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September 2017

4-H Extension Corner: Aiming for Great Leadership

Alabama 4-H’ers Attend National 4-H Shooting Sports Ambassador Institute

by Donna Reynolds

Two Alabama 4-H’ers, Justin Mitchell from Lauderdale County and Christina Green from Coffee County, attended the National 4-H Shooting Sports Ambassador Institute July 25-29 in Gainesville, Florida.

New National 4-H Shooting Sports Ambassadors Justin Mitchell, above, and Christina Green, below.

They are now National 4-H Shooting Sports Ambassadors. Additionally, the Alabama 4-H’ers are State 4-H Shooting Awareness Fun & Education Ambassadors for the duration of their 4-H career. As S.A.F.E. ambassadors, they will have opportunities to assist with such events as National Championships in Grand Island, Nebraska, and National Congress in Atlanta. As 4-H representatives, they will make sponsor or legislative visits with the National 4-H Shooting Sports Committee, appear in media, or attend the Shot Show and other industry and trade shows.

"The National 4-H Shooting Sports Ambassador Institute is an intensive weeklong leadership, communications, public relations and etiquette training experience," said Shannon Andress, State 4-H S.A.F.E. Program Coordinator. "Our 2017 delegates Christina Green and Justin Mitchell will become part of a corps of highly trained youth who provide a youth voice to Alabama Shooting Sports. They will join our other three previously trained 4-H Shooting Sports Ambassadors Ryan McAndrews, from Jefferson County; Dalton Maddox, from Elmore County; and Dawson Kissik, from Montgomery County."

Mitchell, 15, has been involved in the 4-H S.A.F.E. programs for seven years. A sophomore at Rogers High School, he is a member of their football team, National FFA Organization Livestock team, a History Club member and a member of the Future Business Leaders of America. He is also an active member of Center Hill Church of Christ and the Alabama Junior Cattlemen’s Association.

As a longstanding 4-H’er in Lauderdale County, Mitchell is a member of the County 4-H Shotgun and County Archery Clubs, and the 4-H Livestock Judging Team; and has been a Certified Team S.A.F.E. Leader since January 2016.

"Justin has a passion for public speaking and is an accomplished competitor in 4-H, as well as within his church league," Andress added. "His communication skills serve him well, and enhance his leadership abilities in his role representing youth interests on the Lauderdale County 4-H Youth Council."

"I believe I can be beneficial to the 4-H Ambassador program and represent shooting sports in a positive light in the public arena," Mitchell said. "I am a hard worker, hold officer positions in other clubs and will use my experience to influence and educate others about the value of 4-H and youth shooting sports education."

Green, 15, from Enterprise, has been involved in Alabama 4-H for nine years. Her participation in 4-H includes being a member of the County Archery, Horse and Swine Clubs; and the Livestock Judging Team. She just returned from Nebraska on behalf of Alabama 4-H, attending the National 4-H Shooting Sports Championship as a member of the Alabama Archery Team.

"Christina’s leadership experience is already impressive," Andress said. "Since 2012, she has served as president of the 4-H Archery Club; is a member of the Coffee County 4-H Youth Council, the National Peanut Festival 4-H Book Committee and the 4-H Community Service Project [Annual Senior Citizen Prom Committee]; was secretary of her sixth-grade 4-H club; and served as vice president of her fifth-grade 4-H Club. She also competes annually in the 4-H Archery Tournament at Buckmasters."

"I can’t wait to see what the years ahead have in store, and appreciate the opportunity Alabama 4-H is providing," Green said. "I look forward to making a positive difference on behalf of 4-H and the shooting sports program as a whole."

Green has enjoyed representing her county at many district, regional, state and national 4-H competitions. She has also taken part in the Alabama Junior Cattlemen’s Roundup events including photography, cattle grooming and livestock judging. She is also a member of the Enterprise High School National FFA Organization and Stakeholder’s Committee.

"Some youth think they have to wait until they become adults to make a difference," Andress said. "Through their 4-H experiences, training and opportunities, Christina and Justin are demonstrating that they have the desire and ability to be leaders. We are excited about their selection to attend the National 4-H Shooting Sports Ambassador Institute and are confident they will return to Alabama with enhanced abilities to help us fulfill the 4-H motto, ‘To Make the Best Better.’"

Donna Reynolds is the communication editor of news and public affairs with ACES in Auburn.

A Place to Grow

Students cultivate lifelong lessons at Dawes Outdoor Learning Center.

by Carolyn Drinkard

Madison Hunter, a fifth-grader, welcomes visitors to Hawks Park.

As population increased in west Mobile County, the Mobile County Board of Education built Dawes Intermediate School in 2010 to cope with overcrowding. The new school housed students in the third through fifth grades. From the beginning, DIS has distinguished itself as one of the best in both Mobile County and the state of Alabama. For two years in a row, DIS has been named an Alabama Performance Excellence School. In 2016, the school was honored with the National Blue Ribbon Lighthouse School of Excellence Award, receiving an excellent in all nine categories. Then in 2017, Chasity Collier, a science teacher at DIS, was named Alabama’s Teacher of the Year.

DIS has won its share of awards and accolades, but it is the gardening program that has brought something really special to its students and the community. After surveying third-graders, the school discovered only 3 percent of its student body had ever grown anything in a garden. Even worse, most students thought their food grew on trees. A committee of parents, teachers and community members worked together to change these perceptions. The group decided that Dawes students needed an outdoor classroom focused on teaching students about healthy living, nutrition and food sustainability along with all their other subjects. The project would also give real-life experiences in local farming practices, organic gardening, recycling and environmental responsibility.

In 2012, DIS opened its Outdoor Learning Center, funded solely by donations, grants and funds raised by the school’s PTA that, by the way, had 100 percent participation. This beautiful facility, called Hawks Park, features an amphitheater with seating for 90, an outdoor kitchen, a SMART Board on wheels, a hot spot for community Wi-Fi, over 50 gardens with built-in sprinklers, a large barn with gardening tools, a composting center, bat houses, a GLOBE weather station, a hydroponics station, a greenhouse, and an adjoining field for both trees and fruit bushes. Craig Roberts, a local architect, donated his time to design the beautiful area, and hundreds of volunteers worked to make his drawings a reality.

The Mobile County Extension Office trained all the DIS teachers in the Alabama Junior Master Gardener Program and gave both materials and direct support. The school then set a yearly goal of 100 percent certification for its students.

Below, Dawes students help to prepare the garden plots by adding new soil and mulch. At right, students work in the gardens three times a week.

At the beginning of each school year, teachers and staff are assigned a garden plot. Working in teams, students design the walls and perimeters around each growing area and help to choose the plants, many generously donated by Bonnie Plants. The students work in the gardens three times a week, growing a variety of foods, which are used in their classrooms. Local chefs volunteer to teach students how to use their produce and herbs to make healthy dishes and add flavor without additives. Students take their herbs home, along with a recipe they can prepare for their own families. The cafeteria staff also uses the fresh produce and herbs in many of the school’s meals. In addition, students enjoy in-class tastings, where they make salsa, salads, fried green tomatoes and many other favorites.

"We’ve gotten them to taste vegetables and foods they ordinarily would not have tried!" explained Michelle McClung, who has served as the first and only principal of DIS.

She is also the project’s greatest advocate and cheerleader.

Left, Principal Michelle McClung holds plants students will later use in the garden. Bonnie Plants generously donated some of these plants. Above, many different herbs are grown in Hawks Park. Chefs help students learn how to use the herbs to add flavor and variety to foods.

Plants have now become an integral part of the school’s environment, further connecting students to the outdoors. Students care for plants in each classroom to supply and circulate additional oxygen, making their inside environment even more energy efficient. Many parents have reported that their children also want plants in their own bedrooms to improve air quality at home.

DIS students practice regeneration and recycling. Fifth-graders compost the cafeteria’s leftover breakfast and lunch items to create soil and fertilizer for the gardens. Fourth-graders water, feed and groom the beautiful ferns hanging in the school’s portico. Both gardening and composting are considered health activities at DIS.

The Dawes Outdoor Learning Center has become much more than just an outdoor classroom, however. It is now a hub, bringing parents and community members to the school. Some come to pick vegetables in the gardens and fruits from trees and bushes growing in the large, adjoining field. Others come to volunteer, cleaning and preparing the gardens for use or helping in other ways. One Boy Scout earned his Eagle Badge by building a hydroponic garden inside Hawks Park. A local drone club now meets there. Students, as well as community members, use the community Wi-Fi in the spacious amphitheater, while others choose to relax or de-escalate in this peaceful area. Many enjoy the walking track and basketball court adjoining the gardens and often stroll through Hawks Park to check on the gardens.

The Outdoor Learning Center has indeed enhanced the educational experiences at Dawes Intermediate School. The hands-on, real-life activities have taken students outside to discover the joys of using local farming practices to grow their own healthy, organic food. Many have developed a love of gardening, with some expressing a desire to become future farmers. Students have gained a deep respect for their environment and realized their personal responsibility in sustaining food supplies for generations to come. Most importantly, Hawks Park has given students something they will remember for a lifetime.

Carolyn Drinkard is a freelance writer from Thomasville. She can be reached at

Ag Insight

by Jim Erickson

Ag Careers Partnership Between USDA, FFA Announced

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue has announced a new partnership with FFA to help support youth and prepare the workforce of tomorrow for unique careers in agriculture.

The announcement came during the alumni breakfast at the 2017 National FFA Organization’s State Presidents’ Conference at U.S. Department of Agriculture headquarters in Washington. National FFA CEO Mark Poeschl joined with Perdue in making the announcement.

Under a newly signed memorandum of understanding, USDA and National FFA will collaborate on both short- and long-term initiatives to motivate and prepare young people, connect them with opportunities in agriculture, food and natural resources systems, and build appreciation for the reach and importance of agriculture.

NAP Participation Shows Large Increase

Applications for Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program more than doubled between 2014 and 2015, the latest period for which complete figures are available.

The USDA’s Farm Service Agency, which administers the program, says applications went from 66,000 to 138,000 from 2014 to 2015, the first year NAP Buy-Up was offered.

NAP participants can choose from a basic option providing catastrophic coverage for only a service fee or they can pay a premium for higher coverage with the buy-up program. Some 16 percent of applicants purchased the buy-up coverage, the majority being for specialty crops such as vegetables, fruits and tree nuts.

USDA operates a number of federal crop insurance and disaster aid programs to mitigate the downside risks inherent to agricultural production (e.g., damaging weather, price or yield disruptions).

However, crop insurance is only available to certain commodities in specified areas. Producers have been able to enroll in NAP since 1994. This program insures producers in situations when federal crop insurance is unavailable to them due to their crop or location.

Agriculture and Rural Task Force Pushes Toward Goal

Members of the Agriculture and Rural Prosperity Task Force are continuing their efforts to meet a 180-day deadline for issuing recommendations on the quality of life in rural America, the rural workforce, innovation, technology, and data and economic development.

The task force was created in late April by an executive order from President Trump with the goal of making a final report by late October. Perdue chairs the group.

The report is expected to include statutes to be enacted or repealed; regulations to be promulgated, amended or eliminated; and programs and policies to be implemented, streamlined or discarded.

Four working groups are gathering recommendations on issues to be addressed in the task force’s report.

At a recent breakfast meeting at USDA headquarters, participants discussed, among other issues, access to broadband, community infrastructure, community mental and physical health, workforce training and veterans’ employment, agricultural research, regulatory reform, improved access to capital and increased local control of decision-making.

Farm Real Estate Values Show Slight Decline

Since 2014, farm real estate values in many regions have leveled off and, in 2016, the national average per-acre value declined slightly, according to USDA’s Economic Research Service.

In recent years, farm real estate (including farmland and buildings) has accounted for about 80 percent of the value of U.S. farm assets, amounting to about $2.4 trillion in 2015. Strong farm earnings and historically low interest rates have supported the increase in farmland values since 2009.

The recent slowdown and national decline are partially responses to the decline in farm income that may temper expectations of future farm earning potential. In addition, the 2016 USDA 10-year commodity outlooks suggest prices of major commodities will stabilize or grow modestly from their current price levels, significantly lower than those in 2011.

Expectations of interest rate increases, which have been noted in some U.S. farm regions, also put downward pressure on land values.

Given that farm real estate makes up such a significant portion of the balance sheet of U.S. farms, changes in its value can affect the financial well-being of individual farms and the farm sector.

U.S., China Agree on Rice Imports

USDA has reached agreement with Chinese officials on final details of a protocol to allow the United States to begin exporting rice to China for the first time ever.

"This is another great day for U.S. agriculture and, in particular, for our rice growers and millers, who can now look forward to gaining access to the Chinese market. This market represents an exceptional opportunity today, with enormous potential for growth in the future," said Sonny Perdue, who added the agreement has been in the works for more than a decade.

China is the world’s largest producer and consumer of rice. Since 2013, it has also been the largest importer, with imports reaching nearly 5 million tons last year. When the new rice protocol is fully implemented, the U.S. rice industry will have access to this critical market, significantly expanding export opportunities. U.S. rice exports can begin following the completion of an audit of U.S. rice facilities by China’s General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine.

Soybean Domestic Use Exports Vary Widely

While the majority of soybean production in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil and Paraguay is consumed elsewhere, especially in China, the rest of Asia and the European Union, the United States consumes 50 percent of its output and exports 44 percent of production outside of North America.

Brazil and Argentina, the largest Latin American producers, exported an average of 67 percent of their soy production outside of South America.

The soy product exported varied with the country. For example, Argentina exported about 8 million tons of soybeans and 22 million tons of soybean meal. By comparison, Brazil exported about 43 million tons of soybeans and 13 million tons of soybean meal, according to USDA’s Economic Research Service.

Price Swings Vary at Different Food Chain Levels

Favorable weather conditions as well as droughts and floods can lead to changes in production levels of farm commodities and, in turn, swings in their prices.

Volatility in farm commodity prices – measured by the Producer Price Index for Farm Products and by the PPI for Processed Foodstuff and Feedstuff for intermediate foods – is often greater than price volatility in grocery stores and restaurants.

Intermediate foods such as vegetable oils and refined sugar are used to produce final foods like cookies and bread. Prices at each stage generally move in the same direction, but the magnitude of the price changes varies. For instance, in 2016 the Farm Products PPI declined by 9.7 percent, the Processed Foodstuff and Feedstuff PPI fell by 2.7 percent, while the Consumer Price Index for all food (foods purchased in stores and eating places) rose slightly by 0.3 percent.

Price fluctuations for intermediate foods and final foods are muted relative to that of farm products, because foods at later stages of production include less volatile costs for processing, transportation, packaging, and other wholesale and retail overhead costs.

According to ERS’s Food Dollar Series, farm and agribusiness costs represented only 10.8 cents of every dollar spent on domestically produced food in 2015.

Rural Population Decline Masks Wide Variations

Population in rural counties continued to decline slightly for a sixth straight year in 2015-16, according to census bureau estimates.

The number of people living in rural (nonmetro) counties stood at 46.1 million in July 2016, representing 14 percent of U.S. residents.

Rural population loss has been relatively small – 192,000 fewer people in 2016 compared with 2010, a decline of just 0.4 percent. However, this overall trend masks substantial regional and local variation.

Population declined by 790,000 people in the 1,350 rural counties that have lost population since 2010. Extensive population-loss regions are evident throughout the Eastern United States.

On the other hand, 466 rural counties grew at moderate rates (below the national average of 4.5 percent) and added 245,000 people. Many of these counties are located in recreation or retirement destinations such as in the Intermountain West or southern Appalachia.

The remaining 160 rural counties that increased at rates above 4.5 percent added 353,000 people. The highest rates of growth during 2010-16 occurred in rural counties with booming energy sectors such as those centered in western North Dakota’s Williston Basin. However, these counties experienced a considerable population slowdown in 2015-16, in line with declines in oil and gas production.

Alabama Co-op Couples Conference

Todd and Kari George,
Mid-State Farmers Co-op

Five couples were sponsored by local Quality Co-ops to attend 2017 event in Orange Beach.

There were 28 young couples sponsored to the 2017 Alabama Co-op Couples Conference, a three-day conference where participants had an opportunity to learn how cooperatives affect their everyday life. It was hosted by the Alabama Council of Cooperatives. The 42nd annual conference was held at Emerald Shores in Orange Beach July 17-19. Five of these couples were sponsored by their local Quality Co-ops. Other sponsors included Alabama Ag Credit, Alabama Farm Credit, CoBank, First South Farm Credit, Farmers Telecommunications Cooperative, Alabama Rural Electric Cooperatives and PowerSouth.

Adam and Heather Madewell,
Madison County Co-op

Wesley and Jasmine Torain,
Morgan Farmers Co-op

Daniel and Mandy Tubbs,
Morgan Farmers Co-op

Ryan and Ashley Williams,
Quality Co-op, Inc.

Alabama Council of Cooperative Names New President

AFC’s Samantha Carpenter was named President at the council’s July board meeting.

Samantha Carpenter, social media specialist for AFC, was named president of the Alabama Council of Cooperatives at their July board meeting. The ACC is an organization comprised of various cooperative associations in the state that are owned and controlled by farmers-members. These cooperatives provide facilities for marketing the agricultural products of their members and/or provide agricultural supplies or farm business services such as farm and crop financing, electricity, mutual insurance and telecommunication services.

The ACC works to promote cooperative business and education in Alabama by a Cooperative Youth Conference, a Young Couples Conference and a Scholarship Recipient Dinner.

Are GMO Crops Safe?

Misinformation about genetically modified food crops has been spreading. Consumers need the facts.

The majority of fresh fruits and vegetables are not currently GM crops, although there are a few. In general, for consumers concerned about direct consumption of GM crops, they can greatly decrease the odds of consuming them by avoiding highly processed foods and oils of corn, soybeans and canola.

by Tony A. Glover

Genetically modified organisms, commonly known as GMOs, include both food and nonfood crops. They are sometimes referred to as genetically modified, GM, or genetically engineered, GE, crops. GM food crop concerns have increased the interest and growth of both organic and locally grown food, including farmers markets. This has been a good thing – the more diversity in our food supply and your diet, the better. But in the zeal to promote local and organically grown foods, I’ve noticed that many of the reasonable concerns are being crowded out by a lot of hysteria and misinformation.

For someone new to the debate the first question they have is, "What exactly is a GM crop?" The truest answer is that mankind has been genetically modifying crops for millennia, but popular and social media now use these terms to mean "crops that contain added or altered genetic information performed in a laboratory." The purpose of genetically altering a crop is to provide some resistance or tolerance to a pest or pesticide, to give the plant some advantage (for us or them) or increased efficiency such as lower fertilizer or water needs. This is the same goal scientists, innovative farmers and even hobbyists have had for a very long time that in times past was done primarily by selection and crossbreeding (hybridizing). Plant breeders have used various unnatural plant breeding tools in the past and not much was said about it until relatively recently.

For instance, when I was studying agriculture, a process called mutation breeding was commonly used and has been around for nearly a century. Sometimes referred to as variation breeding, it is the process of exposing seeds to chemicals or radiation in order to generate mutant plants with hopefully some desirable trait that can be selected for and perpetuated to future generations of plants through traditional breeding methods.

The main difference in variation breeding or traditional breeding and GMOs is the origin of the genetic material that may come from totally unrelated organisms. One method is called transgenic genetic modification. This appears to be the process that the public fears the most, but is only one method of developing GMOs and amazingly it has been documented to occur naturally. Sometimes a gene is moved within the same species and is called cisgenic or intragenic. Another method is subgenic where a gene within the plant is edited in some way to amplify, delete, insert, silence or repress a specific gene. All of these things could possibly happen naturally or be accomplished with more traditional breeding or with mutation breeding, but with much less speed and precision. When scientists reported (in 2015) that bacterial genes naturally transferred trangenically into sweet potatoes most people either never heard about it or were unconcerned. However, if scientists do the same thing in a lab, it becomes super scary to many people.

The next question people have is, "Are GMO crops safe for me and my family to consume?" All scientific studies to date have shown GMO crops to be as safe as comparable traditionally bred crops. There is no shortage of misinformation on crop safety based on anecdotal information and opinion but there is little if any credible research to back up these opinions.

Unfortunately, scientists are often trusted as little as politicians and the media. However, just like with politicians and the media, you may have a general distrust of these people, but you do trust some politicians and some media, particularly if they agree with your position. Unlike with the former two examples, where everything seems to be based on subjective feeling, there are reasons to put more trust in science that is usually much more objective. Although you may find an outlier of a poorly designed or poorly conducted experiment, the vast majority of peer-reviewed research shows GMO food products are very safe. GMOs have been studied to a much greater extent than many food supplements and herbal products consumed with little fear by most people.

Another question that often comes up is, "What crops are most often genetically modified?" A number of food crops have been genetically modified, but the vast majority of acreage is planted to corn, soybeans and canola. I recently had a client come to me asking for a source of non-GM wheat seed so he could grow his own because he was under the impression that all bread is made from GM wheat. He was very surprised when I informed him that, although research has been conducted for some time on GM wheat, there is currently no GM wheat being sold commercially. Wheat has its own public relations problems related to gluten that the public may confuse with the GMO issue. For instance, I recently came across an article where the author had erroneously said that high gluten came about due to GM wheat. When a reader corrected her, she admitted she jumped to a wrong conclusion. But she had to add, "If wheat becomes genetically modified, my heart tells me that, without doing a speck of research, only bad things will come of it." At least she was willing to admit she had no research to back up her claim. However, her heart may be 100 percent wrong. For instance, researchers in Spain have genetically engineered wheat to lower and almost eliminate gluten in wheat. This could be a very good thing for those intolerant to gluten.

The majority of fresh fruits and vegetables are not currently GM crops, although there are a few. In general, for consumers concerned about direct consumption of GM crops, they can greatly decrease the odds of consuming them by avoiding highly processed food and oils from the big three crops mentioned and consuming more fresh fruits and vegetables. Even though there is no evidence of harmful effects from consuming GM crops, a diet containing less processed food and more fresh fruits and vegetables is recommended by dieticians and other health professionals.

Locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables are even less likely to be GM crops (with the possible exception of some sweet corn) due to the very high cost of seed and the lack of availability (in small quantities) of GMO seeds. If you are still worried and want to completely avoid GMOs, you should either buy certified organic products (that cannot be GMOs) or find out their varieties and do some research to see if they are GMO crops. Also, some companies label their products as GMO free but remember this does not equate to healthy because many of these products are highly processed. You still need to read the ingredient label.

I have heard many arguments against the use of GM crops that ask the question, "Why would we risk people’s health or the health of the environment if we are not 100 percent sure there is no danger?" The answer to this question can be very complicated and has profound moral implications. For instance, the world’s population is expected to increase from slightly over 7 billion today to 9 billion or more by 2050.

In order to feed this additional population, we will need to use every tool at our disposal. One way may be to cut down trees or plow up more prairies and then plant on this more environmentally vulnerable land. Almost no one wants to see this happen. Another option is to use traditional farming methods more efficiently such as applying irrigation water and nutrients based on actual crop needs and metered out using cutting-edge technology. However, many scientists believe the most sustainable method is a combination of these increased efficiencies and genetic engineering of crops.

The surface has barely been scratched on the potential of genetic engineering of crops and has largely focused on making crops resistant to a pest or pesticides. Naturally, companies involved need to make a return on their investment through seed cost or the sale of a product needed along with the seed such as Roundup Ready crops that allow farmers to spray their crops with glyphosate to kill weeds while not harming the crop. Many scientists believe that, once the technology has progressed more, they will likely be able to make foods healthier and even safer to eat or make them tolerate higher temperatures, dryer weather or even need less fertilizer. It may come as a surprise to many that it is not in the plants’ best interest to be eaten (except possibly for seed dispersal) and plants often produce naturally occurring chemical compounds to discourage other creatures from eating them. If scientists can reduce the harmful compounds and increase the beneficial ones, they could improve the healthful qualities. As mentioned earlier, traditional plant breeders have always done these things through the slow process of plant breeding and selection, but genetic engineering will make this task much more precise, less random and much faster.

We have never lived in a risk-free world and there is no such thing as being 100 percent certain something is perfectly safe to humans and the environment. We take risks all the time in the totally unnatural world of food production as well as all other aspects of our life. The systems we have now and have had in the past, including organic systems, are not totally natural and have always had risk associated with them. Societies must make choices based on the best research at any given time and make changes as the science progresses or becomes more definitive. We also have to balance risk with societal benefits. Having an affordable and plentiful food supply available to an ever-increasing population is worth the risk based on current research. Most food scientists and dieticians agree that our food-related health issues are not the result of GMOs but due to the overconsumption of highly processed foods and the excess consumption of sugars. To address our societies’ food-related health issues, we should literally and figuratively pick the low-hanging fruit (and vegetables) along with reasonable amounts of whole grains, proteins and dairy products.

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

Bama’s Best Catfish Restaurant

Atmore’s David’s Catfish House serves up delicious U.S. farm-raised catfish.

From left are Catfish Farmers of America President Townsend Kyser, David’s Catfish owners Elliott and Rob Faircloth, Alabama Catfish Producers’ Chairman Sid Nelson, Absolutely Alabama host Fred Hunter and Alabama Farmers Cooperative’s Jim Allen.

by Debra Davis

Four of the state’s top restaurants put their best fish forward as three judges traveled two days and 1,000 miles to name Bama’s Best Catfish Restaurant.

At the end of the catfish pilgrimage, David’s Catfish House in Atmore was named the champion restaurant in the second annual contest sponsored by the Alabama Catfish Producers. Its owner, Rob Faircloth, will receive a championship plaque and $500.

What is his secret to serving Alabama’s best catfish? Faircloth said it’s his employees.

"We have employees who have been with us for 25 or 30 years," he said. "They’re happy and enjoy what they’re doing. They know our customers and want to make them happy. We can’t thank our customers enough for nominating us."

David’s Catfish is located on South Main Street. Faircloth, whose family was in the restaurant business for decades, opened the franchise location in 1993. While most locations have the same menu, Faircloth’s restaurant offers specials such as catfish and grits topped with gumbo, which was popular with the judges. He also served them baked, fried and lemon-broiled catfish.

Judges for the event were Fred Hunter of WBRC-TV in Birmingham, the host of "Absolutely Alabama"; Alabama Farmers Cooperative’s Jim Allen, cohost of "Simply Southern TV"; and Hale County catfish farmer Townsend Kyser, who is president of Catfish Farmers of America. Alabama Catfish Producers Chairman Sid Nelson of Sumter County accompanied the judges.

"Our fish is some of the best on the market, and we’re excited to see our product go from pond to plate," Nelson said. "These restaurants dish up a safe, healthy product we’re proud to provide. This is a way of saying ‘thank you’ to them."

The contest seeks to reward restaurants for serving tasty U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish, Nelson said. It also sets the stage for National Catfish Month in August. Nominations for the award were accepted from March 1-June 12 through Facebook and

Other finalists were Swamp John’s in Red Bay, Catfish ‘N’ Que of Cullman and the Orrville Farmers Market in Orrville. The top four restaurants received a finalist plaque during judging July 13-14.

This year’s contest also featured a People’s Choice Award where customers voted online for their top pick from the final four. Over 2,750 customers voted from July 11-19. It was a fierce competition, but, in the end, David’s Catfish House got the most accolades.

In addition to judging, Hunter filmed the process for his popular TV show that will air Sept. 1, 11:05 p.m. on WBRC-Fox 6 in Birmingham; Sept. 2, 5:30 a.m. on WSFA-12 in Montgomery; and Sept. 3, 9:30 p.m. on WDFX in Dothan and 11 p.m. on WAFF-48 in Huntsville. Video of the show also will be posted on

Hunter said he knew two things going into the contest. First, he wouldn’t have to look far to find great catfish and, second, deciding which was best would be difficult.

"I was right about the great catfish," Hunter said. "Although there was only one winner, all of them were fantastic. I can’t wait to go back to any or all of them again."

Allen described judging the contest as a delicious experience where he gained more appreciation for catfish farmers.

"Sid and Townsend both raise catfish, and it was especially interesting to see them interact with the restaurant owners and personally thank them for serving a product they grow," Allen said. "Our state is fortunate to have some of the best farmers in the world, and I can testify restaurants in our state definitely cook some delicious catfish."

Kyser said he enjoyed judging the contest and connecting with the restaurants’ owners.

"It was awesome for me to see people so passionate about preparing the very product I produce," he said. "Each of these fine restaurants made me proud to call myself a catfish farmer. I look forward to revisiting them when I’m in their areas."

Catfish production has a $158.2 million economic impact on Alabama and provides over 5,800 jobs. The Alabama Catfish Producers is a division of the Alabama Farmers Federation, the state’s largest farm organization with over 356,000 members.

For more information, visit

Debra Davis is the publications director for Alfa.

Bovine Viral Diarrhea

What you don’t know could hurt your herd.

by Dr. Tony Frazier

"What you don’t know won’t hurt you." "Ignorance is bliss." Those statements may be true for a while, but often prove to be incorrect in the long run. You may have heard the advertisement about hepatitis C. The general message is that thousands of baby boomers are infected with the hepatitis C virus and don’t even know it. The suggestion is for people to be checked for the virus. I sort of relate the bovine viral diarrhea virus to that, except in cattle not humans. Thousands of cows, calves, heifers and bulls have the BVD virus and the owners are not even aware of it. I am not saying they should go get themselves checked. However, I am fairly sure that ignorance about the BVD virus is not always bliss.

A few weeks ago, a group of veterinarians from the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries and Auburn University got together to discuss what might be done to help the producers in our state to be less impacted by BVD. While we didn’t come away with a plan to rid Alabama of this serious problem within the cattle industry, we did all agree that education was the foundation to dramatically reduce the adverse economic effect this disease wreaks on our cattle producers. I wrote an article about BVD back in 2009 … I think. If you don’t have a problem with the disease or, certainly, don’t own cattle, that article was probably enough to do you for a long time. But we see enough of what kind of problems BVD causes and I believe it is time to do more education. And if you don’t own cattle, read the article anyway. You can impress your cattle buddies when you tell them how much you know about BVD.

BVD can cause transient infection, much like when we get a virus. About a week to 10 days after exposure, the cow or calf or bull gets sick. Then it builds up antibodies and, after about three days, it starts to get better. Transient infections can cause anything from fever, cough, runny nose and slight lameness all the way to hemorrhage, diarrhea and death. Acute outbreaks can be pretty bad, depending on the virus strain. And, depending on the virus, the animal may not even show signs of illness. One of the most aggravating characteristics of the virus is how it can pretty much shut down the immune system. In fact, one study found the most common virus present in feedlot cattle with pneumonia was the BVD virus.

Transient infection is like the virus kids get when they are at school and everybody passes the vomiting and diarrhea around. Then they get well and life goes on. There is another type of infection caused by the BVD virus. That type of infection occurs when the calf is exposed while it is still in the uterus and from 45 to 120-150 days of development. At that particular time in the calf’s development, the immune system has not developed yet. The virus establishes itself and, when the immune system comes along, it recognizes BVD as part of itself. Because of this, the calf can never develop antibodies to the virus. Most of these calves die at or shortly after birth. Those that live, however, shed huge amounts of the virus to infect some innocent bovine they come in contact with. They are persistently infected. We have come up with a term for those calves. We call them persistently infected BVD animals, PIs for short.

The reproductive problems caused by the BVD virus may lead to a lot of train wrecks for the cow/calf producer. If the fetus is exposed before 30-45 days, the calf usually dies and is reabsorbed by the uterus. If it is infected after 120-150 days, it is not unusual to have developmental deformities. Brain abnormalities are probably the most common type. The virus can also cause the calf to be born with cataracts in both eyes, abnormally small eyes or completely blind.

The virus is bad enough that two countries in the world had eradication programs that were reasonably successful. Those countries are Sweden and Denmark. Their BVD eradication programs began in 1993 and 1994, respectively. I will have to admit, though, when I think of those two countries, cattle is not among the first 10 or 15 things that cross my mind. Several states have certainly talked about the feasibility to put together a program to at least reduce the number of animals affected by the virus. As I said earlier, we talk about what we can do to help the Alabama producers with this virus. We constantly discuss with our lab at Auburn ways we might help producers test for the PI calves because they are the most formidable sources of infection.

There are things you, as a producer, can do to stack the deck in your favor against the virus. First, you can buy replacements from seedstock herds tested to eliminate PI calves. Second, you can practice strict biosecurity. If that term is not familiar to you, I will write a biosecurity column sometime in the near future. And finally, you can vaccinate against the virus. There are several good, commercially available vaccines against BVD. There are killed virus and modified-live virus vaccines. Do not give a modified-live virus to a pregnant cow, though. People have been known to cause cows to abort by vaccinating bred cows with live BVD and other virus vaccines. But, for the most part, I cannot overemphasize that you should sit down with your veterinarian and discuss a vaccine program custom-made for your operation.

If you have never had a problem with BVD, this article may not mean much to you. However, if you are one of the producers across the state who has had serious reproductive problems, you know what we mean when we say it is bad. If you are a stocker grower who has had to deal with a respiratory outbreak, you know how bad it can be. So we continue to kick the can down the road.

If you have suggestions that might be helpful, don’t hesitate to call me and discuss them.

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

Brantley Staples at AFC’s Company Picnic

Brantley Staples enjoys playing with some AFC water bottles at the company’s picnic. Brantley is the son of Melissa Staples, an employee at AFC’s grain facility in Florence.

Can you smell what I’m cookin’?

Early Season Scent Strategies

by Todd Amenrud

The author is excited to try a new concept this season. Scent Reflex Technology is a cutting edge proprietary development by Wildlife Research Center. It takes the performance of certain odors to an entirely new level. It amplifies the smell, making it stronger, longer-lasting and more dependable, and will be available in Golden Estrus.

I used to love trapping furbearers! Back during the late 1970s and through the ’80s, I used to run a several-mile-long trapline. The feeling of anticipation wondering if I had fur in a set was addicting. I don’t get to create as many scent setups as when I trapped but I do get to use scent for whitetails and it works just as well … no, better.

I’ve heard naysayers comment that scent only works on younger bucks or does and fawns. I couldn’t disagree more. Every animal is unique and has a different personality. One buck may do a backflip and bolt away from a scent where the next buck may sit there for five minutes doing a lip curl, relishing the same set.

During September, considerably amplified amounts of testosterone begin flowing through a buck’s body – from this point on, he is ready to breed. Contrary to what some believe, the does actually dictate when and most of the time where breeding will take place.

Bucks will often remain social with the other bucks until the does exhibit the first signs of coming into estrus. The farther south you go, the later this seems to happen, and it will be spread out over a longer period. Here in the South, there is more of a margin of error.

Typically, when it comes to deer smells, you want to use the scents when they would naturally occur in the wild. However, I’ve had a positive reaction to an estrus lure during early season. If you’re after any ol’ buck or a doe, it’s probably not a good idea to go out opening day and begin with an estrus lure. In this case, something like Trail’s End #307 or Golden Buck would be at the top of my list. However, if you are specifically after a mature buck, estrus may be a tactic you wish to try.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying Trail’s End #307 will only bring in small bucks or does and fawns. Some of the best bucks I’ve arrowed to date I owe to that lure. I’m merely saying, if you think about it, the two things a whitetail buck needs to do during the fall are survive and breed. If you keep foreign odors out of the picture and present it correctly, estrus lures can work like the supernatural, even during early season.

While researching a captive herd in Wisconsin, the author has seen a positive reaction to estrus lure early during the season and has seen the same thing in the wild. This buck, the author named “Popeye,” acted like a completely different animal when he smelled the Special Golden Estrus.

When testing and researching on captive deer in Wisconsin, I’ve seen a positive reaction to Special Golden Estrus as early as the first week of September. I remember a buck I had named "Popeye," a 5-year-old with a 145-inch 5x5 mainframe rack. When he caught wind of the scent, he began sheep-dogging the does – pushing them into the enclosure’s corners, trapping them so it was easier to check them out. He sniffed each doe to see which one was making that wonderful smell – well … wonderful to a whitetail buck. He stuck his nose directly into an adult doe’s urine stream and did a lip curl for over five minutes.

Yes, I understand this was a captive deer, but it works in the wild, too. Although most does will come into heat for the first time during mid-November, it is possible for a wild doe to come into estrus as early as October. Throughout the Deep South, the rut doesn’t get into full swing until mid-January. It is natural for the estrus smell to possibly be around for quite some time. And propagation of the species is the entire reason for a buck’s existence during the fall.

For any age deer (buck or doe) and for most instances, you’ll do better with a curiosity lure (such as Trail’s End #307, cherry extract, anise), plain urine or glandular secretions (such as Golden Buck or Select Doe Urine) or a food scent (such as acorn scent, essence of apple, etc.).

This year, I’m excited to try a totally new brainchild, Scent Reflex Technology. This is a cutting-edge, proprietary breakthrough by Wildlife Research Center. It’s been developed over a period of years, and takes the performance of certain scents to an even higher level for better responses.

Chemical engineer, scientist and President of Wildlife Research Center Sam Burgeson was somewhat tight-lipped when I questioned him about it. I suppose rightly so; this is a valuable trade secret.

Using scent is one of the author’s favorite tactics for mature bucks and early season is one of the best times to draw a positive response. Whitetails are much more laid-back and easier to fool when you’re getting the first crack at them and they don’t know they’re being hunted.

He summed it up by saying, "When a deer smells Golden Estrus enhanced with Scent Reflex Technology, it increases the chances of a stronger and more consistent response."

The way I understood it was that it amplifies the smell, making it stronger, more dependable and longer-lasting.

There are many ways you can dispense scent during this period, but three of my favorite tools are a Key-Wick, Pro-Drag and a Magnum Scrape Dripper.

The Key Wick is the easiest way to create a scent-wick set, to simply waft the scent downwind of the position.

The Pro-Drag is the best tool I have found to create a scent trail because it holds a lot of scent and it’s easy to control. You can use any type of liquid scent. It doesn’t have to be a deer smell. You are all right using food lures or curiosity scents, too.

The Magnum Scrape Drippers associated with making mock scrapes are another great tool for dispensing any type of liquid scent, not just those associated with mock scrapes. This device is heat-activated and will drip only during daytime hours so it conditions deer into showing up during legal hunting hours. The Magnum Dripper holds a full 4 ounces of scent! When you’re ready to hunt, the site is pristine and void of human scent.

To sum up, during early season, for any deer, you are probably best with a curiosity lure or food scent. However, if you have a mature buck in your sights, you may wish to try a more aggressive approach. Keep your setup free of foreign scent (the use of rubber gloves and Scent Killer Gold dearly help). Try to target the right area, and results will follow.

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

Corn Time


Diabetes and Chromium

by Nadine Johnson

Chromium is a mineral that is essential for overall health, but using chromium to treat diabetes can be particularly effective. It is commonly found in brewer’s yeast, meats, chicken, shellfish (especially clams), corn oil and whole grain."

The above information comes from the internet.

I first heard about the beneficial use of this mineral for diabetics from an old school friend. We saw each other for the first time in years and enjoyed a visit.

Knowing my interest in herbs and alternatives prompted her to ask, "Did you know that I am a diabetic?"

To this I answered, "No, Betty, I had no idea."

She went on to tell me she had always kept the condition under control with diet and oral medication. Her situation changed and her doctor suggested she go on insulin. Somehow, she had heard chromium was beneficial to diabetics. She went to a health food store and purchased a bottle. She took it by package directions. By doing so, she was able to keep her blood sugar levels under control without changing her treatment to include insulin.

After hearing her story, I did a little research and learned that it is common for diabetics to have a low level of chromium that is needed for the pancreas to do its proper job.

Recently I encountered a nice young man with an artificial leg from his knee down. (He happened to be wearing shorts.) Circumstances caused us to be together in a waiting room and we struck up a conversation.

I asked, "Did you have a war injury?"

He answered, "No, ma’am. I am a diabetic. Earlier I had no idea that I was diabetic. An infection developed in my foot that did not respond to treatment. My diabetes was discovered and, of course, I began proper control. The uncontrollable infection persisted. My foot was removed first. Later I lost my leg up to my knee. I have also lost a part of my other foot. At present, there seems to be no infection."

He explained he has continued to control his blood sugar with diet and medications. I didn’t ask what medications he takes.

This prompted me to ask, "Has anyone ever suggested you take chromium?"

To this he answered, "I have never heard of it."

I told him Betty’s story and suggested he go to a health food store/herb shop and obtain more information about chromium.

This interesting young man’s story prompted this column.

I think we are all aware that sugar is one of the worst enemies of diabetics. Also, our country appears to have more and more diabetics. Practically everything we eat contains sugar, EVEN CORNBREAD. I can’t imagine who started this foolish trend. My grandmother didn’t put sugar in cornbread. My mother didn’t put sugar in cornbread and I don’t put sugar in cornbread. Yet my cornbread ranks high on the family’s favorite foods list.

A granddaughter who lives in Las Vegas was at Grandma’s for Christmas dinner.

As she came up the back steps she shouted, "Everybody get out of my way! I understand there’s only one pan of cornbread and I plan to get my share. I haven’t had any in five years!"

She ate and enjoyed her share of sugar-free cornbread. Perhaps her portion of cornbread provided a bit of chromium for her health.

As usual, check with your physician before taking alternatives.

Nadine Johnson can be reached at PO Box 7425, Spanish Fort, AL 36577, by calling 251-644-5473, or by email at


Even Bulls Can Learn to Get Along

by Glenn Crumpler

A bull customer recently asked me when we delivered his new bull how we kept our herd bulls from fighting and tearing up the place when we put them back together after the breeding season or when we introduce new bulls into the herd. I knew he routinely drove by our place several times each week, and it was obvious he had been paying close attention to our bulls.

Depending on the time of the year, we usually have several pens of bulls that are sorted and moved around from time to time. Some are weaned bulls that made it through the first castration sort that we are growing off to see if they will measure up as they mature. There is a smaller group of long yearlings or coming-2-year-olds that have made it through the second cut that we are saving as herd bulls for our own use or to sell. Then, at the end of the breeding season, there are the mature herd bulls that have been running with the cows that we pull out and group together to be put aside until next year. Usually, we will also have one to three new, donated bulls to be introduced into these various groups.

This question our customer asked about how we mixed or integrated our bulls together without them injuring or killing one another (or destroying the place) is a very interesting and relevant question. Anyone who has more than one herd sire that they need to group together after the breeding season or who puts more than one bull in with a group of cows has seen how violent they can be when they are first put together. They will definitely fight it out, sometime taking fence and facilities with them! They will fight until one of them has proven to be dominant. Even then, that status will be challenged on a regular basis. It is not uncommon at all for the bulls to fight so violently that one of them is crippled or worse. I have seen them fight until one of them got completely down and I have seen them fight so violently that one of them actually broke a leg and had to be put down.

Years ago, when I was facing this problem back when I had my own herd, I remember asking a very good friend and a very respected cattleman (Lee Boyd) the same question our customer was now asking me. Boyd was always running a lot more bulls than I did, and he seemed to move and comingle them on a regular basis without any trouble. I rarely, if ever, saw them really tie up and fight to the point they hurt one another. They might blow, snort, bellow, bow up and strut, but they rarely fought ferociously.

On that day years ago when I asked Boyd how he did it, he told me that, though it appeared all the bulls were together, he never actually just put two or more bulls together in the same pen on the same day. They only came into close proximity. He told me the secret was to put them side by side, where they could smell each other and maybe touch noses, but to always ensure that at least one good strand of hot wire separated them for the first three to five days. This way, they would get all the trash talk, the threatening, the hole digging and the dirt throwing out of their system before actually being able to get to one another.

If you have ever seen this play out, you can just imagine all the trash talk they must be bellowing at each other – probably nothing I would want to repeat in this devotional article but you know it is a lot of blowing and going!

After a few days of this, I reckon all the tough talking gets old and, because the ladies are not around anymore anyway, all the commotion seems to be pretty useless. Instead, they just start hanging out in the common shaded areas of the pens, apparently telling war stories about their past breeding season. If there are any other bulls across the way in nearby pastures, these two bulls probably discuss how they would whoop-up on them if they could just get to ’em!

Once the two bulls get to this point, you can open the gate and put them together, preferably during the heat of the day, and they usually just get along. Any fighting will be minor. They just put their chins down, making themselves appear as intimidating as they can, and blow a little bit as they pass each other before eventually going to lie down in the shade.

If there is a third bull on the farm that you need to assimilate, you just repeat the process, putting him in the pen where the No. 2 bull was. He can now blow and go at the other two bulls that are now blowing and going back at him, but who are now on the same team. They no longer have a problem with each other but they are ready for him! Once again the dirt is flying, the bellowing of the new bull is loud and unrelenting, and the bull holes are just getting deeper. But, after a few days, he too can be turned in with the first two and bull No. 4 can be brought in!

I can testify that, since we implemented this program years ago, we have never experienced any problems with injuries or torn-up fences from bulls fighting when we bring them back together after breeding season, or when we introduce new bulls into the herd.

Keeping in mind that no analogy plays out exactly to the end, this illustration does bring to mind some spiritual truths. First of all, no matter our nationality, ethnicity, religion, age, gender or anything else that separates or causes disagreement, conflict and hostility among us, all of humanity is created in God’s image. Unlike the bulls and other beasts of the field also created by God, only mankind is created in His likeness. Though we all have a sinful nature, God makes it clear we do not have to let that nature control us.

He loves each of us, individually and collectively, so much that He sent His only Son to teach us how to love and how to live. The Son suffered and died in our place for our sin so we could be forgiven and reconciled to God the Father, and inherit eternal life. This implies that, though some may be more moral, more educated, more successful or more likable than others, we are all sinners and none of us deserve God’s love or His extravagant gift of salvation by grace!

The Bible teaches us in the book of Jeremiah that, before He formed us in our mother’s womb, God knew us and He had a plan for our lives. In Ephesians, we learn that even before the foundations of the world, He chose to adopt us to be His children through our faith in Christ! In the book of Acts (17:26-28), we learn we are all kinfolks and it was God Himself who determined the exact times and places we would live. We enjoy all the benefits, blessings, freedoms and opportunities of being Americans not by choice and not because we are God’s favorites but so we might seek Him and find Him for ourselves, and then be a part of His sovereign plan and purpose to draw all people to Himself. We have free access to the Gospel message and to the Word of God, and we share in a divine calling to serve Him and to make His love known to all the nations.

This being understood, we find ourselves a part of a much larger group, called "humanity," with much more in common than we realize. We are all sinners, undeserving of God’s grace and mercy, born with a sinful nature and unable to keep God’s law; yet we are loved by Him with an unending, undeserved and unconditional love! There may be sin in our lives from time to time that separates and prevents us from having the intimate personal relationship with Him and with one another that He so desperately desires and that we so desperately need, but He never stops loving us. He never stops reaching out to us with open arms to forgive us if we will just repent of our sin and return to the right relationship with Him.

Because of His great love for us, as undeserving as we are, instead of butting heads and focusing on what divides us, how much more should we love and forgive one another?

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

Excellence In AG

AFC’s Samantha Carpenter is first runner-up in State Young Farmers Excellence in Ag contest.

Samantha Carpenter, AFC’s social media specialist, was named first runner-up in the State Young Farmers Excellence in Ag contest Aug. 5 at the Alabama Farmers Federation’s 45th Commodity Producers Conference in Birmingham. Carpenter competed against 10 young farmers from across Alabama. She is pictured with Federation President Jimmy Parnell.

FFA Sentinel: Leading with Passion and Purpose

Cameron Catrett runs onstage after Sierra Goodwin, 2016-17 State President, opens the sealed envelope to announce the new state president.

Cameron Catrett – State FFA President

by Rebecca Oliver

Hard work is no stranger to Cameron Catrett, the newly elected Alabama FFA State President. The Crenshaw County native has served in FFA for six years in officer roles to become the first South District president since 1995, all while maintaining honor roll grades and showing and selling show cattle across the country.

Catrett began her term as state president on June 9, 2017, at the 89th Annual State FFA Convention in Montgomery. At the convention, Catrett was also named State Star Farmer for her Beef Production Supervised Agricultural Experience, awarded the State FFA degree and received the M.K. Heath Animal Health Award from the Alabama Veterinary Association.

Catrett, who aspires to become a veterinarian, said FFA has given her countless opportunities.

"There’s something rewarding for everyone in FFA. It’s not really a club so much as it’s a family," Catrett said.

The values of FFA and the creed speak to that."

Catrett has learned from FFA valuable life lessons that molded her into the leader she is today.

"Time management, dependability and accountability are all things FFA taught me," Catrett said. "When you have so many extracurricular activities going on, you have to be organized."

According to Catrett, she has made lifelong friends in her FFA family as she’s moved up officer ranks. Catrett began her journey in FFA as a chapter officer before becoming South District president.

"One of the greatest memories I have is right before they announced state officer president and everyone who was up for the title all hugged before we went onstage and said that no matter what happened it had been a great experience," Catrett recalled.

Cameron was presented the M.K. Heath Animal Health award by Dr. Tony Frazier, Alabama State Veterinarian. This award is designed to recognize the FFA member who carries out the best health and sanitation program in the state each year. The winner is selected based on an essay concerning the health and sanitation practices the member carries out on the farm.

Although it’s not required for an FFA member to serve as a district officer before serving at state level, Catrett said the progression helped mold her into a better leader.

According to Catrett, her experience has been defined by her ability to work with others.

"Everyone is different, but you should appreciate what everyone has to offer even if they’re different from you," Catrett explained.

Catrett has also been elected as the Alabama Junior Cattlemen’s Association President and is exhibiting four calves at over 20 shows this show season.

The Catrett family shares a passion for shorthorn cattle that began when Cameron fell in love with a shorthorn steer at a show cattle sale. Though the Catretts didn’t purchase the calf, the spark had been lit for the building of a shorthorn herd.

The family started raising their own shorthorn show cattle and had such success with them that other showmen started wanting to buy their cattle from the Catretts.

"We were at a show and I remember looking around and realizing every calf in the shorthorn competition had been raised and sold by us," Catrett said. "It’s probably my favorite show memory."

The cattle raised by the Catrett family have won national titles, including National Junior Shorthorn Champion Prospect Steer. The family has traveled from Iowa to Kentucky and on to Nebraska showing cattle, and they have sold their stock nationally as well.

Catrett’s love for cattle was a good pairing for FFA livestock judging competitions. Catrett won the state competition and is also an awarded public speaker.

"I never really saw myself as shy but I never thought I was a great public speaker either," Catrett said. "I just do my best."

As State FFA President, Catrett hopes to make progress in the lives of Alabama FFA members before her term ends.

2017-18 FFA State Officers are, from left, Bryce Hendricks, Enterprise, sentinel; Will Jordan, Central of Clay County, reporter; Jasey Black, Clements, treasurer; Gracen Sims, Marbury, secretary; John Crawford, A.P. Brewer, vice president; and Cameron, Brantley, president.

Catrett will travel to Washington to meet with other State FFA Presidents to discuss policies and select committee members before the end of summer.

It is her mission to involve FFA members in their chapters to ignite a purpose-driven attitude in their FFA careers.

"I hope to inspire as many FFA members as possible to find their passion," Catrett stated.

Rebecca Oliver is a freelance writer from Auburn.

Fresh Caught Mullet

Fried, smoked or in a chowder, this bounty of the Gulf Coast is well-worth the time and effort.

by Christy Kirk

Mullet is a popular fish that is found around the globe, but in the Southeast the adult fish can be found in the Atlantic and the Gulf Coast by the end of August. Although you can spend a lot of money on fishing equipment, mullet can be relatively inexpensive to harvest as long as you have patience.

They are attracted to different kinds of lures. One time they may go after a more expensive artificial bait, but then they may also try to snatch a lump of bread from a hook.

Mullet tend to stay in groups and can be easily spotted when they jump out of the water near the shorelines, bays and mouths of rivers leading into the Gulf. While hook and line can be used, many fishermen make their catch by cast net. Jason has tried both and prefers using a throw net. In the bays or mouth of a river in brackish water, you can slowly troll over to where you see them jumping. Then cast your net from the front of the boat.

This sounds easy, but remember I said it takes patience. Jason says casting for mullet calls for throwing the net and pulling it back in … again and again. According to the Alabama Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the recreational bag limit for mullet is 25 per person per day or 25 per boat. Harvesting that many fish in a day would require a lot of casting and a ton of luck. However, sometimes you may cast just a few times and have the bag limit.

A couple of times a year, family friend Daniel McGhee, a crab fisherman from Cedar Key, Florida, brings a cooler full of mullet to share when he, his friends and family come to hunt in our area. Jason says they keep it simple when it is time to cook. The mullet is filleted like catfish or bass, coated with Louisiana Fish-Fry, and deep-fried or pan-fried. They take the main part of the backbone, coat it with fish-fry and fry those, too, so the cooks have something to nibble on while waiting for the fillets to cook.

Fresh-caught mullet is best when fried within two days, but after that Jason smokes them over a hickory stick in a smoker. Smoked mullet can be vacuum sealed and used later for dip. The average size of an adult mullet is 1-3 pounds, but there are bigger ones out there. The recipes I am sharing with you require 1-2 pounds of mullet.

For more information about regulations for mullet, you can visit these websites: and


Cooking oil, for frying
2 pounds mullet fillets
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
Lemon slices

In a deep fryer or deep saucepan, heat oil to 375°. Cut fillets into 4- to 5-inch strips. In a bowl, combine salt, pepper, flour, cornmeal and cayenne. Mix well. Dredge fish in mixture to coat. Deep fry fish for 4-5 minutes until fish is golden brown. Drain on paper towel. Serve with lemon slices.


1 pound smoked mullet
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup sour cream
¼ cup mayonnaise
½ teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon lemon juice, more if needed
Pinch paprika
Ground black pepper, to taste
¼ cup green onions, finely chopped

Remove any bones and skin from smoked fish. Flake fish with a fork.

In a food processor, combine cream cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise, Tabasco sauce, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, paprika and black pepper. Pulse until mixture is creamy. Add more lemon juice or sour cream to taste. Place the mixture in a bowl and fold in the mullet and green onions. Refrigerate for several hours before serving.

Courtesy of Gwen and Steve Kirk


1½ pounds mullet fillets, skin off
4 strips bacon, chopped
1 cup onion, chopped
1 cup celery, diced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 (10½ ounce) can cream of potato soup
1 cup bottled clam juice or chicken broth
2 cups whole milk
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1 Tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 cup white potatoes, cooked and diced
1 (15¼ ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained

Cut mullet fillets into chunks and set aside. In a large Dutch oven over medium heat, fry bacon until light brown. Add onions. Cook until onions are soft. Add celery and garlic. Cook for 5 minutes. Stir in soup, clam juice, milk, Worcestershire sauce, pepper sauce, salt and pepper. Mix in potatoes and corn. Add mullet. Stir. Bring to a boil. Simmer until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork.


1 large split smoked mullet, meat removed from bones
1 cup self-rising flour
1 cup cornbread mix
2 large eggs
1 Tablespoon honey
1/3 cup water
¾ cup buttermilk
¼ cup vegetable oil, plus more for cooking
1 pound coleslaw (your own recipe or try the citrus slaw included)
1 cup BBQ sauce
Salt and ground pepper, to taste

Preheat a large sauté pan over medium heat. In a mixing bowl, combine flour, cornbread mix, eggs, honey, water, buttermilk and oil. Mix ingredients to combine. Add small amount of vegetable oil to the preheated sauté pan. Add 2 tablespoons at a time of batter to pan in various spots. Cook cakes on each side for 2 minutes or until crispy. Repeat this process until all the batter is cooked. Place 2 hoe cakes on a plate, top with slaw and mullet. Serve.


½ large head cabbage, shredded fine
2 oranges, segmented
1 grapefruit, segmented
¼ cup cilantro, finely chopped
½ red bell pepper, sliced thin
¼ cup olive oil
2 lemons, juiced
Salt, to taste
Ground pepper, to taste

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. Mix well. Let marinate in refrigerator for an hour. Taste slaw and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, if needed. Serve chilled.

Note: A delicious side to go with mullet.

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

From Depot to Deep History

Old Depot Museum in Selma holds an unmatched collection of artifacts spanning generations.

Selma’s Old Depot Museum draws tourists from around the country.

by Alvin Benn

It may not have the glitz or glamour of big city museums but one of Selma’s most popular museums has something few others are likely to match.

Surprisingly, it has nothing to do with the Civil War or the Civil Rights movement – two events that put Selma on the map.

Just inside the Old Depot Museum’s front door are a bow, arrows and a quill that once belonged to Geronimo, the Apache leader who terrorized other tribes as well as American settlers who upset him.

The museum obtained Geronimo’s bow, arrows and quill many years ago from Sturdivant Hall, Selma’s most famous antebellum mansion.

How he and 450 of his faithful followers wound up in Alabama, far from the Southwest territory where they once lived, is a story in itself.

If Geronimo’s bow and arrows aren’t enough to interest visitors, they can always take a gander at cannon balls made at the Naval Ordinance Works, not far from the Alabama River.

Selma was the Confederacy’s chief munitions maker during the Civil War, churning out everything from bayonets and belt buckles to its biggest creation of all – an ironclad warship. It was designated as the CSS Tennessee.

Apache Chief Geronimo’s bow and arrows are on display at the Old Depot Museum in Selma.

This huge mural depicting cotton picking in Dallas County during the 1930s covers much of a wall at the Old Depot Museum.

There are many more items on display, including vintage rail boxcars and cabooses, a car dating back to 1926 and even a unicycle currently hanging near the ceiling.

One of only 12 remaining railway depots in the Southeast, the museum has quite a collection of Alabama history, including a table setting once owned by Vice President William Rufus King, the state’s highest ranking federal official.

It also has a couple of huge murals that cover most of two walls and were painted by artists commissioned during the 1930s.

Beth Spivey, curator of the Old Depot Museum in Selma, finds a unique place to rest on this huge lathe used during the Civil War era.

Overseeing the Old Depot Museum in the nearly five years she has been director is Beth Spivey, a self-described "country girl" who continues to discover interesting tidbits about the big building.

"Country living is all I’ve ever known," said Spivey, 46, who was raised in Backbone Ridge deep in the boonies bordering on Dallas and Lowndes counties. "Some call my home place ‘Spivey Hill’ and that’s nice."

Back in the day, she said folks in her part of the woods didn’t worry about hunting or fishing licenses because "what we shot we ate."

"We’d finish supper and Daddy would say, ‘Let’s go shoot a deer,’ and we usually did," she recalled. "If anybody asked us about licenses, we’d just tell ’em we were looking for coyotes."

Spivey grew up appreciating the freedom that goes with country living because "we were honoring our ancestors for the way they lived."

"Farmers are the hardest workers with the smallest amount of recognition," she said, "but I don’t worry about that because it’s in my blood, always has been."

Back then, farmers still used oxen to plow their fields and spinning wheels to make their clothes. Doctors still made house calls and often were paid by patients on the barter system.

In the days before TV sitcoms, country residents spent nights reading by the glow of oil lamps, listening to "Amos and Andy" on the radio or exchanging gossip with neighbors.

That’s why the Old Depot Museum is so important and visitors are so warmly welcomed by Spivey, who often leads tours and urges visitors to browse around the exhibits.

Selma Councilman Carl Bowline checks his watch with an antique, but functional, grandfather’s clock.

Descriptions in the Old Depot Museum brochure were written by Selma Councilman Carl Bowline, who spent hours researching exhibits in the facility.

He can check the correct time on his watch by comparing it with a 19th century grandfather clock that has rarely missed a beat through the years.

Artifacts in the museum are housed within a Romanesque theme over a century old, making it one of the most historic facilities of its kind in the South.

"Selma’s history actually begins in prehistory when the land belonged to Native Americans," Bowline wrote. "The area’s rivers and streams allowed five Indian tribes to thrive."

Civil rights activists descended on Selma in the 1960s with as much fervor as relatives a century before when the Civil War attracted Confederate volunteers to enlist in what would become known as the "Lost Cause."

As a result of the violence on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in 1965, Congress quickly approved the Voting Rights Act, ending what had been decades of discrimination against black residents seeking the right to vote.

In 1865, Selma became part in the evolution of the fire engine. It would be many years before motorized vehicles arrived on the scene, making horse-drawn fire pumpers unnecessary.

A vintage 1926 American La France fire engine is on display at the museum along with other fire engines that draw attention from tourists.

The 19th century fire trucks may have seen better days, but visitors overlook the rust, dust, dents and chipped paint because they know they represent history.

Selma has several other museums, but none can claim such a wide array of memories, many linked to railroads and firetrucks and vehicles.

Built in 1891, the red brick museum continues to draw visitors from near and far.

The Old Depot Museum is located at 4 Martin Luther King Jr. Street and open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. It is open on Sundays by appointment.

For details about the museum call 334-874-2197.

Alvin Benn is a freelance writer from Selma.

Goat Coccidia

Feeds medicated with Rumensin can help reduce coccidia challenge by slowing the shedding of oocytes in treated goats.

Wet summer conditions are ideal for parasite proliferation.

by Jackie Nix

Coccidiosis represents a major economic drain on goat herds in Alabama. The hot, wet conditions this summer are ideal for development and transmission of coccidia. In order to properly protect your investment against coccidiosis, it is necessary to understand what coccidia are and how they proliferate.

Coccidia are single-celled parasites living in goats’ intestines. All adult goats harbor coccidia in their gut, even healthy goats. Coccidiosis is the disease resulting from uncontrolled infection (proliferation) of coccidia. Coccidiosis symptoms can be either subclinical or clinical. Subclinical cases result in decreased feed intake, reduced weight gain and unthrifty appearance, and are difficult to detect due to an absence of diarrhea. Undiagnosed subclinical cases of coccidiosis are quite common. If left untreated, subclinical cases can develop into clinical disease. Clinical coccidiosis can vary in severity. Some goats experience a slight loss of appetite and decreased weight gain along with light, short-term diarrhea. Severe cases of coccidiosis result in dark, bloody, foul-smelling diarrhea containing mucous and blood; loss of weight; rough hair coat; dehydration; and, in some cases, death within 24 hours.

Young, sick and stressed goats are most susceptible to coccidiosis symptoms. Kids less than 5 months of age are particularly susceptible because their immune system is often still developing. Stresses that can induce a coccidiosis outbreak include weaning, drastic weather changes, rapid feed changes, transport and rough handling.

Continuous exposure to a particular species of coccidia stimulates an immune response resulting in limited protection against that particular species of coccidia. This is why adult goats tend to be resistant to the development of coccidiosis. Also, kids raised in pasture conditions will often develop immunity on their own. However, severe challenge or stress can depress the goat’s natural immunity to the point that disease is induced. Goats that survive usually become immune; however, they may be permanently unthrifty or stunted due to extensive damage to the intestinal lining. This damaged lining is unable to effectively absorb nutrients.

Coccidia tend to be species specific; however, sheep and goats can both share parasites.

In order to manage the impact of coccidia, it is necessary to understand their life cycle. The coccidian life cycle begins when goats consume infective oocysts. Once inside the goat, coccidia are released from the oocyst and invade intestinal cells. Rapid multiplication occurs resulting in the destruction of intestinal cells. In roughly 21 days, oocysts (coccidia eggs) are formed and passed in the feces. Oocysts are not immediately infective once they are shed into the environment. Proper moisture, temperature and oxygen levels are required for oocysts to become infective. In general, the warmer the weather is the faster the development into infective oocysts. When conditions are right, this process can occur in as little as 24-48 hours. Once oocysts become infective they are very hardy and can remain viable in the environment for up to a year. However, two to three months is the norm. Infective oocysts survive best in moist, shaded areas and can even survive freezing temperatures. When a goat consumes an infective oocyst, the process starts over again.

Coccidiostats are drugs that inhibit the development of coccidia. Remember, these do not kill coccidia. Normally, use of coccidiostats before anticipated susceptible periods is an effective management tool in preventing and controlling coccidiosis. Coccidiostats presently labeled for use in goats include monensin (Rumensin) and decoquinate (Deccox). However, use of coccidiostats alone may not provide adequate control under some conditions. Contact your veterinarian for recommendations for strategic use of these and other drugs in the control of coccidiosis.

Goats fed a properly balanced diet are better able to mount an immune response and recover from parasitic challenge than animals deficient in one or more nutrients. Proper nutrition involves providing adequate amounts of protein, energy, water, minerals and vitamins. Antibodies that fight parasitic invaders are comprised of protein. Energy is needed to drive the metabolic functions involved in mounting an immune response. Proper hydration is absolutely necessary for metabolic function. Several minerals and vitamins are also directly involved in the immune response.

In summary, wet conditions result in ideal conditions for the development of coccidiosis. Coccidiosis is a potentially fatal and economically significant disease of goats caused by an intestinal protozoan. Kids up to weaning age are most susceptible to coccidiosis. Control of coccidiosis involves a combination of drugs and management practices limiting exposure of goats to infective oocytes and minimizing stress. Consult your veterinarian for recommendations for strategic use of drugs in response to coccidiosis outbreaks and to help prevent future outbreaks.

SWEETLIX Meat Maker supplements are designed to help bridge the nutritional gap between available forages and a goat’s nutritional needs. Times of high parasitic challenge can increase the nutritional requirements of goats. SWEETLIX 16:8 Meat Maker with Rumensin is a medicated mineral supplement for goats designed to help prevent coccidiosis. When used as directed, SWEETLIX 16:8 Meat Maker with Rumensin will help prevent coccidiosis caused by Eimeria crandallis, Eimeria christenseni and Eimeria ninakohlyakimorae. SWEETLIX 16:8 Meat Maker with Rumensin delivers a complete mineral and vitamin package specially formulated for the nutritional needs of goats, including organic copper, cobalt, manganese, zinc and selenium from BioPlex Hi-Four and Sel-Plex. These organic minerals are easily absorbed and readily metabolized, thereby optimizing animal performance. These trace minerals are cofactors in enzymes critical to the animal’s defense system, growth and reproduction.

Visit your local Quality Co-op location, go online at or call 1-87SWEETLIX for more information.

Rumensin is a registered trademark of Elanco Animal Health.

Deccox is a registered trademark of Zoetis.

BioPlex and Sel-Plex are registered trademarks of Alltech.

SWEETLIX and Meat Maker are registered trademarks of Ridley USA Inc.

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

How's Your Garden?

by Lois Trigg Chaplin

Clover makes a nice, neat ground cover for raised beds not used during the winter.

A Cover Crop Helps

Cool-season vegetable crops don’t generally require as much space as the summer crops. Why not plant the bare garden beds with a cover crop? Although most folks think of cover crops for fields, a small kitchen garden or raised bed also appreciates a winter cover of a good, green manure to add organic matter and nutrients to the soil. Clover is one of the easiest to manage in a raised bed because it is cold-hardy, low-growing and easy to sprout. It adds nitrogen when turned into the soil in the spring. If left to bloom before you turn it in, the blossoms also attract bees and other beneficial insects, too. For more about using cover crops and a list of other species that make good winter and summer cover crops, download Alabama Cooperative Extension’s bulletin ANR-2139. It is easy to find online by searching for "cover crops for Alabama."

A Good Apple

Apples have a reputation for being especially pest-prone in our state, but some old apple varieties seem to defy that reputation. One such heirloom is Yates that is used as a pollinator for other apples, but also produces small, tasty apples in its own right. This apple is said to have originated in Fayette County, Georgia, before the Civil War and was used to make cider. It is reputed to be a good-keeping apple and also ripens as late as November, so it provides fresh, homegrown fruit through winter. Today, this variety is also popular for attracting wildlife on recreational land. Yates needs at least 700 chilling hours to produce a good crop; that is easily met except in extreme South Alabama.

Petunias that made it through summer are poised for a comeback as the nights cool.

A Second Spring for Petunias

Petunias will be coming out of their summer slump as soon as the nights start to cool down. Get yours ready for a big fall show by snipping back the tips of the plants and giving them a weak solution of liquid fertilizer. You might choose a few branches to cut back a little farther than just the tips, but never into the hard woody stems at the base of the plant that may not sprout new growth. Clip any dead stems, too.

Renew Roses

Bring reblooming rose plants back to beauty this fall with a little tip pruning early this month. Snip off the dead blooms, rose hips and dead stems. Remove debris and old mulch from under the plant; then cover with a layer of clean mulch. Keep the plants watered with a soaker hose or drip system to keep the leaves dry. As the air gets cooler, the roses will flush out with new blooms to enjoy in the fall. If leaf diseases have been a serious problem, you can spray new growth with a copper fungicide to protect the foliage as it grows out. Once the air is cooler and drier, disease pressure will decrease.

Compost and Leaf Bins

With leaf season coming up, now is a good time to think about building a structure for collecting and composting leaves. A simple circle of fencing wire is a quick way to store leaves quickly. Later they can be moved to a compost pile or chopped. Look up "compost bin ideas" in the Google image search to bring up a number of styles of bins. Alabama Extension’s publication ANR-0638, available online by searching "Alabama extension anr-0638," offers a general overview of composting and possible compost ingredients.

Assorted tiles create a colorful mosaic that is both a work of art and a bench.

Mosaic Bench Work

For gardeners who love tile, here is a nice creation from a garden in Portland, Oregon. Gardeners love to create and share! Colorful mosaics made from tile are a little like creating a colorful mosaic with plants, only the tiles stay in bloom permanently. This same idea can be adapted to tabletops, too.

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


by Baxter Black, DVM

Betty said her dad had a bull that kept jumpin’ the fence. She wondered if I knew any surefire cures for fence-jumpin’ bulls. I asked her what they’d tried already.

"Well," she said, "one of Fred’s friends (Fred was her dad) suggested tyin’ a chain to the ring in his nose. So Dad did, a 10-foot log chain. Didn’t faze him! That bull could stand flat-footed and jump a five-wire fence!

"Dad improved on the idea by wiring a 10-pound window weight to the end of the chain."

"How did that work?" I asked.

"No better," she answered, "but it made him easier to track! Dad revised the idea by replacing the window weight with a gunny sack. The bull still jumped the fence, but the sack hung up in the bob wire. At least they could find him the next mornin’."

Maybe, I thought to myself, we’re hangin’ the weight a little far forward.

"So," I asked Betty, "what kinda bull is it?"

"Purebred Angus. Modern breeding, big and tall. I don’t know his registered name but Dad calls him Jumper."

"Did you try one of those old-fashion yokes?" I asked, remembering how we kept the milk cow from poking her head too far through a fence.

"That would sure make our cows uncomfortable when he went to breed one," she pointed out. "In all fairness, the neighbors don’t object too much. He’s a pretty good bull."

"Hmm," I said, "you might could take advantage of that. If he’s not breedin’ your cows, maybe Fred could make a little off him when he’s ‘On the Road,’ so to speak."

"Like what?" she asked, her ears perkin’ up.

"How ‘bout a sign on his side advertising ‘FRED’S MOBILE ALL-NATURAL INSEMINATION SERVICE. If you see this bull breeding your cow, please call BR 549 Covington, Oklahoma.’"

"I doubt it," said Betty, shakin’ her head, "I’m afraid he’s destined to be meatloaf if Dad can’t keep him home."

"But what if Jumper finds out your intentions and escapes for good?" I asked.

"You don’t know my Dad!" she replied. "He’d find him eventually. He’d put out an APB. Then some mornin’ I’d be settin’ at the breakfast table in a stupor reading the label on a milk carton and there he’d be! Beneath his photograph would read, ‘IF YOU SEE THIS BULL draggin’ a 10-foot log chain attached to his nose, please call this number. He answers to the name JUMPER."

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,

Keep Things in Perspective!

It’s a hard thing to do on many occasions, but it’s something we must strive to do.

by Chuck Sykes

At first glance, the photo of me and the rabbit looks real, and it is. There is no computer-generated illusion. It is simply depth of field. I am sitting 30 feet behind the rabbit. Look at the size of the rabbit in relation to the leaves on the ground and the crosstie it’s lying on.

Last week I received another of the many sketchy photos of a big cat that was said to be roaming around the state. So, I started working on this article with the hopes of clearing up some of the big cat rumors that continuously circulate, knowing full well it’s going to ruffle a few feathers in the process. I guess I just don’t understand the overwhelming desire for people to see a long-tailed cat or black panther in Alabama. What I do understand is that some people take it extremely personally when anyone in the Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division attempts to explain to them the current status of such creatures in our state. Many of these encounters end with that person dumbfounded by the lack of concurrence from WFF staff. They sometimes end with the person shouting obscenities and at times even threatening acts of physical violence.

As a biologist, I prefer to base my actions on facts rather than emotions. I am only human, so I’m not saying that occasionally I don’t let emotions play a role. But for the most part, I make my decisions based on the facts. In the 4.5 years I’ve been the director, a week has not gone by that someone in WFF hasn’t been confronted with a long-tailed cat question. Let’s take a minute to look at some facts. What is the possibility of a wild mountain lion population currently existing in our state?

First, despite the fact that mountain lions historically lived in Alabama and theoretically could still reside in the suitable habitats remaining here, the last confirmed mountain lion in Alabama was killed around 1948 in St. Clair County. To date, there has been no confirmed mountain lion sighting in Alabama in almost 70 years.

The nearest self-sustaining known wild population of mountain lions, called Florida panthers, is found in southwest Florida. Although they reside in the second-largest uninhabited block of land east of the Mississippi River, vehicle mortality is one of the leading causes of death for Florida panthers. In 2014, the population of Florida panthers was estimated to be 100-180 adults. During that year, 25 of them (approximately 15 percent of the entire population) were killed while crossing the road. In Alabama, no mountain lion/vehicle collisions have been confirmed for at least 70 years and resident populations appear to have been extirpated from Alabama in the mid-1800s.

The last mountain lion photo sent to me has a white salt block in the picture. The block was half the size of the cat. So the cat couldn’t have weighed over 25-30 pounds. Simple observations like that should help people know what they are looking at is a bobcat – a large one, but still a bobcat.

The next fact is the one that automatically disqualifies approximately 90 percent of the alleged sightings in my book. Even though someone’s great-grandmother’s once-removed cousin’s brother saw one and he would never lie, there has never been a documented case of a black mountain lion in all of North America. Please allow me to repeat that statement: There has never been a documented case of a black mountain lion (black panther) in all of North America. They are gray, brown or reddish in color.

Only two species of large cats in the world are known to have a black (melanistic) color variant. The leopard, found in Africa and Asia, and the jaguar, from South America to Mexico and in small sections of the southwestern United States, have been known to have black color variants on rare occasions. In case you were wondering, southwestern United States does not encompass Mobile, Baldwin, Washington or Choctaw counties.

The next fact leads me to the title of the article. I knew what I wanted to write about, but a title kept eluding me. That’s when I came across a photo of me with a Boone and Crocket jackrabbit, and it all fell into place. The most common similarity in the vast majority of the photos we receive is perspective issues, either intentional (Photoshop) or unintentional (shadows, blurry, depth perception, etc.).

At first glance, the photo of me and the rabbit looks real, and it is. There was no computer-generated illusion other than cropping the original photo. It was simple depth of field. I am sitting 30 feet behind the rabbit. Look at the size of the rabbit in relation to the leaves on the ground and the crosstie it’s lying on. The last mountain lion photo that was sent to me had a white salt block in the picture. The block was half the size of the cat, so, the cat couldn’t have weighed over 25-30 pounds. Simple observations like that should help people know what they are looking at is a bobcat – a large one, but still a bobcat. But, that was a case where emotions trump logic.

One photo circulated several times over the past few years actually has a mountain lion dragging a whitetail buck by the neck next to a feeder. The photo certainly is real. However, examination of the surroundings reveals caliche gravel around the feeder; we don’t have that in Alabama. Also, the coloration of the buck is consistent with deer from Texas or Mexico where caliche is found. Clearly, this photo could not have been taken from a trail camera in Alabama.

One photo that has been circulated several times over the past few years actually has a mountain lion dragging a whitetail buck by the neck next to a feeder. The claim is always, "My friend’s trail camera caught this last week in _____ County." The county of choice has changed several times over the past few years. The photo certainly looks real. However, examination of the surroundings reveals caliche gravel around the feeder; we don’t have that in Alabama. Also, the coloration of the buck is consistent with deer from Texas or Mexico where caliche is found. Clearly, this photo could not have been taken from a trail camera in Alabama.

Reports of mountain lion sightings in Alabama are common, but these are most likely cases of mistaken identity. No reports have been confirmed by trail cameras, road kills, traditional photography or hunter-harvested specimens since 1948. With the astronomical number of game cameras in the Alabama woods 365 days per year, common sense tells you we would have gotten one on camera by now. If Florida runs over approximately 15 percent of the population of Florida panthers each year, why hasn’t one been hit by a vehicle in Alabama if they exist?

WFF is not trying to cover up anything and has never attempted to. We would like to know if Alabama has big, long-tailed cats. Tennessee had a couple wander through last year. Who knows, we may actually get a confirmed sighting in Alabama soon. But until then, please don’t expect a wildlife biologist from this department to believe a story about the black panther that screamed like a crazy woman that your friend heard or saw last week. Bring us concrete proof, and we will believe.

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

Liikatchka Plantation

Managing the Business, Not Just the Farm

by Jessica Kelton

The Corcoran family knows that financial management of their farm is an important part of making a sustainable profit.

Ask a farmer what they do for a living and I bet their answer wouldn’t be that they own a business. For most producers, farming isn’t just a job, it’s a passion and a calling. More times than not, it’s a way of life for the entire family. However, at the end of the day, farming is still a business that has to make a profit to be sustainable. To keep the farm profitable, the financial side of the operation cannot be neglected – even in the middle of all the fieldwork. There is no shortage of material available to farmers on how to plan and manage for profitability. All of this information can be a valuable tool for producers, but nothing beats seeing how other farms have made business management practices work for them.

Liikatchka Plantation, a family farm in central Alabama along the Alabama-Georgia border, is a row crop and cattle operation managed by brothers Tom and Walt Corcoran, and their nephew, Liston Clark, with assistance from Joe Corcoran, Tom’s son, and Cody Young, Walt’s son-in-law. Like any family, everyone has a particular strength that the Corcorans use to their benefit on the farm. Each partner has a specific area they handle from a production standpoint. Walt’s daughter, Cassie Young, is in charge of keeping and balancing the farm’s books. If you ever have the opportunity to speak to them or visit the farm, their knowledge of their land, the crops they are growing and how to manage those crops is impressive; more impressive to me is that financial management of the farm isn’t overlooked as a vital part of routine operations.

From the viewpoint of her role of bookkeeper, Cassie says it is important for her to designate a day to record transactions and pay bills. Just as it’s important to stay on top of things in the field, it’s just as important to keep records up-to-date and in order. At the end of the year, the farm’s accountant provides a great perspective on the financial status of the farm, but keeping current and complete books on the farm allows everyone involved to be aware of current operating expenses and cash flow issues, as well as making the work of the accountant more thorough, accurate and complete.

As for major financial decisions, nothing is done on short notice at the farm. Equipment and other major expenditures are usually decided on by the group at the end of the year after the books are done and they’ve had a chance to evaluate where the farm stands. It sounds simple, but how often do we make purchases that are a good deal or we’ve justified the need for without actually sitting down and looking at what is coming in and going out of the bank account?

All farmers know that, like any business, there are financial risks in farming. As we’ve seen in the past five years with the fluctuation of high commodity prices of 2012 to where we are today, the market can change relatively quickly. Effectively managing for downturns in agriculture can mean the difference between surviving the storm and closing shop. To make it through these downturns, Liikatchka Plantation has included diversity on the farm, as well as a proactive mindset. The farm works closely with every available resource such as U.S. Department of Agriculture, Extension and ag-industry representatives to stay current with new technology and management practices in order to maximize yield and make a profit.

There are roughly 44,000 farming operations in Alabama, and I’d argue that many of these are successful at the production side of farming from the standpoint that they know how to plan for and manage the crops they are producing. The same holds true for Liikatchka Plantation; however, they also have a plan for managing the finances of the farm. That makes them a successful farm AND a successful business.

If you’re hoping to improve the financial management of your own farm and would like guidance or more resources on business planning, feel free to contact your local Extension office or a member of the Farm and Agribusiness Team.

Jessica Kelton is a regional farm and agribusiness management agent for ACES.

Not Lucky

by Suzy Lowry Geno

A mama hen with 14 tiny biddies.

"You are so lucky to just get to live out here with all your animals and do whatever you want to."

I seem to hear that almost every day.

"You’re so lucky you don’t have to go to work every day."

That quote is what the homesteader known on YouTube as "The Boss of the Swamp" recently heard, causing him to devote an entire video to how he had become so lucky.

And then I hear, "You’re just so lucky to be able to live out in the country like this!"

Somebody escapes injury in a devastating car accident and folks exclaim, "How lucky they weren’t hurt."

Somebody else goes to one of the out-of-state casinos and brings back some winnings and everybody talks about their luck, and how lucky Lucille and Johnny are!

A pretty girl wins a big scholarship in a beauty pageant and her friends exclaim, "She has all the luck."

The Boss of the Swamp centered his video on prioritizing your spending to show how he has cabins, land and businesses that were paid for well before he reached the age of retirement.

And there’s a good deal of work entailed with how I get to live out here with all my animals, not only every day but in many, many, many days past.

I’m a firm believer that we are commanded to work with our hands and continue working throughout our lives as Paul talked about many times in the New Testament books he wrote and especially in 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12.

Wise and prudent decisions are also essential. (These two things I really have had trouble with in the past! Oh, some of the decisions I have made!)

But how do we explain how somebody can rise from abject poverty to lead multimillion-dollar companies? Or others who seem to work hard all their lives and never seem to be able to get ahead?

Webster (now available on the internet for cyber junkies like me) defines luck as: "Success or failure apparently brought on by chance rather than through one’s own actions."

And then Webster defines a blessing as: "God’s favor and protection; a beneficial thing for which one is grateful, something that brings well-being."

Even the ancient Romans and Greeks used to actually worship luck by worshiping the goddess Fortuna. Her name is where we get other words for luck, fortune or fortunate.

We worry if a black cat crosses the road in front of us because it’s said to bring bad luck, if we break a mirror, if we walk under an opened ladder or even if we step on a sidewalk crack!

We search for four-leaf clovers, hang rabbits’ feet on our key chains and even kiss the Blarney Stone, all trying to bring luck into our lives!

If we have a bad day (where we have a flat tire, get a speeding ticket and then lock our keys in our truck!) we count it all as bad luck! Whereas, if we win the golf game, find a $20 bill in the pocket of an old coat and get a letter in the mail saying our farm insurance has been reduced, we say, "This is our lucky day!"

I certainly don’t have all the answers but I am certain luck had nothing to do with me living on this little farm, nothing to do with me living in the country and absolutely nothing to do with me having all these seemingly-always-needing-attention animals!

The word "luck" is not found in the Bible at all ... while the word "blessed" is found in 286 verses in the King James Version!

Even when a lot was cast (as was often done, especially in the Old Testament), the Bible is quick to point out that the decision was still always the Lord’s!

But it’s easy to trivialize how we are not lucky but blessed!

Just with one browsing on the internet, I found where you can order tee shirts, coffee mugs, plaques to hang in your office, stationery and all sorts of other things that note that you are "not lucky but blessed!"

(I imagine the people who sell all those things making a hefty profit believe they are exceedingly blessed!)

Looking out my glass-paned office door right this minute I see one mama hen with one cherished yellow fluffy baby chick AND another feathered mama with 14 tiny biddies following her every mood, scratching and strutting although they’re only 5 weeks old.

Are we to surmise that the mama of 14 is more lucky than her sister with only one offspring?

Or are we to emphasize how much more blessed the hen with 14 is as she leads them about the farm?

If that little mama of one could talk in human language, I imagine she would tell you she feels just as blessed with that one happy, little chick.

Sometimes life seems really unfair. People who seldom work suddenly strike it rich while somebody who has toiled through overtime each day has trouble making ends meet.

A young person dies. An older person suffers.

Sometimes the simple life and simple times don’t seem so SIMPLE!

But then I sit outside under the shady apple tree in the evening’s escape from the heat, surveying my little kingdom, watching the goats frolic, watching the ducks splashing in the blue plastic pools, hearing the rabbits crunch on the big orange carrots from a neighbor’s garden, smelling my heirloom plants as the gigantic tomatoes strain their limbs ....

No matter what happens, I am exceedingly and abundantly blessed more than I deserve!

Suzy Lowry Geno is a Blount County freelance writer who can be reached through Facebook, Old Field Farm General Store, or her website,

Pals: Students in Demopolis Take on Litter

by Jamie Mitchell

The city of Demopolis is serious about keeping their town beautiful and litter free! Kaye Evans, a member of the Beautification Committee for Demopolis, recently coordinated an Environmental Day event with some of the schools in the city. Evans, along with Barbara Blevins from the Horticulture and Public Works Departments, worked tirelessly to ensure the day was an overwhelming success.

The day began with a kickoff event at U.S. Jones Elementary School where both Officer Brown from the Demopolis Police Department and I spent some time speaking about litter and its consequences. Brown made sure the students knew that there can be up to a $500 fine issued if caught littering. That fact really got the students’ attention! After I spent some time talking, a few students were chosen to help Blevins plant a new tree outside near the playground.

Above, U.S. Jones Elementary School; below, Demopolis Middle School; at right, the students at Demopolis Middle School were all gifted a sapling from the Department of Horticulture so they could play a role in the advancement of a greener Demopolis.

Our afternoon session was with Demopolis Middle School, where the students heard me speak about the importance of keeping their city clean and free from ugly litter. The students at DMS were all gifted a sapling from the Department of Horticulture so they could play a role in the advancement of a greener Demopolis.

Earlier in the year, I visited with Westside Elementary School in Demopolis shortly after they joined the Clean Campus Program, so they had already heard my antilitter message previously.

The students at Westside, U.S. Jones and DMS are informed, fired up and ready to tackle any litter issues that come up in Demopolis. As the school year kicks off, Evans will be delivering bags from PALS to all the schools to support any campus cleanups they have throughout the year. A big thank you to Evans, Blevins and to the administrators of all three schools for their support of the Clean Campus Program in Demopolis!

Is there a school near you that could benefit from hearing the Clean Campus message? Please visit our website at to learn more! The Clean Campus Program is FREE to all Alabama public, private and county schools. Schools may sign up for the Clean Campus Program online or by calling 334-263-7737.

Jamie Mitchell is the PALS State Clean Campus Coordinator.

Pilots for Christ

A wing ... and a prayer

by Carolyn Drinkard

“… our love should not be just words and talk; it must be true love, which shows itself in action.”
(1 John 3:18, Good News Translation)

The “unlikely three” now spend their days doing “Kingdom Work.” (From left) Johnny and Rosalyn Sales, and Tommy Lee are often compared with Ecclesiastes 4:12, “A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

Pilots for Christ in Monroeville is one of 22 chapters in the Pilots for Christ International organization. This group of volunteer pilots and nonpilots provide air and ground transportation for individuals and families in need.

Established in 1994, PFC Monroeville is the only chapter of its kind in Alabama. Its service area also includes Georgia, Mississippi, Southern Tennessee, Northern Florida and Louisiana.

PFC is a nonprofit, nondenominational ministry established to transport ambulatory patients unable to travel by other means. PFC is neither a charter service nor an air ambulance. Instead, PFC flies patients free of charge. All of their flights are made possible by generous donations from individuals, churches, civic organizations, businesses and foundations. PFC’s only purpose is to show Christ’s love.

PFC does this in other ways, too. They deliver medical and humanitarian supplies during times of disaster and ferry ministers and missionaries. In addition, they work with the Wounded Warrior Project and Veteran Airlift Command to help U.S. veterans in times of need.

Testimonials on their Facebook page tell it best.

David Wright spoke poignantly of his wife Tammy and her desire to spend her last days at home. With the help of PFC, her wish was honored.

The journey of 9-month-old Tenley Norman, diagnosed with a malignant extrarenal rhabdoid tumor, captured the hearts of everyone. PFC flew the family to MD Anderson Hospital in Houston, Texas, where Tenley went through 31 weeks of chemo. The family’s posts were moving and inspirational, reflecting their gratitude and appreciation.

One of the original founders of Pilots for Christ is Tommy Lee. He comes from a family of aviators, and his father donated the land for the Monroeville Airport, originally called Lee Field. Since 1994, he has flown in donated aircraft taking patients to and from their doctors. Tommy calls the businesses that donate their planes and the pilots who fly them "The Lord’s Army."

Tommy’s devotion to helping others is well-known throughout South Alabama, but few know that in 23 years he has never missed a flight. Another little-known fact is that in all the flights he has flown for PFC, all of the planes have always cranked. These facts are incredible, given that Tommy has flown in all kinds of weather, all over the United States.

In 2005, the unthinkable happened! A tornado destroyed the hangar that held Poppa Charlie, a plane used by PFC. Incredibly, the plane was not touched! Tommy knows the hands of God were in all of these divine events.

Sadie Margaret Richardson, 2, of Leroy, was flown by PFC to MD Anderson where doctors removed 90 percent of a massive tumor on her spine. Shortly after surgery, she was able to walk, something her medical staff declared “a miracle.” The toddler did not even have to take additional treatments. PFC flew this “Christmas Miracle” home on Dec. 27 and allowed her to help “pilot” the flight.

"God called me to start this as a ministry with two other people," he explained. "I know I am doing what God meant me to do. At one time, we had eight planes, donated by individuals or businesses that wanted to help. Now we have five, all manned with volunteer pilots. God just keeps on blessing, sending me help as needed."

The story of the help that God sent is another miraculous moment in the history of PFC. For years, Tommy and Johnny Sales had been competitors in the car business. Tommy owned Lee Motors, the Chevrolet dealership, and Johnny owned Sales Ford. The two lived right around the block from each other, attended the same church and occasionally played golf together.

In 2012, Johnny went into liver failure. His wife Rosalyn said it was at this point when both realized they didn’t have control of anything, and they had to lay everything at the foot of the cross. When they did, the first miracle happened: Johnny received a transplant and survived.

"While Johnny was ill, the person who checked on him most was Tommy Lee, his competitor for all those years," Rosalyn explained. "He called, visited and offered any other kind of help we might need."

As Johnny slowly recovered, however, he soon found himself drowning in isolation and despair.

"I did not have anything to do," he said. "I remember once when a telemarketer called my home and I talked with him for 30 minutes because I was so lonely. I found myself asking God, ‘What, now?’ Just as clearly as I hear anyone else, I heard God say, ‘Tell everybody!’ I didn’t know what that meant then, but I knew He had something else for me to do."

Johnny found what God had for him to do at his church’s weekly supper. When he and Rosalyn arrived, the only two empty seats were across the table from Tommy and his wife Lindy. As they chatted, Tommy told some of the stories of his work with PFC.

Johnny said, once again, he heard God speak, "I want you to help him."

The Sales obeyed, showing up at the PFC hangar, volunteering in any way they could. Each felt they were doing what God wanted them to do. Nov. 22, 2013, Rosalyn made her first flight. After this, both knew they had found their calling, doing what they now joyfully call "Kingdom Work."

All associated with PFC know that prayer is the cornerstone of this ministry that Tommy compares to a four-legged stool. The fourth leg bolsters the "unlikely three," as Tommy, Johnny and Rosalyn are referred to. Lindy heads the prayer ministry, connecting hundreds of prayer warriors to the needs of critical patients and their upcoming flights.

In the last three years, PFC has experienced tremendous blessings, resulting in amazing growth! Through God’s grace and contributors’ generous donations, PFC has been able to hire a full-time, professional staff.

Tommy, who serves as president, retired and came on board the ministry full time, giving him more opportunities to fly and attend to the upkeep of the aircraft. Since then, flights have increased from less than 60 to over 324 in 2016.

Rosalyn has used her skills in public relations and development, spreading the PFC message in over 200 churches and countless schools, civic organizations and businesses. She has told their story on the "Nancy Grace Show" and TBN, giving PFC a national audience. She has written numerous grants and corporate proposals, and worked with various other media outlets to tell their story.

Blake Bauer, a corrections officer in Fairhope, had a rare form of bone cancer. PFC flew Blake and his wife Amanda to MD Anderson for treatment. Pictured with his young sons, Cameron and Cayden, Blake earned his heavenly wings in November 2016.

Johnny listened to the Lord when He told him to "tell everybody," and has moved the ministry into the digital age, expanding PFC’s social media venue to eight different markets with over 200,000 recipients a week. He has produced YouTube videos to introduce the ministry to an even larger audience.

All of these things have helped to increase community support from $177,700 in 2013 to $894,600 in 2015. In 2016, contributions exceeded $1 million.

In 2016, PFC purchased the hangar. When they were led to renovate the area, almost everything was donated. Inside the hangar, a Wall of Celebration bears the names of those who have "received their wings in Heaven." Nearby is a Prayer Room to accommodate the PFC prayer ministry. Since staff members always pray before and after each flight, this room is used quite often. It is also a place for family members to have special moments with their loved ones before each flight. In addition, local pastors of all denominations gather here for Bible study each Tuesday.

In 2017, PFC’ s dream of purchasing its own plane became a reality.

"This is the first time we’ll own our own plane," Tommy said. "This is a new era; a new stage for PFC. We’ll be able to go 24-7!"

The new plane is larger and equipped with updated avionics. It contains special seats designed to make patients and their families more comfortable. It also has more insulation to make the trip less noisy. Even more patients can be served, as PFC will be able to use their own plane, as well as the additional volunteer planes. They hope to have their new plane in the hangar and fully operational by early September.

Volunteers for PFC form strong, personal relationships with their patients, joining with them to pray for a positive outcome. This is not always God’s plan, however, and it is at times like these that the staff find they need God’s help to renew their own spirits.

"We’re only human," Tommy said softly. "When someone doesn’t make it, especially a child, it’s tough. I tell our volunteers that we have to guard our hearts. We love all of these people, but we have a job to do. We must be able to serve the ones who come the next day!"

And come the next day, they do! In the past 23 years, PFC has served almost 2,000 families with nearly 1,000 flights. In July 2017, PFC flew 67 families, the most they have ever flown in one month! Tommy estimated over 90 percent of the past flights have been cancer-related. Even though the names on their Wall of Celebration are personal stories of courage, strength and love, sadly too many new names are appearing.

PFC believes its ministry fulfills an essential need in the area. Because they receive no government funding or reimbursements from insurance, their funds come from individuals, churches, civic organizations and businesses. Anyone who feels led may mail tax-deductible donations to:
Pilots for Christ
P.O. Box 707
Monroeville, AL 36461
You can contact Pilots for Christ by email at, follow them on Facebook at “PilotsforChrist” or visit their website,

Still, Tommy and Lindy, and Rosalyn and Johnny keep pressing onward, for they know they are unlikely vessels, filled with God’s grace and used in ways none of them could have ever imagined.

"This is not what any of us expected to be doing," Johnny explained. "God stretched us and made us grow in areas we did not realize we needed to grow."

For a volunteer organization in a small town with just over 6,000 people, PFC Monroeville has now become the most active chapter of Pilots for Christ International.

"God arranged this whole thing," Tommy added. "We serve where God puts in front of us. Everybody here does the job God asks us to do. We want this ministry to continue to God’s glory, with or without us."

Tommy paused, looked down and, with a slight catch in his voice, continued.

"We’ve all had too much mercy ourselves not to keep doing God’s work."

Carolyn Drinkard is a freelance writer from Thomasville. She can be reached at

Put the Cows to Work

by John Howle

“I do not believe there was ever a life more attractive than life on a cattle farm.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt realized the life of a cattle farmer was an attractive one. If you truly want to experience the cattle farming life to the fullest, try a model of intensive grazing.

There are variations out there ranging from intensive mob grazing to simply moving cattle frequently from pasture to pasture. Any time you can get the cattle to work for you instead of you working for the cattle, you can get ahead of the game and hopefully clear more profits.

Why use the intensive grazing model?

With intensive grazing, the cattle will trample down a fair amount of grass they don’t eat. This is a good thing. That layer of thatch starts stimulating the organic growth of the soil, and the manure of the cattle stimulates organisms such as dung beetles and earthworms. Both of these aerate and work the soil, and the layer of trampled grass holds moisture for continued growth in drought or cold weather. In addition, the soil is protected from runoff and erosion.

Intensive grazing makes it easier to stockpile grazing for winter and helps reduce the amount of hay you would have to feed. With the producers I’ve talked with who practice mob grazing, I am told the cattle do a much better job of eating the weeds they would normally bypass, and they’ve almost eliminated the need for stored hay through stockpiling. Also, the need for commercial fertilizer is reduced when you have rich, organic matter in the soil. With intensive grazing, you can have higher stocking rates for the same amount of land, and during calving you don’t have to go looking for the cows. They are right there in the small paddocks.

The Gallagher S16 should be placed facing the sun, and you’ll have plenty of power to charge a long length of turbo wire.

Start With Solar-charged Fencing

One of the easiest and most inexpensive ways to start an intensive grazing program involves purchasing a few supplies from your local Quality Co-op. Gallagher makes an ideal solar-powered fence charger called the S16 that powers fencing up to 10 miles or 30 acres for a one-strand fence. Getting the right charger is priority one. Once you have the solar charger, put it up in an area where it will receive the majority of the day’s sunlight, and let it charge a couple of days. The indicator light of the model S16 will begin blinking green when charged.

Drive a ground rod into the ground at a depth of at least 3 feet, and connect the green ground clip from the charger to the ground wire. Connect the red wire to the Gallagher turbo wire with the clip and turn the unit on after you have run the desired amount of electric wire.

Run the Wire

One strand of turbo wire should be enough to train and contain the cattle for intensive grazing. Gallagher’s turbo wire carries the charge well and is easy to work with. If you don’t have permanent perimeter fencing on all sides, run the turbo wire around the nonpermanent fence side. Using a 3:1 geared reel, turbo wire can be spooled out and reeled in much like a fishing reel works.

The geared reel is designed to clamp on the back of your ATV for quick unrolling. Once you have run the wires and looped it through the Gallagher ring top step-in posts, simply wind the reel until the turbo wire is tight. The geared reel has a locking mechanism preventing the wire from unrolling once it’s wound tight.

Reel the turbo wire tight, lock the crank and connect the jumper wire to the hot wire.

Finally, clip a jumper wire from your turbo wire to the hot wire so the entire solar fencing is energized. Double-check your wire for power before you turn the cattle into the patch. Cattle need to be exposed to a hot wire when they first get in to the field. Usually, it takes only one shock to train the cattle to avoid the turbo wire.

Rotate the Cattle

Move the cattle into the first solar-fenced field. You want the temporary fencing to keep the cattle concentrated in a small area with enough grazing to last at least a day. The cattle will trample and lay down quite a bit of waste on this small paddock, but this is what you want. That trampling lays down a layer of thatch.

Make sure to rotate the cattle to a different paddock before they graze the grass below 4 inches. Four inches is the critical number because the root systems begin to suffer under this height. I rotate the cattle to a new paddock every couple of days in a sequential order. In other words, once the cattle graze the first paddock, I reel up the turbo wire allowing the cattle into the next paddock. The cattle will have access to the field they’ve just grazed, but they are kept from future paddocks by the wire in front of them. The rule of thumb is to graze 50 percent of the grass and trample and leave 50 percent of the leaf matter for photosynthesis and continued production.

The design of the ring top posts allows you to set in the post and loop the wire in about two seconds. Notice the grazed vs. ungrazed portions of pasture. The trampled grass holds in moisture and starts the organic growth of the soil.

Get the Right Gear

Gallagher Fencing Company has revolutionized the ease with which you can rotate and contain cattle. The ring top posts can easily be stepped in as you are rolling the wire out for paddock set-up. Once you’ve rolled the wire out, hook the geared reel to a strand of permanent wire or loop in a post and simply crank the reel until the wire is tight. Once the wire is tight, lock the reel and clip a jumper wire from the hot wire to the wire coming off the reel. The geared reel has a 3:1 ratio, which allows you to reel up the wire as fast as you can walk.

This September try some intensive grazing with your cattle. Before you start, however, visit your local Quality Co-op for all your Gallagher solar-fencing equipment including solar charger, ring top step-in posts and turbo wire.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.

Recognizing a Growth Leader

Wayne Holt, right, received the Alabama Distinguished Cooperator award from Jim Allen, vice president of Public Relations for AFC.

Wayne Holt receives Alabama Distinguished Cooperator award.

The Alabama Council of Cooperatives sponsors the Alabama Distinguished Cooperator awards program. The program is designed to recognize those individuals who have made outstanding contributions to agriculture, cooperatives and other related areas. This award is presented at the organization’s annual meeting held during the organization’s annual Couples Conference in July.

This year’s honoree was Wayne Holt of Athens. Holt recently retired from Alabama Farmers Cooperative Inc. after 44 years of service. Having held a few titles at AFC, Holt ultimately served as chief information officer and his responsibilities included providing AFC employees the computer hardware, software and support they need to accomplish their work.

Under Holt’s supervision, AFC employees built most of the PCs used in offices and retail stores, and most of the software was developed in-house as well.

Holt was also responsible for managing corporate telecommunications. Because of his expertise, he was selected as Telecommunications Manager of the Year by the Alabama Telecommunications Management Association in 1998.

Holt was honorably discharged from U. S. Coast Guard Reserves, June 1972.

He holds a BS degree in Business Administration from Athens State University and has attended numerous management, professional development, and technical classes and seminars. His education, training and experience qualified him to teach computer programming at Calhoun Community College.

Holt has been an outstanding leader in the growth of AFC, its wholly-owned subsidiaries and joint ventures as well as its member Cooperatives and their farmer owners.

His exceptional judgment, wealth of experience and ability to apply these with common sense have nurtured AFC and led it forward in its never-ceasing goal of service to its member farmers.

Holt and his wife Shirley have been married 48 years and have two children and four grandchildren. He is active at Eastside Church of Christ where he has written class material, taught Bible classes and served as elder for over 20 years.

Responsible Ag

Jackson Farmers Co-op in Scottsboro achieves Responsible Ag certification.

by Sharon Cunningham

Congratulations to our newest recipient of the Responsible Ag certification, Jackson Farmers Co-op in Scottsboro. They are located 30 miles from Georgia and Tennessee, and in one of the most beautiful places in Alabama – and, yes, there are a lot of them in our state.

Jackson Farmers Co-op employees are, from left to right, (top row) Manager Lloyd Nelms, Richard Rogers, Mike Gifford, Paul Lee, Ramsey Prince, (bottom row) Sarah Greene, Angie Hill, Maggie Roberts and Audre Gilbert.

The Co-op carries a variety of supplies to cover everyone’s needs. If you are camping in the mountains or around the lake, Lloyd Nelms, manager, and staff can help you with solar decorations or a strange-size connector for the camper. If you live in the area and need something a little more substantial, check out their various products, including a large selection of mowers, trimmers and saws. With the location being so close to several rural communities, they can also supply any and all land needs.

While driving to check on the changing colors of the leaves, don’t forget to include this area. With views of the mountains and lakes, and the Soda Shop in town, it is a great place to catch your breath. And don’t forget to stop and tell Nelms and everyone at the Co-op congratulations.

Sharon Cunningham is EHS coordinator for AFC. If you have any questions about the Responsible AG program or would like to learn how to join, you can contact her at

September Lawn and Garden Checklist


  • Begin planting lettuce and radishes for fall now
  • Broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower transplants should be set out now for the fall garden.
  • Continue sowing salad greens until Oct. 1.
  • September is one of the best months of the entire year for seeding or sodding new lawns.
  • Sowing cover crops is highly desirable anywhere you’ve got bare soil because they prevent erosion and add organic matter back to the soil. Buckwheat makes a good short-term cover. It prefers to grow during the cooler months, but is not frost tolerant. Check with your local Quality Co-op store for other cover crop ideas.
  • This is the time of year to plant chrysanthemums for instant color.
  • After soil temperature drops below 60 degrees in the fall, the spring-flowering bulbs of tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, Siberian squill, dwarf irises, anemone and crocus should be planted. Select healthy, disease-free bulbs. Add bone meal or bulb fertilizer into the planting hole as you prepare the soil.
  • It’s time to get sweet pea seeds started for winter blooms. Spring- and summer-flowering types won’t bloom until the days are over 12 hours long. Soak the seeds overnight to soften the outside layer.
  • Pot up some spring-flowering bulbs for indoor color during the winter. Store the pots in a cool, dark place until new growth emerges from the soil, and then move them to a bright window.
  • Spring- and summer-blooming perennials can be dug up and divided now through early fall. Use the extras to fill in bare spots in your yard or share with your neighbors and gardening friends. Keep them watered regularly for the next few months while they are getting established.
  • Winter pansies, ornamental kale and cabbage can be planted now to give a little color to the garden when the summer flowers have faded away.
  • If you haven’t already done so, plan to plant wildflower seed in September and October. Check supplies now and order seed for planting in open, sunny areas. Soils should be lightly cultivated before planting.
  • Choose and plant trees and shrubs with edible berries to provide meals for wildlife or for bright splashes of fall foliage.


  • If you haven’t done a soil test ... now is the time. Visit your local Co-op store for a kit.
  • Before fertilizing, always make sure to water – preferably the day before, especially during hot weather – or you will risk burning the plant’s roots.
  • Apply a half dose of fertilizer to bedding plants. You don’t want to encourage a huge flush of growth heading into fall but you do want to make sure the plants are getting the nutrients they need to stay healthy and fight off pests.
  • As the buds set on azaleas and camellias, feed them with fertilizer tailored to their needs.
  • To get blue flowers on hydrangeas, keep the soil acidic at a pH of 4.5-5.0. Fertilize with aluminum sulfate using one tablespoon per foot of plant height or a quarter teaspoon per potted plant. Mix with water and apply it several times in the fall and spring, beginning in September. This must be started before they start developing buds or it’s too late for that season.
  • Get to know overwintering annuals such as pansies and violas that perform best when planted in the fall for early spring blooms. Keep them moist and add fertilizer at half-strength every other week.
  • Woody plants need to harden off before the rigors of winter, even in our mild climate. Go easy on adding nutrients such as fertilizers and manures (except, of course, for vegetables).
  • Roses need to prepare themselves for winter dormancy – not new growth. Stop fertilizing. Also, allow hips to form … this tells the plant to harden off for winter.
  • Fertilize spring-flowering bulbs with bone meal or a good bulb fertilizer.
  • Begin fall fertilization of cool-season lawns now. Three light feedings made on a holiday schedule – approximately Labor Day, Halloween and Thanksgiving – work better than one heavy application.


  • Force summer crops by pinching off new blossoms on melons, squash, eggplants and tomatoes. This will force plants to ripen fruit already on the plant.
  • Pinch the growing tips of gourds once adequate fruit set is achieved. This directs energy into ripening fruits rather than vine production.
  • Continue to remove dead flowers and seedheads from annuals to promote continuous blooming as long as the season permits.
  • Camellias are now starting to bud. Thin the buds on your camellia plants this month and next to promote a better bloom next winter. Thin out a combination of smaller and larger buds so your upcoming bloom will span a longer period.
  • Cut back perennials such as daylilies in the fall. This will lessen the amount of garden cleanup required in the spring.
  • Don’t prune shrubs and trees this month. Be especially careful not to prune plants bearing autumn flowers (such as Sasanqua camellias) or set berries (such as winterberry holly, Ilex verticillata), as well as spring bloomers such as azaleas.
  • Plants such as butterfly bush (Buddleia) should not be pruned until spring.


  • Some vegetables such as cucumbers or eggplants become bitter if underwatered during peak growing times.
  • Don’t allow plants with green fruit or berries to suffer from lack of moisture. Hollies will frequently drop their fruit under drought conditions.
  • Don’t water Christmas cactus for 1.5 months to help set buds. It’s not an exact science but, hopefully, this will have the plant in bloom for the holidays.


  • Continue to watch for insect, slug and snail, or disease damage throughout the garden, and take the necessary steps to control the problem. Use pesticides wisely. Apply the proper product just when and where needed, and use dosages according to the package directions.
  • Are slugs eating the cabbage leaves? Stop this destruction by spreading garden lime or agricultural-grade diatomaceous earth beneath the plants.
  • Apply insecticides now for grub control on lawns being damaged by their activity.
  • Treat lawns with milky spore disease in September to control Japanese beetles. The best time to infect large numbers is in early fall when the grubs are in nice, warm dirt, chewing grass roots madly to put on fat for the wintertime.
  • If you have a St. Augustine lawn, be on the lookout for chinch bugs and apply control, the sooner the better.
  • Clean out garden debris, dead flowers and leaves to keep the insect populations in check.
  • Continue spraying roses susceptible to black spot and other fungus diseases.
  • Deer and other animals become hungry in the winter and will feast on the bark of trees and will devour rhododendrons and other evergreen garden plants. Place deer fences around trees and use deer netting over plants that may be attacked during the winter season.
  • If you see little white moths flying around cabbages, Brussels sprouts and broccoli, watch for their caterpillars and spray with Bacillus thuringiensus (Bt).
  • Weeds have a field day in September. Keep on top of them by hand-pulling the day after a good rain.
  • Controlling dandelions and other perennial weeds is a job best done in fall, not spring.


  • Use your garden journal! You’ll be amazed at what this tool will be worth in years to come.
  • Check mulch and renew it if needed. Remember to keep it away from the trunk or main stem of plants, and don’t apply over 3 inches – any deeper and it will be difficult for water to reach the plants’ roots.
  • Clean out cold frames to prepare for fall use.
  • FYI: Annual herbs prefer composted mulch while perennial herbs like bark mulch.
  • Hummingbirds are still migrating through gardens now. Keep feeding them!
  • If the lawn needs dethatching, it can be done during the early fall.
  • Mark perennials with permanent tags or stakes, or create a map showing their locations so you’ll know where and what they are when they die back at the end of the season. This will help avoid accidentally digging up something you intended to keep while working in the garden this fall and next spring.
  • Once the tops of onions have withered, the bulbs should be lifted and dried in a warm, dry, sunny location for about 10 days. Then they should be stored in a cool, dark, dry place.
  • Order bulbs now for fall planting.
  • Soil prep is so important to the health of fall plantings. It’s worth taking the extra time to prep for the payoff you’ll get down the road. Once you’ve cleaned out and amended, let the bed rest for a couple of weeks. Turn the soil, water deeply and wait a few weeks for weeds to germinate. Weed out these opportunists! Think: turn … water … wait … weed. Add a 3- to 4-inch layer of organic material such as homemade or purchased compost or planting mix. Add an all-purpose food and turn in well.
  • Store collected or leftover seeds in a marked envelope. Keep them in a cool, dry location until the next planting season.
  • The amount of debris pulled out of the garden during the autumn cleanup is perfect for a compost pile. If you don’t have one, start one now. A three-sided square pit made of hay bales or chicken wire is sufficient. Take care not to throw weeds into the compost pile, however, as the seeds will remain and sprout next spring. Turn the compost at regular intervals, and the pile will keep itself warm throughout the winter months with the heat created by decay. In the spring, you will have a fine pile of compost to spread on vegetable gardens and flower beds.
  • This is an ideal time to harvest and spread compost from home bins. Remember, even a relatively small amount (half inch of covering) brings great benefits by enriching microbial life in the topsoil.
  • The birds will soon begin their winter migrations. Give them a helping hand by providing them with some food and water for their long journey. No one likes to travel on an empty stomach, and you may even persuade a few of them to stick around for the winter if they know they have a reliable food source!


by John Sims

The product in the spotlight this month is ShowBloom supplement. ShowBloom is a pelleted feed supplement designed to be top dressed on your current feeding program for livestock and pets.

Everything we do revolves around nurturing healthy, high-performing animals through specialized animal feed products and ingredients.

ShowBloom contains BGY, our all-natural brewer’s yeast product. With the BGY Advantage, your animals receive a powerful, nourishing combination of proprietary proteins, amino acids, vitamins and minerals – specially blended and processed to support quality, efficacy and performance of your animal.

In ShowBloom, we balance BGY with additional essential vitamins and energy sources to help animals reach their full genetic potential. Our unique processing of high-quality ingredients provides exceptional nutritional value and positive results for each and every animal.


  • Digestive tract health and rumen function
  • Overall health, well-being and performance
  • Palatability
  • Feed intake, even during times of stress – animals start and stay on feed better, maintaining energy levels
  • Feed efficiency and feed utilization
  • Nutritional value of feeding program
  • Hair coat and hoof quality
  • Appearance – animals bloom
  • Body condition
  • Muscle growth, development, expression and tone

The feeding rates are cattle, 8 oz./day; horses, 8 oz./day; hogs, 4 oz./day; sheep and goats, 3 oz./day; and small livestock, 1 oz./day.

Over the years, ShowBloom has been an important component of many successful animals’ lives!

We stock it in a 50-pound bag or 40-pound plastic bucket. Ask your local Quality Co-op store for some and see what a difference it will make in your livestock.

For more information on ShowBloom, go to

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

Simply Southern TV Receives Digital and Social Media Award

"Simply Southern TV," a show produced by Alabama Farmers Cooperative Inc. and Alabama Farmers Federation, won second place in the Video Production – Publishing Division in the American Agricultural Editors’ Association’s 2017 Video Production competition. The episode submitted was for Storybook Farm.

"Very nicely produced video giving viewers an inside look at Storybook Farm," said Elaine Symanski, one of the judges. "Good introduction explaining the operation and great video of children and volunteers with the horses. It is an engaging storytelling video that is sure to resonate with anyone who views it. The story raises awareness of this worthy project."

"Compelling story, beautifully shot video," said Kerry O’Connor, another judge. "It is a nice mix of interviews and varied shots. The story is well-told."

Southern Translation

SENTENCE USAGE: Just as his mother announced for the children to get in the car to go to church, Johnny anxiously screamed, "SHOTGUN!"

Why would one shout a weapon’s name before getting in a vehicle?

Riding shotgun is to travel in a car’s front passenger seat.

Most believe this saying is from the Wild West stagecoaches that had guards armed with shotguns to protect them … or was it English stagecoaches to protect them from highwaymen? Whoa there, pardner. Maybe that’s what people think but there’s no evidence to place this phrase that far back in history, in the United States or England.

The reference is to the U.S. stagecoaches that were an essential feature of Hollywood Westerns – usually being chased by Indians or bad guys in black hats. In the 1939 classic film "Stagecoach," George Bancroft plays Marshal Curly Wilcox, who is featured throughout the film riding shotgun to protect the coach from the pesky Apaches. He mentions the term explicitly in the dialogue:

"You boys take care of the office for a couple of days. I’m going to Lordsburg with Buck. I’m gonna ride shotgun."

The earliest reference we find in print to people riding shotgun in real life is from the Utah newspaper The Ogden Examiner, May 1919, with the heading of "Ross Will Again Ride Shotgun on Old Stage Coach":

"Driven by Alex Toponce and A. Y. Ross, an old-fashioned stage coach made in 1853 and used on the Deadwood stage line in the early days of Wyoming, will appear in Ogden streets on the day of the Golden Spike celebration.

"Alex Toponce was in the early days the owner of a stage line. He will probably drive the old fashioned vehicle, while A. Y. Ross, famous in railroad circles as a fearless express messenger and who on several occasions battled with bandits on the plains, will probably ride ‘shotgun’ as he did in the past."

Express messengers such as A. Y. Ross were also called shotgun messengers and the guns they used were called messenger shotguns.

Long-distance stagecoaches ceased to be used soon after the introduction of the transcontinental railroad in 1869. Short-haul coaches lasted a little longer, but their use was also in steep decline by 1900 and they disappeared when motor vehicles became available early in the 20th century.

There is good evidence that people were employed to guard stagecoaches on early U.S. stage lines. In October 1891, the Iowa newspaper The Oxford Mirror published this comment:

"Of all the devices and inventions for the protection of treasure and circumvention of the road agent, the only one that has stood the test of time and experience is a big, ugly-tempered man with a sawed-off shotgun on the box."

It seems quite plausible that the term riding shotgun would have been used, but it appears that it wasn’t - not until well after stagecoaches had gone out of use and people started making Westerns. Although we have 20th- century references to people riding on stagecoaches with shotguns from films and newspapers, there are no accounts from the 19th century calling this "riding shotgun."

The 1950s saw a spate of TV cowboy series where riding shotgun was so commonplace in the scripts as to be almost obligatory. The term was taken up by U.S. teenagers when referring to riding in the front passenger seat of a car. It became a game to shout, "I call shotgun," to reserve the front seat - generally seen as being the premium position (although, in those preseatbelt and air bag days, probably the worst choice). This was shortened in the 1960s to just shotgun. The term in that context is restricted to the United States.

The figurative use of the earlier version of the term was in common use by the 1980s. Here’s an example from The London Times from January 1980:

"It was quite by chance that The Times found itself riding shotgun for the Red Army."

Since the September 2001 terrorist attack in the United States, airlines have begun employing air marshals to protect the planes in flight. These have widely been described as "riding shotgun." Of course, they don’t carry shotguns because that would be rather counterproductive in pressurized cabins at 30,000 feet.

The Co-op Pantry

by Mary Delph and Jena Klein

Wow, this year is already sliding into fall. I have no idea where the year has gone, but we are three months away from Christmas. I am in the process of moving for the first time in many years and, while packing my books, I came across some old cookbooks that belonged to my Mom and other ladies who would have been about her age. They have all been gone for many years.

My Mom always treasured the cookbooks people gave her and, as I took a long break from packing, I started flipping pages. They brought back lots of wonderful memories. It also made me realize people of that era did a whole lot more real cooking than most of us today. Between working, caring for kids and trying to find time to do the laundry, cooking sometimes falls by the wayside.

I was able to find some wonderful older recipes containing our foods of the month for September and I wanted to share them.

The foods for October are apples, caramel, pasta, pork/sausage, kale, pumpkin (they are not just for jack-o-lanterns!), country ham and spinach. We are also looking for recipes for chili and desserts. Of course, if you have a special item you fix for Halloween, we would love to include it. October also happens to be International Vegetarian Month. Send us some of your favorite recipes … whether they have any of the food previously listed or not.

November is World Vegan Month. We have a wonderful cook lined up to share her vegan recipes with us.

If you are willing to tell us a little about yourself and share your recipes, we would love to have you as our cook of the month.


1 cup tomato sauce
½ teaspoon garlic salt
½ teaspoon sweet basil
¼ teaspoon oregano
5 cups cornflakes, crushed to 2½ cups
3 pounds broiler chicken, rinsed and dried
Vegetable cooking spray

Heat oven to 350°. In a medium-size bowl, combine tomato sauce and seasonings. In a flat dish, pour cornflake crumbs. If whole, cut chicken into pieces. Dip chicken pieces into tomato sauce mixture. Roll in cornflakes. In a shallow pan coated with cooking spray, place pieces skin side up. Do not place too close together. Bake about 1 hour, until chicken is tender and juices run clear. Do not cover pan or turn chicken while baking.

Note from Mary: You may remove the skin from the chicken if you want to make it healthier.


16 ounces large fresh mushrooms
2 Tablespoons onion, finely chopped
¼ cup margarine or butter
¾-1 cup chicken livers, cooked and finely chopped
¼ teaspoon salt
Dash of pepper
1 Tablespoon sherry or brandy
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
Margarine or butter, melted

Remove stems from mushrooms and set aside caps. Finely chop stems. In a large skillet, cook mushroom stems and onions in margarine until tender. Add chicken livers, salt, pepper and sherry. Mix well. In a small bowl, pour lemon juice. Dip mushroom caps in lemon juice. In shallow baking pan, arrange caps hollow-side-up. Fill with mixture. Brush with melted margarine. Broil 4-5 inches from heat for 4-5 minutes, until heated through and caps are lightly browned. Best served hot.


3-4 medium potatoes, cooked, peeledand cubed
3 hard-cooked eggs, chopped
1 small onion, chopped, or 6 green onions, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
¼ cup pickle, chopped, or pickle relish
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
¾ cup mayonnaise or salad dressing
1 Tablespoon prepared mustard

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. Mix well. Cover and chill.


2 avocados, semiripe
2 papayas, not too soft
3 limes
1 small red onion, minced
1 teaspoon ginger, minced
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 scallions, white part only, cut thin on bias
1 Tablespoon fresh mint leaves, sliced thin
Salt and pepper, to taste

Peel and pit avocados. Slice flesh into 10 wedges. Peel and seed papayas. Slice flesh into 12 wedges. In a glass bowl, juice limes. Add red onion and ginger. Allow to swell for 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and gently toss. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.


1½ cups cooked rice
½ cup raisins
1/3 cup sugar
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups milk, scalded
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs, beaten
Hot water

Heat oven to 350°. In ungreased 1.5-quart casserole dish, combine all ingredients except water. Mix well. In a baking pan with about 1 inch of hot water, place casserole dish. Bake for 45-55 minutes, until knife inserted near center comes out clean. Serve warm or chilled, with cream if desired.


½ cup honey
1 cup (2 medium) mashed bananas
½ cup margarine or butter, softened
2 Tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup chopped nuts
1 teaspoon soda
½ teaspoon salt

Heat oven to 350°. Grease (do not use oil or spray) bottom ONLY of a 9x5 or 8x4 loaf pan. In large bowl, blend first 6 ingredients. Beat 1 minute at medium speed. Stir in remaining ingredients just until dry ingredients are moistened. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes and remove from pan. Cool completely.

September Healthy Recipe


3 acorn squash (1 pound each), halved crosswise, seeded and bottoms trimmed to lie flat, if necessary
1 pound hot ground sausage or Italian sausage
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 small yellow onion, diced fine
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced fine
1 box Uncle Ben’s Long Grain & Wild Rice (original recipe)
2 cups water
¼ cup cooking sherry
1 Tablespoon butter
½ cup (2 ounces) grated Parmesan

Heat oven to 450°. On a rimmed baking sheet, season cut sides of squash with salt and pepper, and drizzle with oil. Turn cut sides down. Cover sheet tightly with foil. Roast until tender, about 35 minutes.

While squash is cooking, in a medium, straight-sided skillet over medium-high heat, brown sausage with onions and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. To sausage mix, add contents of Uncle Ben’s box, water, sherry and butter. Bring to a low boil (simmer), cover and reduce heat to low. Cook until liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes.

Remove squash from oven. Heat broiler. Carefully scoop out 2-3 tablespoons flesh from each squash half. Stir into rice and sausage mix. Season with salt and pepper. Divide and put rice mixture into squash halves. Sprinkle each with Parmesan. Broil about 2 minutes, until cheese melts.

Note: This was a fun, easy recipe to make and serve that looks like it took you hours to prepare! The scalloped shape of the squash gives an edgy, fall look to your meal, plus it tastes phenomenal! A sure hit to serve for an autumn luncheon or dinner!!

Mary Delph is an associate editor with AFC Cooperative Farming News. You may email her at Jena Klein is AFC’s Wellness Program Coordinator.

We are looking for cooks of all ages, cooking traditions and skill levels to feature in this column. We want to hear from those in Alabama as well as our out-of-state readers. The simple requirements for being a featured cook are to love to cook (and eat) and to share your story with us. Get those recipes coming! Any featured cooks during 2017 will receive a free copy of our new cookbook. -- Mary & Jena

Trying Something New

Tumblewheels for Rotational Grazing

by Robert Spencer

Tumblewheel with an electric wire run through the center.
When it comes to farming and trying something different, I expect most farmers are like me and are hesitant. We may think the idea sounds good and even say we will try it one day, procrastinate, and may or may not do it. I was that way with trying high-tensile wire, cross-fencing, plastic t-posts, high-tensile fixed-knot fencing and hair sheep. Eventually, I tried each and was impressed (except for the plastic t-posts) with the results and wondered why I had not tried them sooner.

When my colleague Blake Garner with NRCS told me about tumblewheels and how they made it easier to move a single strand of electric fence and cows, I was very skeptical, but decided to purchase a set and try them. After two times of moving the fence and cows, I realized Garner was right. When it comes to livestock production, utilization of forages and rotational grazing, and an easy method of moving fencing and animals, a farmer is much more likely to use this practice.

You can see from the photo on the opposite page what the tumblewheels look like. They are a practical design and easy to assemble. I feel like the spokes could be another 6-12 inches longer, but the designers may have already tried that and learned otherwise. Despite the spindles and some of the hub being metal, the core of the wheel is plastic so the electric fence does not ground out. When moving the fence, it is important to maintain tautness of the electric wire to ensure the wheels will tumble along as the fence is moved. If the land has some roll to it, step-in posts strategically placed between wheels will keep the electric wire from sagging and grounding in the forage. I did not have an ATV, which would have made it easier to move the entire setup.

Garner developed some calculations based on the following information. This activity took place in an approximately 30-acre pasture of mixed fescue and Bermuda grass. The field is approximately 680 feet wide, making the average paddock size 100 feet by 680 feet – 68,000 square feet or 1.56 acres.

We utilized a forward-grazing practice and the cows always have access to previous forages, water and shade. The project began June 26 and we moved the fence weekly. Each time the fence was moved 100 feet farther out. It didn’t take long for the cows to figure out what was going on and were eager to move into the new paddock.

We had to determine the amount of forage needed for 20 (approx.) 1,000-pound heifers and how much forage should be available based on strips of fresh grazing and forage height.

Note the color difference between grazed forage in the foreground and the fresh green forage on the far side of the fence.

The heifers initially began grazing at an average forage height of 8 inches and stopped at 4 inches. Based on current pasture conditions and the stand we have (better than average), there was 300 pounds of forage/inch/acre that equaled 1,200 lbs./acre or 1,872 lbs. for 1.56 acres. Each cow was consuming 2.5 percent of her body weight for a daily intake equaling 500 lbs./day of forage dry matter.

With 8 inches of forage x 300 pounds per inch x 1.56 acres x 50 percent removal rate x 60 percent utilization rate, 1,123.2 pounds of forage could be grazed in each new strip. That was about 2.24 days’ worth plus whatever back grazing they choose. With forward grazing, as each new strip was made available, the cows could graze that much more back pasture.

These are rough figures and do not account for any regrowth during the grazing cycle, etc.

Note that we monitored the cows and tried to move them when the forage was 4 inches or the 50 percent removal threshold we had decided on. The 2.24-day figure gave us an idea of the number of days each strip would sustain the herd based on current conditions, but it doesn’t consider weather conditions or animals’ behaviors. As of July 21, we have experienced an abundance of rainfall and sunshine. The field was limed last fall and fertilized in March 2017. So far, there has been plenty of forage. If conditions go into a drought, we will have to move the cattle more often or triple the size of the grazing paddock.

Now that you understand these tumblewheels, how they work and how they facilitate rotational grazing, I hope you will consider purchasing a set and seeing how they work for you. They are manufactured by Gallagher and can be purchased for about $80 each or in sets of five for about $375. You can find them at your local Quality Co-op.

While they may not be practical for every situation, they made my job of moving electric fence and cows much easier.

Robert Spencer is an Urban Regional Extension Specialist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. You can contact him at

Utilization of Fall Forages

by Jimmy Parker

Most producers who graze livestock know September and October bring unique challenges to meeting the nutritional needs of their livestock. By September, hot, dry weather has almost always taken a toll on the forage crops and, as the grasses mature, they lose nutritional value. The stem-to-leaf ratio will change, plants will relocate a good portion of their nutrients from the leaves to other parts of the plant and those nutrients will become unavailable to the livestock. Digestible protein will decrease by up to 75 percent in most grasses from early growth to seed formation and will not meet the basic requirements of the animals, especially those lactating. Grasses have always been considered to be a good source of energy for livestock due to their high cellulose content and the nonstructural carbohydrates they offer, but, as they mature and the percent of fiber and lignin increases, they lose the ability to meet an animal’s requirements.

There are several factors that come into play: 1) Low levels of digestible proteins limit the rumen’s microbes from reproducing efficiently, limiting fiber digestion. 2) High fiber diets tend to digest more slowly even under good conditions and stay in the gut longer, limiting how much actual forage a grazing animal can take in. 3) Fiber digestion, through fermentation, has a high heat increment and will add to an animal’s heat production and will in turn depress appetite when ambient temperatures are above 80-85 degrees, depending on humidity.

What do we, as producers, do to offset this issue? Clipping pastures to try and keep the forages in a stage of growth that is less mature will help, but I am sure few of us can irrigate pastures and grazing lands to any appreciable extent. It will work better earlier in the year before temperatures get too high and the soil dries out to a point that new growth is severely limited like it normally is in the early fall. Providing a good creep feed to the young growing animals will take a great deal of pressure off the mature herd that is lactating and will reduce their needs. A product such as Stocker 13 with Bovatec will help get more growth in the younger animals in a cost-effective way, and it will decrease the nutritional demands that the young animals put on the mature herd.

A product such as Stimu-Lyx HLF-30 tub will increase fiber digestibility and add some additional fat and protein. If your spring-calving cow herd is made up of only completely mature animals with a good set of teeth and a fully developed rumen, this should get you over the hump nutritionally speaking. It will also add a decent amount of phosphorus to the animals’ ration. That is important since phosphorus is another of the nutrients that declines rapidly as a plant matures and produces seeds.

Fall-calving mature cows will also benefit from HLF-30. While their nutritional needs are not as high as lactating animals’, mature grasses alone will not meet their needs and they will have to use stored nutrients to meet the demands of late gestation. This is not an ideal option, given that they are likely to need those stored nutrients after they calve and begin their lactation cycle on compromised forages.

The most critical group to consider is the 2- to 3-year-old females nursing their first calves. Hopefully, you were fortunate enough to get them rebred and they are raising a good calf. They have the highest nutritional demands of any of the cattle. They are still trying to grow, have a calf nursing and are trying to grow another one. They are also compromised because they will not have as much space in their rumen as a mature cow and, frankly, can’t eat as much as the older herd animals. They are the future of your operation and, if at all possible, they need to be managed separately from the mature herd.

A good creep feed should be offered to their calves to help ease the load they are under from a lactation standpoint.

Stimu-Lyx HLF-30 is also a good option and, if they can be maintained on a better forage, it might be enough, but, given they have considerably higher nutritional needs, supplemental feeding will most likely be needed.

Formax Brood Cow Supplement fed at a rate of 5-10 pounds per head per day (depending on the size of the nursing calf, the stage of gestation and quality of the forages) should get these young cattle to a point where their needs are met even when forages are poor. It will add to the years they will stay in your herd as productive animals.

Also, keep in mind that, as the weather gets hotter and drier, many water sources become compromised or even dry up completely. It is vital to make sure all classes of livestock have access to adequate amounts of clean, fresh water every day.

Jimmy Parker is AFC’s animal nutritionist.

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

Travel Pictures 1.5

by Herb T. Farmer

Taking a vacation trip is an adventure, especially if you take lots and lots of pictures. The other part of that adventure is when you get them all uploaded, purge the bad ones, edit the good ones and select the ones to show off. Then there’s yet a third part of that adventure.

About 12 days ago, I got a bad tourist virus and it sent me into panic because I have never gotten anything quite as bad as that. I call it Montezuma’s revenge of the computer! That really got me going!

All of my photographs and notes are safe and protected from this virus. However, I cannot access them at this time. I believe the virus came in from one of the news services I subscribe to and it set me back on my gardening time by about two weeks.

No matter. Being up against a deadline with the publisher, I had to cut my losses with time spent on the main computer and get busy writing. I had set aside a two-day block of all-day time to dig deep and possibly even completely wipe the solid-state drive and just start all over with a clean slate.

So, what does that all mean right now? I had to take a mini vacation with my camera in hand and search for something interesting to photograph and write about for this month’s column. After all, I promised to show you more travel pictures. And that’s why I call it "Travel Pictures 1.5."

Now, I sit down in front of this strange computer to write to you with as much of a smile on my face as I can muster. This machine is my spare. It’s a little older and a lot slower than my workhorse computer. But it works and doesn’t have a virus.

One thing I wanted to present in this month’s column was extreme close-up photography of things I see here on the farm. I have a ton of pictures to show you, but …. It just amazes me that I can find something to photograph around the farm in a matter of minutes and have fodder for an OK column.

Sharing my supper with a fall armyworm isn’t my idea of fine dining.

First thing this morning, as I walked into the kitchen to make coffee, I remembered one of my neighbors had brought me a sack of sweet potatoes. I took a few of them out to put in the ready bin and the rest went into the root cellar. I laid a couple of big ones in a box so I would remember they would be part of supper. I turned around to get my coffee, looked back at the sweet potatoes and saw something crawling out of one of them. It was a fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda). Of course, I grabbed the camera and got a couple of shots before I tossed it outside for the birds to eat.

We had a little wind this morning and it blew down some dead branches of an old oak tree. One of the branches had some cool-looking lichen on it; I changed lenses, powered up the flash and shot a few more pictures.

The side of one of the little sheds will need to be re-sided in a few years, but the existing siding has some character to it. I found some interesting orange fungi coming out of it today. I took a picture.

Even the back side of this branch has beautiful texture and color.

There are always some begonias around here to photograph. Here are a few showing their life cycle.

Finally, I’ll tell y’all a story about the casserole that never was. One night I steamed some green beans in the microwave using a clear casserole dish. They were delicious. Somehow, the dish of leftovers got shuffled to the dark corner of death in the refrigerator and weren’t seen again until a few weeks ago. I was disappointed that I had wasted the food, but glad the moldy beans would soon be worm food in the compost pile. I put them on the counter with the intention of dumping them into the kitchen compost receptacle that turned out to be full. Later that afternoon, I started preparing supper and, after peeling and cutting up the evening vegetables, I put the scraps into the dish of moldy beans. I also decided to prepare the coffee maker for the next morning while supper was cooking. I added the current day’s coffee grounds to the dish of kitchen scraps.

When it rains, this orange fungus creeps from deep within the wood siding on this old barn.

After dinner, I did my usual routine. I washed dishes and put away the leftovers.

Fast forward several weeks. Today, I was looking for some refrigerator pickles a friend brought me and found them in the back of the fridge. I also found a clear casserole dish with a coating of gray fuzz growing on top resembling cotton candy. Here’s a close-up of one of the interesting parts of this accidental work of art.

One of my life’s simple pleasures is remembering in detail how I did some long-forgotten, bone-headed thing.

This is a mature female blossom of a begonia (B. fischeri).

I hope you’ll forgive my vacation pics. When I can access the other ones, I’ll show them to you.

Now I think I’ll just go and clean the glass on the computer monitors. First, I need to mix up some of my great glass cleaner. Want the recipe?

¼ cup rubbing alcohol (91%)
¼ cup vinegar
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
2 cups water

Put all ingredients into your favorite spray bottle and shake thoroughly before each use.

2017 Autumnal Equinox is Friday, Sep. 22, 3:02 p.m. CDT.

I eat my yard! You should eat yours, too!

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

Thanks for reading!

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

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

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