Neighbors Magazine, June 2016

Page 1

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A Membership Publication of the Alabama Farmers Federation

June 2016


Debra Davis, Editor Mike Moody, Graphic Designer ALABAMA FARMERS FEDERATION Paul Pinyan, Executive Director Jeff Helms, Director of Communications FEDERATION OFFICERS Jimmy Parnell, President, Stanton Rex Vaughn, Vice President/North, Huntsville Dean Wysner, Vice President/Central, Woodland George Jeffcoat, Vice President/Southeast, Gordon Jake Harper, Vice President/Southwest, Camden Steve Dunn, Secretary-Treasurer, Evergreen DIRECTORS Brian Glenn, Hillsboro Paul Looney, Athens Phillip Thompson, Scottsboro Rickey Cornutt, Boaz Joe Roberts, Fayette Dell Hill, Alpine Joe Lambrecht, Wetumpka Dan Robertson, Uniontown Garry Henry, Hope Hull Steve Stroud, Goshen Sammy Gibbs, Atmore Fred Helms, Dothan Regina Carnes, Boaz Lance Miller, Snead


In This Issue

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 Alabama Farmers Federation member benefits, visit the website Periodicals postage paid at Montgomery, Alabama, and additional mailing offices. Printed in the U.S.A.



June 2016

Ronald McDonald House Cares

10 Alabama’s Barn Quilt Trail 12 Port City To Welcome Farmers

28 Students Tee Up For Success 36 Country Kitchen

On The Cover

ADVERTISING REPRESENTATIVE: Ben Shurett, (256) 997-7922

A member of American Farm Bureau Federation


26 A.L.F.A Prepares Future Leaders


Young Farm Families Shine

20 Folks Flock To Backyard Birds

POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Neighbors, P.O. Box 11000, Montgomery, Alabama 36191-0001.

DISCLAIMERS: Ad­vertise­­­­­­­ments in Neighbors do not represent an endorsement by the magazine or Alabama Farmers Federation. Editorial information from sources outside the Alabama Farmers Federation is sometimes presented for our members. Such material may, or may not, coincide with official Alabama Farmers Federation policies. Publication of information does not imply an endorsement by the Alabama Farmers Federation.



Dallas and Joy Balch are among Lauderdale County farmers helping revive interest in patchwork quilts, historic barns and the rural landscape. Photo by Debra Davis

Misconceptions About Agriculture

MYTH: Farmers don’t care about the environment. the latest technology and science, farmers FACT: Using use less fertilizer and chemicals while producing more food and fiber. They wouldn’t compromise the environment — it’s their livelihood and future. 3

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Finalists Compete For State Outstanding Young Farm Family By Mary Johnson and Debra Davis


hree Outstanding Young Farm Families (OYFF) were chosen as finalists in a statewide contest open to farmers 18-35 years old who stand out as agricultural leaders on their farms and in their communities. Finalists are featured in this edition of Neighbors. Judges will tour their farms this summer and select the overall winner. Each family will be honored at the Alabama Farmers Federation’s 44th annual Commodity Producers Conference July 30, when the winner will be announced. The OYFF will receive a prize package worth more than $60,000, including a new General Motors pickup truck from Alfa Insurance, an 825i John Deere Gator from Alabama Ag Credit and Alabama Farm Credit and use of a John Deere tractor by local John Deere dealers and John Deere. The first and second runners-up each will receive $500 courtesy of Alabama Ag Credit and Alabama Farm Credit. All three finalists will receive Big Green Egg cookers from the Federation. The winning family will represent Alabama in the American Farm Bureau Federation Young Farmers and Ranchers Achievement Award contest in January in Phoenix, Arizona.

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Bevel Family

Marshall County John and Hannah Bevel of Marshall County decided to leap into farming in 2008. They started with a herd of cattle and began row cropping in 2013. “Both my grandfathers farmed, and my dad did too, but he quit in the mid-‘80s,” John said. “We started our farm from scratch.” Previously, John used his poultry science degree from Auburn University as a supervisor and superintendent for an integrated poultry company. “When we started dating, John told me he wanted to farm full time,” said Hannah, an Athens State University graduate and account supervisor for Albertville schools. “I wasn’t raised on a farm and was shocked by the long hours he works. But I knew from the start farming is all he wanted to do. I’m very proud of him.” This year, John plans to raise corn, soybeans and wheat. He does custom planting and harvesting for another farmer. The Bevels also have 53 beef cows and 100 acres of pasture. John said Marshall County is a great place to start a farm. “We have plenty of places to sell our crops, and all the poultry plants buy corn,” he said. “I love to see things grow — whether it’s calves or crops. In farming, you always feel like you’ve accomplished something at the end of the day.” The Bevels married in 2007 and have a three-yearold daughter, Madalyn. They were the Alabama Farmers Federation Wheat & Feed Grains Division winner for the Outstanding Young Farm Family contest and are competition finalists. John is Marshall County Young Farmers chairman, serves as a Marshall County Farmers Federation board member and is vice president of his county Cattlemen’s Association. Hannah volunteers on the stewardship committee and in the nursery for their church, Mt. Vernon Baptist in Albertville. 4

June 2016


McGill Family


Madison County

If enthusiasm and hard work equal success, Stewart and Kasey McGill of Madison County will achieve it. Earlier this year, the couple was recognized for accomplishments on their farm and in their community by winning the Horticulture Division of the Alabama Farmers Federation Outstanding Young Farm Family contest. They are among three farm families selected as competition finalists. “We love farming, and we love sharing information about what we do,” said Stewart, 34. “Today, so many people are curious about where their food comes from. We like showing them what we do.” In addition to growing cotton, corn, soybeans, wheat and pumpkins on their 600-acre farm, the McGills have major roles in the family’s agritourism business. Tate Farms Cotton Pickin’ Pumpkins was started by Kasey’s family, and welcomes 50-60,000 guests annually. Stewart manages most of the operation. Stewart is on the Federation’s State Wheat & Feed Grains Committee and is county Young Farmers vice chairman. He previously won the state Young Farmers Discussion Meet and finished in the top 16 nationally. Kasey, 30, grew up on a farm, as did Stewart, whose family lived a few miles away. When Stewart finished his time at Auburn University, he began working at Tate Farms. They met when Kasey graduated from the University of Alabama in Huntsville and returned home to work at her dad’s crop insurance business. They married in 2010. Stewart, a self-proclaimed workaholic, said he and Kasey are pleased they have built their own farm, but appreciate they have experienced family members willing to share their knowledge. “We want to be a voice for our industry,” Stewart said. “Through the pumpkin patch and in other areas of our life, we get to share the real story of farming.” The couple have two daughters, Allie, 4, and Reece 2. They were expecting their third daughter, Peyton, in May. June 2016

Miller Family

Blount County

From the back porch of their Blount County farmhouse, Lance and Stephanie Miller can see the cotton field where he proposed in September 2005. This October, they will celebrate 10 years of marriage and farming. “I had no plans of being a farmer,” said Stephanie, who met Lance at Jacksonville State University. “The one thing we got from college was each other.” With a public relations background, Stephanie switched gears from a potential NASCAR marketing career to life on the farm. “I knew the farm wasn’t moving anywhere near a racetrack, so I started a blog and Facebook page for the farm,” she said. After college, Lance said his family urged him to consider jobs besides farming, but he couldn’t resist. “They knew how hard farming was,” he said. “I worked elsewhere for a little while, but it didn’t suit me. So I came back to the farm and worked with my Uncle Jimmy.” In addition to their four poultry houses, the Millers grow peanuts, cotton and soybeans. The couple are active Alabama Farmers Federation members where Lance is State Young Farmers Committee chairman and Blount County Farmers Federation treasurer. Stephanie is Blount County Young Farmers secretary and chairs the county Women’s Leadership Committee and Farm-City committees. The Millers were the Federation Cotton Division winner in the Outstanding Young Farm Family contest and are among three finalists. Lance said his greatest accomplishment is continuing the family tradition on their Century and Heritage Farm. “Actually being able to farm in this day and age is the achievement I’m proudest of,” Lance said. The Millers have two children, Reed, 4, and Jade, 10 months. They are members of Grace Baptist Church in Snead. n 5

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Families Find Comfort, Security Through Ronald McDonald House Charities By Mary Johnson


ason and Lacey Simpson of Madison County started a whirlwind journey May 8, 2015, when they welcomed their third child, Brody. “I had a C-section at Huntsville Hospital that morning, and immediately it was one problem after another,” Lacey said. Brody was diagnosed with a Congenital Heart Defect, or CHD. He had to be flown by helicopter to

Children’s of Alabama in Birmingham for surgery. The Simpsons turned to Ronald McDonald House Charities of Alabama (RMHCA) for a place to stay nearby. “I was so afraid he was going to die, and I wasn’t going to be close,” Lacey said. “When we were able to get a room at the Ronald McDonald House, we were right around the corner from the hospital. It gave us peace of mind, as much as we could have at that time.” Brad and Laura Smith of Mont-

Jason and Lacey Simpson with their children Brody, Walt and Shelby.

gomery County found themselves in a similar situation when their daughter, Aria, was born Oct. 29, 2014. She had a heart defect which required open-heart surgery at Children’s of Alabama when she was six days old. While the couple often stayed in the hospital room, Brad said it was comforting to have RMHCA just two blocks away. “We’d get a night here and there to snooze on a real bed at RMHCA, where there were no monitors, beeps or other things to worry us every second,” he said. “Knowing we were a short walk from the hospital and that we didn’t have to pay hundreds of dollars for our stay was a blessing. Another blessing was getting to know other families that were right in those battles with us. We leaned on each other and talked about the ‘new normal.’” The Simpsons and Smiths both stayed at RMHCA for almost three weeks at no cost. Every year, the house provides more than 700 famRonald McDonald House Charities of Alabama has an outdoor playground and other amenities to make families feel at home.

June 2016


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The Power of Pop Tabs

• 63,360 pop tabs = 1 mile • 1,280 pop tabs = 1 pound • 96 pounds of pop tabs = $75 or 1-night’s stay at RMHCA • 672 pounds of pop tabs = $525 or a week’s stay at RMHCA

Above, Lacey Simpson comforts her youngest son, Brody, who was born with a congenital heart defect. Right, Aria Smith is a lively little girl, but she’s had major surgery for a heart defect. Her parents relied on RMHCA for a place to stay while Aria was in the hospital.

ilies with a free place to stay while a child is hospitalized for medical care. “It takes $75 a night for us to house one family,” said Laurie Smith, RMHCA communications coordinator. “With 41 rooms, that’s pretty big power and water bills, but thanks to great sponsors and donors we are able to provide free housing every year.” Since 2008, the Alabama Farmers Federation’s Women’s Leadership Committee (WLC) has held a pop tab collection contest to support RMHCA and the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Mobile (RMHCM). County committees across Alabama collected over 2,300 pounds of pop tabs in 2015, which could house a family for more than 24 days. “Our ladies really enjoy the pop tab contest,” said Kim Ramsey, Women’s Leadership Division director. “Several of them have gotten different organizations like 4H and local school children involved. w w w. A l f a F a r m e r s . o r g

Some of our Alfa Insurance offices are also involved, so each year, the pop tab collection has gotten a little bit bigger.” Pop tabs from beverage cans, soup cans and pet food can be recycled to generate funds for the houses. Annually, RMHCA raises over $17,000 through pop tabs, while RMHCM raises about $6,000. Ronald McDonald houses are independently owned and operated, 8

so amenities and housing requirements vary by house. However, the mission of the 357 houses across the world is the same. “We’re here to keep families together and give them the support they need during a difficult time,” Laurie Smith said. “If you give to RMHCA, the money is staying in Alabama. It doesn’t go to a global organization. It stays right here to help families.” While they underwent major surgeries early in life, Brody and Aria are both healthy babies who light up the lives of their families. The Simpsons and Smiths hope their need for RMHCA is behind them, but both families are committed to supporting the facility so it will be there for others. “Any donation, whether it’s a dollar, fifty cents or pop tabs, helps give stability to families who desperately need something,” said Jason Simpson, who asked Facebook followers to donate to RMHCA as a birthday present. “Just by a small donation, you’re helping somebody that you don’t know have some stability in their life.” At the RMHCA Red Shoe Run fundraiser in January, the Smiths’ team collected more than $1,200. “We wanted to help give back to families that are still in those battles,” Brad said. “There’s enough on their ‘worry list’ and a decent night’s sleep and fellowship with other families just shouldn’t be on that list.” Visit or to find out more about Alabama’s Ronald McDonald houses. n June 2016

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Barn Quilt Trail Provides Patchwork Of Rural History By Debra Davis


iny stitches that connect patchwork quilt squares share a common thread with old barns that dot Alabama’s rural countryside — both are rich in history. A new art project of giant proportions combines quilts and barns to create a new tourist attraction for Lauderdale County. Organizers say it’s the start of the Alabama Barn Quilt Trail. “I’ve seen this project in other areas of the country and loved looking at the different quilt patterns and old barns,” said Regina Painter, a traveling nurse from Killen who initiated the quilt trail efforts in her home county. “This project brought together different members of the community, and we hope it spreads to other areas of the state.” Painter’s supporters include the Lauderdale

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Lauderdale County Farmers Federation President Joe Dickerson, left, and county board member Charlie Thompson stand in front of Thompson’s barn, which is part of the Alabama Barn Quilt Tour. 10

June 2016

Students from Allen Thornton Career Technical Center, left, helped assemble and hang the quilt replica at the Wade Farm in the Greenhill Community north of Florence. Above, from left, are barn owners Dee and Don Wade with trail organizer Regina Painter.

County Farmers Federation and its president Joe Dickerson. A farmer and county native, Dickerson said he was excited to see the focus on agritourism, rural living and preserving history. “It’s great to have something that’s a drive-by tourist attraction and gets folks out into the countryside,” said Dickerson. “These old barns have a lot of history and meaning to the families who own them and to the communities they are in.” Three farm families with historic barns in the county agreed to participate by selecting a quilt pattern with a special meaning to them. One family was Lauderdale County Farmers Federation Board Member Charlie Thompson and his wife Cynthia. Charlie said the barn on their farm was built around 1920 by Cynthia’s great-grandfather, Tom Mitchell. The quilt pattern on their barn features a camellia, Alabama’s state flower, and a Yellowhammer, the state bird. “Since the quilt piece went up on the barn, we have had so many June 2016

people ride by here, it’s been unbelievable,” Charlie said. “I think this is a good idea. Any time we get people traveling to the country, it helps them reconnect to agriculture and our state’s roots.” Similar projects, like the Gee’s Bend Quilt Mural Trail in Wilcox County, are popular tourist attractions in southwest Alabama. Painter said reports indicate there are over 7,000 organized quilt trails across the U.S. The local project would have been impossible, she said, without help from the Northwest Alabama Resource, Conservation and Development Council (RC&D), which provided a grant to jumpstart the project, and the Lauderdale County Farmers Federation, which helped her apply for the grant. Charlie Meeks, executive director of the Northwest Alabama RC&D Council, said his organization provided $1,500 to help with materials needed for the project. Naomi Skye, a University of North Alabama graduate art student, and other art students at the 11

school, painted the quilt patterns on 4-by-8-foot wooden sheets. The wood was pieced together by students from Allen Thornton Career Technical Center, framed and hung on the barns. “None of this would have been possible without these groups getting involved,” Painter said. “It’s really neat to bring together so many resources to make this happen.” The three barn quilts in Lauderdale County are at Balch Farm on Lauderdale County Road 431 in Killen, Thompson’s Farm on Lauderdale County Road 48 in Lexington and the Wade Farm in the Greenhill Community on Lauderdale County Road 25. Painter said she expects the tour stops to increase, based on interest the barns have generated. “We’re getting a lot of calls from people wanting to be a part of this, which is great,” she said. We want to be able to showcase the heritage and the farms of the region.” For more information, visit Alabama Barn Quilts on FaceBook or contact Painter at n w w w. A l f a F a r m e r s . o r g

Port City To Host 44th Annual Commodity Producers Conference By Debra Davis


he state’s port city will attract nearly 800 farmers from around the state who are expected to attend the Alabama Farmers Federation’s 44th annual Commodity Producers Conference in Mobile July 28-31. Registration deadline is June 14. In addition to tours and entertainment, attendees will meet leaders from Alabama’s three land-grant universities and Extension system. “We’re going to have a town hall-style meeting this year with the deans of forestry and agriculture at Auburn University, Tuskegee University and Alabama A&M University, and Extension system leaders with Federation President Jimmy Parnell moderating,” said Brian Hardin, the Federation’s Governmental and Agricultural Programs Department director. “We hope the session will be an informal exchange of ideas and create an opportunity for members to share ways that the universities and Extension can better serve the needs of agriculture and forestry in the state.” The three-day conference, headquartered at the Mobile Convention Center, begins Thursday evening with a welcome banquet and remarks from U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Mobile.

Blue Tour

The Blue Tour features a visit to Middleton Farms, a working dairy and popular agritourism farm; the Theodore Industrial Port, which covers 400 acres and has national and international shipping vessels; and the Stokley Nursery, a family-owned business in Semmes with over 10 acres of azaleas, shrubs, ferns and other woody ornamentals.

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Green Tour

A boat tour down the Mobile and Alabama Rivers is part of the Green Tour, which features a look at unique Forever Wild lands and other forested wetland sites. The tour ends at the 5 Rivers Delta Resource Center. The excursion also includes drone demonstrations in forestry and the latest technology used to help eradicate wild hogs.

Farm tours and demonstrations are a popular part of the Federation’s annual Commodity Producers Conference. Federation members saw a rainwater runoff demonstration at the E.V. Smith Research Center in Shorter during last year’s tour.

Friday features tours that focus on row crops, cattle, forestry, wetlands, horticulture, nurseries and nautical history. Saturday will be filled with educational seminars by some of the region’s leading experts on farm policy issues, technology and applied research. Preliminary competitions for the Young Farmers Discussion Meet will be held, and winners will be named in the Excellence in Agriculture and Outstanding Young Farm Family contests. During the Women’s Leadership Division luncheon, winners of the

Yellow Tour

Visits to hay, beef, equine and sheep farms all are part of the Yellow Tour. Participants will learn about a therapeutic riding facility; hair sheep suited for the South’s climate; advanced cattle reproductive techniques; and marketing conventional hay and baleage in the Gulf Coast region.

Red Tour

Red Tour participants will learn about successful horticulture and nurseries in the Mobile area. It includes stops at produce farms and markets, nurseries known for premium trees; and a visit to the Ornamental Horticulture Research Center, where applied research is boosting the container nursery industry.


tablescapes, quilts and table runners contests will be announced. Saturday evening, Alabama’s Outstanding Young Farm Family will be announced, and four finalists in the Discussion Meet contest will be named. Winners also will be announced in the Excellence in Agriculture contest. Grammy Award-winning singer Jason Crabb will close out the conference. For more conference information, including registration and tours, visit n

Orange Tour

Row crops, beef cattle and agritourism, plus a stop at the Alabama State Port Authority, are highlights of the Orange Tour. Participants will see crops growing in the fields and learn how farmers use the latest technology to improve yields and protect their crops from wild hogs.

Purple Tour

An excursion featuring history and hope will greet Purple Tour participants. Stops at the GulfQuest National Maritime Museum and the USS Alabama at Battleship Park will focus on Alabama’s nautical heritage. A tour of the Ronald McDonald House in Mobile, a charity supported by the Federation Women’s Leadership Committee, explains how the house helps families of children being treated at area hospitals. June 2016

bama’s Best Restaurant Catfish Challenge Nominate your favorite restaurant at Whether it’s blackened, baked, sautéed or deep-fried, Alabama catfish lovers have the chance to brag about their favorite restaurant that serves the Southern specialty. Alabama Catfish Producers, a division of the Alabama Farmers Federation, is sponsoring the Catfish Restaurant Challenge to recognize delicious catfish dishes. The contest highlights and rewards Alabama restaurants known for serving tasty and nutritious U.S. farm-raised catfish. We’re asking customers to nominate their favorite restaurant and to tell us why it’s the best in Alabama. Four finalists will be chosen for the official Catfish Restaurant Challenge. A team of judges, including an Alabama catfish farmer, will visit the finalists and present each restaurant owner a plaque. The winner of Alabama’s Best Catfish Restaurant will be announced in August, which is National Catfish Month. The winning restaurant will receive a trophy, a cash prize and will be featured in Neighbors magazine. The person nominating the winning restaurant also will receive prizes from the Alabama Catfish Producers.

Visit for a complete list of rules and the nomination form. Deadline for your favorite restaurant nomination is July 7, 2016


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Wright Dairy Turns To Cheese And Churns Up New Business By A.J. Watson

there’s a lot of chemistry going on in there.” Time, temperature, cultures and acidity affect the taste, type and quality of cheese. Wright keeps a detailed logbook because a slight change in conditions could result in an especially flavorful product. “Some days things happen — something in the process of making that cheese goes awry — and you do it differently. Six months later, you might try the cheese and say, ‘Wow! That’s better than usual.’ So a lot of cheeses have been made by mistake; any cheesemaker will tell you that.” The Wrights produce nine kinds of cheese, including classic cheddar, Gouda and pepper cheeses, as well as specialties like Italian truffle cheese and a beer cheese. Their cheeses and butter are sold at farmers markets near the Wrights’ Alexandria farm. David and wife Leianne have plans to provide cheese and butter to area restaurants, too. The dairy industry in Alabama is evolving, and Wright is optimistic. “My son is interested in making cheese, so when he gets out of college, he may decide to come on board. But if he doesn’t, that’s fine, too. We don’t have to do this forever. I’ve always heard that old dairymen never die, they just clabbor.” n


conomic pressures have caused many Alabama dairy farms to dry up, but Wright Dairy in Calhoun County continues to reinvent itself to meet consumer demand. Originally a commercial dairy, David Wright transformed the farm into a agritourism destination in the 2000s by selling ice cream and non-homogenized milk from his on-farm store. Today, the dairy once known as the place “where the cream still rises to the top” is carving out a slice of the cheese market. “After 16 years of running a store, we thought we might rather do something a little different, and seasonal dairying appealed to me,” Wright said. “We switched to making cheese and butter four years ago.” Guy Hall of the Alabama Farmers Federation said low commodity prices, coupled with increased labor and regulatory costs, are causing farmers to explore niche markets for artisan farm products. “Many farms, particularly dairy farms, have to work smarter to stay in business,” said Hall, the Federation’s Dairy, Pork and Poultry Divisions director. “Farmers are incredibly resourceful, and David exemplifies that with his cheese-making operation.” Wright admits switching from milk to cheese wasn’t easy. “Bottling milk is about 95 percent mechanical and 5 percent science,” he said. “Cheese is a different story. It’s about 5 percent mechanical, and the rest of it is strictly science because

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David Wright makes butter and nine kinds of cheese on his farm in Calhoun County.


June 2016

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Seed Standards Bill, CAFO Funding Highlight Legislative Session


assage of bills establishing statewide seed standards and clarifying police jurisdictions, along with increased funding for Concentrated Animal Feed Operation (CAFO) permits, highlighted the 2016 regular session of the Alabama Legislature. Gov. Robert Bentley signed SB 58 into law, which affirms the authority of the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries to regulate seeds. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Tom Whatley, R-Auburn, and the companion was carried by Rep. David Sessions, R-Grand Bay. Legislation establishing consistent police jurisdictions of municipalities passed in the final hours of the legislative session. SB 218, sponsored by Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, establishes a three-mile police jurisdiction beyond corporate limits for municipalities with populations of 6,000 or more and 1.5 miles for towns with fewer residents. The bill builds on legislation passed last year which limits the ability of local governments to tax and regulate property outside corporate limits. Meanwhile, the Legislature voted to override Bentley’s veto of the General Fund budget. It includes

$400,000 to offset CAFO registration fees — a $120,000 increase from the current budget. The $6.3 billion Education Trust Fund budget included funding for vocational education, health and agricultural programs that benefit rural Alabama. The Career Tech Initiative received an increase of $116,000 from the 2016 budget to $4.073 million. The Rural Health Program at University Alabama Huntsville received an additional $175,000. Agencies and programs that were level funded included other rural health programs, career technology operations, the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, Alabama Agricultural Land Grant Alliance and Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station. Despite lengthy debate, a bill to raise gasoline and diesel tax for county roads failed to gain enough support for a vote. Other high-profile bills that never came up for a final vote included Bentley’s $800 million prison construction bill; a plan to use BP oil spill settlement money to repay debt, increase Medicaid spending and build roads; and several lottery bills. n

Amy Stephens Talladega County Young Farmers Chair Amy Stephens doesn’t spend as much time as she’d like on the farm, but her work as an ag teacher is yielding a crop far more valuable than the produce from her garden. “It’s a good day when I have a student get as excited as I do about agriculture or something we are doing,” said Stephens, who chairs the Talladega County Young Farmers Committee. “I am most proud of former students who are now in college pursuing agriculture degrees.” Stephens and husband Aaron have chickens, horses and plan to buy cows soon. Meanwhile, the Auburn University graduate says Young Farmers and teaching allow her to confront the biggest challenge facing agriculture. “Bridging the gap between farmers and consumers is our most important job,” she said. The Stephenses have two children, Riley Evelyn, 6, and Jaxon Stone, 1. They are members of Eastaboga Baptist Church.

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Ruling The Roost Fans Flock To Backyard Birds By Marlee Moore


n the pecking order of Alabama agricultural industries, poultry production rules the roost. And today, non-farming families nationwide are also flocking to poultry, albeit in their backyards. These are families like Martha and Riley Roby, who never planned on living in the country, much less housing six hens and a bantam rooster in their backyard. But when Alabama’s District 2 congressman and her family moved to south Montgomery County three years

U.S. Rep. Martha Roby, R-Montgomery, along with husband, Riley, and their children, Margaret and George, enjoy raising a backyard flock on their south Montgomery County farm. George, 7, enjoys feeding the chickens. w w w. A l f a F a r m e r s . o r g


June 2016

ago, they slipped on boots and began gardening with dreams of starting their own backyard flock. “Living where we do, we really don’t have an excuse not to have chickens,” said Martha, mom to Margaret, 11, and George, 7. Her largely agricultural district includes a heavy dose of poultry farmers. After months of research, Riley found the perfect ready-to-assemble coop last fall, and the Robys were backyard farming by October. With the rise of Alabama Cooperative Extension System programs like Chick Chain and the local food movement, consumers are taking an interest in food production, and chickens are an economical educational opportunity for families. “When you grow your own food, there’s a sense of pride in that,” said Martha, whose family routinely eats eggs their hens provide – preferably scrambled. But she doesn’t just want her kids to appreciate a farm-fresh egg. June 2016

Dwight Patrick of the Marley Mill Community in Dale County has had chickens all his life. He’s sentimental about the old coop on his farm because it was his grandmother’s.

She wants them to understand the dedication and labor going into food production. “As a country, we have to be able to feed ourselves and the world,” said Martha, who served three years on the U.S. House Agriculture Committee. “Our children need to realize that farming is someone’s livelihood and that farmers provide food for billions of people.” The Roby children are learning life lessons and earning their keep, too, with George refilling hay for laying boxes and Margaret checking feed and water for their chickens — Chick-fil-A, Zaxby’s, Queen Frances, French Fry, Wishbone and Nugget. “I like taking care of the chick21

ens,” said George. “But I don’t like getting the chickens back in the coop. That’s hard.” In south Marengo County, JoAnn and Mack Pope said chickens are the gift that keep on giving. “For years, all I wanted for Christmas was chickens,” said JoAnn, 66, whose dream came true in 2011. Growing up, both the Popes’ grandparents had chickens, and when it came time for Mack, 68, to retire, he bit the bullet, built a coop and ordered pullets online. “I just wanted chickens for the eggs,” said JoAnn,” and I thought I would enjoy watching them.” The Popes split responsibilities around their small farm. Mack tends the cows and refreshes the chickens’ water. They both feed “the girls” and gather eggs. “When he was calling his cows w w w. A l f a F a r m e r s . o r g

Before You Start:

• Double check city ordinances and homeowners’ association rules. • Ask a friend, neighbor, farmer or check Google for the merits of raising chickens. • Stock up on supplies. You’ll need a brooder for chicks and larger coop for full-grown birds, not to mention varying feed types for different age birds. • Share responsibilities with family members. • Develop a rapport with the local feed store staff. They’ll be your best friends within a few weeks. • Think ahead 18-20 weeks. You’ll enjoy the bounty of your (and the chickens’) labor. ‘the girls,’ I started calling my chickens ‘the girls,’ even though we have two roosters,” said JoAnn. They also have six chicks hatched on-farm and 15 hens. Friends and family partake in the eggs; great-nieces and great-nephews have a special egg-gathering basket; and the Popes have convinced fellow retirees to invest in backyard farming, too. “It’s worth having the chickens just because of the great pleasure our whole family gets,” JoAnn said. For Dale County sheep farmer Dwight Patrick, raising backyard birds is in his blood. “My grandparents always had w w w. A l f a F a r m e r s . o r g

Marengo County’s Mack and JoAnn Pope said chickens are the gift that keeps on giving.

chickens, and I’ve always had chickens,” said Patrick, 67, who keeps six laying hens and two roosters on land his family has tended for over 100 years. It’s a family tradition Patrick hopes to pass along. Several of his grandchildren have incubators they’re using to hatch the next generation of backyard biddies, he said. The Alabama Farmers Federation’s Guy Hall said raising yard birds is an excellent educational opportunity for families to learn proper animal care, nutrition, disease prevention and other good practices. “Many backyard and commercial poultry producers understand the importance of following good biosecurity practices to protect their flocks from diseases,” said Hall, the Federation’s Poultry Division director. Cleaning and disinfecting equipment, wearing sanitized boots, limiting farm visitors, avoiding contact with migratory water fowl and knowing warning signs of avian diseases are a few suggested bios22

ecurity practices for safe-guarding commercial and backyard flocks. For Roby, she said her farmer friends were invaluable. “If it weren’t for my farmer friends educating me, it never would have crossed my mind that my backyard birds could destroy a farmer’s entire flock,” said Roby, who doesn’t wear her muck boots to the local feed and seed store for fear of cross-contamination. Hall recommends would-be backyard farmers check city ordinances for chicken-specific rules before constructing a lavish coop or ordering their first flock. Backyard birds may be trendy, but they also remind their owners of a simpler time of community, country life and homegrown happiness. And for the Robys, Popes and Patrick, there’s nothing quite like a slice of fresh-baked pound cake made with yard eggs. “I’m not a baker,” Martha said, “but I’d be more than happy to give these eggs to a neighbor so they can make us a pound cake.” n June 2016

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Summer Interns Begin Work At Alabama Farmers Federation By Rebecca Oliver


uburn University students Caleb Hicks and Rebecca Oliver have joined the Alabama Farmers Federation as summer interns. They began work May 9. Hicks and Oliver will further their education in the agricultural industry by gaining experience at the state’s largest agricultural organization. Oliver, a senior agricultural communications student, will work in the Public Relations and Communications Department where she will be writing for Neighbors magazine, copy editing, and taking photographs. “I feel honored to have this opportunity,” Oliver said. Oliver “As someone who grew up on a family farm, I know how important the work of farmers is, and I’m eager to expand my writing skills in this position.”

Oliver, a native of New Site, Alabama previously wrote for The Auburn Plainsman, the Alabama Cooperative Extension System and the Auburn University Office of Sustainability. She has been involved in Agriculture Future of America and served as a 2015 National Ag Day representative in Washington D.C. for the organization. Federation Public Relations and Communications Department Director Jeff Helms said Oliver’s writing experience and agricultural background prepared her for the Federation internship. “Rebecca’s farm background and previous work with Auburn’s student newspaper have prepared her to immediately contribute to Neighbors magazine and other Federation communications channels,” Helms said. “We look forward to helping her further develop her writing and public relations skills as she works to tell our farmers’ stories.” Hicks, an agricultural communications major, will be assisting

with promotions for the Federation’s Soybean & Wheat and Feed Grains Division. The Ramer native is a junior at Auburn University. He serves as an Ag Ambassador, chairs the Ag Council Public Relations Committee and is Secretary of Auburn Young Farmers. “I am excited Hicks about working for the Federation this summer,” Hicks said. “I know I’ll learn a lot and meet some fantastic people in the farming industry.” Soybean and Wheat & Feed Grains Divisions Director Carla Hornady, said Hicks will help raise awareness of crops funded by producer checkoff dollars. “Caleb brings communications expertise to our department that will allow us to develop creative ideas to promote soybeans and wheat, corn and other grains,” said Hornady. n

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Ag Professionals Selected For Statewide Ag Leadership Program By Jeff Helms

The program consists of six multi-day sessions including a Washington, D.C., advocacy experience and an out-of-state agricultural tour. The first session is June 28-July 1. “This class has incredible potential for serving the Federation in many areas for years to come,” Himburg said. “We look forward to seeing the relationships they will foster and watching them grow together. I have no


eventeen young agricultural professionals from across the state were recently selected for the Alabama Farmers Federation’s Agricultural Leaders For Alabama (A.L.F.A.) program. Federation Young Farmers Director Jennifer Himburg said the intensive two-year learning experience equips participants to be more engaged in agribusiness, public policy, farm organizations and their communities. “The A.L.F.A. program focuses on personal development, political involvement, effective communication and understanding of the Alabama Farmers Federation,” Himburg said. “This is the fourth A.L.F.A class. Previous class members now serve as county presidents; county board members; and as leaders on the county, state and national levels.” Participants were chosen for the program based on a written application and interview. Criteria included communication skills, understanding of agricultural trends and issues, leadership skills and interest in service beyond participants’ own self interest.



Taber Ellis, agriculture specialist with Alfa Insurance

Lance Miller, row crop farmer and Alabama Farmers Federation State Young Farmers chairman




Amy Burgess, county Extension coordinator and 4-H agent

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Wendy Yeager, row crop farmer





Leah McElmoyl, estate planning attorney

Beth Hornsby, vegetable farmer

Tyler Sandlin, regional agronomy Extension agent

Stinson Ellis, assistant shelling plant manager at Priester’s Pecan Company





David Lee, cattle farmer

Samantha Carpenter, social media specialist Hunter McBrayer, urban regional with Alabama Farmers Cooperative Extension agent

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Cooper Holmes, Federation State Young Farmers Committee member June 2016

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Teaching Turf Through Golf Leads To Above-Par Learning By Mary Johnson


he grass is greener at Bryant Career Technical Center (BCTC) in Irvington, where students learn turf management on the school’s new driving range and putting green. In the 2014-2015 academic year, the school administration challenged agriscience teacher Bill Meredith to take a new approach with a turf management program. “I wondered what we could do because, if it was sod, that’s just growing grass. We needed something interesting every year for when we get a new batch of students,” said Meredith, a second-year teacher at BCTC. Meredith’s friend and professional golfer, Jimmy Green, designed a golf practice area, and BCTC students transformed an old pasture into a well-manicured driving range. Five FFA students helped by leveling the ground and installing sprinkler system pipe. Students planted Bermuda grass seed and sprigged the practice green. Meredith’s class maintains the area by mowing, fertilizing, spraying and taking soil samples. The program’s main goal is to prepare students for a career, whether it’s at a golf w w w. A l f a F a r m e r s . o r g

course or in general landscaping. “I had four seniors last year, and all four are employed in turf or landscape management,” Meredith said. “People want perfect yards, and high schools want perfect football, baseball and soccer fields.” Theodore High School (THS) senior Zachary Pounds has attended BCTC for two years. He said he’s confident he will use skills from turf management in his future career. “Before this, I didn’t know how to drive a tractor or change a blade on a tiller or bush hog; it’s unbelievable what I’ve learned,” said Pounds, who is his class FFA president. “I didn’t know what I wanted to

do with my life when I started my senior year, but coming out here I realized agriculture is just great.” Pounds now plans to earn an associate degree in horticulture at Faulkner State Community College. The golf practice area also has increased collaboration among BCTC, local businesses and other schools. Several farmers and small business owners contributed supplies and advice for the project. Driskell Turf Farm delivered 12 pallets of donated sod that students laid. BCTC annually hosts students from other area schools to introduce the program, and THS and Alma Bryant High School golf teams practice driving, pitching, chipping and putting there. While a nearby practice facility is nice, Meredith said his students prefer caring for the field to swinging clubs. “These are good kids who enjoy the outdoors and want to learn,” he said. “In this industry, there are people who just weed eat, and then there’s the ones who can tell you the exact name of a weed and what it takes to control it. The spectrum of jobs in this field is wide open. This program introduces students to all their options with turf management.” n

Bryant Technical Center FFA members and the Alma Bryant High School golf team taught local elementary school students turf management and golfing basics during a tour of the center earlier this year. 28

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Federation Hosts National Farm Safety Conference By Debra Davis


gricultural safety specialists from 20 states were in Alabama April 26-28 to attend workshops and tours aimed at saving farmers’ lives. The Alabama Farmers Federation, a member of the American Farm Bureau Federation, hosted the annual event for Farm Bureau safety coordinators. Brad Cox of Fayette, the Federation’s safety coordinator, organized the event. “Farming can be a dangerous occupation, and every year there are tragic stories about serious accidents and deaths that occur on farms,” said Cox, who also is the Federation’s Area 2 organization director. “The mission of the conference was to educate farmers and their families about the importance of slowing down and being safe in everything they do.” The conference included tours of Alabama row crop, livestock and agritourism farms, plus a tour of Auburn University. Workshops focused on youth safety programs, legislative issues and state volunteer initiatives along with discus-

sions on current safety issues and successful state programs. Safety specialists from Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation demonstrated the organization’s grain bin extraction tube that was filled with corn donated by Alabama Farmers Cooperative. The traveling exhibit showed how to prevent grain bin accidents and extract trapped victims. Alabama Farmers Federation President Jimmy Parnell said he’s

pleased Alabama hosted an event focused on improving the lives of farmers and their families. “Since most farmers are self employed, an injury can be devastating to them, not only physically, but financially,” Parnell said. “Regrettably, most accidents can be prevented. Our goal is to reinforce the value of putting safety first in whatever farmers do.” For photos of the meeting, visit the Federation’s Facebook or Flickr pages. n

Farm Bureau Safety experts from around the country recently participated in a grain bin extraction demonstration at the Alabama Farmers Federation home office in Montgomery.

June 2016


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Why Soybeans?

The United States is the top soybeanproducing country in the world. Soy is one of the few plants that provides a complete protein, containing all eight amino acids essential for good health. Soybeans grown in Alabama are primarily used for animal feed, but can be used in a variety of products including adhesives, ink, cosmetics and foam padding. More than 800 soy-based products have been developed with farmer checkoff dollars since 1990.

“Our checkoff has helped soybean farmers achieve higher yields, create and expand markets and ultimately drive profitability.” — Jessie Hobbs, Limestone County Soybean Farmer


Paid for by Alabama Soybean Producers Checkoff.

Richie Traylor President Randolph County As America celebrates June Dairy Month, Randolph County farmer Richie Traylor remains optimistic about his industry, despite a dwindling number of dairies in Alabama. “People are always going to drink milk, and there’ll always be demand for dairy products,” said Traylor, Randolph County Farmers Federation president and State Dairy Committee vice chairman. Traylor’s family has been in the dairy business since 1943. Today, he milks 195 cows and has four poultry houses plus a commercial beef herd. He and wife Michelle have two daughters, Shelby, 16, and Sarah, 14, who’ve grown up showing dairy cattle. “They’ve done the work themselves, and it’s taught them responsibility,” Traylor said. “It’s been a real blessing.” Traylor said he’s confident there will always be dairy farms, adding, “I don’t think anybody wants to pour orange juice on their cornflakes.”

June 2016


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By Lois Chaplin


elping bees is a hot topic as rural and urban folks look for ways to support a healthy bee population, especially native bees. These bees pollinate home gardens, fruit trees and flowers, which provide vegetables, fruits and seeds. Here are a few simple ways to provide bees food and habitat. The majority of native bees nest in the ground or in hollow stems. Creating a nesting habitat is surprisingly simple. Often it means doing nothing other than leaving things alone. For example, an unmanicured area where the lawn meets woods, creek, drainage or other “wild” places with bare or leaf-covered ground provides nesting places. Bees need a water source, too. It could be just a simple spot that puddles after a rain or watering. It’s easy to include plants that bloom in each season. Especially important are those that flower when bees are first active in early spring. Oaks, maples and willows

are big sources of nectar and pollen as bees emerge from their nests. Those are followed by native trees like redbud and fringetree. Blueberries are also an excellent early food for bees. Gardeners with shade can plant Lenten rose, a beautiful early flowering perennial whose blooms will be open when bees emerge. Hosta and cardinal flowers are two other perennials that bloom later in the shade. If you like an “all green” landscape, try to choose evergreens that produce flowers bees can use such as hollies, mahonia and rosemary. You don’t have to dig up a current garden to include these; just plant in areas that already exist or dig up some grass to make a bed larger. Some easy flowering plants to put into beds include crocus, daylily, catmint, salvia, lantana, coneflower and sedum. When shopping, avoid double-flowered hybrids. The extra petals make it hard for bees to reach the nectar and pollen. Most flat, ray flowers such as zinnias and

sunflowers are good (but not the sunflowers without pollen that are grown for cutting.) Unfortunately, some popular flowers like geraniums, impatiens and petunias are not attractive to bees. Avoid spraying excess insecticides on plants that bees visit for pollen and nectar, especially in the morning when bees are most active. Avoid dusts; bees pick those up easily on their hairy bodies. Read labels carefully, and avoid using anything toxic to bees. Be careful about organic products such as soaps, and spray them only when bees are not active. Just because a pesticide is labeled organic doesn’t mean it won’t kill bees if used improperly. When available, select a product targeted toward a specific insect, the best known of which are caterpillar killers and mosquito dunks, which don’t affect other species of insects. Harvey Cotten, former Huntsville Botanic Garden director, points out that recent heightened concerns about Zika virus implores us to approach mosquito control with bees in mind. Any spraying or fogging of the landscape should be done in the evening or at night, never during the day when bees are active. Be aware of this when using a mosquito-control service. Also, keep abreast of what products are used to be sure they are as bee-friendly as possible. To learn more about encouraging bees, start with Alabama Smart Yards bulletin ANR1359 by the Alabama Cooperative Extension System and There are many resources online from universities and organizations dedicated to bees and other pollinators. n Lois Chaplin is an accomplished gardener and author. Her work appears here courtesy of Alabama Farmers Cooperative.

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Stuffed Pork Tend

erloin with Chim

©2016 National Pork Board, Des Moines, IA USA. This message funded by America’s Pork Producers and the Pork Checkoff.


It’s time for grilling greatness! Get your tongs on our recipes and get set for a delicious summer.

By Jill Clair Gentry


Southwestern-Spiced Pork Tenderloin Honorable Mention w w w. A l f a F a r m e r s . o r g

s food culture in America becomes more sophisticated, pork’s place at the dinner table has been elevated. As evident by the winners of the Alabama Pork Producers’ annual recipe contest, “The Other White Meat” can be dressed up or down and possesses the rare quality of being packed with flavor while simultaneously pairing well with just about anything. Those facts often make pork the meat of choice for the creative cook, like this year’s contest winner, 17-year-old Katelyn Williams. She said cooking pork is a family tradition. “My mom cooks pork a lot, and I’ve grown up watching her, so when the opportunity to submit a recipe for the Pork Recipe Contest came up, I jumped on it,” she said. 36

In addition to her other studies at Citronelle High School in Mobile County, Williams said she enjoys her home economics class, where she learned about the contest and pork cooking techniques. Her winning recipe shows off pork’s compatibility with fruit. In addition to her recipe, which features pork and peaches, try pairing bacon with cheese and grilled apples or bacon with apple butter on a sandwich to create a gourmet grilled cheese. The honorable mention recipe by Linda Loveless shows off pork’s ability to hold its own when paired with strong spices. Bold rubs and spicy sauces enhance pork’s flavor, making it a perfect choice for the grill or smoker. For more delicious pork recipes, visit

June 2016

Wi nn ing

Winner Katelyn Williams, Mobile County PECAN-COATED PORK TENDERLOINS WITH SPICY PEACH CHUTNEY 1 pork tenderloin, cut into 1/2-inch slices 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon black pepper 1 cup all-purpose flour 2 large eggs 2 tablespoons water 1 cup Panko bread crumbs 1 cup pecan pieces 1/2 cup vegetable oil Spicy Peach Chutney (see below) Spicy Peach Chutney: 1 tablespoon butter 1 tablespoon minced garlic 2 shallots, minced 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced 3 cups peaches, fresh or canned and drained, cut into small pieces 1/2 cup golden raisins 1/4 cup sugar 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar 1 tablespoon lemon juice 1 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon black pepper 1 teaspoon hot sauce

Heat oven to 300 F. Season each pork medallion with salt and pepper; set aside. Place flour in a shallow dish. In a separate shallow dish, combine eggs and water; beat with fork until well combined. Honorable Mention Linda Loveless, Calhoun County SOUTHWESTERN-SPICED PORK TENDERLOIN

In another shallow dish, combine breadcrumbs and pecans. Coat pork medallions in flour, shaking off excess. Dip floured medallions in egg mixture, allowing excess to drain. Coat medallions in breadcrumb mixture, shaking off excess. Place on baking sheet lined with foil or parchment paper. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute pork medallions on each side until golden brown. Drain on paper towels, and place on baking sheet lined with Honorable Mention Roger Scott, Henry County PORK TORTILLA ROLLS

1 tablespoon chili powder 1 tablespoon cumin 1 tablespoon smoked paprika 2 teaspoons cinnamon 2 teaspoons kosher salt 1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper 2 to 2 1/2 pounds pork tenderloin

1 tablespoon canola oil 1 pound thin boneless pork chops, cut into strips 1/3 cup teriyaki sauce 1 teaspoon onion powder Four 8-inch flour tortillas 2 cups shredded romaine lettuce 1/2 cup French-fried onions

Mix spices together in a small bowl and rub onto all sides of the meat. Refrigerate overnight. Place in a slow cooker on low heat and cook 4 hours. Transfer to a cutting board, and let rest about 10 minutes before slicing.

In a large skillet, heat oil and cook pork 5 minutes. Add teriyaki sauce and onion powder. Cook 3 minutes. Place 2/3 cup cooked pork in tortilla center. Top with lettuce and onions.

Re cip e!

foil or parchment paper. Bake 10-14 minutes, or until just cooked through. Serve immediately with Spicy Peach Chutney. To prepare chutney, melt butter in a medium saucepan. Add garlic, shallots and jalapeño; saute 2 to 3 minutes. Add peaches and raisins; saute 2 to 3 minutes. Add sugar and vinegar, stirring well. Add lemon juice, salt, pepper and hot sauce. Simmer 10 to 15 minutes on low heat until peaches and raisins become soft. Honorable Mention Alta Hughes, Jackson County SLOW COOKER PORK ROAST 1 pork roast 1 cup cola soft drink 1 package brown gravy mix 3 to 4 potatoes 1 cup baby carrots 1 onion, quartered

Place roast in slow cooker. Add cola and gravy mix. Cook on high for 8 hours. In the last hour, add potatoes, carrots and onion.

Find these recipes in the “Local Flavor” section of and save them to a virtual recipe box called “My Recipe Box.” June 2016


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