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In This Issue A Publication of the Alabama Farmers Federation JUNE/SUMMER 2012

Heirloom Treasures A Chambers County farmer is helping heirloom plants make a comeback in the South. • 18

Rising Food Costs A recent survey reveals more government regulations could cause food prices to increase. • 9

Tops In Life ON THE COVER Stephen Thomas of Chambers County enjoys caring for his Itea ‘Henry’s Garnet’ and other heirloom flowers. Photo by Mike Moody

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Prize Pork Recipes

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President’s Message

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Alabama Gardener

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Country Kitchen

The Alabama Pork Producers’ annual cooking contest challenged chef’s across the state to share their most appetizing pork recipes. • 32

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VOLUME 37, NUMBER 6

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A

Perhaps no question in the surmerican agriculture has an vey illustrates the problem better image problem. than when researchers asked about While farmers still enjoy a 75-percent favorability rating, recent the use of dihydrogen monoxidization on crops and farm animals. research by the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance (USFRA) indicates Fifty-two percent of respondents said they were uncomfortable with the only 42 percent of Americans have practice, and only 14 percent said a favorable opinion of how food is they were not aware of the method. raised. This shows, when given the option, Even more disturbing is the fact that 71 percent of consumers have at people chose (3:1) to think a fancy name for “watering” crops and farm least some concerns about convenanimals is sinister rather than simtional agricultural methods. ply saying, “I don’t know.” How did this happen? After all, So, how do we change these attiisn’t American agriculture the envy tudes and rebuild consumer of the world? trust in our food supply? The Innovation and technolUSFRA says we must jettison ogy have helped farmers statistics and start relating to double production in the shoppers on a personal level. past 60 years while reducWhile it is easy to get ing soil erosion, cutting defensive about the sound scipesticide use and improving ence behind modern farming water quality. Every U.S. practices, we must be prepared farmer produces enough Jerry Newby to acknowledge concerns food to feed 155 people, about the food supply and focus on compared to 46 in 1960, and Amerifuture improvements. We have to cans spend less of their disposable talk less about feeding the world income on food than any nation in and more about producing healthy the world. food for individual families. And, we Ironically, it’s these very statismust trade messages about efficientics that are the problem, according cy and affordability for conversations to USFRA. about safety and stewardship. When farm groups praise effiAt the Alabama Farmers Federaciency and technology, consumers tion, we are working to foster greater hear “big business.” When we talk understanding between farmers about affordable food, they question and consumers through the Young “at what cost?” And, when we talk Farmers, Ag in the Classroom, Farmabout feeding the world, they ask, City, Women’s Leadership Division, “What about my family?” In fact, USFRA’s study of farmers, USFRA’s Food Dialogues and commodity programs. consumers, opinion leaders and food Through education and honest communicators reveals skepticism about food production has taken root communication, we aim to help people reconnect the food they eat in America’s heartland and is being with the farmers they admire. It’s fertilized by the media and activist only when we begin talking openly organizations. about our commitment to produce Unfortunately, growing distrust healthy food that we can move of government and businesses has beyond sensational headlines and get allowed misconceptions about back to the business of feeding our American agriculture to flourish. families. For instance, respondents to the For more information about USFRA study believe 70 percent of USFRA and Food Dialogues, visit U.S. farms are owned or controlled by big corporations, but in reality, 98 usfraonline.org. n percent of farms are family owned.

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Debra Davis, 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 Waymon Buttram, Geraldine Darrel Haynes, Cullman John E. Walker III, Berry Dell Hill, Alpine Richard Edgar, Deatsville Dickie Odom, Boligee Garry Henry, Hope Hull Carl Sanders, Brundidge David Bitto, Elberta S. Steve Dunn, Samson Rita Garrett, Centre John Bitto, Elberta Neighbors (ISSN 0162-3974) is published monthly by the Alabama Farmers Federation, 2108 East South Boulevard, Montgomery, Alabama 36116 or (334) 288-3900. 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: Wendy McFarland, McFarland AdVantage, 133 Bridlewood Lane, Hope Hull, AL 36043. Phone: (334) 652-9080. Email: mcfarlandadvantage@gmail.com. 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 361910001. www.AlfaFarmers.org A member of American Farm Bureau Federation JUNE/SUMMER 2012


Houston Historical Society member Tom Denton, left, and Winston County Farmers Federation leader Carl Godsey stands next to the jail’s historical marker.

By Mary Johnson

L

ate in the afternoon, heavy fog surrounds the old Historic Houston Jail – a fitting environment for a visit to the second-oldest log jail in the nation. The fog creates a somber and somewhat eerie setting at the spot where Confederate Army soldiers once imprisoned by Union sympathizers. The log jail was first constructed in 1858 when the town of Houston was the seat of Hancock County. Pro-Union men burned the building before the end of the war with the hopes of keeping their cohorts free. It was rebuilt in 1868 in the exact spot where it stands today and has since been a cornerstone of the history of

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Houston. When Hancock County dissolved, Houston became the seat of Winston County until 1884 when the seat was moved to Double Springs. The jail is the only remaining landmark of the thriving antebellum settlement. The jail weathered much during its time in the hands of private ownership and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. By the late 2000s, it was in dire need of restoration as insect and moisture damage threatened the integrity of the structure. Former Winston County Farmers Federation President Carl Godsey said he and other Federation members wanted to make sure something was done to preserve the jail. “The one thing most people know about Houston is the jail,” Godsey said. “You mention Winston County and people say ‘That’s where the old log jail is.’” Residents of Houston formed the Houston Historical Society in 2006 with their main focus on preserving the jail. The group started collecting donations from other community groups, and the Winston County Farmers Federation stepped up with two donations of $5,000 each. “At the time, I was president of the county federation, and all our directors were really interested in donating.” Godsey said. “The organization had a little money, so it was approved to make a donation. Everyone was 100 percent for it. A lot of people and businesses in the community helped. We had real good participation in it from all over the county and out of the county.” The Historic Houston Jail was dedicated on Jan. 22, 2008, exactly 150 years after present-day Houston was named the seat of Winston County. A guest register that was started in 2009 holds records of visitors from 48 states and 18 countries. w w w. A l f a F a r m e r s . o r g

Winston County Farmers Federation leader Carl Godsey, right, stands inside the wooden jail that features thousands of handmade nails used to prevent prisoners from sawing through the timbers. Above, a bust of former Alabama Gov. John Anthony Winston, for whom the county was named, is outside the jail.

Secretary-Treasurer of the Houston Historical Society Betty Denton says the jail attracts visitors because it is unique. “People know that it is the oldest log jail in the state and secondoldest in the nation,” said Denton. A closer look at the two-room jail reveals features that make it such an attraction. It was constructed with native timber, and each log is peppered with horseshoe nails made by a local blacksmith. 6

The nails are a security feature used to prevent prisoners from sawing their way to freedom. The jail, located off Winston County Road 63, is open yearround for visitors, and donations are accepted to help maintain the grounds. Additional information and artifacts found during the restoration can be viewed at the Houston Post Office located beside the Historic Houston Jail. n JUNE/SUMMER 2012


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America’s Food Costs Could Rise If Government Regulations Increase Study shows potential for $16.8 billion annual increase in U.S. consumers’ food bills By Debra Davis

mal extremists, not average Americans, she said. “This is a marketing strategy that could have unintended consequences,” Dee said of the fast-food giant’s plans. “It is not necessarily what consumers are asking for, and it will certainly drive up the price of all their meals.” Americans have the most abundant, nutritious and affordable food choices in the world, and those rely heavily on protein from animals. “As farmers, we continue to work hard on improvements because we share consumers’ concerns for our country’s land and resources and the quality of America’s food,” Dee said. “The poultry and livestock sectors not only support the U.S. export market but also make our economy stronger here at home by creating jobs and tax revenue.” The most recent statistics compiled by the soybean checkoff show the poultry and livestock sectors support 1.8 million jobs and generate more than $283 billion for the U.S. economy. n

I

f government regulations on the U.S. poultry and livestock sectors increase, consumers will pay more for their food, a national survey shows. In fact, consumers could pay up to $16.8 billion more annually for meat, milk and eggs if regulations raise input costs for farmers by 25 percent. The Consumer and Food Safety Costs of Offshoring Animal Agriculture, a recent soybean-checkoff-funded study, evaluated current U.S. supply and demand for poultry and livestock products and the impact of regulations on retail price. “Animal agriculture is the No. 1 customer of U.S. soybean farmers,” said Pickens County soybean farmer Annie Dee, who serves on the United Soybean Board (USB). “The soybean checkoff-funded research showed increased restrictions on the poultry and livestock industries could increase production costs 10-to-25 percent. Additional Pickens County farmer Annie Dee serves on the United Soybean restrictions on animal care Board, which funded the survey. and confinements could cost the United States $1.1 billion in exports and could cause up to 9,000 American jobs to be lost.” For example, requiring cage-free housing for laying hens would increase the cost of eggs from $1.68 to $2.10 per dozen, a total cost of $2.66 billion per year to U.S. consumers, the survey reported. Dee pointed to Burger King’s recent announcement that said after 2017 it would no longer purchase eggs from caged chickens or pork from hogs raised in pens. This is a marketing strategy aimed at pleasing ani-

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Jimmy Miller

Cotton Committee Chairman

Blount County cotton farmer Jimmy Miller said he’s loved being around agriculture since he was a kid, but like many, he’s worried about the future of farming. “Trying to comply with more and more state and federal regulations is such a challenge today,” said Miller, 65. Despite the challenges, he said choosing to be a farmer is something he doesn’t regret – especially when the day goes as planned. Miller serves as chairman of the Alabama Farmers Federation’s State Cotton Committee and produces peanuts, corn and soybeans on farms in Blount and Marshall counties. He farms with his nephew on more than 1,000 acres and raises broilers. A member of Snead United Methodist Church, Miller and his wife, Nell, have been married 46 years. They have two daughters, Kim and Kristi, three granddaughters and one grandson.

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AU Fish Camp Lures Future Students By Debra Davis

T

here’s something fishy going on at Auburn University, and it’s accompanied by the sound of children laughing and learning more about aquatic life. This summer marks the fourth anniversary of AU’s Fish Camp, June 25-29, where students can learn the intricacies of aquaculture and how the excitement they experience wading in a stream could translate into a career. “The camp is open to high school students ages 15 to 18, and due to the hands-on nature of the camp, participation is limited to 25 students,” said camp coordinator David Cline, an Extension aquaculture specialist. “Students have the opportunity to make their own lures, fish for trophy-size bass in the AU fisheries research ponds, kayak in the Coosa River and seine a fish pond.” Those fun-filled activities help expose students to a potential career in aquaculture and fisheries, Cline said, adding that the experience is a fun exploration camp that sneaks in a lot of learning.

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“Camp participants will use what they gather in streams, including insects and other aquatic life, to determine the health of the stream and the effects on the plants and animals living there,” Cline said. The camp costs $485 and includes five days and four nights at Auburn University. The fee covers the costs for all food, lodging, transportation and activities. The camp involves a lot of field and outdoor activity and is a great opportunity to learn from renowned fisheries, aquaculture and aquatic ecology professionals, Cline said. Alabama Farmers Federation Catfish Division Director Rick Oates said the camp is important because many students

who attend may not have considered a career in aquaculture. “While the camp introduces students to a variety of fish species, it’s important to catfish producers because future scientists and farmers will definitely be needed in our state’s growing catfish industry,” Oates said. Alabama is the second-largest state in catfish production and has an annual economic impact of $223 million. If there is enough interest, the program may grow to include a second camp, July 9-13. For information about the camp, contact Cline at clinedj@ auburn.edu or (334) 844-2874 or James Birdsong at james. birdsong@auburn.edu or (334) 844-5817. n

View photos of previous camps or to download a camp application: www.aces.edu/dept/fisheries/education/FishCamp2008.php www.auburn.edu/summercamps. JUNE/SUMMER 2012

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Alfa Ranks Number One In Life Insurance By Miranda Mattheis

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lfa Life is now the No. 1 life insurance company in Alabama, according to a recent market share report by SNL Financial, a financial information firm headquartered in Charlottesville, Va. Alfa holds 7.06 percent of the life insurance market in the state, moving the company ahead of Liberty National, which now holds the No. 2 spot with 6.96 percent of the market share. “We are pleased that Alfa is now the number one life insurance company in Alabama. Our commitment to creating the best life products for our customers’ needs, combined with our dedication to exceptional service by our agency force, has earned us the number one spot,” said Alfa’s Senior Vice President of Life and Loans Rob Robison. “We vow to continue our tradition of excellence with regards to our life products and services so we can be the leading provider of life insurance in the state for years to come.” In 2011, Alfa Life Insurance Corp. had more than $1.2 billion in assets, above $188 million in capital and surplus, and approximately $143 million in national direct premiums written. In Mississippi, Alfa ranks 26th in life insurance, with 0.97 percent of the market share. In Georgia, Alfa is ranked 75th with 0.22 percent of the market share. Alfa Life offers a variety of products and services, including a new Rapid Issue Life Insurance policy that features an easy application process and simplified underwriting. Alfa and its affiliates provide insurance and other financial services in 11 states. Alfa Life Insurance Co. currently has more than $27 billion in policies in force, and Alfa’s property and casualty companies service approximately 1 million policies. There are nearly 400 Alfa service centers in Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi with more than 2,500 employees dedicated to serving customer needs. n

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Heirloom Treasures Take Root At Chambers County Nursery By Miranda Mattheis

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teve Thomas wasn’t raised in the gardening business. In fact, his green thumb didn’t develop until college when his wife suggested he consider studying horticulture. “I said, ‘That’s plants, isn’t it?’” Thomas recalled. “I really hadn’t had any exposure to horticulture.” Despite being green to the world of plants, Thomas enrolled in a horticulture class, which soon blossomed into a lifetime love of plants – especially heirloom varieties that were common in Southern gardens before 1900. w w w. A l f a F a r m e r s . o r g

Thomas was accepted to graduate school at Auburn University, where he studied ornamental horticulture. After graduation, he and his wife moved to Florida, where he worked for a horticulture distributor. In 1986, they decided it was time to put down their own roots in Alabama. They started Greene Hill Nursery with one greenhouse and a half-acre shade house. In the past 25 years, the nursery has flourished. “We have about 8-to-10 acres of growing area, with five greenhouses and about an acre-and-a-half of 18

shade,” Thomas said. “The rest of it is just in the open.” Greene Hill Nursery sits at the corner of Alabama Highway 147 and Alabama Highway 431 in Waverly, Ala., where Thomas spends his days caring for plants at his wholesale operation. “We grow about 60 different varieties of plants,” he said. “We’re selling a lot of jasmine, whether it’s the winter jasmine or the Florida jasmine.” The nursery didn’t start out with that many varieties, though. The initial business venture was to reintroduce lilacs to the area. “When we started our business, we started it with lilacs, the Cut Leaf Lilac and the Miss Kim Lilac,” Thomas said. “They were plants that weren’t used in the South much, and we decided that it was time to bring lilacs back to the South. We also grew winter honeysuckle, which is a wonderful shrubtype honeysuckle and forsythia (weeping forsythia). That’s kind of how we got started.” Thomas defines heirloom plants as anything that was grown in gardens and distributed before 1900. Propagating them is done completely by hand. “We just take a small cutting (from the plant), cut the end of it off, scrape the leaves off and dip it into a rooting hormone,” he said. JUNE/SUMMER 2012


“We put them in a 72-cell or 50-cell tray (inside a greenhouse) and place them under a misting spray.” When the plants are well rooted, they are transplanted to larger pots and moved outside. While Thomas has perfected the art of raising plants, he says there were challenges along the way. The biggest of those came when the nursery first opened and he discovered a shortage of available water. “We drilled more wells and changed to watering on a tighter schedule to make sure we got enough water,” he said. Now that Thomas has years of experience under his belt, he is able to focus on the parts of the business he loves most. “I love to watch a small plant grow into a finished shrub,” he said. “My specialty is sales. I love to get out and sell the plants, deliver them and watch people enjoy them.” Mac Higginbotham, Director of the Alabama Farmers Federation’s Horticulture Division, agrees that plants are a positive way to interact with people. “We all like to give plants to those who are going through a difficult time in their lives, and plants are thought to reduce stress and provide a positive physical, mental and social benefit,” Higginbotham said. “There is an additional benefit that comes to those distributing the very plants they nurtured tirelessly from start to finish.” Thomas’ customers are located in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and Tennessee. He sells to several rewholesalers and garden centers. Over the years, he has developed friendships with many of his clients. “If you can’t build a friendship with your customer, then you’re just another supplier,” he said. “I think the ones that we do the best with are the people we get to know the best. A trusting relationship is always important.” n JUNE/SUMMER 2012

SEE MORE OF THIS STORY YouTube.com/ AlabamaFarmersFed OR SCAN THIS QR CODE 19

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Alabama Ranks In Top 10 Tornado States By Miranda Mattheis

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he Southeast is known for sweet tea, good cooking and tough-nosed football. However, in the weather world, the region has developed a reputation for tornadoes and severe weather, earning it the nickname “Dixie Alley.” In a recent Weather Channel report of Top 10 Tornado States, southeastern states claimed 5 of the 10 spots. Alabama ranked ninth with 8.6 tornadoes per 10,000 miles. Florida, Mississippi, South Carolina and Louisiana also made the list. The Weather Channel report said Alabama had a record 145 tornadoes in 2011. From 1991 to 2010, the National Climatic Data Center reported an average of 44 Alabama tornadoes per year. According to WSFA 12 News Meteorologist Josh Johnson, Dixie Alley includes most of Alabama and Mississippi, as well as parts of Tennessee, Louisiana, Arkansas and Georgia. Johnson said warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico creates an environment prone to thunderstorm and tornado development. “Dixie Alley is nothing new,” Johnson said. “It’s relatively new that scientists and the public are calling it that specific name, but the Southeast has long been vulnerable to major tornado disasters.” Johnson said three of the five deadli-

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est tornadoes in history occurred in Dixie Alley in the early twentieth century, before the modern weather warning system was created. “People in the South can’t wait until they see a tornado to take shelter,” he said. “By then, it’s too late.” Large trees, forests and hills in the Southeast also make it difficult to see tornadoes, Johnson said. Fall and winter tornado events often occur in the Southeast, but environmental conditions can make those events more difficult to forecast, he said. For Alfa, having its core states in the heart of Dixie Alley means an increased risk of tornado events. In 2011, the company had nearly 47,000 weather-related claims, with approximately 25,000 from the historic April 27 tornado outbreak. The tornadoes in Dixie Alley leave behind destruction and death. In 2011, Alabama had more than 240 fatalities from tornadoes. While tornadoes can’t be avoided, residents of Dixie Alley can better ensure safety in a tornado GET MORE INFO AT emergency. By monitoring weather conditions DisasterSafety.org and having a safe place to OR SCAN THIS QR CODE stay during a storm, people can be prepared for severe weather threats. n 20

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Learning Barns Build Strong Ag Foundation

Lillian Slay reads to students next to the learning barn at Chambers Academy.

By Mary Johnson

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ounty Farmers Federations across the state have started a modern-day barn-raising. Learning barns are barn-shaped bookcases filled with children’s agriculture books that have been distributed to schools and libraries in eight counties, with more on the way. The two-person Monroe County Young Farmers Committee heard about the program last year and decided to take up the task of building the learning barns for the six elementary schools in the county. “If children don’t know about farming, it’s hard for them to consider it as a career,” said Chase Bradley, chairman of the Monroe County Young Farmers Committee. “So hopefully a kid will see this and think that’s something they want to do in the future.” Bradley said he hopes to have the bookcases distributed to the schools by the end of the school year. Mike Powell, the ag teacher at Excel High School, took on construction of the learning barns as a project for his senior class. Other county Farmers Federations that have joined the learning w w w. A l f a F a r m e r s . o r g

barn project include Butler, Chambers, Cherokee, Cullman, Dale, Elmore, Houston and Lauderdale. The program got its start with the Virginia Farm Bureau. After hearing about the barns, Alabama Farmers Federation Women’s Leadership Division Director Kim Earwood contacted the group for background information and blueprints, which can be distributed to any county organization. The Chambers County Women’s Leadership Committee did its homework, and in 2010 built three of the barns. Another four were added in 2011. The group’s chairman, Lillian Slay, says she hopes to have two more finished by the end of the year, which will cover all the elementary schools in the county. “We just feel like they can learn something about agriculture,” Slay said of the students in her county. “We put together a teacher’s notebook with things to take lessons out of, and it’s a real thick notebook with lots of material.” Slay said she works to have the lumber donated and involves trade schools and friends in the construction of the bookcases. The Women’s Leadership Committee donated 25 elementary agriculture books with 22

each learning barn. In Lauderdale County, the Women’s Leadership Committee and the Farmers Federation worked to build the bookcases for the public libraries and provided nine books with each. “We were trying to get more kids access to agriculture related books, especially in the city libraries,” said Regina Wiley, president of the Lauderdale County Women’s Leadership Committee. Bradley said farmers in his county shares the same sentiments. He said he hopes the program introduces kids to the true source of their food and fiber. “When you ask a little kid where their food comes from, they’ll say a grocery store,” Bradley said. “The kids don’t yet go through the process to ask where the grocery store gets it from. (The books) go into great detail about agriculture. The kids will learn how milk comes from a cow, what comes out of the ground, and where their food is actually coming from.” For more information, including blueprints for the program, contact Earwood at kearwood@alfafarmers. org or call (334) 612-5370. n JUNE/SUMMER 2012


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By Jamie Creamer

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udd Graham estimates he’s set close to 30,000 pinhead-sized, fire ant–decapitating phorid flies from South America free at 18 sites across Alabama in the past 15 years. Though he has yet to come across heaps of headless fire ant carcasses, the Auburn University entomologist knows the tiny flies are out there doing their thing. “At least one species of phorid fly is now established in every county in the state,” says Graham, head of Alabama’s fire ant management and phorid fly–release programs. “That means their population’s growing, and that means fire ants are dying.” Here’s why: The phorid fly, a natural enemy of fire ants back in their native Brazil and Argentina, kills in a most gruesome fashion: It zeroes in on a fire ant, and then darts down and deposits an egg in the ant’s thorax. A few days later, the egg hatches, and the larva moves to the ant’s head and proceeds to eat its content. The head falls off, and the young fly soon

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emerges. A single female phorid fly can deposit eggs in as many as 200 to 250 fire ants. Almost as intriguing and effective as phorid flies’ beheading techniques is their ability to create pandemonium in fire ant colonies. Graham says fire ants have an innate fear of the parasitoid flies, and the mere presence of the tiny winged warriors near a mound sends them scurrying. The flies are drawn to the mound by the scent of the fire ants’ venom, Auburn entomology researcher Henry Fadamiro has discovered. The flies so terrorize the otherwise-ferocious fire ants that their foraging and moundrebuilding activities are reduced significantly. Red fire ants invaded the country about 80 years ago after stowing away on a U.S.-bound South American boat and jumping ship at the Port of Mobile. Today, the vicious, destructive and heretofore invincible insects infest more than 300 million acres in the South and cause an estimated $3 billion a year in damages to crops, livestock, equipment, infrastructure and the environment. It was in the late 1990s that the USDA began introducing several of the 20-plus phorid fly species, which keep fire ants in check in South America, into Alabama and

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other ant-infested Southern states as a means of biological fire-ant control. Graham stresses that the release of flies came only after years of research to ensure the winged warriors attack fire ants and fire ants only. “These phorid flies do not attack native ants or any other native insect or plant life, and despite recent rumors, they are not killing honeybees,” Graham says. Since 1998, Graham has released five different species of phorid flies at 16 sites around the state, putting Alabama at the forefront of the phorid fly release program. And the tiny flies have expanded their range 10 to 15 miles per year, such that not only are all 67 Alabama counties home to at least one species, but 90 percent of all counties have two kinds. In addition, one difficult-to-establish species that has been released unsuccessfully throughout the Southeast has been found alive and well and living in Alabama’s Wilcox and Dallas counties. “The phorid fly program is a long-term natural process for managing fire ants, not an overnight fix,” Graham says. Since 1997, the Alabama Legislature has included the state’s fire ant management program as a line item in the budget. n

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By Kenny Johnson Outdoor Alabama

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ew species invokes as much wonder and pride as the bald eagle. It’s the symbol of America, but seeing the majestic bird in person can create a connection on an entirely new level. For Rocky Baker, who lives near Athens, the connection hit home about seven years ago. The 56-yearold grew up hunting and fishing, but it was a pair of eagles near the Elk River in north Alabama that brought the nation’s symbol to life for him. “I grew up knowing it was the nation’s symbol, but until seeing one in person I’d only seen them on television or in books,” Baker said. “When you see a bald eagle flying in the wild, it helps you connect more to what it means to be an American.” Experiencing the site of the previously endangered bird in the wild also sparked Baker’s curiosity. He began attending Eagle Awareness weekends at Lake Guntersville State Park. The annual event held January through February includes field trips and programs to showcase the park’s most famous residents. Guntersville State Park Naturalist Patti Donnellan says one of the most exciting aspects of the Eagle Awareness weekends is seeing eagles in their natural habitat as they soar above the fishing center or care for their eaglets in the nest at the dam. “My absolute favorite moment is hearing the crowd’s collective gasp when they see an eaglet peek its head out of the nest,” Donnellan JUNE/SUMMER 2012

said. “I see them nearly every day here at the park, which is a tremendous victory for both us and the eagles.” Seeing an eagle in Alabama was once a rare event, but thanks to efforts by state and federal agencies along with other conservation groups, the bald eagle made a comeback. In the 1950s and 60s, the bald eagle population plummeted, and wintering birds in Alabama became rare. In the early 1980s, a recovery project to restore Alabama’s nesting eagles was initiated by the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Fisheries (WFF) Nongame Wildlife Program. Keith Hudson, a wildlife biologist with the WFF, said most eagles seen in Alabama during winter are migratory, but that is changing as a larger percentage are nesting here each year. They are doing so well that bald eagles were taken off the endangered species list. Tornadoes in 2011 setback recovery efforts for bald eagles. The storms destroyed at least five bald eagle nests, which can be up to 10 feet across and weigh 2,000 pounds. Thousands of trees were destroyed in the Lake Guntersville area along with the eagle’s natural habitat. But officials remain optimistic. “We have several pairs of eagles that can be seen in the park 25

throughout the year, but the pair at the Guntersville Dam is the most easily viewed,” Donnellan said. “They successfully raised three eaglets this year, all of which took their first flights a few weeks ago. They are such a popular attraction, they even have their own Facebook page.” For more information about bald eagles and the Eagle Awareness weekends at Lake Guntersville State Park, visit OutdoorAlabama. com. n ____________________________________ Photos by Billy Pope, Outdoor Alabama.

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Commodity Conference Tours Profile South Alabama Farms By Mary Johnson

The Women’s Leadership Committee will also host its quilting, apron-sewing and tablescape competitions. Contest entries must be set-up Thursday as judging will take place that evening. Winners will be announced at Saturday’s Women’s Luncheon. The ag tours will introduce attendees to the culture and agriculture of Mobile and its surrounding areas. Buses will depart from the Mobile Convention Center Friday morning, with lunch served on the tours. The Blue Tour will feature aquaculture, with stops at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab Estuarium, the Auburn University Shellfish Laboratory and the Aquatic Teaching Facility at Alma Bryant High School. Participants will view the long-term effects of the oil spill and hurricanes with a drive through the community of Bayou La Batre. The final stop is near Grand Bay at Art Session’s farm, where pecans and satsumas, among other crops, are grown for roadside markets. The Green Tour starts with a boat tour of Week’s Bay National Estuarine Reserve. Enjoy a stroll along the elevated boardwalk to view the unique swamp ecosystem. The tour will then head to a tree farm/TREASURE Forest near Grand Bay to learn about invasive species and forest certification. Orange Tour participants will experience the Gulf Coast Agricultural and Seafood Co-Op in Bayou La Batre. The tour will head to Andy Thornburg’s Farm to view a Sunn Hemp plot (a plant used as a cover crop to reclaim poor land) and the Deer and Hog Mega Fence. The trip includes a stop at Oak Hill Tree Farm, owned by Cliff and Brian Keller, in Grand Bay. The Red Tour will visit Sirmon Farms, a sweet potato, cotton and peanut operation owned by Gordon Sirmon. The second stop is Waters Nursery in Robertsdale, where Tony Waters will provide lunch from his catering business, “Waters Edge.” The tour concludes at Perdido Vineyards, a muscadine grape farm owned by Jim and Marianne Eddins. The Yellow Tour will focus on livestock and forage. It covers three different cattle operations: Higgdon Farms, Faggard Land & Cattle and Driskell Farms. Next is a visit to a commercial goat operation at Pittman Farms. The tour ends at Impressible Minis, a miniature purebred horse farm. To register for the conference, contact your County Farmers Federation. For more information, contact Carla Hornady at (334) 613-4735. n

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articipants in the 40th annual Alabama Farmers Federation Commodity Producers Conference will drive down I-65 until the map turns blue. In addition to delicious seafood and the bustle of the Port City, Alabama farmers will visit some unique farms in the southern end of the state. The conference will be at the Renaissance Riverview Plaza Hotel in Mobile Aug. 2-4. “We are excited to again bring representatives from our commodities together for fellowship during this educational conference,” said Jimmy Carlisle, director of the Alabama Farmers Federation’s Department of Governmental and Agricultural Programs. “Seminars will cover topics to educate our farmers about the latest agricultural innovations and ways to improve efficiency and productivity.” Registration begins Aug. 2 at 2 p.m., followed by a welcome banquet. Entertainment will be the FFA Quartet. The next day, farmers will participate in one of five tours around Mobile and Baldwin counties. Morning seminars and a general session will take place Aug. 4, with the grand finale banquet that evening sponsored by Alfa Health, Alfa Dental and Swisher International/Sunbelt Ag Expo. Entertainment will be provided by Mark Lowery, a Christian comedian, songwriter, and singer. After last year’s success, the conference will again open itself to Alabama’s Young Farmers and the Young Farmers’ Summer Conference. “Having young people involved injects energy into the group, giving farmers faith in the future,” Carlisle said. “The conference provides a great opportunity for our young farmers and more experienced farmers to learn from each other.” The Discussion Meet and Excellence in Agriculture competitions, part of the Young Farmers program, will take place the morning of Aug. 4. In the Discussion Meet, contestants provide specific action-plan solutions for certain issues facing agriculture. Competitors must display public-speaking, problem-solving and consensus-building skills. The Excellence in Agriculture contest requires young agricultural professionals to give an illustrated presentation on how their work and civic activities strengthen agriculture. Participants must be employed in an agriculture field other than farming. Winners will be announced during the closing banquet Saturday.

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Alfa Awards Automobile To Alabama’s Teacher Of The Year By Debra Davis

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labama’s 2012-2013 Teacher of the Year, Suzanne B. Culbreth, a math teacher at Spain Park High School in Hoover, received a year’s use of a new automobile, courtesy of Alfa Insurance Co. and the Alabama Farmers Federation, during a ceremony at the Alfa home office in Montgomery May 10. Alfa President and CEO Jerry Newby, who also serves as president of the Alabama Farmers Federation, presented Culbreth the keys to a 2012 Chevrolet Impala as part of her award for being named the state’s Alabama’s Teacher of the Year Suzanne B. Culbreth sits behind the wheel of a new car she will use this year as she drives throughout the state promoting education. Alfa President and CEO Jerry Newby presented Culbreth top teacher. the car keys during a ceremony at the Alfa headquarters in Montgomery, May 10. From left are Alfa Executive State SuperintenVice President and Chief Operating Officer Steve Rutledge, Alabama Farmers Federation Executive Director Paul dent of Education Dr. Pinyan, Culbreth, Newby and State School Superintendent Dr. Thomas R. Bice. Insurance for the car is purchased Thomas R. Bice made from Alfa by the Alabama Farmers Federation. the announcement of Alabama’s Teacher of the Year durof the Year program but for many the presentation, Alabama Farmers ing an awards ceremony Wednesday other endeavors. I know that we Federation Executive Director Paul evening that honored the final four can always count on Alfa.” Pinyan announced that the insurcandidates. Culbreth said she is excited ance for the Teacher of the Year car Newby said teachers are the key about traveling the state promoting will be paid for by the Federation. to Alabama’s future. education for the next 12 months. Culbreth will spend the major“As Alabama’s Teacher of the “I can’t explain how much the ity of the school year serving as the Year, Mrs. Culbreth will have the use of this new car will mean to me state spokesperson for education, opportunity to inspire thousands in the coming year,” Culbreth said. presenting workshops, speaking of teachers, parents and commu“I’m just overwhelmed to have to various groups and representing nity leaders as an ambassador for been selected for this honor. We education and the teaching profeseducation,” Newby said. “Alfa and have so many wonderful teachers sion. By winning Alabama’s Teachthe Alabama Farmers Federation throughout Alabama who are maker of the Year, she automatically appreciate the important role she ing such a difference in the lives of becomes the state’s candidate for and all teachers play in the lives of our students every day.” National Teacher of the Year. n our children.” Culbreth has taught at Spain Bice praised Alfa’s support of the Park since 2008 and at Oak MounTeacher of the Year Program. tain High School from 2002“Alfa’s contribution of the use 2008. She said she considers her SEE MORE OF THIS STORY of a car for a year is a tremendous greatest contributions to be as a gift to our Teacher of the Year as supporter and encourager of fellow YouTube.com/ she travels our state promoting and future teachers. AlabamaFarmersFed public education,” Bice said. “Alfa This is the 16th year Alfa has OR SCAN THIS QR CODE is a big supporter of education in presented an automobile to the our state, not only for the Teacher state’s Teacher of the Year. During w w w. A l f a F a r m e r s . o r g

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Mark Pennington Pork Committee Chairman Mark Pennington of Calhoun County says working in agriculture is more than a job – it’s a way of life he’s passionate about. At 54, Pennington manages Ohatchee Farm, LLC, a swine farm that supplies female breeding stock to three different swine integrators. He is chairman of the Alabama Farmers Federation’s State Pork Committee. “Agriculture allows me to work hard and feel good about doing something that benefits all people,” said the Iowa State University graduate. Pennington’s hobbies take him from the racetrack to the Gulf Coast. A stock car racing fan, he works as a crew member and drives for an ARCA race team. He also enjoys shark fishing. A member of the United Methodist Church, he has two children: a stepson, Kris Logsdon, 33, who serves as assistant manager on the farm; and a daughter, Holly Doering, 29.

County Annual Meetings Pike County

Tuesday, July 10 @ 7 p.m. Alfa Office, 1208 S. Brundidge St., Troy

Coffee County Monday, July 16 @ 6:30 p.m. Community Room, 1055 E. McKinnon St., New Brockton Sumter County Monday, July 16 @ 7 p.m. Alfa Office, Livingston Russell County Monday, July 23 @ 7 p.m. CST Old Russell County Courthouse 5 Jackson St., Seale Mobile County Thursday, July 26 @ 7 p.m. Greater Gulf State Fair Grounds, 1035 North Cody Road, Mobile Wilcox County Thursday, July 26 @ 7:30 p.m. Lower Coastal Experiment Station, Camden

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Lee County

Monday, July 30 @ 6 p.m. Cooperative Extension System Office, 600 South 7th Street, Opelika (kitchen)

Clay County

Tuesday, July 31 @ 7 p.m. Red’s Catfish Cabin 689 Catfish Road, Cragford w w w. A l f a F a r m e r s . o r g


By Lois Chaplin

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ummer is a great time for watching butterflies, and there are a number of resources and organizations that will take that interest to another level. The National Butterfly Center is a 100-acre property in Mission, Texas, dedicated to education, conservation and scientific research of wild butterflies. According to the NBC website http://www.nationalbutterflycenter.org/, almost 40 percent of the butterfly species that live in the United States can be seen in the three-county area that makes up the Lower Rio Grande Valley. The educational center includes walking trails with native host and nectar plants to sustain many species and encourage their study. The warm subtropical climate supports butterfly populations yearround. The center is a project of the North American Butterfly Association (NABA) http://www.naba. org/, a membership based, non-profit organization working to promote the public enjoyment and conservation of butterflies. Members may participate in national butterfly counts to contribute sightings data that assists scientists studying the life of these insects. Free information on the site includes regional garden guides for butterfly plants in different regions of the country that will help you

know what to keep or add to a landscape to encourage butterflies. The NABA also has chapters in 16 states. The NABA members can participate in several ‘citizen science’ butterfly counts a year which assists data collection about the presence of butterflies in different areas. Another active study group is Monarch Net. Its mission is to coordinate the integration of citizen science monitoring data from various programs and to make it available on the website http:// monarchnet.uga.edu/ as a resource for those who want to know about monarch populations. Since the partners represent the most important monitoring programs, the collective data represents the most current and comprehensive information on the monarch biology. Partners include: Journey North http://www.learner.org/jnorth/, that is geared toward monitoring spring migration and even has a mobile phone app. Monarch Net hopes that linking the data will foster collaboration between monitoring programs, promote the use of the data to answer scientific questions, increase participation by citizen-scientists in multiple programs and increase awareness of each monitoring program. The Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA) http:// www.butterfliesandmoths.org/ col-

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lects and provides access to qualitycontrolled data about butterflies and moths. The organization has an informative and beautiful website that allows users to share photos and submit a sighting. The project is hosted by the Butterfly and Moth Information Network to fill the needs of scientists and nature observers by bringing verified occurrence and life history data into one accessible location. By using the regional checklists tool in the website, you can generate a list of 101 species verified sightings in Jefferson County, Alabama. It links to an image gallery, which is a great resource for identification. It includes details about each species and allows users to choose plants for their landscape that are good nectar plants for the butterflies or host plants for caterpillars. The Alabama Cooperative Extension Service offers a four-page color publication designed to help attract butterflies. It includes tables of larval food plants for particular species and nectar sources (annuals, perennials, and shrubs) for adult butterflies. Visit the site at http:// bit.ly/IXX8OU. n _________________________________ Lois Chaplin is an accomplished gardener and author. Her work appears here courtesy of Alabama Farmers Cooperative.

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Grilled Pork Chops with Basil-Garlic Rub

With pork chops, it’s easy to go beyond the expected. These Grilled Pork Chops with Basil-Garlic Rub are tender, juicy, and deliciously different. Learn more about the versatile chop at PorkBeInspired.com

©2012 National Pork Board, Des Moines, IA USA. This message funded by America’s Pork Producers and the Pork Checkoff.

PorkBeInspired.com


Bacon and Tomato Dip

By Kellie Henderson

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Jennifer Dickerson – Lauderdale County

he Alabama Pork Producers annual cooking contest challenges cooks across the state to share their most appetizing pork recipes for cash prizes, and from ribs and roasts to sausage and bacon, it seems every family has at least one pork dish that’s a staple. Be it the crisp cornerstone of a hearty breakfast or saucy pulled pork for a crowd, outstanding dishes from the 2012 county pork cooking competitions showcase pork’s versatility and flavor. Patricia Windsor of Coosa County says she’s been making Bar-B-Que Pork Loin for her family for years and loves the recipe’s simplicity. “My grandkids don’t care for traditional barbecue, but they like this plain on a bun without any additional sauce. I made it not long ago for a family get-together and out of

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nifer Dickerson’s Bacon and Tomato Dip combines the salty goodness Mix together cream of crisp bacon with fresh cheese, sour cream, maytomato for a cool and onnaise, cheese, onion, creamy dip that took green peppers, garlic, and top-honors in Lauderdale pepper. Add bacon and County. tomato and mix thorough“My mother-in-law ly. Serve with corn chips. Nancy Dickerson is known for being a wonderful cook and is a big the whole loin, I only had enough reason I love to cook, so it seems a left over for one good sandwich,” little funny to say I got this recipe said Patricia. in the grocery store, but that’s And the lack of prep-work where I found it,” Jennifer said. makes this barbecue a breeze for While shopping for produce, Jenany cook. nifer said she saw the recipe on the “We have a smoker, and I can’t back of a package of red and yellow tell you the last time we used it. peppers. With actual fire and coals, you can “The recipe itself only calls turn your back a few minutes and for green peppers, but it sounded ruin the meat, but with this in delicious. I had been looking for the slow cooker, you don’t have to something new to try for the recipe worry about a thing. And with the contest, and I really hadn’t thought simple sauce, the meat doesn’t even about using bacon until I saw this need salt,” she explained. dip,” Jennifer recalled. With summertime in full swing, Several more winning recipes cooks find themselves looking for feature pork chops and roasts and ways to beat the heat in the kitchen are posted on the Federation’s weband enjoy the great outdoors. Jensite at AlfaFarmers.org.

4 ounces cream cheese 1 cup sour cream ½ cup mayonnaise ½ cup cheddar cheese ¼ cup diced green onion ¼ cup diced green pepper 1 teaspoon minced garlic Black pepper to taste 1 cup crispy, crumbled bacon

1 large tomato, diced, seeds and juice discarded

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Bar-B-Que Pork Loin Patricia Windsor – Coosa County 1 whole pork Loin

Place whole, unseasoned loin in crock pot; do not add water. Cook in crock pot for 6 hours or until meat pulls easily apart. Remove roast; when cool enough to handle, pull pork into shreds. Sauce: 1/3 cup butter, melted 1/3 cup lemon juice 1/3 cup vinegar

Combine and pour over meat and stir to coat meat thoroughly. Serve on buns with barbecue sauce if desired. Alabama BBQ Ribs Shirley Ezzell – Franklin County 3 pounds country-style boneless pork ribs ½ bottle barbecue sauce (about 9 ounces) 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce (or to taste) 1 (12-ounce) can cola

Place ribs in a shallow pan. Mix BBQ sauce and Worcestershire sauce in a bowl and set aside. Pour cola over ribs. Pour BBQ and Worcestershire mixture over ribs. Roll ribs around in sauce until ribs are covered and cola is mixed with sauce. Cover pan and marinate at least 2 hours. Place pan in oven and bake 1 hour at 350 F or grill as desired. Tenderloin and Gravy Clyde Smith – Jackson County 12 tenderloin chops, grilled 3 cups water 2 medium onions, chopped 1 tablespoon Montreal steak seasoning 2 tablespoons cornstarch

Arrange grilled pork chops in a 9-x13-inch baking dish. In a saucepan, combine water, onions, and seasoning blend. Bring mixture to a boil. Combine cornstarch with additional cold water and add to onion mixture, stirring until thickened. Pour over the pork chops and bake at 375 F for 1 hour or until tender.

Pork Picatta Sue Walters – Etowah County 2 pounds pork tenderloin Salt and pepper 1 cup flour 2 cloves garlic, chopped ¼ cup olive oil ½ cup (1 stick) butter ¼ cup chopped parsley 2 lemons, juiced ½ cup white wine

Cut pork into 1/4-inch slices. Add salt and pepper to flour and lightly flour each side of slices. Set aside. Place chopped garlic in a large skillet. Add olive oil and cook over medium heat 2 minutes. Add butter, parsley, and lemon juice. Increase heat to high and add pork. Cook 2 minutes, then add wine to pan. Turn slices and cook 2 minutes more. Sassy Roast Pork Carol Simpson - St. Clair County 1 (5-pound) pork picnic roast

Cook roast in a smoker or bake in oven at 300 F for 4 hours, or until very tender. Remove from oven. When cool enough to handle, slice meat from the bone and chop. Place chopped meat in a large bowl and pour sauce (recipe follows) over the meat, tossing to coat. Serve on buns while both meat and buns are warm. Good with slaw and baked beans. Sauce: 1 cup apple cider vinegar 1 teaspoon salt ½ cup white sugar ½ cup brown sugar ½ cup ketchup 3 tablespoons honey Sprinkle of ground red pepper 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce 2 teaspoons prepared yellow mustard 1 medium onion, chopped fine 2 large cloves garlic, mashed

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a slow boil until all the sugar is dissolved.

Easy Mexican Skillet Phyllis Johnson – Calhoun County 1 pound bulk pork sausage ¼ cup chopped onion ½ cup chopped green pepper 1 cup uncooked elbow macaroni 2 tablespoons sugar 1 teaspoon chili powder 1 (1-pound) can tomatoes 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce ½ cup sour cream

In a skillet, cook sausage until lightly browned; drain off excess fat. Add onion and green pepper and cook until tender. Stir in next six ingredients. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir in sour cream and heat thoroughly. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese. Makes 5 servings. Tuscan Pork Loin Roast Elaine Helms – Geneva County

1 (4-5 pound) boneless pork loin ¼ to 1/3 cup olive oil 2 tablespoons dried rosemary Seasoned pepper or steak seasoning Salt to taste 1 ½ teaspoons garlic powder

Trim excess fat from meat and pat dry with a paper towel. Rub olive oil over all surfaces of roast and sprinkle on dry ingredients. Bake at 325 F in a convection oven (or 350 F in a conventional oven) until browned. Add ¾ cup of water, cover and bake at 350 F for 1 hour. Cool 10-to-15 minutes before slicing. Spoon pan drippings over sliced meat. Pork Tenderloin & Biscuits Mary Tucker – Fayette County

1 whole tenderloin Salt and pepper Flour Canola oil Biscuits (homemade or frozen, prepared according to package instructions)

Cut tenderloin into ½-inch thick slices. Salt and pepper slices. Dredge slices in flour on each side. Heat canola oil in a skillet. Fry tenderloin slices, turning when golden to cook through. Place sliced tenderloin in split biscuits. Serve with fresh fruit. May also be served with jalapeno slices and hot mustard for those who like it spicy. n

Editor’s Note: Recipes published in the “Country Kitchen” are not kitchen-tested prior to publication. Visit www.AlfaFarmers.org for more recipes. JUNE/SUMMER 2012

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June 2012 Neighbors  

The June, 2012, issue of Neighbors magazine; the official publication of the Alabama Farmers Federation.