. 10, 1973, at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Selma. It’s the date his bride selected without knowing what it represented to her future husband – the Marine Corps’ birthday.

The Johnsons have two children, a son and a daughter. Michael, a Georgia Tech graduate, has attained a national reputation as a defensive end for the Cincinnati Bengals.

His stellar play not only earned him plaudits as soon as he turned pro, he also signed a contract at one point for more than $40 million.

Father and son have invested in two large parcels of land totaling nearly 200 acres in Selma. Their goal is to increase Johnson and Johnson Farms to about 1,000 acres in the near future.

Sam Johnson, right, and brother David harvested a pickup truck full of watermelons on Sam’s farm in Dallas County.

They tried producing watermelons this year, but constant heat took its toll. Irrigation should take care of that problem down the road and the Johnsons continue looking for crops and livestock to add to their output.

Through it all, Johnson has never forgotten the moment he nearly died in that jungle. The memory and the pain remain with him constantly, especially losing Jerry Henry.

Nightmares and daytime flashbacks are unwelcome companions he’d rather ditch, but can’t. They keep coming back.

"I’d be thinking of something else and then I’d be back in Vietnam," he said. "It’s been that way ever since. They never seem to stop."

Anger hasn’t entirely left him as a result of his wounds that day in the jungle and he admits that when he’s shopping and picks up a dress shirt, the first thing he does is check the tag to see where it was made.

When he sees "Vietnam" on it, chances are it goes right back on the pile.

November is a month of holidays that include Halloween and Veterans Day in addition to the Marine Corps’ birthday on Nov. 10.

When Veterans Day is observed, he can usually be found at Memorial Stadium in Selma where Veterans Day programs are held.

Sam Johnson can’t be missed – he’s the big guy with the big smile just under his USMC cap.

Alvin Benn is a freelance writer from Selma.

Professional Porch Sittin’

This is where I sit all the time. The old rocker was rescued off a garbage pile and I rewove it a new seat and back out of strong cord that has lasted for at least four years so far!

by Suzy Lowry Geno

It has been said that all the disagreements in the world could probably be solved if the two main antagonists were forced to sit on a Southern front porch on a lazy afternoon with a soft breeze blowing and with an unlimited quantity of iced tea!

I’m a porch sitter from way back (more on that later), but I hadn’t really thought about how that simple idea was storming the country as folks struggle to make sense in this tumultuous world.

It seems Claude Stephens, director of an arboretum in Louisville, Ky., by day and a porch "sitter" every afternoon, decided in 1999 to found the Professional Porch Sitters Union Local 1339. His group had no motto, just a "suggestion": "Sit down a spell. That can wait."

There were no rules and no dues and if you wanted (or still want) to start your own group all you had (have) to do is pick a number for your "Local" and start sitting!

After Stephens’ idea was featured on National Public Radio’s "All Things Considered," Professional Porch Sitting groups began springing up across the country.

For instance, there’s Local 213 at the Mountain Thyme Bed and Breakfast in Arkansas that specializes in "piddlin’ around." They state simply, "The best way to do nothing well is to make sure it is done slowly."

Local 150 in Florida even has a Facebook page!

But don’t think Professional Porch Sitters are only in the South!

There’s a really active group in New Jersey, Local 1893, that even hosts "membership drives" to get others sitting on their porches, front steps, stoops or whatever they have! Their motto is simply, "Rise up and sit down."

History shows us that most everybody had front porches until about the 1950s when modern air conditioning was being so improved that even the common man could afford it. Until that time, most everybody in the South moved to the front porch in the afternoons to try and escape the oppressive heat.

How many people remember sitting on the front porch shelling peas in the afternoon or breaking green beans?

I have two really early memories of front porches in my childhood.

The first involves the front porch of the white farm house just down the hill from my current farm and now owned by the Tidwells.

Shortly before I was born, the road in front of the house (now State Highway 132) was changed to run BEHIND the house. So the interior of the house was rearranged and a new front porch was built on the "new" front of the house and the old front porch, which was now on the rear of the house, was closed in to make a small bedroom for me.

That new front porch had a concrete floor painted red and always felt cool to my bare feet. I know there was a metal glider, but I’m not sure what other porch furniture was situated there.

Every Sunday morning (I guess so I would stay out of my mama’s hair while she attempted to get ready for church and have a noontime meal ready for our return), my daddy would sit on the front porch with me and read a Bible story to me from his big, black-leather-covered Bible. Nine times out of 10, I asked for only one Bible story: Jonah and the Whale (now I know it was likely some other sort of big fish!).

I’m sure he could almost recite the verses out loud since he read it to me just about every Sunday ... that porch was hallowed ground to me!

They eventually screened in that porch (while I was still a tyke). Another neighbor would come and wash at the creek adjourning our property (which is now just down the hill from my farm and STILL adjoins my property - just from a different direction.)

While Flossie boiled clothes in an iron wash pot and then rinsed them in the creek, Conette and I would play in the yard. Our front yard sloped toward the porch from the highway. The front screen door featured the design so popular in the ‘50s, a metal swan and other squiggly metal designs to protect the screening.

As we raced down the front yard, I fell into that screen’s beautiful metal swan, eliciting the first stitches I ever needed on my forehead! (But I still have fond memories of that porch!)

The second porch of my early memory was the front porch of my Granddaddy and Granny, Jim and Vennie Inmon, who by then lived on a homestead lot IN TOWN!

The front porch featured a blue-painted wooden floor with a white railing all around where Granny kept an unbelievable amount of flowers growing in clay pots AND any other kind of can or jar she could collect (after all she did open and run the first successful flower shop in Blount County that still exists under another name and different owners today)!

There were at least two metal rockers on that porch and a green metal glider.

That was where the family sat during the mornings and during the late afternoons to escape the heat. We played countless games looking at cars moving up and down what is now Alabama 75 (such as who first spots the most blue cars, etc.) ....

After lunch, I’d be drowsy listening to the clank-clank-clank of Arthur Tidwell’s old basket factory just across the highway and down two lots. And when I was old enough to safely cross that highway (no one would let a child do that there today!) to get my grandparents each a big Pepsi from the tiny gas station across the street, I thought I was grown!

I’ve tried to have at least some sort of front porch on every house I’ve owned through the years.

And many of you know, when I dreamed about moving my farm’s tiny general store to a building beside my house several years ago, in my dream it had a tin-roofed porch!

We built that porch when I moved into the tiny store later that year. The following year, I screened it myself using my miter saw and following the plan my late husband had used screening in my mama’s carport!

You wouldn’t believe all the porch "sitting" that goes on there now!

And just as I’m completing this article in my little office, my grown daughter Jannea came in to tell me that she and my huge rescue dog, Shadow Big Puppy, had quite a treat this morning! As she was sitting on my home’s front porch, a fawn still with its spots came slowly walking up the fence line across the road as casually as if it owned the neighborhood. You don’t see that kind of thing sitting indoors glued to the TV or playing a video game!

When writer Michele Norris in a July 28, 2006, professional porch sitting article declared, "Sitting on the porch is not a place, but a state of mind," she pretty much summed up my feelings.

So even though it’s Thanksgiving month and the weather is getting a little cooler, put on a sweater, pull up a chair on your porch (or deck or anywhere nearby) and just SIT! You may be surprised at just how good it makes you feel.

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

Reining in a New Class

Audra Edwards’ love of horses and people motivated her to open ACE Equine.

Former School Teacher Spurring on New Students

by Cindy Boyd

Have you ever wondered what you would be doing right now if you really pursued your dream job? Could you leave your 9 to 5 career, your steady paycheck, your retirement and your healthcare insurance to take that risk? Audra Edwards of Brierfield did just that. When the school bells rang for the first time this school year, instead of making her coffee in the teacher’s lounge and rushing to the classroom, this former eighth-grade English teacher was putting on her boots and taking her coffee to the barn. No pressures and stress of the dreaded first day of school. That morning, Edwards felt calm and relaxed.

"I loved teaching and I love kids, but I love people and horses more," Edwards said.

Not that horse riding instruction and training horses isn’t hard work ....

After 13 years of teaching, Edwards decided to hang up that cap with tassels and reach for the old cowboy hat and spurs she has been wearing since she could walk. Edwards has been on a horse ever since. Her father, Joe Clark, is a horse trainer and taught her everything she knows. Father and daughter have been connected through their love of horses in a way only those lucky enough to see would understand. When Edwards decided to choose a new career path, her dad was right there to help her get started. As a matter of fact, it was their close bond that made the decision to open her father’s stables to horse riding instruction fairly easy for Edwards. Clark has had some recent health setbacks and is unable to train as many horses as he did when he was younger. Edwards wanted to spend as much time with her parents as possible and to make good use of the facilities at Joe Clark Training. So came the opening of ACE Equine.

Audra Edwards gives beginner Kayla Marsh of Clanton one-on-one instructions at ACE Equines.

Edwards grew up competing in rodeos and training horses with her father. Clark trains Western performance horses. Over the years, he has trained reining, cutting, pleasure and even a few roping horses.

"I was going to the barn with Dad when I was 2 and was babysat by a retired cutting mare while he broke colts and trained. I started competing in all kinds of classes and disciplines at about 8 years old. I was breaking colts by the time I was 12. I worked at the barn with my Dad and my younger sister through high school and most of college. Horses helped me pay for my education," Edwards recalled.

It was definitely a family business with her mom, sister and father. Edwards says it was a great way to grow up, but it was a lot of hard work. Now she is back at the barn with both of her parents and she loves it.

The morning I met Edwards at the stables, her mom greeted me as she fed the chickens and the barn cats. Then along came Mr. Clark who spoke with me about the worship service at the church he belongs to and the sermon he was giving. Of course, part of his sermon included a few cowboy tales.

So, what exactly does Edwards offer at ACE Equine? She offers Western horsemanship lessons and horse training. She works with beginner and intermediate riders. But, that’s not all, Edwards helps people who have ridden in the past get back in the saddle again. She helps those who already ride, to ride better. She takes horses that need some fine tuning and works with the horses and their owners to bring them to their potential. Edwards encourages anyone who has ever wanted to ride or own a horse to "Go for it!" She wants to make that dream a reality for people young or old. Edwards says that riding builds confidence and she wants to help people realize their potential by doing something different and facing challenges. Whether it is a child or adult, she wants to see them fulfill a lifelong dream in a safe environment.

Edwards is a good teacher, both in the classroom and on a horse. Just check out her Facebook page, ACE Equine, and see the great things her students and their parents have to say. And, it’s not just the kids who love her. The older crowd just can’t get enough and are enjoying the exercise and fulfillment that getting back on a horse or getting on one for the first time brings. And talk about exercise ... no worries about an indoor gym that is sterile and boring. Spend an hour lesson at the barn and Edwards promises you’ll work out plenty.

Audra Edwards with students Tonya and Kayla Marsh (mother/daughter) of Clanton, and Garrett of Fitzpatrick who is a high school rodeo contestant and roper.

There is one thing Edwards said that really stuck out in my mind because I have a teenage daughter myself.

"There is no better investment for a teenage girl ... being in love with a lazy gelding keeps them pretty occupied," she laughingly said.

So true, every girl and boy who comes to the barn is in love with Luke, a 20-year-old retired roping horse who has carried several rodeo queens. I might have fallen a little in love myself.

ACE Equine is located at the Joe Clark Training Stables, 130 Highway 217, Brierfield, just off Highway 25. Edwards offers flexible training time and you can find her at the barn almost any time of day. She can be reached at 205-902-4604 or go and like her Facebook page, ACE Equine.

Cindy Boyd is a freelance writer from Montevallo.

Sizing up the Soil

Joey Shaw, left, professor in the Department of Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences at Auburn, and spring 2015 agronomy and soils graduate Kristen Pegues show their Auburn spirit even while standing in a soil pit 5,300 miles from home. In the 2015 International Soil Judging Contest Sept. 5 in Gödöllő, Hungary, Shaw led Team USA to a world championship, and Pegues finished with the highest individual score to win the title of the world’s No. 1 soil judger.

Auburn grad reigns as No. 1 soil judger in the world.

by Jamie Creamer

Auburn University soil and environmental scientist Joey Shaw coached Team USA to a world championship Sept. 5 at the second annual International Field Course and Soil Judging Contest in Gödöllő, Hungary. Team member and spring 2015 agronomy and soils graduate Kristen Pegues scored higher than any other individual in the competition, making her the reigning No. 1 soil judger in the world.

Team USA beat out 16 other soil judging teams from around the globe on its way to the 2015 championship. Spain’s team finished second in the competition, and Hungary’s came in third overall. Among the 70-plus individual team members participating in the contest, Pegues finished first, followed by contestants from Spain and Rwanda, but the three other Team USA members – Erin Bush of Kansas State University, Stephen Geib of Delaware Valley University and Adrienne Nothingham of West Virginia University – also had excellent scores, finishing fourth, seventh and eighth, respectively.

"Having all four of our soil judgers place in the top eight in individual scores, combined with a second-place finish in group judging to a team from Africa, is what gave the United States the overall championship," said Shaw, a Department of Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences professor who’s now in his 17th year of coaching Auburn soil judging teams.

Somewhere in the countryside outside of Gödöllő, Hungary, Team USA poses before heading to a soil judging practice session in advance of the 2015 International Soil Judging Contest. Comprising Team USA were, from left, Adrienne Nothingham of West Virginia University, Pegues, Erin Bush of Kansas State University, Stephen Geib of Delaware Valley University and coach Shaw.

In a collegiate soils competition, contestants must use their knowledge and skills, both individually and with their teams, to correctly identify and describe the soils in assigned, 5-foot-deep pits, evaluate the potential functions of each soil type and then interpret how the soils would perform under different land-use and management practices.

"These are skills these students can carry into the workplace," Shaw said. "Having soil scientists in society who can describe and classify soils is the foundation for most land management and use, from agriculture to home construction to streets and roads."

Shaw won the right to coach America’s team in the global showdown after leading Auburn’s 2014-15 Soil Judging Team to the championship in the 2015 National Collegiate Soil Judging Contest at the University of Arkansas-Monticello in April. Auburn’s Pegues had the top individual score in that contest, too, and she and the next three highest scorers – Bush, Geib and Nothingham – were named to Team USA.

Though the international contest itself was Sept. 5, the event began Sept. 1, with teams spending the first four days attending short daily classroom sessions designed to introduce the soil judgers to the Hungarian landscape and soils, and then getting practical training in the field. Shaw and Pegues rendezvoused with the three other Team USA members in Budapest on Aug. 29, marking the first time coach and team had met in person.

"We had four days to get to know each other and to get to know the soils of Hungary," Shaw said. "But I felt really good about how the team would do, because these were the four students who were the top scorers at the national contest. I knew that they’re all excellent soil judgers."

As an undergraduate at Auburn, Pegues was a member of three consecutive soil judging teams. The Fairhope native and daughter of Gulf Coast Research and Extension Center Director Malcomb Pegues entered the University of Georgia in August as an agronomy and soils master’s student, but she represented Auburn on Team USA.

The soil Olympics in Hungary, held as part of the UN-designated International Year of Soils celebrations, was only the second annual international contest. The inaugural soil judging competition last year was held in Jeju, Korea, during the 20th World Congress of Soil Sciences. The 2014 winner? Team USA.

"Not to put any pressure on us or anything," Shaw said before leaving for Hungary.

Jamie Creamer is a specialist 3 in the Comm & Marketing department of Auburn University.

The Co-op Pantry

I am so pleased this month to feature Mable Robinson, who was featured in the October issues of the Farmers Cooperative Farming News from the Live Oak and Madison stores in Florida. Like me, Robinson is interested in her family heritage and shared her delightful and unique family history with me. Her family can be traced back to a gentleman from France marrying a lovely lady from the northwest African coast, who according to Robinson had a decidedly Mongolian look. The couple lived in France, moved to Canada and then Cuba and from there to the French Quarter, Charleston, S.C., and then to Jasper, Fla., named after a relative of hers.

I thank Pauline Cogdill for sharing and allowing us to all enjoy Robinson’s story.

by Pauline Fletcher Cogdill

Mable Robinson was born and raised in Suwannee County, Fla. Although she traveled to many other places, Suwannee County has always been her home. Robinson graduated from Suwannee River Jr. College (now known as North Florida Junior College) in Madison, Fla. Upon graduation, she traveled to Orlando and, in 1962, completed her nursing degree as her major and a minor in surgery.

Furthering her education, she graduated from Lincoln Business College with her business administration degree, and it was here she was selected to model for an international modeling company. However, being a shy, young Mulatto woman (this is the way Robinson self-identifies) with an ancestry of African, Mohawk, Cherokee, Italian, Irish and French bloodline, she was fearful of going to Italy and not being able to have the money to return home. Instead, she took a job at Zayre’s Department Store for a short time and decided she needed to go back to school to earn a degree at Rollins College in Winter Park to make a better income. Upon completion of an anthropology and sociology degree, she started working for the Florida Department of Ag and Consumer Services. She had finally found her niche in life and worked for the State of Florida for 35 years until she retired to return to Live Oak to take care of her ailing mother.

Life was always exciting for Robinson growing up as an only child of Sarah and Cuyler Robinson. She was pretty much left up to her own thinking, and so this little "Tom Boy" decided to keep a journal of all the activities around her. She has so many fond memories of Grandpa and Grandma Perkins and her adventures in Live Oak. Robinson recalled incidents she had written in her journal of many pleasant experiences and childhood memories that were lots of fun and some perplexing mysteries that still make her think about them. One incident she especially remembered dated back to World War II when she was watching 15-20 airplanes flying over Live Oak. As she recalled it was so unusual, "they were flying like a group of geese" right over Live Oak and she only saw them that one time. She also remembered her grandparents having these red, blue and green ration stamps to buy special food such as sugar and flour during the war. Without those colorful stamps, you could not get these special items and, when they were used for that month, you could not buy any more of that item until the next month. So many changes have happened since her early childhood, from her Grandpa leaving early in the morning with a mule and wagon to go to town for a few groceries and returning late in the afternoon. Grandpa would return with vanilla wafers and peppermint candy that were such special treats. A typical day on the farm would consist of grinding corn to make the meal, a long process from grinding the meal, letting it dry on a grater, baking and stirring, and sifting it into cornmeal. And picking poke salat and peppermint grass from the garden. Even today, she makes her own pepper from volunteer peppermint plants growing in her garden. Picking wild berries and especially those delicious huckleberries Grandma used to make huckleberry pies, and now Robinson bakes those delicious huckleberry and peach pies quite often.

Canning was the only way to keep their food year-round, even chicken and pork. Of course, cooking was only a small part of their chores. Robinson and Grandma would hand-sew quilts and make all of their clothing. She fondly remembered Grandma teaching her how to can when she was very young. Grandma would save the old Vaseline jars (which were glass back then) for Robinson to thoroughly clean and pretend to can things with her. Robinson had her own little corner by Grandma and a large wash pot to put the ingredients into her jars. These were lessons in life well remembered.

Without a doubt, the very best time of the year with Grandma was making syrup the old-fashioned way. After stripping off the shucks and grinding the cane on a cane mill, they boiled and skimmed the unwanted residue to have that perfect cane syrup. From that would come those delicious syrup cookies Grandma made by rolling them out like biscuits, wrapping them in cheesecloth, hanging them from the ceiling and waiting (and sometimes it seemed like a long wait) for that special occasion to eat them.

Having a hog killed at Christmastime brought much food for the family from ham, bacon, lard, etc. In fact, all of the hog was used in one form or another by salt curing and smoking it.

Farming was difficult and backbreaking with a mule and a plow and little else to prepare the land for growing their corn, peanuts, old-fashioned acre peas, collards, turnips and mustard greens, and sometimes tobacco and cotton. The farmers knew how to utilize everything from the crop. For example, after the corn was put in the crib, the shucks from the corn and peanut vines were used for food for the animals.

Robinson is a beautiful, unique lady who can still outwork most people today. She still bottles her cane syrup in any recyclable bottle she can find. When she was finished with the interview, she was going home to make pickled pears.

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


4 quarts pears, chopped

1 quart vinegar

2 cups sugar

4 Tablespoons pickling spices

1 large onion, cut into strips

1 large bell pepper, cut into strips

Place pears into large pan with enough water to cover; stir until boiling. Take pears out and place in jars (reserve liquid). Mix vinegar, sugar, spices, onion and bell pepper. Pour enough liquid into each canning jar and fill close to the top. Seal jars and wait for the next special occasion to share with your family. Makes about 7 pints.

Note: One way Robinson uses her pickled pears is to puree a pint or two and pour over cut-up baked chicken. Then layer it with bar-b-que sauce. Bake a few minutes and enjoy this special taste of sweet and sour chicken.




Walnuts (pecan or coconut), chopped

Canning jars

Canning rings and lids

Peel and slice as many pears as you wish to can. Pour sugar over pears and add just enough water to keep them from scorching and slowly cook them until they look like preserves. Put nuts in a hot jar, take the lids out of boiling water, wipe jar rim and quickly place lids and rings on jars and tighten.

Note: Have your hot jars and two-pieced lid sets ready to go before the cooked pears are ready to be canned.


White scuppernong grapes


Jalapeno peppers, red and green, de-seeded and finely diced

Boil grapes. Mash them and strain them. Juice will come out a clear pink. Use 4 cups juice to 7 cups sugar and cook until it foams and is jelly-like. Add jalapeno peppers to taste (usually about 1 tablespoon red and 1 tablespoon green is about right). Put jelly in hot jars, take lids out of boiling water, wipe jar rims and quickly place lids and rings on jars and tighten.

Note from Mary: You can keep jars hot in oven, not on such high heat you burst them! Or, you can use the sanitize cycle of your dishwasher, if you have one. Flat lid must be heated in simmering water.


4 cups cornmeal

2 cups flour, plain

3 Tablespoons baking power

Buttermilk or milk, to batter consistency

2-3 eggs

1½ cup lard or Crisco, melted

Place a 9-inch cast-iron skillet in oven and preheat to 400°. Whisk cornmeal, flour and baking powder in a large bowl. Whisk in buttermilk/milk, eggs and almost all of the shortening, reserving about 1 tablespoon for brushing the skillet.

Carefully remove the hot skillet from the oven and brush the bottom and sides with the reserved shortening. Pour batter into the skillet, return to oven and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cornbread comes out clean, about 20-25 minutes. Let cool 10-15 minutes.

Note:If you like, you may dice bell pepper, onions, whole kernel or creamed corn, celery, chopped-up cracklings or, if you can’t find real cracklings, you may use chopped pork rinds.


Crust, make your own, use dumplings to make a cobbler or 2 refrigerated pie crusts
Quart jar huckleberry
Sugar, to taste
Nutmeg, to taste
Cinnamon, to taste

Preheat oven to 425°. Prepare crust for top and bottom of pie. Line pie pan with crust. Mix ingredients except butter. Turn into pie pan; dot with butter. Cover with top crust with slits cut in it; seal and flute. Cover edge with 2" to 3" strips of aluminum foil to prevent excessive browning; remove foil last 15 minutes of baking. Bake 35-45 minutes or until crust is brown and juice begins to bubble through slits in crust.


4 quarts pears, cored and chopped
1 quart vinegar
2 cups brown sugar
2 Tablespoons ginger
¼ cup mustard seed
1 cup raisins
1 clove garlic
1 large onion, cut into strips
1 hot pepper, thinly sliced (keep seeds)

Place pears into large pan with enough water to cover; stir until boiling. Take pears out and place in jars (reserve liquid). Add remaining ingredients to reserved liquid; mix well. Pour enough liquid into each canning jar and fill close to the top. Seal jars and wait for the next special occasion to share with your family. Makes about 7 pints.

Note from Mary: Robinson also shared with us a couple of old remedies from her childhood that are very interesting. If you decide to try them, always check with your doctor first!


Jerusalem bush roots
Sugar or syrup

Boil roots, add sugar or syrup. Allow to cool and drink.

Note: It was used to kill childhood parasites. Chenopodium, a more scientific name, was used extensively to treat children for hookworms until about 1940 when other manufactured medicines became available to treat human parasites.


Palm of Christ or castor oil plant

Chop leaves and crumble in vinegar. Put on body and wrap the body part being treated in cloth or a towel to reduce fever or inflammation.

Note from Mary: Please Note: Parts of this plant are deadly poison; so if you want castor oil, go to the drug store. Unlike Robinson, not many of us today know enough about medicinal plants to safely use them. I wish I did! There are many fine herbalists out there. If you are interested in safely using herbals preparations, find one and learn. If you want to try this, buy the castor oil, add a little vinegar and use a flannel cloth to cover whatever area of the body you are working on and warm with a hot water bottle -- not an electric hot pad.


Blackberry roots

Boil roots. Let cool. Drink liquid.

Note: This is good for diarrhea.

Note from Mary: I was raised on this one myself! We added sugar or syrup to sweeten it.

I am looking for cooks of all ages, cooking traditions. The holiday season is upon us and I am looking for cooks with fabulous recipes! I’m looking for Christmas family favorites, new dishes that are becoming family traditions and desserts. I would love to see people submit recipes reflecting their ethnic heritages as well. We are all different and wonderful in our eating traditions. You will also get a free copy of "Southern And Then Some More" free for participating. So, send those recipes in. You can contact me at 256-308-1623 or

The FFA Sentinel: College Prep

Brittany Taylor, 2013-2014 Alabama FFA Central District President, welcomes FFA members, advisors and guests to the 2014 Central District FFA Eliminations.

FFA plays a vital role in preparing students for college.

by Brittany Taylor

During high school, I ate, slept and breathed all things FFA. Being an FFA member gave me a reason to wake up eager to attend school each morning. FFA truly develops the potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success. I can honestly say that nothing prepared me for my college experience at Troy University more than the National FFA Organization.

FFA prepares students for college courses.

Not only does FFA teach students about agriculture, but FFA prepared me for college by also teaching me about science, business, communication, education, forestry and so much more!

FFA prepares students to hold leadership roles.

When I look back on my time at Wadley High School, nothing has been more beneficial to my college success than the leadership roles I held through the National FFA Organization. During my time as a member, I had the opportunity to serve as president of my local FFA chapter and president of the Central District FFA. These leadership roles allowed me to travel not only in my county but my state and our nation to share my passion for agriculture with others. I grew as an individual, and developed the necessary leadership skills and passion to be a leader on my college campus. Without my experience in the FFA, I probably would not be an appointed officer in my sorority or a senator for the Troy University Student Government Association.

FFA officers from the North, Central and South Districts attend one of the leadership training opportunities for FFA members. Pictured here are the Central District FFA Officers attending District Officer Leadership Workshop.

FFA teaches students about true friendship.

The friends we make in life teach us more about ourselves than we would ever expect. I am blessed to have made many great friendships through FFA. The friendships I made as a member of FFA are definitely friendships that will last a lifetime. My friendships from FFA have taught me to be more loyal and supportive in my relationships with my newfound college friends.

FFA equips students with communication skills.

During the college years, communication skills are absolutely necessary. College students should be able to effectively communicate when speaking in front of a class, in an interview, at campus events and at meetings for organizations they are involved in. As the Central District FFA President, I had the opportunity to travel in my district and speak to students from many schools. Doing this got me out of my comfort zone and allowed me to develop a public-speaking ability I never knew I was capable of acquiring. Being a former FFA member definitely makes it easier for me to be confident when speaking in front of others.

FFA teaches students about servant leadership.

One thing FFA and Troy University have in common is the emphasis they both put on servant leadership. The leaders on my college campus serve others through numerous volunteer activities such as philanthropic events and volunteering at local animal shelters, nursing homes, schools and more. FFA fueled my passion for being a servant leader. In the FFA motto, one part that really sticks out is, "Living to Serve."This is a major part of what the FFA is about. The FFA shaped me into the servant leader I am today.

How has FFA impacted other members?

Alabama native and former national FFA officer Wiley Bailey said this when I asked him how FFA prepared him for college, "When I started college I was surprised at some of the things I was already familiar with. I had already spoken in front of crowds about topics I researched. Making friends with new people in new places was also something I was familiar with as well. These are two examples of how FFA prepared me for college."

Nearly everywhere I go, I meet an FFA member. The members of this amazing student-led organization truly stand out, because of their great character and personality. I am proud to say that I was an FFA member in high school and that without that experience I probably wouldn’t be involved on my college campus at Troy University.

Brittany Taylor is a former Central District FFA President (2013-2014). She is currently a sophomore at Troy University.

The Realities of State Government

As a state official, Chuck Sykes, center, finds himself required to quote facts and figures on agency budgets, legislative bills and political strategies instead of timber basal areas, food plot seed mixtures and harvest strategies.

After almost three years with WFF, I’ve learned a lot …and it hasn’t been about wildlife management!

by Chuck Sykes

It’s hard for me to believe I am working in a job that requires me to quote facts and figures on agency budgets, legislative bills and political strategies instead of timber basal areas, food plot seed mixtures and harvest strategies. But, that is the reality of my life these days. As I sit here writing this article, I can’t help but look back to where I was three years ago (happily working in the private sector) before I took this job. I knew very little about how state government worked and absolutely nothing about the interworkings of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and honestly, I didn’t care to know.

Three years ago, I probably would have fallen victim to the political rhetoric of "smaller government," "fiscal responsibility," "agency waste" and other buzz phrases. Those all sound good as media sound bites, but are they really accurate? Here is one similarity I have found between wildlife management and state agency management: You can’t make a broad statement that encompasses everything. Just like each property is different and you must manage accordingly, each agency is different and a cookie-cutter formula for management will not work. I can’t speak for all agencies, but I can for ours.

I have been through three legislative sessions, and so far each has been worse than the previous. Constant attempts to raid the coffers of the DCNR have left the agency management battered and bruised, and services and staff at all-time lows. Over the past four years, the DCNR has been forced to transfer more than $27 million from its operating budget to the General Fund. It is impossible to completely separate the four divisions of DCNR: State Parks, State Lands, Marine Resources and WFF. If one division suffers budgetary setbacks, the other divisions feel the pain as well; maybe not to the same level of severity, but the damage is felt across the board.

The WFF staff is responsible for managing Alabama’s wildlife and freshwater fisheries resources – an economic impact of almost $3 billion, generating more than $250 million in local and state tax revenue and creating more than 53,000 jobs according to the 2011 National Survey. Hunting and fishing are not only time-honored traditions that are the fabric of life in Alabama but they are also an incredible economic engine for the state. As far as hunting-related expenditures, Alabama ranks 7th in the nation! The excise taxes paid by manufacturers on these goods combined with dollars generated through the sale of hunting and fishing licenses pay for the staff and services provided by WFF. NO GENERAL FUND MONEY GOES TO WFF.

So, why do we have to fight every year during the legislative session to keep this money from being stolen instead of being held up as a positive example of a self-supporting agency? I wish I knew the answer. All WFF asks of the Legislature is to provide us with the spending authority to pay our staff and provide goods and services to the hunters and fishermen. That seems pretty simple, doesn’t it? Hunters and fishermen have already funded the programs that provide hunting access on public lands, public boat ramps providing access to incredible fishing on state-managed reservoirs, law enforcement staff who assist landowners, university research that will provide answers to wildlife and fisheries management issues, and a whole host of other services.

But what if you don’t saltwater fish, ride horses on property bought by the Forever Wild program, vacation in a state park, hunt or own property where the services of a conservation enforcement officer are needed on occasion? Why are the DCNR and its staff important to you? Those staff members are productive members of communities all over the state. In addition, when natural disasters occur, many of our staff are the first to respond. When the devastating tornados hit Alabama in 2011 and the ice storm of 2013 crippled many areas, the DCNR staff, equipped with four-wheel-drive vehicles, chain saws, tow ropes and compassion, were on the scene day and night assisting the citizens of Alabama whether they purchased a hunting or fishing license or not.

Further cuts to the budget of the DCNR, forcing reduction of staff and services, would be felt in all 67 counties. The DCNR staff can’t be asked to bear more of a burden than they already have. The old saying goes, "You cannot get blood out of a turnip." Well, we’ve been just about bled dry over the past four years. I know the politically correct thing to say is, "We will just have to tighten up our belt and do more with less." I’m a biologist and not a politician, so I’m not going to sugarcoat anything. We will be forced to do less with less. Our staff and the citizens of Alabama, especially the people who buy licenses and products that fund our programs, deserve better.

All I have to go on are facts, and the facts are not pretty. If past legislative performance predicts future results, we are in serious trouble. Amendment 272 of the Constitution of Alabama reads, "No funds accruing to the game and fish fund of the state of Alabama from any source whatsoever shall be expended for any other purpose than the payment of administrative costs of the game and fish activities of the department of conservation and for the protection, propagation, preservation, investigation of game and fish, and public use of the game and fish resources of this state." What else needs to be said?

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

The Secrets of Jackson County

The 34 men and women who participated in the 2015 Jackson County SWCD Faces of Agriculture Tour are pictured at Stewart Farms. Those who signed up included a Scottsboro city councilman, a bank loan officer, a high school agriculture teacher, an Alabama A&M University student completing his master’s degree in an agricultural field, and representatives from county and state ag offices. Laurie Gibson, center, wearing a purple sweater, put the tour together. She is the District Administrative Coordinator for the Jackson County Soil and Water Conservation District.

The best-kept farming secrets of this North Alabama county are discovered on a 2015 Ag Tour.

by Maureen Drost

Some of North Alabama’s best-kept farming secrets lie in Jackson County.

On a mid-September morning, gathered for the 2015 Jackson County SWCD Faces of Agriculture Tour, 34 travelers set off on a tour bus to discover five of those secrets:

A third-generation row crop farm that’s new to modern irrigation;

One of half a dozen lumber mills in this part of the state;

A demonstration farm in the making for the education of children and adults;

An orchard at 1,700 feet that produces 20 kinds of apples plus a wide assortment of other fruit crops; and

A museum that describes a community begun in the Great Depression to help impoverished tenant farmers.

Third-generation farmer Phillip Stewart describes his center pivot irrigation system to the tour group. He grows corn and soybeans. The farm has been in the family since the early 1980s, starting with his grandfather.

Stewart Farms

The first stop on the tour was the farm of Phillip Stewart.He left a public job in 1998 to take over the operation from his grandfather. The farm has been in the family since the early 1980s.

Today, Phillip and his father grow 2,200 acres of row crops including corn and soybeans, and raise 200 head of beef cattle. Answering a question from one visitor, Stewart acknowledged that "95 percent of the crop is no-till. The yield is much greater."

Dwarfed by a huge tire on the loader attached to his tractor, Stewart told the group about the lengthy well-drilling process and how the center pivot irrigation system works.

"I can irrigate 175 acres with this system," he said. "The well will pump 1,000 gallons a minute."

Input costs per acre for each corn crop are $400. He said he "should have used a fungicide this year for the corn." In the future, he can use the irrigation equipment to apply both fungicide and nitrogen.

Stewart has "a couple million" invested in farm equipment. The loader, for example, cost $54,000. It can hold 1,150 pounds of corn. The combine is leased at $39,000 annually. By comparison, it costs $250,000 to purchase a used combine.

Stewart Farms is located at 3190 County Rd. 11; Scottsboro, AL 35768. You can contact Phillip Stewart at 256-574-9118 or

Standing beside freshly sawed lumber, WW Lumber Co. owner Scott Woodall describes his family business to onlookers. The lumber company specializes in turning out hardwood timbers into boards for flooring and cross-ties. He and his family began work at this new facility in 2008. The company has been in operation since the late 1990s.

WW Lumber Company

Next on the tour was the WW Lumber Co., one of five or six sawmills in North Alabama, according to Scott Woodall. When he and his father, Ronny, moved the operation to new facilities in 2008, income jumpedfrom $12,000-$15,000 a day to $40,000 a day. The mill employs 20-25 workers.

One major difference between lumber mills in North Alabama and those in South Alabama lies in the type of wood handled, said Woodall. North Alabama mills process hardwoods like walnut, cherry, poplar, white oak, red oak and hickory, while South Alabama mills handle pine, a soft wood.

Lumber for flooring and cross-ties are merchandised locally and in Tennessee within a radius of 60-75 miles from the mill. The mill does sell some products to South Korea and China. Woodall, a registered forester, also helps a few landowners with timber management.

WW Lumber Co. is located at 1201 County Rd. 11; Scottsboro, AL 35768. You can contact Scott Woodall at 256-589-6198 or

Graham Farm and Nature Center

Left to right, Donna Sands acts as a guide for those on the Jackson County Farm Tour as they ride around the Graham Farm & Nature Center. The land for the center was donated by Nita and Bob Head, retired professors of art and physical education in Kentucky at Murray State University. The farm was given to the Alabama Cooperative Extension System via the Jackson County Extension Office. Visitors take a look at a creek which runs through the Center. Future plans call for low-lying areas to be developed into wetlands, said Noah Bowling, onsite manager.

The tour group rode into the mountains to reach this demonstration farm. Still in its formative stages, it lies on the former property of Nita Graham Head and her husband, Bob. It is their wish that the Century Farm remain in farming in perpetuity and be used to educate youth about agriculture.

"The land will always stay in agriculture," said onsite manager Noah Bowling. It’s "in the Farm and Ranch Land Protection Program …. The low-lying areas where the buttercups are will be wetlands. We also have a small herd of cattle."

Bowling, who lives in the white frame home on the property, plans to grow native warm-season grass in the future. Youth activities have already begun with kayaking available in nearby waters.

Graham Farm and Nature Center is located at 420 County Rd. 27; Estillfork, AL 35745. For more information, you can contact Donna Sands at 256-574-2143 or

Robert Deutscher moved to Skyline Mountain from Indiana to start Crow Mountain Orchard. The elevation of 1,700 feet is ideal for growing apples. Among the 20 varieties he grows are Red Delicious, Gala, Jonathan, McIntosh, Golden Delicious and Mutsu, plus pears, grapes, muscadines, blueberries, blackberries and peaches. Inset, ripe apples ready for picking.

Crow Mountain Orchard

If the rush to buy apples and homemade cider was any indication, this 80-acre orchard atop Skyline Mountain was one of the most popular places to see on the tour. At a maximum elevation of 1,720 feet, Crow Mountain boasts good conditions for growing apples, including the cooler temperatures at night, said owner Robert Deutscher.

He and his wife, Carol, maintained an orchard in Indiana for a number of years before deciding to head South in 1975. The Deutschers grow more than 20 varieties of apples with Red Delicious at No. 1. Others include Gala, Fuji, Mutsu, Ginger Gold, McIntosh, Jonathan, Golden Delicious, King Lusk, Ozark Gold and the 20-ounce Pippin. Eight men and women work the orchard during apple-growing season.

However, apples aren’t the only fruit crops; pears, grapes, muscadines, blueberries, blackberries and peaches can all be found here.

Crow Mountain Orchard is located at 6236 County Rd. 39; Fackler, AL 35746. You can contact Bob Deutscher at 256-437-9254 or

Skyline Farms Heritage Museum

A guide shows museum guests a diagram of the acreage in the colony and where the farms were located.

An agricultural tale of the Depression years is the focus of this museum. Photographs, historical documents and artifacts tell the story of a unique farming colony begun by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to aid selected farmers and laborers barely getting by financially.

Chosen through an application process, these farmers and laborers moved to Skyline Mountain and worked for what they received. They helped clear the land, constructed homes, and built a road, a school and what is now the museum building. In its heyday, it functioned as the community store.

Under the New Deal program, the government provided seed, breeding stock and other necessities to start a new life. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt picked out the acreage herself for these families, a tour guide said. The aim was to have a house and 40 acres for each farm.

Considered a failure by some critics, the Skyline Farms Project did bring many families through the toughest part of the Depression. Job training for the adults and education for the children were definite benefits.

Skyline Farms Heritage Museum is located at 802 County Rd. 25; Scottsboro, AL 35768. For more information, you can contact Deborah Helms at 256-587-6122 or

Maureen Drost is a freelance writer who lives in Huntsville. She was a career journalist for The Decatur Daily and The Huntsville Times.

The Squeeze Chute

by Baxter Black, DVM

The sun shone dull on its metal bars.

The snow lay drifted against her frame.

Behind the barn near the rusting cars

She’s ended up all crippled and lame.

An ol’ squeeze chute I’d opened and closed

On a hundred thousand heads and horns

Dragged to the bone yard to decompose

Forgotten rose in a bed of thorns.

I lay a hand on the frozen steel,

The head bar polished as smooth as glass.

The mem’ries flowed and the past revealed

Itself like magic. I knew at last.

Why, through the years of sweat and toil.

Despite the urge to romanticize,

I hated it just like a boil

That throbbed like the Starship Enterprise!

Its dinosaurial devious brain

Laying in wait for liver and loin

Slipped a ratchet and jiggled a chain

Then rendered me a blow to the groin!

It came to collect its pound of flesh.

A finger here; there, a piece of shin.

The aching ribs, recalling a’fresh

A gleeful, scything crack to the chin!

Hot forged in hell by the River Styx.

It’s what they’d make if devils could weld!

They say machinery and cows don’t mix

And that truth has never been dispelled,

But maybe I’m being too unkind.

There’s some that says she deserves a crown

And, in fairness I could be inclined,

As final tribute, to melt her down

And mold her into a plumber’s snake.

A generous way to salute’r.

And pay her homage, for ol’ time’s sake,

Everytime I called Roto Rooter!

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,

Time to Gather up the Meat

by John Howle

"What people don’t understand is this is something that we only have in America. There is no other country in the world where the ordinary citizen can go out and enjoy hunting and fishing. There’s no other nation in the world where that happens. And it’s very much a part of our heritage." – Norman Schwarzkopf

There’s just something about November that makes us want to gather up meat. Whether it’s butchering a hog on the farm or taking a whitetail deer from the woods, the oaky smell of autumn lets us know that meat-producing animals have had all summer to fatten up, and a fall harvest makes for plentiful meat in the freezer all winter.

If you have a white vehicle, appliance touch-up paint is much cheaper than factory auto touchup for repairing paint chips and rust specks.

Revisit the Does

Often, mature bucks will stay secluded, only traveling short distances from bedding to feeding areas. If you’ve been seeing does on your property, pinpoint their locations and track them throughout the season. Once the rut or breeding season comes in full swing, the bucks will begin to travel outside of their safe zones to locate the does. If you have been keeping track of the does’ movement, when the rut comes in, you will have a better chance of harvesting a buck if you set up in common travel and feeding areas of the does.

Time for a Touch-up

If you own a white truck or car, you are in luck if you have a few places where the paint has been chipped. Regular, automotive touch-up paint is expensive if you go to a dealership to match the colors. Many hardware stores carry a small canister of touch-up paint for white appliances, and this paint runs around $5. This is considerably cheaper, and the white paint can easily be applied to small spots with the handy applicator brush, resembling the brush on nail polish. I fixed approximately nine chip spots on my white truck; it stops the rust and covers the blemish.

Predator Control

If you raise farm animals, you will eventually have to deal with predators. Here’s a list of the most vulnerable livestock that should be protected: newborn calves and foals, sheep, goats, chickens and rabbits. All these animals represent a quick, easy meal for predators such as coyotes, feral dogs and bobcats. One of the most effective ways to control these predators is through trapping, and the most common technique is using foothold traps.

I use traps that have a rubber bushing over the jaws to ensure the animal’s leg doesn’t break.

I do this to guard against the risk of having someone’s pet wander into the trap. Foothold traps come in various sizes based on the predator to be controlled.

The rubber bushings on this trap help prevent leg damage on non-target animals.

A trap size of 3 is the most common for controlling bobcat, raccoon and coyote. Most of the foothold traps range in size from #1 to #4½. Just to get an idea of foothold trap size for various species, here is the size breakdown:

  • Size 1 is for opossum and skunk;
  • Size 2 is for raccoon;
  • Size 3 is for bobcat, raccoon and coyote;
  • Size 4 is for coyote; and
  • Size 4½ is for mountain lion.

The trap should be placed in an area unlikely to catch non-target animals, and visit the traps often just in case you need to release any non-target animal. Foothold traps come with a length of chain allowing them to be anchored to a steel stake, but you can also use a length of rebar driven into the ground if there are no anchor points nearby.

Coyotes, for instance, have a strong sense of smell and an uncanny ability to see anything that looks out of order. With this in mind, make sure you eliminate human scent on the trap by using rubber gloves and wear rubber boots when checking your traps. I store the traps in a plastic, 5-gallon bucket filled with water and oak leaves to keep scent off the traps. The tannin in the oak leaves will also keep the traps free of rust.

Once you’ve selected a spot for your trap, use a garden spade to dig out a recess to place the trap.

Peat moss sprinkled over the trap covers and allows it to close easily.

Carefully place the set trap into the recess and cover with peat moss softly sprinkling over the trap until all is covered. The peat moss will stay fluffy and light even when wet making sure the trap will close properly. Finally, sprinkle the surrounding soil over the top of the peat moss to camouflage the trap. You can lightly brush the soil on top of the trap with a whiskbroom to smooth out the surface.

Once the trap chain is anchored with a stake and the chain is concealed under dirt, the catching part of the trap is ready. You can also bait the area. Typically, the bait should be about 9-10 inches from the trap. You can also spray the area with some cover scent, but after a couple of days, any human scent will be gone.

Let your neighbors know you are planning predator control through trapping. Chances are, they are having the same predator problems and might want to get involved. Predator control that is used for protecting livestock often protects other game species as well.

Controlling raccoon populations helps protect ground-nesting birds such as turkeys and quail. Controlling high coyote populations makes it possible for fawns to reach maturity. Check with your local Co-op for information and supplies concerning predator protection for farm animals.

This November, get out and enjoy your American privilege of being able to hunt the outdoors. Get the youth involved through a high-interest sport such as squirrel or dove hunting, and explain to them that this is a strictly American heritage that should be preserved.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.

Yellow Dock

by Nadine Johnson

Yellow dock, Rumex crispus, also called curly dock, is a hardy perennial plant. According to North American Wildlife(a Reader’s Digest publication), this herb/weed grows over a very large part of North America.

In the early 1990s, I had my one opportunity to meet and hear Alabama’s renowned herbalist Tommie Bass speak. I can still see him holding a limp yellow-rooted plant and hear him saying, "This is the best source of natural iron found anywhere."

Soon afterward a lady called me and said, "My son has suffered a loss of blood. His doctor wants him to take iron. When I explained to the doctor that he cannot tolerate commercially prepared iron, I was advised to obtain a natural source. Can you help me?"

This young man took yellow dock and tolerated it well. Soon he was energetic and rosy cheeked again.

In 2007, Jo, an old friend, was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome, also known as MDS or myelodysplasia. This is a blood-related medical condition that causes anemia. (Anemia is a low red blood cell count causing pallor and weakness.) She was referred to a cancer center for treatment. Testing determined that she did not need their treatment. On her request, she was sent to the University of Alabama in Birmingham for evaluation. At UAB, it was established that she had a mild form of the illness. She began to take iron as advised and her condition was controlled.

Much later she was hospitalized for another health problem. After being dismissed from the hospital, it was determined that her red blood count was very low. (Somewhere along the line she had ceased to take the prescribed iron.) A neighbor happened to have yellow dock on hand and shared it with Jo. She quickly saw an improvement in her energy level. She has continued to take yellow dock. Recent blood tests indicated that all is well.

When she first told me about her diagnosis, I said, "I’m not sure, Jo, but I think yellow dock might possibly help control this health problem."

Years later, she learned that I was right.

The following is a quote from my rather extensive herb library:

"Yellow dock (Rumex crispus) root has a reputation as a liver tonic, gall bladder tonic and possibly the best organic source of iron available. Yellow dock is used frequently for anemia during pregnancy and all other times, too.

"Because a strong liver serves the body in thousands of ways, anything that helps the liver helps the body all over. Skin conditions in particular are relieved when the liver is strengthened. These include psoriasis, acne, hives and other eruptions. Yellow dock contains natural ‘soaps’ that help loosen and remove poison from the body. Some herbalists teach that it purges the liver."

Myelodysplastic syndrome is a serious health condition and should be monitored routinely by a physician. Jo sees her doctor on a regular basis.

As always I suggest you check with your doctor before taking alternatives.

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

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