Sign up for email updates from Cooperative Farming News

Facebook Twitter Instagram
Home > Archives > September 2009

September 2009

9-Yr-Old Raises 12 Lb. Cabbage

Participating in Bonnie 3rd Grade Program

Olivia Dawson, 9, raised this cabbage as part of her school’s participation in Bonnie Plants’ Third-Grade Cabbage Program. She is in Mrs. Hood’s class at West Morgan Elementary. The cabbage weighed 12 lbs. and she gave it to her grandparents, Lloyd and Linda Haddock, to eat since she doesn’t like cabbage. Olivia is the daughter of Stacy, AFC’s assistant director of feed, and Connie Dawson.

AFC-Sponsored Farm Couples Study Importance of Cooperative Business Structure at Annual Conference

Heath & Sally Rae Darnell of Hillsboro were sponsored by Lawrence County Exchange.

There were 24 young couples sponsored to the 2009 Alabama Co-op Couples Conference, a three-day conference where participants had an opportunity to learn how cooperatives affect their everyday life. The conference was hosted by the Alabama Council of Cooperatives. The 34th annual conference was held at the Hilton Beachfront Garden Inn in Orange Beach. Five of these couples where sponsored by their local Quality Co-op. Other sponsors included AgFirst Farm Credit, Southern States Cooperative, First South Farm Credit, Federal Land Bank Association, Dairy Farmers of America, CoBank, Alabama Rural Electric Cooperatives and Tennessee Valley Authority.

Each year two couples are chosen to return the next year as hosts for the new group of couples. Also, two additional couples are chosen as alternates. This year, three of the four couples selected were sponsored by Quality Co-ops. These couples are Heath and Sally Rae Darnell, as host, and, as alternates, Jamie and Amy Griffin, and Skyler and Haley Hays.

Jamie & Amy Griffin of Montevallo were sponsored by Mid-State Farmers Cooperative.

Skyler & Haley Hays of Athens were sponsored by Limestone Farmers Cooperative.

Robert & Donna Martin of Piedmont were sponsored by Calhoun Farmers Cooperative.

Walt & Lacy Richardson of Leroy were sponsored by Farmers Cooperative Market.

Andalusia Hosts State High School Rodeo Finals Saddles, Buckles and Scholarships Awarded

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.

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.

Asian Lady Beetles Are Common Fall Problem

Asian lady beetle

Each fall, it is common to see large numbers of multi-colored Asian lady beetles (orange is the dominating color) clustered around and invading homes. The beetle originated in Asia. Its spread is believed to be related to organized releases as biological control agents for aphids during the 1970s and 80s. Today the beetle is widespread.

Generally, these pests are harmless nuisance pests. However, serious problems can occur in such locations as doctors’ and dentists’ offices. Repeated exposure to the beetles has caused allergic reactions in a small number of people.

If provoked, the beetles can bite or bleed from their joints, giving off a foul odor, which is why birds will not eat them. They can also stain carpets, walls or curtains.

While it looks much like your average ladybug — oval, convex, 1/3-inch long and pale orange in color with various numbers of black spots on the wing covers — an M-shaped marking on their pronotum separates this beetle from the beetles we have grown up with.

The beetles can live for two or three years, and do not breed inside homes. When cool weather approaches, they move into protected areas, like leaf litters; underneath rocks, boards or logs; and caves, after the first frost. Those that move inside buildings for overwintering usually select the west or southwest side of a building as the initial congregation area and then move to higher locations.

Xing Ping Hu, an entomologist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, said, as with many insect pests, prevention is the key to keeping unwanted beetles from getting into homes. One of the best ways to keep them out is simply to take steps to block their entry before they get inside. Sealing and/or caulking homes’ entry points will help.

Here are some other ways to prevent beetles from entering your home:

* Make certain doors are tight-fitting.

* Install door sweeps or thresholds at the base of all exterior entry doors.

* While lying on the floor, check for light filtering under doors. Gaps of 1/16-inch or less will permit entry.

* Make certain windows and utility openings are properly sealed.

* Caulk cracks around windows (also around doors, fascia boards, etc.). Use a good-quality silicone or acrylic latex caulk.

* Check where pipes and wires enter the foundation and siding around outdoor faucets, gas meters, clothes dryer vents, and telephone, cable or satellite TV wires for gaps. Holes can be plugged with caulk, urethane expandable foam, steel wool or copper mesh.

Even the most tightly sealed homes may have problems with these insects getting inside. There are a number of insecticide sprays that can be applied to the outside of buildings during late September or early October to kill and repel the beetles before they get in. The most effective sprays are synthetic pyrethroids like permethrin, cypermethrin, cyfluthrin, delta-methrin and lamda-cyhalothrin. When shopping for these chemicals, look at the active ingredient of the insecticide. (Note: Enforcer® Asian Lady Beetle & Box Elder Bug Killer contains sumithrin and tetramethrin, also kills mosquitoes, can be used indoors and outdoors, and is available at your local Quality Co-op.)

If the active ingredient ends with "thrin," it is in the pyrethroid family and should work well in cooler fall temperatures. Concentrate applications of these products along doors, windows and overhangs on the south, west and east sides of the home.

Make sure the sprays will not stain siding. People may hire a professional pest control company to make the application.

When all else fails, a vacuum cleaner or broom is often the best response once beetles have come indoors. Just make sure to empty the vacuum outside because the majority of the beetles will still be alive and crawl back out of the vacuum cleaner.

Avoid Mechanics with On-the-Go Maintenance

By John Howle

It’s a satisfying experience to pour sweat managing your land with equipment. But you shouldn’t have to pour out your wallet for costly repairs. With a little on-the-go maintenance, your equipment will last for years.


Loosen the two nuts on the sprocket cover to adjust the chainsaw’s tension screw in the middle of the nuts.

Basically, we want two things from a chainsaw. We want it to crank and we want it to cut. If your chainsaw only gets used three or four times per year, it’s important to make sure the fuel is fresh. If the fuel will be in the tank for more than 30 days, add fuel stabilizer to the gas/oil mix. Also, crank the unit every month allowing it to run so varnish-like buildup doesn’t damage the delicate check valves in the carburetor.

After each use, clean the entire chainsaw to show any leaks and prevent debris from entering the bar chain oil or the fuel tank. Check the air filter periodically to see if it needs cleaning or replacing. Finally, check the spark plug for fouling and correct gap.

If the chain is new, you may have to re-tension the chain a few times after cuttings. A loose chain can jump out of the bar track causing severe injury. To tension the chain, loosen the nuts on the chain sprocket cover. This will allow the chain bar to move freely.

Sand and mud need to be removed from an ATV after each use

Hold the end of the chain bar up with one hand and turn the tensioning screw until the chain fits snugly against the underside of the bar. Finally, tighten the nuts on the chain sprocket cover. While wearing thick, leather gloves, you should be able to pull the chain along the bar by hand.

If your chainsaw is emitting sawdust instead of small chips of wood, the chain is dull. Sharpening the saw chain requires skilled practice. A few quick strokes on each cutter with a file guide every second or third tank of fuel is the best way to keep the chain sharp. After several cuttings, the chain should be sharpened professionally at a dealer.


Water, sand and dirt combine to create exciting traveling conditions, but these materials are the biggest enemies of the ATV. This sandy mud creates a powerful abrasive on internal and external working parts. If you cross many creeks, the water can seep in and damage the gears.

Check the fluid in the front and rear differentials. If you remove the check plug for the gear oil, and the lubricant looks milky, this is an indication water is getting into the lubricant, and the fluid should be changed. Air and oil filters as well as the oil and transmission fluid should be changed based on the owner’s manual recommended intervals.

Visually inspect the tractor’s air filter before each use.

For ATVs that will see storage time, drain the old gas and dispose of properly, or turn off the fuel valve and let the engine idle until the fuel in the line is gone. Another option is adding fuel stabilizer to the tank. Generally, use one ounce of stabilizer for one gallon of fuel. Finally, only use the choke long enough to get the unit cranked because "overchoking" can foul the plug due to extra carbon buildup. Keep an extra spark plug on hand.

Remove and charge the battery once a month. Finally, completely clean the unit from top to bottom after each use in muddy, sandy or watery conditions or before storage to reveal any leaks in the engine, drive train or seals of moving parts. This will show any mechanical damage or fluid leaks.

To take care of the engine during storage, change the oil and filter. Old oil in the engine can deteriorate seals and gaskets. Once you’ve filled the unit with new oil, run the engine for a few minutes to bathe the internal components.


Most modern tractors are fueled by diesel, which is a big advantage. Diesel is more stable and lasts longer than gas whether in a storage tank or in the tractor. Basically, if you keep the air and fuel clean, you’ll have productive, long-term use. The engine, however, should never be allowed to run out of fuel, because "bleeding" the fuel lines or purging air from the lines is a time-consuming affair that may require a dealer mechanic.

Grease service points to ensure long life of working parts.

It is important to remove and visually inspect the air filter since a diesel requires so much air to operate. Also, keep the radiator cleaned out and free of debris because this can overheat the engine quickly causing long-term damage and ultimately void the warranty.

Engine belts and hoses should be checked, and service points should be lubricated. In addition, tires should be checked for proper air pressure and any damage to the rubber or valve stems. If you plan to add fluid to the tires for extra pulling weight, have this completed by a reputable technician because antifreeze or calcium chloride levels need to be accurate to prevent winter freezing and tire damage.

Remove and fully charge the battery with a trickle charger. Refreshing engine oil before storage will remove contaminants from the system, and fogged oil can also be sprayed into the intake to lubricate the valves; then immediately shut the engine down to preserve the oil protection.


A mower operated by the power take off (PTO) of your tractor is a relatively problem-free piece of machinery if it is maintained. You need to look at three things: grease fittings in the implement’s PTO shaft, gearbox lubricant and the cutter blades. Check all working parts for smooth revolutions of the blade, and replace damaged or bent blades.

Add fuel stabilizer to the gas if the unit will not be run regularly.


Since a tiller may see more storage time than work time, make sure fuel stabilizer is always in the tank. Remove all wrapped vines and grass from the tines and clean the unit thoroughly.

Make sure the unit is greased properly before each use. Clean or replace the air filter regularly because dusty conditions involved with plowing quickly clog up the air filter causing poor performance.

Don’t pay the mechanic. Spend time on maintenance and save money.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.

Co-op Hosts Dog Days of Summer Event

Chris Wisener (left) and Celena Cole dip a small dog in Happy Jack Kennel Dip solution.

Dogs get quick dip while owners receive advice

By Susie Sims

More than 100 dogs took a dip recently at Limestone Farmers Co-op in Athens. The store hosted its third annual Dog Days of Summer event on Saturday, June 20.

The morning-long event took place in the shade of the garden center, so larger dogs could be brought directly to the dipping tubs from the parking lot.

Limestone’s Manager Celena Cole said the event helped bring in people who might not know what the Co-op has to offer in the way of animal health supplies.

John Sims dips one of the larger dogs at Limestone Farmers Co-op’s Dog Days of Summer event.

"We want people to know the Co-op can meet the needs of their pets," said Cole. "We carry a wide range of products and food for all kinds of pets."

Even though some dogs don’t take kindly to being dipped, most are glad of the relief they get by being flea-free.

"We always have a few that are somewhat unruly," recalled John Sims. "But most dogs don’t mind a quick dip in the cool water."

Sims is a district sales manager for the Feed, Farm and Home Department of Alabama Farmers Co-op. He and fellow sales manager Chris Wisener have been on hand to assist the Co-op with its dog dipping event for the past three years.

While dipping dogs, Sims and Wisener offered advice to owners concerning their pets’ quality of life.

"Co-op stores carry many of the products needed to keep pets healthy and happy," said Sims. "Your veterinarian can help you with the rest of the animal health products you might need."

Happy Jack Kennel Dip is available at most Co-op stores.

To provide an effective dip for the dogs, the Co-op used its popular Happy Jack Kennel Dip. Many owners are finding it beneficial to use the Kennel Dip in conjunction with topical or spot-on treatments like Frontline Plus.

Sims said he has seen good results from using the Kennel Dip to ensure a dog has no fleas or ticks just prior to using the topical treatments.

"A good flea and tick control program can add to your pets’ overall health," said Sims. "And everyone wants to take care of their best friend."

In combination with the free dog dipping, the Co-op offered money-saving deals on pet food and supplies.

In addition, each dog received a free treat from Sportmix Dog Food, and a free frisbee and bandana from Science Diet.

Many Quality Co-ops carry a wide range of health care products for pets, including products for flea and tick control.

All in all, Cole proclaimed the event a success.

"We dipped over 100 dogs and killed millions of fleas," said Cole. "That sounds like a good day."

Happy Jack makes a full line of flea and tick products as well as skin and nutritional supplements, noted Sims. Most Co-op stores carry the Happy Jack line of products.

"Your local Co-op is your one-stop source for your pet," said Sims. "You can purchase food, animal health products, dog houses, pens, collars and most anything you need to keep your pet healthy and happy."

If you have questions about flea and tick products, contact your local Quality Co-op for more information. Annual trips to a veterinarian are also advised.

The Limestone Farmers Co-op’s Dog Days of Summer event is held every year on the third Saturday in June. For more information, call the store at (256) 232-5500.

Susie Sims is a freelance writer from Haleyville.

Con Bucks with Fake Scrapes

An Ultimate Scrape Dripper will dramatically increase your odds of success. This buck was definitely drawn to the smell emanating from the dripper.

By Todd Amenrud

Using a buck’s scrapes as a focal point to get close enough for a shot is a great tactic during November and into December. However, without the use of a scouting camera or a heat-activated scent dripper, it might be difficult to determine when a scrape is being hit. A fair number of scrapes are made and seldom freshened again, and a good majority of scrapes are made nocturnally. Mock scrapes can be a great way to entice bucks into an area and get them to hang around longer.

By using data collected from trail cameras I’ve set up both at mock scrapes and existing scrapes without drippers, there’s no question your odds are significantly better at scrape areas with drippers. This wasn’t conducted as a scientific study, but I would say your odds are at least five times greater when using a dripper(s).

My best luck comes from making a series of mock scrapes and using Ultimate Scrape Drippers over them. I make my own fake "scrape line." The Ultimate Scrape Drippers are heat-activated so they drip during daylight hours. This conditions bucks into showing up during legal shooting light and staying in the area longer. This method has produced several P&Y qualifiers for me.

Targeting the right area is important. You can’t just go out to any overhanging branch (licking branch) and expect to have success. I tend to pay less attention to scrapes made on field perimeters and concentrate closer to bedding areas. You want to target an area a buck is claiming as his - move in and make it look and smell like there’s a rival buck invading his turf. Look for the areas with the largest scrapes, spots containing clusters of scrapes and scrapes you know have been freshened again and again.

Once I find the area, I search out the same type of tree with the same height licking branch the buck originally approved of. This branch is usually about five to six feet off of the ground. Try to duplicate the variables the specific buck you’re after preferred.

You can actually use the buck’s existing scrapes. In the whitetail world, the same scrape may be utilized by many different bucks. However, more often than not, I’ll make my own, trying to copy the specifics found with the buck’s existing scrapes.

The actual mock scrape is best created with a sturdy stick found in the area. Try to make the scrape on flat ground if possible and make sure it is free from all debris. It is also very important to keep foreign odor out of the picture. I will use rubber gloves or elbow-length trapper’s gloves and I usually give my rubber boots and my jacket or shirt sleeve an extra treatment of Scent Killer Spray. A brush up against the licking branch with your bare hand, a boot bottom you wore to the gas station stepping in the mock scrape or a sleeve containing any foreign odor brushed against the tree is all it takes for all your work to go for naught.

I may use numerous drippers and possibly vary the scent used in each. I believe with more than one "mock" you’re increasing your chances something is going to be right with at least one of them that will draw a response. I’ve used as many as six drippers and created as many as a dozen mock scrapes in an area about the size of an acre. My two favorite scents are Active Scrape and Trail’s End #307 used in the dripper.

Consistent with just about every successful mock scrape set-up I have are mock rubs I also produce. With a pruner or wood rasp I rake up some two to six-inch saplings. A real intruder buck would typically also mark the territory in this way. On the rubs, I use a scent called Mega Tarsal Plus – it’s a territorial intrusion scent. The illusion I want to create is that a foreign buck has moved in on his breeding territory. Select Buck Urine is also placed out at several key places in the area.

Timing is also important for mock scrapes to work. When the bucks are actively chasing and breeding the mock scrapes are probably not your best tactic. You want the bucks to be in "claiming and protecting breeding territory mode."

As I mentioned, rubber gloves should be worn to avoid leaving smells on the overhanging branch. I actually like to hang my drippers on a higher branch above the interaction branch if possible. This keeps them from getting a good whiff of any foreign odors that may have permeated the dripper’s cloth cover.

Don’t expect your exact mock scrape(s) to necessarily get hit. Sometimes they may "cream" the actual mock scrape, but my goal is simply to draw them to the area during legal shooting light and hold them there for a longer period of time.

A hunter should use all other aids and information in conjunction with their scrapes. Know where the does are bedding, what the preferred food sources are at that time, where your target buck is bedding and where he may have other active scrape areas. Take in the "big picture" of the whole area and use your mock scrapes in relationship with other factors when making your set-up.

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

Coon Dog Memorial Final Resting Place for Hunters’ Faithful Canine Companions

The sign that marks the entrance to the cemetery.

By Mary-Glenn Smith

As the old saying goes, "A dog is a man’s best friend." And in the case of coonhounds that phrase couldn’t be truer. A good coondog not only serves as a best friend, but also as a hunter, a faithful guide and guardian through the deep, dark woods during a late night hunt.

So it’s no wonder when Troop passed away, his owner, Key Underwood, chose to have a proper burial for his faithful friend and longtime hunting companion. Just as a service would be held for a person, Troop was laid to rest beneath the shade of a tree, in a grassy meadow set back in the woods of the Freedom Hills Wildlife Management Area in Northwest Alabama on September 4, 1937.

Two treeing dogs mark one corner of the graveyard.

Several friends joined Under-wood to say good-bye to Troop at one of his favorite spots to hunt known as "Sugar Creek." The spot where Troop was buried had long-time been a place for many coon-hunters and dogs to gather and camp before and after a hunt. Hunters swapped stories and strategies about previous hunts as well as upcoming hunts. It was a popular place; one the half-bird-song and half-redbone coonhound, Troop, loved more than any other spot he hunted with Underwood.

Later, Underwood took a large rock from an old chimney and with a hammer and a chisel he carved the name Troop, his birth date and death date. He completed the headstone by engraving a simple cross above the name.

The burial of Troop marked the beginning of the Key Underwood Coon Dog Memorial Graveyard located just outside the town of Cherokee off Alabama Highway 247. Since that day in 1937, more than 185 dogs from all across the country have been laid to rest there on the peaceful piece of property nestled deep in the hills of Colbert County.

Each year, nearly 7,000 people come from all over the United States to visit the remote location of the cemetery to pay respects to the beloved coonhounds and browse the many different headstones. Owners often return to the graveyard and place flowers on the monument of their deceased hound, but many visitors have no sentimental connection. They want to see just what a coondog cemetery is all about. A recreated version of the cemetery was even featured in the hit-movie from 2002, "Sweet Home Alabama."

Pictured are markers for some of the dogs buried in the Coon Dog Memorial Graveyard.

A tin sign nailed to a tree near the cemetery’s entrance off a winding gravel road declares "Only cemetery of its kind in the world, only COON HOUNDS are allowed to be buried."

Large granite statues of dogs barking up a tree sit on both sides of the driveway leading up to the small field of headstones decorated with dog collars and artificial flowers.

In the field, each headstone placed at the Key Underwood Coon Dog Memorial Graveyard is unique, varying in size and shape. The headstones are made from different materials from wood to rock; some are homemade while some are professionally done just as any monument found in an ordinary cemetery would be. Ranger, Rock, Crowder, Old Red, Preacher, Patches, Daisy, Tex, Old Tip, Lulu Belle, Hank and Smokey are just a few of the dogs buried there.

The inscription on each stone is just as unique as the monument itself. Each stone is representative of the bond between the owner and the dog. One reads "ability and class all in one." Others read "our once in a lifetime coonhound," "a joy to hunt with," "will be hard to replace." Then the simple "my best friend" is engraved on a neighboring stone. Some of the most touching words adorn the headstone of the coonhound Track. The tribute to the hound is made of a simple piece of tin with the words "he wasn’t the best, but he was the best I ever had."

Several stones include the owners’ name and breed of the hound, black and tan, blue tick, and redbone are among the most popular. Etched in many of the stones are the name, registered name and UKC (United Kennel Club) registration number. Others stones list the hound’s accomplishments: Night Champ, World Champion, UKC Triple Nite Champion and more.

Some even list the cause-of-death along with a personal testimony of the hounds’ hunting ability. "Blue Kate was struck by a car while running a raccoon," the imprinted tin said on top of a large stone. "In six years of ownership treed more than 200."

To qualify for burial in the Key Underwood Coon Dog Memorial Graveyard, dogs must meet three requirements. First, the owner must claim their pet as an authentic coondog. A witness must then also declare the deceased dog was indeed a real coonhound. And for the final requirement, a member of the local coonhunter’s association must view the dog and declare it an authentic coonhound as well.

Each Labor Day, a celebration is held at the cemetery to mark the founding of the remarkable place. People come from all around to clean and decorate the coonhound’s graves.

They also have live music, dancing and the popular liar’s contest, where participants see who can tell the biggest tale.

The Key Underwood Coon Dog Memorial Graveyard and the Labor Day celebration are just a couple of proofs coonhounds are truly special to their owners. The hounds are sincerely loved by the hunters who walk hundreds of miles through the dark woods alongside them on many, many late-night coon hunts.

Mary-Glen Smith is an AFC intern.

Corn Time

Daisy is Answer to Debra’s Plans and Prayers

Debra Martin of McKenzie and her cow, Daisy, are favorites at festivals around Southeastern Alabama. Debra takes these opportunities to tell people of all ages about where their milk comes from and about the wonders of the animal producing it.

By Jaine Treadwell

Debra Martin believes in the power of prayer.

She believes if you pray for something you want and God thinks it’s something you need, you will get it.

But, for a long time, it seemed as if what Debra wanted and what God thought she needed weren’t one and the same.

Debra was certain not many folks were praying for a cow. She had her heart so set on one. Although she didn’t question God’s wisdom in holding back on her, but she kept praying.

Debra laughed when she talked about nudging God along.

"I didn’t want Him to forget," she said. "So, I kept praying and praying, but I didn’t tell anybody I was praying for a milk cow. It was just between me and God."

Kinsley Smallwood, Debra Martin’s granddaughter, is an accomplished milk maiden.

Debra said she didn’t know why the desire was put in her mind and on her heart for a milk cow.

"When I was growing up, we had cows and somehow, I reckon, I just fell in love with them. When I got all grown up, I wanted a milk cow of my own and I prayed for one," she said.

The cow Debra had prayed for was slow in coming. So, she decided maybe God wanted her to be more involved in the "getting of it." She heard about a beautiful Jersey cow going to be sold at auction down around Brewton.

"I went and I had money in my pocket and I was going to bid what it took," Debra said. "Oh, it was about the prettiest cow I’d ever seen. She had a bag that would fill a five-gallon bucket. I was ready to empty my pocket to get her."

Debra was on cloud nine waiting for the bidding to start on the prettiest cow in the world, but a friend brought her back down to earth with a soft thud.

"My friend, Rhett, said that cow was out of my league. I told him she might be out of my league, but she wasn’t out of God’s league," Debra said.

But bidding on the prettiest cow in the world quickly soared to $1,200.

Debra Martin buys all the feed for Daisy, the prettiest cow in the world, and all of Daisy’s barnyard friends at the Quality Co-op, Inc. in Greenville.

Debra was not blessed with a deep pocket and no manna fell from heaven. That pretty cow was not going home with Debra to McKenzie.

But Debra believes when God shuts one barn door, He opens another.

And, almost before another prayer could be lifted, a gate swung wide on its hinges.

Ernest Odem came over to Debra and said he didn’t know she was looking for a milk cow.

"Ernest knew a man who had five cows he wanted to get rid of," Debra said. "Several of them had heifer calves, but they weren’t broke to milking. Well, I knew I could do that."

Debra went cow shopping and got the "pick of the litter," so to speak.

"I knew right off which one I wanted," Debra said. "She had the softest, sweetest face I’d ever seen. I named her Daisy and I loved her from the start."

Now, all the time, Debra had been praying and planning, she had a purpose in mind greater than filling her refrigerator with the goodness of "sweet" milk and homemade butter.

She wanted to pass along her knowledge about where milk comes from and her love of and appreciation for the animal that produces it.

"So many people these days don’t have any idea about where their food comes from. They certainly don’t know the first thing about milking a cow and they need to know," Debra said. "I wanted to tell them and show them."

After Daisy got "broke to milking," she and Debra started taking their show on the road.

"We started going to nursing homes. Most of the people there knew about milking cows and it brought back a lot of memories," she said. "They loved seeing Daisy. And, we started going to schools, churches and festivals. We went to the first Farm Day in Greenville and we’ve been going ever since, telling people and showing them about milk cows.

"Children are real curious about Daisy and about milking. I tell them about her udder, about her having two stomachs and about the milk glands. If they want to try, I let them milk her. When we get done, they know where milk comes from."

And Debra hopes the children also went away from the experience having been nibbled by the same love bug that bit her as a child.

She knows probably none of them will ever sit by a cow to fill their milk glasses, but she does hope they will better understand where their milk comes from and, at least, have an affection for the animal that produces it.

Daisy lives at Debra’s farm near McKenzie. Daisy has lots of animal pals, including Elijah, a Percheron Debra is training to pull "something;" Boaz, the turkey gobbler; a "waller" of pigs; a miniature horse; more chickens and rabbits than you can shake a stick at. But her best friend is the one who loves her most, a lady named Debra Martin.

Debra continues to believe in prayer. She believes if you want something and God thinks you need it, you will get it.

She, laughingly, said she is now praying for a barn for Daisy.

"Daisy is eight years old," she said. "She should live to be 20 years old or older, so I’ve got a long time with my baby. She gave me a Jersey heifer this year. I named her Mary and I love her, too. Daisy needs a barn and I believe she’ll get it."

Debra is confident in her prayers. She’s even got the poles for the barn so she’s ready to get started when God provides a way for her prayers to be answered.

Jaine Treadwell is a freelance writer from Brundidge.

Don’t Do That

By Robert Spencer

Last month’s article addressed trends and prices in the goat market and made mention of the Columbia Sale Barn in Tennessee and the prices they tend to pay. While that may have sounded really good, I hope everyone did not load up their goats and head off expecting to get rich.

I’ve heard too many stories about people taking the day off; loading up goats, spouse and kids; and driving hours to deliver a few goats with the expectations they will receive this HUGE check! Don’t do that without doing some reasonable thinking; put a value on your time, mileage and feeding the family while the wife shops at those nice malls up toward Nashville! If you take the time to reason things out, you may realize your local sale barn may be a better option.

After all, local sale barns are much closer to home taking less time and travel, and the short trip will allow you go get back home and fix that fence or whatever other farm chores need to be done. You may not receive that $1.50 per pound, but you did not spend a dollar per mile and several hours of travel. Do the math: 100 pounds of goat x $1.50/lb = $150, 100 miles x $1/mile = $100; $150-$100 = $50 in your pocket and that does not include the cost of production.

If you went local with the same goats and received a more modest price: 100 pounds of goat x $1/lb = $100, drove 40 miles x $1/mile = $40; $100-$40 = $60. And, you were able to get back home quickly, fix that hole in the fence, and fix your wife and family a nice steak dinner (that may be stretching things). Granted these are some crude examples but you get the idea.

Use common sense; don’t spend a dollar to earn a nickel. In this article you should see a sensitivity table or two, being the sensitive guy I am I have developed them just for you. It uses the example of comparing 100 pounds of goats and a range of possible prices received to a range of miles driven at a dollar per mile. Keep in mind the table does not include cost of production. The numbers in parentheses are negative, the empty boxes are break even and other numbers are positive. This should give a general idea of what is reasonable and what is not.

You can see from the second table once you drive more than 80 miles it becomes easy to lose money unless you are getting a dollar per pound. Keep in mind there are economies of scale, it takes a whole lot of goats to offset driving a long distance for a few extra dollars!

Do This

(1) Take some time to research marketing goats (research – fancy word for sitting, appearing to do nothing, but really thinking). Know that prices paid at markets in the fall tend to be better than summer, but prices paid at markets from January through Easter (generally speaking) are better than fall or summer prices.

(2) Spend some time at your local sale barn, observe the buyers (the ones sitting near the ring buying all the goats, not the ones in the audience buying a goat or two), notice what they buy and the prices paid you should expect to see a trend. Once you know who they are, prior to the next sale take the opportunity to introduce yourself and ask them questions about what they are looking for.

(3) Take some time to introduce yourself to the sale barn owner. If you get on his good side and have some good animals, he might help "promote" your goats during the sale.

(4) Make friends with the graders or those who unload your goats at the sale barns; they have a tough job and appreciate a good attitude. Whatever you do, don’t make derogatory remarks about their ability to judge or grade goats. This has the potential for your best goats to be grouped with the worst goats in the entire building. Phrase your questions in a friendly way!

Explore your options when determining which market outlet is best for your situation. While direct marketing from your farm is best in theory, it requires a lot of effort and time. The reality is, just like cattle, the majority of goats going through terminal channels go to sale barns.

So, for those out there who talk negatively about sale barns, the reality is sale barns serve an important role in the goat industry and provide a service to many producers with meat goats and possibly brood stock. Also, a goat at the sale barn is generally worth more than one buried.

Robert Spencer is a contributing writer from Florence.


Feeding Facts

By Jimmy Hughes

As summer comes to a close, I hope each of you has experienced a good year in forage production and been able to put up enough hay for the coming winter months. Also, this time of the year you should turn your attention to how to supplement that hay to keep your cattle or horses in the best body condition during the upcoming winter months. I again encourage pulling a forage sample to be analyzed at this time. With this information, you can make the best and most economical decision for your winter supplementation program. Your county Extension agent or local Quality Co-op store employees can assist in pulling these samples. I will be more than happy to discuss the results with you and help you develop a good, sound nutritional program for the winter.

I would also encourage you to attend a producer meeting this fall. Each fall, several of our stores hold producer meetings to allow farmers the opportunity to gain valuable information as well as giving them the opportunity to purchase products at a discounted price. Presentations concerning products, nutrition and animal performance will benefit even the most seasoned producer. Producers will also have the opportunity to ask questions and to purchase products at a discounted price. On these nights, most stores will be selling products at the lowest cost of the year. Whether it’s animal health supplies, blocks, minerals or feed, you can be assured of the quality of the product and the service of the company who is promoting the product. If you are unsure if your Co-op will be holding a producer meeting this fall, contact them and inquire.

I would also encourage you to spend this time of the year and evaluate your cattle herd. This is also a very good time to consider culling older cows; cows with bad feet, udders, or eyes; slow rebreeders and cows with bad dispositions. Consider culling any older cattle that lose considerable body condition each winter. Cattle that get thin in the winter stand a greater chance of raising smaller calves, rebreeding at a slower rate and getting sick during the cold, rainy nights of winter. It is much better to cull those cows right now while they are in better body condition and the market is strong versus waiting until this winter.

I look forward to talking to you and seeing you at some of the producer meetings I will be attending this fall.

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.

Free Alpaca 101 Clinics Offered, Open House Set at Ozark Farm

Jerry Sanders’ granddaughter, Meagan, proves that alpacas are the “huggable investment.”

If you have ever thought about purchasing alpacas, plan to attend one of two free clinics offered by Jerry Sanders of Alabama Peanuts and Pacas on October 3 and October 10. He will cover the breeding and raising of alpacas, their nutritional needs and herd maintenance like giving shots and vaccinations, hoof trimming, and birthing. Other topics include selection of alpacas, fence and shelter requirements, predator control, and special information you need to know about raising alpacas in the South. Also you will find out how to let Uncle Sam help you buy your alpacas.

The clinic is free, but participants will need to pay for their lunch, handouts and written materials needed for the class. Time both days is 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Due to very limited space, the class is for adults only and early registration is recommended. To register for either clinic, e-mail Jerry at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it."> or call (334) 445-2762.To learn more about alpacas, please visit Jerry’s website at

In addition to the clinics the farm will host an Open House…Alpaca Farm Days, September 26 and 27, 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Families are welcome to come out and see alpacas. Farm visits other weekends are welcome by appointment only please. Alabama Peanuts and Pacas is located at 4946 S. Co. Rd. 20 in Ozark.

About Alpacas

Alpacas are sometimes referred to as "the huggable investment." Alpacas are unique and are still considered rare. Tending to a graceful herd of alpacas can be profitable and allow one to live a rewarding lifestyle. Alpacas have a relatively long and trouble-free reproductive life span. They can be fully insured against loss. They also are very friendly, inexpensive to raise, very hardy, trainable and require very little acreage. An interesting article about alpacas can be viewed on the website of AFC Cooperative Farming News at Click on archive articles and then click on October 2007. Look for the article "Life on a Fairy Tale Farm."

Grazing Management Clinic Touts State’s Untapped Forage Potential

Auburn University Professor Mary Goodman speaks about physiology of forage growth at the Grazing Management Clinic.

AL has Favorable Climate and Abundance of Land

By Mary-Glenn Smith and
Suzy Geno Lowery

Livestock and forage producers from all over the state attended a grazing management clinic presented by the Alabama Forage and Grassland Coalition (AFGC) at the Susan Moore Town Hall on August 12 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The goal of the Alabama Grazing School was to help producers get exceptional performance from their animals on pasture by giving them the knowledge and tools needed to make decisions regarding grazing management.

"We opened it up to all producers in Blount County and the surrounding areas because the clinic had never been done up here before," Merry Buford, District Conservationist for Blount County, said. "We wanted to give the opportunity of attending the clinic to all the land owners."

Charles Mitchell holds the attention of the crowd of more than 50 as he speaks on nutrient cycling and its impact on grazing.

Although there have been many educational programs about forage production for livestock, grazing management is one of the topics not typically covered comprehensively.

The AFGC believes Alabama has as much, or more, potential for forage-consuming livestock as any state in the United States. Dr. Don Ball and others noted Alabama is fortunate to have many of the things that make forages economical.

Information from the National Resources Conservation Services (NRCS) noted, "We have a great climate for growing forage—lots of sunshine, warm temperatures throughout much of the year, and—relative to many areas—abundant rainfall."

Also, Alabama has plenty of land available for growing forage crops for livestock. Even with the assortment of soils, almost all of the soil in Alabama can be used for growing some type of forage crop.

Cleveland cattleman J.C. Wiginton (right) questions Dr. Don Ball, AU/ACES, during a break.

"The speakers at the clinic are all very knowledgeable," Buford said. "They are experts in their field."

The grazing management clinic began with an overview of the grazing school by Ball, who is an Extension Forage Specialist, Agronomist with Auburn University (AU) and author of Southern Forages and Practical Forage Concepts, and followed by a presentation on physiology of forage growth and response to grazing by AU Professor Mary Goodman.

Ball spoke of the efficiency of combining warm and cool-season perennial grasses, perennial legumes, and the benefits and drawbacks of red, white and crimson clovers.

Ball said each cattleman should ask themselves, "What can I plant on my farm to keep something out there for my animals to eat year round?"

Susan Moore Mayor Jamie Brothers (left) with Eddie Jolley, NRCS.

"There’s a whole bunch of options and they all require a lot of thinking, time and effort," he added.

Dr. Walt Prevatt, AU, spoke of "Pasture Economics," primarily hay versus grazing.

"Hay is a sensitive topic, one a lot of people are passionate about," Prevatt said."You have to have your own goals and objectives, and decide what is right for you and your farm."

"Those folks left farming because of a loss of profitability," he said.

Looking at "what it costs to produce hay," Prevatt provided figures showing that for a farmer running only a small number of cattle, the purchase of required equipment, and its ongoing insurance, fuel, depreciation, interest and more, might mean it is better for them to buy hay instead of producing it themselves.

"If you can just take home one message today, I’d say, ‘If you’ve got the smaller number of cattle, you should be looking into buying for your hay needs,’" Prevatt stated.

Both Prevatt and Ball spoke of the up to 50 percent of hay loss from storage in open fields, reducing the amount and nutrition which cattle could then eat.

Prevatt noted planting for winter grazing is "a definite cost saver and is also better for the cattle. The more grasses we can grow, the more we can have cows harvest the grass, the better off we’ll be."

Speaking on Mud and Erosion, Tim Williams, NRCS, reminded, "Cattle in mud need a higher nutritional level or their health will go down."

While those with fewer cattle who practice rotational grazing may not have as much of a problem, those with a larger number may need to fence off, provide culverts and provide chert-covered walkways to fords.

Sensitive ecology ideals can also cause problems when downstreams are being mudded and farms suffer because of crashed creek banks due to cattle crossing.

Charles Mitchell, AU/Alabama Cooperative Extension Service, (ACES) spoke on Nutrient Cycling and Grazing Impacts, noting he’d worked at and attended several of the grazing clinics "and always learned something new."

Mitchell, who grew up on a cattle and dairy farm in the state’s Black Belt, said, 50-60 years ago, cattle in North Central Alabama would have "starved" just on pasture. "But when chicken houses came into the area in the 1960s and 70s, it revolutionized the cattle industry here by providing nutrient-rich chicken litter for the fields."

Mitchell noted Blount is now 4th in the state in cattle production, behind Cullman, Marshall and DeKalb counties.

He also talked of how cattle manure itself can provide rich nutrients to pastures when rotational grazing is practiced.

Another topic covered was the availability of new products dealing with forage production and grazing. Advances in technology have also helped increase the possibility of using more sophisticated grazing management techniques.

The clinic also covered topics surrounding the recent economic crisis weighing heavily on farmers. It offered advice to farmers on how to increase the efficiency of their farm in order to maximize profits.

A representative from Gallagher Animal Management System was also there to provide a fencing demonstration on proper techniques for an efficient and effective fencing system. Gallagher electric fence products are available at Quality Co-op stores throughout the state.

Other speakers were Eddie Jolly, NRCS, on grazing methods and system design; Auburn’s Darrell Rankins on pasture evaluation, forage allocation and nutrient requirements; A.J. Ebert on fence and water technology; and Perry Oakes with NRCS.

Pine Mountain farmer Jon Head said he runs 50-60 head of cattle each year, and has been raising cows "since I was big enough to walk through the pastures."

"I’ve just learned so much more about the nutrient value of things today," he noted.

Eddie Stephens and his wife, Susan, currently have 13 head of the smaller Zebus on their Locust Fork farm and noted he obtained much information including how "I need to be doing a better job of rotating the pastures."

Cleveland’s J.C. Wiginton has been cattle farming about 35 years and now keeps about 45 head. He eagerly questioned Dr. Ball on several aspects as they waited in line for the lunch prepared by the Alabama Farmers Federation (Alfa), Alfa Women’s Committee, and Blount County Cattlemen and Cattlewomen, who provided the steak sandwiches.

"I thought the whole grazing clinic was very informative," said Blount County dairy farmer Andy Graveman. "The information they gave us can be used to improve any grazing operation."

The clinic was sponsored by the Alabama Forage and Grassland Coalition in cooperation with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, the Alabama Agricultural Experimental Station, and the USDA Natural Resources and Conservation Services, in addition to the other agencies mentioned in this article.

"Grazing management is a complex topic…but it has many different aspects of forage/livestock production. To be unaware of or to ignore these impacts will result in many lost opportunities," Jolley noted. "But likewise it is important to remember every farm is unique. Each one will have a particular combination of soil, resources and the individual farmer’s objectives."

The AFGC feels now is the time to put more focus on grazing management. In order to do this, they are offering several clinics throughout the year in different locations centering on issues surrounding grazing. For more information on other clinics, contact Dr. Ball at Extension Hall, Auburn University, AL 36849 or by e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">

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

Mary-Glenn Smith is an AFC intern.

Health is a Choice

Is 4-H an exercise program – or a nutrition program? This young lady in Cullman County will tell you gardening is a great way to stay fit AND eat well.

By Amy Payne Burgess

You probably saw the recent headline: "Mississippi’s still fattest but Alabama is closing in."

We love competition in sports like football, but this latest "honor" is not only embarrassing, it is dangerous – and has long-term economic and political consequences. Aging baby boomers will mean a jump in obese Medicare patients. And Alabama is already the leader there, with a national high of 16.3 percent of obese Medicare patients. Of course, Medicare spends from $1,400 to $6,000 more annually on health care for an obese senior than for the non-obese, so our fatness will cost taxpayers millions and millions more dollars.

The study found, in Alabama, more than one-third of all baby boomers are obese. And more discouraging is the fact, in Alabama, more than one-third of all children are already obese or overweight – sixth-highest in the United States. Unfortunately, eight of the 10 states with the highest rates of obese and overweight children are in the South.

So, what is going on? Two-thirds of American adults are obese or overweight, and childhood obesity rates have more than tripled since 1980. What has led to that and, more importantly, what can we do about it?

You don’t have to be in a 4-H sack race like this one in Pickens County to stay fit and trim. A daily walk will meet the needs of most people.

The basic answers, as any 4-Her may know, is how we eat and how we exercise—or don’t exercise. Although we cherish individual responsibility, it also means there will be political and legislative opportunities to bring about change. Most of us bristle at the idea of government "telling us what to eat," so our first concern should be our own accountability for ourselves and for our families.

Let’s begin at home. You are a role model. If you are fat, you will probably have children who become fat. Since obesity is a new phenomenon, it has less to do with "fat genes" than with how we now live. If you don’t take a daily walk around the neighborhood, your children won’t exercise. If you eat lots of prepared, processed foods, so will your kids. If you don’t eat lots of vegetables and fruits, neither will your children.

The recent studies show rural children are more likely to be overweight or obese than urban children. Children living in rural areas were also found to be less physically active and less likely to participate in after-school sports than their counterparts in urban areas. That undermines our blissful myth of "healthy farm kids" drinking milk and baling hay, doesn’t it?

Unhealthy diet is one culprit in rural obesity. Rural folks often eat a higher fat and calorie diet, and that is partially due to access and availability of healthy foods. There are places in our state without major grocery chains. "Fresh produce" is simply not an option, and people in rural areas often have limited selection and higher cost for fresh fruit and vegetables than urban consumers.

4-H Volunteers share information and resources, like learning how to make tasty and nutritious cheese.

Thanks to the support of Bonnie Plants and Quality Co-ops, the Alabama Junior Master Gardener program is one way 4-H and Extension are addressing that problem. There has been a renewed interest in gardening as a safe and reliable resource for fresh vegetables, and we are at the heart of that demand. And as anyone who has spent a day hunkered over a hoe knows, a hard-working gardener is not going to be an obese gardener.

That lack of exercise also contributes to rural obesity. The popular image of an active rural lifestyle is no longer accurate. Rural residents are less physically active than urban residents. Some possible causes include less access to exercise facilities and fewer school physical education classes. But there is also a cultural phenomenon at work too: we celebrate athletic prowess, but are not as quick to celebrate plain, old physical fitness. For every star athlete, there are a hundred kids who never walk, run or bike.

Again, Alabama 4-H has been working to bring fitness into our kids’ lives. Our Just Move! program teaches youth the importance of exercise and healthy eating. The program has been incorporated into all 4-H programs and activities, and the Just Move! program materials have been adopted by schools, churches and youth groups throughout the state.

Obesity is one of the leading preventable causes of death. It has been connected to everything from heart disease to diabetes. If you are obese, you will die earlier and the quality of your life will be worse than if you are fit and trim. There is much you can do to prevent obesity. Maybe your 4-H club members can show you the way.

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

It’s All About the Horse…Plus Skill and Determination

By Suzy Lowry Geno

"It’s all about the horse," Nicole Adams explained as she brushed 13-year-old Tequila Sunrise as she readied for the Regional 4-H competition in Little Rock, Arkansas, the first weekend in August.

Those who know how disciplined and hard working Nicole is beg to differ! While Tequila Sunrise, an impressive 17-hands tall and 1,500 lbs., shows well in numerous categories, it’s Nicole’s determination and skill that often makes the difference in competition.

Nicole returned to her St. Clair County home with four top tens in five classes from Regionals.

Nicole and Tequila Sunrise placed: 3rd out of 50 in Equitation Over Fences; 7th out of 101 in Hunter Under Saddle; 8th out of 40 in Working Hunter Over Fences; 8th out of 40 in Hunter Type Geldings (an in hand class); and in the Top 15 out of 101 on Equitation on the Flat, making the Final Work Off.

A fellow rider also under the tutelage of 4-H Equine Leader Kirstin Murphy at Longview Farms, Cooper Dean and horse Smoochin on Me, also had three Top 10 placings and tied for Reserve High Point!

The Top Points Buckle Nicole Adams earned at the State Wide 4-H Competition in Montgomery.

"This was a fantastic competition. A really good horse show," Nicole’s mother Patty said. "Florida and Virginia had top horses that would bring in the six figures."

Kirstin said, "It was an amazing trip. It was our club’s first visit to the Regionals [although Nicole competed last year on a different farm’s horse] and there was a great deal of competition. Some classes had more than 100 horses in them. We learned a lot and had a wonderful time."

Nicole said she entered hoping to get in the Top 10, knowing competition would be stringent, especially since this was only her second competition this year.

She competed earlier in the State 4-H Finals in Montgomery where, among other honors, she earned the High Point Buckle for Hunter Jumpers.

Nicole Adams grooms Tequila Sunrise before their trip to Little Rock.

The Little Rock trip was made possible in part by the sponsorship of St. Clair Farmers Co-op in Pell City, where Nicole works part time and Patty has worked full time for the past eight years. (Dad Kevin and 14-year-old brother Sean are supportive of Nicole’s competitions, but are more into mechanical "things" like riding and racing motorcycles!)

Nicole inherited her love for all-things-horse from her mom Patty and began riding before the age of five.

Co-op Manager Matthew Kay said he wasn’t ever surprised when Nicole returned from competitions with numerous awards because "she is so mature, responsible and disciplined. She’s way beyond her years in so many areas."

Nicole is a senior at Pell City High this year and has many honors including serving as President of the FFA. While she has always desired to become a veterinarian, this would require going to Auburn, so she’s thinking of attending UAB and majoring in psychiatry so she can stay closer to her St. Clair County home and keep training her horses and competing.

Nicole Adams and St. Clair Farmers Co-op in Pell City’s Manager Matthew Kay. The Co-op sponsored Nicole in her recent trip to Regional 4-H Competition in Little Rock.

While she is open to the ideas of combining her love for horses and perhaps what she learns in psychiatry, like a therapeutic riding program or something similar, Nicole said, "Right now I just want to stay closer to home."

Tequila Sunrise is soon going to be sold to the Murphys at Longview Farms in Shelby County where Nicole trains. Nicole wants to devote time now to training a newer mare, but she’ll still be able to ride and visit with Tequila Sunrise.

Kirstin is the wife of Dennis Murphy, Jr., and they, along with Dennis Murphy, Sr., run the 500-acre Longview Farm training hunters and jumpers, and providing boarding.

Murphy Sr. is a former Olympian, Pan American Team Gold Medalist and more.

The farm has a 44-stall barn, large sand jumping area, clubhouse, round pen and many acres for turnout and trail riding. Their website notes their biggest asset is likely that the farm is run "by three generations of horse lovers!"

Kirstin is Nicole’s personal trainer and heads the Shelby County Frequent Flyer 4-H Club to which Nicole is an active member.

Others from that club who competed at State included Marcella Garrett, Callie Smothers, Holly Hall and Mickaela McCoy, who had many wins.

At State in the Senior Division, Nicole was State High Point Hunter Seat Rider; 1st Place Equitation Over Fences; 1st Place Equitation on the Flat; 1st Place Dressage Test; 2nd Place Hunter Hack; 2nd Place Hunter Under Saddle; 4th Place Horse Judging "Reasons;" 5th Place Horse Judging Overall (out of 50); 8th Place Hunter Seat Trail Class; 8th Place Artistic Expression; and 8th Place Artwork.

Nicole and Patty said fundraisers, like bake and yard sales, and the Pell City Co-op’s sponsorship made the Regional trip possible.

Kay explained it "was easy" to decide to sponsor Nicole, knowing her love for horses and her work ethic.

While his store caters to all sorts of agriculture and home needs, Kay noted he is "in the process of revamping our tack line. We serve a lot of horse customers and we have the best in feeds tailored to this area’s horses’ needs."

The Pell City store moved to its current location on Hardwick Road about 16 years ago after having been across from the St. Clair Courthouse in downtown Pell City for more than 50 years. Kay has served as store manager about six years.

Kirstin said, "We appreciate the good feeds the Co-op stocks and we’re probably some of their most loyal customers!"

Kirstin, Patty and Nicole trailered Tequila Sunrise to the competition and were tired but still excited when they returned home late the following Monday.

"We’re just so proud of Nicole and what she has accomplished," Kirstin said.

More information on Longview Farms and Nicole and the others’ competitions can be viewed at

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

Lanark and the AWF Support State’s Natural Resources

Children learn first-hand about Alabama’s wildlife and natural resources through hands-on activities at the Nature Center. These activities appropriately address many Course of Study Objectives of the Alabama Department of Education. Photo by Kimberly Wright Moon

By Grace Smith

"Nature is man’s teacher. She unfolds her treasures to his search, unseals his eyes, illumes his mind, and purifies his heart; an influence breathes from all the sights and sounds of her existence." –Alfred Billings Street

One trip down Interstate 65 from Birmingham to Montgomery and it won’t take long to realize Central Alabama is, in many ways, the state’s metropolitan "Mecca." But just a few turns off Exit 179 and you’ll find a safe-haven for some of Alabama’s most prized natural treasures.

Lanark, located just outside of Millbrook, is home to the Alabama Wildlife Federation (AWF) and the Alabama Nature Center along with countless other plants and creatures so beautiful they can soften even the toughest of critics.

Lanark began as a simple cabin built in 1827 and was passed down several times over its existence. As the property changed ownership, it was expanded and improved, developing the property into the breath-taking spectacle it is today. In 2001, the property’s final owner passed away and the 300-plus acreage complete with two historic homes and heirloom gardens was left to the AWF, the state’s oldest and largest non-profit conservation organization.

There are over five miles of trails and boardwalks meandering through 350 acres at Lanark. The trails take visitors on an exciting journey through fields, streams, wetlands, ponds and forests. Photo by Kimberly Wright Moon

The AWF sponsors many educational, stewardship, and hunting and angling programs and projects. Some of its conservation education programs include the AWF William R. Ireland, Sr. Youth Wildlife Art Contest; Alabama Outdoor Classroom Program; Discovering Our Heritage Program; and the Alabama Nature Center (ANC). ANC has been quite an undertaking for AWF and the staff at Lanark, but their hard work has paid off and promises many exciting additions for the future.

The ANC at Lanark holds five miles of trails and boardwalks that wind and wander through 300-plus acres of woodlands, fields, ponds, streams and wetlands which are divided into three regions.

Hilltop Pass is known as the "high-ground" region at ANC. Trails throughout this beautifully-wooded area climb along ridges and mountainsides, ranging in various levels of difficulty and carry visitors to the highest peak at Lanark, 360 feet above sea level.

Still Creek Run, an area of much lower elevation, is the lowest part of the property at Lanark. Its trails travel along Still Creek and over Cypress Creek all the while weaving in and out of beautiful trees and plants, and even showcasing Bullfrog Pond which is nestled amongst tall hardwoods and an overflow of hydrangeas.

Bullfrog Pond is one of the picturesque stops on the Still Creek Run trail at the Alabama Nature Center. The pond serves as the “battle ground” for the AWF Youth Fishing Rodeo and is surrounded by breath-taking hardwoods and hydrangeas. Photo by Kimberly Wright Moon

The "middle ground" of Lanark is called Turkey Ridge and although it starts at an elevation to neither extreme of Hilltop Pass or of Still Creek Run, it does noticeably increase in elevation as the trail meanders to the top of the ridge. From the seasonal wetlands of Gum Pond, to the ideal amphibian habitat of Natural Spring, to the peacefully-flowing waters of Cane Creek, Turkey Ridge is a must-see region of Lanark.

The nature trails of Lanark are just the first plans for the ANC the Federation has completed. Plans for a new state-of-the-art nature center facility are already underway and include a 2,500 square-foot, hands-on Discovery Hall, a 240-seat theater and auditorium complex, a gift shop, and library all charmingly constructed on the serene nature trails of Lanark.

Lanark Field Days are one of AWF’s most recent educational endeavors. These field days give Alabama schools the opportunity to explore the grounds at Lanark while participating in hands-on activities addressing a number of wildlife and natural resource-related topics. These activities appropriately address many Course of Study Objectives of the Alabama Department of Education and include topics like Alabama Cultural and Natural History, The Role of Conservation, Non-Native Alabama Plants, Alabama Forests, Water Problems, and Characteristics of Alabama Wildlife. Other special activities available are Birdhouse Constructing and a Nature Scavenger Hunt.

The Hill Home, built in the late 40s by Lanark’s previous owners, Wiley and Isabel Hill, serves as the office and headquarters for the Alabama Wildlife Federation. The beautiful gardens behind the home are a popular spot for visitors. Photo by Kimberly Wright Moon

Resource Stewardship is another topic of much importance to AWF. Through a variety of programs, seminars and writings like Land Stewardship Assistance, Managing Wildlife book, Alabama Black Bear Alliance and Wildlife Seminar Series, AWF is helping teach Alabama citizens the "ins and outs" of land management and helping preserve the very foundation of our great state—it’s wildlife and natural resources.

Hunting and fishing are much-loved pastimes of many Alabamians and efforts by AWF are creating new and exciting ways to apply the skills of avid outdoorsmen and women. Activities like AWF Youth Fishing Rodeo, AWF Wild Game Cook-Off and AWF Outdoor Women’s Network are providing men, women, boys and girls opportunities to keep Alabama’s hunting and angling heritage thriving.

But if you’re not an outdoor enthusiast, don’t worry— the historic homes and heirloom gardens of Lanark may spark your interest. While the property was passed to many different individuals over the years, it eventually fell into the hands of Wiley and Isabel Hill in 1948. Although the original plantation home was already built, they constructed a new home in a cornfield just across a stream from the original homeplace. Wiley and Isabel had quite the "green thumbs" and created one of the state’s most beautiful gardens. Through their passion for gardening and talents in grafting and propagating, they meticulously planted 30 acres of Lanark with daffodils, hydrangeas, camellias, lilies and azaleas just to name a few. Although Wiley and Isabel have passed, the AWF and staff at Lanark are dedicated to preserving the legacy of their hard work by maintaining the gardens just as they desired.

AWF’s philosophy states "AWF believes that the natural resources of our state are of both economic and social value which must be guarded, perpetuated, and restored for prosperity…" One trip to Lanark and visitors can see AWF is standing true to their promise of guarding, perpetuating and restoring Alabama’s most precious natural resources.

For more information, visit

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

Management Strategies for Endophyte-Infected Fescue

from The Ohio State University, Bulletin 872-98


One of the most effective ways to eliminate endophyte-infected tall fescue is a fall application of glyphosate or products of similar activity. Early to mid-October prior to a killing frost is the ideal time to apply RoundupTM at a rate of two quarts in 20-30 gallons of water per acre. Addition of 17 lbs. of a spray-grade ammonium sulfate per 100 gallons of spray will enhance uptake of RoundupTM and effectiveness of control. An early-spring seeding can then be made into the killed sod with whatever forages are desired. The fall-killing fescue program allows for more complete control than spring-applied herbicide and little potential for soil loss over winter and during the seeding process. Alternately, fescue can be killed in the spring with RoundupTM or by planting a summer-annual smother-crop like sorghum sudangrass, and in September by planting a cool-season grass.

Endophyte-Free Fescue

New endophyte-free varieties or varieties with very low endophyte levels are now available. Farmers making new seedings of tall fescue to be used for animal feed should select one of these new varieties. Endophyte-free tall fescue is more persistent than orchardgrass and bromegrass, yet can be less tolerant of plant-stress than a stand of infected Kentucky 31 fescue. Endophyte-infected fescue is more resistant to insects and diseases, is more drought-tolerant and actually grows better and is more productive than endophyte-free plants. Grazing livestock prefer fungus-free fescue over infected fescue. Endophyte-free fescue may require substantially different management than endophyte-infected fescue due to a greater susceptibility to overgrazing and a less-hardy nature. New fescue-clover stands should be watched closely and, if the fescue is being shaded, just enough grazing pressure should be applied to avoid a problem. Most cool-season grasses are slow to establish, particularly with aggressive legumes like red clover.

Reinfection is possible. A complete kill of the infected fescue stand is required or some level of infection will be detected in the future. Wind is not likely to move infected seeds to endophyte-free fields. In addition, birds do not seem to move the seed nor would wild animals be expected to move significant numbers of seeds. However, cattle can move substantial numbers of seeds and thus infect endophyte-free fescue fields. About two percent of the infected seed ingested by a cow can germinate and result in the establishment of infected plants. Rotational grazing between infected and non-infected pasture can aggravate the problem if mature seeds are present in the pastures.

Reseeding With Other Cool-Season Grasses

Another option involving pasture renovation would be to establish a stand of another cool-season grass species like orchardgrass in place of endophyte-infected tall fescue. This would certainly improve animal performance, but producers need to be aware most other cool-season grasses will not tolerate the heavy use and abuse like infected tall fescue. Forage management will be more critical to ensure stand persistence in this case.

Strategic Grazing

Avoid grazing infected fescue when seed heads are present, as the toxic factors tend to increase with plant maturity. This involves keeping the forage in a vegetative state as long as possible by grazing or clipping. Grazing fescue pastures in the spring, moving cattle to other grass pastures and clipping fescue during the summer and then grazing the tall fescue regrowth again in the fall appears to reduce toxic effects of the endophyte. Fescue hay should be cut early, and should not be the only nutrient source fed to cattle in the winter if hay fields are heavily endophyte-infected.


An option that can be successfully used to reduce the toxic effects of endophyte-infected tall fescue without the expenses of pasture renovation is to dilute the endophyte. This can be done several ways. Supplementation of cattle consuming tall fescue with grain will dilute the endophyte; however, feeding high levels of grain (greater than 4-6 lbs.) to cattle eating primarily a forage-based diet will decrease forage intake and digestibility.

Including legumes in a fescue pasture can reduce or eliminate the fescue toxicity. Legume choices include red clover, ladinoclover, birdsfoot trefoil and alfalfa. Since tall fescue stands are usually very thick, it can be difficult to get legumes to persist in an established stand. Controlling height of fescue to allow light down to the legumes, proper pH and phosphorus levels will be critical to maintaining legumes.

Red clover is probably one of the best choices of legumes to interseed into fescue pastures because of its hardiness and ability to compete with the grass. This can be easily accomplished by mixing red clover seed with fertilizer and broadcasting the mixture in early spring. Mixing with fertilizer may actually help germination of red clover because of the abrasive action of the hard seed coat. Red clover is a biennial legume and may need to be reseeded every year to every other year, depending on forage management.

Ladinoclover or white clover, is a perennial legume used in combination with tall fescue. It grows close to the ground and, therefore, will tolerate close grazing, but is not a good choice for hay production. Ladinoclover is not as competitive with fescue as red clover, but it will produce a lot of seed to keep the legume stand persistent when hot, dry summers can kill the mature plants. White clover spreads by stolons as well as seed. In most areas, white clover will just appear as grazing management improves.

Birdsfoot trefoil is a long-lived perennial legume, but it is not very competitive compared with red clover. It will persist in mixed stands if pastures are mown when grass competition is the greatest. It can be grazed frequently, but will not tolerate too close grazing, as about four inches of leaf material needs to be left for the stand to persist.

Alfalfa can be used in fescue mixtures, but high levels of forage management are necessary for it to persist. Alfalfa is very sensitive to frequent grazing, but it can be grazed closely and it is an excellent choice for hay production.

Management Practices That Help When Interseeding Legumes in a Tall Fescue Pasture

1. Graze the pasture heavily in the fall or winter prior to establishment to help control grass competition and expose soil to enhance seed to soil contact and provide sunlight for germination.

2. Apply higher levels of potassium and phosphate in spring and do not apply nitrogen.

3. Apply adequate lime since most legumes are more sensitive to acid pH and require more calcium than grasses.

4. Graze frequently to reduce grass competition and provide light to the legume seedlings.

Muscadine Grapes Ideal for Preserves

Muscadine grapes

By Angela Treadaway

One of the rewards of autumn is all the fresh produce available. I think this is the best time of year for home cooking! Of course, knowing the bounty is fleeting and winter is right around the corner makes the food taste even better.

I have learned if I take some time now to preserve some of my favorite fruits and vegetables I can continue to enjoy them well into winter. Most people don’t do as much canning as they used to, but when it comes to items you can’t easily find at the supermarket like muscadine jelly, you have to preserve your own. And let’s face it, once you try it, you won’t want to go back to plain grape jelly. I know my son will not eat any other kind of jelly now, especially when it comes to a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Such is the case with muscadines. Muscadines, or scuppernongs, are wild North American native grapes that ripen in late summer and early fall. They thrive in the hot, humid climates of the Southeast and, boy, are they plentiful at some of the local vineyards this year.

The fruit’s large size, sweetness and dense pulp make muscadines ideal for making preserves. It is a wonderful spread on fresh bread or biscuits. It also tastes delicious as a substitute for syrup on pancakes and I’ve even used it as a topping for ice cream.

After you make it, you can simply keep it in the refrigerator, freeze it or, for long-term storage, process it in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.


2 quarts muscadines or scuppernongs, washed and de-stemmed
Grated peel of 1 lemon
Juice from 1 lemon
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 cups of sugar
2 teaspoons of cinnamon (optional, great when using as a sauce for baked ham or other meats)
Sterilized glass jars with seals and rings


Begin by removing the skins from the muscadines. Using a sharp knife, just slit the skin of the muscadine about half-way around and squeeze the pulp out. If you have muscadines that are not fully ripe, blanche them in boiling water for two minutes to make the process easier. Set the skins aside.

Place the pulp in a large stainless steel or enameled pot. Put just enough water to keep the pulp from scorching (about ¼ - ½ cup); you may not need that if the pulp is juicy enough. Cook the mixture over medium high heat, stirring as it cooks, until the pulp is softened. This takes about 15 minutes. While the pulp is cooking, place the skins in a food processor and process until chopped. The skins will not break down much when cooked, so you want to get the pieces as small as you can. When the pulp is through boiling, remove the pan from the heat and press the pulp through a coarse sieve or a food mill to remove seeds.

Return the pulp to the large pot and add the skins, grated lemon peel, lemon juice and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil. Add the sugar and return to a boil. Then reduce the heat to low and simmer until mixture begins to thicken, stirring frequently. Cook for about 20 minutes to thicken it. Add cinnamon now if you want to use the jam for basting meats.

Now you are ready to pour the preserves into your jars. The preserves should be hot when you pour it into the jars and it is a good idea for the jars to be hot as well. When you pour the preserves into the jars, leave about a 1/4-inch of headspace and carefully wipe off any residue from each jar rim, put on a self-sealing lid and then place screw band on fingertip tight. Place in the water bath canner and process for 15 minutes.

For more information on canning and making jams and jellies, contact Angela Treadaway, at (205) 410-3696.

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

Peanut People

Playing Offense on Animal Welfare

Anyone who is old enough will remember when Johnny Carson was host of The Tonight Show. One show that has always stood out in my mind is one where a guest could "talk to animals"…like Dr. Doolittle. I decided to stay up and watch, partly because of my interest in animals and partly to see what this nut was going to say. I do not remember very much of Johnny’s interview with the fellow except the part about cattle. Because of my interest in animal agriculture I listened intently to a conversation that went something like this:

Johnny: So what about cattle? Do you ever talk to them?

Guest: Sure, I enjoy a good dialogue with cattle.

Johnny: (Smiling and rolling his eyes) Well, what do they have to say about being part of the food chain?

Guest: Well, they are very aware of why farmers raise them. And they are ok with what their eventual conclusion will be. The only thing they ask in return is to be treated humanely.

So maybe the fellow wasn’t a nut. I know, whether a cow told him or not, we do need to treat animals involved in agriculture humanely. And that goes for any of you readers who may work in the circus, research or who simply own pets. Animal welfare has to do with treating animals as humanely as possibly—making sure their well-being is seen to. I realize that definition is somewhat ambiguous, but hopefully we can arrive at a consensus where those of us in animal agriculture are at least on the same page.

More and more, we live in a society that is becoming removed from our country’s roots in agriculture. As a result, a vast number of the population forms their opinions based on what little exposure they may get on the evening news or a news documentary. Unfortunately, most of that information is heavily weighted toward the negative. The subject of the reports is usually that fraction of a percent of us involved in animal agriculture who do it wrong. That is not unique to us. Sensationalism sells. Have you ever noticed that while the vast majority of the work law enforcement personnel positively impacts our lives, the stories in the media usually focus on that small percent who do it wrong? How many times over the past few years have you seen footage, often caught on hidden cameras, showing downer cattle or hogs being dragged or carried in a front-end loader and dumped, or animals being brutally beaten?

To many people, that is the face of animal agriculture, which we know is not reality. There are certain groups who oppose animal agriculture and are more than happy to take those negative images seen on TV and use them to create a negative opinion about those of us who are involved in that aspect of agriculture. Unfortunately, the goal of some of these groups is to convert everyone to veganism and end animal agriculture.

Sometime in the past year or so, I attended a meeting where one of the speakers was the "animal welfare person" for a large meat or poultry company. I was encouraged by the stance his company takes on the issue of animal welfare. He said his company is interested in factual science-based animal welfare practices. They are willing to entertain any suggestions or practices that enhance the well-being of animals used in meat production. Beyond that, he said, if the end game for a group is to end animal agriculture, his company will not sit down and talk to them because they have no common ground on which to stand.

I am not going to speculate as to whether Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker air conditioning their dog house opened the debate concerning what it takes to make an animal comfortable, but many people think animals have the same requirements for comfort we do. That is simply not true. Often, if given a choice, some animals will stay out in what we consider to be inclement weather rather than go into a barn or shed. Today the large majority of the population is simply uneducated on issues of animal husbandry. Therefore, it is up to those of us in animal agriculture to educate ourselves and then the consuming public about who the real animal welfare advocates are.

For that reason, I am pleased to be a member of the newly formed Alabama Coalition for Farm Animal Care and Well-Being. This group is made up of over a dozen industry and education groups as well as the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries. This group was formed because of the importance of animal agriculture in Alabama. Livestock (cattle and swine) and poultry account for total receipts of over $3 billion annually in the state. Additionally, the Alabama Cooperative Extension System identifies that 4.9 percent of Alabama households own, lease or rent a horse or horses. When you add secondary businesses like feed, transportation and processing to the statistics, you have a large chunk of the state’s economy involved.

The main mission of the group is to provide producers and lawmakers with factual, up-to-date, science-based information on animal care and well-being as it relates to animal agriculture. It is good to have a "go to" point utilizing the resources of all of those involved. This is truly a case of "the sum of the total group is greater than the sum of the individual participants." This group will not only educate and provide information, but will provide training forums for producers, regulators and society. As we have always heard: the best defense is a good offense. I believe this group will serve our state’s animal agriculture sector well.

The best I can tell, animal welfare is not something new on the radar screen. The writer of the Book of Proverbs in the 12th chapter and the 10th verse said, "A righteous man regards the needs of his animals." Farmers for centuries have been involved in animal welfare. It’s time we play offense for a while and let people know that.

Santolina Has Gentle, Fresh Aroma

Santolina may be used as a border plant.

By H. T. Farmer

Santolina is one of the herbs I use as a border plant in my landscape. I have three varieties I grow and each one has its own identity in the garden.

Cotton lavender or grey santolina (Santolina chamaecyparissus) grows from 12 to 18 inches tall, depending on how short I keep it trimmed. Along the border of taller herbs in the garden, I just let it grow wild. Whereas, along the beds with shorter herbs and flowers, I may keep it bushy and short.

Green santolina (Santolina virens) is another rather short growing herb I use in border plantings along with the grey.

There is one taller version I feature in my butterfly gardens and that is the one I simply call Santolina (Santolinapinnata). It can reach a height of two to three feet. It will endure cooler temperatures (zones 5a to 11) and dryer climates, which makes this a perfect herb for use in xeriscapes.

The flowers are showy for a period during mid to late-spring, but I grow these herbs mostly for their fragrant foliage. Some folks hang sachets of santolina in closets because of the gentle, fresh aroma. Other folks say it repels moths, but I have a hard time believing that since there are about a hundred small moth larvae that feed on this plant. For this reason, I dust my santolina plants with Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis), but only when they are not in bloom because bees and butterflies are attracted to the flowers.

The oils from this herb are extracted and used in perfumes. The flowers are used in dried flower arrangements and potpourris.

The virens and chamaecyparissus are hardy from zones 6 to 9. All of the featured santolina varieties are very drought-tolerant. They prefer well-drained soil. Fertilize with a liquid, balanced fertilizer according to label instructions, or use worm castings and compost.

E-mail me if you have any questions about where to find santolina. Thanks for reading!

If you have any questions about other uses for Santolina, email me at farmerherb@gmail.comand 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: "That one summer Elrod nearly drowned while he was runnin’ his trot line, got his leg nearly tore off by that dog down at the junk yard and got struck by lightning. He pretty much turned into a basket case when the Dickerson boys shoved him under the outhouse."

What is a basket case?

In popular usage "basket case" refers to someone in a hopeless mental condition, but in origin it had a physical meaning. In the grim slang of the British army during World War I, it referred to a quadruple amputee; if a soldier had lost his arms and legs in combat he would have to be carried in a basket; thus, too impaired to function. This is one of several expressions that first became popular in World War I, or that entered American army slang from British English at that time.

The Fish Are Biting at Alabama’s New Gulf State Park Pier

The new Gulf State Park Pier opened July 20, 2009.

Anglers are catching everything from sheephead to 30-pound redfish off the Gulf Coast’s newest and longest pier.

By Ben Norman

When Hurricane Ivan roared ashore in 2004, one of Alabama’s favorite fishing attractions, the Alabama State Park Pier, was destroyed. For several years a dedicated group of Alabama pier fishermen has waited for the new pier to be completed. The long wait ended on Monday, July 20, 2009, when the new Gulf State Park Pier officially opened.

According to Trey Myers, assistant park superintendent, the new pier is longer, wider and offers more amenities than the old pier.

Photo by David Ranier (ADCNR)

"The old pier was built in 1969 and was 825 feet long and 12 feet wide. The new pier is 1,540 feet long and 20 feet wide, almost twice as long and wide as the old pier. We also have a large octagon-shaped end that is over 90 feet wide to provide space for many more fisherman than the end of the old pier did," said Myers.

The new pier has other amenities the old one lacked. Restrooms at the halfway point of the pier are much more convenient for fishermen and sightseers. A concession stand with indoor seating offers prepackaged sandwiches, bait, ice, drinks and basic fishing tackle with plans to expand the stock of fishing tackle. Rental rods are available for anyone who decides on the spur of the moment they want to try the fishing but didn’t bring their gear. Fish-cleaning stations are also strategically located for dressing fish and cutting bait.

Meyers and other park personnel are excited about the opening of the new pier, which is the longest pier on the Gulf Coast.

Photo by Billy Pope
The octagon at the end of the new Gulf State Park Pier was filled with anglers on the morning of the grand opening.

"With the increased length, fishermen will be fishing in 25 feet of water at the end of the pier. Also, we have created artificial fishing reefs a little over 100 feet out from the end of the pier. Concrete triangular reefs and debris from the old pier have been placed around the east and west sides of the end of the pier. We have already observed snapper around the reef, but we anticipate it taking a while for the snapper and other game fish to really get numerous on the reefs. I’d say in a year or less the fishing will really be good around the artificial reefs. Anglers are already catching redfish, flounder, bluefish, ground mullet, sheephead, mackerel, spade fish and other species," Myers said.

Anglers who will be fishing the pier for the first time should become familiar with the regulations at the pier. The rules are basically the same as with the old pier but with two exceptions: (1) Anglers are limited to four rods per person. Only one rod may be used at a time, but additional rods are allowed. (2) Trolley fishing has been prohibited.

Trolley fishing involves using a rod with a heavy line and weight, casting as far as possible to serve as an anchor. Smaller baited lines are then attached to the main line via a clip. When a fish takes the bait, it is retrieved up the main line. The fish is removed, hook rebaited and the process starts over. Myers said the trolley fishing inconvenienced many other fishermen because trolley fishermen tend to stay in the same spot. The first ones there get the best spots and don’t move. Park personnel feel these two rule changes will even the playing field and be for the good of all fishermen at the pier.

The basic pier fishing rules are as follows:

1. Limit of four rods per fisherman.
2. No trolley fishing permitted.
3. Bottom fishing up-wind/up-current.
4. Float fishing down-wind/down-current.
5. Saltwater fishing license is required. Alabama residents may purchase a $5 annual pier license.
Non-residents must purchase licenses according to reciprocal agreements with their state of residency.
6. Good conduct/sportsmanship is required.
7. One crab basket per person (cannot be left unattended and you cannot crab and fish at same time).
8. Catch must be placed in container within 10 minutes.
9. No tackle and/or bait allowed on tables and benches.
10. Cut bait at cleaning tables or bait cutting tables only.
11. An adult must accompany children under 12 at all times.
12. No standing or sitting on rails.
13. No jumping/diving off pier.
14. No alcohol allowed on pier.
15. No cooking on pier.

In addition, the following are prohibited on the pier: pets, shark fishing, reels larger than 4/0, gill nets, cast nets, wire crab traps, spears, spear guns, bed rolls, cots, sleeping bags, skates, skateboards, bicycles, running, horseplay, fireworks, firearms, slingshots, beach umbrellas or lounge chairs. Standard folding chairs are permitted.

The daily fishing permit for adults and children over 12 is $8 per day. Children under 12 can fish free when accompanied by a fishing adult. A weekly permit is offered for $40, a monthly permit for $80, and a semi-annual permit for $160. All day sight-seeing permits are $3 and a one-trip permit is $2.

Barnett Lawley, Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, said one of his priorities has been to get a new pier built.

"I enjoyed fishing from the old pier and, as a fisherman and commissioner, I have been committed to getting the new pier completed. I was down for the pier opening and have been back once since. I was amazed to see how many vehicles with out-of-state tags were parked there. The word is already getting out to fishermen in adjoining states that we have the newest and best fishing pier on the Gulf Coast," Lawley said.

Knowledgeable salt-water fishermen are predicting excellent catches from the new Alabama Gulf State Park Pier, primarily because of its length and the new artificial reefs. Maybe you should give the pier a try the next time you are on the Alabama Gulf Coast. There may just be a 30-pound bull redfish circling around looking for your bait. For more information, call the pier at (251) 948-7275.

Ben Norman is an outdoor writer from HighlandHome.

The Flat Rock General Store Ought Nine Labor Day Doins…

And Apple Pie Bakin’ Contest—With “Protest”…

By Joe Potter

It was Monday in the mid-mornin’ when I pulled up outside The Flat Rock General Store and directed my pick-up straight for parkin’. Bro. was a pumpin’ some petro into his pickup. Essex was a headed up The Store’s front steps t’ward the old double-front doors. She was a carrin’ a country-checkered cloth coverin’ a plate with Slim some mornin’ breakfast vittles.

There was a slight shower a fallin’ on Flat Rock and several other community and area folk was a scurrin’ inside. As I moved myself inside, there was a passel of folk a collectin’ near the rear about the old potbellied heater.

Slim had the floor and was a commentin’ on the ought nine Labor Day doin’s for Flat Rock for the Saturday shy of Labor Day (September 5). Ms. Ida was a pencilin’ down a Labor Day doin’s schedule along the rear wall on white butcher paper with red marker. Early comers would be treated to ham biscuits and a quartet singin’, then some softball twix Flat Rock, Wolf Springs, Hatton, Mt. Hope and vise versa. At noon would be chicken stew eatin’ followed by horseshoe pitchin’ under the oak trees, kids’ games and face paintin’, then more singin’ by Harley Hood and friends. For supper there’s Bishop’s pulled pork bar-b-que with trimmin’s, along with the second annual apple pie bakin’ contest with "protest."

At this here point, Willerdean and Estelle commented with "protest" on the ought eight Labor Day apple pie bakin’ contest winners, based on a "secret herb" contained in the winnin’ pie. Seems Harley and "Hatch" was judged co-winners for their contest entry by the senior ladies’ Sunday School Bible Class recruited by Bro. from down to his Baptist Church.

Willerdeam and Estelle’s with "protest" was based on the "secret spice," and the pure fact it looked like turnip greens and carried a strong smell like medicine. Additionally, the ladies were allowed to keep the "winner" and serve it with coffee at Sunday Bible class the followin’ day.

Willerdean and Estelle with "protest" was to have the ought eight winners banned from the ought nine contest. Course Harley and "Hatch" was not present to defend their apple pie entry. Slim offered no more commentin’ on the ladies with "protest" request for rulin’ ‘bout ought nine exceptin’ to say, with a full-mouth grin, that all participants should "cook responsible."

At this point the showers had moved on out. Most folks were a finishin’ off their lunch and a headin’ out for their afternoon obligations and duties.

Happy Labor Day for Ought Nine!!!


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

The Mechanical Bull

By Baxter Black, DVM

"So, what’s the difference between riding a mechanical bull and riding a real one?" asked the boy of his dad.

"You will know the difference, my son, the first time you climb over into the buckin’ chute and look down," the dad replied.

The mechanical bull is a carnival ride, it is not a life-changing experience. Riding a real bull will affect how you answer one of the questions you will be asked the rest of your life. Whenever PBR comes on ESPN or Extreme Sports are being discussed, you will have a practiced answer like…"I was going to ride one once, but I had a sinus infection so I couldn’t," "I was taking piano lessons and worried about injuring my hand" or "Yeah, I rode bulls till my brains came in."

I can’t remember the first bull I got on. I do recall trying to hang on to the back of a steer in a roping chute and being scraped off! I started riding bulls in high school. There wasn’t much of a system set up for kids to learn. Most of the rides I made were in rodeos where the money was up.

I tell the story in retrospect years later about a friend on the NMSU rodeo team named Charley Engle. He was a good bull rider and I admired him. When I asked him for advice, he suggested I had to practice.

"Practice?!!" I thought. Does that make any sense to anyone reading this? "I’m going to have a train wreck tomorrow, I better have one today to practice!"

The difference between riding a mechanical bull and a real bull has less to do with the actual ability to stay on, and more to do with facing your own courage; i.e., how you will deal with an unforgiving, unpredictable, massively strong, dangerously-quick force of nature. Riding bulls is better compared to standing outside during a tornado, arm-wrestling an octopus or walking into a cage with a grizzly bear!

You cannot control the outcome, yet you drop down on his back with a leg on either side. You glance at the spread of horns as big as baseball bats three feet in front of your face. Your muscles are as tight as tarp rubbers as you slide your rosined hand into the rope. They pull it tight. "Good?" they ask. "More," you say. You have squeezed your mind into a steel-jacketed blue-tip laser-flame of concentration. You have gone inside your mind as the mechanics of mounting swirl around you. You take your wrap.

The bull bangs his horns on the steel chute. He mashes your leg into the side. You can feel his body heat and taste his feral tension. It smells like a storm coming. You scoot up on your hand, lean back. You are so in tune, you can feel your nerves running through your veins like sand in an hourglass. You are totally spring-loaded shivering focused.

Dad says, "Nod your head when you’re ready."

The son nods his head and they explode from the chute together.

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,

There’s No Cooling Off for Truck Farming Couple

Jerry and Karen Wingard stand behind a huge bin filled with bright red tomatoes just picked at their farm in McKenzie.

By Alvin Benn

Think it’s tough walking around outside when the temperature is pushing toward 100 degrees and the humidity isn’t far behind?

Air conditioning has a way of rectifying that, but such is not the case for Jerry and Karen Wingard who spend their days in the oppressive heat picking tomatoes, okra, peas, watermelons and lots of other specialty produce.

They don’t have an air conditioned office where they can cool off. Catching an occasional breeze helps, but, for the most part, it’s like working near a blast furnace more often than not from late spring to early autumn.

Karen Wingard cools off on hot days in the cooler of the family farm in McKenzie while she enjoys some fresh watermelon.

Don’t pity them, though. They love what they do, especially being together out in a tomato patch or back at their produce stand in the little Butler County community of Mckenzie which is south of Georgiana.

"My daddy did this, too," said Jerry, 56, as he checked over his latest batch of "maters" in a bin where customers line up to select what appeals to them. "That’s about all he ever did and it’s about the same for me."

Karen, 42, appreciates cool comfort a lot more than her hubby. She used to work at a Butler County nurse uniform plant that basically withered on the textile vine thanks to trade agreements that sent most of those jobs overseas.

"It was air conditioned where I worked," she said. "I never realized how hot and how hard picking tomatoes could be until I started doing it every day. Being out in this heat most of the day can really take it out of you."

Jerry and Karen met two decades ago following failed first marriages. They are soul mates and the love and affection they have for each other is evident to anyone who sees them at the produce stand.

"They are two of the most dedicated people I’ve ever seen," said Levon Glisson, who manages Andalusia Farmers Cooperative not far from Wingard Produce. "Truck farming is very hard work, but they’re down-to-earth people who never seem to complain about anything.

"Jerry’s word is his bond and that says a lot about him. When it’s time to get something done, the Wingards get it done."

Other Alabamians involved in row crop and specialty crops are just like the Wingards—men and women who are up early in the morning and spend the day in their fields tending to a variety of fruits and vegetables.

There is a big difference between row crops and specialty farming, but the bottom line is the same, according to Harold McLemore, a marketing specialist with the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries.

"No matter what the price might be, there is always a market for both of them," said McLemore. "The difference is there’s always a price for row crops. When it comes to produce, however, you’ve got to know your market and just how much to grow."

McLemore points out that changing times and mechanization have made row crop farming a lot easier and less expensive than it used to be when manual labor was the key to success in that field of endeavor. It also cost a lot of money to pay those who picked the crops.

"Today, mechanized equipment allows one man to easily handle 300 to 400 acres at a time," McLemore said. "When you’re dealing with produce, you’ve got to have your labor set up as well as refrigeration to protect what’s planted."

McLemore and co-worker George Paris are proponents of plasticulture which involves placement of plastic over rows of vegetables to enhance growing. They point to Alabama’s neighbor to the east as an example of just how successful it’s become in Georgia.

"They’ve got 35,000 acres in plasticulture production over there and Alabama’s only got about 3,000 acres," said McLemore. "We have an opportunity to improve our production and marketing if we can just find a way to expand that operation."

At one time, farmers in several Alabama counties grew strawberries. There are a lot fewer today and California has gained a near monopoly on berries across the country.

"I’d say half of the strawberry consumption in Alabama involves what’s grown in California," McLemore said. "At the moment, they are running out of water out there and we have an opportunity to grab some of that market. We don’t want it all, just our share."

In late July, McLemore and Paris joined Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks and Assistant Commissioner Glen Zorn at the inaugural Farmers Market on Dexter Avenue in Montgomery—right in front of the State Capitol.

Farmers from throughout the state were in booths lining both sides of Dexter, offering fruit and vegetables grown on their land. Some misjudged the response and, too late, discovered they didn’t bring enough tomatoes, peaches, peas, okra and other crops for sale.

First Lady Patsy Riley officially opened the Capitol Market and announced to one and all that a garden has been planted behind the Governor’s Mansion where a variety of items have been growing for the past several months. Another market is planned for next year and there’s a possibility more than one may be held each year.

A major concern for Alabama agricultural leaders today is the aging of farmers in the state. Many find their children and grandchildren have no interest in farming, raising the possibility of having to sell their land or leasing it out to individuals or large corporations.

The Wingards are well aware of that possibility but, for the time being, they intend to continue producing fruit that goes quickly when customers drop by to examine what the latest arrivals are in the bins at their stand.

A few days ago, they were busy checking out the latest pile of tomatoes that would soon find their way into sandwiches and salads in Alabama and nearby states. They knew long before they dumped them into the bins which ones were good and which ones were bad. That’s because they picked ’em.

Their produce stand won’t win any awards for structural appearance, but that’s not something they care about. It serves its purpose and repeat customers bear that out.

Located along Crum Foshee Highway, the business has become a regular stop along the way for families heading to and from the beach. Many folks call Jerry and Karen by their first names because they’ve gotten to know them so well through the years.

They produce a lot more than tomatoes, of course. It’s unlikely they could stay in business very long with only one item to sell. That’s why they sell a wide variety of produce. They even sell colorful hot peppers.

"People seem to like ’em and they go fast," said Karen. "We let them know how hot they are. They can flat burn your tongue."

The produce stand isn’t enclosed, and the only comfortable spot to be found during the Dog Days of July and August is a cooler where the Wingards keep their watermelons.

"I come in here a lot during the summer," Karen said, as she stood halfway in the cooler, half a watermelon in her hands—a knife stuck in the middle. "I cut a square of melon and eat it when it’s just too hot outside like it is today."

Alabama used to have a lot more farmers who specialized in produce like corn, peanuts, watermelons, tomatoes and peas.

Because the work is so hot and so hard, many have given up and now use their land for cattle or trees or both. That leaves the Wingards and a dwindling number of other farmers to pick up the slack around the state.

Strong winds from storms occasionally blow down their old wooden sign out front, but Jerry always puts it back in place for motorists to see as they zoom up and down the highway.

Alvin Benn is a freelance writer from Selma.

This Teenage Young Lady is Sugar & Spice, Everything Horse

By Don Linker

While most 16-year-old girls spend their spare time shopping, texting and hanging out with friends, this Walker County High student spends hers practicing for band or working with her numerous horses. This young lady literally lives and breathes horses. She is an honor student in school and has been a member of the high school band for two years. But her real passion is horses; you can see that when you talk to her or watch her working with her horses. Meet Miranda Dobbins from Nauvoo.

Miranda’s love for horses began early and by the time she was six years old, she was riding alone. At age seven, she was competing in local shows and winning. She competes in several different disciplines including halter, Western pleasure, English pleasure, timed events and trail competitions. For two years, she has competed in extreme trail competitions locally, which prepared her for the Alabama Horse Council’s Ultimate Trail Horse Competition in Montgomery, where she was Alabama High Point Youth.

Tomatoes Everywhere!

Alabama has had one of its best tomato seasons in a long time; and there are plenty of ideas available for enjoying them as long as possible.

By Kenn Alan

We have had one of the best tomato seasons in Alabama in a long time. The rain seemed to come at just the right intervals along with the sunshine. All you really had to do was keep the plants fertilized, watch for early signs of disease and pick off the tomato horn worms to fish with!

You and your family are probably still enjoying your HGTRDC (Home Grown Tomatoes Recommended Daily Consumption) of two to three large tomatoes per day. Now, it’s September and you’re probably wondering what to do with all of those tomatoes left on the vines. Just because autumn is around the corner does not mean you should go without tomatoes.

Here are a couple of ideas I recommend for when your tomato vines are producing more fruits than you can eat or share. (And I definitely recommend sharing.)

• First of all, make juices, sauces or stews, and can them in jars. For further information on these processes, refer to the Alabama Cooperative Extension System’s (ACES) website at, or e-mail me and I will help you.

• For green tomatoes left at the end of the season, harvest them and make tomato pickles. Prepare the tomatoes in much the same way as you would for cucumbers; adding spices, herbs and perhaps some hot chilis. Again, ACES has the answers for pickling processes.

• If you aren’t interested in heat processes, then you can easily freeze them. The process is simple and requires very little effort. The lazy way is to pick your unblemished ripe tomatoes, wash them, pat them dry, then place in a plastic bag with little to no headspace for air and freeze them. As you pull from the freezer to use, thaw them then remove the skin. The other way to freeze tomatoes is to do your skinning beforehand. Make an ‘X’ with a knife at the bottom of each ripe tomato, dip it into a boiling water bath for about 30-seconds then dip into an ice water bath to loosen the skin. Core and peel the tomatoes. Pack either whole or in pieces in containers, leaving about one inch headspace.

• Finally, frozen, fried green (or red, yellow, orange, purple, etc.) tomatoes. Slice tomatoes and dredge in your favorite mixture of corn meal and flour breading. Arrange the slices on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and freeze. Once frozen, stack tomato slices in a freezer bag. Do not allow the tomatoes to thaw while doing this. Keep them in freezer until ready to cook and only remove as many as you need for the meal. Either fry in your cast iron skillet with vegetable oil or spray them lightly with olive oil and bake until golden brown.

Don’t leave good tomatoes on the vine! Enjoy the fruits of your labor all year long!

E-mail me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it."> if you need further information on what to do with those leftover tomatoes.

Friend me at and go to to listen live and access the new podcasts coming soon!

I hope you will all tune in each Saturday from 8 until 10 a.m. CDT for Home Grown Tomatoes. If you are not in the local coverage area, then tune in on the Internet by going to and follow the links to listen live!

Useful Annual Clovers

By Don Ball

Growing clovers with pasture grasses greatly enhances cost effectiveness in forage/livestock production. In situations in which perennial clovers have the opportunity to perenniate (come back from the roots), they are usually a better choice than annuals. Thus, in Alabama, the perennial legumes white clover and red clover are mostly grown in association with tall fescue, orchardgrass or dallisgrass. However, annual clovers are generally the best choices to seed into Bermudagrass or bahiagrass, or when a legume companion to ryegrass and/or small grain is desired. Here are some important traits of four useful annual clovers.

Arrowleaf Clover is suited to be grown on well-drained soils throughout Alabama, with the exception of the Black Belt. It makes most of its growth from mid-March to the end of May, but with good moisture availability it may be productive in June. Thus, it typically provides good production and high forage quality at least through May. When overseeded on a summer grass, it results in late-spring and early-summer forage growth from those pastures to be higher in quality than it otherwise would be.

Ball Clover is best suited to heavy soils with good moisture-holding capacity, but can be successfully grown on sandy, droughty soils, making it our most widely-adapted annual legume. It will tolerate more flooding and wetter soil than most winter annual legumes. It makes most of its growth in mid-spring, and is productive about one month later than crimson clover. It produces an abundance of seed and produces a high percentage of hard seed. Forage yield is often less than other clovers, but it has excellent potential for reseeding under grazing.

Berseem Clover, which is best suited to be grown in about the southern half of Alabama, has an erect growth habit and foliage resembling alfalfa. Like alfalfa, it is intolerant of soil acidity and does best at a soil pH of 6.5 or higher. Unlike most annual legumes, it is quite tolerant of wet soil and high rainfall conditions. Where adapted, it is one of the best-yielding annual clovers in the Southeast. It has little potential for reseeding, but is considered a non-bloating legume. The Mississippi State University variety ‘Bigbee’ is the most productive one for the Southeast.

Crimson Clover is a showy plant adapted to well-drained soils, and makes more fall, winter and early-spring growth than any other winter annual legume. Thus, it is a good choice of clovers for areas in which a winter pasture is to be terminated by mid-to-late April so a summer row crop can be planted. For the same reason, crimson clover growth overlaps less than other clovers with the initial spring growth of summer grasses on which it has been overseeded. It is perhaps our most dependable annual clover.

Final Thoughts- The rewards of growing forage legumes are great, but in general they require more precision during establishment and more management in general than grasses. Points to be considered include: (1) proper seed inoculation; (2) more sensitivity to soil acidity; (3) more sensitivity to poor soil fertility and (4) a greater need to take care to not plant seed too deeply. Failure to adhere to these requirements often results in poor outcomes. Various other characteristics of the annual legumes discussed are provided in Table 1.

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

Wildlife Delicacies That Save You Money?

By Jerry A. Chenault

"We hardly ever buy meat at a grocery store," he said. "There’s too much of it out in the woods ... and the meat we hunt tastes so much better than what you can buy in a grocery store!"

That’s what my friend, Donnie Chappell of Hartselle told me recently. Donnie enjoys hunting and he hunts as a supplement to the dining table. He’s not alone these days.

In fact, I recently read an article on Alabama Cooperative Extension System’s website (at entitled "Looking to the Woods, Instead of the Grocery Store, for Cost Savings."

In that article Dr. Mark Smith, Extension Wildlife Specialist, said, "Wild game is one of the most nutritious and healthy sources of protein available."

Even though people have often passed off wild game as "poor man’s food," that has changed big-time in modern large cities.

"You’ll pay big bucks for duck breast or quail at some of the finer Atlanta restaurants," he said.

Dr. Stephen Ditchkoff, an associate professor and deer expert at Auburn University, added to this discussion. "The average deer will yield about 25 to 30 pounds of meat, and with hamburger selling for about $2.50 per pound, a couple of deer in the freezer adds up to big cost savings."

Dr. Ditchkoff also reminded us that not only is venison high in protein and B vitamins, it is also, compared with beef and pork, lower in calories, saturated fat and cholesterol. Hmmm.

And what about "backwoods bacon?" Donnie said his family just loves the pork he brings home from the forests and fields. "Ever tried any?" he asked. Not yet, I haven’t . . . but I will if I have an opportunity.

Dr. Jim Armstrong, Extension Wildlife Specialist at Auburn University, is heading up an Extension Team Project (ETP) which focuses, in part, on the problem of feral hogs (wild) in Alabama. The fact is, wild hogs carry diseases that can be transported to humans. They also eat everything in sight and thereby take food supplies from other game animals.

I’ve seen large fields you can’t drive a tractor through anymore because of feral hog damage," said Dr. Armstrong. "They decimate, to the point of local extinction, some plants...and this affects other wildlife species. They destroy the seed bank for different plants and change the succession of plants. They’re very destructive of the habitat."

Dr. Armstrong reminded me feral hogs are non-native, even though many have been in Alabama since explorers turned them loose here in the 1500s. Those explorers wanted to keep a fresh supply of pork for their return trips, but in modern times that supply of BBQ meat has come at a high cost to the environment and to other game species.

It turns out Donnie is doing all of us a pretty good favor every time he puts feral hog on the dinner table. I hope soon he’ll call me for a little help in tasting it!

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

“Going Green” Farming Business Relies Heavily On Conservation

From left, Shane and Michael Pack take pride in their production of nursery stock on the sloping Sand Mountain land. Terraces, like the one shown in the background, not only reduce potential erosion but double as access roads to service nursery plants.

By Cecil Gant

"Going Green" means different things to different people. To Michael Pack of Pack’s Nursery near Boaz, in rural North Alabama, the bottom line is to do things that improve the environment, one step at a time. The Pack family farming operation does just that. It is a third generation business paying strict attention to soil and water conservation on over 300 acres of Sand Mountain soil.

The Packs specialize in growing nursery plants that include an assortment of shrubs, trees and ornamentals which are the core of their "Going Green" operations. According to Pack, they plant what grows best in the well-drained sandy loam soil.

"We like the results we get from using the sloping Sand Mountain land," Michael pointed out.

A major part of their farming operation is their conservation plan. Michael grew up hearing about a farm conservation plan which is a combination of land uses and farming practices that protect and improve soil productivity and water quality, and prevent deterioration of natural resources on all or part of a farm. In fact, he remembers his dad, G.C. Pack, insisted that conservation receive major attention.

"Dad would only sparingly and cautiously let us use farm machinery that disrupted soil structure," Michael said.

"That was 40 years ago, long before ‘minimum tillage,’ which today is hailed as largely responsible for a major reduction in erosion on Sand Mountain soil," the seasoned conservationist said.

Since sloping land is highly susceptible to erosion, over the years the Packs have engaged in nursery production, they have continuously majored in building terraces and establishing vegetative waterways and field borders to lessen the bad effects of erosion.

"Actually, soil and water conservation is just as important, and maybe more so, to our operations today as it was 40 years ago," Michael mused.

Pack stated, for the most part, their operation spreads fertilizer by hand and uses a one-row International tractor with a micro-mister to spray for weeds and pests as needed.

James Huber, a technician with the DeKalb Soil and Water Conservation District, helped the Packs design and implement their conservation practices. He said the Packs’ fields are always "neat as a pin," clear of weeds, plowed on the contour and managed to ensure the nursery plants, not weeds, get the nutrients from applied fertilizer as well as the benefits of water.

The Packs do not irrigate their fields. They rely on rainwater to stimulate growth in the nursery plants, thus making the control of water run-off especially important. Field terraces, field borders and waterways are planted with grasses which cover the designated areas with sod protecting the soil from erosion further.

The nursery plants are started from cuttings taken by the Packs and placed in cups filled with a mixture of sand and pine bark. The cups are then kept in cold frames until they reach a height of six-12 inches, depending on variety. Generally it takes from four to six years to grow a cutting to a marketable-sized shrub. Trees usually take longer.

From start to finish of the growth cycle, the nursery plants are carefully scrutinized and sprayed for insects and diseases.

"Our biggest problems are caused by spider mites and scales," Michael said.

Improving their operations is a continuous goal of the Packs. As the seasons change, so do the jobs, like pruning, digging, harvesting and fertilizing plants. Their busiest time is spring.

While the Packs use both wholesale and retail market outlets, the majority of their ornamental plants are shipped to Memphis, Knoxville and Nashville, Tenn. Some however go as far away as Oklahoma.

Now in its third generation of operations, the Pack farming business includes the children of Michael and his brother, Chris. Working in the family business is the only job Chris and grandson, Shane, have ever had.

"Getting more trees and shrubs planted is our way of helping the environment; it’s our way of ‘Going Green,’" Michael pointed out.

Cecil Gant is a Coordinator with Sand Mountain-Lake Guntersville Watershed.

Back to
Tickets & Deals