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Home > Archives > October 2009

October 2009

A Farmers Cooperative Can’t Be Everything To Everybody

Todd Smith, store manager, wearing one of the straw hats offered at Hartford Farmers Co-op.

But Hartford Farmers Co-op Meets the Needs of Most

By Jaine Treadwell

Hartford Farmers Co-op is many things to most anybody who walks through the door.

That’s the plan and that’s the goal of store Manager Todd Smith and his dedicated staff of employees.

Diversification is the name of the game in today’s struggling economy. Smith and crew realized the best way to survive in the business world is to do what farmers in the field are doing -— diversifying their operations.

"We moved into the new building in 2004. We’re very proud of it and of being a part of the business community of Hartford and the surrounding area," Smith said.

Evelyn Strickland (left), bookkeeper and 31-year employee, and Cheri Orr, office manager, show some of their canning supplies.

Hartford is located in the Wiregrass area of Southeast Alabama and, by some standards, the town of about 3,500 is a bit secluded.

"You have to go about 30 miles to go anywhere to get everything you need," said Cherie Orr, office manager. "Here at the Co-op, we can’t provide everything people need, but we can supply many of their needs, kind of like a general store."

Becoming more of a general store would broaden the Hartford Farmers Co-op’s customer base, so Smith and staff went about the business of doing just that.

And Smith didn’t mind using a little trickery to get the job done.

"Todd told me he was having a contest to see who could organize and decorate the corners of the store," said Andy Fredrick, sporting goods director and spreader truck driver. "Well, I set up a corner for hunting supplies and I think it looks real good. But, there wasn’t a contest."

Andy Fredrick, sporting goods director and spreader truck driver, fixed a corner of Hartford Farmers Co-op to display the hunting items available to their customers.

Fredrick’s corner of the store sports a camouflage burlap wall, trophy mounts, canvas blinds, plot seed, deer scents and a variety of deer hunting items.

If there had been a contest, Fredrick just might have won the prize.

The Co-op carries a good supply of horse tack and miscellaneous Western items and sun hats for field or yard work.

"We have added toys and will have a lot of toys in for Christmas," Orr said. "The John Deere toys are very popular. I think the popularity of John Deere has grown since the song ‘John Deere Green’ became popular. We’ll have small John Deere toys up to the wagons and bicycles."

Orr and Evelyn Strickland, the bookkeeper of 31 years, suggested the Co-op add a line of canning supplies.

"We sold more garden seed and plants this year than ever before," Orr said. "We thought there would be more interest in canning this year and we’ve been pleased with the response. A lot of people are canning tomatoes and other vegetables. We’ve just about sold out of canners and have had to reorder stock pots."

Regular customers are excited about the items in stock and the diversification is bringing in new customers.

And, this year, all customers — new and seasoned — will have the opportunity to purchase 2.5-pound bags of raw and roasted peanuts at a value price because the nuts will be bagged on site. Carthell Hatcher, a 36-year Co-op employee, will be in charge of the peanut bagging operation.

Carthell Hatcher (left), who has worked at Hartford Farmers Co-op for about 35 years, and Todd Smith, store manager, with the automated bagger that allows them to bag their own peanuts.

"We’ve got an automatic bagger so we’ll be able to bag the peanuts right here, and that will be a savings to our customers," Smith said. "We used to bag the peanuts on site but not with an automatic bagger like we have now."

For Strickland, the bagging operation is a bit nostalgic. Her mom bagged peanuts by hand at the Anderson Peanut Company facility years ago. That’s how she got interested in the farming industry and why she enjoys working with the Co-op so much.

For Strickland and all the employees at Hartford Farmers Co-op, the Co-op is one big, happy family — including the customers who frequent the store, whether it’s to shop or just sit around and swap stories and share the laughter.

"We’re family," said Albert Neal, who celebrated his 72 birthday in September. "I retired and my health got bad, so I had to go back to work on account of my medical expenses. When I started working at the Co-op, my health got better. It did that for me."

Whether the Co-op can take credit for the improved state of Neal’s health is debatable, but those who frequent the store know the fun and fellowship they share there is "good for the soul." For, if laughter is the best medicine, then Hartford Farmers Co-op is a powerful tonic.

The Co-op is a gathering place for those who share common interests like farming, hunting, fishing, gardening, football, baseball, etc. The list is a long one and up close to the top is horseback riding.

Up to 20 riders will gather at the Co-op for a trail ride taking them out of town, along wooded rows, and across pastures and fields.

The riders laughingly call themselves the "Turn Around Gang" and admit they often turn around and go back for a variety of reasons. But no matter where they ride or how far, they always have fun.

"When we were riding the other day, a friend stopped and said, ‘You know, this is fun,’" said Jacky Smith, who is retired but owns 11 horses. "There’s no drinking or rough talking. We’re just out having good, clean fun."

The gang comes from different walks of life like Robert Earl Skinner, a peanut farmer who "allows" his sons to do most of the farming now. Paula Pollard is in the gristmill business and is also the leader of the gang. Jerry Moseley is retired but dons a tux every now and then and hitches his horse to a surrey and rides in parades or chauffeurs couples on their wedding day. Karen Milton works in Hartford but fell in love with horseback riding after moving from Louisiana.

Loyd Cotton actually rode his horse to death, so he’s out of the saddle right now.

"Loyd said he was going to ride until he was 90 if his horse lasted that long," Moseley said. "Loyd’s just 85 but his horse didn’t last that long."

The diverse gang of horseback riders get together often for peanut boils, fish fries, and the fun and fellowship of friends together.

Diversity is the name of the game at Hartford Farmers Co-op and among those who gather there to shop, swap stories, saddle up and share the fun and laughter that comes when friends gather in a cooperative effort.

Jaine Treadwell is a freelance writer from Brundidge.

The Hartford Farmers Co-op Turn Around Gang will ride anywhere, anytime and, if need be, they’ll turn around and go back. The “gang” often numbers up to 20, but when two or more ride, a good time is had by all. From left, (mounted) Jerry Moseley, Robert Earl Skinner, Paula Pollard, Karen Milton, (standing) Albert Neal, Jacky Smith and Carthell Hatcher.

AL Forestry Dept. Adds Canine Investigator

Investigator Donnie Parker is the primary handler for Blaze, Alabama’s tracking bloodhound trained to help in arson and timber crime investigations in the state. Similarly trained dogs have helped track arsonists and reduce the number of wild land fires in other states. Banks Primary School students (left to right) Anthony Carter, Braxton Brown and Madisyn Johnson were excited to meet Blaze after the assembly held at their school in Pike County.

He’s Blaze, the Arson Dog

By Kellie Henderson

September marked the first month of official duty for the newest member of the Alabama Forestry Commission’s Law Enforcement Division. Unlike his fellow investigators, this particular agent doesn’t wear a uniform, fill out paperwork or question witnesses. And he’s not yet two years old.

Specially selected by bloodhound breeders in South Carolina for the Alabama Forestry Commission, Blaze is a scent-tracking dog trained specifically for the job of trailing people by their unique scent.

"To a dog like Blaze, your scent is as unique as your fingerprint," said Chief Craig Hill of the Forestry Commission’s Law Enforcement Division.

"Blaze and his primary handler Investigator Donnie Parker have been through a year of very intensive training. If we can find one footprint at the site of a fire, Blaze can detect that person’s scent, and he’ll track as far as that scent will carry," Hill said.

And for Blaze, a person’s scent is easier to track than people might think.

Alabama Forestry Commission Chief Law Enforcement Officer Craig Hill holds Blaze while the bloodhound checks out his surroundings. In addition to his tracking work, Blaze will make appearances for schools and other groups in attempts to raise awareness about the danger of woodland fires and means of preventing them.

"We’ve had him scent people from aluminum cans or other dropped items. He’s even followed the scent of a person who got in a vehicle and was driven down the road, and Blaze approached the vehicle and identified the scent he was after. People on bicycles, cars or ATVs are all possible for Blaze to locate," Hill explained.

Chief Hill went on to say arson dogs already have proven successful in other states.

"State Forester Linda Casey charged us with building a first-class Investigative Unit, capable of providing timely service to the timber industry and individual landowners, and part of that goal is to reduce the number of wild land arsons in the state," said Hill.

"We looked back at previous years, and in an average year there are 2,500 wildfires in Alabama, and an estimated 40 percent of those are intentionally-set wildfires. We looked carefully at what other states were doing and learned states like West Virginia and Virginia had been using arson dogs for 20 years. The physical evidence those dogs provided actually reduced arson incidents," explained Hill.

Such valuable help comes at a steep price, but Casey and Hill were determined to make sure Alabama had that tool available.

"A fully-trained dog could have cost 15 to 16 thousand dollars, and we still would have needed additional money for handler training, so we found a breeder who agreed to select a puppy that would suit our needs," Hill said.

And through private donations, Blaze was purchased and he and handler Donnie Parker have been extensively trained at no cost to Alabama taxpayers.

"Every bit of the money used for Blaze’s purchase, training, feed and veterinary care has all been donated, and we hope to continue to obtain private funds for his care," Hill added.

In addition to identifying suspected arsonists, Chief Hill said they also plan to make Blaze available for searching out non-criminal missing persons.

"When a child or an older person with dementia wanders off or becomes lost in the woods, Blaze can track that scent, too. He’s going to be a valuable tool for us and for the safety of others," Hill said.

But Blaze won’t just be working in the woods. His endearing demeanor and signature bloodhound visage make him an integral part of the Forestry Commission’s campaign to educate people about the dangers of wild land fires. As part of that effort, Blaze can be seen on promotional materials for the state’s arson hotline and in the outreach programs conducted in schools.

"That’s one of the things making Blaze such a great dog for us," said Investigator Parker.

"He can work hard out in the field all day and play on the couch when he’s done. Blaze loves kids and is a very positive way for us to remind people how dangerous wild fires are and what we can do to prevent them," Parker said.

A former wild land firefighter, Parker said when he applied for the job as investigator, he was thrilled when asked if he would be willing to work with a tracking dog.

"I’ve had and trained hunting dogs and always enjoyed that, so it seemed like a good fit for me," Parker said, adding that working with Blaze is not as easy a job as it might seem.

"It’s a 24-hour job and very demanding work. Blaze and I train at least three days a week, and we train under all different scenarios, including some night training and various other conditions. We’ve trained with correctional facilities, and we’re going to West Virginia in a few weeks for some additional training," said Parker.

"The National Police Bloodhound Association and other states using bloodhounds have been very helpful in Blaze’s training as well," Hill added.

But Parker said all the training in the world isn’t enough without the right kind of dog.

"Even when they are very young puppies, breeders start trying to determine which dogs will be candidates for this type of work. They have certain tests for the individual animal’s curiosity and determination, and they may not have but one or two dogs in a litter that will be good working dogs. The breeder hand-picked this dog specifically for us," Parker said as he rubbed his hand across Blaze’s chest, the pride and affection for the dog ringing out in every word.

"Blaze is a really valuable asset to us both in detecting efforts where he can identify suspects and as a mascot to raise public awareness and deter wildfires. He’s one more tool in finding culprits, and that’s one more piece of evidence we can put together to build cases to make Alabama safer," said Chief Hill.

Anyone with information about suspicious activity related to wildfires, timber theft or vandalism should call the state arson hotline at 1-800-222-2927. And anyone wishing to make contributions to Blaze’s care and training can contact the Alabama Forestry Commission at (334) 240-9300.

Kellie Henderson is a freelance writer from Troy.

Alabama Hosts National Association of State Departments of Agriculture Conference

Tim Trussell (left) of AFC/Bonnie Plant Farm chats with former Mexican President Vicente Fox (center) and Alabama Com-missioner of Agri-culture Ron Sparks at a meeting of national agriculture officials in Mont-gomery in September.

By Alvin Benn

Alabama farmers rolled out the red carpet for agricultural leaders from around the country in mid-September at a historic session spotlighting the state as never before on the national scene.

Those who attended the six-day meeting represented nearly every phase of agriculture, forestry and other entities related to agribusiness which is Alabama’s largest industry.

"It’s an honor for Alabama to be able to host such an important conference," Commissioner of Agriculture Ron Sparks said as he walked down a long hallway at Montgomery’s Renaissance Montgomery Hotel where the event was headquartered. "The issues we are talking about affect everyone in our state and in states across the country."

Commissioner of Agriculture Ron Sparks, left, and former Mexican President Vicente Fox stop to chat with Huck Carroll (center) of the Alabama Poultry and Egg Association at the national meeting of agriculture departments in Montgomery in September.

Having the annual National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) meet in Montgomery was believed to be a first. The state has welcomed regional meetings of agricultural officials in past years, but the September session represented something special.

"Our agenda involves issues of great importance to farming, especially those which involve food safety and supply," said Sparks, as he prepared to attend the next meeting at the hotel. "We’re especially honored to have an undersecretary of agriculture to speak at our meeting."

In his printed welcome to the large group of farm officials, Sparks — who is president of the national organization — said the meeting "provides us the opportunity to showcase Alabama and share with you some of our agribusiness activities."

The agenda touched on a variety of subjects including energy, biotechnology, special crops, food security and federal programs affecting farmers from coast to coast.

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

Sparks and his staff drew praise from those who attended, including state Sen. Wendell Mitchell who commended the commissioner during a large gathering of officials on Friday.

"We are privileged to have an outstanding Commissioner of Agriculture," Mitchell said. "We have never had someone in that position who puts his heart, soul and mind to work on behalf of the people of Alabama through that office more than Ron Sparks."

Praise for Sparks didn’t stop at the state level. He also was lauded by former Mexican President Vicente Fox, who was a special guest at the meeting and delivered the keynote address at the luncheon on Friday.

"Ron, you are a man of action and make things happen in the right way," said Fox, whose comment drew applause from the audience.

In addition to appearing at the annual meetings of state agriculture officials, Fox also announced a partnership between the University of West Alabama and the Universidad de Leon in Mexico. The agreement will involve everything from cultural exchanges to dual degree programs.

Sparks’ friendship with Fox, which has been growing in recent months, led to the accord. The commissioner spent several days in Mexico during the summer as part of a mission to gauge Alabama’s agricultural possibilities in America’s neighbor to the south.

Fox, who has been concerned for years about the departure of young Mexican men and women to the U.S. in search of jobs, believes education is the key to Mexico’s future.

"Only through education can you change a nation in one generation," said Fox, as reported by the Associated Press. During the announcement, Sparks said, "It is essential to the future of our students and our state that Alabama have and maintain a presence on the international level. These collaborations ensure we maintain an essential competitive edge."

Commissioners and directors of state agriculture departments across the country voiced their concerns about problems facing food producers and one said the American public apparently is unaware of them.

Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Charles Bronson said he believes farmers and foresters are being taken for granted, particularly when it comes to cost factors.

"The cost of fertilizer has tripled in recent years," Bronson said during one session. "Much of what we buy is petroleum-based and the return on our investment has barely gone up. We can’t keep operating this way."

Also discussed at the annual meeting was the "25-25" program which is aimed at increasing U.S. farm and forestry production and decreasing American reliance on foreign oil by 2025.

Former New York Commissioner of Agriculture Nathan Rudgers said the U.S. is making some headway, but stands at about 11 percent today and has some catching up to do in order to add the other 14 percent in the next 16 years.

He said electricity, wind, trees and other energy sources should help, but also noted the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is likely to have something to say about that in the years to come.

"There is in this country a real concern over EPA regulations," Rudgers said. "What is needed is thoughtful consideration to the fact that agriculture is part of the solution, not part of the problem."

Bronson asked several questions during Rudgers’ appearance and focused on the controversial "Cap and Trade" program involving greenhouse gas emissions. He said as it expands "we may have to go through new hoops with the EPA."

His concern about rising costs for farmers and foresters was mirrored throughout the large meeting room and his comments brought knowing nods from officials representing 45 states.

"Farmers are borrowing money at such a level that one bad year could wipe them out," said Bronson, who noted his ancestors began farming in Florida shortly after settlers arrived in Jamestown. "That means the food they produce will be gone unless somebody picks up their farm."

Fox proved to be the star of the show. He and his wife, Marta, were escorted from stop-to-stop and the former Mexican president seemed to take on an aura of a rock star. At 6-feet-5 inches, he towered over most of the attendees at the hotel and his big smile proved infectious as he posed for pictures and signed autographs.

He also got a kick out of a video exhibit by Monsanto, which works closely with farming and forestry interests about the country.

With Sparks just behind his seat, Fox had his hands on the steering wheel and tried his best to keep his "vehicle" on the road as he traveled around the video course. His big grin let everyone around him know he was thoroughly enjoying himself.

NASDA’s mission is to represent state departments of agriculture and promote U.S. agricultural interests while protecting consumers and the environment. The organization is governed by a 10-member board of directors who represent farmers and foresters in the North, South, Midwest and West regions.

Alvin Benn is a freelance writer from Selma.

Andalusia Hosts State High School Rodeo Finals

All-Around Champion Zackery Wilson (right) and Stephanie Shackelford, 2009 AHSRA Rodeo Queen, with Zachery’s championship awards including a trophy saddle provided by Quality Co-ops.

Saddles, Buckles and Scholarships Awarded

By Mary-Glenn Smith

Cowboys and cowgirls from all over Alabama and parts of North Florida gathered at the Covington Center Arena in Andalusia to compete in the 2009 Alabama High School Rodeo Association (AHSRA) Finals.

AHSRA contestants competed in 18 high school rodeos in Alabama and one in Florida throughout the year leading up to the championship event on June 17-20. At high school rodeos, contestants compete for prize money and points, which rank them accordingly by the event they participate in.

In addition to the usual seven events featured in professional rodeos – steer wrestling, tie-down calf roping, team roping, girl’s barrel racing, bareback riding, saddle bronc riding and bull riding – high school rodeo also includes breakaway roping, goat tying, pole bending, and boys and girls cutting.

The winner from each event at the high school finals was awarded a trophy saddle and a buckle. A buckle was also given to the contestants who finished one place behind the champion.

The AHSRA also awards an All-Around Champion Cowboy and All-Around Champion Cowgirl. To be eligible for the all-around title, contestants must earn points in at least two different events. The cowboy and cowgirl with the most points accumulated at the end of the AHSRA finals becomes the all-around champion. As well as taking home a saddle and buckle, the all-around champions also receive $2,000 scholarships to be applied towards their college educations in the future.

Bull riding was one of the events featured in the 2009 Alabama High School Rodeo Association Finals held at the Covington Center Arena in Andalusia.

"Quality Co-ops around the state sponsored our all-around saddle this year," said AHSRA State Treasurer Tina Snowden of Andalusia. "I’m not sure how many years the Co-ops have sponsored the saddle, but they have been doing it for as long as I can remember."

"Without sponsors, none of this would be possible," Snowden added. "We are very thankful to have such generous sponsors."

Taking home the title of All-Around Champion Cowboy this year was Zackery Wilson of Billingsley. Wilson competed in the tie-down calf roping, steer wrestling, team roping and boys cutting. The All-Around Champion Cowgirl was Ashley Hudmon of Opelika. Hudmon competed in all of the girl’s events: barrel racing, breakaway roping, pole bending, goat tying and cutting.

This year the AHSRA presented nine scholarships to rodeo contestants, besides the two awarded to the all-around champions.

Brittany Snowden of Andalusia took home one of the $500 AHSRA scholarships as well the Lurleen B. Wallace Community College Scholarship for one full year.

Snowden competes in breakaway roping, pole bending, goat tying and barrel racing. For the third consecutive year, Snowden took home first place in the goat tying.

"Even though I won the goat tying for the third year in a row, this being my senior year was the best, knowing all my hard work was worth it," Snowden said after the win.

Snowden, 18, has been involved in rodeos for five years and considers interacting with people who share the same love for the sport of rodeo as she does as her favorite thing about competing.

"I got into riding horses because my mom, Tina, grew up riding horses." Snowden said. "I was influenced by her to get into rodeoing."

During the summer Snowden traveled to Farmington, N.M., to compete against cowgirls from all across the country in the National High School Rodeo Association (NHSRA) finals.

AHSRA contestants who placed in the top four spots in each event at the finals joined Snowden at the NHSRA finals on July 19-25.

High school senior, Josh Carden of Elberta, was one of the cowboys who competed at the NHSRA finals. Carden qualified for the finals in two events, steer wrestling and bull riding. He finished second in the steer wrestling and fourth in the bull riding. Carden also competed in tie-down calf roping and bareback riding, but considers steer wrestling and bull riding to be his main events.

When he is not at a high school rodeo, the 18-year-old competes in Professional Cowboys Association (PCA) rodeos around the Southeast and Southern Extreme Bull Riding Association (SEBRA) bull ridings.

"High school rodeo is great for people coming up from junior rodeo trying to get to the pros," said Carden, who serves as the student president for the AHSRA. "It’s the best thing."

"In the AHSRA, you’ve got people in your competition level – your age, from all over Alabama coming together with the same idea; coming together as a family," Carden said.

Carden will be attending Western Texas College in the fall on a rodeo and academic scholarship.

"I want to go out there and start college rodeoing and hopefully make the College National Finals my first year," said Carden, whose rodeo career began ten years ago when he started riding calves.

"I am going to hit a lot of the big pro rodeos," Carden added. "The college is in Snyder, Texas, so it’s right there in the big rodeo country."

The final results for the AHSRA finals are as follows:

Boys Cutting: 1) Kyle Wyatt of Kinston, 2) Zackery Wilson of Billingsley, 3) Lane Taylor of Opp, 4) Ryan Frolik of Loxley

Girls Cutting: 1) Natalie Thompson of Robertsdale, 2) Ashley Hudmon of Opelika, 3) Lexus Simpson of Robertsdale, 4) Raven Simpson of Robertsdale

Bareback Riding: 1) Drew Arkuszeski of Elmore, 2) Josh Carden of Elberta

Saddle Bronc Riding: 1) Drew Arkuszeski of Elmore, 2) Kade Kressman of Bascom, FL

Steer Wrestling: 1) Buddy Bush of Montgomery, 2) Josh Carden of Elberta, 3) Kade Kressman of Bascom, FL, 4) Jesse Cook of Prattville

Breakaway Roping: 1) Chrissy Morris of Wetumpka, 2) Raven Simpson of Robertsdale, 3) Lexus Simpson of Robertsdale, 4) Ashley Hudmon of Opelika

Tie-Down Calf Roping: 1) Kyle Wyatt of Kinston, 2) Zackery Wilson of Billingsley, 3) Jesse Cook of Prattville, 4) Will Saucer of Montgomery

Pole Bending: 1) Ronni Pharez of Fairhope, 2) Brooke Davenport of Chipley, FL, 3) Raven Simpson of Robertsdale, 4) Ashley Hudmon of Opelika

Goat Tying: 1) Brittany Snowden of Andalusia, 2) Ashley Hudmon of Opelika, 3) Natalie Thompson of Robertsdale, 4) Chrissy Morris of Wetumpka

Team Roping: 1) Lane Taylor of Opp, Nelson Wyatt of Clanton, 2) Tyler Hoagland of Harpersville, Zackery Wilson of Billingsley, 3) Jacob Locke of Defuniak Springs, FL, Ty Alford of Defuniak Springs, FL, 4) Kyle Wyatt of Kinston, Russin Wilson of Montgomery

Barrel Racing: 1) Chrissy Morris of Wetumpka, 2) Lexus Simpson of Robertsdale, 3) Josey Owens of Troy, 4) Raven Simpson of Robertsdale

Bull Riding: 1) Josh Moorer of Oneonta, 2) Drew Arkuszeski of Elmore, 3) Cole Long 4) Josh Carden of Elberta

Boy’s All-Around: 1) Zackery Wilson of Billingsley, 2) Kyle Wyatt of Kinston, 3) Lane Taylor of Opp, 4) Nelson Wyatt of Clanton

Girl’s All-Around: 1) Ashley Hudmon of Opelika, 2) Lexus Simpson of Robertsdale, 3) Chrissy Morris of Wetumpka, 4) Raven Simpson of Robertsdale

Mary-Glenn Smith is an AFC intern.

Backyard Animal Husbandry

By Baxter Black, DVM

The phenomenon of Backyard Animal Husbandry is spreading among urban folks with no farm background. They are choosing to raise fowl and small mammals to eat! The economy is the main factor, but it apparently appeals to the "Homegrown is Better" mentality.

This rediscovery of the truth in the human/animal relationship must be agitating to the animal rights groups who have spent millions brainwashing the young and gullible to believe raising animals to eat is somehow abnormal.

But, as the animal rightists are discovering, people aren’t stupid. The new urban animal husbandrymen are only two generations from grandmas who milked cows, butchered their own hogs, raised chickens to eat and made their own sausage. Even if these urban newcomers only do it for a couple of years, they will learn the importance of proper nutrition, parasite control, vaccinations and manure management. If their goat or rabbit gets sick, they will realize antibiotics are a miracle drug! They will learn about withdrawal dates before slaughter or drinking the milk.

Big city, small animal veterinarians may be forced to take continuing education courses in the care of small mammals, TB testing and diseases of poultry. Hanging by their stethoscope and thermometer will be a hog snare, cow halter and a sheephook!

Although I am surprised by this renewed interest in livestock-raising by these mostly female urbanites, I shouldn’t be. In the last 25 years women have flooded the veterinary profession, ag schools, 4-H and FFA. They are compassionate by nature and aggressively practical when it comes to protecting and providing for their family. To the mortification of PETA and HSUS, there is no question in HER mind when she hears the animal rights loonies equate the value of a rat or a monkey to that of her children.

We who raise livestock as ‘professionals’ know the financial investment and the moral responsibility we bear for the animals in our care. We also understand the emotional attachment to those beasts making the ultimate sacrifice for our benefit. In the first half of the 20th century over half the population was involved in agriculture first hand. Now that number is less than two percent. Therefore, it is logical a large portion of the human race is inherently good with animals. So that means, in any cross-section of urbanites, many hundreds of thousands of ‘animal lovers’ have been removed from the shepherd/lamb relationship. That capability and desire is inside them just waiting to participate in the natural cycle of "sex and birth and death and life," as one urban goat raiser described it.

Both 9/11 and the recession have opened our eyes to the reality of surviving. They have exposed the frivolousness of some of the choices we made when we had the luxury to be wasteful. Seeing these urban animal husbandrymen join the ranks of animal production with serious intentions is encouraging. It’s like the world is tilting back and righting itself again.

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,

Baldwin Co. Couple Has Love of Blue Horses and Big-Horned Cattle

Claude and Carole Lipscomb enjoy shopping at Elberta Farmers Co-op because, for them, it’s one-stop shopping. Robert Hardy (left), a Co-op employee, is glad to help.

By Grace Smith

You’ve probably heard of the "Clear Blue Sky," "Mr. Blue Bird" or even "Blue Eye’s Crying in the Rain." But, have you ever heard of blue horses? Those who know Claude Lipscomb probably have. And not only have they heard about his prized "blue horses," they’ve probably heard about his unusual cattle, too.

Lipscomb Farms is located in the Baldwin County Community of Vernant Park, not far from the shopping malls and tourist-type restaurants becoming so commonplace along beach-bound Highway 59. But just one turn off that busy highway and you’ll find livestock that are far from commonplace, even in the agricultural industry.

While Lipscomb’s interest in unique horses and cattle didn’t develop until later in life, farming was an interest he was born into. In fact, his family has been farming in Baldwin County for 10 generations. While most little boys were busy buying toy trucks, baseball cards or sling shots, Lipscomb bought his first heifer at four years old. By the ripe, old age of eight, he had purchased his first horse.

The Lipscombs’ first priority in raising horses is breeding them to be “smart and gentle,” but they also like to breed for a blue roan coloring. Claude shows us one of his beautiful blue roans.

With the purchase of his first horse, Lipscomb was hooked and he’s had horses ever since. With an interest in agriculture and raising horses fueling his day-to-day activities, he spent his early childhood through high school years tending to the family farm. In high school, Lipscomb found time for one other interest—a love interest, that is. Lipscomb began dating a young lady named Carole from the near-by community of Bon Secour during their senior year of school at Foley High. A farm girl with an affinity for animals, Claude and Carole were a perfect match.

The happy couple soon "tied the knot," and after six months of marriage they moved from the sandy, fertile plains of Baldwin County to the Loveliest Village on the Plains–Auburn University. While at Auburn, Claude earned a degree in Agriculture Engineering and said he received his diploma on a "cold day in June." All the while, Carole worked at Auburn National Bank until that "cold June day" rolled around and Claude took a job with Alabama Power Company. This job required the couple to move twice, once to Montgomery and once to Mobile County, where they lived until 1992, when Claude and Carole were able to move back home to Vernant Park.

The Lipscombs’ most eye-catching Longhorn is a steer named Goal Post. Claude and Linda believe he may have the biggest horns ever recorded — taking the length and circumference into consideration.

Throughout his entire career, Lipscomb and Carole never lost their passion for farming and kept a herd of cattle even through their years in Auburn. It should come as no surprise that after Claude retired from Alabama Power in 2008, the couple began spending their new-found free time focusing on their farm. But they also enjoyed traveling. They drove countless miles across the U.S. to states like Nebraska, New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri. During their road trips, their passion for traveling and for agriculture began to intertwine as they made friends who raised, as Claude phrased it, "excellent horses." This was an added motivation for Claude to take a different route on his equine production.

He named the operation Black and Blue Quarter Horses and while he admitted he’s partial to black and blue roan horses, his top priority is to breed "smart and gentle horses." He said the color is just a bonus, and a well-earned bonus at that since producing true blue roan horses presents a real challenge.

"Only about one percent of the [Quarter Horse] breed is registered as a blue roan," he said, "and probably only about one-fourth of those are actually true blue roan."

Elberta Farmers Co-op employee Robert Hardy (right), and Claude Lipscomb discuss ideas on improving the Lipscombs’ already successful Texas Longhorn cattle herd.The Lipscombs enjoy the spontaneity and curiosity Longhorns provide. They admit it’s tough to work cattle with such massive horns because they don’t fit through most working chutes.

In order to prove authenticity of the horses’ "blue" genetics, owners must send in hair samples from the horses to be DNA tested to see if it is actually a true blue roan.

Since it’s a difficult color to achieve, most people have never heard of a blue roan, so what exactly does it mean?

The blue roan color occurs when a horse has a black base coat combined with white hairs interspersed throughout giving the illusion of blue-appearing coloring. To produce a blue roan horse, the sire and dam must produce a colt with genetics for black legs, a black body and the roaning gene. Claude said that in most foals, you can’t see the roan coloring easily, but as the first coat begins to shed, the roan coloring will become more apparent.

With daily farm work and pleasure competition in mind, the Lipscombs aim to produce the highest quality breeding stock to produce excellent working Quarter Horses. With bloodlines from superior horses like Joe Hancock, Buck Hancock, Happy Hancock, Eddie, Eddie 40, Eddie Eighty, King Fritz, Blue Valentine, King P-234, Poco Bueno, Leo, Colonel Freckles, Pat Star Jr., Doc Bar, Docs Budha, Drifts Chip, Figure Four Fritz, Snickelfritz Flake, Blue Apache Warrior and Leo Hancock Hayes, it’s easy to see why the Lipscombs are excelling in their equine production program.

The Lipscombs’ operation doesn’t stop at breeding quality horses though. Claude has about 50 of your typical brood cows. But with their fetish for the atypical, those aren’t the only cows grazing their pastures.

The Lipscombs have about 50 of the finest Texas Longhorn Cattle you’ll find in Alabama. Perhaps their most eye-catching bovine is a steer named Goal Post for obvious reasons. At 15 years old, Claude and Carole believe he may have the biggest horns ever recorded —taking the length and circumference into consideration.

Carole has a particular interest in the Longhorn cattle, and Claude said it was her interest that led them to start registering them. While they admit it’s tough to work cattle with such massive horns because they don’t fit through most working chutes, the Lipscombs enjoy the spontaneity and curiosity the cattle provide, and they’ve worked hard to produce a docile herd.

"Our cattle are easy to handle, but they’re tough to work though," Claude said. "The horns are really kind of a novelty. People have a natural curiosity about those horns.

"With Longhorn cattle you never know what color calf you’ll get. To go out there and find a new spotted baby—we like that."

Claude and Carole enjoy shopping at Elberta Farmers Co-op because, for them, it’s one-stop shopping.

"We’ve been happy so far," Claude said. "They’re always glad to answer your questions and if they can’t, they’ll find someone to answer them. They’re interested in helping me as well as selling their products—that’s a win-win for both of us."

Providing quality products like feed, mineral supplements, rye grass seed, posts, fertilizer, boots and tractor tires, Elberta Farmers Co-op is doing its part to keep Black and Blue Quarter Horses in business. And while Claude said they’re still in their beginning stages of operation, business seems to be doing well, since they have sold horses all over the U.S. and even overseas to customers in Slavonia and Wales.

Learn more about the Lipscombs and their operation at You’ll find all the information you need, and be sure to note that while "good dispositions, intelligence, big hips and pretty heads" are the Lipscombs’ top priority, they haven’t lost their fancy for the color blue.

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

Blount Farm Safety and Extrication Class “Makes You Stop And Think”

Jimmy Miller and his nephew, Lance Miller, co-owners of Miller Farms, hosted the Fourth Farm Safety Day on September 12.

By Suzy Lowry Geno

"I don’t think anybody has ever had to call out their fire and rescue department because they did something smart."

With that statement, Brandon Moore, Young Farmer’s Director for the Alabama Farmers Federation, began Blount’s Farm Safety and Extrication Class for the area’s fire and rescue squads.

This year’s class, with close to 100 participants, was the biggest of the four events held every other year thus far.

Brandon has a unique perspective having grown up on a cotton, corn and soybean farm, and served on the Huntsville Fire and Rescue Squad and Hazmat Team, and later living and working in similar situations in South Alabama.

Brandon Moore, Young Farmer’s Director for the Alabama Farmers Federation, demonstrates trouble points on a combine for one of the groups of fire and rescue members.

"No one goes out in the morning planning to have an accident," Brandon explained. "But accidents happen when you’ve been on the same machine for several hours. When you’re tired. When you start taking shortcuts. They happen not because you’re not careful, but because you sometimes just get caught up in the daily grind of your work."

Several of those in attendance serve on volunteer rescue squads, but must maintain the professional accreditation of their full-time counterparts. Many also have farms of their own so they took the information to heart on a more personal level as well.

While many think of farm accidents occurring with the huge combines and other harvesting equipment on display September 12th, Brandon noted many who farm part-time may tax their smaller equipment to try and do larger jobs, causing accidents.

Greg Payne, Snead Ag, demonstrates the various parts of a corn harvester.

Brandon cited farm fatality statistics showing: tractor accidents, 36 percent; other agricultural machines, 19 percent; animal handling, 5 percent; and tractor PLUS equipment, 55 percent.

Of tractor accidents, Brandon noted 51 percent are overturns, 26 percent are runovers and 4 percent are PTO entanglements.

Brandon said the idea for farm safety events began several years ago up north when a rescue squad was called when a man’s foot had been pulled into a combine, pulling his leg in up to his thigh.

The farmer was alert and talking when the rescue squads arrived. Squads took three hours to remove the man; but were saddened when he died at the two hour mark. Several squad members resigned following that tragedy, BUT their supervisor decided to turn bad into good and began a farm education series.

Life Saver helicopter EMT Don Wilson shows rescue workers where a patient will be treated during transport if the flight crew is called to a farm accident.

When a person is entangled in machinery, like legs trapped beneath a tractor or other machine steering wheel, his upper body may be experiencing high blood pressure while the lower extremities will have low blood pressure.

"You may need to wait until an EMT is on the scene before you start removing him, and then remove him in stages as the EMT has an IV begun and can monitor his or her blood pressure."

The same may hold true if a person is trapped underneath a tractor or other machinery.

"The patient may deteriorate rapidly after the tractor is removed…you may need to take it slow and steady."

Brandon stated in rural areas a tractor turnover may also involve a possible drowning if the tractor turns over even in a shallow ditch — noting only a few inches of water can drown a victim if trapped underneath.

Lance Miller, co-owner of Miller Farms, illustrates problems that can occur with a corn picker or harvester.

PTOs, or Power Take Offs, "are dangerous pieces of equipment," Brandon noted. Often times, the victim’s hand, arm or leg can be slowly unwound from the PTO after the PTO is removed from the tractor.

Cutting the PTO with a torch will mean shielding the victim from the heat.

Auger entanglements can occur in grain bins, chicken houses and feed grinders.

While rescue squads responding to a wreck usually find themselves on a highway or at least a passable roadway, farm accidents can occur in really rural areas, across swampy or muddy fields, which may require portable equipment that can be carried on a four-wheel drive truck or four-wheeler, further complicating an already intensive situation.

But sometimes even when a tractor accident occurs in the middle of a well-populated area, not much can be done for the victim.

Greg Payne explains how any piece of farm equipment can be dangerous if not used correctly.

One fatality occurred on an "old family homeplace" which is now located inside a busy town. An older man was mowing on a bank when the tractor overturned.

In another area, a young girl was running across a lawn and was not seen by a family member mowing with a lawn tractor. That young girl lost a leg, but swift action by a local rescue squad stopped the massive bleeding in time to transport her to a Birmingham trauma center.

One accident involved a man who jumped off his tractor when he was attacked by yellow jackets and was run over by the mowing deck, taking his life, while another was a man who lost his leg, but lived after being caught in a combine.

In farm accidents, squads must be prepared for the unexpected: have proper cribbing (usually wood blocks and longer wooden planks stored in the fire halls which can be brought to the scene in a pickup truck), have alternate transportation to the scene if necessary and make sure there is an Incident Commander "who can be the eyes and ears of those on the scene, watching everything to make certain the squad on one side of the vehicle raising the vehicle is coordinated with the members on the other side treating the victim," Brandon explained.

Snead Ag’s Greg Payne and Miller Farms Co-owner Lance Miller worked in tandem with Brandon directing teams to many types of farm equipment, demonstrating what areas can be easily taken apart and what areas would be especially problematic.

Greg said in farm equipment, "There’s just not a one-size-fits-all mentality to any of it."

A Life Saver helicopter crew based in Gadsden and consisting of pilot Mike Haynes, Paramedic Don Wilson and Flight Trauma RN JoAnn Devaney, a Blount resident, then flew to the Miller Farm and answered questions about transporting farm accident victims.

Lance Miller and his wife Stephanie, partner with Lance’s aunt and uncle, Jimmy and Nell Miller, own the farm where the event was held.

Jimmy Miller has farmed "all his life," farming full-time since his 1964 graduation from Susan Moore High.

"I didn’t even go on my senior class trip," Jimmy said. "I was busy planting cotton."

Nephew Lance graduated from Susan Moore about four decades later and he and Stephanie then graduated from Jacksonville State University in the mid-2000s before beginning farming full-time with their uncle.

This year they’re farming 400 acres of cotton, 110 of peanuts (partnering with the Whitley Farms, another sponsor of the September 12th event), 100 of soybeans and 36 of corn.

Amy Burgess, an Alabama Cooperative Extensions System Regional Extension Agent, and Merry Buford, head of Blount’s Young Farmer’s Organization, helped coordinate the event. Other sponsors included the Blount Alfa Young Farmer’s Committee, Blount Alfa Farmer’s Federation. Blount Alfa Women’s Committee, Life Saver helicopter, and the Miller and Whitley Farms.

Blount Rescue Squads who attended included Snead, Pine Mountain, Straight Mountain, Holly Springs, Murphrees Valley, Ricetown, Mount High, Summit, Bangor, Blountsville and Remlap. Out-of-county squads included Altoona, Kimberly, Palmerdale and Pisgah. Several area farmers also attended.

Discussions continued during lunch around the Miller’s beautiful lake.

"This event makes you stop and think," Amy noted. "And that is the first line of defense in preventing accidents and in those treating the accidents once they happen."

Suzy Lowry Geno is a freelance writer living on a Blount County farm. She can be reached at

Corn Time

Country Folks Can Survive

By John Howle

Hank Williams Jr.’s famous song, "A Country Boy Can Survive," begins with the line, "The interest is up and the stock market’s down, and you’re gonna get mugged if you go downtown." Sounds bleak, but the song goes on to say country folks can skin a buck, run a trotline and grow good tomatoes among other things. This song reflects the fierce, independent spirit of Alabamians who live off the land and provide food for their families whether the government is offering stimulus packages and bailouts or not. This October, use some ingenuity to get your harvest and feed your family.

Deer Hunting

If you harvest a deer, the animal will transport much easier after being field dressed. One item to bring along in your day pack is a five-by-eight foot tarp. The tarp takes up little space and makes dragging a deer much easier. Wrap the tarp around the field dressed deer and the composition of the tarp will slide across the ground much easier than fur. The tarp also helps to keep dirt, leaves and other debris off the deer. Avoid carrying a deer over your shoulder or on your back even if it’s a small deer. Since visibility is limited in the woods, a hunter could mistake the deer on your back for a live deer and take a shot.

One of the most common and most serious hunting accidents is falling from a tree stand. The higher elevation offers a better view of the terrain; however, climbing to dizzying heights will most surely result in serious injury, paralysis or death if you fall. In addition, at dangerous heights, maneuverability in the tree stand is limited, and shooting becomes shaky. Always wear a comfortable, nonrestrictive safety harness when in a tree stand. If you stumble and fall, the harness will catch you. Even if you have tumbled completely out of the tree stand, the harness will suspend you allowing enough time to bear hug the tree, cut the harness and slide to the base of the tree. It’s easier to recuperate from bark scratches than from broken limbs.

Traveling to and from a tree stand through a thick, wooded trail is a tricky matter in the dark even with a flashlight. During the day, flagging works well with spots marked, but, at night, it’s of little help. In addition, flagging detracts from nature’s beauty. To mark a path for travel at night, try a product called "Cat Eyes." These are basically thumb tacks with reflector heads. They reflect better than real cat eyes when even a small light is thrown in their direction.


Completing quick shots at passing game birds is easier with a well-fitting shotgun. To see if your gun fits properly, wear the clothes you would hunt with (thick coat or t-shirt) and quickly shoulder the gun. You should be able to bring the gun to your shoulder in a quick, fluid motion without the butt snagging on your clothes. While holding the shotgun in shooting position, the base of the thumb on the trigger hand should be about two or three inches from your nose.

The brass on a shotgun shell makes a decorative drawer pull.

This may sound obvious, but check the choke in your shotgun before dove shooting or bird and rabbit hunting. If you use the same gun for turkey hunting and wing shooting, it’s possible the full, turkey choke is still in the gun. A choke throwing a wider pattern like a modified choke is better suited for making more hits at moving targets. Specialized, tight pattern chokes used for turkey hunting like full and extra full chokes can result in a disintegrated dove, pheasant or rabbit since the pellets are concentrated in a tighter pattern.

The brass of a shotgun shell makes a rustic, drawer pull or cabinet knob. Remove the primer, cut the plastic off in front of the brass, and attach the brass casing to the wood with a screw through the primer hole.

Mineral oil makes a great lubricant and rust protection for knives and firearms and it’s odorless and tasteless. During cold weather, apply some to your face and hands for protection from the cold.

Mineral Oil

Mineral oil truly has 101 uses. It’s odorless, tasteless and makes an ideal coating and rust prevention on knives or guns. In addition, when the weather turns cold, a light coating of mineral oil on your face or hands is a great scent-free wind protection.

Food Plots

October is the ideal time in many parts of the country for planting winter food plots. To estimate acreage for food plots, visualize a football field. An acre is 43,560 square feet and a football field without the end zones is 45,000 square feet.

This fall, add greens like turnip greens, mustard, kale and rape in your food plot mix so the family can eat just as the deer do. The first couple of killing frosts raises the sugar content of the plants making them tastier.

If you are planting a food plot in an area formerly forested or newly-cleared, be sure to have the soil tested. In many parts of Alabama, the soil may require up to three tons of lime per acre to neutralize the soil so the plants can get to the nutrients. Without the lime, the nutrients remain locked in the soil and are inaccessible to the plants.

When you are hauling fertilizer or lime in the bed of your pickup, be sure to wash out all residue once the truck is unloaded. Lime and fertilizer will corrode the paint and metal if not removed. Be sure to spray out tight corners and hard to reach spots as well.

This fall when you plant food plots, don’t forget to include greens. Once the first killing frost or two occur, the sugar content goes up in greens making them tasty for humans and deer. This way, if you don’t harvest a deer, you still might be able to bring home a sack of turnip greens. Remember, country folks can survive.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.

Cow Pokes

Cow Pokes

Crop Dusters Not Yet Ready to Fly into Sunset

Gentry Smith is the last of the “Old Breed” crop-duster pilots in Central Alabama and he’s kept busy flying to cotton fields from his hangar at the Prattville Airport which he manages.

Once Diminishing Aerial Application Now Increasing

By Alvin Benn

He’s not that old, but Gentry Smith is among the last of the "Old Breed" crop-dusters in Central Alabama and he’s doing his part to keep their aeronautical accomplishments alive.

Spraying fields where cotton, soybeans and watermelons grew was about all Smith ever wanted to do and he didn’t waste time after soloing on June 4, 1986.

Four years later, he was in a cockpit—flying low over cotton and bean fields throughout Dallas, Autauga, Perry and other counties in the region.

Slowly, he saw his fellow pilots, including mentors, leaving the business. Some retired. Some died. Some found other things to do.

"When I started in 1990, there were 14 crop-duster planes in the air from Greensboro to Tallassee just about every day," said Smith, 40, as he relaxed behind his desk at the Prattville Airport. "Now, I’m the last one."

Managing the airport helps him pay the bills, but, for Smith, it’s the thrill and excitement of zooming in low over budding cotton plants. His wheels occasionally touch the tops of the crop before he sprays his chemicals and then pulls back on the throttle to gain altitude.

"I don’t like to run my wheels into the cotton because you never know what might be there like a pipe for instance," he said. "But, it does happen from time to time. Back in the ‘old days,’ farmers would tell crop-dusters they weren’t doing their job if they weren’t touching the cotton."

Smith said flying that low causes a problem because of slipstreams affecting spray patterns. Maintaining an altitude a bit higher allows better coverage of the crop.

He’s been spraying cotton fields for the past 17 years and has gained an enviable reputation throughout the state. Given the fact there are so few crop-dusters left, his name is well known to farmers who need help.

"Unfortunately, there are so few left I know all their names," he said. "We’re not spraying as much as we once did and there are several reasons for it.

"For one thing, cotton-growing technology has changed so much the number of applications has changed. Insects once causing problems for cotton aren’t around as much now."

As crop-dusting appears to be falling out of favor in Alabama, it’s booming in the Midwest because of the ethanol craze prompting farmers to increase their corn production.

That’s not the case in Alabama where different methods of treating cotton and other crops have created competition tightening profit margins.

Flying a crop-duster is an expensive proposition. Most of the newer planes cost more than $1 million and ancillary expenses can create headaches for those who fly and manage their aircraft.

Crop dusting has been an important part of American agriculture since 1921 when U.S. Army Lt. John Macready used a modified Curtiss "Super Jenny" to deposit insecticide over a field in Ohio.

That experiment occurred less than two decades after the Wright brothers made their brief, but historic, flight at Kitty Hawk, N.C., in 1903. It proved powered flight was much more than just a dream.

Aviation continued to grow during the period between Kitty Hawk and that field in Ohio, and it wasn’t long before the federal government approved aerial application of insecticides in southern states, according to the National Agricultural Aviation Association (NAAA).

Since then, crop dusting has run the gamut of applications—ranging from boll weevil eradication in Louisiana to commodity dusting throughout Dixie.

The NAAA said aerial application accounts for up to 25 percent of the delivery of crop production products in U.S. agriculture.

"Farmers value the use of aircraft because they can cover so much area so quickly, without disturbing the soil or the growing crops," said the report. "Aircraft can glide over the crops at up to 140 miles per hour. This is important because some pests and disease can do serious damage in just a day or two."

When crop dusting began, most of the planes were war surplus models. The open-cockpit Stearman biplane, used to train pilots during World War II, not only were relatively inexpensive, they also gave veterans a chance to make some money after they returned to civilian life.

The NAAA said more than 3,000 professional operators and pilots handle the delicate, but vital, job of applying chemicals to farms across America. Each pilot must meet stringent federal and state requirements—not only involving flying but also the handling of those chemicals.

In addition to having a commercial pilot’s license, they must also have a letter of competency to work as an agriculture pilot. Those who qualify are well aware of the importance of their work.

Next to flying jet fighters, those who maneuver aerial application aircraft over fields from Maine to California are involved in "one of the most demanding career choices" imaginable, the NAAA said.

Obtaining a crop-dusting license doesn’t mean a life-time job. Continued training is required throughout a pilot’s career—in and out of classrooms.

"Aerial applicators are committed to the control of chemical drift through research, technology and innovation," said the NAAA. "Ag pilots continue to take responsibility for good decisions in the field, the benefit of the crop they are treating and for the protection of all that surrounds the field."

Crop dusting may not sound as thrilling as dogfights during times of war or as profitable as piloting large commercial aircraft, but it can be just as rewarding in other ways.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has reported aerial applicators have been growing in numbers and hours in recent years, especially during the recent economic downturn. The FAA said hours flown by crop dusters are up nearly 30 percent from 2003 to 2007—the most recent reporting period.

The kind of aircraft used in aerial application has advanced as fast and as far as the industry itself. Take Leland Snow, for instance. At the age of 23, the lanky Texan began designing his own version of a crop duster. It was in 1951 and, two years later, he had completed his test flights.

From that humble beginning came Air Tractor, one of the country’s leading producers of crop dusting aircraft. In the years since Snow flew his first aerial applicator, more than 2,000 Snow-designed aircraft have been delivered to happy customers.

The company Snow created promotes its products with an ad encouraging operators and pilots to take a ride on a "140 mph tractor."

Some Alabama farmers have opted for new ways to do the same job—ways allowing them to spray chemicals on cotton fields without the use of crop-dusters. They are using elevated equipment that sprays crops from the same distance above cotton where pilots once flew.

In Smith’s case, however, he’s much in demand throughout Alabama’s Black Belt region. As the "last man standing," he gets calls all the time to spray cotton and other crops throughout the year.

The problem is, he has to fly farther to get to the fields these days because pilots who had done it are no longer in business. That means he might have to fly 50 miles or so to begin spraying instead of the 15 to 20 miles he had been flying to treat fields in past years.

Smith admitted to having had some close calls through his years of crop dusting, but that isn’t unusual for pilots who fly so low they almost expect it.

Touching the top of cotton plants, nipping some wires along the way or winding up in pea soup fog are some of the hazards experienced by most crop-dusters, but few, other than Smith, have been wounded in the line of duty.

It happened several years ago when he was spraying a watermelon field in the Billingsley community of Autauga County.

His routine mission ended in a frightening fashion when bullets ripped through his cockpit. One round entered just behind him. Another grazed his right arm and struck the dash. Blood splattered around him. A third bullet also entered his plane.

"He was firing a 9 mm pistol," said Smith, who is married and the father of two young children. "The Feds caught him and he plea-bargained his way into a five-year prison sentence."

Had the shooter been more accurate, Smith might have crashed into a stand of trees near the watermelon field.

"When you’re flying 180 feet a second, it takes only a fraction of a second to lose control and that’s what might have happened," he said. "People would have wondered what caused the pilot to crash into trees and probably blamed it on him."

His skill as a pilot got Smith out of harm’s way in the nick of time. He hadn’t lost enough blood to jeopardize his control of the aircraft.

"It didn’t feel like I was hit at first," he said. "I was bleeding, but I was looking for big holes in my body. I know just how lucky I was."

Alvin Benn is a freelance writer from Selma.

Custom Not For Sale

Let’s get this over with right off the bat. All of you who have ever rendered lard, raise your hand please. Very good. I noticed there were very few hands that went up from people under 50 years old.

I vaguely remember that old black iron pot over the fire cooking that hog fat into grease. Then when the grease was cooled, you had lard…and cracklings.

Interestingly, there were a lot of you older than 50 who raised your hands. Fifty-plus years ago it was fairly common for people to raise their own hog to kill. Then everyone had their job in processing the meat. You know, my kids don’t even know what it means when I say, "It feels like hog-killing weather." But that was another time. We mostly buy our meat at the grocery store now.

Notice I said we "mostly" buy our meat at the grocery store. There are still those of you who fatten a calf or a top hog, take it to a local slaughter house and take it home to fill up the freezer. Now I’m not one who thinks we are getting fed "who knows what" in the meat we buy. In fact, I think the meat we buy is extremely safe, wholesome and free of hormones and antibiotics. Believe me, there is a lot more testing going on than most people are aware of. (How did I get off on that?) Anyway what I want to say is the quality of home-raised beef or pork is simply hard to beat. When I eat with someone who is serving up "custom-processed meat," I can certainly tell the difference.

That brings me to the point of my article, which is "custom-processed meat." Over the years, and even now, there is some confusion accompanying custom-processed meat. Hopefully, in a few minutes when you turn the page, you will be an expert on what is encompassed by the exemption given in the Federal Meat Inspection Act for custom-processed meat. To start, we need to know in Alabama the Department of Agriculture and Industries regulates the Meat Inspection program from my office and is directed daily by a Director of Meat Inspection, Dr. Terry Slaten. Meat is processed in one of three categories. First, if you own the animal, you can pretty much kill and process your own meat like you used to do 50 or 60 years ago. There are not any regulations governing this type of processing. However, if you own a goat and live in an apartment complex in some city, you could get some heartburn from the local authorities. But if you’re doing something like that, you’re probably not a stranger to the local authorities anyway. So, if you live out on the farm and have a fat hog you want to kill and process next winter, you will not have a problem with us if you keep the meat at home and don’t sell it.

Another category of slaughter is "inspected slaughter and processing." All of the meat we buy falls under the inspected slaughter category and most of it falls under inspected processing, although most of the cutting and grinding going on in a grocery store falls under the jurisdiction of the local health department. The establishment operating under inspection adheres to a strict bunch of regulations. Either state or federal inspection personnel assure strict sanitation standard operating procedures are in place and are being adhered to. The establishments must also have a document called a HACCP plan breaking down every step in slaughtering or processing and implements steps to reduce pathogens (germs that can cause foodborne illnesses). In fact, more and more microbiological testing is being done to make sure meat processed under inspection is safe.

Finally, the third category is custom slaughter and inspection. The custom exemption allows a slaughter and processing establishment to charge for his or her services, yet many of the regulations governing "inspected" meat do not come into play. The Federal Meat Inspection Act basically says "custom" applies to an animal of a person’s own raising to be consumed by the owner, his or her household and their non-paying guests. All products, carcasses and parts like quarters must be stamped or labeled "CUSTOM NOT FOR SALE." And strangely enough, that means this meat cannot be sold. We do, on occasion, get complaints from someone who has purchased custom meat and they are surprised they were able to purchase meat that by regulation cannot be sold. I wonder what they think "not for sale" means. A new Federal Directive just came out also making it clear a custom product cannot be donated.

Does that mean if you do not raise cattle or hogs, you cannot have animals custom slaughtered and processed? If a farmer has steers or hogs he wishes to sell to be custom slaughtered, the animals must be sold "on the hoof." In fact, two people may buy a live animal from the producer and have it custom slaughtered and processed. Or four people may have the animal quartered. The problem comes when that fourth quarter is not sold "on the hoof." Once the animal is slaughtered the meat cannot be sold…period.

Custom establishments are held to the same sanitation requirements as an inspected plant. They do not, however, have to have a sanitation standard operating procedure document. Neither do they have to have a HACCP plan. Custom plants, for the most part, are not required to perform microbiological testing. Custom establishments are under the jurisdiction of either state or federal meat inspection programs and they must adhere to some strict requirements. We often have people asking us what the score is for certain meat establishments. The fact is we do not score these establishments like the health department does. If the establishment meets the strict requirements, they are open and allowed to operate. If they fail to adhere to those requirements, they are not allowed to operate.

I am fortunate to work for a Commissioner of Agriculture who also takes food safety seriously. We all watch the news and know the stakes can be high. Just remember, if it says "custom not for sale," you can’t buy it and Mr. Producer, you can’t sell it. That said, if any of you want to invite my family and me over for some custom-processed steaks from a steer you raised, just give me a call and I will do my best to be there.

Dealing with Death…. and Life on the Homestead

Biscuit, Suzy Geno’s 14-year-old house cat, who died recently.

By Suzy Lowry Geno

I dug another grave this morning.

That’s three weeks in a row death has touched my little homestead.

Today it was our 14-year-old house cat, Biscuit, who has overseen almost every word I’ve written during her tenure here, always warmly sitting on my computer’s printer.

Last weekend it was my dear friend’s six-month-old bottle-raised pygmy goat I pulled from the middle of the highway about a mile from here.

The week before it was our near 15-year-old dog, Jurdan.

Elvis Tebow, who died unexpectedly of urinary calculi.

Surely death is no stranger to any farm. Just as the seasons of weather go from spring to summer, into fall and then winter, the stages of life seem to be magnified when you live this close to nature.

But it is a subject I find myself pondering even more as I enter into what might be described as the "fall" of my own life.

When my own dad died back in 1987 suddenly of a heart attack while picking green beans here in the garden, it was a tragic shock that shook my family’s very foundation.

But our then six-year-old son summed it up pretty concisely when he walked outside the funeral home the night of the viewing and came back inside with a large, brown crystallized shell of a cicada.

He calmly walked over where my dad was "lying in state," held up the dried insect and proclaimed his Paw Paw was not there, that was his "shell in that casket," just like the shell of the insect he now held in his hand….

Gus, who died of tetanus shortly afer Elvis.

You can’t argue theology when it is presented so simply and truthfully!

Then again when my Mother died with me at her side two years ago, I was truly glad her spirit was freed from the pain-wracked body she’d inhabited here. While I miss her and mourned her, just like my dad I knew she was in Heaven.

But the theological tenet puzzling me concerns animals…. Sure I’ve read that "Rainbow Bridge" poem of how our beloved pets are supposed to be waiting "on the other side" for their owners. But I’ve found nowhere in the Bible to substantiate such a claim.

Some of you may not know my Bachelors of Science Degree is in "Religion" with a concentration in counseling. (I had a wise editor who told me once the best writers weren’t always those who graduated from college with a degree in journalism, but were those who broadened their outlook of as many parts of life as they could.)

So while I have that diploma saying I’m SUPPOSED to know a lot about religion, having attended two of the most stalwart Christian institutions in the nation, there is still something lacking.

I know animals were put here for our use and we are to have dominion over some of them, but is that really the purpose when God created the Garden of Eden? Weren’t we just supposed to eat fruits and other things growing there while animals were to be our companions?

The miracle of birth, Gus’ daughter Jenny and her mother, Gracie.

No, I’m not one of those radicals who thinks animals have the same rights as humans.

But several churches of different denominations have special services in the fall to bless animals. Some of them say they are honoring St. Francis of Assisi who took vows of poverty but lavished love and respect on animals.

So I still have a lot to think about; especially since this past spring my goat herd suffered two major losses.

First was little Elvis Tebow, an almost solid black Nigerian Dwarf who was to be my new little herd buck intended to intensify the smaller-size lineage in my pygmy herd.

He died unexpectedly of urinary calculi, which the vets said should not have happened because he was not a wether….

Then a short time later, I lost my other little Pygmy buck, Gus, to tetanus. He had his shot but not quickly enough.

Gus’ little premature daughter was born later and I feared losing her as well, but through the good mothering instincts of Gracie, little Jenny has thrived into solid breeding stock.

I am with many of my animals when they are born here on my homestead. And darned if I don’t CRY every single time at the sheer miracle of each birth.

I don’t see how anybody could witness a goat slide into this world and be nuzzled, loved and nickered into eating by his supposedly uneducated, small-brained mother and not marvel at the wonder of it all!

Several years ago, the very first time one of my Angora rabbits made a nest of her fur and deposited seven fluffy babies on one of the coldest nights on record, I was again amazed.

But while I am with many of my animals when they are born, I’m also there when they die. And after Gus died I was pretty distraught.

As I sat on the big wooden spool in the front goat pen, suddenly one of the black Muscovey ducks came proudly out from under the milking stand—followed by 16 waddling day-old ducklings! I hadn’t even known a duck was setting under there!

Likewise, my friend who lost her pygmy to the highway last week, was equally upset. After I’d called her to the door and told her of the tragedy, we sat in her carport calling someone to come and help with the burial.

As we sat there talking, her small cat began making trips from the barn, carrying tiny, just-eye-opened-kittens one-by-one to a box beside where we sat!

It seems after each loss we are always reminded God is in charge and life goes on.

I know most farmers and homesteaders treat their livestock with the utmost care and kindness, even those animals they eventually will utilize for food.

But I also know we are told we need to be careful because we may be "entertaining angels unaware." Sometimes in my fleeting thoughts I wonder, just for a minute, if some of those "angels" might just be wearing feathers or fur….

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


Ed Lightsey Tips His Cap to Mid-State Farmers Co-op Board

Ed Lightsey (left) retires after 30 years of service on Mid-State Farmers Co-op’s Board of Directors. He accepts a plaque from Board President Butch Lovelady.

By Grace Smith

Ed Lightsey of Bibb County has worn many hats over his lifetime, but this summer he tipped his cap to the Mid-State Farmers Cooperative and bid a kind farewell as he retired from the Board of Directors after 30 years of service.

Quality Co-op stores have many valued customers and, in true "co-op fashion," some of these patrons have the honor of being elected to their respective store’s board of directors. They are respected for their leadership and wisdom in the farming-cooperative system. Just a few minutes with Lightsey and it’s easy to see why he was elected to this position.

As a board member, Lightsey has spent countless hours in his "thinking cap" contemplating new ideas to improve business and operations at Mid-State Farmers Co-op, but that’s just one of the hats he’s sported over the years.

In 1942, after graduating from Bibb County High School, Lightsey traded his mortarboard and tassel for the safety helmet of a pulp mill operation. Although he quickly traded that hat in, he wouldn’t soon forget the smell of the cut timber, a scent he said he’d come to love. Next he wore a mining helmet as he dug deep into the coal veins of Jefferson County for Tennessee Coal and Iron and Railroad Company (TCI) at the Docena Mine.

In 1943, he traded that helmet in for the white hat of the U.S. Navy and served on the battlefields of World War II.

After completing his service to his country, he went back to the coal mines of Jefferson County working for TCI. Lightsey noted his boss was a good man of great insight.

"He told me, ‘Ed, me and (a friend) had the same opportunity as you. Now he’s a doctor over there at the hospital and I’m crawling around down here in the ground; you better go to school,’" Lightsey said.

So he took his boss’s advice, slipped on his "Tiger Pride" cap and he headed east to Auburn University. Lightsey said he loved his time at Auburn and was careful to keep his priorities in order. He scheduled classes so he could hunt and fish, two of his great loves, as much as possible. But he had one other priority to tend to. In October, shortly after starting classes, Lightsey married a young lady named Juanita.

Thanks to his service in the military, his tuition and book expenses were covered. But it was up to him to cover his living expenses, so Lightsey put on his entrepreneur hat and found a couple of business opportunities to support him and his new bride. He worked in the University’s dairy barn during the daytime and in the evenings he made a little extra cash peddling goodies like chips and crackers at fraternity parties. He was quick to note he only worked fraternity parties because Juanita wouldn’t let him work at sorority functions.

Once again he found himself in a mortarboard and tassel, this time earning a degree in Agricultural Science from Auburn University. It wasn’t very long until he slipped off that mortarboard and accepted a job at a dairy in Hogansville, Georgia. But his love of hunting and fishing brought him back to the Heart of Dixie where 56 years ago he began working for the State of Alabama as a Fish and Game Law Enforcement Officer. Lightsey fondly recalled his time working for the state mentioning tales of wild cat-and-mouse chases down the Warrior River and creepy, nighttime encounters with rattlesnakes along the Cahaba.

Twenty-eight years later, Lightsey retired as a captain from Alabama’s Game and Fish Division. But retirement didn’t mean idle time for this active man — after all, he had even more hats to wear. Recalling the beloved scent of the pulp mill operation of his youth, Lightsey decided to go into the timber business this time running his own saw mill.

"I’m a one-man operation, unless I got someone to help me," he said with a smile.

Lightsey started his saw mill operation about the same time he was elected to the Mid-State Farmers Co-op’s Board of Directors, but he couldn’t recall whether it was 1979 or 1980.

He said laughing, "I tell people, it’s been 29 or 30 years. I couldn’t prove it, but there’s nobody still around to argue with me."

Although he retired from the Board this summer, he’s still in the timber business and if that doesn’t consume all his time, he’s found another hat to wear—a farmer’s hat. Lightsey grows tomatoes, corn, peppers, beans, sweet potatoes, turnips and mustard, but he doesn’t do it for a profit. Instead he gives it away to people and especially enjoys giving it to people who can’t give him anything in return.

Brandon Tew, former manager of Mid-State Farmers Co-op, said Lightsey shows that same kindness to everyone he meets.

"Mr. Lightsey is a friendly, caring person who is always concerned about others and their family," Tew said. "He has a lot of friends across the state from his job as a game warden and he can remember every one of them and their families. He always asks how they’re doing."

Lightsey was not only a valued board member at the Co-op, he is still a faithful patron of the store. Tew said Lightsey purchases his fertilizer, garden seeds, and food plot and deer supplies at the Co-op. While he’ll still make visits to the store as a customer, Tew said he will be missed at the board meetings.

"Mr. Lightsey did not say much during meetings. But, when he spoke, everyone listened and paid attention," he said. "We are so proud to have had him on the Board for so many years, and his input and leadership will be greatly missed."

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

Fall Plant Care And Other “Clues” to Autumn Fun

Jerry Chenault is picking some beautyberry behind his house. They make great fall decorations. The plant is actually called American Beautyberry (Callicarpa Americana), although the Japanese Beautyberry looks very similar. Callicarpa is from Greek, meaning “beautiful fruit.”

By Jerry A. Chenault

Ah, fall is here! Makes me think of Charlie Brown trying to kick that football (which Lucy always pulls away) and crashing into a big pile of leaves! We all know fall brings football, scarecrows, hay bales and cornstalks, and also leaf color changes...but did you know your houseplants notice the change too? They do!

As the amount of daylight decreases (after September 23), all of your plants will start to notice the change. Leaf color change and a general all-around slow-down in growth are just a few of the ways your plants will respond to the shorter days. Your houseplants will go into a slow-growth period and will not need to be fertilized nearly so often as they were. Take a minute to notice how much light is coming into your house during the coming months. It could save your plants! Make sure they receive the light they need to survive.

Even though houseplants will slow down, you’ll still want to check their moisture level periodically to make sure they don’t dry out. But then, you already knew that, I’ll bet. Here’s something you may not have thought of: collecting fall decorations from the fields and woods. Sounds simple doesn’t it? But I’m betting fewer than a handful of us actually do it. It’s a SUPER opportunity to spend some quality time with your children or grandchildren too...and to make some good memories.

What kind of fall/winter decorations are waiting in the great outdoors? Plenty. Let’s see...there are milkweed seed pods, grass seed heads, nuts, cones (like pine cones), beautyberries, coneflower seed heads, ironweed, corn cobs and even interesting stones. I’m sure I’m leaving out lots of other treasures.

You might use these as a bouquet of sorts and then include those items that don’t fit in a vase as decorations around its base. Or, you can just place these items in a nice bowl and use it as a centerpiece. Add in a little moss and you’ve got a real woodland centerpiece! Don’t forget to pick up other fall-related items at your local farmers market (like mums, Indian corn, gourds, pumpkins, etc.) that also make great fall decorations.

My oldest daughter, Kristi, always loved searching for things like these outdoors. Acorns, rocks, feathers, bird eggs...she called them "clues." I have many wonderful memories of searching for "clues" with her. I wish I could do that right now. I hope you’ll search for "clues" and enjoy the great outdoors with those who are special to you.

Happy hunting!

Jerry Chenault is an Urban Regional Extension Agent with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System in the Urban Affairs and New Nontraditional Programs division.

Feeding Facts

By Jimmy Hughes

As we go into fall of 2009, most areas of the state have received good rains and lower temperatures than years past, and fall grasses seem to be ready to produce quality forages for cattle consumption. Fescue continues to be a predominate pasture grass in Alabama, and I expect it to be in good supply in North Alabama.

Fescue is easily-established, persistent, tolerant of poor soil conditions, drought resistant and its productivity under a wide-range of temperatures allows cattle producers to provide abundant amounts of forage almost year-round.

There are, however, drawbacks when utilizing fescue for grazing and hay. One is forage quality. While fescue will out-produce other grasses, it will not provide the overall nutrient-quality other grasses provide.

The real drawback to fescue is toxicity. Often referred to as "summer slump," fescue toxicity is one of the most frustrating aspects of beef production. The primary cause is a fungus (Neotyphodium coenophialum) that is the same as the fungus causing ergot in cereal grains. In cattle, death loss is rare, but there are physiological problems typically translated into impaired performance. Animals grazing endophyte-infected grass usually show a combination of the following signs: reduced weight gains, reduced feed intake, intolerance to high temperatures causing more time spent in the shade or in the water, rough hair coats, elevated body temperatures, faster respiration rates, reduced reproductive performance and hormonal imbalances.

During winter months, restricted blood flow to extremities causes gangrene to occur in feet, ears and/or tail switch is often referred to as fescue foot. The primary cause of these symptoms is constricted blood vessels preventing cattle from properly regulating temperature and hormonal centers in the brain.

The endophyte is totally contained in the plant and can be transmitted only through the seed. The endophytic fungus over-winters within the plant and fungus growth occurs in the spring as tiller growth resumes on the plant. Since the primary means of transmission is the seed source itself, this explains why a large percentage of fescue pastures are infected.

Research conducted at Kentucky, Georgia and Auburn Universities proves grazing poorly-managed, high endophyte fescue will adversely affect overall performance of cattle. It has proven cattle consuming infected fescue will have lower average daily gains and higher body temperatures. Research in feedlots also implies calves coming into the yard off of fescue-based forages will eat less, gain less and have more sickness throughout the feeding program. The same type results were also proven in studies utilizing fescue hay cut after seed heads were present.

While fescue toxicity has been a real concern, new products, along with other management practices, have been implemented over the past several years to help reduce these problems. While early improved varieties lacked insect and disease-resistance along with stand persistency, new varieties are being introduced showing much more favorable results. Just remember, when an infected crop is to be replaced, it must be destroyed by tillage and/or herbicides.

Another area gaining more attention is in nutritional management. Several products are now available to help reduce the overall problems associated with infected fescue. Research has again proven cattle consuming high levels of the trace minerals zinc, copper, manganese and cobalt provided in an easily-absorbed form show significant performance improvement over cattle consuming lower levels of these minerals. Certain products with the ability to bind to the toxin also show great potential in reducing the amount of toxin entering the blood stream. Incorporation of products supporting proper rumen function, improved fiber digestion and nutrient utilization, will also help overall performance of the cow even when she is stressed.

A final area in nutritional management showing favorable results is the incorporation of antioxidants like selenium and vitamin E into the diet of cattle. While this will not totally end problems with fescue toxicity, it will greatly reduce problems associated with fescue grazing.

Your local Quality Co-op has several products available to improve the nutritional program of your cattle. It will carry a variety of Sweetlix® minerals containing elevated trace minerals as well as chelated minerals to be provided to your cattle on a daily basis.

STIMU-LYX® Supplement Tubs, with unique formulations designed to reduce the adverse affects of fescue toxicity, are also available through your local Co-op.

As new research continues to provide further information on ways to deal with this problem, I can assure you we will continue to offer new product lines to help in reducing loss.

My greatest concern this fall is, due to higher mineral prices, a lot of producers have chosen to utilize a lower priced mineral or trace mineral salt in their cow herds. While these products will meet some of the needs of your cattle, they will be deficient in other areas like trace mineral and vitamin levels. I am concerned, by implementing this type of program, we will see a larger number of reproductive failures, unthrifty cattle and poor growth in calves. Remember, for the first few months of a calf’s life, the cow provides the nutrition to meet its needs. If you have a cow on a mineral-deficient program, then the calf will also be deficient in these same areas.

In conclusion, fescue has many favorable characteristics making it an excellent forage. A pasture and nutritional management plan should be implemented to help curb the effects of feeding infected fescue. Your local Co-op has the products and knowledge to assist in implementing a plan.

I will also be happy to assist you in any way to implement a management plan. I would also encourage you to call your local Co-op for a fall producer meeting schedule. There are several meetings scheduled throughout the state this fall. These meetings are very informative and will provide the opportunity to purchase fall and winter feeds, and parasite control products at a discounted cost.

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

FSCU to Hold Trail Ride for the American Cancer Society

Family Security Credit Union (FSCU) anxiously awaits November 14; they will hold the 5th annual Cowboy Up For a Cure Trail Ride at KC Ranch in Double Springs. Proceeds will benefit the American Cancer Society.

The Picture Lady will be available this year. You may purchase those pictures for an additional cost. Every participant will receive a goody bag from FSCU and a t-shirt provided by Winston Farmers Co-op. Door prizes will also be given away.

After the ride, there will be a delicious home-cooked meal and a live auction followed by a tack auction, then entertainment featuring The Heaton Brothers Band.

For anyone who will not be able to join us, you can make a donation to The American Cancer Society in honor or in memory of a special loved one. Mail your donation to Family Security Credit Union, Attention: Debra McCaghren, 2204 Family Security Place, Decatur, AL 35603. Your loved one will be recognized in a special way at the event.

AFC will be a title sponsor and Corporate America will sponsor lunch.

Cancer continues to take its toll on people of all ages. The battle to fight the disease can be long and difficult. The victims do the hard part: suffer the pain, take the treatment, endure the sickness from side effects, yet continue to fight! Will you please help FSCU do the easier part: find the cure? You can make a difference.

For sponsorship information or any other questions, call Vicki Barber, FSCU, at (256) 340-2045.

Geneva Co. Couple Harvests, Then Simmers and Sells a True Southern Delicacy

Sharon and Charles Turner of Geneva County sell all their peanuts straight off their farm in the community of Black. The Turners pick, sort, bag and boil peanuts from late August to early October.

By Kellie Henderson

Boiled peanuts are a Southern delicacy if ever there was one. A simple crop, harvested, salted and simmered until tender, eaten one at a time, with juice to savor and shells to pitch makes them the perfect snack for lazy afternoon chats on the porch or passing around the bleachers at the big game. And for 12 years, Charles and Sharon Turner of Geneva County have been keeping locals stocked with their delicious boiled peanuts, cleaning and cooking their fresh green peanuts just a stone’s throw away from the field where they were picked.

"At one time, we were planting about 25 acres of peanuts, but we’re not getting any younger," joked Charles who said they now grow only about five acres of peanuts every year, and they’re all sold straight off their farm in the community of Black.

"This is our 12th year boiling and selling," he said, adding that many of their customers come back to their farm year after year, waiting eagerly for the day the Turners start selling each fall.

The Turners pick only a row or two of peanuts at a time throughout the season to ensure a steady supply of fresh peanuts for their customers. This load is the yield of a single swath through the peanut field, plowed and picked and brought directly to their barn for sorting and bagging.

"Probably 75 percent of the people who buy from us are repeat customers, and they are the ones who keep us going," said Charles.

But not all the Turners’ peanuts are boiled and sold. The picked peanuts are also packaged in custom-printed bags bearing the Turners’ ‘Peanuts and Produce’ logo, and kept cool and fresh for those customers who prefer to boil or parch their own.

"We don’t sell them by weight, but the bags hold about five and a half gallons of fresh peanuts. And people don’t realize it, but fresh peanuts are perishable, so we keep them in a large cooler after they’re bagged," Sharon explained.

Sharon and Charles grow a Virginia peanut variety they think is especially good for boiling.

"It’s a big peanut, and that’s what most people like. They’re not hard to get out of the shell like the little tiny ones that stick sometimes," she said.

The Turners said this year’s wet weather delayed their planting, so they were harvested later than usual. They began picking peanuts the end of August and will continue to pick through early October to keep a steady supply of fresh peanuts.

"We’ll plow and pick just a couple of rows a day until they’re gone," Charles said as he described the steps in their operation.

On the day of their first 2009 peanut boiling, Sharon Turner updates the sign in front of their barn so passersby know fresh boiled peanuts will soon be for sale.

"We try to get close to a 100 bags a day through the season. Usually we get 40 to 60 bags at a time, then go back and pick some more," he said.

Once the peanuts are plowed and picked, the Turners bring them to their barn where they are mechanically separated from any leaf or stem debris, then sorted by hand to remove any peanuts not making the grade. Those not bagged for sale as fresh peanuts are soaked in a solution that kills bacteria and cleans the shells before they are cooked.

For years the Turners cooked 15 to 20 quarts of peanuts at a time, but six years ago, they purchased a large restaurant-style commercial cooker they had customized to suit their needs.

Charles Turner uses a boat oar to stir the fresh peanuts in a cleaning solution before they are drained and transferred to their customized cooker.

Sharon Turner opens up their peanut cooker, a customized piece of restaurant equipment, for cleaning before she starts the first batch of 2009 peanuts.

After the large Virginia peanuts are picked and stem debris removed, they are bagged fresh or sorted again by hand before cleaning and boiling.

"We can cook twice the peanuts with half the propane we used to need, so that was a big savings to us," said Charles.

In addition to their peanut crop, the Turners have commercial cattle and a U-pick produce operation.

Charles and Sharon are both Geneva County natives and she said they graduated from high school together.

"We were high school sweethearts and the only couple in our class who married each other," Sharon said.

The couple moved to the farm in 1968, but Charles said members of his family have worked that land since 1948. And not only have previous generations farmed there in Black, but Sharon said their two daughters worked on the farm as they were growing up.

"They’ve both moved away, but they worked on this farm like Trojans, and still do when they come to visit, especially with the vegetables. Those two girls made a lot of college and spending-money by shelling peas to sell," Sharon said proudly.

With so many farmers trying to fit more and more into their operations, the Turners are happy they’ve been able to scale back but keep their farm going. They sell green, boiled or dry peanuts directly to the public Thursday through Saturday until noon.

"We appreciate the people who keep coming to our farm to do business with us," Charles said.

For more information about the availability of their peanuts or to get directions to their farm, call Charles or Sharon Turner at (334) 684-3008.

Kellie Henderson is a freelance writer from Troy.

Goat Meat: Healthy & Fun to Cook

Goat meat is the most commonly consumed red meat throughout the world, and one of the healthiest meats a person can consume. While many people in the U. S. are unfamiliar with goat, and it cannot be found in most of our grocery stores, the rest of the world population enjoys some form of goat meat on a common basis.

What is so special about goat meat? It is a very lean meat; low in calories, fat, saturated fat and cholesterol; and the protein level is slightly lower than beef, chicken or pork. Just what most doctors would recommend for most people’s diet. Being a red meat, it has all the vitamins and minerals comparable to beef. Just think—what if the various medical associations would start endorsing goat meat as a healthy alternative meat. I can hear it now, "Goat, the other red meat," or "Goat, it’s what’s for dinner." Then again, there might be anti-goat commercials like "Beef, because they don’t make a goat knife do they?" Take a look at the chart to see some actual numbers —- you should be impressed.

Who eats goat? In the U. S., it is our growing population with an ethnic and faith-based origin who is accustomed to eating goat. Many of these consumers originate from North Africa, Middle Eastern nations, Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and Central America. They probably do not eat goat on a daily basis, more likely special occasions like religious, holidays, gatherings, etc. Many of our Hispanic friends eat goat on special occasions. Just like many of us like an excuse for a good cookout on a holiday, so do they – it just happens to be goat instead of pork, beef or chicken.

What does goat taste like? Some compare it to beef with extra flavor or in between beef and venison (sounds better than deer or Bambi, doesn’t it?). It should not have an "off" taste if processed and cooked properly. Cuts of goat can be quarters (legs and ribs), chops, stew, ground and roasts. There are so many ways to cook goat, which is what gives it a culinary appeal.

Where can you buy goat? Goat meat is not easy to find. Specialty meat markets and select grocery stores tend to carry it. It may have to be special ordered. Some people buy directly from a goat farmer then have the animals custom-processed at a local processing facility (which are also not easy to find).

How much should it cost? That depends on local markets and product availability. Generally a base price of $3 per pound (quarters or whole carcass) to a premium price of $8 per pound for chops. Basically, you can expect prices to vary depending on availability.

How do I cook goat? Again, it is a lean red meat and generally needs to be cooked slowly with added moisture. However, cuts like chops or burgers can be cooked quickly at a high temperature, which seals in moisture and flavor. Stew meat and roasts will generally be cooked slowly, bone in, with moisture, fruit or vegetables, and seasonings of choice. There are ethnic dishes like curry goat, creole goat, etc. which are quite flavorful and use spices most of us may not be accustomed to. Search the Internet for more ideas on how to cook goat.

The general public often has misconceptions about goat meat, so consumer education is important. If we give goat a fancy name like "Cabrito" (Spanish for young goat), "Cabrit" (French for goat) or "Chevon" (Spanish for mature goat), maybe it would have more culinary appeal for mainstream American consumers. Goat meat may not be for everyone, it is an "acquired" taste, kind of like Brussels’ sprouts or greens (at least to me). Next time you get the chance to try goat, give it a taste and see what you think.

Promoting Goat and Lamb

Alabama Agricultural A+ Marketing Association (A+ Marketing) in collaboration with Alabama Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D), Alabama Cooperative Extension System, and the AAMU Small Farms Research Center have conducted a series of activities promoting goat and lamb as a healthy alternative. These have taken place from Mobile to Tuscumbia to Sand Mountain. The meat has been served in the form of burgers as they are easy to cook and eat on a bun. Reviews from the consumers have been very positive; most common response, "I did not know goat could taste so good."

Also goat and lamb is now available for retail at several farmers markets across North Alabama. Current markets include: one in Colbert County, two in Madison County, one in Jefferson County, and there are possible plans for one in Chattanooga, TN. All this is made possible through a grant from RC&D and a mutual agreement between A+ Marketing and Humble Heart Farm. Humble Heart Farm is already selling their gourmet goat cheese from their goat dairy and now markets goat and lamb for A+ Marketing.

Robert Spencer is a contributing writer from Florence.

Happy Hunting Ground

By Ralph Ricks

As fall approaches, the calendar (certainly not the temperature) tells us dove hunting season is on the way. Being from South Baldwin County, as a kid, dove hunting was about all we had. There was squirrel hunting of course, but there was nothing like a cool crisp fall Saturday afternoon in the dove fields around home.

A bunch of us boys would get together, scrounge up some camo, go to the local discount store and buy some shells, and head out to the freshly-picked soybean fields and start "busting caps." We would go out at about noon, but the birds never really started flying good until around three o’clock. All those years it was stressed on us to try our best to recover a downed bird, no matter where it went. An afternoon of dove hunting usually consisted of a total of about 30 minutes of shooting and hours of looking in the bushes for birds. All that time I was wishing for a good retriever that would not only catch a wounded bird, but could go into the brush and find them. My friends and I were all lucky enough to be able to attend Auburn University together and so when we were all home on holidays, we managed to continue our dove hunting together.

Upon graduation, I went and did the very things my father said most young people do when they are first out on their own, I bought a new truck and a dog. Dad always said we bought the very things we didn’t need.

My dog was a black lab and his name was "Cole." This was possibly the finest animal I have ever owned. I got him in the spring and intended to have him ready for dove season when it arrived in the fall. All summer long, we trained.

I would like to say I trained him, but he had such natural talent, thanks to his genes, I don’t think I had much to do with it. We trained with tennis balls, plastic discs, training dummies and sticks. I read as much as I could about training a retriever. I always quit while he wanted to do more, never letting them get tired of retrieving, the book said. He loved to swim, so he trained some in the Magnolia River.

As summer drew to a close, I decided it was time to introduce him to gunfire. We started with a twenty two and worked up to a shotgun. He did fine.

Finally, opening day of dove season rolled around and it was time to take him to the field. I was able to take him with me on his first trip because, now we all had graduated from college, everyone had jobs, but me. If you forget about that new truck I had to pay for and a few student loans, it was a pretty good life, dove hunting to my heart’s content. I was never able to get my parents to understand.

Cole and I went out that afternoon to see what would happen. To my innocent mind, I thought he would automatically know what was going on, he didn’t. The first birds that flew over in range drew my fire and my dog ran around confused. You could tell, he knew he was supposed to do something but didn’t know what. I would knock one down and then he and I would go and find it. Finally, one bird flew over and he noticed it. He was in a spot where he could see me raise and shoot, and then saw the dove get hit and go down. I saw the light bulb go off in his head. He was a retriever.

That particular bird was one that went down but was crippled. If I had been on-foot after him, I’d have never got him. This was the type all dove hunters will recognize— as you draw near the bird, it manages to take flight and fly about a hundred yards and then land, you approach a second time and he does it again. When I introduced my 11-month-old puppy into the mix, we got the dove. He chased that bird for a good 300 yards and got him. I was worried about what shape the bird would be in when he got back. When I took the bird from him, it was in excellent shape. From that point on, he never missed a bird.

Now this dog was about as goofy as they come, he was always into trouble and I watched him do some really dumb things. There was one time he would get very serious and that was when he started seeing me getting together my hunting gear. He would follow me around and wouldn’t leave. He had a way of looking at you that we called "the pitiful dog look" and with that look he could talk you out of part of your sandwich, part of your candy bar or anything else you had he wanted. Every time I stopped, he would come and give me the look. When I took out my shotgun and worked the action to be sure it wasn’t loaded, ‘ol Cole was headed for the door. When he heard that sound he knew it was time to go hunting and he was ready.

We’d get to the field and he’d stick with me until we got to our stand. The whole time this normally goofy dog was a model of concentration and focus. His eyes had a very serious look as he scanned the horizon for incoming birds. I finally decided he could tell the difference between doves and non-game birds. He never perked up at a hawk, a killdeer, a mockingbird or anything else but doves. As we sat in our blind, he’d watch one direction and I’d watch the other, when I saw some I’d whisper, "Cole, birds." And he would shift to watching them and me.

The only down side to hunting with him was when I’d miss one, I’d get a dirty look from him.

Finally, at the age of ten, Cole went to where all good retrievers go. He had several hundred birds to his credit and some great memories. After I lost him, the fun kind of went out of dove hunting and I almost think I haven’t gone but once since then.

This time of year when dove season is closing in, I sometimes think I’d like to get another dog and try it again, but I’d be expecting him to be just like that last one. I know that’s nearly impossible and I’m not so sure anymore.

On those cool, fall afternoons when Auburn football is on the radio and doves are flying in droves, I sure do miss my black dog. That’ll do Cole, good boy.

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

How's Your Garden

By Lois Trigg Chaplin

Try Old Tulips in Alabama

The ground is now cool enough to plant spring bulbs, like these for tulips. Photo courtesy of Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Center.

Tulip bulbs planted now will be lovely in the spring, but in this part of the world, they’re a garden luxury. You plant them now and enjoy the blooms for a couple of weeks in the spring. If you’re lucky, they might bloom again for another spring or two, but you can’t count on it. However, some old tulips are an exception. Last spring I saw a bank of red tulips on Highway 36 between I-65 and Huntsville that had obviously been there and multiplying for years. They made me think of Holland. The solid mass of red covered a bank in a swath 20 feet long and five feet wide. They’re likely an old species type enjoying good drainage and full sun on the bank. One such species is Tulipa clusiana, a low-chill type which even comes back in Southern California. This one will also come back in Alabama if the soil drains well and it stays dry in the summer. If you long for tulips but tire of planting and replanting, consider trying some old, low-chill heirlooms in your garden, especially any derived from Tulipa clusiana. Finding old species tulips is not easy. One way is to dig some from a friend who will share a few or find a plant swap, mailorder or online source of heirloom tulips. This month the soil should be cool enough to plant tulips in their new home.

A well-established patch of asparagus is dense enough to keep down summer weeds. The challenge is in winter, when the tops die down.

A Salty Solution

After writing a piece about weed control in asparagus several years ago, I received three letters from readers in the Midwest offering an unconventional solution to keep the asparagus patch weed free: salt. Because asparagus is more salt-tolerant than most plants, including weeds, these gardeners sprinkle salt in the bed to kill the weeds, but not the asparagus. They recommended water softener salt, using just enough to make the ground around the plants white with the salt. You must be careful to sprinkle the softener salt only in the area of the asparagus because it will kill other plants. Also avoid any run-off into other beds or bodies of water.

Clean up the Vegetable Garden

Now is a good time to clean up frosted summer vegetables and plant a little clover or other ground cover in their place. Throw away plants that had leaf spots or other diseases, composting only healthy ones. Mow your fall leaves to chop them in little pieces. These are good mulch to spread over your garden paths and use as winter mulch around lettuce, collards, kale, carrots and other winter crops. Of course, leaves are good anywhere including around shrubs and flowers.

Handy Items to Keep in the Garden

Now is the time to plant pansies and violas. Mix them with hardy foliage in containers.

When out working in the garden, it’s annoying to have to stop and get this and that as you go about your tasks. Here are a few things I’ve found help me stay efficient while I’m working. Keep a bucket or bag handy for clippings, faded flowers and such; you can carry it easily from place to place for droppings as you work. A large plastic mailbox in the garden or near the door is a good spot to park a trowel and clippers. I sometimes use a tool belt for small hand tools to keep clippers and trowels handy on my waist instead of laying them down and then spending time wondering where I laid them. An apron with pockets is nice for keeping seed packets and tomato ties handy as you work. You can also utilize small trash cans with snap-down lids to store open bags of potting soil or fertilizer, especially anything organic that might attract raccoons. In the fall, a large sheet or tarp spread on the ground is great for gathering leaves; rake them onto the tarp then take up the corners to make a bundle to carry to your compost pile.

Pansies and Other Flowers in Pots

This is the month to plant pansies and other cool-season color in containers. Combine pansies or violas with foliage like flowering kale, parsley or Artemisia for nice winter color.

The dwarf abelia stays about three feet tall, well below the height of the windows

The Perfect Fit

The plants around your home should never outgrow their space. If you’re always pruning to clear a view, that plant is in the wrong place. For example, if the base of your windows is three feet above ground level, choose low-growing plants like Gumpo or azaleas, dwarf gardenia, shore juniper, dwarf conifers or other plants that don’t grow more than three feet tall. These will naturally grow together, but not so tall you lose the architectural features of your home. You will not have to prune and the plants will keep their natural shape, which is often ruined by pruning.

Bulb Planting Tips

By November it is generally safe to start planting spring-flowering bulbs or even summer ones you are dividing or transplanting around the garden. Generally you should plant bulbs where they get at least a half-day of sun. Remember shade reappears as trees leaf out in spring, so take this into account when you’re choosing a planting spot in fall and winter. Sometimes bulbs look like little dried-up clods making you wonder which end goes up. In general, the flat end goes down and the pointed end is up. If in doubt, set them on their side. Also, the bigger the bulb, the deeper you need to plant. The Netherlands Bulb Institute recommends setting the base of the bulb at a depth equal to three to four times the height of the bulb. That means the hole for a two-inch daffodil will be six to eight inches deep. If you want bulbs of the same variety to bloom at the same time, plant them at the same time and the same depth. Fertilize at planting with a bulb booster-type fertilizer as directed on the label to be sure you get the most from your bulbs this year and in years to come.

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

How's Your Garden

By Lois Trigg Chaplin

Love Your Pineapple Sage?

This plant can get killed in a severe winter, but thankfully it roots easily enough you can keep a few cuttings as insurance. Just cut stems with three to four nodes (the places where the leaves are attached). Carefully remove the leaves from the lower nodes, and place them in a glass of water. Change the water every few days to prevent bacteria and algae from growing. When roots have grown several inches long, plant the cuttings in potting soil. Keep your plant in a sunny window through the winter. Watch for mealybugs and treat with a diluted solution of dishwashing liquid if they appear. If you don’t want to go to this trouble just for "insurance," you can buy another next spring! One plant grows fast and will easily measure three feet by three feet in a season if it’s getting the right amount of water and nutrients.

This Chinese pistache blazes in the parking lot of the Birmingham Botanical Garden.

Chinese Pistache Has Great Fall Color

If you like the idea of a medium-sized tree with outstanding fall color, drought resistance and adaptability to different soil types, you might want to take a look at Chinese pistache. This tree is used as a rootstock in the commercial pistachio industry, but makes a nice ornamental for these parts. It’s been admired by landscape folks for years, but still isn’t as well-known as it deserves. Because it’s tough and not too big, it is prized for tough urban locations, but it is a fine yard and patio tree, too, but with a caveat—read on. The mature tree, which typically gets 30 to 45 feet tall, has a big, rounded crown that will light up orange to red in autumn. One great thing about this color is it is good even in our warmer regions. There is one important caveat to selecting this tree: the females bear fruit which reseeds. In California and Texas, it is on the noxious plant list. The last thing we need is another Chinese privet. However, the cultivar Keith Davey (or Davies, depending on the source) is male and it’s the one to look for. Don’t accept any old seedling. In its early years, the tree shape is a little awkward and irregular (same story as ginkgo), but, as it grows, it fills out and takes shape. Hopefully you will find a well-grown specimen with lot of branches, but if you buy a tree that is growing straight up with few side branches that is easily remedied by cutting the top back. You might have to do that several times every foot or two of growth to encourage more branching. Remember, insist on Keith Davey (or Davies), the non-fruiting cultivar.

A patch of bearded iris is a familiar and welcomed spring sight. Now is the time to dig and divide if needed.

Increasing Your Perennials

This is the month to begin cleaning up beds of daylilies, hostas, iris and most of those early perennials looking ratty and ready for a winter rest. Crowded daylilies don’t bloom well, so dig up old clumps, divide the plants to move elsewhere or share with friends. Crowded iris don’t bloom well either, although it may take three to five years for a healthy bed to get crowded enough for you to notice a difference, especially with the older types. Inspect the rhizomes when you dig them up and get rid of all but the younger, more vigorous looking pieces. Hostas don’t like being dug up too often. They’ll stay in the same place forever it seems, but if you want to start new plantings elsewhere, a big clump will yield several plants. Divide both hostas and daylilies as gently as possible, making sure each clump has good, healthy roots attached.

Myco What?

Over the last couple of years you may have seen labels of new organic garden fertilizers announcing "contains mycorrhizae." These are soil fungi living on plant roots and actually extend the roots’ ability to take up food and water from the soil. The spores are contained in the fertilizer and will grow in the soil if conditions are right. This technology comes from forestry and organic farming, where it has been used to help transplants get a hold in the ground and to thrive once established. Like many things that first have commercial application, it is now finding its way to retail. I don’t know a lot about this yet, although I’ve used this and similar biological starters in my vegetable garden for the last three years and I’ve noticed better tolerance to drought in my tomatoes and maybe some increased resistance to our typical tomato foliage diseases. My plants get them, but it seems later and more easily controlled. Last year, I sprayed copper only three times and had the same tomato plants in the ground from April until frost. We’re only beginning to unlock some of the secrets of what goes on underground. It’s going to be an exciting time for gardeners.

Make a Garden Mosaic

Colorful broken ceramics can be remade into pretty mosaics for your garden.

You can make colorful mosaics for your garden with concrete and broken tile. I took the picture of one on a garden tour of a lovely garden with many handmade touches. If you want a mosaic to serve as a stepping stone, be sure to use enough concrete between the pieces so it is not slippery. For stepping stones, it’s a good idea to also use heavy enough tiles they will hold up to foot traffic. The pretty colors and patterns in the piece made me think of broken china and this technique might be a nice way to preserve a piece of broken sentimental pottery or fine china. It could be placed away from foot traffic or even hung on a fence or wall. It might make a good Christmas present you can begin now.

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

Hummingbirds: The World’s Little Mysteries

Martha and Bob Sargent.

By Suzy Lowry Geno

That hummingbird that whizzed passed your head to fight off a rival at your backyard feeder can amazingly hover, fly forwards and backwards, up and down, and even fly upside down in a panic situation at normal speeds of 30 miles per hour and escape speeds of up to 60!

They are tiny, with adults weighing usually from 2.5 to 3.5 grams (amazing since it takes 28 grams to make an ounce!).

And that tiny ball of fierce energy at your feeder this fall has likely migrated from a northern state, will cross the Gulf of Mexico or Texas, and wind up wintering in Southern Mexico or Central America.

Bob Sargent tells of the proper way to mix sugar water, four parts water to one part sugar, in backyard feeders.

As they talked of the different species of hummers and their many amazing qualities, Bob Sargent told a crowd of over 100 at the Frank Green Office Building in Oneonta, "Martha and I have decided God must be involved in all this!"

At the September-first program sponsored jointly by the Blount County Master Gardeners and the Blount County Extension Service, the Sargents provided information they’d obtained personally during their more than 25 years as hummingbird banders and educators.

Bob explained, "The hummer you see at your home feeder today will be gone tomorrow, replaced by a different one."

With 45 feeders at their Clay County area home, the Sargents regularly see about 800 Ruby-throated hummingbirds each year, and "catch about 175 we had banded the previous year."

An adult male Broad-billed hummingbird in flight.

"Most of the time we catch them on the exact same day as we did last year," he explained. "They have great navigational systems. They know where they’re supposed to be and when they’re supposed to be there."

Bob and Martha became interested more than a quarter century ago simply by watching the birds coming to the single feeder they owned at that time. But they found education and information about hummingbirds was sparse.

They approached experts about the possibility of becoming bird banders and went through the process of having "three people vouch for us through the program which is part of the U.S. Geological Service," Martha explained.

"The first year we didn’t know what we were doing and, that year’s data, we threw it all out," Martha said. "That’s why we teach banders now."

This adult male White-eared hummingbird illustrates the long bill that can easily sip the nectar from flowers—or your backyard feeder.

There were only 28 licensed, permitted banders in the WORLD when the Sargents started about 27 years ago. Now there are several hundred banders around the globe and a whopping 40 percent of them were taught personally by the Sargents!

The Sargents have a ten-unit trap system at their home where feeders are placed into the traps and the doors are closed once individual birds go in to feed. (A special permit is required to do this, so don’t try it at home!) They also band birds throughout the United States.

The bands, which are provided only to permitted banders, give the age, sex, time, date, species and location. The Sargents also measure and weigh the tiny creatures and then send them on their way within 20 minutes.

Bob and Martha explained hummer’s primary food is small, soft-bodied insects, believed to be fruit flies, gnats, mosquitoes, aphids, spiders, caterpillars and insect eggs. Sugar water should be mixed with four parts water and one part sugar with no food coloring and no store-bought additives. Honey or other sweeteners should NEVER be used.

A young immature Anna’s female hummer.

Contrary to some beliefs, the feeders can be left out year-round and hummingbirds WON’T become dependent on the winter sugar water. If there are hummers at your feeders after November 15th, the Sargents ask you to give them a phone call so they can come out and identify that particular species.

The major predators of hummingbirds include crows, jays, gray rat snakes and more, but Bob said the worst predator of hummers and all songbirds are ordinary house cats!

"I love cats, but cats should be kept inside," he said.

A Rufous Humming-bird in Bob’s hand after it was banded.

Several photos of tiny hummingbird nests showed the tiny black-eyed pea-size eggs, with the mothers alone usually raising two clutches of eggs a year.

"80 percent of all hatched will die before they’re a year old," Bob explained.

The small birds sleep at night, usually perched high away from danger. While their body temperatures are usually 105-108 degrees, that can plunge to 40 to 50 degrees at night which Bob said is "only about a heartbeat away from death."

Martha explained how traps should be used to keep ants out of feeders because a chemical on the ants immediately spoils the sugar water once they crawl inside. Wasps and yellow jackets should also be trapped nearby so they’ll be away from the feeders.

Martha talked of numerous plants that will attract hummingbirds including annuals like scarlet sage (Salvia coccinea) which "spreads like crazy."

"Everybody who wants hummingbirds should plant this," she explained.

While most folks don’t like quickly-spreading mimosas in their yards or gardens, hummingbirds flock to them. The "old-fashioned" lantana was also recommended as "songbirds also feed on their berries."

Turk’s cap (Malvaviscus Arboreus drummondii), pineapple sage, coral honeysuckle, trumpet vine and more were also recommended.

For many years, hummingbird knowledge was so limited it was thought only the Ruby-throated variety were found east of the Mississippi. But the Sargents noted, through winter banding activity in numerous states, 13 other species have been found in the East including Rufous, Allen’s, Broad-tailed, Buff-bellied, Calliope, Black-chinned, Magnificent, Anna’s, Costa’s, Green Violet-ear, White-eared, Broad-billed and Green-breasted Mango.

The Sargents are founders of the Hummer/Bird Study Group, a non-profit group to study primarily hummingbirds and other songbirds as well. The group has no paid workers, only volunteers like the Sargents who love birds. They invite folks to come to Fort Morgan State Park in the spring and fall to band and study birds.

The Sargents also teach banding at their home, providing the information and letting the banders stay at their home at no cost. The week before the meeting a woman from Ecuador had spent the week there.

"We may just be the luckiest two people in the world," Bob explained.

For more information on the Hummer Study Group, you may check out, e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">hummerbsg@aol.comor contact the Sargents at (205) 681-2888. Extension Agent Dan Porch, long-time member of the group, said the quarterly newsletter alone is worth the $20 membership fee.

Suzy Lowry Geno is a freelance writer from Blount County She can be reached at

Important Forage Facts

By Dr. Don Ball

To have an efficient livestock operation, a producer needs to have (or at least have access to) information pertaining to many subjects, including animal health, animal genetics and breeding, animal behavior, marketing, various regulations and forage crops. However, some facts or concepts are so basic and important everybody ought to be aware of them. For example, here are some facts about forage crops of interest and value to any Alabama livestock producer.

• There are more acres of open land in forage crops in Alabama than in all other agronomic and horticultural crops combined.

• Over half the cost of beef production is associated with forage production (about 28 percent for pasture and 27 percent for hay according to Auburn University beef production budgets; thus, about 55 percent of the total).

• It is estimated over 80 percent of the nutrients consumed by beef cattle in the U.S. come from forage.

• On most livestock farms in the Southeast, nutrition is the primary production-limiting factor, with the most common limiting nutritional factor being energy.

• Considering the relatively minor investments of time and money involved, soil testing, followed by liming and fertilizing according to recommendations, ranks among the most valuable practice a forage/livestock producer can employ.

• Periodically adjusting stocking rates or otherwise exercising appropriate grazing management is essential to take advantage of the economical forage production resulting from regular soil testing.

• Of the three major nutrient elements, nitrogen has the greatest immediate impact on forage growth, but failure to apply adequate phosphorus and potassium will also sharply reduce yield and eventually stand persistence.

• Auburn University (AU) budgets reflect, when forage grasses are managed according to recommendations, nitrogen fertilizer typically accounts for 20 to 40 percent of the cost of forage production.

• Except for boron, which is needed in small quantities for alfalfa production and for good seed production of clovers, tests at AU have shown, in Alabama, forage crops almost never respond to application of minor elements.

• Applying nitrogen increases the protein content of grasses, but fertilization typically has little or no effect on forage energy value.

• Hay quality can be affected by many factors, but stage of maturity at harvest is generally the single most important.

• Once dry hay is in a barn, or otherwise well-protected from the elements, feeding value decreases very little over time.

• Matching forage quality to animal nutritional needs greatly increases economic efficiency. This is true with both stored feed and when pasturing livestock.

• In general, as the amount of hay required for a cattle operation is reduced, the likelihood of making a profit is increased in direct proportion.

• In our climate, when hay is stored for several months outside on the ground with no protection, dry matter losses often exceed 30 percent.

• With most types of forage crops, the greatest losses to round bales stored outside results from moisture moving into the hay from the ground rather than penetration of rain water.

• The color of hay has little correlation with forage quality.

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

It's Fall in Flat Rock…

Another Special Season of God’s Art, Perfect Pictures…

It was Monday in the early mornin’ a.m. when Bro. rang me on my cellular phone. Actually, it was so early my phone was a flashin’ "Very Early" —- not even displayin’ a concise time. He had called to read me the note on the old double-front doors of The Store.


Bro. was just makin’ me mindful it was Slim and Essex’s annual trip to the mountains of East Tennessee: Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, Sevierville and the much slower-paced Townsend. Thus, meanin’ all The Store regulars would be a fillin’ in durin’ their week away.

Bro. further commented on the weather changes (another special season of God’s art) and all the fall happenin’s —- lots of football, the fall crop harvest, the comin’ on of huntin’, fall revival, hay rides and the nearin’ of Halloween. I would swear I was pert-near dozed back off when he recollected it was only ‘bout 80 days till Christmas.

At this here point, he comminst to hangin’ up his cellular phone as he noted "Hatch" and J.R. were showin’ up to assist him with the Monday mornin’ runnin’ of The Store.

As Bro.’s cellular phone clicked goodbye, I could purely imagine fall and God’s art in the beautiful East Tennessee mountains. Then I fell back on my pillow for some more sleepin’. I closed my eyes, thought for a moment and realized…God’s art is all over Flat Rock and the whole world 24/7 — summer, winter, spring and fall.

Think with me for a minute about God’s art. What is the prettiest thing (moment) you have seen today? A country boy/girl might say the way God arranged a row of peas, even oak leaves blowing in the breeze or this beautiful weed that made them sneeze. But, here are some I have seen or imagine there are…

God’s Art, Perfect Pictures…
It’s not a picture drawn by the hand of you or me
But, his canvas stretches across the world about us completely
God’s art, perfect pictures
for all to see

His simple presentation of a tree
Even something as tiny as a honey bee
God’s art, perfect pictures

Simply a bunch of grapes in the neighborhood grocery
Or clothes arranged on the line to dry naturally
God’s art, perfect pictures

A misty morning in the rolling hills of Tennessee
The calm of a big, flowing river like the mighty Mississippi
God’s art, perfect pictures

A South Dakota ring necked pheasant as it rises to flee
Or fields of Kansas wheat as far as the eye can see
God’s art, perfect pictures

A brilliant-colored rainbow as it touches the earth so magnificently
Snowflakes, sized and marked individually
God’s art, perfect pictures

A field of mature cotton in the boothills of Missouri
Maybe a herd of historic Texas longhorns grazing peacefully
God’s art, perfect pictures

A Carolina tom turkey as he gobbles boastfully
A still Georgia lake with its lily pads arranged so artfully
God’s art, perfect pictures

A single child standing so innocently
Yes, even a loving couple hand-in-hand strolling quietly
God’s art, perfect pictures

The American flag flying briskly
A golden sunset as it descends westerly
God’s art, perfect pictures
for all to see

A simple white church in New England standing stately
An open Bible as it displays His word completely
More of God’s art, perfect pictures everywhere you can see

Each individual presentation of God’s art, perfect pictures
A single blessing, to be enjoyed totally by you and me

Yep, it’s fall in Flat Rock, but it’s only a small part (one special season) of God’s art, perfect pictures. Enjoy the season and Happy Halloween!!!

Remember Your Heritage!!!
Always, Think Good Memories!!!

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

I’m Duece, An Adopted American Mustang

Duece learning to relax when tied. Ok let’s go.

Here’s my story:

as told to Don Linker

Hi, my name is Duece and I am an American Mustang who came from the high desert near Monticristo, Nevada. My name hasn’t always been Duece, but we will get to that in a bit. I was born on May 8, 2005, in a small valley partially protecting my mother, Rose, from the cool rain that was falling. My father, Wolf, a large black stallion with a star, was standing watch on a small hill nearby. He had received his name as a youngster for fighting off wolves that wanted him for dinner. That is why we are called prey animals, because there are always predators in the wild that would make us their dinner. Born without incident, I was a spindly, long-legged black colt with a white diamond on my forehead and one white sock. After spending a couple of days in the valley to let me get my legs under me, we went back to the safety of the band of about 20 mares and 15 foals, of which I was the youngest and would be the last for that year in our band. Looking around, I could see my half brothers and sisters looked like me with several of them black with a white spot on their forehead. Being named Star or Diamond was out of the question, so I became Sock to the rest of the horses.

End of the trail for Duece and Snap, neat trick.

Summer was a fun time with all the playing and running with my brothers and sisters. We moved around a lot following grass and water. When we moved, it was mostly in a large circle which would bring us back to what we hoped was re-grown grass and refilled water pools. The summer was uneventful, but the fall was full of unexpected events. The first of these was my mother starting to push me away. This weaning, as it is called, hurt my feelings, but as she schooled me on the most nutritious forages and how to find salt and minerals, I began to understand this was for my own good. She also taught me to always be alert to my surroundings, because danger lurks behind every boulder or bush in the form of predators like wolves, cats, bears or humans. The grass was becoming short and then it began to snow. The snow covered what grass was left, but some large strange birds, I later heard them called helicopters, dropped cut grass (hay) from the sky about three times a week when the ground was snow-covered.

Spring came and brought a sense of excitement as the grass began to grow and we began to move more than we had during the winter. As we drifted along, feeding on the new grass, taking our time, some strange horse-like animals appeared. They had two heads and looked almost funny, but my mother explained these were only humans riding horses and they had come to get us. Panic set in, the whole herd began to move faster and then I realized the strange creatures were chasing us. My thought was to outrun them, but the older more experienced members of the band said to just go along because they would eventually catch us anyway.

Duece loves to play free with the buffalo. What fun! The buffalo buffaloes the mustang —- where are you going?

We were moved into an enclosure with a bunch of openings and smaller pens. Then the yearlings were separated from the others and put into one of the smaller pens. This would be the last time I would see my mother and the other members of the band. After a day or so, we were put in a much smaller alley where we were given shots, the colts were gelded, our hooves were trimmed if needed, we were de-wormed, and we were freeze-branded on the left side of our necks. After these somewhat uncomfortable procedures, we were put into pens with plenty of water and hay and left alone for a day or two. After a couple of days, we were turned out onto pastures with the most grass I had ever seen and we didn’t have to walk a long way to find enough to eat. This would be our home for the next three years and I really hoped I would never have to leave.

Mid-summer of 2009 found me without a care — plenty of food, water and shelter — life was good. Little did we know our small world was about to be enlarged greatly; we were in for a road trip. Herded into pens, separated by number, immunized, de-wormed and then loaded on trailers, we were on our way. We were bound for destinations ending in several different states and ultimately in Texas and Tennessee for the Extreme Mustang Makeover (EMM) Competition. The EMM pairs selected trainers from all across the United States with randomly selected mustangs. The trainers pick them up at a relocation center and have them to train for 100 days. The trainers must teach the horse specific tasks to perform as well as anything to showcase the trainer’s ability, and the willingness and athleticism of their mustang partner.

A few hours into the trip, we were unloaded to eat, drink and exercise. The next day when we were loaded onto trailers, I learned we would be going to the Adoption Center in Cross Plains, Tennessee, where we would meet our co-competitors. At the center, I renewed acquaintances, greeted relatives, met new horses and learned something about what was going to happen to us. We were to be paired with a specific trainer for the competition to be held in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, on October 23-24, 2009.

My human counterpart was to be Dale "Snap" Lively from Nauvoo, a veteran from the competition in Fort Worth, Texas, last year. I was elated because I had heard about this man from a horse that was at the competition in Texas and was impressed by Mr. Dale’s demeanor and the way he looked out for his partner, Uno, during their time at the show. After being uprooted, shipped cross-country and unloaded in a strange place, I could hardly wait until Friday, July 17, 2009, to meet this man.

Friday morning brought an air of excitement to the whole facility as trucks and horse trailers began to arrive. I was in the first pen, so I saw everyone as they parked in the field out front. We were to be loaded in the order people arrived, which put me to be loaded third. The first to be loaded were five or six horses going to Pennsylvania, second was a horse going to North Carolina (I think), and then it was my turn. I was removed from the pen and the safety of numbers, run into a very small pen and fitted with this head gear called a halter that had a long thing attached that looked a lot like a snake. Back in the alley, as I began to move, the snake thing began to chase me. If I stopped, the snake didn’t move and then I realized it wasn’t a snake at all. I could hardly control myself, I was ready to go, but I had to make a good showing. Instead of just jumping on the trailer, I ran up and down the alley almost getting on the trailer three times before I allowed the humans to shut the gate on the trailer.

The truck was pulled away from the chute and parked, and an older gentleman began to talk soothingly to me and gently pulling on the lead rope (that is what I learned the snake was). As I gave to the pressure of the pull on the rope, he would release and relax. This procedure was repeated a couple of times and was the beginning of the bond of trust and partnership that was to form between us. On the trip to Nauvoo, we stopped a couple of times with Mr. Dale repeating the process each time.

Upon arrival at Mr. Dale’s farm, I was unloaded into a large comfortable stall with hay, feed and fresh water. He spent about another hour with me just talking, moving me around and putting the lead all over my body to show it wasn’t going to hurt me. Mr. Dale is a fun-loving, kind, gentle man and it was clear to me he and I were going to be good for each other. We were going to be partners with each contributing the willingness to succeed in the task set before us.

The first day or two was spent on ground training, good manners (mine), flexing, picking up each of my feet and saddling. Then he worked me with him sitting on the top panel of the round pen and the next thing I knew he was on my back and I remembered the strange animals of my youth. Not moving at first, he just sat on my back for a minute, got off and then got back on nudging me to move a little. I have been exposed to just about anything you can think of from flags, logs, bridges and barrels to buffalo, dogs and chickens. I am still a prey animal, but I have learned to control my fear, realizing that most things are not going to hurt me, and I can trust Mr. Dale to keep me safe.

The competition we are getting ready for has specific things the judges will look for like overall condition, in-hand ground work and a sort of trail course. The conditioning score will come from body condition, hair coat, grooming and overall appearance. This will not be a problem as I am groomed and bathed every day with my hooves trimmed as needed. As far as nutrition, I am fed Alabama Farmers Cooperative Champions Choice 12% and supplemented with AFC Minerals, which provides me with all the nutrients I need to look my best and perform at the highest level. The in-hand ground work will consist of moving shoulders right and left, moving hips right and left, backing, picking up all four feet, loading in the trailer, and using manners. The horse course will include required tasks including walk, trot, lope, stop, back up, lope left and right with correct lead, and turn 360 degrees in both directions. Then there will be a four-minute freestyle where the trainer can do anything to showcase the horse’s athletic ability, willingness and what the trainer has accomplished in the allotted training period.

Well, it is going on 60 days I have been in training and, let me tell you, I am a changed horse. I am doing things due to Mr. Dale’s tutelage I never dreamed of doing. We have been constant companions and friends as the bond of trust continues to grow. He has been patient, but also firm in his teachings, and because of this we have accomplished so much. I can comfortably load in a trailer, walk a bridge, bow, stand on a pedestal, pull from the saddle horn, side pass and a host of other tasks with ease. The competition in Tennessee will be held October 23, 24 and 25 and I am so looking forward to showing what I have been trained to perform. The only thing bothering me is the possibility of not getting to come home with Mr. Snap because the horses will be auctioned on the 25th and you never know what will happen. If it works out that I go to someone else, Mr. Snap will be carried in my heart and I am sure that due to him, I will be a willing partner.

The Extreme Mustang Makeover was formed by the Mustang Heritage Foundation and the Bureau of Land Management to showcase the wild mustang. These competitions show the versatility and willingness of the American Mustang, and that they can make a valuable equine partner.

We at Quality Co-ops are proud to sponsor Duece and Dale with 12% Champions Choice in their quest for mustang perfection. Remember your local Quality Co-op store has your animal’s needs from feed to animal health. If we don’t have it, we will order it for you. We appreciate your business and strive to earn and keep it.

For more information on mustangs or Duece, Dale can be reached at (205) 275-9138. Information on Extreme Mustang Makeover, adoption sites and dates, and training opportunities are available from the Mustang Heritage Foundation at (512) 869-3225 or the Bureau of Land Management at (202) 452-5125.

Don Linker is an outside salesman for AFC.

Duece with his friends and relatives on pickup day at the Cross Plains, Tennessee, adoption facility.

Keep It Healthy for Football Season and Tailgating Parties

By Angela Treadaway

With the arrival of fall comes football season. What’s more fun than gathering with friends for a tailgating party?

However, don’t let cooler weather fool you into thinking you don’t need to consider the possibility of food-borne bacteria spoiling your party. Be proactive and follow a few simple procedures for safe food handling, then you’ll be sure to go home healthy from a fun day with friends.

* Before, during and after preparing your food, be sure to wash your hands, lathering them with warm soap and scrubbing for a full 20 seconds. Set up a large drink container with a spigot as your water source.

* Include moist towelettes or hand sanitizer for guests to use.

* Keep two separate insulated coolers: one for drinks and one for food. This will keep your food well chilled since the drink cooler is likely to be opened more frequently. Place coolers in the shade and cover them with blankets to help hold in the cold temperature.

* Place cold and frozen foods into coolers. Don’t assume your cooler can chill foods adequately if the food is at room temperature prior to packing.

* Pack foods in reverse order so the last ones packed will be the first ones used, allowing food at the bottom to stay chilled longer.

* Meat and other similar raw foods should be packed in sealed plastic bags or containers in a chilled, insulated cooler. This will prevent contamination of other foods from leaking juices. Store raw foods separately from ready-to-eat foods.

* Take meat out of the cooler just in time to place on the grill. Never place cooked meat, fish or poultry back in the container the raw meat, fish or poultry was in. Use a clean pair of tongs and a clean plastic plate or platter when removing the cooked items from the grill. When marinating meat, fish or poultry, discard the leftover marinade after you place the items on the grill. Never use this marinade on the cooked item.

* Use a meat thermometer to judge the safe internal temperature of meat and poultry over two inches thick (160o F or higher for meat, 180o F or higher for poultry). For meat or poultry less than two inches thick, look for clear juices as signs of being done.

* Use separate cutting boards to prevent cross contamination of raw and cooked foods. Wipe them clean with paper towels at the barbecue and toss them in your dishwasher to sanitize when you return home.

* Perishable foods like meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, sandwiches with mayonnaise and salads should not be kept at temperatures above 40o F for more than two hours. When the outside temperature is 90o F or higher, food should be left out for no longer than one hour.

* If deli or takeout foods like fried chicken, potato salad or coleslaw are on the menu, make sure they are eaten within two hours of pick-up.

* Hot food should be kept at 140o F or hotter until served. Try wrapping your hot casserole or other item in several layers of aluminum wrap, followed by newspapers and a towel.

* Cover all food with plastic wrap, aluminum foil or lids, or keep foods and supplies in their original packaging to prevent contamination.

* If you’re not sure if food is still safe to eat, resort to the rule, "When in doubt, throw it out."

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.

Lauderdale Co. Producer Markets Cattle the Modern Way

Co-owner of M&S Enterprises Spry Mitchell sorts calves before they are loaded for transport.

Technology Allows More Buyers to See Cattle

By Susie Sims

Spry Mitchell appears to be a typical cattle producer. He is, however, learning to sell his cattle in an ever-changing market.

Mitchell, who runs a stocker cattle operation near Florence, has been selling his cattle through a broker for many years. Recently they videotaped his cattle so they could easily be marketed to buyers out West.

When potential buyers wanted a look at Mitchell’s cattle for themselves, Mitchell bought a video camera and recorded the animals.

Co-owner Scott Spry takes a break from sorting calves in the August heat.

His broker, Joey Riley of Riley Livestock in Kentucky, then distributed the video to several buyers, some of which bought the cattle. Over a two-day period, Mitchell loaded and shipped four truck loads of cattle to Nebraska.

Mitchell noted this was the first time he had used video to market his calves, but it probably wouldn’t be the last.

Mitchell believes having his cattle registered with EID (electronic identification) tags pays him a premium. His broker agreed, though noted that when the supply of cattle is high, the benefit of the EID system isn’t always noticed.

In late August, Mitchell sold four loads of age and source-verified calves born from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31 of last year. The cattle were registered and certified with Southeastern Livestock and Agrilinks in Atlanta.

Caroline Craig rounds up a couple of strays.

When marketing his cattle, Mitchell attaches vaccination records to the certifications. He believes in record-keeping.

Mitchell said they are close to being an all-natural operation, noting they only use antibiotics when necessary. The drugs would have to be eliminated from their program for them to qualify as all-natural.

Even so, typically the market does not pay a premium for all-natural beef at the present time.

Mitchell is, however, keeping an eye on the market, waiting for things to change.

Who’s on First?

Mitchell’s partner in the cattle business is his cousin Scott Spry. Together they make up Mitchell & Spry Enterprises or M&S.

Even folks familiar with the operation get confused when asked about the name.

Mitchell stands for Spry Mitchell and Spry stands for Scott Spry. Just say the name "Spry" if you want to turn heads around in the stockyard.

M&S has two places of operation, one called the O’Neil place. It is located in the bend of the Tennessee River just outside of Florence. The other part of the operation — M&S North — is located several miles north of Florence near Whites Lake. Scott Spry heads up the northern operation, while Mitchell takes care of things near the river.

Helping out Mitchell are James Haithcoat and Chipper Ezell. Hal Harbin helps Spry take care of the northern operation.

Planning Makes Perfect

Each truckload shipped from M&S contains 65 to 75 cattle depending on the total weight. More heifers than steers can fit on each trailer.

M&S typically sells four loads of cattle in the late summer and another four loads over the course of a year.

M&S likes to purchase truck-loads of cattle from local producers when possible for their operation.

"We’ve found calves tend to be a lot healthier when we purchase them right off the farm," said Scott Spry. "It’s not always possible to buy our calves that way, but we prefer it."

Buying cattle in large lots from local producers allows M&S to turn out a more uniform group of cattle when it comes time to market.

Larger groups of uniform calves make it easier to market the animals as most buyers search for a certain level of uniformity.

Mitchell said these four loads of calves are the largest he has ever sent to market. The steers averaged about 700 pounds while the heifers averaged 675. Mitchell attributed the weight to a wet spring producing a lot of grass for the animals to consume.

Design in Action

Watching the group of five men sort the cattle to make the most uniform loads is like watching a well-designed play develop on a football field. They have a plan — getting the calf to go into a certain pen — and then there is the reality. Usually things go as planned, but occasionally the design is altered by a calf having its own plans.

Once a group of cattle are brought into the catch pens, Mitchell begins calling out where he wants each one to end up. Then it’s a ballet of opening and closing gates until all the calves are separated like Mitchell wants them.

Then, a sample load is taken to nearby scales to get an average weight. Once returned, the calves are then loaded onto double-decker cattle trailers for their trip out West.

Lauderdale County Co-op in Florence helps supply M&S with their operation needs.

Ronnie Behel, who serves as the outside salesman for the local store said the Co-op provides M&S with fertilizer, nitrogen, minerals, salt as well as fencing supplies.

M&S also uses the Co-op’s own STIMU-LYX tubs for their operation.

According to Jimmy Hughes, who is the animal nutritionist for Alabama Farmers Co-op, STIMU-LYX tubs are an excellent way for producers to supplement their cattle’s nutrition.

"STIMU-LYX tubs are a low-moisture tub containing supplemental protein, energy, minerals and vitamins to aid in the increase of forage utilization and improved reproductive performance," said Hughes. "The tubs contain less than four percent moisture."

Hughes also noted the consumption rate for STIMU-LYX is less than one pound per head per day, which makes it an economical source of cattle supplementation.

Contact Information

Persons interested in contacting Mitchell about his operation may call him at (256) 762-2127. He would appreciate hearing from producers who have truckloads of uniform calves they wish to sell.

Susie Sims is a freelance writer from Haleyville.

Learning Leadership through 4-H

Through 4-H, young people have many opportunities to develop leadership skills. One of the flagship events for teens is Citizenship Alabama Focus held annually in Montgomery.

By Amy Payne Burgess

What does it take to be a leader? That is an ongoing question of interest and discussion within 4-H, America’s premier youth organization for leadership development. Working through the nation’s Land Grant Universities, like Auburn and Alabama A & M, 4-H has arrived at some solid conclusions.

4-H has determined there are specific skills which young people need to have if they are to be successful leaders. These organizational abilities help them learn to take responsibility for their own actions and to work with others to achieve personal and group goals.

Through 4-H leadership projects and activities, youth gain "hands-on, minds-on" experience in key areas of leadership:

4-H State Council Member Anna Grace Masterson of Lawrence County believes “To be a good leader, one must display the character traits of honesty, friendliness and trustworthiness.”

• They gain a better understanding of themselves.

• They become more comfortable and more skilled in communicating.

• They learn to get along with others.

• They learn how to learn.

• They learn how to process information and make decisions.

• They learn to manage complex tasks and work as part of a group.

Joel Burks of Cullman, a member of our 4-H State Council, talks about leadership this way: "To me, being a good leader means doing it both in front of people and behind the scenes. Anybody can get up and look the part, but it takes a real leader to do it when nobody is watching."

Such leadership requires self-understanding. That is based on introspection and empathy, an ability to "put yourself in others’ shoes."

Teamwork and cooperation are values taught through 4-H. This group in St. Clair County has a good mentor for building robots and work together as a team.

Such empathy is one of the most difficult personal characteristics to build, but it is crucial to good leadership. We have all seen controlling managers who think leadership means power and even intimidation. 4-H seeks to teach "leaders" are not bullies. Interestingly, university research shows a correlation between empathy and bullying. Children who bully do not lack empathy, but instead they associate the pain of their victims as a positive feeling. Exercising a close, strict control over a 4-H club (or a corporation) would certainly not be an effective way to build crucial group effectiveness or any sense of organizational morale.

Communication is one of the hallmarks of 4-H leadership programs. Many Alabama leaders have commented on how 4-H public speaking programs gave them the self-confidence and the tools to effectively express themselves. Perhaps we should consider giving out "4-H Public Listening Awards" just as we give out "4-H Public Speaking Awards." Any notable Alabama 4-H alumnus like Chambers County’s Millard Fuller, the founder of Habitat for Humanity, would have learned the majority of good communications is not standing on a stage pontificating, but sitting and quietly listening to people.

It is by listening that young people learn how to get along with others. Another Alabama 4-H State Council Member, Anna Grace Masterson of Town Creek in Lawrence County, said "To be a good leader, one must display the character traits of honesty, friendliness and trustworthiness."

Good leaders use those skills to involve others in decision making and to develop consensus within the group. In organizing a successful 4-H field trip, the president of the 4-H Club wouldn’t determine where the group was going, how they would get there and the role each club member would play. The good leader would work within the group to build consensus on important issues creating a fun learning experience for the whole group.

4-H State Council Member Aleem Ahmed of Auburn put it this way: "4-H has taught me leadership is teamwork. It’s about working with a group to accomplish a common goal and to resolve any issues and conflicts that arise."

Effective leaders model teamwork in how well they get along with one another and with the rest of the organization. They maintain teamwork in good times and bad times, and look to one another as allies working toward a greater good. The successful leader builds those relationships and partnerships not only within the organization but with outside groups and individuals who can help the organization advance.

Amy Payne Burgess is a 4-H Regional Extension Agent in Northeast Alabama. She may be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">

Peanut People

Senna Is A Good Choice for Native Plant Garden

Phoebis senna larvae

By H. T. Farmer

Senna is an herb I enjoy watching in my garden each year because it hosts so many of my garden friends.

American Senna or Wild Senna (Senna hebecarpa) is a perennial shrub herb that can grow three to six feet tall. It is in the Family Fabaceae which is the third largest plant family in the world. Fabaceae also includes such plants as wisteria and black-eyed peas which tells you it is most definitely a legume.

Senna can be grown in hardiness zones 5a-9b. It likes full sun, but can tolerate partial shade. The soil requirements are simple and common. Well-drained and slightly sandy soil is preferred, but senna is grown in a variety of conditions. It can withstand drought conditions as well as heavy rainfall.

One of the interesting things about this herb is the leaves fold closed at night as if to say, "Come back tomorrow."

In the United States, senna ranges from Maine westward to Wisconsin and south to Tennessee, the Carolinas and Georgia. The USDA doesn’t place senna in Alabama, Mississippi or Louisiana. However, I have several in my yard transplanted from the wild. I also have several friends in Southern Louisiana who have them growing in their gardens.

Senna has long been used in American folk medicine as a natural laxative. Even the brand name Senokot®, an FDA-approved laxative, suggests a derivative of the herb. The species used in that drug is not the same as the Wild Senna. The FDA has not studied the affects of Senna hebecarpa.

The main reason I allow this beautiful shrub to exist in my garden is because of the bugs. That’s right, bugs! Senna plays host to many native bees. The bumble bee is especially fond of the yellow flowers.

The yellow flowers also attract sulphur butterflies, like Cloudless Sulphur (Phoebis sennae).

Whatever your reason for growing this herb, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it in your native plant garden.

I’ll be back in November! Thanks for reading!

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

Southern Translation

SENTENCE USAGE: "Did you hear about that brand-new teacher down to the school house quittin’ after gettin’ a sling-shot rock to the back of the head the other day? They ought not send a fresh-graduated, wet-behind-the-ears schoolmarm down there to try and tame that bunch of heatherns!"

Why was this teacher "wet behind the ears"?

The phrase "wet behind the ears" is used to describe someone who is not long of a particular job or vocation and is just finding their feet. It means to be inexperienced, unseasoned, gullible, innocent or even a bit naïve or immature. In the business world, this phrase is often applied to new employees who are not quite ready to accept the full responsibility of their positions. It is also common for older people to express skepticism over a younger person’s skills or level of authority by claiming he or she is still "wet behind the ears."

The origin of the phrase appears to be purely American, with some sources tracing it back several hundred years. It is more likely the description came into popular use around the 19th century, as the lingo of the cowboys became more common. One theory holds "wet behind the ears" started off as a description of newborn colts and calves, which began their lives covered in mucus and other fluids. As these newborns mature, the last part of their bodies to completely dry are patches located behind their ears. By the time these patches dry, the animal is a little older and possibly wiser.

It is also plausible the phrase "wet behind the ears" started with human babies, who are also born covered in a layer of mucus and tissue. Unlike a calf, however, a human baby is often dried by a nurse or its mother shortly after birth. It would not necessarily remain "wet behind the ears" for very long, but the analogy could be more metaphorical in nature. Until a child reaches a certain level of maturity or gains a certain amount of "street smarts," he or she could still be considered a little "wet behind the ears."

The Co-op Pantry

If you happen to see Mary Jane Godfrey in or around Lee County, chances are she’ll be on her way to deliver a home-cooked gift.

"I never go to the doctor’s office that I don’t take them some cookies or cake or something. And around the holidays I make candies for some other local folks," she said, and Taleecon Farmers Co-op is one group lucky enough to be on her candy list.

"She has a heart of gold and the ability to make your mouth water with each bite of candy she makes," said Julia King who works at the Co-op.

"They’re just always so nice to go in and talk to, and I want them to know I appreciate them being so nice and helpful all year," said Mary Jane.

Mary Jane and her husband James plant a vegetable garden every year, and much of what they grow comes from their local Co-op.

"I get most of my seeds and plants and everything from them," she said.

After a liver transplant in the early 1990s, Mary Jane suffered some complications that lengthened her recovery, but she has been determined to keep active.

"I was very weak on my left side for a while, but I went through rehabilitation, and now I can do what I want for the most part, I just don’t have the stamina I once had. I can work in the yard, but I may need the next day to get over it. I just keep at it," she said.

Mary Jane still cooks breakfast and dinner everyday for her husband James and herself in addition to the food gifts she often prepares. Lately they have been working on some home improvement projects as well.

"We live in James’ family’s old home place. In fact, James was born in this house and lived here all his life except the two years he spent in the Army. We’re putting in new windows and doors, adding insulation and new siding, and replacing a board or two in odd places. We’re doing the work ourselves, so it takes time," said Mary Jane.

Even with the house work in progress, Mary Jane still keeps her kitchen going and said cooking is a talent she inherited from her mother.

"Mama was always the cook in the family, and I took after her in that respect. Both my sisters can cook, but they don’t cook as much as I do. I still use a lot of Mama’s recipes, but there are things I just could never cook like she did. One thing in particular she used to make were cornbread dumplings with turnip greens. Those dumplings would be so round and thick and beautiful on top of a pile of turnips, but anytime I’ve tried it I just end up with cornmeal in my turnips," she said.

Mary Jane’s recipe for Tomato Relish she shares this month was her mother’s.

"It’s good on peas, butter beans and string beans, and I have a friend who loves it on rice and cornbread, too," she said.

"’Grace’s Cookies’ is James’s mother’s recipe I found in her handwriting. It’s really good, and I’ve never had another cookie just like it," Mary Jane added.

Kellie Henderson is a freelance writer from Troy.

Grace’s Cookies

5 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups butter-flavored shortening
1 1/3 cups white sugar
1 1/3 cups light brown sugar, packed
4 eggs
1 Tablespoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon black walnut extract
2 cups pecans, chopped

Sift together flour, soda and salt. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, cream shortening and sugars. Add eggs one at a time and blend well after each. Add flavorings and blend. Mix in dry ingredients gradually until well blended. Add nuts. Drop dough by teaspoonful (or small cookie scoop) onto a cookie sheet and bake at 325o for 15 minutes. Yields 10 to 12 dozen cookies.

Variation: Omit vanilla and increase black walnut extract to 1 Tablespoon and substitute black walnuts for pecans.

Chocolate Cobbler

6 Tablespoons butter
1 cup self-rising flour
1¾ cups sugar, divided
1½ Tablespoons plus ¼ cup baking cocoa
½ cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1½ cups boiling water

Preheat oven to 350o. Melt butter in a 9 by 13-inch baking dish. In a large bowl, mix together flour, ¾ cup sugar and 1½ Tablespoons cocoa. Add milk and vanilla. Spoon mixture into pan over melted butter; do not mix. Combine remaining 1 cup sugar and ¼ cup cocoa. Sprinkle over mixture; do not stir. Pour boiling water over all and do not mix. Bake for 30 min. Serve warm, topped with ice cream.

Baked Beans

1 pound ground beef
1 (12 to 16 oz) package bacon, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
½ bell pepper, chopped
½ cup brown sugar, packed
½ cup molasses
½ cup barbeque sauce
½ cup ketchup
1½ Tablespoons mustard
1 Tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon black pepper
Cayenne pepper to taste
1 can red kidney beans
1 can butter beans
1 can pork and beans

Preheat oven to 350o. Brown ground beef, bacon, onion and bell pepper in a large skillet. In a large bowl stir together brown sugar and remaining ingredients, including beans and liquid from the cans. Add beef mixture and mix well. Pour into a large casserole dish and bake for 1 hour.

Squash Dressing

2 carrots
1 small to medium onion
3 cups cornbread, crumbled (not store bought)
1 teaspoon sage
1 stick butter, melted
1 (10 oz) can cream of chicken soup
2½ cups yellow squashed, cooked and drained
1 (8 oz) container sour cream
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350o. Chop carrots and onion in a food processor. In a large bowl, mash up squash, then add all other ingredients, stirring to combine. Place mixture in a 9 by 13-inch baking dish coated with non-stick spray. Bake 40 minutes.

Note: If using canned squash, Mary Jane recommends using 1 quart. Drain and continue as directed.

Broccoli Casserole

2 packages frozen broccoli
1 cup cheese, grated
½ to 1 cup mayonnaise
2 eggs
1 (10 oz) can cream of mushroom soup
1 sleeve Ritz crackers, crushed
Butter, melted (optional)

Cook broccoli and drain well. Add cheese and next 3 ingredients. Pour into a casserole dish coated with nonstick spray. Top with cracker crumbs, mixed with butter if using. Bake at 350o for 25 minutes.

Marinated Carrots

2 pounds carrots
½ cup vegetable oil
1 cup sugar or Splenda
1 teaspoon prepared mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 (10 oz) can tomato soup
Salt and pepper to taste
¾ cup vinegar
1 small bell pepper, sliced
1 small onion, sliced into rings

Slice carrots and cook just until tender; drain. Whisk together oil and next 6 ingredients. Place carrots, onion and pepper in a bowl and pour marinade over vegetables. Toss to combine. Refrigerate at least 24 hours before serving.

Kool-Aid Punch

2 packages Kool-Aid any flavor
1 (46 oz) can pineapple juice
2 cups sugar or Splenda
2 quarts water
1 quart ginger ale, chilled

Mix first four ingredients together until sugar is dissolved. Chill. Combine with ginger ale just before serving.

Fruit Salad

1 (3 oz) package vanilla instant pudding
2 Tablespoons Tang
1 (20 oz) can pineapple chunks, juice reserved
1 (10 oz) can mandarin oranges, drained
2 bananas, sliced

Stir pudding mix and Tang together. Add pineapple juice and mix well. Fold in fruits and refrigerate.

Tomato Pie

3 tomatoes, peeled and sliced
Salt and pepper
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
1½ cups Monterey Jack and cheddar cheese blend
1½ cups mayonnaise
1 deep-dish pie crust

Bake pie crust according to package directions. Blot sliced tomato with paper towels. Lightly flour tomato slices and season with salt and pepper. Layer 1/3 of tomato and onion with ½ cup cheese, ½ cup mayonnaise and basil. Repeat layers twice more, making sure entire surface of pie is sealed to crust edges with cheese and mayonnaise. Bake at 350o for 30 minutes.

Tomato Relish

1 quart diced tomatoes
2 cups sugar
1 large onion, diced
Hot pepper, chopped, to taste

Mix all ingredients in a heavy pot and cook over medium heat until reduced and thick like preserves. Ladle into jars.

Note: This does not can well, but can be frozen to extend shelf life. Thaw in refrigerator and keep refrigerated.

Sweet Potato Casserole

3 cups cooked sweet potatoes, mashed
1 cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2 eggs, beaten
¼ cup butter or margarine, melted
½ cup milk
½ teaspoon vanilla

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl until well blended. Transfer mixture to a 9 by 13-inch baking dish coated with nonstick spray.


1 cup brown sugar
½ cup flour
1 cup nuts, chopped
¼ cup butter or margarine, melted

Combine all topping ingredients and crumble over the potato mixture. Bake at 350o for 35 minutes.

Note: Mary Jane said this recipe is also delicious prepared with cooked butternut squash instead of sweet potatoes.

The Co-op Pantry

“Eat more sweet potatoes,” is the message Derenda Tuggle spreads every chance she gets. Having been the secretary for the Alabama Sweet Potato Association for more than 10 years, she knows all the reasons sweet potatoes are such a wonderful food.

“They are full of beta carotene and other nutrients, and can be prepared so many different ways. And if anybody out there hasn’t tasted sweet potato fries or chips yet, you just have to,” she said.

In addition to her work with the Alabama Sweet Potato Association, Derenda has worked nearly 30 years at the North Alabama Horticulture Research Center in Cullman County, a job she continues to enjoy.

“I get to wear jeans to work, I spend time in the office and the fields, and since we research different crops every year, it’s a job that’s always different. And we’ve built a good relationship with our local farmers over the years, so it’s a pleasure to talk with them when they stop by,” Derenda said.

At the research center, Derenda and the other employees conduct research in conjunction with Auburn University, cultivating 50 to 60 acres of fruits and vegetables each year.

“The professors send us the seeds they want planted. We plant and take care of them, and collect harvest data to send back to the university that they use for publication,” she explained.

“This year we had variety trials for tomatoes, watermelon, cantaloupe, blackberries and grapes. We had an onion test in the spring and that was great, too. And I think everybody should be growing asparagus. We’ve grown 14 varieties of asparagus over the last three or four years, and it’s the first fresh vegetable to come in at the research center every year,” she said.

After the research center staff has collected all the necessary data for their produce, Derenda said they sell much of what is grown there.

“Everything that’s edible is sold. Our crew gets first choice, then probably 90 percent of the produce is sold just by word of mouth,” she said.

This time of year, Derenda prepares for the student Sweet Potato Cook-Off for Cullman County, held this year on November 3.

“The competition is sponsored by local sweet potato growers, and the state association donates funds along with other groups and businesses for the contest. It’s always surprising to see what the kids can do with sweet potatoes and the level of creativity at the competition. We have wonderful Family and Consumer Sciences teachers who are very supportive,” Derenda said.

Each school selects students to compete in the cook-off which has four categories: breads, casseroles, pies and desserts, and monetary prizes are awarded to the winners. A similar contest is held in Baldwin County as well, with sweet potatoes for the competitions provided by local farmers.

And because Derenda is so proud of what these young people create with Alabama sweet potatoes, she shares winning recipes from previous years’ competitions as she looks forward to tasting new dishes at this year’s contest.

Kellie Henderson is a freelance writer from Troy.

Sweet Potato-Pecan Coffeecake

½ cup plus 2 Tablespoons margarine, melted
¾ cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup sour cream
3 cups cooked sweet potatoes, mashed
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt

1 cup pecans
½ cup light brown sugar
½ cup all-purpose flour
3 Tablespoons margarine
2 teaspoons vanilla

Heat oven to 325o. Grease a 9 or 9½ inch spring form pan. In mixing bowl, combine margarine, sugar, eggs and vanilla; add sour cream and sweet potatoes. In large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir sour cream mixture into flour mixture, just until blended. Spread in prepared pan. Sprinkle with topping. Bake 65 to 75 minutes, or until wooden toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Let cool, loosen edges and remove sides of pan.

In a small bowl, combine topping ingredients. Mix with fork until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

J D Calvert - Cold Springs High School

Sweet Potato Monkey Bread

Quick and Easy
2 or 3 cups sweet potatoes
1 cup pecans, crushed
1 package Rich’s frozen yeast rolls
½ cup brown sugar
2 Tablespoons cinnamon
1 package cook-and-serve vanilla pudding
1 stick of butter, melted

Cook and mash sweet potatoes, set aside. Layer pecans in the bottom of bunt pan. Roll the frozen dough into sweet potatoes one at a time and place on top of the pecans. Once all rolls are layered, add brown sugar, cinnamon and pudding. Pour butter over the top and set in oven for 3 to 4 hours to rise.

Bake for 30 minutes or until brown. Wait till cooled and place on plate or pan. Glaze with mixture of milk and powdered sugar. Garnish with fruit if desired.

Kaleigha Moore - Fairview High School

Sweet Potato Cream Cheese Danish

3 cans crescents rolls
1 (8 oz) package of cream cheese
2 cups of sweet potatoes
¼ cup sugar, added to sweet potatoes
1 teaspoon of vanilla
2 Tablespoons cinnamon
2 Tablespoons sugar
½ cup butter

Mix together the cream cheese, vanilla, sweet potatoes and sugar. In a 9x13 buttered casserole dish, spread one package of crescent rolls. Spread the cream cheese filling on top of rolls. Place the second pack of crescent rolls on the top of the filling, sandwich style. Brush the top with melted butter, sugar and cinnamon. The third package of crescent rolls may be used to garnish with a braid. Bake at 350o until golden brown (around 25 minutes).

Katie Morrow - Fairview High School.

Supreme Sweet Potato Cake

Cake Mixture
2 cups all-purpose whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 large eggs
2 cups sugar
¾ cup coconut oil
¾ cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups sweet potato, grated
1 cup pecans, chopped

Grease three 9-inch round cake pans; line with wax paper. Lightly grease and flour wax paper. Set aside.

Stir together first 4 ingredients. Beat eggs and next 4 ingredients at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Add flour mixture, beating at low speed until blended. Fold in sweet potato and pecans. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake at 350o for 25 to 30 minutes.

Buttermilk Glaze

1 cup sugar
1½ teaspoons baking soda
½ cup buttermilk
½ cup butter
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Bring first 5 ingredients to a boil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Boil 4 minutes, stirring constantly until glaze is golden. Remove from heat, Stir in vanilla. Cool slightly.

Drizzle warm Buttermilk Glaze evenly over warm cake layers; cool in pans on wire racks 15 minutes. Remove from pans, inverting layers. Peel off wax paper, invert again, glaze side up. Cool completely on wire racks.

Deluxe Cream Cheese Frosting
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 (3-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
¾ cup butter, softened
1 (16-ounce) package powdered sugar, sifted
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract

Beat first three ingredients at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating at low speed until light and fluffy. Stir in vanilla.

Spread Deluxe Cream Cheese Frosting between layers and on top and sides of cake. Chill cake several hours before slicing. Store in refrigerator.

Kellie Mundell - Spanish Fort Middle School

Sweet Potato Pound Cake

1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
2½ cups cooked sweet potatoes, mashed
4 eggs
3 cups flour
¼ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons soda
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup pecans, chopped
½ cup flaked coconut

Cream butter and sugar. Add sweet potatoes. Beat until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Combine dry ingredients and stir into creamed mixture. Add vanilla, nuts and coconut. Pour mixture into greased 10-inch tube pan and bake at 350° for 1 hour 15 minutes or until cake test done. Spread with icing while warm.

1 (1 pound) box confectioner’s sugar
Grated rind of 1 orange
Grated rind of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 orange

Combine all ingredients, slowly adding enough orange juice to make spreading consistency.

Jared Johnson - Gulf Shores High School

Sweet Potato Dumplings

2 packages crescents rolls
5 medium sweet potatoes, half-cooked and cut in 2-inch squares chunks or 12 frozen sweet potato slices quartered
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ½ Tablespoons cornstarch

Wrap potato piece in crescent roll and place in a casserole dish. Bring sugar and water to a boil. Add cornstarch and let thicken. Remove from heat and stir in cinnamon and vanilla. Pour mixture over crescent-covered potatoes. Bake at 350° until golden.

Emily Smith - Fairview High School.

Sweet Potato Cake

¼ cup pecans, chopped
¼ cup brown sugar
1 box French vanilla cake mix
3 large eggs, beaten

2 cups sweet potatoes, mashed
2 cups sugar
1 can Eagle Brand milk
3 eggs
1stick margarine
1 Tablespoon vanilla
Apple pie spice to taste

Grease Bundt pan. Sprinkle pecans and brown sugar in pan and set aside. In large mixing bowl, combine filling and set aside. In a separate large mixing bowl, combine cake mix, eggs, sweet potato filling. Spoon into pan. Bake on 350º for 65 minutes.

Lauren Holmes - Vinemont High School.

Sugar Free Sweet Potato Casserole

3 cups of cooked mashed potatoes
1 cup of Splenda sugar
2 eggs
½ cup 2% milk
1 teaspoon vanilla flavoring
1/3 cup light margarine
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup oats
1/3 cup self-rising flour
1 cup Splenda brown sugar
1/3 cup of light margarine, melted
1 cup of coconut
1 cup of pecans, chopped

Mix potatoes, sugar, eggs, milk, vanilla, salt and margarine until smooth and pour into casserole dish. Mix oats, brown sugar, flour, margarine, coconut and pecans. Sprinkle over the top of the potato mixture. Bake at 350o for 30 to 40 minutes or until golden brown.

Kathryn Smith - West Point High School.

Sweet Potato Bread

3 cups self-rising flour
¾ cup pecans, crushed
1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
3 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 cup oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups sweet potatoes, grated
1 (8 oz) can crushed pineapple, drained

Combine flour, cinnamon and nuts. Set aside. Beat eggs lightly in large mixing bowl. Add sugar, oil and vanilla. Stir mixture. Add pineapple and sweet potatoes and stir slightly. Add the dry ingredients, stirring only to moisten. Spoon mixture into well-greased and floured 9x5x3 loaf pan. Bake at 350o for 1 hour. Cool.

Optional: Bake in a Bundt pan for decoration.

Laken Horton - Addison High School.

The FFA Sentinel

by Philip Paramore

Eddie Blizzard of the Scottsboro Chapter won the National Public Speaking Contest at the 1975 National FFA Convention. He is one of at least three Alabama FFA members who have done so. Blizzard served as state FFA first vice president in 1974-75. He was president of the Jackson County Association and also served two years as chapter president. Upon graduation from high school, he attended Northeast Alabama Community College and worked in the construction business. For the past 14 years he has worked with the City of Scottsboro, the last five as the Solid Waste Director. He and his wife have one son who attends the University of Alabama. The year he won the National Public Speaking Contest, Blizzard also placed first in the Placement in Agricultural Production Proficiency Award making him the only double-first place national winner from Alabama. Below is his winning speech.

Not Just A Farmer

Recently I witnessed an event that upset me tremendously. Two old friends met at the county courthouse. It had been years since Joe and Fred had seen each other. Joe, out of curiosity, asked Fred, "What are you doing now?"

To which Fred replied, excitedly, "Oh, haven’t you heard, I’m a rocket expert now; I helped put the last man on the moon! But knowing you, I’m sure you have just as much to boast about." Sadly, Joe hung his head, "No, I’m afraid not," he said. "You see, I’m just a farmer."

"Just a farmer!" Joe typifies too many who have struggled long and hard in our most basic occupation – farming. These patriots have been blamed for inflated food costs; they have battled endlessly with weather, disease and insects; they have braved shortages in production supplies; they have endured price squeezes by the score; and now they have become weary.

But I could never think of an individual engaged in the vast field of farming as "just a farmer!" Why, to me farming is the proudest of all callings. The work of the farmer is far superior to the space scientist or the atomic engineer. I rank the humanitarian role of the farmer with that of the heart surgeon or the medical researcher who finds a cure for cancer. As the shortage of food becomes more and more critical, the farmer will be called upon to stretch his productivity more and more. Just a farmer? Never! The farmer almost holds the whole world in his hands.

Just a farmer! What a narrow perspective! My association with farming has taught me the farmer is a superior man. He must be a mechanic as his machinery constantly needs repair. He must be a market expert who figures out what crops offer the brightest prospect for cash return. He makes his calculation before planting; then he must decide whether to sell at harvest or store for future market. The farmer needs at least a working knowledge of chemistry since he must test his soil to match its composition with the fertilizer and lime requirements of the crops he wishes to grow. He also handles a multitude of chemicals, such as pre-emergents, insecticides, fungicides and defoliants, which can be fatal to both wildlife and man if misused. In addition, the livestock farmer must be a practical veterinarian who can, in an emergency, deliver a calf and give a cow an injection of calcium gluconate in case she comes down with milk fever. Routinely, he administers vaccines and worming medications, castrates, emasculates and often repairs ruptures in animals. One farmer I know attended an artificial breeding seminar so now he is able to breed his own cattle through artificial insemination.

More than this, a farmer is a businessman whose wrong decisions can force him out of business quickly. Operating a successful farm today requires a man who works with $100,000 a year in capital. This farmer must have the ability to look his banker in the eye and ask for a $50,000 operating loan and have the records to back up his request. Just a farmer! Never! This man called farmer could easily be labeled a proverbial "jack-of-a-lot-of-trades," and he must be proficient in all these areas.

What most farmers today need is encouragement. As Franklin Roosevelt was fond of saying, "Credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat." This story is told of a child being stranded on the fourth story of a burning building. The child came to the window, as the flames were shooting higher and higher, she cried for help. A fireman started up the ladder. The wind swept the flames near him, and it was getting so hot he wavered and almost slipped to his death. Thousands looked on, and their hearts quaked at the thought of the child having to perish in the flames. Suddenly, someone in the crowd cried out, "Give him a cheer!" Cheer after cheer went up, and as the fireman heard, he gathered fresh courage. Up he went into the midst of the smoke and the fire. Soon he brought down the child in safety. Isn’t the farmer saving our children and us? Isn’t this superior man deserving of our cheers?

I want to be a farmer! Not just a farmer, covered with dust and sweat, but a man with credentials. If I am to be the kind of farmer I want to be, I realize I must have training. That is why I have set my occupational goal early. Presently, I am completing my third year in agribusiness education, and I know that if a young man wants to become a good farmer, a college education is advisable. In this country only the best prepared and most efficient farmers will survive the competition.

We have been fond of saying that the farmer’s raw materials are the soil, the sun, the air, the rain and the seed; but these poetic phrases do not take into account all farmers must know, and have, and do in order to convert the raw materials into finished agricultural products and to market them in prime condition at the right time. As a farmer I will be faced with multiple decisions. These decisions will not only affect me but other people as well.

A recent survey indicates that one farmer today produces enough food to feed 55 people. If I make the wrong decision as a farmer, my inability to produce will be felt by at least 54 others. As a farmer, I will take my place with the other scientists. There may be times when I will be dirty handed, but I will be a scientist, nonetheless. What is more important than the soil? As I work with soils, crops and animals, I will experience the miracle of germinating seeds and watch my livestock grow from calf to cow, from pig to hog, from chick to hen.

In other words, I will work with the science of life. I will forego the white jacket, the weatherized lab and the walnut-paneled office for fields with long rows of plants, the hum of motorized tractor muscles and livestock that manufacture the raw material from my soil into steak, ham or chicken breast. As a farmer, I shall have as much status as the most prestigious fellow, for I shall be a producer of food, that precious commodity people have yet to discover a way to live without. I shall feel no less important than the doctor, the chemist or the rocket expert. I will take my place with the Woodrow Wilsons, the Albert Schweitzers, the George Marshalls and the Albert Einsteins, for haven’t you heard? I’m going to be a farmer! Just a farmer? Never! But a good farmer! Yes!

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

The FFA Sentinel

By Philip Paramore

The cost of living figures from 1976 are mind-boggling. The average cost of a new house was $43,400 and the average annual income was $16,000. Gas was 59 cents per gallon; bread was 30 cents a loaf; eggs were 84 cents per dozen; and milk was $1.65 per gallon. Wow! As these figures have changed in the last 30 plus years, so has the FFA. Jean Baptiste Alphonse Karr is credited with the phrase "plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose," or "the more things change, the more they stay the same." Things have changed for all of us, but the changes in FFA have been for the best, like the improved number of career development events (or contests as they were known for years), the election of district officers and the increased activities for members. This month’s article will highlight the 1976-77 school year.

Mrs. Mary George Jordan Waite was featured in an article in the Fall 1976 Alabama FFA Reporter. Mrs. Waite was the first Chairperson of the Alabama FFA Foundation. She served as President of the Farmers and Merchants Bank of Centre for many years. She was an Honorary Chapter, State and American Farmer with the FFA. She was the first woman to serve as Chairperson of the National FFA Foundation and was the first woman elected to the Board of Trustees of the National FFA Foundation.

In the article, Mrs. Waite told the FFA members, "‘Opportunity does knock only once’ – on one door, that is! But FFA opens so many doors that it offers many, many opportunities – the opportunity to learn, the opportunity to develop skills, the opportunity to become self-confident, the opportunity to grow as a whole person, the opportunity to make friends, the opportunity for self-expression, the opportunity to recognize values, the opportunity for self-respect, the opportunity for self-reliance, the opportunity to cultivate poise, the opportunity for professional choices and so many, many more."

The 1976 State Contests and award winners were also featured. Winners of the contests were Eric Summerford of the Falkville Chapter, public speaking; Hokes Bluff Chapter, string band; Tanner Chapter, dairy and ornamental horticulture judging; Enterprise Chapter, livestock judging; Wetumpka Chapter, land judging; Elmore County Chapter, quartet and agricultural mechanics; West Point Chapter, forestry; Escambia-Brewton AVC Chapter, building construction; Atmore AVC Chapter, power and diesel mechanics; Cotaco Chapter, chapter contest; Scottsboro "A" Chapter, safety contest; and Reform Chapter, farm woodland.

Proficiency winners were Ricky Baker of Crossville, home and farmstead improvement; Rickey Rhodes of Arab, crop production; Stanley Brown of Citronelle, dairy production; Larry Sparkman of Danville, livestock production; Douglas Harris of Holly Pond, beef production; Chris Gilliam of Kennedy, swine production; Sam Spruell of Mount Hope, poultry production; Danny McKinney, Jr. of Russellville, placement in ag production; Jean Andrews of George M. Rogers AVC, ag sales/service; David Moates of Enterprise, ag mechanics; Glen Bruce of Crossville, ag electrification; Jimmy Tyler of Arab, ag processing; James Williamson of Tanner, ornamental horticulture; Robert Summerford of Falkville, soil and water management; and Seth Evans of W.S. Neal, forest management.

According to the Winter 1977 Reporter, Sam Spruell of the Mt. Hope Chapter went on to be named the National Poultry Production Proficiency Winner at the 1976 National FFA Convention. Regional proficiency winners at the National Convention were John Summerford of the Falkville Chapter, fish and wildlife management; Danny McKinney, Jr. of the Russellville Chapter, placement in agricultural production; Larry Sparkman of the Danville Chapter, livestock production; and Stanley Brown of the Citronelle Chapter, dairy production.

The Ider Chapter (DeKalb County) had 27 members to receive their State Farmer Degree at the 1976 State Convention and three members to receive their American Farmer Degree at the 1976 National FFA Convention, the Fall 1976 Reporter said based on a report by Ider’s Chapter Reporter Justin Hasting.

Elected to serve as state officers for 1976-77 were Mike Bradford of the Scottsboro "A" Chapter, president; Marvis Futral of the Eclectic Chapter, first vice president; Pamela Tate of the Mary G. Montgomery Chapter, second vice president; David Hick of the Russellville Chapter, secretary; Jimmy Veasey of the Isabella Chapter, treasurer; Tolton Anderson of the Cottonwood Chapter, reporter; and Chris Green of the J.B. Pennington Chapter, sentinel. Pamela Tate was the first female State FFA Officer.

Another highlight was the announcement of Mr. L. L. "Red" Sellers’ retirement. Sellers served as district supervisor and teacher for 46 years. He had the distinction of having the longest tenure with the State Department of Education, 39½ years. He also has the longest tenure of any supervisor of agriculture with the State Department of Education in the nation. And finally, it was announced, beginning in 1977 "bi-district" contests would be held. Instead of having eight separate district contests, there would be four bi-district contests.

The Winter 1977 Reporter said 55 chapters were recognized for having 100 percent membership for the 1976-77 school year. Also, Alabama FFA Association was recipient of the first place award in the Youth Division of the eighth annual Governor’s Environmental Quality Awards Luncheon hosted by the Alabama Environmental Quality Association. The FFA Association was cited for its high priority on environmental science, which included the Soil and Water Management Program, Fish and Wildlife Management Program, and the "Building Our American Communities" project.

The Spring 1977 Reporter featured the state officers inviting FFA members to the 48th Annual State Convention. The Convention was to be held at the "new air-conditioned" Montgomery Civic Center which would serve as the Convention’s home until 2003. And finally, at press time, Alabama FFA membership was 26,642.

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

The Man Who Defused the ‘Population Bomb’

Norman Borlaug, arguably the greatest American of the 20th century, died September 12, 2009, after 95 richly accomplished years. The very personification of human goodness, Borlaug saved more lives than anyone who has ever lived.

One of America’s greatest heroes remains little-known in his home country

By Gregg Easterbrook

Born in 1914 in rural Cresco, Iowa, where he was educated in a one-room schoolhouse, Norman Borlaug won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his work ending the India-Pakistan food shortage of the mid-1960s. He spent most of his life in impoverished nations, patiently teaching poor farmers in India, Mexico, South America, Africa and elsewhere the Green Revolution agricultural techniques preventing the global famines widely predicted when the world population began to skyrocket following World War II.

In 1999, the Atlantic Monthly estimated Borlaug’s efforts combined with those of the many developing-world agriculture-extension agents he trained and the crop-research facilities he founded in poor nations saved the lives of one billion human beings.

Troy’s Johnson Center For the Arts Offers Cultural Double Dip

Johnson Center for the Arts located at 300 East Walnut Street in Troy

By Jaine Treadwell

The Troy-Pike Cultural Arts Complex staff has outdone itself.

And, there are "two ways about it."

First, the arts organization brought its most ambitious project to date to fruition. The Center’s "Celebrating Contemporary Art in Alabama: The Nature of Being Southern" exhibit opened at the Holman and Ethel Johnson Center for the Arts in Troy in August and runs through November 14.

The exhibition features 41 Alabama artists who are past recipients of the prestigious Individual Visual Arts Fellowship awards from the Alabama State Council on the Arts.

Then, in September, the Center brought the "New Harmonies: Celebrating American Roots Music" to The Cultural Arts Studio. The Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition will close on Nov. 10.

The "New Harmonies" exhibition explores the distinct cultural identities of American roots music forms through a selection of photographs, recordings, instruments, lyrics and artists profiles. Richard Metzger, Troy-Pike Cultural Arts Complex executive director, doesn’t try to hide his excitement over the interest these two exhibitions are generating in and around Pike County and far beyond.

Inside Johnson Center for the Arts

"Showcasing Alabama artists in the ‘Celebrating Contemporary Art in Alabama’ exhibition is a unique opportunity for the public to see the richness of the artistic talent we have in Alabama," Metzger said. "And, to have 41 Alabama artists all in one exhibition is incredible. There’s not one piece in this exhibition that would be looked down on by galleries in New York, San Francisco, Chicago and other art markets in the world."

Metzger said already the interest being generated is rivaling that of the "Prints of Andy Warhol" that was the opening exhibit for the Johnson Center for the Arts in September 2008.

"We expect the response to be even greater," he said. "There are a lot of people — and not just people in Alabama —- who are interested in the art being generated here. And, we’ve just scratched the surface of the artistic talent in our state with this exhibition.

Shadron Graham, assistant to director of the Johnson Center for the Arts, with Cal Breed’s glass art.

The "Celebrating Contemporary Art in Alabama: The Nature of Being Southern" exhibition includes a wide range of visual art, ranging from quilt making to installation pieces and from blown glass to ceramics, from painting and photography to furniture and sculpture.

"Some of the pieces are whimsical, some are provocative and all are excellent," Metzger said. "These artists deserve to have their work seen because it is of the highest caliber. It’s obviously world class."

And, when visitors to the Johnson Center for the Arts exit the building, they will be invited to walk across the street and enjoy the "New Harmonies" exhibit at The Cultural Arts Studio.

"We are extremely excited to be able to bring these two exhibitions to the Troy-Pike Cultural Arts Complex at the same time," Metzger said. "The ‘New Harmonies’ exhibition is a celebration of America’s music. It’s both sacred and secular, revealing distinct cultural identities and records the histories of people reshaping themselves in a new and changing world."

The "New Harmonies: Celebrating American Roots Music" examines the growth of American music as rich and eclectic as the country itself.

The instruments vary from fiddles to banjos, from accordions to drums.

Wiley White, development director of the Johnson Center for the Arts, with Rachel Wright’s vintage dresses.

Metzger said the origins of the sounds are just as diverse, but all of the rhythms, melodies and harmonies merge to create completely new sounds.

Although the exhibition needs no enhancement, the Complex has added an educational/entertainment component to it.

"We will offer a lecture series on the campus of Troy University," Metzger said. "On October 1, Dr. Allen Brown will present ‘Sounds of Alabama, Blues, Folk and Country Western Icons from the Heart of Dixie’ at the Trojan Center Theater. On October 15, Daphne Simpkins will present ‘Nat King Cole’ at the Crobsy Theatre and, on October 29, Dr. Brown will present ‘Songs of Slavery: Black Folk Songs from Alabama’ at the Trojan Center Theater. All lectures are at 10 a.m." There will also be a concert series at the Gazebo on the square in downtown Troy.

The schedule is: Lenny Trawick, country music, Oct. 1; Jim Bell Trio, rhythm and blues, Oct. 6; Tommy Stewart and band, jazz, Oct.13; Dan Fraley, backwoods music, Oct 20; Willie Felton and Company and Stanley Smith and Company, sacred harp, Oct. 27; and Troy University Gospel Choir and Community Gospel Choir, Nov. 3. All concerts begin at 5:15 p.m.

"I don’t believe you can go anywhere and find the diversity and caliber of exhibits we are offering with the ‘Celebrating Contemporary in Alabama’ and the ‘New Harmonies’ exhibitions," Mezger said. "And, this is probably a one-and-only opportunity to see these 41 Alabama artists exhibiting together. This exhibition is unique to the Johnson Center for the Arts and probably will not be shown anywhere else."

There will be an artists’ reception for the 41 participating artists from 5:30 until 8 p.m. on Oct. 10 at the Johnson Center and the public is invited.

"The ‘New Harmonies’ exhibition is a traveling exhibit, but we’ve got it right here in Alabama and those who love music of any kind will not want to miss it," Metzger said.

As always, admission to the Johnson Center for the Arts is free. There is no admission charge to the ‘New Harmonies’ exhibit.

The Johnson Center for the Arts is located at 300 East Walnut Street in downtown Troy. The Cultural Arts Studio is located across the street from the Arts Center. Hours are 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Groups are welcome and docent tours may be scheduled by calling (334) 670-2287.

Jaine Treadwell is a freelance writer from Brundidge.


An All-Time Favorite

By Kenn Alan

What’s that sweet scent in the air right now? It’s Elaeagnus.

Elaeagnus is one of my all-time favorite shrubs because it is so versatile in the landscape and because of its herbal value.

Elaeagnus, pronounced ee-lee-AG-nus, is a mostly evergreen shrub that can grow to a height of over 20 feet, if left unpruned. It has spotted green and silver leaves and branches reaching upwards toward the sun. If supported by other plantings, the branches of the elaeagnus will intertwine with them and climb to compete for light.

They have long thorns providing protection for birds and other small animals.

Elaeagnus produces a berry fruit in the spring that is quite tasty to me. Birds like them as well. The egg-shaped fruit is about ¾-inch long, has a large seed and the flesh matures to a red color with the texture and flavor of a wild plum. Though the flesh of the fruit is small compared to the pit, it can be made into a tasty jam.

In the Southern wild, there are several species. One of the most common is the Elaeagnus pungens.

Two cultivars derived from the E. pungens are common for landscaping. Elaeagnus ebbingei (E. x ebbingei) and Elaeagnus fruitlandii (E. x fruitlandii) are cultivated mostly for landscape plantings. They are used as hedgerows, privacy screens and to hide outdoor appliances and utility terminals. Along highways and city thoroughfares, elaeagnus are planted as sound barriers because of their dense foliage.

In the fall, elaeagnus blooms with less than showy flowers. But, Mother Nature makes sure you notice them, with their sweet fragrance you can smell from 20 yards away!

I hope you’ll consider planting some elaeagnus in your landscape, so you can enjoy Mother Nature’s signature fall scent.

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