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LEARNING CURVE New Ag & Industries Chief Sees Many Challenges Ahead STRAIGHT SHOOTERS Bama Bandits Club Goes Gunning For Fun


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Neighbors A Publication of the Alabama Farmers Federation

VOLUME 36, NUMBER 3

MARCH 2011

The Commissioner Is In John McMillan says if he’s learned anything in his short time in office as Alabama’s new commissioner of Agriculture & Industries, it’s that he has much to learn. • 16

Working In D.C. About 200 staff and members of the Alabama Farmers Federation head to Washington, D.C., March 15-18, to express their concerns over free trade agreements, the Clean Water Act and the 2012 Farm Bill. • 5

ON THE COVER LOOKING AHEAD — Paul Pinyan, executive director of the Alabama Farmers Federation (left) talks with John McMillan, the new commissioner of Alabama’s Department of Agriculture & Industries. — Photo by Debra Davis

Straight Shooters

DEPARTMENTS

The Bama Bandits are gunning for fun as Cowboy

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President’s Message

Mounted Shooting becomes the fastest-growing

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Federation Digest

equine sport. • 10

21

Ag Briefs

26

Alabama Gardener

Inauguration Gallery

28

Country Kitchen

Check out the many sights and scenes from our

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Classifieds

Inauguration Day 2011 photo gallery. • 14

NEIGHBORS • MARCH 2011

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President’s Message O

ne of the highest compliments you’ll hear from a farmer is, “He’s not afraid to get his hands dirty.” It’s not that farmers don’t appreciate professions where starched white shirts and air-conditioned offices are the norm. They just feel a special kinship with those whose calloused hands bear witness to a lifetime of labor. Perhaps that’s because farmJerry Newby ing requires you to wear many hats. Farmers not only till the soil and tend livestock, but they often serve as their own mechanics, welders and carpenters. So when Mike Rowe, executive producer and host of Dirty Jobs on the Discovery Channel, started a campaign to celebrate and recruit skilled workers, farmers took notice. Rowe’s almost evangelistic message about the loss of American tradesmen struck a chord with farmers, who’ve seen their own numbers dwindle. In fact, about one-third of America’s skilled workers are age 50 or older, and for every four construction workers who retire, only one new worker is entering the field. The story is much the same in agriculture, where the average age of an Alabama farmer is now almost 58. To combat the decline in construction workers, Rowe and the Alabama Construction Recruitment Institute launched the “Go Build Alabama” campaign last fall. The effort, which is aimed at boosting interest in Alabama’s construction industry among young people, attracted about 30,000 visitors to the GoBuildAlabama.com Web site in its first four months, including 2,100 who registered on the site’s career database. Meanwhile, Rowe carried his message to the nation’s farmers in January, when he spoke at the

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American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual meeting in Atlanta. “We are not sufficiently impressed by the process of getting food from the farm to the table,” Rowe said. “It’s not happening by magic. There’s not a steak tree in the backyard.” The TV personality urged farmers to become advocates for their industry, both to combat negative publicity and to encourage young people who want to pursue agriculture as a career. As a defender of the working man, Rowe is openly critical of those who would marginalize jobs like farming and construction. “We used to tell our kids that learning a trade was a great way to secure a worthwhile future,” Rowe told the Huntsville Times in an article last year. “Today, we tell them if they want to get a really good job they need a four-year degree. We’ve lumped the skilled trades into the ‘alternative education’ category and turned the entire field of study into some sort of a vocational consolation prize.” Although the Alabama Farmers Federation has helped hundreds of students get a college education through scholarship programs, we agree with Rowe that America must also encourage vocational training. One way the Federation is working to strengthen vocational programs is through support of the Career Technology Initiative, which provides grants to fund extended contracts for vocational agribusiness teachers. It’s our hope that this initiative — along with Ag in the Classroom, FFA and the 4-H Club — will spur interest in farming and skilled trades among our youth. After all, our food, comfort and economic prosperity all depend on those men and women who “aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty.” n ____________________________________ For more information, visit mikeroweworks.com. 4

VOLUME 36, NUMBER 3

________________________________________ Darryal Ray, Editor Debra Davis, Associate Editor Mike Moody, Graphic Designer ALABAMA FARMERS FEDERATION Paul Pinyan, Executive Director Jeff Helms, Director of Communications FEDERATION OFFICERS Jerry Newby, President, Athens Hal Lee, Vice President/North, Hartselle Dean Wysner, Vice President/Central, Woodland Ricky Wiggins, Vice President/Southeast, Andalusia Jake Harper, Vice President/Southwest, Camden Steve Dunn, Secretary-Treasurer, Evergreen DIRECTORS Joe Dickerson, Lexington Ted Grantland, Somerville Donnie Garrett, Centre Darrel Haynes, Cullman John E. Walker III, Berry Marshall Prickett, Wellington Richard Edgar, Deatsville Dickie Odom, Boligee Garry Henry, Hope Hull Carl Sanders, Brundidge David Bitto, Elberta Sammy Williams, Columbia Debbie Freeland, Grand Bay Ben Haynes, Cullman Neighbors (ISSN 0162-3974) is published monthly by the Alabama Farmers Federation, 2108 East South Boulevard, Montgomery, Alabama 36116. For information about member benefits of the Alabama Farmers Federation, visit the Web site www.AlfaFarmers.org. Periodicals postage paid at Montgomery, Alabama, and additional mailing offices. Printed in the U.S.A. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Neighbors, P.O. Box 11000, Montgomery, Alabama 36191-0001. ADVERTISING REPRESENTATIVE: Paul Hurst, Hurst & Associates, Inc., P.O. Box 6011, Vernon Hills, IL 60061. Phone: 800397-8908; Fax: (847) 438-8105. Classified ad and editorial inquiries should be directed to the editor at (334) 613-4410. ADVERTISING DISCLAIMER: Ad­vertise­­­­­­­ ments contained in Neighbors do not represent an endorsement by the magazine or the Alabama Farmers Federation. EDITORIAL MATTER from sources outside of the Alabama Farmers Federation is sometimes presented for the information and interest of our members. Such material may, or may not, coincide with official Alabama Farmers Federation policies. Publication of material does not necessarily imply its endorsement by the Alabama Farmers Federation. ADDRESS editorial, advertising and change of address correspondence to Neighbors, P.O. Box 11000, Montgomery, Alabama 36191-0001. www.AlfaFarmers.org A member of American Farm Bureau Federation NEIGHBORS • MARCH 2011


Free Trade, Farm Bill Top Farmers’ Agenda for D.C. Trip By Melissa Martin

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ree trade agreements, the Clean Air and Clean Water acts and the 2012 Farm Bill will be among the topics Alabama farmers plan to discuss with members of their congressional delegation when they visit the nation’s capitol this month. The trip, set for March 15-18, is an annual meeting for Alabama Farmers Federation leaders who see the summit as a way to put a face on the state’s largest industry — agriculture. With several new members in Congress, this year’s meeting will serve as more than just an informative meet-and-greet — it will also help farmers and business owners call attention to and devise methods for amending one federal agency’s exploitation of power. “The Environmental Protection Agency has overreached their boundaries for regulating agriculture,” said Jimmy Carlisle, director of the Alabama Farmers Federation’s Department of Governmental and Agricultural Programs. “There is a general feel — and I think we’re going to see — a continued oversight of the EPA . . . exercising the authority to regulate more than it was commissioned to do so, especially regarding the Clean Water and Clean Air acts.” Despite the recent overhaul in Congress, Alabama should fare well in D.C. thanks, in part, to the state’s newly-elected Representatives who are passionate about protecting the backbone of Alabama — its farmers. “We’re fortunate to have three new members — one congressman, Mo Brooks, of Huntsville; and two congresswomen, Terri Sewell of the 7th District and Martha Roby of the 2nd District, both of whom will also serve on the Ag Committee,” said Carlisle. “It’s going to be interesting to see how the new leaders position themselves to do things that are good for the country, and especially good for the rural ag sector.” Another focus in D.C., which stems from the American Farm

NEIGHBORS • MARCH 2011

Bureau and will carry over into a grassroots campaign that each state Farm Bureau will address, are free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea. “These three agreements represent much increased agricultural exports if we can get them implemented,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman. “Given the state of our economy,

I think there will even be more emphasis on passing the free trade agreements because they will provide a boost to our economy. And nobody in political office can ignore the very great economic importance of trade to America’s economy.” According to a release from the American Farm Bureau, Once fully implemented, the Korea free trade agreement would trigger $1.8 bil5

lion annually in agriculture exports. Gains in exports through the Colombia agreement are estimated at $815 million, while the Panama agreement is estimated to increase U.S. agricultural exports to more than $195 million. Relative to America’s economy, budget cuts and other financial woes also are political hot buttons several congressmen and farmers will discuss during the D.C. trip, with a special focus on cuts to ag subsidies. “The whole thing is driven by the deficit,” said Carlisle. “They’re going to be looking to find money to fund programs that isn’t going to be there. Unfortunately, this deficit is really going to challenge us to pass the 2012 Farm Bill.” Those who enjoyed the Senate Luncheon last year will again have the opportunity to meet with U.S. Sens. Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions (R-Ala) at the Hart Senate Building. Small groups of farmers will meet with members of Congress and their staff on specific commodity-related issues throughout the afternoon. “It’s a great opportunity for our members to have a voice and talk to their representatives,” said Carlisle. Federation members on the trip will also attend a congressional reception for lawmakers and their staff featuring barbecue provided by L.O. Bishop, president of the Colbert County Farmers Federation. Farmers from each of Alabama’s seven congressional districts will meet with their respective U.S. representatives during breakfast meetings while in Washington. These small, informal meetings allow farmers the ability to talk one-on-one with their congressmen about how actions in Washington affect their families back home, as well as environmental issues; agricultural labor; estate and capital gains taxes; animal welfare; NRCS programs; and the Farm Bill, which will likely be addressed closer to 2012 than originally anticipated. n w w w. A l f a F a r m e r s . o r g


Mullins Retires After More Than Three Decades With Federation

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from one end of the state hen she first joined to the other.” the Alabama FarmLikewise, Jimmy ers Federation as Carlisle, director of the a part-time membership Governmental and Agriclerk in August 1978, cultural Programs, says Ginger Mullins had no Mullins’ quick smile and idea what the organizapeople-pleasing attitude tion was all about. will be sorely missed. “All I knew about the “Ginger’s retirement state’s commodities was leaves a giant hole in the that you bought them in Federation,” said Carlthe grocery store,” she Mullins isle. “She’s going to be said with a laugh. missed not only by me But when Mullins and the rest of the Federation staff, retired as administrative assistant but by hundreds of our members. to the Federation’s Department of She’s touched the lives of so many Governmental and Agricultural of our members, always eager to Programs on Feb. 1, she left behind help out and always smiling. The a family of farm friends from all commodity directors all love her, over the state. and our department won’t be the “The people are what I’ll miss same without Ginger.” most,” said Mullins, whose FedCarlisle said much of Mullins’ eration career spans more than 32 duties are being divided between years. “I feel like I have friends

two other administrative assistants — Millie Hawes and Carla Hornady. Mullins was recognized at last summer’s Commodity Producers Conference for more than three decades of service to the Federation. She said her retirement will be filled with painting, volunteering and spending time with her husband, Ronnie; son, Troy; and son and daughter-in-law, Ronnie Dean and Karen, who live in Fairhope with her three grandchildren — George (5), Lucy (3) and Mae (10 months). “There aren’t many places you can work where you can truthfully say you have so many friends,” said Mullins. “Unless they’ve experienced it, people just don’t understand when people talk about this organization being a family. Everybody cares for one another.” n

Scott Named Assistant To The President For Alfa Insurance

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lfa Insurance President and CEO Jerry Newby has named Al Scott of Montgomery to the position of assistant to the president. Scott will continue to serve as general counsel and corporate secretary for the Alfa Insurance companies, but he will now play a more visible role in representing Alfa and in coordinating functions of the company’s various divisions, Newby said. “Al is a good man and trusted friend who is dedicated to serving our members and policyholders,” said Newby, who also serves as president of the Alabama Farmers Federation. “As assistant to the president, he will be available to help with the obligations of this office while continuing to provide wise counsel to me and our board of directors. Al is a loyal employee who understands w w w. A l f a F a r m e r s . o r g

has asked me to serve the importance of both in this new capacity, the Federation and Alfa but I recognize the great Insurance. His knowledge responsibility it brings,” and experience with all Scott said. “Mr. Newby phases of our organizais incredibly busy. A lot tion will be invaluable as of people come through we work to provide the his door, and a lot of best service possible to things land on his desk. our members and policyCertain things come up holders.” that only he as president A graduate of Auburn can address. My job is University, Scott earned Scott to do whatever I can to his doctor of jurisprulighten his load so he has dence from Cumberland the time to properly address those School of Law at Samford Univermatters. This is another step by Mr. sity in 1981. He served as law clerk Newby in his commitment to serve for Alabama Supreme Court Alfa’s policyholders and members.” Justice Hugh Maddox and Scott and his wife, Billie, live in as attorney for the city of Montgomery where he is a member Montgomery before joinof Eastwood Presbyterian Church. ing Alfa as assistant general They have two daughters, Lee, who counsel in 1993. Scott was teaches school in Anniston, Ala., named general counsel for Alfa in 1997 and was and Allison, who serves as public promoted to senior vice presi- information coordinator for Aladent in 1999. bama Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey. n “I am honored that Mr. Newby 6

NEIGHBORS • MARCH 2011


Federation Digest Roby, Sewell Named To House Ag Subcommittees

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embers of the House Agriculture Committee recently met to formally organize and to adopt committee rules for the 112th Congress. Both U.S. Reps. Martha Roby, R-Ala., and Terri Sewell, D-Ala., were chosen to serve on the General Farm Commodities and Risk Management Subcomittee. That committee oversees programs and markets related to cotton, cottonseed, wheat, feed grains, soybeans, oilseeds, rice, dry beans, peas, lentils, the Commodity Credit Corporation, risk management, including crop insurance, commodity exchanges and specialty crops. Roby, who represents Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District, also was chosen to serve on the Conservation, Energy and Forestry Subcommittee. That committee has jurisdiction over soil, water and resource conservation, small watershed programs, energy and bio-based energy production, rural electrification, general forestry and forest reserves other than those created from the public domain. Sewell, who represents Alabama’s 7th Congressional District, also was chosen to serve on the Rural Development, Research, Biotechnology and Foreign Agriculture Subcommittee. That committee oversees rural development, farm security and family farming matters, research, education and extension, biotechnology, foreign agriculture assistance, and trade promotion programs. n w w w. A l f a F a r m e r s . o r g

Area Meeting Federation leaders from southwest Alabama met in Robertsdale Jan. 13 for one of several area communications meetings being held throughout the state. From left are David Platt of Washington County, Alabama Farmers Federation President Jerry Newby, Ronnie Joe Jordan of Monroe County and Jimmie Fidler of Baldwin County.

Sewell Appointed To House Ag Committee

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.S. Rep. Terri A. Sewell, a Democrat who represents Alabama’s 7th Congressional District, has been selected to serve on the House Committee on Agriculture. Ranking House Agriculture Committee Member Collin C. Peterson, D-Minn., recently made the announcement. The House Committee on Agriculture creates farm policy and drafts legislation to protect the interests of rural America. The committee’s jurisdiction includes rural development, agricultural colleges, farming, nutrition, renewable energy, conservation, bioterrorism, forestry and many others. Sewell joins fellow freshman Alabama Congresswoman Martha Roby, 8

R-Montgomery, on the Agriculture Committee of the 112th Congress. Alabama Farmers Federation President Jerry Newby said Sewell’s appointment strengthens the voice of Alabama farmers in Washington. “Alabama’s 7th Congressional District and our entire state is fortunate to have Rep. Sewell serving on the House Agriculture Committee and we are delighted with her appointment,” he said. “Agriculture is our state’s largest industry, and we know she will be an advocate for our farmers. As Congress begins writing the new farm bill, it will be more important than ever that we have someone looking out for the farmers of our state.” n NEIGHBORS • MARCH 2011


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NEIGHBORS • MARCH 2011

Photo courtesy of Jessica Cummings

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By Darryal Ray

dash through a randomly selected course that consists of two sets of five balloons. A double, custom-made holster sits angled high above their waist, making it easier to draw the two .45 caliber pistols they carry. Riders charge across the starting line with one gun in hand, firing at the first set of five balloons. After the fifth shot, the rider holsters his first gun and draws the second as he begins a dash to the finish line, shooting the last five balloons along the way. The fastest — and most accurate — wins. The crack of the gun, the smell of the black powder and the clouds of smoke that hang in the air above the arena are all part of the attraction for Shannon Andress, a regional 4-H Extension agent for Montgomery, Macon and Elmore counties. “I’d been interested in mounted shooting for many years, but I didn’t really have the courage to try it until about two years ago when I went to a shoot,” says Andress. “I was just going as a spectator because cowboy mounted shooting events don’t charge an admission fee – they’re just happy to have anybody observe the sport. So the guy in charge saw me looking very longingly, leaning over the wall, and he said, ‘Do you want to try this?’ He was taking a chance, not knowing that I was a fairly experienced horse person. So, I did and fell in love with it.” Even so, it took her two years of competing before she sunk the $1,300 into her set of Ruger Vaqueros

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ome are Outlaws, Bandits, Renegades or Desperadoes. Others are Peacemakers, Rangers or Regulators. It may sound as if they are on opposite sides of the fence, but the truth is that truth, justice and the cowboy way rule in the world of cowboy mounted shooting competition. “It’s not so much about who wins as it is a lot of fun,” Eddie Vanderslice, president of the Bama Bandits, is saying. “It’s very Christian-oriented, it’s for the family. We don’t tolerate any drinking, no ugly language. It’s not for everybody, but that’s just the way it’s going to be with us.” The Bandits, based out of Bruce Faust’s Iron Horse Ranch in Wetumpka, is one of three clubs in Alabama that are part of what has been called the fastest-growing equine sport in America. The national organization, the Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association, counts a membership of about 10,000. Although only established in 2009 by Vanderslice and a handful of others, the Bandits club numbers about 60 members — easily the most in the state — and is still growing. “It’s growing about as fast as we can control it now,” said Vanderslice, who owns a fabrication and machine shop in Bessemer. “Every time we put on a shoot in Wetumpka, we’ll get three to five new members.” It’s easy to see why — mounted shooting is a sport steeped in the romance of the Old West. Although the contestants shoot only black powder blanks, mounted shooting still offers a hefty dose of firepower and horsepower. Often described as “barrel racing with guns,” it’s an event that — except for the balloon targets and orange cones that mark the course — looks like a scene out of Lonesome Dove or True Grit. Competitors dressed in mid-1800s Old West outfits

Michelle Cummings (opposite page) puts her horse through the paces at a recent shoot. Above, it’s showtime as the Bama Bandits prepare to enter the arena for recent demonstration at Montgomery’s Garrett Coliseum. Right, Ted Matyjasik and Paladin have learned to coordinate their efforts, and Jill Brewer has ‘bling’ as well as ‘bang.’ NEIGHBORS • MARCH 2011

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At left, Bandit President Eddie Vanderslice and Allan Andress are ready for some shootin’.

Montado, her weapon of choice, and another $250 into her custom holsters. “It takes awhile to know what equipment works best for you,” she explained. “And in the cowboy mounted shooting world, people know this and they don’t want you to go out and buy the wrong kind of gun that doesn’t fit your hand or is the wrong length. They don’t want you to get the wrong set of holsters that won’t work for you. People here will beg you, ‘Here, try my holsters!’ or ‘Try my gun!’ or even ‘Try my horse!’ That’s how we hook people in cowboy mounted shooting.” Now a member of the Bandits’ board of directors, Andress competes almost monthly with her husband, Allan and 11-year-old son, Sam, who competes in the under-12 Wrangler division where only cap guns are used. “It’s a sport for everybody,” she said. “We have shooters of all ages. There’s a lady in Florida in her mid80s, and she out-shoots everybody. Of course, she takes it at a slow lope but if you shoot clean — shoot all 10 targets — you’re going to beat somebody who ran three times faster than you but missed one or two. So, it’s not just about speed.” Andress became such a fan that she began recruiting new members like Michelle Cummings, a 20-yearold police dispatcher whom she met while posting flyers about the club at a local Western wear and tack store. w ww ww w .. A A ll ff a aF Fa a rr m me e rr ss .. o o rr g g

“I first saw mounted shooting was at the Alabama Horse Fair in 2009 before the Bama Bandits club was ever started,” says Cummings, who is attending Troy State UniversityMontgomery with hopes of becoming a state conservation officer. “I wasn’t really sure how I was going to try it until I met Shannon. She told me all about the new club that was forming so as you can imagine I was very excited. When I tried it the first time that was it, I was addicted.” Cummings’ first attempt at mounted shooting came in November 2009, and she began attending as many practices with the Bama Bandits as possible. “My first competition was March 2010,” she recalled. “I was new at the sport and my horse was young and new to being ridden. So, needless to say, our first shoot didn’t go very well.” “The hardest part about riding and shooting is the control of your horse,” added Cummings, who was already familiar with handguns. “If you don’t have good control, your focus is on the horse and not on shooting and learning how to shoot faster. Pulling the hammer back every time before pulling the trigger takes a lot of getting used to — your hand gets tired and you can get behind real quick.” Cummings also emphasizes the value of a good horse. “My horse, Lakota, is still young and doesn’t have a good handle on him yet,” she said. “He doesn’t mind the gunfire but he turns like a freight train. My other horse, Caricia, has a good handle on her, but the gunfire makes her nervous.” The gunfire doesn’t bother Bandit member

Ted Matyjasik, a helicopter instructor at Fort Rucker “Probably the most difficult part of this is the horse,” said Matyjasik. “Well, if you’re not used to shooting guns, that can be difficult, too. But trying to get the horse settled in can be tough. Some horses can do it, some can’t. Then it’s a matter of you and the horse. You’ve got to figure out what his job is and what you’re job is. Then, between the two, you try to coordinate the effort.” Vanderslice has coordinated the effort better than most. He’s a “Level 4” competitor, the highest in Alabama and just two steps below the top echelon of shooters. “I have to have five wins to move up to a Level 5 shooter and I lack one more,” Vanderslice said. “You can only accomplish that by going to Tennessee and places like that where they’ve been shooting a lot longer because you have to have a minimum of five participants that are also in Level 4 in order to move up. So, I have to travel out of state to get my move up. But in time, all those Level 1’s we have are going to move up, and we’re going to develop a really good shooting club. Still, it’s not so much about who wins as it is just a lot of fun.” n

____________________________________ For more information about the Bama Bandits and upcoming shooting events, visit www.BamaBandits.com and www. cowboymountedshooting.com.

Shannon Andress tells audience at Garrett Coliseum that mounted shooting is for everybody. 1 12 2

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ozens of Alabama Farmers Federation members visited with legislators and other elected officials during an inaugural reception Jan. 17 in Montgomery. The reception was held in a meeting facility on the inauguration parade route, just down Dexter Avenue from the capitol. It featured Alabama foods including shrimp, pork barbecue, catfish, turnip greens, chicken, roast beef and cheese. Legislators, who spent the day attending receptions by various trade organizations, said they looked forward to the Federation gathering. “You can always count on the farmers to have real food,” said Rep. Pebblin Warren, D-Tuskegee. Brian Hardin, assistant director of the Federation’s Department of Governmental and Agricultural Programs, said the reception was especially important because nearly one-third of Alabama’s legislators are new to their offices. “There are so many new members of the Legislature, as well as new constitutional officers and members of the State Board of Education, and it’s important for our members to have an opportunity to meet them as we look ahead to a new legislative session,” Hardin said. “The reception also gave us a chance to thank the county Federation leaders whose hard work and dedication helped elect legislators and other officials who will support rural Alabama and farm issues.” County Federation leaders from across the state greeted lawmakers throughout the day — taking time out around noon to hear Gov. Robert Bentley and others take the oath of office. “Working together, we’re going to get through these tough times,” Bentley promised. “We’re going to put Alabama back to work. And I truly believe Alabama’s best days are ahead.” n

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Above, Gov. and Mrs. Robert Bentley lead the inauguration parade up Dexter Avenue Jan. 17. Center, Alabama’s new Attorney General Luther Strange addresses the crowd following his oath of office on the steps of the capitol. Below, Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey takes her oath of office.

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Above, Alabama’s new State Treasurer Young Boozer waves to the large crowd at the inauguration parade. Center, State Sen. Jimmy Holley, R-Elba, (left) talks with Alabama Farmers Federation President Jerry Newby at a reception on inauguration day. Below from left, Cleburne County Farmers Federation President Joe Braden and wife, Jean Braden, watch the parade with State Rep. Chad Fincher, R-Semmes, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee. Alabama 4-H’ers were among thousands of young people who participated in the parade.

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McMillan Learning Ropes As New Ag & Industries Chief By Debra Davis

Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries John McMillan was surrounded by family members as he took his oath of office on the capitol steps.

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ust one week into his new job as commissioner of the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries, John McMillan says the thing he’s learned the most is how much he has to learn. “This department touches the lives of every Alabamian,” McMillan said. “Ironically, even though we are so closely identified and so closely associated with agribusiness in the state, I think if you had to give a brief summary of what this department does, it is food safety and consumer protection.” From the scales that a pharmacist uses to measure medicine, to gas pumps throughout the state, the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries regulates and monitors thousands of businesses in the state. The enormous responsibility of the department is still sinking in, McMillan said, but he pledged to always keep the customers (Alabama’s taxpayers) at the forefront of each decision. McMillan is known as a conservative leader and a consensus builder, according to Alabama Farmers Federation President Jerry Newby. “We look forward to working with Commissioner McMillan,” Newby said. “Our organization stands ready to work with him on any issue.” Federation Executive Director Paul Pinyan said members throughout the state are excited about work-

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ing with the commissioner as he reshapes the department. “Commissioner McMillan is known for his strong work ethic and attention to detail,” Pinyan said. “And his experience with the Legislature will serve his department and the farmers of the state well.” McMillan said he is still reviewing all the areas his department is responsible for, including the 349 employees who work there. “Of the department employees, only about 150 of them work here in Montgomery at the Beard Building,” he said. “Others are scattered around the state in various forms of inspectors for food safety, weights and measures, pesticides and in the four labs we operate.” McMillan said he expects his office to be faced with layoffs from anticipated deep budget cuts caused by declining state revenue. However, he’s already taking steps to save money in the department by cross-training employees and cutting costs. “Just this week I found out we could save more than $10,000 by changing the way we do our internal distribution of printed materials,” McMillan said. McMillan said his exact plans for the department would be hard to shape until he knows what the budget will be. Based on what newly elected Gov. Robert 16

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Bentley has said, the cuts may be significant and may even force layoffs in the department, McMillan said. “As I said during my campaign, I am very interested in economic development, especially for rural Alabama, and renewable energy which I think holds a tremendous potential for our state,” McMillan said. “We will focus on those things, but our priority will be providing services to the businesses and industries that need us to survive, like those that require inspections in order to sell their products. There are some tough decisions to be made, but we’re going to approach all we do in a professional and business-like manner.” For example, McMillan said the owner of a nursery couldn’t sell his or her products out of state until an employee of the department inspects them. If that inspection can’t be done, it could put that producer out of business, he said. “We’re going to make sure that doesn’t happen,” he added. “Those businesses and industries that depend on us to survive are going to be a priority.” McMillan said he has asked department employees to find ways to save money and provide more services. “Nothing will be off the table when it comes to looking at expenditures,” he said. “We are going to do whatever it takes to meet the needs of the people who depend on us.” McMillan said his experience as a businessman and government leader coupled with his strong work ethic helped prepare him for the job. He was born and raised on the family farm in the little community of Stockton in north Baldwin County. His first experience in politics was when former Gov. Albert Brewer appointed him to a vacancy on the Baldwin County Commission. Then, McMillan was twice elected to the State House of Representatives, eventually leaving that post to become Alabama Commissioner of Conservation and Natural Resources during former Gov. Fob James’ first term. Later, he began

Alabama Farmers Federation State Board Member Garry Henry of Montgomery, right, and his father Davis Henry, talk with McMillan during a reception hosted by the Alabama Farmers Federation.

working at the Alabama Forestry Association as its executive director until his retirement in 2006. Although he admits he knows more about forestry and wildlife than row crops, McMillan said he has learned over the years that groups like the Alabama Farmers Federation are a vital resource when it comes to decisions facing the state’s farmers and rural landowners. “We will do the very best job we can for all the farmers in the state to help them not just stay in business, but to thrive,” McMillan said. “Even with the budget cuts we anticipate, I hope our office will be able to help offer some low-interest rate loans for on-farm water reservoirs. The biggest problem farmers have to deal with is weather and water, and these reservoirs hopefully could help take water out of those equations.” “I imagine a lot of people, and I know a lot of the employees here, are surprised at my work ethic,” McMillan said. “It started when I was growing up in a sawmill, but Catherine and I have gotten up at 5 o’clock in the morning for over 40 years and we still do that. I try to get to work by 6 and work until, (indicating there are no set hours to end his day.) I guess a lot of people would be surprised that I work as hard as I do. I also try to recognize my limitations, which I think is one thing that makes me work so hard. Working at a sawmill is hard work and takes long hours. I watched my father do that his entire life. It wasn’t a matter of wanting to; it was a matter of having to, particularly if you run a small business.” n

Commissioner McMillan, left, greets Colbert County Farmers Federation President L.O. Bishop. NEIGHBORS • MARCH 2011

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Cleaning, Maintenance Can Improve Gas Heat System Efficiency

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ith the onset of cold weather, poultry growers faced with high fuel costs begin searching for ways to improve the efficiency of their gas heating systems. But experts at the National Poultry Technology Center (NPTC) at Auburn University say one of the best ways to cut costs may be just a good cleaning. In the NPTC’s most recent “Poultry Engineering, Economics & Management” newsletter, authors Jess Campbell, Jim Donald and Gene Simpson tell growers that one of the most cost effective ways to make sure they are spending time and money wisely is by doing a good job cleaning and maintaining existing heating equipment. While equipment that is damaged beyond repair, unsafe to operate or cheaper to replace than repairing should be replaced, growers are advised that they can often get more out of their equipment by following some simple guidelines. According to the newsletter, growers can get best use of their brooding and heating system — and most out of their gas — by simple, routine maintenance. “Brooders and heaters lose heating efficiency quickly as they become dirty and neglected,” reports the NPTC. “Protecting your heating system investment is a must and ensures you get the most out of each unit in burning gas and the longest possible service life out of each unit, as well. Before you begin maintenance, first consult w w w. A l f a F a r m e r s . o r g

your brooder or heater manufacturer for recommendations on heater placement, height, pressure and maintenance for best results. We want to get 100 percent of what we pay for in gas during preheating, brooding, and growing winter flocks and the only way to get that is to make sure brooders and heaters are in tip-top shape.” Other recommendations from “Poultry Engineering, Economics & Management” include: When should I clean brooders and heaters? Brooders and heaters should be cleaned before birds are placed in each and every flock regardless of what they look like on the outside. A brooder or heater that appears clean on the outside will still likely have a considerable amount of dust and dander build up on the interior parts. The better job a grower does of cleaning and maintaining brooders and heaters, the better heating efficiency he will realize and the longer the appliance will last. Should I clean my brooders and heaters after the first flock? Yes, and prior to every flock after that. How should I clean brooders and heaters? (Manufacturer’s recommendations may vary) Step 1: Turn Gas and Power Off! Prior to doing anything with any heating appliance, it is imperative to turn the gas supply and power supply (including control voltage) off to all zones and all appliances that will be worked on. Once this is done, heaters should be lowered to 18

a comfortable height so that every part of the brooder or heater can be comfortably reached during cleaning and maintenance. Step 2: Remove Dust and Dander. A high velocity blower or compressed air can be very helpful in removing dust, dander and other debris from the brooders and heaters. Be careful with compressed air, since air at too high a pressure can damage brooder or heater components. It may be helpful to turn on one or more tunnel fans and open the tunnel inlet or end wall door to allow airflow down the house and away from you while you are cleaning the appliances. Start at the front-end wall when cleaning appliances and work toward the tunnel end of the house. Blow off the top of the heaters first and then begin cleaning the undersides. Filters must be blown off. Porcelain type emitters typically used with “pancake” style heaters should have the dust removed from the surface, and tops should be blown off, too. Radiant steel emitter surfaces and holes must be blown off and free from dust. The combustion chamber must also be blown out. The goal is to remove any and all dust from the appliance that might restrict air and/or gas flow. Allowing dust buildup to remain in the heater can affect the heating and combustion efficiency and overall efficiency of the heater itself. Step 3: Remove Residual Dust. Radiant brooder reflector canopies NEIGHBORS • MARCH 2011


or shields might require a wet rag to clean the remaining dust residue from the reflector and improve heater performance and canopy life. If excessive dust cannot be removed with air alone, a stiff bristle brush can be helpful in removing caked dust from a brooder or heater. Step 4: Check Electrical and Electronic Parts. Most brooders and heaters have electronic control boxes that house the control boards and igniter connections of the heater. All electrical connections should be kept clean and tight. These connections and parts may be blown off with a blower and lower-pressure compressed air, but higher-compressed air pressure may damage electronic boards and could loosen electrical connections. Dust and dander combined with moisture may result in electrical shorts, so it is very important to make sure that dust and moisture are not allowed to build up in the control boxes. Step 5: Inspect Brooders and Heaters. A thorough visual inspection of each brooder and heater should be done to ensure that no heaters are damaged. Any part of a brooder or heater that is damaged must be replaced to prevent fire hazards. Make sure gas orifices, burners, electronic igniters and all parts are free from any obstructions. Box furnaces must be thoroughly inspected to ensure bird nests or other obstructions are not present in the heater outlet, diverter or sail switches. Make sure all hoses used to supply gas to brooders and heaters are rated for gas use and not rated for air or water. Hoses rated for gas use will often be marked “for use with gas.” Inspect hoses for visual signs of dry rot, splitting or burned hoses, and if any portion of the hose is damaged it must be replaced. Kinked hoses restrict gas flow to brooders and heaters, may severely shorten the life of the hose, and could cause a fire. Hoses must not rest on a brooder or heater canopy. Make sure power supply wires and control voltage wires are in good shape, and any wires found NEIGHBORS • MARCH 2011

to have any nicks or damaged insulation should be replaced. Step 6: Test Gas Pressure. It is a good idea to conduct a pressure test on your heating system at least once every three years. If you have never conducted a gas pressure test, then it is a good idea to conduct one now. Regulators can weaken over time and allow gas pressure to rise above the recommended operating range set by the brooder or heater manufacturer. Frequently, rust, dirt or other debris can build up in the piping system and clog supply lines, resulting in lowered pressure. Many low pressure heaters are designed to operate at about 11 inches of water column (w.c) for propane (LP) units, and natural gas (NG) units at about 7 inches w.c. Some other heaters are designed to operate at a much higher gas pressures. Regardless of make or brand, consult the manufacturer’s recommended gas pressure rating for the specific heater you have installed. Heaters operating at too high pressures can overheat, cause fires and shorten the life of the heater. Heaters operating at too low pressures cause heaters to produce low levels of heat, decreased radiant heat output, increased heater run times, and lower house temperatures. Your municipal gas supplier, equipment installer or equipment manufacturer should be able to provide you with instruction and tips on checking gas pressure. If you are not comfortable with checking gas pressure, seek help from a gas professional! Also, check all gas supply line connections for leaks. Gas leaks often go unnoticed and can be very dangerous and very costly. A thorough inspection of every gas piping and hose connection is imperative. This can be done with a simple spray bottle and soapy water. Spray every gas connection with the soapy solution to check for gas leaks; you might be surprised at what you might find. This should be done on outside lines especially – we see a lot of bent and damaged 19

main copper gas supply lines on houses that could be costing big dollars in gas leaks. Step 7: Brooder Height and Sensor Placement. Radiant heaters must be installed and operated at their recommended distances from the floor. Radiant heaters installed too high will not place the recommended radiant floor pattern and designed intensity to the floor. Radiant heaters installed too close to the floor will place too much radiant heat intensity on the litter and on chicks, feeders and drinkers, with a smaller radiant floor pattern. Each appliance has a recommended height to operate at and this must be checked and marked somehow. Guessing is not an acceptable method of determining radiant brooder appliance height. Sensor placement should be consistent throughout the house and accuracy-checked periodically to ensure proper readings are being sent to the house controller. Sensors for heaters placed in the radiant heat zone of a radiant brooder will prematurely shut heaters off because the sensor is reading the radiant temperature and not true air temperature. Sensors placed too far away from radiant heaters or too far out of the radiant zone will cause heaters to run too much. Step 8: Conduct a Test Run. Sometimes, cleaning brooders and heaters can result in the heater not lighting or operating properly. It is helpful to test and visually inspect each heater while it is running so that when it is time to start preheating and brooding houses, all of the heaters are in good operation and will start up and ignite as expected. The Bottom Line — As with any system in a poultry house, we need to squeeze every ounce of potential out of what we have without hindering bird performance. That means we want to get every possible BTU of heat out of each gallon of gas we burn. n ____________________________________ Top left, former Federation state board member Dennis Maze of Blount County inspects a brooder. w w w. A l f a F a r m e r s . o r g


Ag Briefs National Ag Day To Celebrate Life’s Necessities

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merican agriculture is responsible for providing the necessities of everyday life ... food, fiber, clothing and even fuel. That’s the message of National Ag Day, which will be celebrated March 15. Producers, agricultural associations, corporations, universities, government agencies and countless others across America will gather to celebrate the abundance provided by agriculture. The National Ag Day program is committed to increasing public awareness about American agriculture. As the world population soars, there is even greater demand for the food, fiber and renewable resources that the United States produces. The Agriculture Council of America, organizers of National Ag Day, believe that every American should understand how food, fiber and renewable resource products are produced and should value the essential role of agriculture in maintaining a strong economy as well as appreciate the role agriculture plays in providing safe, abundant and affordable products. National Ag Day, a part of National Ag Week (March 13-19), will focus on educating Americans about the industry so they may also acknowledge and consider career opportunities in the agriculture, food, fiber and renewable resource industry. n

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Forestry Meeting The Legislative Forestry Study Committee met Jan. 14 at the State House in Montgomery where Alabama State Forester Linda Casey discussed budget shortfalls for the Alabama Forestry Commission. She expressed concern that continued funding cuts could endanger property if the state experiences a severe fire season this year. From left are, Casey, Study Committee Chairman Rep. Chad Fincher, R-Mobile; and committee members Emory Mosley of Washington County and John Rudd of Russell County. Fincher is also chairman of the House Agriculture and Forestry Committee, while Mosley and Rudd both serve on the Alabama Farmers Federation State Forestry Committee.

Brothers Joins National Poultry Tech Center

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ennis Brothers of Oneonta has joined the staff of the National Poultry Technology Center at Auburn University. As a poultry housing specialist, he will serve poultry growers and managers across the state of Alabama. An Auburn graduate with bachelor’s and master’s degrees, Brothers brings more than 10 years of industry expertise to the job, having been employed by Alfa, Gold Kist Poultry and the Alabama Farmers Cooperative. He will lead NPTC 21

educational and technical programs on a statewide basis to improve profitability and sustainability of Alabama’s poultry growers. The mission of the National Poultry Technology Center, which was formed in 2008, is to Improve bottom-line profitability of the live production sector of the Alabama poultry industry through timely applied research and education. n

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and Sen. Slade Blackwell, R-Birmingham, was named chairman of the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee. Members of the House Insurance Committee are: Reps. Hill, chairman;
Greg Wren, R-Montgomery, vice chairman;
Lawrence McAdory, D-Bessemer, ranking minority member;
K.L. Brown, R-Jacksonville;
Greg Burdine, D-Florence;
Greg Canfield, R-Vestavia Hills;
Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa;
Joe Faust, R-Fairhope;
Ken Johnson, R-Moulton;
Kerry Rich, R-Albertville, and Pebblin Warren, D-Tuskegee. Senate Banking and Insurance Committee members are: Sens. Blackwell, chairman;
Ben Brooks, R-Mobile, vice chairman;
Roger Bedford, D-Russellville;
Paul Bussman, R-Cullman;
Jerry Fielding, D-Sylacauga;
Bill Holtzclaw, R-Madison;
Hank Sanders, D-Selma;
Jabo Waggoner, R-Birmingham, and
Tom Whatley, R-Auburn. Sen. Clay Scofield, R-Red Hill, who has been active in the Blount County Young Farmers, served on his county’s poultry committee, was named chairman of the Senate Tourism and Marketing Committee. He also will serve as vice chairman of the Small Business Committee and as a member of the Fiscal Responsibility and Accountability; Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry; Job Creation and Economic Development; Commerce, Transportation and Utilities; and Business and Labor committees. Sen. Scofield is a member of the current Agriculture Leaders For Alabama (A.L.F.A.) class. A complete list of committee assignments is included in the online version of the Jan. 14, 2011 Cultivator at www.AlfaFarmers.org. n

wo lawmakers who grew up on Alabama farms were named chairmen of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees during the organizational session of the Alabama Legislature. Rep. Chad Fincher, R-Semmes, will lead the House Agriculture and Forestry Committee, while Sen. Tom Whatley, R-Auburn, will serve as chair of the Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee. Alabama Farmers Federation Executive Director Paul Pinyan said the appointments are good news for Alabama farmers. “Chad and Tom understand the importance of agriculture to this state. Their fathers serve on Farmers Federation boards of directors in Mobile and Lee counties, and their mothers have been active in the Women’s Leadership Division,” Pinyan said. “They appreciate the impact the Farmers Federation has had in this state, and we look forward to working with them as they lead the policy discussions that will affect agriculture and forestry in the future.” Members of the House Ag Committee are: Reps. Fincher, chairman; Steve Hurst, R-Munford, vice chairman; Richard Lindsey, D-Centre, ranking minority member; Donnie Chesteen, R-Geneva; Randy Davis, R-Daphne; Joe Faust, R-Fairhope; Dexter Grimsley, D-Newville; Paul Lee, R-Dothan; and A.J. McCampbell, D-Demopolis. Senate Ag Committee members are: Sens. Whatley, chairman; Rusty Glover, R-Semmes; vice chairman; Billy Beasley, D-Clayton; Paul Bussman, R-Cullman; Marc Keahey, D-Grove Hill; Shadrack McGill, R-Woodville; Paul Sanford, R-Huntsville; Clay Scofield, R-Red Hill; and Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro. In other business, Rep. Mike Hill, R-Columbiana, was tapped to chair the House Insurance Committee,

Federation Applauds Appointment Of Ag Committee Chairs

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AFBF Leaders Told ‘It Is Time To Stop EPA’

By Darryal Ray

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ith more and more regulatory burdens threatening to destroy America’s farmers and ranchers, the nation’s largest farm organization is taking the fight to what it calls an over-zealous and predatory Environmental Protection Agency. “It is time to stop the EPA,” Barry Bushue, vice president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, declared last weekend at the AFBF’s annual National Leadership Conference in Orlando, Fla., an event attended by a delegation of about 100 Alabama Farmers Federation executive committee members, young farm families and staff. Throughout the conference, held jointly with the Young Farmers & Ranchers Conference, the organization’s leadership was urged to “Engage … Act … Win” for all challenges facing agriculture today. “We face challenges from regulators who are ready to downsize American agriculture, mothball our productivity and out-source our farms. Whether the topic is greenhouse gas emissions, new rules on dust, ineffective endangered species mandates, permits for spray nozzles or expansive rules for water – overregulation is draining resources from our farms and our ranches,” said Bushue, who delivered the opening address for an ailing President Bob Stallman. “This pressure is clear and so is the source — the Environmental Protection Agency,” he added. “With a $10 million budget and more than 17,000 employees, the EPA has ramped up its regulatory force at the very time agriculture’s environmental footprint is shrinking. To put it bluntly, EPA is working methodically to destroy the most productive and efficient agricultural system in the world. Our message must be: It is time to stop the EPA.” Bushue went on to say that the NEIGHBORS • MARCH 2011

Young Farmer David Lee, left, talks with Federation’s Brian Hardin during break in Orlando. In background, board member Dean Wysner talks with Julie Lee.

AFBF is now “carrying the battle to court” and has suits pending over EPA’s greenhouse gas regulations as well as its new Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) regulation of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. “It is clear to us that over the last few years, EPA has established some of the most burdensome, and we believe, illegal, environmental regulations ever,” said Bushue. “EPA likes to call TMDL a ‘pollution diet,’ but this diet threatens to starve agriculture out of the entire 64,000-square-mile Chesapeake Bay watershed. You may ask why farmers and ranchers nationwide should be concerned about the Chesapeake Bay region. This new approach will not end in the Bay. EPA has already revealed a plan to take similar action in other watersheds across the nation, including Mississippi River watershed.” To combat these and other issues, AFBF officials urged its leadership to become engaged in the process by building relationships and spreading agriculture’s message through whatever means available. Furthermore, AFBF urged members at all levels – county, state and federal — to act whenever challenges 23

arise, and win those challenges. It was a message that permeated the numerous breakout sessions and colored, somewhat less, the talks by such special guests as former Harley-Davidson communications director Ken Schmidt, journalist and political pundit Tucker Carlson and former Apollo 13 commander Jim Lovell, who called the failed lunar mission “a classic case of crisis management.” Schmidt, for example, told how Harley-Davidson’s “bad biker” image figured in the loss of almost 70 percent of its market in a decade, which threw the legendary motorcycle manufacturer into bankruptcy. “How different is that than saying, ‘Oh, my gosh! You’ve got hormones in our milk!’ and creating fear about that? Or, ‘Oh my gosh! Cows are causing this (hole in the) ozone layer and it’s going to kill us all!’ Fear and misunderstanding are what drive the world,” Schmidt said. “We all have problems communicating to people who’ve been misinformed about what we do and how we do it.” n

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New Alabama DCNR Commissioner Reconnects With Outdoors By David Rainer

go off to college and you’re young, sometimes you don’t necessarily lose your roots, or N. Gunter Guy Jr., but you move to different his appointment as things. I was more about Commissioner of the law school and then got Department of Conservamarried and started having tion and Natural Resources children. completes his reconnec“When we moved back tion with Alabama’s great to the farm, my wife fell in outdoors. love with it, too. She loves Having grown up on to fish. She tells people the the family farm between reason she married me was Pintlala and Letohatchee, because we had four fish Guy cherished the rural life ponds.” that allowed him to enjoy When his father died nature’s bounty. and left him the farm with “I grew up helping with his older sisters’ blessing, cattle, fixing fences and Guy knew the cattle busidriving tractors,” Guy said. ness was hard work and he “My dad had me driving a couldn’t devote the time tractor when I was 7 years that business required. old, which, looking back on Instead, he decided to transit, was a great life experiform the farm into a haven ence. I’ve got two girls and for wildlife. they’ve been driving the “I like turkey hunttractor since they were Conservation Commissioner N. Gunter Guy Jr. holds one about 12 years old. of the reasons his wife, Patsy, purportedly agreed to marry ing, but deer hunting is my passion,” he said. “I’m “And when we weren’t him – ponds on the family farm filled with big bass. fortunate enough to be able working on the farm, my to hunt on the family farm. dad and I were fishing or he graduated from Lanier High hunting, whatever the case may School in Montgomery, received his It’s got two creeks on it and some high property, but there was a lot of be.” undergraduate degree from Auburn open pasture land.” Guy said he enjoyed the social University and then his law degree He enrolled some land into aspect that accompanied smallfrom Samford University’s Cumgame hunting and recommends it berland School of Law, Guy said life Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and planted different plots highly for anyone who wants to and a law practice kept him away with hardwoods, longleaf pines and introduce someone to the outdoors. from the outdoors more than he loblolly pines. “When I started to learn how to would have preferred. “That’s my project,” Guy said. use a gun, my dad always stressed It was his commitment to his “It may create an income source for safety,” he said. “Back then we father, who had been disabled by a my kids, and I’m doing what I like did a lot of dove hunting, squirrel back injury and subsequent surdoing. That’s my relief from work. hunting and a lot of quail hunting. gery, that brought him back to the I go down there and get on my tracI’d say squirrel hunting may have county where he was reared. been the most fun. Of course, I did “We were living in Montgomery tor and plant corn and soybeans for the deer and turkey. I fix roads more shaking vines than anything and my dad was in a wheelchair,” and bush-hog. It’s kind of a passion. else. Deer weren’t hardly even in Guy said. “I was down there every And it’s been neat what has develour area of the woods back then. weekend, and I needed to help oped. Turkeys started coming along about him. I talked to my wife (Patsy) “My wife calls it ‘tractor time.’ the time I went to high school.” and asked if dad gave us five acres There’s nothing better that getting There were bream, bass and would you move down there? Of on my tractor and doing something catfish in the Guy property’s four course, she’s a great person and with the land. I love it.” n ponds, which continue to provide she said, ‘Sure.’ As things worked, ____________________________________ fishing opportunities for family and when I moved back down there, I David Rainer is the Outdoor Writer friends to this day. fell back in love with the things I Somewhere between the time loved as a kid. You know, when you for the Alabama Department of

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Conservation and Natural Resources.

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New Lespedeza Cultivar Ideal For Ground Cover, Live Mulch

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he Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station has released a hardy new sericea lespedeza cultivar that lends itself to multiple uses, including as a topquality ground cover for rights of way, embankments and golf-course roughs and as living mulch for vegetable and possibly other crops. The cultivar, AU Pixie, is a perennial warm-season legume that has an attractive cascading appearance, is drought tolerant and can grow in soils with low acidity and fertility levels, said Jorge Mosjidis, the Auburn University agronomy and soils professor and plant breeder who developed the cultivar. AU Pixie is so named, he said, because while other sericea lespedeza varieties grow upright and reach 40 to 45 inches in height at maturity, the new cultivar’s maximum height is only about 20 inches. At that point, its outer stems bend downward and spread in a loose, low-growing ground cover. “We believe that, given its low

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growth and other characteristics, AU Pixie has a wide range of applications,” Mosjidis said. The new cultivar adapts to a wide range of soil types and can be grown throughout Alabama and in other regions where sericea lespedeza is commonly grown. As is the case with other sericea lespedeza varieties, AU Pixie helps protect soil from erosion, adds organic matter and nitrogen to the soil and is rarely affected by disease or insects, Mosjidis said. Those qualities contribute to its value as living much. In field trials Mosjidis conducted in east-central Alabama in 2006 and 2007, pumpkin yields in fields where AU Pixie had been planted between rows were 34 percent higher than in conventionally planted pumpkin fields. The AU Pixie fields also produced 30 percent more pumpkins than the bare-soil fields. As a perennial, AU Pixie’s stems and foliage die after the first hard frost in the fall. Plants are dormant

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during the winter, and new growth starts the following spring. Plants will regrow after cutting. AU Pixie is the eighth improved sericea lespedeza cultivar the AAES has released since its first, Serala, in 1962. The most recent before AU Pixie was the 1997 release of AU Grazer, the first grazing-tolerant sericea lespedeza. As for AU Pixie’s current availability status, the Alabama Crop Improvement Association, which is the official foundation seed organization for the state, is now in the process of working out a licensing and seed-production agreement with a private entity, and AU Pixie seeds could be on the market within the next 18 months, said association executive vice president Jim Bostick. n ____________________________________ For more information on AU Pixie, contact Mosjidis at (334) 844-3976 or Bostick at (334) 693-3988. A brochure is available online at www.aaes.auburn. edu/comm/pubs/agronomy/aupixie.pdf.

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Alabama Gardener By Lois Chaplin

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ately I’ve spoken to many gardeners who have told their landscape plants, “you’re on your own,” in response to the last few years of weather extremes. These plants either make it through the heat, drought, cold, or excessive rains, or they don’t because they aren’t getting a lot of help from their gardeners. One alternative for gardeners is to look to native wildflowers for color. Many natives are built to withstand fluctuations in the local climate or can be chosen for their adaptation to specific conditions, such as woodland soils where root competition from trees doesn’t suit traditional bedding plants. Lucky for us, growers are getting better at cultivating many of these species and making them available. Woodland species such as trilliums, blue woodland phlox, columbine, Jack-in-the-pulpit, Solomon’s seal, cardinal flowers, wild ginger, Indian pinks and others are great additions for shady gardens. The key to using these plants is understanding their subtleties and seasonal shows. Don’t expect them to bloom for six months like annuals. Some, such as woodland phlox, are very showy when they bloom in spring, but then they all but disappear. Others such as trilliums, keep their pretty leaves on show after the flowers fade. Solomon’s seal is all about foliage texture, so it gets used a lot like a fern. Wild ginger needs to be appreciated up close for its arrowshaped or heart-shaped foliage and interesting color pattern of the leaf. Other natives have been in

popular cultivation for years, many hybridized to improve on some quality that we love best about them. Gaillardia is one of these, growing rampantly on sandy and sunny roadsides and adored by butterflies, it’s one of the most cheerful native perennials. The purple verbena that you see on the roadside in south Alabama in the spring and summer is the parent of the popular Homestead Purple verbena. Purple coneflowers, milkweeds, ageratum, rudbeckias, and asters are a few sun-loving natives in production that are prized for the same reasons. So, yes, there are just as many fantastic selections for sun available as there are for shade. One way to learn about wildflowers and how to use them is to see them in person. The Huntsville Botanical Garden has a nice wildflower walk that is at its best in spring. Trilliums-on-parade is the best way to describe the trillium collection there. Anyone who wants to see lots of different species should visit the collection, which is

G E T G R O W I N G A T T H E C O - O P. w w w. A l f a F a r m e r s . o r g

partially maintained by the Huntsville Wildflower Society. It is one of the largest in the country. Trillium is a genus of woodland wildflowers that like shade and rich woodland soil. They are known for a unique growth habit of three leaves in umbrella like pattern and delicate flowers in early to mid spring. You may know it by another name, wake-robin. The Birmingham Botanical Gardens also has a beautiful wildflower garden. Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain Georgia is another place to see wildflowers in the spring. Of course, you can also do lots of Googling to look up pictures and entries about these without ever leaving home. Often, undisturbed wildflowers will multiply in sweeps all around offering color and interest from the earliest spring through fall. If you have shade, many of the same woodland natives may be the answer to enlivening your landscape. Besides the hues and textures that they provide for our woodland or sunny gardens, most are easy to grow. Dressing up a garden with a few natives is also a wonderful way to help further the preservation of these southern treasures and not feel too guilty by telling these plants that they’re on their own once you give them time to get established. After all, they were here long before we were. n

____________________________________ Lois Chaplin is an accomplished gardener and author. Her work appears here courtesy of Alabama Farmers Cooperative.

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NEIGHBORS • MARCH 2011


Cheryl Hall Named Alfa Teacher Of Month By Melissa Martin

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hile most teachers decorate their classrooms to make their students feel welcome and ‘at home,’ Lacey’s Spring thirdgrade teacher Cheryl Hall reaches out to her students in a slightly unorthodox way — the U.S. Postal Service. “Recalling that my own children always felt so special when they received mail addressed to them, I send each of my students a letter early in the summer to let them know how excited Hall I am to have each of them in my class and to let them know I value them as individuals,” said Hall. “I keep this up through the year, sending them holiday cards over breaks so they know I am always thinking about them and their education.” By exciting them about school even before the first bell of the school year has rang, Hall is able to establish a stronger rapport that culminates in an involved, eager group of young minds. Their willingness to learn and exchange ideas extends beyond the classroom where they’ve not only been taught the three R’s, but also the importance of giving back to their communities. Utilizing existing charity programs including Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF and the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital Math-A-Thon®, along with canned food drives and other beneficial campaigns, Hall is able to pass her enthusiasm for helping others on to her students. It’s for her steadfast dedication to enriching the lives of others that Hall was named Alfa’s Teacher of the Month for March. As March’s honoree, she will receive $1,000 from Alfa Insurance. Her school, a division of Morgan County Schools, will receive a matching award from the Alabama Farmers Federation. “If a teacher can help her stu-

NEIGHBORS • MARCH 2011

dents discover how they learn most effectively, to love learning and to turn that learning into positive change for society, she has done her job,” said Hall. Hall earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Athens State University, and her master’s of education degree from Alabama A&M University. She also earned a place in “Who’s Who Among American Teachers” and was awarded the Jenice Riley Memorial Scholarship for “Excellence in Social Science Education” by the Alabama Humanities Foundation. During 2011, Alfa Insurance and the Alabama Farmers Federation are honoring one outstanding teacher from each of Alabama’s eight state board districts, two principals and two private school teachers. Application information is available under Alfa Teacher of the Month in the Ag Links section of AlfaFarmers.org. n

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Country Kitchen By Teresa Wilson

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ore than 100 entries were judged in the 2010 National Peanut Festival Recipe Contest, but there were two that stood out. One of those became the Adult Grand Prize Winner and the other was named as the Student Grand Prize Winner. Barbara Baxley of Midland City was named the overall adult winner for her Peanut Butter Taffy Apple Cookies. Jaycie Walker of Headland was the top student winner for her Awesome Peanut Butter Cake. Winners received cash and prizes that totaled more than $2,000. The annual event is coordinated by the Alabama Peanut Producers Association and sponsored in part by APPA and the National Peanut Festival Association. This year’s contest featured a little bit of everything — from Peanut Butter Fudge and Chicken Peanut Wraps to a Peanut, Ham & Cheese Log and a Golden Peanut Corn Dog. The competition featured two divisions and five categories: cakes, miscellaneous, candies, cookies and pies Contestants came from all over the Wiregrass, covering Alabama, Florida and Georgia, to have their culinary creations judged by a 10-judge panel that included local restaurateurs as well as officials from college culinary programs. “You really have to judge each one on its own, and you really can’t compare,” judge Mark Panichella, an instructor with the culinary management program at Chipola College in Marianna, Fla., told The Dothan Eagle. “Flavor, appearance and uniqueness — can it be dupli-

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Pictured is this year’s Little Miss National Peanut Festival Queen Alexa Rodgers from Geneva County sampling of Jaycie Walker’s winning cake.

cated by someone at home? — all go into choosing a winner.” Of course, March is National Peanut Month, a time to celebrate one of America’s favorite foods. Roasted in the shell for a ballpark snack, ground into peanut butter or tossed in a salad or stir-fry, peanuts find their way into everything from breakfast to dessert. Coincidentally, March is also National Nutrition Month — a great time to recognize the nutritional value of peanuts. One serving of peanuts is a good source of protein, Vitamin E, Niacin, Folate, Phosphorus and Magnesium. Peanuts are naturally cholesterol-free and low in saturated fat. There are many claims about the origin of peanut butter. Africans ground peanuts into stews as early as the 15th century. The Chinese have crushed peanuts into creamy sauces for centuries. Civil War soldiers dined on ‘peanut porridge.’ These uses, however, bore little 28

resemblance to peanut butter as it is known today. In 1890, an unknown St. Louis physician supposedly encouraged the owner of a food products company, George A. Bayle Jr., to process and package ground peanut paste as a nutritious protein substitute for people with poor teeth who couldn’t chew meat. The physician apparently had experimented by grinding peanuts in his hand-cranked meat grinder. Bayle mechanized the process and began selling peanut butter out of barrels for about 6¢ per pound. While peanut butter may not be as cheap these days, it’s still a good, nutritious investment — particularly when used like in the recipes below. PEANUT CREAM CHEESE BROWNIE BARS

1 package Duncan Hines milk chocolate brownie mix 1 stick melted butter 1 egg, beaten well 1 cup chopped dry-roasted peanuts 1 box confectioner’s sugar 2 eggs, beaten well 8 ounces cream cheese, softened 1 teaspoon vanilla 1 cup finely chopped nuts 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

Combine brownie mix, butter and one egg. Mix well. Toss in peanuts. Mix well. Press into a buttered 9-by-13 inch pan. Combine confectioners sugar, two eggs, cream cheese, peanut butter and vanilla. Mix well. Pour onto brownie mix. Top with one cup of crushed peanuts. Bake 50 minutes on 300 degrees. Serves 4.

Cathy Carter, Wassau, Fla. 2009 National Peanut Festival Grand Prize — Adult Division NEIGHBORS • MARCH 2011


PEANUT BUTTER TAFFY APPLE COOKIES 1 stick margarine, room temperature 1/2 cup extra crunchy peanut butter 1 egg 1 1/2 cups cake flour 1 teaspoon baking soda 1/4 teaspoon baking powder 1/4 teaspoon salt 3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed 1 11-ounce bag of butterscotch chips 1 cup dried apples, chopped 1 cup caramel apple dip 1/2 cup roasted peanuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat margarine and extra crunchy peanut butter in a large bowl until smooth. Add egg. Beat well. Sift flour, baking soda, NO BAKE PEANUT BUTTER PIE 4 ounces cream cheese 1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted 1 cup crunchy peanut butter 1/2 cup milk 8 ounces whipped topping, thawed 1 deep-dish chocolate flavored or graham cracker crust

In a large mixer bowl combine cream cheese and confectioners’ sugar; mix well. Add peanut butter and mix. Slowly add milk and mix well. Fold in whipped topping. Pour into pie shell and cover. Freeze for at least 30 minutes. Drizzle each serving with chocolate syrup. MARINATED PORK CHOPS WITH PEANUT PARSLEY PESTO 4 (6-ounce) boneless, center cut pork chops, about 3/4-inch thick 1 garlic clove, minced 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil 2 teaspoon Dijon mustard 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 2/3 cup tightly packed fresh parsley 1/2 cup lightly salted peanuts 1/3 cup loosely packed fresh basil 1 garlic clove, peeled 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice NEIGHBORS • MARCH 2011

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil 1/3 cup grated Romano cheese

To make the pork chops: combine the pork chops, garlic, oil, mustard and lemon zest in a bowl; toss well to coat. Refrigerate 1 hour. Heat a grill pan over mediumhigh heat. Sprinkle pork chops with salt and pepper and place on pan. Cook, until well marked and cooked through, 6-7 minutes per side. Transfer to serving plates and keep warm. Meanwhile, combine the parsley,

baking powder and salt together. Add flour mixture, brown sugar, butterscotch chips and dried apples to peanut butter mixture. Beat until well blended. Drop dough by rounded teaspoons onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 10 minutes. Cool cookies about five minutes on cookie sheet. Put cookies on wire rack and cool completely. Spread 1 teaspoon of caramel apple dip on each cookie. Sprinkle with chopped peanuts. Makes four dozen cookies. Barbara Baxley, Midland City 2010 National Peanut Festival Grand Prize — Adult Division

peanuts, basil, garlic and lemon juice in the bowl of a food processor. Process until chopped, about 1 minute. With the machine running, slowly drizzle in the oil until combined. Add the cheese and pulse to combine. To serve, top each pork chop with 2 tablespoons of the pesto. Refrigerate remaining 1/2 cup pesto in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Serve it as a spread on low-carb bruschetta or on a bowl of low-carb pasta. n

AWESOME PEANUT BUTTER CAKE 1 box Betty Crocker Cake Mix, butter 1 1/4 cups water 1 stick real butter 3 eggs 1 teaspoon vanilla ICING: 18-ounce jar chunky peanut butter (Jaycie prefers Jif) 1 1/2 boxes of confectioners sugar, sifted 1/4 cup real butter, softened 5-ounce can evaporated milk

Mix as directed on cake box using real butter and add vanilla. Bake in three 8-inch greased pans for 15 to 20 minutes. Cool 29

completely, and frost with peanut butter icing. For Icing: Mix peanut butter with confectioner’s sugar. Add butter and milk. Mix well. Add extra confectioner’s sugar if needed. Spread on layers and sides of cake.

Jaycie Walker, Headland 2010 National Peanut Festival Grand Prize — Student Division w w w. A l f a F a r m e r s . o r g


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MISCELLANEOUS BEATRICE PILGRIMAGE ON PARADE Tour early 1800’s homes, churches, cemeteries, fully operating grist mill, and Commissary Museum. 10:00 am-4:00pm Registration-$15.00-Box Lunch $7.50 Visit www.beatricealabama.com. Call (251) 789-2351 Beatrice Garden Club. w w w. A l f a F a r m e r s . o r g

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NEIGHBORS • MARCH 2011


Alabama Farmers Federation Young Farmers Program The Josh Turner Family of DeKalb County, The2010’s Josh Turner FamilyYoung of DeKalb Outstanding FarmCounty, Family 2010’s Outstanding Young Farm Family

The Alabama Alabama Farmers Farmers Federation’ Federation’ss Young Young Farmers Farmers Program Program The growing tomorrow’ tomorrow’ss farmers farmers today today isis growing with leadership leadership training, training, education, education, networking networking and and fun. fun. with Today, hundreds of young farmers and ranchers across the state take part in Young Farmers program to network, Today, hundreds of young farmers and ranchers across the state take part in Young Farmers program to network, have fun, learn from the best and win big. Three national winners this year will receive a Dodge Ram, courtesy of have fun, learn from the best and win big. Three national winners this year will receive a Dodge Ram, courtesy of Ram Trucks, to showcase the top competitors in the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Achievement Award, Ram Trucks, to showcase the top competitors in the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Achievement Award, Discussion Meet and Excellence in Ag contests. National winners also receive paid registration to the 2011 YF&R Discussion Meet and Excellence in Ag contests. National winners also receive paid registration to the 2011 YF&R Leadership Conference in Orlando, Florida, Feb. 5-7. Dodge also provides $500 to all state winners in these Leadership Conference in Orlando, Florida, Feb. 5-7. Dodge also provides $500 to all state winners in these contests. National runners-up in the Achievement Award will receive a CASE IH Farmall 31 tractor courtesy of Case contests. National runners-up in the Achievement Award will receive a CASE IH Farmall 31 tractor courtesy of Case IH. National finalists in the Discussion Meet and Excellence in Ag each will receive a $6,000 savings bond and a IH. National finalists in the Discussion Meet and Excellence in Ag each will receive a $6,000 savings bond and a Stihl Farm Boss courtesy of Stihl. At the state level, the Young Farmers’ Outstanding Young Farm Family will Stihl Farm Boss courtesy of Stihl. At the state level, the Young Farmers’ Outstanding Young Farm Family will receive: A John Deere Gator courtesy of Alabama Ag Credit and Alabama Farm Credit, a personal computer receive: A John Deere Gator courtesy of Alabama Ag Credit and Alabama Farm Credit, a personal computer package courtesy of Valcom/CCS Wireless, a one-year lease on a John Deere tractor courtesy of Tri-Green, package courtesy of Valcom/CCS Wireless, a one-year lease on a John Deere tractor courtesy of Tri-Green, SunSouth, and Snead Ag, $500 cash from Dodge, one year’s use of a new vehicle from the Alabama Farmers SunSouth, and Snead Ag, $500 cash from Dodge, one year’s use of a new vehicle from the Alabama Farmers Federation and an expense-paid trip to the 2012 American Farm Bureau Annual Meeting in Hawaii to represent Federation and an expense-paid trip to the 2012 American Farm Bureau Annual Meeting in Hawaii to represent Alabama in the Young Farmers Achievement Award. Alabama in the Young Farmers Achievement Award.

To learn more about Young Farmers, visit your local Alfa service center, AlfaYoungFarmers.org or call (334) 288-3900. To learn more about Young Farmers, visit your local Alfa service center, AlfaYoungFarmers.org or call (334) 288-3900.


Neighbors Magazine March 2011 Issue