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Dear Santa, I’ve been extra good. Savor the flavor of peanuts this Christmas. For delicious peanut recipes visit www.ALPeanuts.com

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Merry Christmas


VOLUME 41,

NUMBER 12

A Membership Publication of the Alabama Farmers Federation

December 2016

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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 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

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In This Issue 12

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 www.AlfaFarmers.org. Periodicals postage paid at Montgomery, Alabama, and additional mailing offices. Printed in the U.S.A.

Farm Fresh Christmas

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Service To Agriculture

10 Citrus In Central Alabama 12 Disastrous Drought 14 Beads of Courage 18 Playing Polo At 85

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

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MEMBERSHIP AND SUBSCRIPTION CHANGES: , 800-392-5705, Option 4 or BWatkins@alfafarmers.org

27 Farmers Foundation Report 36 Country Kitchen

ADVERTISING REPRESENTATIVE: Ben Shurett, (256) 997-7922 BenShurett.alfafarmers@gmail.com

On The Cover

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. www.AlfaFarmers.org

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Fish River Trees’ owner Steve Mannhard trims a tree on his Baldwin County farm near Fairhope. Photo by Marlee Moore

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John Smith mber: 071910 Membership Nu rs Federation Alabama Farme /16 Void After: 12/21

MEMBER IDENT

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A member of American Farm Bureau Federation December 2016

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E D E R AT I O FA R M E R S F

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Steve and Sandra Mannhard of Baldwin County usher thousands of families into the Christmas spirit each year at Fish River Trees, located near Fairhope. Steve, a former English teacher, and Sandra, a Department of Defense retiree, open the farm to the public from Black Friday to Dec. 23.

Christmas Memories Fish River Trees Helps

Cultivate Holiday Traditions By Marlee Moore

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he tingly taste of peppermint. The sharp scent of fresh pine. The joyous squeals of festively outfitted children playing outdoors. The relief as the last homemade ornament finds its home on the tree. These are the memories and traditions Steve and Sandra Mannhard cultivate each winter as thousands of families descend on Fish River Trees, their Baldwin County Christmas tree farm.

“The farm is all about children and families,” said Steve, a St. Louis native and English-teacherturned-Christmas-tree-farmer. “You watch them run up and down rows of trees, and something magical happens.” Situated on former swampland near the Fish River, the 40-acre Summerdale farm began in 1981 when Steve planted 7,000 Virginia pine seedlings in soybean stubble. Auburn University was promoting Christmas tree farming as an alternative land use, and Steve took a leap of faith into agriculture.

“Somewhere in my heart, there was always a love for farming,” said the 68 year old. Today, the Mannhards sell almost 5,000 trees a year, mostly choose-and-cut trees like Leyland cypress. They also offer a dual-purpose product — container-grown trees that can be planted after presents are opened and ornaments are packed away. Living Christmas trees, as the Mannhards call them, can be purchased for landscaping year round from the farm's evergreen nursery. The farm's trees range from table toppers to the 15-foot wonder that welcomed visitors to Alfa Insurance and Alabama Farmers Federation's Montgomery home office last year. The Mannhards also sell wreaths, offer train and pony rides, host Santa Claus and feature a manger scene. Their farm has a new venture opening soon – Fish River Cabins, available for rent in 2017. “The very first day I came here, I fell in love with the place,” said Sandra, 58, who met Steve in the U.S. Army Reserve. It begins to look a lot like Christmas at Fish River Trees the weeks before Thanksgiving when the Mannhards “flip the farm,” as Sandra says, into a store. They open

For a list of Choose And Cut Christmas Tree Farms visit SouthernChristmastrees.org/AL-Farms.html w w w. A l f a F a r m e r s . o r g

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December 2016


for holiday business the day after Thanksgiving, and 70 percent of their product is sold by Dec. 1. “Our customers want that quality family time they remember from their childhood,” said Sandra. The Federation's Mac Higginbotham said local Christmas tree farms are a form of agritourism, where families look to farms for entertainment and fun. "Alabama is home to about a dozen Christmas tree farms, and they enjoy creating holiday memories for families," said Higginbotham, the Federation's Greenhouse, Nursery & Sod Division director. “Plus, Christmas trees grown in Alabama are fresher and last longer than those shipped from states like Michigan and North Carolina.” All but the pre-cut Fraser fir trees are grown on-site, making Fish River Trees’ prices comparable to wholesale rates, Steve said. Choose-and-cut trees include Virginia pine; Leyland, Carolina sapphire, blue ice and Murray cypress; and green giant arborvitae. Prices vary depending on tree size and variety. Families may choose, cut and carry home trees until Dec. 23, when the Mannhards close shop and deck the halls with their family. “The holiday isn’t something you want to get away from,” Steve said. “Families are in the Christmas spirit when they come here, and it’s contagious.” For more information, find Fish River Trees on Facebook or visit FishRiverTrees.com. n December 2016

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Evans Receives Federation's Service To Agriculture Award By Debra Davis

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o measure the achievements of retired Alabama Cooperative Extension System’s (ACES) Dennis Evans, look no further than the graduates of a program he developed for agricultural leaders. Evans helped initiate the Alabama Agriculture and Forestry Leadership Development Program (Leaders) in 1983, and its 220 graduates are among the Southeast’s top agricultural leaders. This legacy earned Evans the Alabama Farmers Federation’s highest honor — the Service To Agriculture Award — which he’ll receive at the organization’s 95th annual meeting in Montgomery Dec. 4-5. “The Leaders Program was the true love of my professional life,” Evans said. “I wouldn’t take anything for the experiences of working with the outstanding participants and partners the program had through the years.” Program graduates include Federation President Jimmy Parnell and Organization Department Director Mike Tidwell plus several current and former staff members, county Federation leaders and

Dennis Evans stands outside Duncan Hall on the campus of Auburn University where he helped initiate the Alabama Agriculture and Forestry Leadership Development Program in 1984.

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Dennis Evans and his wife Carol outside their home in Auburn.

One of 13 children, Dennis Evans grew up on a dairy and beef cattle farm in Louisiana.

state board members. “On a personal level, the Leaders Program changed my life,” Parnell said. “It opened doors that I doubt would have opened otherwise. I graduated from the program knowing I could make a difference in Alabama. It helped me understand how actions at the state, national and international levels affect Alabama farmers. The relationships I formed with my classw w w. A l f a F a r m e r s . o r g

mates and others in the agricultural community continue to help me and our organization. "Dennis’ leadership has served as a model for development of the Federation's A.L.F.A. Leaders and similar programs among commodity groups," Parnell added. "It was the most impactful Extension program in the past 20 years.” Tidwell said the two-year program improved his communication skills and taught him about government structure and the value of relationships. 8

“It’s hard to put into words what the program did for me,” Tidwell said. “We took national and international study tours, which gave me a better perspective of agriculture globally and enhanced my appreciation of different countries and cultures.” Evans' agricultural education began as one of 13 children raised on a dairy and beef cattle farm in Louisiana. He received a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Northwestern State University, a master’s in the same field from Louisiana State University (LSU), a doctorate of education in Extension and international education from LSU, and an MBA from Auburn University at Montgomery. His professional career began as a graduate assistant at LSU. He worked as a research associate and project coordinator for the Louisiana Capital Area Health Planning Council in Baton Rouge before joining the Georgia Cooperative Extension staff in 1975. He moved to ACES in 1977. Evans held several jobs over nearly 42 years with Extension, but he said the role of leadership specialist gave him the most satisfaction. Being directly associated with the Leaders Program for its 23 years earned him the Outstanding Director Award in 2006 from the International Association of Programs for Agricultural Leadership. Reflecting on numerous honors and awards, including the Service To Agriculture Award, Evans remains gracious. “For a kid from a dairy farm beside a muddy bayou in Louisiana, I think it’s been a good ride,” he said. “I am humbled by what my work life has given me.” The parents of three children, Dennis and his wife Carol live in Auburn. They have three grandchildren and expect a fourth grandchild in early 2017. n December 2016


Coosa County Citrus

Neighbors Builds Lifetime Of Success On The Farm

By Mary Johnson

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acationers headed for a weekend of fun on the water often stop at John Neighbors’ roadside stand to stock up on fresh citrus fruit. But Neighbors Farm isn’t anywhere near the Gulf Coast, where people expect to find satsuma and lemon trees. It’s in Coosa County off Alabama Highway 259, just 2 miles from Lake Martin. “On Friday afternoons, there’s all kinds of traffic on this road,” Neighbors said with a smile. “They might drive past, but if they see my truck, they turn around and come back. They usually want to do a little sampling. I always oblige because if they sample something, they’re hooked.” The farm produces fruit almost year-round with peaches in late spring, blueberries in summer, persimmons and apples in early fall, and satsumas and lemons as winter approaches. “We have U-Pick blueberries, and there’s nothing more enjoyable to this old man than to see children

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picking the prettiest blueberries out there and cramming them in their mouths,” he said. The 88-year-old lives in Tallapoosa County and works land that’s been in his family almost 100 years. Neighbors said it was a twomule farm when he grew up there, but he knew he wanted to change things. He decided on fruit and cit-

John Neighbors picks an immature lemon from his trees in Coosa County. After a few days in the cooler, the fruit will turn yellow.

rus trees after a trip to the Chilton Research and Extension Center in Thorsby. Most citrus trees are suited for warm, subtropical climates of Florida, Texas, California and south Alabama. To protect his trees from frost, which happens regularly during Coosa County winters, Neighbors created a high tunnel system around the satsuma and lemon trees. Along with transforming the family farm, Neighbors has a strong history of serving the Alabama Farmers Federation. He was District 7 director from 2001 to 2006 and is finishing nine years of service on the State Horticulture Committee. “I don’t know of a better organization other than my church that I enjoy participating in,” Neighbors said. While farming wasn’t always his When customers see John Neighbors' truck with his familiar CITRUS ag tag, they know he's open for business.

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December 2016


profession — Neighbors is a retired rural letter carrier — it’s always been his passion, and is one he hopes to pass on to the next generation. His son, Al, and daughter-inlaw Jan help out at the farm. “My dad’s done a lot down here with citrus, and I’m just proud to be a part of it,” Al said. The father-son team enjoys farm work, but they disagree on their favorite fruit. Neighbors prefers satsumas, while Al goes for lemons. “I’ll peel and eat a lemon the way others eat an orange,” Al said. “Pretty much all the citrus I get is from the farm; we don’t buy much from the grocery store.” Produce grown at Neighbors Farm is sold (or sampled) at the roadside stand. And as long as he’s able to get out to the farm in his white truck with the CITRUS ag tag, Neighbors said he hopes passing drivers will stop by for a visit and taste test. “There’s nothing more relaxing than working among the trees,” Neighbors said. “And when it furnishes you with a good, sweet piece of fruit, you just ask ‘Oh, Lord. December 2016

How did you do it?’ And I always give credit to the Lord, because he’s the one that really did it.” n

A high-tunnel system protects satsumas and lemons from frost on Neighbors' Coosa County farm near Lake Martin.

Ledbetter Joins Federation Destinations Staff

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he Alabama Farmers Federation welcomed Robyn Ledbetter to its in-house meeting and event-planning department Oct. 17. Ledbetter, 24, joins the staff as a meeting planner. A Montgomery native, Ledbetter previously worked five and a half years in property management with Foshee Management Co., overseeing Montgomery’s downtown loft portfolio. “I was drawn to Alfa because the company has always had such a great reputation,” Ledbetter said. “I’m looking forward to meeting new people, learning new tasks and traveling to new places.” As a Destinations Department meeting planner, Ledbetter will plan and manage events, meet11

ings and travel for the Alabama Farmers Federation and Alfa Insurance. Federation Destinations Director Shane Watkins said Ledbetter Ledbetter’s skill set benefits his department and the Alfa Companies. “We are very excited to have Robyn onboard,” Watkins said. “I’m confident her energetic spirit and organizational skills will serve our members and employees well.” Ledbetter attends Church of the Highlands in Montgomery, where she serves with the prison ministry. She lives in Prattville. n

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By Debra Davis

Drought, low humidity and tinderbox-like forests triggered 1,421 wildfires from Oct. 1-Nov. 7, scorching rought that began in northeast Alabama this sum- 15,409 acres in Alabama. That led Alabama Forestry mer has lingered through fall and spread across Commission officials to issue a statewide no-burn the state, causing concern for farmers harvesting order. Last year for the same period, 232 wildfires crops and those trying to find burned 1,846 acres in Alabama. Alabama's Drought Map Nov. 10, 2016 forage for livestock. The USDA drought declaration Covering Alabama and parts brought some disaster assistance for of Tennessee, Mississippi and the farmers. In addition to low-interest rate Carolinas, the drought and unusuemergency loans, farmers may qualify for ally high temperatures left lakes, other FSA programs including the Emerrivers and ponds at historical low gency Conservation Program; Livestock levels. As of early November, Forage Disaster Program; Livestock the U.S. Department of AgriculIndemnity Program; Emergency Assisture (USDA) declared 41 Alatance for Livestock, Honeybees and bama counties primary drought Farm-Raised Fish Program; and the disaster areas. Eleven contiguous Tree Assistance Program. counties also are designated Additionally, several state orgadisaster areas. nizations created informational “We normally wean our websites to help farmers cope with calves in late June or early July drought. and hold them to let them gain The Alabama Department weight,” said Marshall County of Agriculture and Industries farmer Mike Carnes, who launched a hay listing web page raises beef cattle and poultry. at agi.alabama.gov/s/haylistings. “When we saw the drought Farmers with hay to sell may add getting worse, we sold calves an entry to the Alabama Hay Listearly at lighter weights, and ing page, and farmers needing hay prices were down, too.” can search for listings near their In a year when hay producareas. tion was already low, Carnes The Alabama Cooperative said he was forced to start Extension System created a webfeeding hay early and sold site at AlabamaDrought.com with some of his mature cows. To resources for dealing with drought, compound a bad situation, he’s in addition to holding Livestock been unable to plant cool-seaDrought Meetings last month. son grazing that normally supplements The Alabama Cattlemen’s his winter feed supply. Association drought page is Lack of precipitation dried ponds, forcing BamaBeef.org/Drought. That page farmers to find alternative water sources for includes meeting dates for farmers cattle. Cotton, peanuts and other row crops and alternative feed options. had lower yields in drought areas, especially on Alabama Power Co. also non-irrigated land. The dry weather also dipped launched a website with enerinto Alabama’s nursery industry profits, which gy-saving options for farmers, saw a drop in fall sales because of water-use including irrigation information, restrictions in many metropolitan areas. at tinyurl.com/AlabamaPower. n

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Beads Of Courage

Planting Hope For Children

Sydney Newton designed ladybug Beads of Courage to give hope to children suffering life-threatening diseases. Newton said ladybugs encouraged her and brought her luck during treatment for rhabdomyosarcoma six years ago.

By Marlee Moore

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undreds of multi-colored and shaped beads swing from strands around Sydney Newton’s neck. Black beads. Glow-inthe-dark beads. Stars. Animals. Rapunzel. A purple heart. Similar to a soldier receiving a Purple Heart for combat wounds, 12-year-old Sydney received hers six years ago for battling cancer and completing treatment for rhabdomyosarcoma. “It gives me hope and shows me what I’ve done and that God helped me through my treatment,” said Sydney, whose inoperable tumor was discovered behind her left sinus cavity shortly after her fifth birthday. Sydney collects Beads of Courage, which are given to

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children suffering life-threatening illnesses. Beads represent milestones, like nights in the hospital, blood transfusions, radiation and hair loss. “These beads are for a child to help cope with what they’re going through,” said Jamie Newton, Sydney’s father. Beads of Courage give children hope and a tangible reminder of their accomplishments, while also lending faith to parents, like Jamie and wife Cynthia. The Tucson-based nonprofit has reached over 260 children’s hospitals worldwide since 2004. Three months into her 11-month treatment at Children’s Hospital of Alabama, nurses gave Sydney beads spelling her name. Those first beads sparked an idea for Jamie, a NASA emergency 14

services engineer in Huntsville. “I thought, ‘We have three to four shuttle missions left. Let’s get beads on the shuttle,’” Jamie said. Those space-themed beads flew into orbit and launched the Newtons’ Beads of Courage journey. Today, Sydney is a seventhgrader at Athens Bible School in Limestone County and inspires others to give hope through Beads of Courage. Shannon Norwood followed Sydney’s journey closely. Her daughter, Olivia, and Sydney are friends. “It’s every parent’s worst fear to sit in a hospital room with your child suffering,” Norwood said. “Beads of Courage is a great way to motivate kids and give them something to look forward to.” The Beads of Courage Carry A Bead program encourages bead sponsorships, where donors keep a bead and send one to a child in need, along with a comforting note. Norwood works at TriGreen Equipment, which looks to roll out a handcrafted John Deere green tractor bead in 2017. “I know there’s a little boy somewhere who is also battling cancer, loves tractors and loves the farm,” said Norwood, TriGreen’s integrated solutions manager. “We want to give these beads to farmers and have a bead stay on the farm and one go to the child. What kid doesn’t love playing in the dirt?” Norwood is motivating farmers like Jonathan Spruell to Carry A Bead, and for Spruell, the cause hits especially close to home. At December 2016


age 4, Spruell was diagnosed with T-cell lymphoma. While Beads of Courage wasn’t around then, the now 34-year-old Lawrence County farmer said any encouragement children receive is immeasurable. “To me, these beads show a milestone has been met,” Spruell said. “Each one brings back a memory and sense of victory.” While recovering as a child, Spruell spent many hours in a tractor. Spruell beat pediatric cancer at age 8, but was diagnosed with bladder and prostate cancer when he was 27 and 32, respectively. Even today, Spruell, whose disposition remains sunny, said he prefers recovering at the farm rather than home. Spruell said Beads of Courage provides vital benefits and encouragement to children as they heal, just as the goal of returning to the farm inspired him. “When it’s all said and done, these beads show an accomplishment,” he said. The Newtons raise funds for Beads of Courage through Sydney’s Coins for Courage each September,

December 2016

which is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. For each $5 donation, one bead lends hope to a child in need. “We want to immediately get beads into kids’ hands,” Jamie said. “We look for any opportunity to help children here in Alabama and across the country.” Sydney’s Coins for Courage has raised over $50,000 for Beads of Courage since 2011. For families whose children don’t see their strands of beads to completion, beads tangibly remind parents of their children. As for the Newtons, Sydney is healthy, happy and six years cancer-free. “To us, these beads show her victory over cancer,” Jamie said. To give to Sydney’s Coins for Courage, visit GoFundMe.com/ sydneyscfc2016. For more on Beads of Courage, visit beadsofcourage.org. n Right: Lawrence County farmer and cancer survivor Jonathan Spruell participates in the Carry-A-Bead program supporting children with life-threatening diseases. Below, 12-year-old cancer survivor Sydney Newton takes her first ride on a combine with Limestone County farmer Stan Menefee.

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Learning Life Skills, One Livestock Show At A Time By Marlee Moore

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or Alexis McMahan, showing livestock is second nature. After all, the 17-year-old has been in the ring since age 2. Through livestock shows, Cleburne County’s McMahan and youth around Alabama learn life skills, discipline, sportsmanship and how to stay calm, even when a title is at stake. The Alabama Farmers Federation and Alfa Insurance helped teach these lessons by sponsoring shows at the Alabama National Fair in Montgomery and the Greater Gulf State Fair in Mobile, both Oct. 28-Nov. 6, and the National Peanut Festival in Dothan Nov. 4-13. “You have to work at showing sheep,” said McMahan, who competed at the Alabama National Fair Youth Sheep Show Nov. 4. “You can’t just show up and expect to do well.” Showing livestock, whether goats, lambs, dairy cattle, beef cattle or hogs, is hands-on. The hours McMahan spent with her lamb paid off this year when she took home grand champion at the fair’s breeding sheep and market lamb shows. Her brother, Trace, also clinched the reserve grand champion title in the market lamb show. “It gets easier – and you get better – at showing as you grow up,” said McMahan, a Ranburne High School senior. First-year dairy showman Hammond Hearn is counting on that. The 9-year-old competed in the Alabama National Fair’s Montgomery Youth District Dairy Show Nov. 1. He said showing’s fun, and the competition will bring him back. “I worked with the cows and know they won’t hurt me,” said Hearn, a third-grader at Jackson Academy in Clarke County. “It was fun learning to care for and feed them.” Caring for animals through sweltering Alabama summers isn’t w w w. A l f a F a r m e r s . o r g

Above: Judge Dr. Brian Faris, talks to young competitors during the Alabama National Fair Youth Sheep Show. Right: rookie Hammond Hearn of Leroy competes in the Montgomery District Youth Dairy Show.

easy, but Hearn’s mother, Nancy, said her son enjoyed preparing the cattle for county, district and state shows. “If he had any doubts before the show, he knows he wants to participate again next year,” Nancy said. The Alabama Farmers Federation’s Nate Jaeger said skills learned in the arena translate into everyday life. “Livestock shows are the heritage of any fair and are the culmination of months and sometimes years of work by the exhibitors,” said Jaeger, the Federation’s Beef and Meat Goat & Sheep divisions director. “Students learn important character traits like responsibility, 16

dedication, service and cooperation by feeding, training and caring for livestock. It’s difficult to teach all those things on a ball field or in a classroom alone, which is why supporting these events is so important.” For more Alabama National Fair livestock show photos, including class winners, visit the Alabama Farmers Federation Flickr page. n December 2016


What’s On Your Plate?

Support healthy food from local farmers by purchasing a Farming Feeds Alabama license plate. The tag funds education and promotion efforts including Ag in the Classroom, Farm-City Week, agricultural scholarships and youth programs. Get the “Ag Tag” today at your local license plate issuing office.

December 2016

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World’s Oldest Polo Player Pursues Equestrian Passion At 85, Ed Robbins, top right, rides three days a week to keep in shape for his favorite sport. He holds the Guinness World Record as the oldest active polo player.

By Rebecca Oliver

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ach morning, 85-year-old Ed Robbins, the world’s oldest active polo player, continues a lifelong love of horses as he watches thoroughbreds complete workouts on his Lauderdale County polo and racehorse farm. “Polo is such a small sport, a lot of people call it a cult,” said Robbins, who lives in Rogersville. “There are only three to 4,000 polo players in the United States.” A polo match on May 21, 2016, when he was 84 years and 326 days old, cemented his Guinness World Record as the oldest active polo player. Robbins was raised around ponies and walking horses but didn’t become interested in polo until 1980 when he converted a cornfield and gravel pit into Peytona Farms, home of Blue Water Creek Polo Club and Centaur Racing. Alabama doesn’t have a “horse culture” like Kentucky, Robbins said, but that didn’t stop him from pursuing his polo passion. With four horseback players on a team, the objective is to move the polo ball downfield, hitting it w w w. A l f a F a r m e r s . o r g

through a goal to score. Polo fields are the largest field of any organized sport, measuring 300 yards by 160 yards. Games are generally six chukkers (or time periods) long. Each chukker lasts 7 1/2 minutes, and Blue Water Creek Polo occasionally hosts 4-chukker polo games. Robbins said he received his indoctrination into the polo world at a polo clinic in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where movie star Tommy Lee Jones shared a nugget of wisdom. “He told me, ‘If you don’t get out of my way, I’m going to run over you,’” Robbins remembered. “When I first started playing, my mallet felt like a log in my hand. I had to adjust pretty fast.” A member of the United States Polo Association since December 1981, Robbins is now an accomplished player and formed Blue Water Creek Polo Club to foster his hobby. The club’s 19 members practice Thursday afternoons on Robbins’ fields and have matches in May, June, September and October. Robbins said polo players have good hand-eye 18

December 2016


Ed Robbins, right, has racehorses and polo horses trained on his farm in Lauderdale County. If a racehorse isn’t good enough for the track, he switches it to a polo mount.

coordination and are confident, skilled riders. To keep his polo game sharp, Robbins takes daily walks with Tootsie, his Jack Russell terrier, and rides horses three times a week. Thoroughbreds hold a special place in Robbins’ heart. If he has a racehorse that isn’t good enough to pursue a career on the track, he switches them to polo. “Thoroughbreds are versatile horses and can be used in many sports,” he said. Centaur Racing produces stakes-winning horses and Kentucky Derby contenders, including Colonel John and Pioneer of the Nile, sire of 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah. “Racing is fun, especially when the horses win something for you,” Robbins said. Robbins’ winning drive transcends to his professional career. He patented the first plastic water system for poultry houses and founded E.S. Robbins Corp., the world’s largest chair mat manufacturer. The Muscle Shoals-based business produces another of Robbins’ patents, a polymer horse-rail fence specifically built to keep horses safe. Centaur Fencing’s Cenflex product looks like wood and is sold worldwide. But Robbins admits his success wasn’t easy. “No one ever gave me anything,” Robbins said. But that doesn’t hamper his philanthropy. He hosts fundraisers for local charities at his farm, including one for rescued horses. Robbins’ love for horse sports is shared by his daughter, Teena Robbins Tucker, and grandson Juddy Carlton. “My father has more stamina than any other 85-year-old I know,” said Tucker, Blue Water Creek Polo’s event planner. “We all try to keep up with him.” These days, Robbins is the only family member routinely playing polo. An injury has kept Tucker off horseback, and Carlton, 21, is in school at the University of Alabama. Tucker worked tirelessly to prove to Guinness World Records officials her father was the oldest active polo player. The application process required his birth certificate, letters from witnesses who played polo with him last summer plus videos and photographs of Robbins in action on the field. After years on horseback and playing polo, Robbins said he loves the sport as much as when he picked up his first mallet at age 48. “I don’t know why certain people are fascinated by horses,” Robbins said. “I can’t remember a time I didn’t love them. I’d rather be known as the world’s youngest polo player, but it’s too late for that.” Visit PeytonaFarms.com for more information. n December 2016

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4

THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT

daniel mullenix

Lee County Young Farmers Chairman Daniel Mullenix has a full plate. The AgriAFC precision agriculture specialist and his wife, Kim, partner with her parents on a 200-acre cow/calf operation. A two-time Auburn University graduate, Mullenix is active in First Baptist Church of Opelika’s music ministry. The Mullenixs have a 4-month-old son, Davis.

1 2 3 4

What IS agriculture’s biggest challenge?

Public perception. It’s wonderful people want to know where their food comes from, but we must overcome rampantly spread fallacies and nonscience-based perceptions to preserve agriculture for future generations.

What’s a good day in the industry?

A good day is when I’ve brought value to a producer in terms of advancing on-farm technology, being more input efficient and being a better steward of their land.

how do you pass time away from your day job? Spending time working on our pastures and with our cattle is always a good day. In my spare time, I enjoy hunting, fishing and woodworking.

Why do you like agriculture?

Agriculture allows me to work with the land to produce a nutritious, healthy commodity. I also enjoy the closeknit nature of the farming community.

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December 2016


Learn, Grow, Explore with Alabama Extension’s 2017 Garden Calendar

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labama Extension’s 2017 Gardening in the South Calendar is a gateway for gardeners and non-gardeners alike. Kerry Smith, a leader for Alabama Extension’s home grounds team, says the calendar highlights the diversity of horticulture and gardens across the state. “In addition to beautiful pictures, the 2017 calendar celebrates the unique heritage, spectacular destinations and perennial wisdom that make gardens across Alabama such a colorful sight to see,” said Smith. Much more than a simple calendar, each page provides an opportunity to learn something new. Learn, Grow and Explore icons, placed throughout the calendar, provide users with practical knowledge to enhance their own gardens and give intimate glimpses into many of the state’s bestknown gardens.

resources. You will find all of these resources at www.aces.edu/ gardencalendar. The calendars are available now for $15 at Aldridge Gardens, Bellingrath Gardens and Home, Huntsville Botanical Garden and Mobile Botanical Gardens. n

Featured Gardens • Aldridge Gardens, Birmingham • Bellingrath Gardens, Theodore • Birmingham Botanical Gardens • Black Belt Garden, Livingston • Donald E. Davis Arboretum, Auburn • Dothan Area Botanical Gardens • Huntsville Botanical Garden • Longleaf Botanical Gardens, Anniston • Mobile Botanical Garden • Quail Hollow Gardens, Notasulga In addition to helpful tips and interesting facts, the 2017 Gardening in the South calendar connects users to the Alabama Extension’s broader gardening

December 2016

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THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT

tommy thompson

December 2016

A mid-1970s soybean boom convinced Tommy Thompson to dig into agriculture. Today, the 59-year-old has six breeder hen houses, grows about 3,000 acres of row crops and raises brood cows. The Covington County Farmers Federation secretarytreasurer and his wife of 17 years, Dorothy, have a combined four children, five grandchildren and a greatgrandchild.

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what’s the best time of year on the farm? I enjoy the fall harvest time — the smell of crops coming in, plowing up peanuts and the crispness in the air.

How do you spend your off time?

Our life revolves around the farm. Even vacations are farm-oriented. I’m on the Cotton, Inc. board, and this year we met in Phoenix. I told Dorothy if she’d plan it, we’d stay four extra days and see the sights, so we did.

what is your advice for YOUNG FARMERS?

You have to have a lot of fortitude. It’s a real trying occupation. Don’t get discouraged after one year. Keep working, because it’s rewarding.

Who is your biggest supporter?

My wife, Dorothy. She’s my backbone. She handles all the bookwork, pays the bills and takes a load off me.

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2016 Annual Report Our Mission “To support and advance agriculture in the state of Alabama through education and research; increase awareness of agriculture in Alabama through public programs and activities; improve and expand agricultural services and products for the benefit of all citizens and to establish and maintain high

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standards in agriculture.� View our Annual Report at www.AlabamaFarmersFoundation.org December 2016

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Board of Directors Wayne Bassett Terrie Channell Rhonda Hughes Lester Killebrew Tommy Martin

Income Statement Keith McCurdy Jimmy Parnell Paul Pinyan Raleigh Wilkerson

Revenue Unrestricted Contributions

$267,423.56

Ag in the Classroom Revenue

2,399.97

Ag Tag Revenue

Foundation Fundraisers Auctions, scholarship donations, livestock show sponsorships, an inaugural skeet shoot and Ag Tag sales funded activities of the Alabama Farmers Agriculture Foundation (AFAF) this year. Silent and live auctions at the Alabama Farmers Federation (AFF) Annual Meeting and Young Farmers Conference raised almost $30,000. In addition, 60 county Farmers Federations donated $30,000 to help fund more than $100,000 in scholarships to students studying agriculture and forestry at the state’s land-grant universities.

October 1, 2015 - September 30, 2016

169,416.41

Scholarships

64,250.00

Annual Skeet Shoot

26,035.00

Youth Livestock Shows

26,220.00

Unrealized Gain / (Loss)

51,998.01

Interest Income

10,383.63

TOTAL INCOME

$618,126.58

Operating Expenses Ag in the Classroom

$125,479.67

Annual Skeet Shoot

1,808.63

Youth Livestock Shows

Corporate and individual donations also funded more than $11,000 in prizes for participants at the Alabama Junior Livestock Expo. This year, Alabama drivers purchased 5,800 Ag Tags, generating almost $240,000. The Foundation’s newest fundraising effort was the inaugural Skeet Shoot, held Nov. 4 at Selwood Farm in Talladega County. Thirty teams raised more than $40,000 for the Foundation in a day of friendly sporting clays competition. Above, Gean and Jane Harris of Cleburne County shop for handmade pottery at the Foundation Silent Auction during the Federation’s Annual Meeting. Left, Johnny Lee of Henry County participates in the inaugural Skeet Shoot at Selwood Farm.

43,715.45

Ag Scholarship Luncheon

9,075.88

Scholarship Awards

107,462.96

Bank Fees

103.02

Office Supplies

716.94

Legal and Audit Fees

2,300.00

Miscellaneous

2,207.03

Postage

5,394.91

Sponsorships

28,101.30

Ag Tag Advertising

14,728.11

Scholarship Supplies

10.00

Advertising

68,892.16

Meetings

1,184.31

Investment Fees

2,577.02

TOTAL EXPENSES

$413,757.39

NET INCOME

$204,369.19

Note: These are pre-audit figures and are subject to change.

Donate Online at AlabamaFarmersFoundation.org Support the Alabama Farmers Agriculture Foundation Make Checks Payable to: Alabama Farmers Agriculture Foundation, P.O. Box 11000, Montgomery, Alabama 36191 Name _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Address ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ City ____________________ State ________ Zip _____________ Phone ___________________ Email ____________________________ In Memory / Honor of: _________________________________________________________________________________________________ Gifts to the Alabama Farmers Agriculture Foundation are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law. For questions, contact Terrie Channell, (334) 613-4657 or tchannell@alfafarmers.org.

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December 2016


Activities & Accomplishments Scholarships Develop Future Leaders

The Alabama Farmers Agriculture Foundation and county Farmers Federations invested in the future of Alabama agriculture by awarding almost $150,000 in scholarships to 85 Auburn University (AU) students pursuing degrees in agriculture or forestry. Students from 60 counties were recognized during the 2016 Scholarship Recipients Luncheon Aug. 27 at the Ham Wilson Arena in Auburn. The Foundation, with support from AFF and Alfa Insurance, provided an additional $1,250 for each county Federation that gave $500 toward the $1,750 scholarships. For a list of scholarship winners, visit alfafarmers.org/uploads/files/2016afafscholars.pdf .

From left are Lee County Farmers Federation President Mahlon Richburg, poultry science senior and Blount County recipient Karri Fievet, agricultural communications senior and Randolph County recipient Luke Knight and Federation President Jimmy Parnell.

Ag In The Classroom Trains Teachers

Alabama educators had the chance to become students of agriculture at the Ag in the Classroom (AITC) Summer Institute in Prattville June 1-3. Kindergarten through sixth-grade teachers from across the state attended workshops and farm tours at EAT South, an urban farm in downtown Montgomery; Petals from the Past, a garden supplier in Jemison; and the Chilton Research and Extension Center. During an AITC panel discussion, 84 teachers questioned farmers about biotechnology, animal feed and care, food labeling and weed control. A craft workshop also helped teachers learn classroom activities that educate students about agriculture. Teachers make farm-related crafts during the AITC Summer Institute.

Livestock Shows Encourage Youth

It was a big day for beef at the Alabama Junior Beef Expo Showmanship Contest March 19, when more than 150 young people competed at Montgomery’s Garrett Coliseum. Sponsored by the AFAF, the show was part of the Southeastern Livestock Exposition, which marked its 59th year. Showmanship classes drew entries ages 9-19 from throughout the state who were judged on how they exhibited their calves, as well as the animals’ fitness and grooming. Many exhibitors work with their calves for months to prepare for the show. AFAF provided more than $11,000 in prize money for this year’s winners. December 2016

Victoria Thompson of Lee County was reserve champion in Junior Division Showmanship. 29

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Mini Grants Children throughout Alabama will learn more about how agriculture impacts their daily lives thanks to 11 mini grants awarded by Alabama Ag in the Classroom (AITC) with support from the Alabama Farmers Agriculture Foundation. Each year, the AITC Foundation makes grants available for classroom projects that integrate agriculture into curriculum areas. The grants, up to $500 each, may be used for supplies and equipment to develop and teach the planned project. The total amount awarded for 2016-17 was $4,219.77. For more information about AITC, visit AlabamaAITC.org.

TEACHER

SCHOOL

PROJECT

Robin Hyche

Selma City Schools

Continuing the Garden

Collin Adcock Ginny Gaberlavage

Opelika High School

Opelika Outdoor Agriculture Education Center

Kelly Parker

Tanner Williams Elementary School

Garden of Hope

Judy Edwards

Corpus Christi Preschool

Preschool Vegetable Garden

Adam Smith

Sand Rock School

Outdoor Classroom

Laurie Fowler

Forest Hills Elementary

Outdoor Classroom

Chip Rowan

Gadsden Public Schools Gadsden Public Library Foundation

Beautiful Rainbow Catering Company and Gadsden Public Library Foundation

Lorilyn Owen

Collinsville Elementary

Flourishing Foundations

Sonja Warren

East Lawrence Elementary School

Edible Treasures

Tracy Woods

Meadowview Elementary School

The Veggie Garden

Sonjua Dorrill

Banks School

Kindergarten Round-Up

Individual Sponsors Don Allison Greg Barksdale Chris Carroll Terrell Childress Miller Deramus Steve Dunn Sammy Gibbs Brian Glenn

Ralph Golden Jake Harper Gean Harris Kyle Hayes Fred Helms Garrett Henry Garry Henry Rhonda Hughes

George Jeffcoat Lester Killebrew Paul Looney Tommy Martin Buddy McDanal Jerry A. Newby Jimmy Parnell Joe and Lynn Potter

Joe Roberts Dan Robertson Carl Sanders Phillip Thompson Rex Vaughn Peggy Walker Dean Wysner

Corporate Sponsors Alabama Ag Credit Alabama Catfish Committee Alabama Cotton Commission Alabama Farm Credit Alabama Farmers Cooperative Alabama Farmers Federation Alabama Municipal Electric Alabama Peanut Producers Alabama Power Alabama Simmental Association Alfa Foundation Alfa Insurance Company AT&T Autauga County Farmers Federation Baldwin County Farmers Federation Baldwin County Young Farmers Committee Barbour County Farmers Federation Becks Turf, Inc. Bibb County Farmers Federation Blount County Farmers Federation Bullock County Farmers Federation Butler County Farmers Federation Calhoun County Farmers Federation Calhoun County Young Farmers Committee Chambers County Farmers Federation Cherokee County Farmers Federation Chilton County Farmers Federation Choctaw County Farmers Federation CK Cattle - Chuck & Katie Madaris Clarke County Farmers Federation Clay County Farmers Federation Clay County Young Farmers Committee Cleburne County Farmers Federation Cleburne County Young Farmers Committee

Greensboro Farmers Co-Op Greenway Plants, Inc. Hale County Farmers Federation Hale County Young Farmers Committee Henry County Farmers Federation Houston County Farmers Federation J & R Feed Services J. Everette Cattle Ranch Jackson County Farmers Federation Jackson County Young Farmers Committee Jackson Thornton & Co. Jefferson County Farmers Federation Lamar County Farmers Federation Lawrence County Farmers Federation Lee County Farmers Federation Lee County Young Farmers Committee Limestone County Farmers Federation Limestone County Young Farmers Committee Lowndes County Farmers Federation Macon County Farmers Federation Madison County Farmers Federation Madison County Young Farmers Committee Marengo County Farmers Federation Marion County Farmers Federation Marshall County Farmers Federation Marshall County Young Farmers Committee Mobile County Farmers Federation Mobile County Young Farmers Committee Monroe County Farmers Federation Montgomery County Farmers Federation Montgomery County Young Farmers Committee Morgan County Farmers Federation Morgan County Young Farmers Committee Odom Farms

Coffee County Farmers Federation Coffee County Young Farmers Committee Colbert County Farmers Federation Colbert County Young Farmers Committee Conecuh County Farmers Federation Coosa County Farmers Federation Covington County Farmers Federation Covington County Young Farmers Committee Crenshaw County Farmers Federation Crenshaw County Young Farmers Committee Cullman County Farmers Federation Cullman County Young Farmers Committee Dale County Farmers Federation Dale County Young Farmers Committee Dallas County Farmers Federation Dallas County Young Farmers Committee Dekalb County Farmers Federation Dekalb County Young Farmers Committee Drummond Mine Ranch LLC Eastaboga Bee Company Elmore County Farmers Federation Elmore County Young Farmers Committee Escambia County Farmers Federation Escambia County Young Farmers Committee Etowah County Farmers Federation Etowah County Young Farmers Committee Farm Bureau Bank Fayette County Farmers Federation First South Farm Credit Franklin County Farmers Federation Fuller Supply Co. Geneva County Farmers Federation Golden State Foods Great Southern Wood Preserving, Inc.

Perry County Farmers Federation Perry County Young Farmers Committee Pickens County Farmers Federation Pike County Farmers Federation PowerSouth Randolph County Farmers Federation Randolph County Young Farmers Committee Russell County Farmers Federation Russell County Young Farmers Committee SEI Investments Shelby County Farmers Federation Smith Tractor Company St. Clair County Farmers Federation St. Clair County Young Farmers Committee Sumter County Farmers Federation Sun South Talladega County Farmers Federation Talladega County Young Farmers Committee Tallapoosa County Farmers Federation Tuscaloosa County Farmers Federation Tuscaloosa County Young Farmers Committee Walker County Farmers Federation Walker County Young Farmers Committee Washington County Farmers Federation Wells Fargo Wilcox County Farmers Federation Winston County Farmers Federation

Alabama Farmers Agriculture Foundation • P.O. Box 11000 • Montgomer y, AL 36191 w w w. A l f a F a r m e r s . o r g

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December 2016


TREASURE Forest Association Holds Annual Meeting In Atmore

ATFA annual meeting attendees toured Magnolia Branch Wildlife Reserve and TREASURE Forest, where they scouted for gopher tortoises and learned about forest management.

By Marlee Moore

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ver 140 forest landowners, timber professionals and wildlife experts shared the latest information regarding the state’s largest industry at the Alabama TREASURE Forest Association’s (ATFA) annual meeting in Atmore Oct. 13-15. ATFA Executive Director Rick Oates said the annual meeting was a step in the right direction toward growing ATFA involvement and membership. “This year’s meeting was larger than 2015, and we want to keep that up,” Oates said. “Our speakers and presenters gave sound, applicable advice our attendees can take home to their forests. We’re excited about the direction TREASURE Forest and Alabama’s forest industry are headed.” The three-day conference began with a tour of the Poarch Creek Indian Reservation. Poarch Creek tribal elders set the stage for a jam-packed meeting, which included silent and live auctions benefiting ATFA’s educational programs such as Classroom in the Forest and

landowner tours. The auctions raised over $4,000. During Friday’s luncheon, Pike County’s Gene and Jana Renfroe received the Bill Moody Award, ATFA’s highest honor. The award is named after retired State Forester William C. Moody, who established the TREASURE Forest certification in 1974. “We just hope that through the sharing we’ve done with our property, others can learn and better their properties as well,” Gene said. As the winner, the Renfroes received a painting depicting an ideal TREASURE Forest, sponsored by the Alabama Farmers Agriculture Foundation. Montgomery artist Joel Sidney Kelly created the piece. Additionally, three Gary Fortenberry Partnership Award recipients were recognized. Pike County’s Randy Hale received the Southeast Region’s award. Northeast Region award winners James Barker and Richard McCain were fighting wildfires in north Alabama during the annual meeting. They were recognized at a Cleburne County TREASURE Forest landowner tour Oct. 27.

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December 2016

Friday afternoon was filled with educational sessions, including Southern pine industry updates, Game Check information, quail management skills and more. TREASURE Forest landowners certified in the last year were recognized at Friday’s banquet. Newly certified landowners are Gean Harris, Cleburne County; Sally Rutland, Colbert County; Joe Street, Elmore County; Mike Hagen, Elmore County; Kevin Humphres, Lee County; Ted Vaughn, Marengo County; C.L. Dickert, Pike County; Hubert Matthews, Russell County; and Jenny Brown Short, Walker County. Additionally, Lamar Dewberry of Clay County was elected ATFA vice president, and Pike County’s Carol Dorrill began a term as secretary-treasurer. The meeting concluded Saturday morning following a tour of Magnolia Branch Wildlife Reserve and TREASURE Forest. For more photos, find Alabama TREASURE Forest Association on Facebook or check the Alabama Farmers Federation Flickr page. n

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Generous Spirits Boost Alfa Cares Campaign

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lfa Insurance and Alabama Farmers Federation customers and employees again proved their commitment to the fight against cancer by collecting $112,938.92 in this year’s Alfa Cares Campaign to benefit the American Cancer Society (ACS). The total donation includes $87,938.92 collected through October and a $25,000 corporate pledge from the Alfa Foundation. “I am continuously inspired and amazed at the generosity displayed by our employees, staff and customers,” said Alfa President Jimmy Parnell. “The sad reality is that we all have a personal story involving w w w. A l f a F a r m e r s . o r g

a loved one’s fight against cancer, but I hope and pray the Alfa Cares Campaign will help bring ACS closer to finding a cure.” Donations were collected at over 350 service centers in Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi; at the home office; and online at AlfaCares.com. Alfa Cares merchandise sales and raffle tickets for “Cluck Norris,” a pink metal rooster, also benefited fundraising efforts. Special fundraising events at

Honoring Fighters. Celebrating Survivors. 32

#ALFACARES This Much • Little Alfa Lemonade Sale: $326 • “Cluck Norris” Raffle: $925 • Hay Bale Decorating Contest: $2,481.25 • Online and Service Center Collections: $65,381.08 • Corporate Pledge: $25,000

the home office in Montgomery included a lemonade sale hosted by Alfa Child Development Center and a hay bale decorating contest. The total Alfa Cares Campaign includes funds raised by Alfa Insurance Senior Vice President of Life Operations and Policy Administration Rob Robison in Montgomery’s Real Mean Wear Pink program. Robison stunned the competition by raising $25,456, which was $11,000 more than the second-place finisher. He was the top fundraiser in Alabama and 11th overall in the national Real Men Wear Pink program. n December 2016


Why Soybeans?

The United States is the top soybean producing 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.

“I make my living from the earth so I have to protect it in order to produce a crop. But more importantly, being a good steward of God’s earth is the right thing to do.” — Jeremy Wilson, Talladega County Soybean Farmer

A DIVISION OF THE ALABAMA FARMERS FEDERATION

Paid for by Alabama Soybean Producers Checkoff.


O

h, no! It’s cracked! That’s the cry of many gardeners who find a favorite outdoor container didn’t quite survive the winter. Even in Alabama where winter is mild, there’s enough cold to damage containers susceptible to freezes. So here are a few basics that might help the survival rate. Pots made from fiberglass, lead or iron are freeze proof because they’re waterproof. They are not going to be cracked or broken by ice because the material they’re made from doesn’t absorb moisture. Wood containers are frost proof, too, although ice can loosen construction joints. What about plastic, a very common material used to make containers? It doesn’t absorb water, but the quality of a plastic container is usually parallel to its price. By Lois Chaplin Good quality, heavy duty resin or plastic lasts years. Cheaper plastic can become brittle in extreme tempera- bench and birdbath to get a sense of concrete’s durability. It may be tures, hot or cold, and with expochipped, cracked or flaked but is sure to sunlight. often still workable. Look for UV-resistant labeling. The durability of terracotta, the Top quality UV-resistant resin conmost recognized material for pots, tainers are double walled to provide varies greatly. Quality depends on roots temperature insulation from its clay type and how it’s fired, but extreme cold and heat. Concrete containers (sometimes sometimes the only way to know is if the seller provides the inforcalled stone) are weather resistant, mation. When in doubt, paint the but hairline cracks or chips that inside and outside of containers cause them to absorb moisture can with a clear sealer to waterproof begin a slow crack or flaking prothem. cess. We have a concrete container Old clay pots were often made that is 38 years old, yet it’s good as porous to allow water and air to new. Think of grandma’s concrete

pass freely through the pot. Many Mexican terracotta products are often not fired at high temperatures, making them more porous to water. The popular Mexican ceramic Talavera needs winter protection, too. Italian-fired terracotta, which is often labeled frost proof, has a reputation for withstanding winter. While all terracotta may eventually expand and crack with repeated freezing and thawing, the extra hard-fired terracotta should last a long time with a few precautions. Raise it off the ground on “pot feet,” bricks or other risers to be sure it drains well and isn’t in contact with the ground in winter. Salt-glaze pots are fired in such a way that water can’t penetrate them. They are sold as glazed or unglazed, but both are very durable and highly frost proof. These are prized outdoor containers with beautiful colors and finishes that often serve as a garden centerpiece. When a container is a yearround landscape element, go for the most affordable weather resistant. With Christmas coming up, consider acquiring that special container as a gift. n Lois Chaplin is an accomplished gardener and author. Her work appears here courtesy of Alabama Farmers Cooperative.

CHRISTMAS GIFT IDEAS @WWW.ALAFARM.COM w w w. A l f a F a r m e r s . o r g

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December 2016

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C

hristmas is a natural time to show people love, appreciation or affection through thoughtful gifts. Shopping for close family and friends is standard, but how do you share the Christmas spirit with teachers, coworkers, friends at church and so many others without spending a fortune? The answer for Dale County’s Vicki Morrison is in the kitchen. “Every year, pretty much all the ladies in our family — my mom, grandmother, aunts and some friends — get together and cook sweet treats for just about everyone,” Morrison said. “We call them ‘Christmas goodies.’ We’ve done it for so many years that it’s expected now. People are disappointed if they don’t get them.” Morrison and her husband Paul, who won Alabama’s 2014 Outstanding Young Farm Family contest, stay busy growing row crops, raising beef cattle and enjoying their one-year-old son, Cooper. In addition to being a farmer and mother, Vicki also teaches high school math. Her students have come to expect her goodies, too. “I’m kind of known for it with the kids,” she said. “When they get their schedule at the beginning of the year and see they have me as a teacher, they comment about how they are excited to see what I will cook for them. It’s usually something as simple as Rice Krispies Treats, but they look forward to that so much.” Despite her busy schedule, Vicki always sets aside a Saturday in December to make Christmas goodies because of the time it gives her to spend with her extended family. “We don’t see each other often, so it’s wonderful to get together and talk and catch up,” she said. “Honestly, only a couple of us do the cooking — it’s mostly just a bunch of women of all different generations sitting around a table chit-chatting.” w w w. A l f a F a r m e r s . o r g

By Jill Clair Gentry

CARAMELIZED PECANS Courtesy of Vicki Morrison Start-to-finish: Makes 2 cups 2 cups sugar 1 cup evaporated milk 2 tablespoons corn syrup 2 cups pecan halves 4 tablespoons butter 1 teaspoon vanilla 36

Mix sugar, evaporated milk and corn syrup in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly. Add pecans and butter. Cook until mixture reaches a soft ball stage (234-240 F), about 10-15 minutes. The mixture will boil. Remove from heat and add vanilla, stirring for 2 more minutes. Drop by spoonful onto aluminum foil. December 2016


POLAR PAWS Courtesy of Vicki Morrison Start-to-finish: 2 hours, 30 minutes (30 minutes active) Makes 2-3 dozen 16-24 ounces of caramels 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon sweetened condensed milk 2 cups chopped pecans 1 package almond bark

Melt caramels with condensed milk in microwave at half power. Stir every 30 seconds. Grease a cookie sheet or line with wax paper. Mix pecans into caramel mixture and drop by teaspoon onto cookie sheet. Place in freezer for 2 hours. Melt almond bark and dip each polar paw; place on wax paper to harden.

FRIED APPLE TARTS Courtesy of Vicki Morrsion Start-to-finish: 2 hours SAND TARTS Courtesy of Vicki Morrison Start-to-finish: 45 minutes 1 cup butter 5 tablespoons powdered sugar 2 cups all-purpose flour 2 teaspoons vanilla 1 1/2 cups chopped pecans Powdered sugar for coating

Heat oven to 350 F. In a large bowl, use a mixer to cream together the butter and powdered sugar. Stir in flour, vanilla and pecans until well blended. Form into small balls and place on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes or until lightly browned. Roll in powdered sugar while still warm. PECAN KISSES Courtesy of Vicki Morrison Start-to-finish: 40 minutes Makes 5-6 dozen 1 egg white 3/4 cup brown sugar 1/2 teaspoon vanilla 2 cups pecan halves

Beat egg white until it forms soft peaks. Gradually mix in brown sugar and vanilla. Fold in pecan halves and place coated pecans on a greased or parchment-lined cookie sheet, 1 inch apart. Bake at 250 F for 30 minutes. Store in an airtight container. (Freezes well.)

For the pastry: 2 cups all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon baking soda 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup lard or vegetable shortening 2-3 tablespoons ice water (Alternate method: use canned biscuits instead of making dough) For the filling: 3 cups dried apples or 4 cups fresh apples 1 1/2 cups boiling water 1/2 cup sugar 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon allspice or 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

To make the pastry, combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Cut into lard or shortening until mixture resembles course meal. Sprinkle ice water over mixture, 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing lightly with a fork until dough forms a ball. Wrap ball with plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour. To make the filling, cook fruit in boiling water for 30 minutes or until tender. Cool and stir in sugar and spices. To assemble the tarts, separate the dough into desired sizes (for larger or smaller tarts) and roll into a flat oval. Fill one half with fruit, leaving room around the edges, and fold the other side over. The end result will look like a half circle. Crimp edges with a fork and deep fry at 375 F until golden brown.

SUGAR COATED PECANS OR PEANUTS Courtesy of Vicki Morrison Start-to-finish: 35 minutes Makes 2 cups 1/2 cup water 1 cup sugar 2 cups pecans or peanuts

Heat oven to 200 F. Place all ingredients in a saucepan and cook until the mixture crystallizes. Pour onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet and bake at 200 F for 25 minutes. ALAGA SOUTHERN PECAN PIE Start-to-finish: 1 hour 1/4 cup butter 1 cup brown sugar 1/4 teaspoon salt 1 cup ALAGA Cane Syrup 3 eggs, beaten 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 1 1/2 cups pecan halves 1 9-inch unbaked pie shell

Heat oven to 450 F. In mixing bowl, cream butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Add salt, ALAGA Cane Syrup, eggs and vanilla, beating well until mixed throughout. Sprinkle pecans on bottom of pie shell. Pour filling over pecans. Bake 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 F and bake 35 minutes longer. n

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

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Neighbors Magazine, December 2016  

In this issue of Neighbors magazine, we learn of the year-round effort to develop Christmas trees for the season, explore the statewide drou...

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