Stories | Recipes | Events | People | Places | Things | Local News February 2020
South Alabama Electric Cooperative
Farming and football
Local farmer balances poultry and football
Hope for small town rural development Challenges for rural economic development in Alabama aren’t new or novel, but recent approaches to fixing them are. Case in point: Abbeville Manager David Bailey Produced by the staff of South Alabama Electric Cooperative ALABAMA LIVING is delivered to some 420,000 Alabama families and businesses, which are members of 22 not-for-profit, consumer-owned, locally directed and taxpaying electric cooperatives. Subscriptions are $12 a year for individuals not subscribing through participating Alabama electric cooperatives. Alabama Living (USPS 029-920) is published monthly by the Alabama Rural Electric Association of Cooperatives. Periodicals postage paid at Montgomery, Alabama, and at additional mailing office. POSTMASTER send forms 3579 to: Alabama Living, P.O. Box 244014 Montgomery, Alabama 36124-4014.
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ALABAMA RURAL ELECTRIC ASSOCIATION
AREA President Fred Braswell Editor Lenore Vickrey Managing Editor Allison Law Creative Director Mark Stephenson Art Director Danny Weston Advertising Director Jacob Johnson Graphic Designer/Ad Coordinator Brooke Echols Graphic Artist Chyna Miller
VOL. 73 NO. 2 n FEBRUARY 2020
Fresh from Alabama Sweet Grown Alabama brings attention to local farmers.
Rachel Riddle is the first woman to head the Alabama Department of Public Examiners. Learn more about your state representatives and senators.
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D E P A R T M E N T S 11 Spotlight 33 Around Alabama 38 Cook of the Month 44 Outdoors 45 Fish & Game Forecast 50 Hardy Jackson’s Alabama ONLINE: alabamaliving.coop ON THE COVER
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Steven Kilcrease works hard to balance life as a full-time farmer while also being the head football coach at Ariton School. See story, Page 6.
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Facing adversity David Bailey, General Manager
Board of Trustees James Shaver President District 2
Delaney Kervin Vice President District 5
Douglas Green Secretary/Treasurer District 6
Bill Hixon District 1
James May At Large
Glenn Reeder District 7
Raymond Trotter District 3
I would like to take some time this month to talk about adversity, which is a part of everyone’s life. How we choose to deal with it can define us. I like to think I have been able to lean on my character and my faith to help get me through when I have faced adversity. As is so often the case, we can look to the Bible for prime examples of how we should face the adversity that comes our way. We are told that the Apostle Paul carried a “thorn in the flesh,” even though we don’t know what the thorn was. He prayed to God to remove it, but he carried it anyway, knowing God’s grace was sufficient for him. In doing so, he became one of the Bible’s great writers. As I explained to many of you at our annual meeting, the electric industry faces adverse times of its own. One example is the closure of the Charles R. Lowman Power Plant that had operated for over 49 years. With the regulations placed on our industry, the Lowman plant is no longer cost-eﬀective. The decision was made to convert it from coal to natural gas. I likened that change to our own cooperative’s decision to begin construction on a new building: It will be inconvenient at times, but it is ultimately a necessary change. At the meeting, I showed members our current energy profile, one that relies greatly on coal-fired generation, versus our future energy profile, which places more reliance on natural gas. One shorthand way to put it is that we have a lot of our eggs in the same basket. This may not be the best approach, but in the energy business it’s sometimes the only approach. In the future, we may see a greater contribution from resources like solar power and nuclear energy, but these could take years or even decades to make a real impact.
Having so much dependence on a single energy source could lead to further adversity down the line. You’ve probably heard a lot about opposition to fracking, a way of extracting natural gas. I haven’t seen any proof that fracking is dangerous to the environment, and yet there are people who would have us do away with it. What they don’t say is that if fracking is not an option, we will face even more adversity. By limiting us to more expensive processes for extracting natural gas, the cost of your power will increase. As an electric distribution cooperative, the only means we have to recuperate those additional costs will be to raise electric rates. But that won’t be something that happens just here at our utility. The same will be true for utilities across the country that depend on natural gas in their energy portfolio. The good news is that we can prevent this by being good stewards of our earth. No one is more conscious of preserving our rich environment than I am. We are told in Scripture that God provided the earth to us and gave us the authority to subdue it — not to abuse it, but to use it. We have many renewable resources that we can take advantage of, but we must also be practical. I would like to close by acknowledging that no one wants adversity in their life, but it comes to all of us anyway. I hope and pray that when adversity comes your way you have something you can lean on, as I rely on my character and faith, to bring you through those difficult times. There’s a great quote from Winston Churchill: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” If we must face adversity as a utility, then we will all work together to overcome anything that impacts our members. n
Ben Fox District 4
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Sweet Grown Alabama puts the spotlight on local farmers Today’s farmers face a variety of challenges, but a new group is working to make sure reaching retailers and customers isn’t one of them. Sweet Grown Alabama is a nonprofit foundation formed with the goal of helping farmers across the state to better identify their products for local shoppers. “The idea behind the program is that farmers can join to receive a license to use the Sweet Grown Alabama logo on their products to show that they are grown here in the state,” says Sweet Grown Alabama Director Ellie Watson. “Then consumers will be able to easily identify products grown in Alabama by looking for that logo at the farmers market or grocery store.” Sweet Grown Alabama was born out of a partnership between the Alabama Farmers Federation and the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries. While the concept is new for Alabama, it has been put to the test in other states, and the outcome is promising. “We believe from looking at data from other states that consumers will purchase a local product over organic, non-GMO or any of the buzzword marketing trends we see today,” Watson says. “That means grocery stores will pay farmers a little more for product grown in Alabama, and the farmer’s bottom line will increase.”
Sweet Grown Alabama is also building an online database that will serve as a one-stop reference for anyone looking to buy from local farmers. Launching this spring, the database will be available to both consumers and retailers who want to know what their area farmers are growing and where they can purchase their produce. “Our hope is that Sweet Grown Alabama can fill a gap that’s been missing in Alabama agriculture,” Watson says. “We want to be the unifying voice to promote all of the agricultural products across the state. We’re not looking at one growing method over another or one commodity over another. We’re about supporting all the things that are grown from the rich soil here in Alabama.” n
Contact Information Mailing address P.O. Box 449 Troy, AL 36081 Phone 334-566-2060 800-556-2060 Website www.southaec.com Find us here:
Tf Payment Options SAEC App Available from the App Store and Google Play BY MAIL P.O. Box 449 Troy, AL 36081 WEBSITE www.southaec.com PHONE PAYMENTS 877-566-0611, credit cards accepted NIGHT DEPOSITORY Available at our Highway 231 office, day or night PAYMENT POINTS Regions Bank - Troy branch Troy Bank and Trust - all branch locations 1st National Bank of Brundidge and Troy First Citizens - Luverne branch Banks Buy Rite - Banks Country 1 Stop - Honoraville IN PERSON 13192 U.S. 231, Troy, AL 36081 Office Hours: Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
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First-and-hen Local farmer balances poultry and football In 2013, Steven Kilcrease had a decision to make. After 18 years of teaching and coaching at high schools across the state, he and his family found themselves ready to return home to South Alabama. But, there was a problem. No teaching positions were open. “I was trying to figure out how to get them back home,” Kilcrease says. “I prayed about it. I asked, ‘Please open some doors for me, whether it’s in sales or something farm-related.’” As it turned out, farming was the answer. He had always loved the outdoors and visiting his grandparents’ farm during the summer as a kid. So Kilcrease asked his brother, who worked in the poultry business, for some advice. Then, he bought four chicken houses from a local farmer entering the seminary. “It was just meant to be. So I got out of coaching and teaching and started full time in the poultry business,” Kilcrease says. While the start of his new career may have been serendipitous, learning his new business was anything but. He was constantly on the phone with his brother to ask questions. “I didn’t know anything. I was afraid to even leave the chicken houses to go home at times,” he says. “There were nights I was there in my truck, scared to death, because I didn’t want anything to happen to those chickens overnight.”
Back in the game
Soon after jumping into the poultry business, Kilcrease purchased another four chicken houses, and he has even added some cows to the mix. While his kids prefer the cows, 10-year-old Tate and 13-yearold Anna still help out with the chickens. So does Kilcrease’s wife, Ashley. But the itch to coach never fully went away, and after a few years the need to be around other people pulled Kilcrease back onto the sideline. “The biggest change was going from being around people my whole life, whether I was teaching or coaching, and then — boom! — you’re by yourself every day on the farm,” he says. “I always hoped to get back into coaching, and I just needed to be around people.” It was an easy enough transition once Kilcrease
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Steven Kilcrease runs a poultry farm in Brundidge along with his son, Tate; wife, Ashley; and daughter, Anna.
had his feet under him in the poultry business. After all, while he may have been a newcomer to farming, he had years of experience as a teacher and coach. He’d coached both football and girls basketball at Pike Liberal Arts School, leading the football team to two state titles and the Lady Patriots to one. He also coached boys basketball and was an assistant football coach at Lee-Scott Academy. So when the opportunity came in 2016 to become Ariton School’s head football coach, Kilcrease took it. He and his family were happy to return to the area they call home and were quickly welcomed into the Ariton community. “It’s a special place,” he says. “We’re a small school, but I have been blessed to have the opportunity to be around some great kids and work with some great administrators and assistant coaches.” Kilcrease found out just how strong his new community was when he was diagnosed with stage III non-Hodgkin lymphoma in the lead-up to his first season in charge. The Friday after his first chemotherapy treatment in September 2016, he wasn’t feeling up to attending a planned pep rally at the school gym. But after some gentle nudging from his wife, he got Alabama Living
dressed and accepted a ride to the school. “I walked in and everyone had these lime green shirts that said ‘Praying for Coach K,’” he says. “I knew no one at that point, but that’s the kind of place Ariton is. It’s a great school and a great community with very supportive people.”
The right way
Kilcrease was officially declared in remission in February 2017, with his final
follow-up scan coming back clear in January of last year. While his farm still comes first, Kilcrease is once again at home on the sideline and has even picked up a couple of classes. Having led the Purple Cats to the third round of the football playoﬀs two years in a row, he is excited about their prospects for his fifth season in charge. “It’s a small school. We don’t have the luxury of having 120 kids out here every year, but we have hard-working kids,” he says. “It’s sort of a puzzle getting players in the right position and seeing them grow with confidence. That’s the fun part.” Just as important is helping those kids grow into the best versions of themselves. It was a promise Kilcrease made to Josh Herring, Ariton’s principal and former football coach, when he took the job, and it’s something he still takes pride in today. “I just enjoy being around these kids, and I hope I can make a diﬀerence in their lives like they are in mine,” Kilcrease says. “Hopefully we’re helping these guys and girls to become better men and women, better spouses and better parents in the future, because that’s really what it’s all about.” And the more he learns about the chicken business, the more Kilcrease is convinced that there are lessons his team can learn from the hard work it takes to run a farm. “I think it all relates,” he says. “You have ups and downs on the field, you have good flocks and bad flocks on the farm. Life won’t be easy all the time, and that’s what we preach to our kids. You’ve just got to keep fighting and plugging away and doing things the right way. That’s all I know to do.” n
Kilcrease owns eight chicken houses and also has cows on his farm in Brundidge.
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PREPAY SERVICE ELIMINATES SURPRISES Though winters in southern Alabama tend to be mild, sometimes extreme temperatures impact the area — leading to increased power usage for residents. The resulting increased energy consumption can add up quickly on a monthly bill, but South Alabama Electric Cooperative members can reduce any surprises when they sign up for prepay billing. The pay-as-you-go program provides customers with power usage alerts that keep them regularly informed about their consumption habits and account balances, information that statistics indicate helps members reduce their overall usage. Prepay acts similarly to how drivers fill their cars with gasoline. Members start with a minimum account balance of $50, which is then applied to their daily power usage. When the account runs low, they add more money to pay for more electrical usage — like putting more gas in a car. Members can elect to receive daily account alerts via text or email, and the Prepay program will alert them when their account balances fall below $20. If an account balance hits zero, the system will wait until 11 a.m. the next day to disconnect the power. Since SAEC’s meters disconnect and reconnect automatically, members do not incur disconnect and reconnect fees. In addition to helping those who desire to monitor their electric usage more closely, the prepay billing provides SAEC’s members with flexibility in how to pay their bills. It eliminates monthly bills, which may better serve customers who may want or need to cover their electric bills weekly or biweekly. Some members may even opt to purchase several months’ worth of power at one time. Members can monitor their usage and balances through the SAEC Connect smartphone app or by visiting southaec.com. To sign up for prepay, call SAEC at 1-800-556-2060 or visit the SAEC office at 13192 U.S. Highway 231 in Troy. n
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Prepay program benefits • Eliminates deposits and monthly bills • Customizes payment schedules • Allows customers to buy electricity when convenient • Helps customers monitor usage
| Alabama Snapshots |
Model trains SUBMITTED BY Joe Sartorius, Gulf Shores. SUBMITTED BY Susanlynn Allen, Guntersville.
SUBMITTED BY Geno Sharp, Lincoln.
Jeremiah Jones’ HO scale model train layout. SUBMITTED BY Beverly Jones, Lawley.
A doppelganger is a non-biologically related look-alike or double of a living person. Send us the photos of you and your look-alikes! Submit “Doppelganger” photos by February 29. Winning photos will run in the April issue.
Had a train set as a kid; 50 years later it was time for another one. SUBMITTED BY Garry Replogle, Cottonwood.
Online: alabamaliving.coop Mail: Snapshots P.O. Box 244014 Montgomery, AL 36124
RULES: Alabama Living will pay $10 for photos that best match our theme of the month. Photos may also be published on our website at alabamaliving.coop and on our Facebook page. Alabama Living is not responsible for lost or damaged photos. Send a self-addressed stamped envelope to have photos returned.
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Spotlight | February
Identify and place this Alabama landmark and you could win $25! Winner is chosen at random from all correct entries. Multiple entries from the same person will be disqualified. Send your answer by Feb. 10 with your name, address and the name of your rural electric cooperative. The winner and answer will be announced in the March issue. Submit by email: email@example.com, or by mail: Whereville, P.O. Box 244014, Montgomery, AL 36124. Contribute your own photo for an upcoming issue! Send a photo of an interesting or unusual landmark in Alabama, which must be accessible to the public. A reader whose photo is chosen will also win $25.
The American Village to commemorate Presidents Day The American Village in Montevallo will hold several events on Feb. 17 to celebrate its 20th anniversary, Presidents Day and the Festival of Tulips (weather permitting). Among the scheduled events: A service of thanksgiving, Thompson Colonial Chapel, 10 a.m. to 10:45 a.m.; anniversary convocation, Liberty Hall, 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.; and a groundbreaking for Independence Hall and commemorative photo at 2 p.m. The American Village is an educational institution whose mission is to strengthen and renew the foundations of American liberty and self-government by engaging and inspiring citizens and leaders. Its address is 3727 Highway 119 in Montevallo; for more information, visit americanvillage.org
Help available to quit tobacco With the free Alabama Tobacco Quitline (1-800-784-8669, or visit quitnowalabama.com), anyone who hopes to quit the tobacco habit can find resources and help to begin a healthier lifestyle. Support includes individualized coaching services and free nicotine replacement therapy to those who qualify. In Alabama, 19.2 percent of adults are smokers, compared to the national rate of 16.1 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Quitline is a service of the Alabama Department of Public Health. 10 FEBRUARY 2020
We received great response to our January feature, a large milk carton-shaped block structure on Highways 231/21 between Sylacauga and Rockford. (Some refer to the community as Stewartville.) Many of you told us that it marks the location of Dark’s Dairy, opened around 1946 by Lillian and Ruben Dark. “The site of our service was once a small dairy farm,” reader Jerry Adair of Coosa Valley EC says. “The milk from the farm was sold to Dark’s Dairy,” and he included a photo of a milk receipt ticket from 1959 (see below). Diane Patton of Central Alabama EC and Sharon Dunlap of Baldwin EMC say their fathers worked at the dairy, and Clint Collins of Baldwin EMC says his family was Dark’s largest milk producer. Arco Farms sold to the dairy from 1953 until the dairy closed. And E.J. Bentley of Central Alabama EC says he delivered milk and butter on a route in Sylacauga that was run by Mr. Dark. Jo Ann Clark of Sylacauga says, “We had a table at our door where we left the empty bottles, which were picked up by the ‘milkman’ when he left our order. The milkmen were like family and always had a minute to chat if the occasion presented itself.” Several readers told us Dark’s Dairy operated until the 1980s. Several readers commented that they hated to see that the structure seems to be fading away. Mary Alyce Bennett of Central Alabama EC says there is a committee in place to attempt to restore the structure to its original state. The photo was taken by Mark Stephenson of Alabama Living. The randomly drawn correct guess winner is Mardre Williams of Central Alabama EC.
Take Alabama Living with you and you might win $25! During 2020, we’re looking for photos of our readers with a copy of Alabama Living on their travels. Send us a photo of yourself, or other family member, holding a copy of everyone’s favorite magazine while you’re on vacation. Send your photo, name, address, location of the photo and your co-op name to: My t r ave l s @ a l a bamaliving.coop. Each person highlighted wins $25!
Ashley Weston, a member of Dixie EC, in New York City. www.alabamaliving.coop
February | Spotlight Alabama writers Gaines, Henry honored with literary prizes Two Alabama writers will be honored at the Monroeville Literary Festival March 5-7 in Monroeville. Charles Gaines has been selected as the 2020 recipient of the Truman Capote Prize in Literary Non-Fiction, and Patti Callahan Henry has been named the 2020 recipient of the Harper Lee Award for Alabama’s Distinguished Writer. Charles Gaines was born in Jacksonville, Florida, and at the age of 10 moved with his family to Birmingham. He received his undergraduate degree from Birmingham-Southern College. His first novel, Stay Hungry, was published in 1972 and focused on the subculture of bodybuilding during Charles Gaines the early 1970s. The book was made into a motion picture in 1976 starring Jeff Bridges, Sally Field and Arnold Schwarzenegger (in his first film). An award-winning writer across multiple genres, Gaines has written or produced screenplays and adaptations, other fiction and numerous articles about fishing and outdoor life. In 1980, with his friend Hayes Noel, he became a co-creator of the game of paintball. Gaines is a 2008 inductee of the Alabama Writers Hall of Fame.
Find the hidden dingbat!
It may not have snowed at your house last month, but hundreds of our readers found the snowflake we tucked away in January’s magazine. In fact, we came across only two answers that were incorrect, so congratulations to the rest of you! The single snowflake was hidden in the center of the hubcap of the electric car on Page 18. We always enjoy hearing from our readers, who send us thankyou cards, letters, and even poems (thank you, Susan Needham of Hanceville, Elenore Madigan of Dothan and Marjorie Wynn of Frankville). Many wrote about how long it took to find the dingbat, or how quickly they found it. Charlotte Graves of Collinsville, a member of Sand Mountain EC, said she started looking on New Year’s Eve with no luck, but then renewed her search early on New Year’s Day in daylight and found it. Ada Mae Graham of Spruce Pine, a member of Franklin EC, used a magnifying glass to help and it worked. Dot Langham of East Brewton, a member of Southern Pine EC, got help from her six-year-old grandson, Landry, as did Jewel McCormick of Greenville from Pioneer EC, whose grandson Jessie, a first grader, found it with the help of a flashlight. One of our favorite letters came from Tina Brown of Holly Pond, a member of Cullman EC, who races with her husband each month to see who will be the first to find the dingbat. She found the snowflake “with only two looks through the magazine.” We were amazed that she is probably the only reader who found the hidden sunglasses in our July 2019 issue (they were well hidden in the moon surface photo from NASA). Congratulations to this month’s winner, Preston Jernigan of Hanceville. This month we’ve hidden a heart, just the right item for the Valentine’s month of February. Remember: It won’t be on Pages 1-8 or in an advertisement. Send us your answers by Feb. 10. Good luck! By mail: Find the Dingbat By email: Alabama Living firstname.lastname@example.org PO Box 244014 Montgomery, AL 36124 Alabama Living
A New York Times bestselling author of 15 novels including the critically-acclaimed historical novel, Becoming Mrs. Lewis – The Improbable Love Story of Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis, Henry is also a USA Today, Publishers Weekly, and the Globe and Mail bestseller. Henry hosts the popular seven-part original Patti Callahan Henry “Behind the Scenes of Becoming Mrs. Lewis Podcast Series” launched in October 2019. She is also the recipient of the 2019 Christy Award for “Best Book of the Year.” Other awards for her fiction include a finalist in the Townsend Prize for Fiction, an Indie Next Pick, an OKRA pick, and a multiple nominee for the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA) Novel of the Year. Her articles and essays have appeared in numerous magazines, newspapers and anthologies. Patti attended Auburn University and Georgia State University. For 25 years she was a resident of Atlanta, before moving to Mountain Brook in 2011 with her husband, Pat, and three children. She has written six books in Alabama, including her seventh novel, forthcoming in 2021. For more information, and tickets, visit MonroevilleLiteraryFestival.com.
Letters to the editor
E-mail us at: email@example.com or write us at: Letters to the editor P.O. Box 244014 Montgomery, AL 36124
Readers make a connection Dear Hardy Jackson, We love reading your articles in the Alabama Living. So refreshing to read something that has a Mayberry feel. My aunt and I always share a chuckle about the story. We live in the Holtville/Slapout area in central Alabama near Lake Jordan. She says there was a Hardy Jackson who was a rural mail carrier in this area in the early 1900s. Could it have been your grandfather? She said he lived somewhere around Blackwell’s Bridge, close to the lake. My aunt is in her 80s and remembers my grandmother talking about hearing all the news when Hardy came around with the mail. They closed the post office here in the Holtville community many, many years ago. In fact, my grandmother received the last package delivered out of that post office. Sheila Hunt and Laura Norris Holtville/Slapout Hardy Jackson responds: That mail carrier was my grandfather, Harvey Hardaway Jackson. He died before I was born. He was a big man – 6 feet 6 inches and over 250 pounds – who, in addition to his duties as a rural letter carrier, was employed as a bouncer at Blackwell Fish Camp, one of the honky tonks on Lake Jordan. He met my grandmother when she was teaching school at Pine Level. They had five children – Sarah Ellen, Hazel, Daddy, Mac and Ann. I believe they all graduated from Holtville High School. All are dead. Mac’s son, Leon, lives out on Sunset Circle, on the last of family land still in family hands. I have not been back in many years. I need to make the trip. FEBRUARY 2020 11
Small Alabama town may be a model for rural development By Todd Stacy Alabama Daily News
he old WestPoint Pepperell mill in Abbeville, Ala., is a long, greyish white structure that stretches two city blocks in all directions at the corner of State Highway 27 and U.S. 431. For many southerners, the building’s long, column-stilted concrete exterior is familiar. Textile giant WestPoint Pepperell dotted the Alabama, Georgia, and Carolina landscape with dozens of similar-looking mills during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s when the industry was still booming. Cotton was plentiful and the labor was relatively cheap, as was the power from hydroelectric dams in places like the Chattahoochee River Valley. And while the buildings were spartan and austere on the outside, the inside housed the beating economic heart of their communities. But over time, a different kind of familiar sight began to set in. In the mid-2000s, WestPoint, now merged and reincorporated as WestPoint Stevens, began moving the manufacturing of many of its popular bedding brands overseas. Mills once humming with thousands of workers slowly shuttered throughout the South, and
the ridge-lined exterior walls turned to empty shells, the leftover fossils of industries that once sustained families and hometowns. Here in Abbeville, the plant where workers made bedsheets and pillowcases began to close in 2007. More than 1,400 employees were forced to find work elsewhere, not an easy task in rural Alabama, especially once the Great Recession set in. Abbeville’s story ultimately has a happy ending, or at least they are getting there. But countless other rural Alabama towns face similar situations and few, if any, have a Jimmy Rane. “It was a real live depression here,” said Rane, CEO of Great Southern Wood Preserving, the homegrown lumber business he has built into a major corporation. It was Rane’s father who originally helped recruit WestPoint from New England to Henry County over spaghetti suppers with company executives in his family restaurant. “Just imagine a community of 3,000 people losing 1,400 jobs. That affected more than the population of the entire town.” State Rep. Dexter Grimsley, D-Abbeville, who has represented
The old West Point Pepperell mill building in Abbeville is a reminder of its heyday, when it employed 1,400 workers in southeast Alabama. PHOTO BY JAY HARE/DOTHAN EAGLE
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Gov. Kay Ivey cuts the ribbon at the grand opening of Abbeville Fiber.
Henry County and part of neighboring Houston County in the Alabama Legislature since 2010, said the plant closing exacerbated existing economic problems. “It wasn’t just West Point Stevens,” Grimsley said. “Abbeville used to be a thriving town with four or five of these manufacturing type industries, but a lot of them closed up and moved away. That left us with a whole lot of needs as a community.” Having tried unsuccessfully to re-purpose the mill, WestPoint Stevens explored selling the facility for salvage, with its inner metals broken down and sold for scrap. Finding that unacceptable, Rane stepped in. “I got them on the phone and said ‘you have no idea what this building means to my little town. You tear it down, and it’s the last chance we are ever going to have to bring in a big industry down here,’” Rane said. “They told me if I would pay them what the salvage company was going to pay, they’d sell it to me. I told the guy, ‘buddy, I don’t know how the hell I’m going to do that, but I’m going to do it.’” After Rane acquired the building, a painstaking effort to redevelop the old mill and bring the jobs back began. It involved local leaders, including from Houston County, as well as state officials spanning multiple governor’s administrations. “We’ve had to think regionally,” Grimsley said. “What’s good for Abbeville and Headland can be good for Dothan, and vice versa. I think everyone began to understand that.” Now, more than a decade later, on a hot, rainy, late summer morning, this small town of Abbeville is gathering in that mill to proudly celebrate the opening of Abbeville Fiber, a state-of-the-art sawmill that will supply the timber to Rane’s famous YellaWood pressure treated pine lumber factories. Alabama Living
PHOTO BY SYDNEY A. FOSTER, ALABAMA GOVERNOR’S OFFICE
The new sawmill will create 115 jobs, only a fraction of the 1,400 that left. Even so, there’s an inescapable sense of triumph in the muggy air. There’s a marching band from Marion Military Institute, Rane’s alma mater. The governor is here, as are the lieutenant governor, the attorney general, and two congressmen. Many of those 115 employees are here, too, dressed in white uniforms and seated alongside a who’s who crowd of Alabama’s political and business leadership. Everyone is celebrating a long-awaited victory for this rural town in the Southeast corner of the state. They are here because this long, column-stilted building along the highway in Henry County won’t be torn down or left to rot like so many others. Rather, it has been refurbished and repurposed into a new industry buzzing with opportunity and hope for its hometown. Challenges for rural economic development in Alabama aren’t new or novel, but recent approaches to fixing them are.
“You could say I have a real passion for rural Alabama,” says Gov. Kay Ivey as she rides along Highway 27 en route to the Abbeville Fiber ribbon cutting. Out the car window passes the waterlogged country of Henry County, with its peanut fields, barns, silos and an occasional homeplace. We pass through Headland, a quintessential Southern small town whose white, paint-chipped water tower stands as metaphor for a place that has seen better days. Ivey grew up in Wilcox County, one of the state’s poorest and least populous areas on the southern edge of the Black Belt. She recalls that rural places like her hometown of Camden faced barriers to economic development back then. FEBRUARY 2020 13
“The only manufacturing we had was MacMillan-Bloedel that came in the mid-60s. Other than that, it was merchants and farming. “So yeah, jobs were sparse.” Even amid a record low unemployment rate of 3.1%, some of Alabama’s most rural counties remain well above the state average. Wilcox has the highest at 7.5%, Greene is next at 7%, Perry sits at 6.7% and Dallas is fourth worst at 6.4%. Those also happen to be counties with some of the highest African American populations. Black unemployment in Alabama is 6.9% while White unemployment is 2.8%. Since taking office in April 2017, Ivey has quietly sought to bring a renewed focus to boosting economic development in rural areas. It’s hard sometimes to compete for attention from some of the larger projects near cities: Mazda and Toyota are building a massive joint assembly plant in Huntsville; Airbus just added a new aircraft assembly line in Mobile; Facebook and Google are locating data centers in North Alabama; Amazon is building a distribution center in Bessemer; and Shipt is locating its headquarters in downtown Birmingham. But Ivey has challenged the Department of Commerce, the state’s economic development arm, to look beyond the Interstate 65 corridor to recruit jobs in rural communities. “Small towns are wonderful places to raise children and have good neighbors,” Ivey says. “Folks in rural Alabama need jobs, too. But a lot of these folks in rural counties don’t know who to contact or what the process is.” That’s why the Department of Commerce recently created a new position to directly and specifically manage rural economic development efforts. Brenda Tuck, who previously spent 20 years working as a local economic developer in rural areas, started in August. “To be honest, I was one of those local economic developers who for the last 20 or so years was asking for this position to be created, so be careful what you ask for, I guess,” Tuck says with a laugh. She’s a busy woman these days, with a new directive from the governor, new legal tools to aid her efforts, and more interest from various partners in rural development than perhaps ever before. Still, the challenges facing many rural places are the same: the lack of infrastructure, of a trained workforce or local organization. “Infrastructure is the piece that a lot of times we struggle with
Among the other recent rural economic development wins:
• Rex Lumber just opened a $110 million sawmill in Pike County that will bring 66 jobs to the area; • Golden Dragon’s Copper recently completed a $3.5 expansion of its Wilcox County manufacturing facility and bringing total employment there over 300; • Lockheed Martin just broke ground on a 100-worker hypersonic missile facility in Courtland in Lawrence County; • Georgia Pacific is investing $110 million in its Choctaw County tissue paper plant which will sustain the 900 jobs it supports; • International Paper is investing more than $550 million in its plant near Selma, signalling the 700-worker facility will remain open and productive for years to come; and • The Alabama Farmers Agriculture Foundation recently chose Clanton as the site of the new Alabama Farm Center, a 5,000 seat, 150,000 square foot, event facility that will attract rodeos, dog shows and festivals. The facility could create as many as 400 jobs and contribute $55 million annually in economic impact.
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Left, Jimmy Rane, at lectern, speaks at the grand opening of Abbeville Fiber in late August. Rane has spent the last several years revitalizing Abbeville’s downtown; right, Rane, CEO of Great Southern Wood Preserving, greets Gov. Kay Ivey. The two have known each other since their time at Auburn University in the 1960s. PHOTOS BY SYDNEY A. FOSTER, ALABAMA GOVERNOR’S OFFICE
because a lot of our rural communities are not on an interstate, they may not have rail nearby, and they may not even have a four lane road,” Tuck said of the challenges of recruiting job-creating businesses to rural areas. “There’s a lot of available land in rural areas, as opposed to metropolitan areas. The questions are can the land be acquired at a reasonable cost? Is it the type of land we need, and does it have access to infrastructure? Is there natural gas nearby? Is there sewer nearby? Trying to get all that infrastructure in place that a corporation would need can be challenging.” A renewed focus on developing rural areas would be welcome news to State Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, who represents a mostly rural, mostly African American district in west central Alabama. “What some people in other areas might take for granted, like clean water or having a hospital nearby, in a lot of rural places we’re having to fight for some of those things. We’re having to fight for clean water and working sewers and to keep hospitals open. How can you recruit a company if you don’t have those things?” Singleton said. There has been some recent momentum on the rural development front. According to the Department of Commerce, 2018 saw $1.8 billion invested in rural Alabama that created some 1,100 new jobs. Singleton noted that biomass company Enviva plans to locate a $175 million wood pellet plant in Sumter County, Alabama’s 8th smallest county that has been steadily losing population. (see sidebar)n www.alabamaliving.coop
Enviva expects to invest $175M in west Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey joined local leaders and Enviva officials in Livingston at the announcement of the companyâ€™s expected investment. PHOTO BY HAL YEAGER/GOVERNORâ€™S OFFICE
Gov. Kay Ivey joined executives with Enviva, which produces industrial wood pellets, and local elected officials in October to announce that the company expects to invest about $175 million to construct a wood pellet production plant in Sumter County.
The proposed facility, to be located at the Port of Epes Industrial Park, is expected to create a minimum of 85 full time jobs and generate an estimated 180 additional jobs in logging, transportation and local services in the region. Enviva, whose industrial wood pellets are used for low-carbon, renewable power generation, expects construction to be ready to begin on the Sumter County facility early this year. The company reported in December that the project had been approved by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management. The company expects construction to take between 15 and 18 months. Enviva said the proposed production facility would principally utilize a mix of softwood and scrap from mills sources from within a 75-mile radius. The pellets produced at the plant would be transported by barge via the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway to the terminal at Pascagoula, Miss., then exported to Europe and Asia. Source: MadeinAlabama.com, the Alabama Department of Commerce website
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Alabama set to make its presidential picks By Minnie Lamberth
n March 3, Alabama’s registered voters will begin making their voices heard on the candidates they want to represent them in the highest office in the land, as well as in a number of local and state offices. In the past, presidential preference primaries were held in June when decisions at the national level had often been narrowed down considerably. In 2015, however, the state changed the date. “We passed legislation to move our presidential preference primary to the first Tuesday in March so we would be one of the earlier primaries in the nation,” says Secretary of State John Merrill. The goal for this change was to attract more presidential candidates to the state during the competitive part of the election cycles. As a result, Merrill says, “Our people would have a greater opportunity to meet those candidates and determine who they wanted to vote for based on personal first-hand knowledge of those people and their visits to Alabama.” The move appears to have paid off. During the election cycle from 2015 to 2016, the state was visited by 10 candidates – eight Republicans and two Democrats. “That was the most presidential 16 FEBRUARY 2020
candidates that had ever come to Alabama at one time during a presidential cycle,” Merrill says. Rather than holding a separate primary at a later date for other elected officials, Merrill adds, “We also changed primaries for local offices and state offices to coincide with the presidential preference primary in order to save a significant amount of money.” When Alabama’s registered voters arrive at their polling places for the primary, they will choose ballots for either the Democratic or Republican parties. As they make a selection for their preferred presidential candidate, they will also have the opportunity to select the delegates they want to represent their votes at the national party conventions. “The Democratic primary convention will be in July, and the Republican convention will be in August,” Merrill says. “All those delegates that have been elected will vote for their candidate to receive the nomination, and that’s how they’ll determine who their party nominees are. That person’s name will be placed on our ballot for Nov. 3, 2020, as the candidate and the running mate of the candidate for both parties.” www.alabamaliving.coop
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During the primary election, Alabamians will also select their respective party nominees for a variety of other races that will appear on the general election ballot. These contests include a U.S. Senate seat, the U.S. House of Representatives delegation, State Board of Education members, and Public Service Commission President, as well as juTerry Lathan, chair dicial races at state and local levels. of the Alabama Voters will be able to participate in either Republican Party primary without registering as a member of a party. “Most states have a party registration or some kind of party-controlled primary,” says Terry Lathan, chair of the Alabama Republican Party. “Alabama is one of the handful that do not. We are one of the very few states that are not primary controlled.” Lathan adds, “There is no party registration. The only thing anyone has ever registered for is to vote.” Although the primaries are open, any runoffs will be limited to those who participated in the party’s primary. “We have a closed runoff,” Lathan says. “If you voted in our primary, you can vote in our runoff.” The same is true for the Democratic side. In the presidential preference category, the Republican Party has three qualified candidates and a number of delegates for each.
“Delegates complete the process,” Lathan explains. They must qualify to run just as any other candidate would, and the delegates that receive the most votes for their place will be the ones voting on the floor of the nominating convention for the candidate they pledged to support. Considering that the Democratic party Chris England, chair has, as of this writing, 16 candidates qualof the Alabama ified to run for president in this state, the Democratic Party candidates to become delegates are quite numerous as well. “You’re going to vote for your presidential candidate of choice, and then you will also vote for a number of delegates based upon congressional district,” says Chris England, chair of the Alabama Democratic Party. “Alabama is not a winner-take-all state,” England says of the party’s nomination process. “It is based on percentages.” Candidates share in the delegates proportionally if they reach a fifteen percent threshold of votes cast in the primary. Merrill encourages Alabamians to participate in the March 3 primary. “The first thing to being prepared to participate is being a registered voter,” he says. Voter registration forms and other details are available at Alabamavotes.gov.n
Statewide amendment also on the ballot In addition to races on the March 3 ballot, there is Statewide Amendment No. 1, which deals with education at the state level. The amendment does three things. First, it renames the State Board of Education the “Alabama Commission on Elementary and Secondary Education” and 18 FEBRUARY 2020
provides that commission members are appointed for up to two terms by the governor and approved by the Senate rather than elected by the public. Second, it changes the title of the top public education official in the state and provides that this official’s appointment
would be approved by the Senate. Third, it requires the Commission to adopt education standards in place of “common core.” SOURCE: ALABAMA SECRETARY OF STATE’S OFFICE
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A look ahead at the Legislature By Allison Law
labama’s 2019 legislative session was, by most accounts, tough. Controversial. Contentious. And for that session, nearly a third of the state’s legislators were new. Now that they have a year’s worth of experience, House Speaker Mac Rep. Mac McCutcheon McCutcheon thinks these new legislators will be able to build on relationships and work more closely with their colleagues. But he stops short of saying the 2020 session will be any easier. “Some of the things that we’re going to tackle are still just as difficult,” he said in an interview in early January. Thorny issues with Corrections, budgets and education will loom large. “I really felt for those 25 new members in the House (last year),” McCutcheon says. “Those men and women were put through a tremendous amount of stress.” But those new legislators gained a lot of experience and have a better feel for the districts and constituents they represent, which may translate into a smoother session. “It will run smoother from the standpoint of accomplishing things.” Among the larger issues McCutcheon expects for the upcoming session, which begins Feb. 4: • Education. McCutcheon says the legislators will be looking at student/teacher ratios, the governance process of the education system, mental health counseling for schools and school safety. “We’re trying to recognize and help students with mental health problems, so that we create a safer environment for all our school systems.” • Prison reforms. “We’ve got a correctional system that’s got to be fixed.” Overcrowding, violence and homicides, understaffing and lack of mental health care have plagued the Alabama Department of Corrections, and the Department of Justice has put the state on notice. McCutcheon says the state needs to deal with the brick-and-mortar facilities, recidivism and increasing supervision for probation and parole. “Corrections officers, we’re going to increase employment, and look at the treatment of inmates, which is going to take additional space as well as additional people.” • Lottery. A lottery measure passed the Senate in 2019, which would have allowed voters to decide on the issue, but it failed a procedural vote in the House. “We’ve still got all these issues out there that have to be paid for. So what direction do we go in for revenue?” For McCutcheon, a lottery is only one part of a threepart gaming issue: The second is the federally-recognized Poarch Creek Indian tribe, which operates three casinos in Alabama. Last fall, the tribe unveiled a plan to expand gambling in exchange for gaming exclusivity. Third are the local issues – counties that have previously passed legislation to enable gaming establishments, such as dog track operators VictoryLand and GreeneTrack. 20 FEBRUARY 2020
Alabama’s 2020 legislative session begins Feb. 4.
“I’ve shared my feelings with the governor. Let’s not leave one out and try to push another one through when it comes to these three issues. Let’s bring them all to the table and let’s find a solution.” • Rural healthcare. “I feel like there needs to be an overall assessment of the rural hospitals and their role in the areas that they’re in. Administration costs, bed space, and their function within a rural community needs to be assessed and evaluated.” But McCutcheon clarified that he was not advocating the closing of smaller hospitals. As a hypothetical example, he said a 30-bed facility may only serve six or seven patients on average each month. “Yet the federal government that’s subsidizing the care through Medicaid, they’re expecting them to staff that hospital for 30 beds. Well, that’s not good economics, and a lot of the communities can’t afford that.” He also says the state needs to move away from talking about Medicaid expansion. A system of clinics might be able to provide primary care in rural areas. And using nurse practitioners, instead of doctors, as well as more reliance on telehealth, all need to be on the table, he says. • Census. While not a legislative issue, McCutcheon is concerned about the Census, which kicks off in March. “We need to get the message out there that this is so important to the state,” he says, not only from the view of losing a congressional seat, but the federal dollars that are allocated based on population. “We were at about 71 percent, maybe, reporting in the last Census. If we could just move up to about 76, 77 percent, (that) could possibly save that congressional seat.”n www.alabamaliving.coop
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The growth of solar power is making it a more useful energy source By Paul Wesslund
ot long ago, solar energy was considered an oddity. Electricity generated from the sun was expensive, so not many people used it. Solar power barely registered on the list of electricity sources. Then, members of local electric cooperatives started asking their co-ops if solar energy might be worth a try, so several of those local electric co-ops set up small panels of solar cells on their property as test projects. Something to know about local electric co-ops is they don’t generate their own electricity. That’s a huge and costly project. So, they band together to form a larger co-op with the financing and technical expertise to build power plants and transmission lines. They call those generation and transmission co-ops, or G&Ts, because they make and ship the electricity to the co-ops, who ultimately send that power to your home or business.
As more and more solar panels started appearing on the front lawns of electric co-ops across the country, their G&T partners said, “We can help you out with those.” The result has been a dramatic increase in solar energy generation, says Debra Roepke, a solar energy specialist who consults with the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA). “There’s been a tenfold increase in electric co-op solar capacity in the last five years,” she says, “and that’s on track to more than double over the next one or two years.” Electric co-ops aren’t the only source of solar growth, of course. While the 900 electric co-op utilities across the country tend to serve small towns and rural areas, other utilities have been adding solar power as well. Solar is spreading across the country, pushed by improving
Electric co-ops are leaders in community solar installations like the one shown here. Even though electric co-ops make up about 10% of the nation’s PHOTO COURTESY DENNIS GAINER, NRECA utility industry, at one point, electric co-ops maintained about 60% of all utility-led solar programs in the U.S.
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Right, The most well-known technique for generating solar energy is through rooftop solar, where a homeowner lays solar panels on their roof or in the back yard. Below, With community solar, the electric co-op builds a bank of solar panels and co-op members can buy or lease the electricity the panels generate. Here, Wade Castleberry, a field-service technician, maintains and cleans fan units at Green Power EMC’s solar facility in Georgia. PHOTOS COURTESY DENNIS GAINER, NRECA
without being that much more expensive to build, lowering the cost of each kilowatt.
Making solar energy more useful
technology and declining costs. One industry analysis finds that the cost for electricity from large-scale solar energy installations has fallen 13% a year for five years. The cost has reached the point where it’s competitive with other fuels. Solar now supplies 2.3% of the nation’s electricity. That may not sound like much, but it’s the equivalent of more than 40 nuclear power plants, and the upward growth and declining costs are expected to continue. And while electric co-ops can only claim a portion of the credit for the solar energy boom, they have pioneered parts of solar’s success, especially in an area called community solar. With community solar, the electric co-op builds a bank of solar panels and co-op members can buy or lease the electricity the panels generate. “Co-ops are leaders in community solar,” says Roepke. Even though electric co-ops make up about 10% of the nation’s utility industry, she says, “At one point, co-ops had about 60% of all the utility-led solar programs.” Roepke credits co-op solar energy developments to their industry business structure of member-owned distribution co-ops and their G&Ts. She says, “When co-op members are engaged with their local distribution co-op and the distribution co-ops are working with the G&Ts that they own, solar is a story about how the co-op model works.” Community solar is one of three ways solar panels are used to make and deliver electricity. Probably the most well-known technique is called rooftop solar, where a homeowner lays solar panels on their roof or in the back yard. But most of the growth happens with utility-scale solar—fields of panels that can cover several acres. The growth in utility-scale solar is one reason costs are coming down—a bigger project can sell a lot more electricity 24 FEBRUARY 2020
As solar energy becomes more widespread, utilities are figuring out ways to make it more useful. Once it seemed obvious that there was no solar power at night. But bigger and more powerful storage batteries can soak up the sun for use later. Once it seemed solar power wasn’t so useful because it peaked during the day when no one was home. But utilities are using sophisticated computer software to figure out how to juggle power sources like solar, wind, coal and hydro among users, like homes, businesses and manufacturers. Other technologies make solar installations increasingly efficient and productive. Improvements in tracking technology mean more power as solar panels move to follow the sun across the sky. Bifacial solar panels contain solar cells on both sides of their surface, adding reflected light to the energy they receive. Electric co-op expertise in solar energy includes rooftop and other residential solar setups. For a co-op member interested in trying solar power for themselves, Roepke says their local electric co-op makes a good first stop. The co-op can help answer questions like how much will it cost, will it pay off, how can it be installed safely and what vendors can be counted on. She cautions that there are a lot of people around the country installing residential solar panels, and their quality can vary. “There are some very good rooftop vendors out there, but there are also some predatory vendors,” says Roepke. “Someone can make a claim that they’re going to save you all this money by putting solar on your roof, then six months after it’s installed, you wonder why you’re not saving all this money, and nobody can get a hold of the solar company.” If you’re considering solar panels for your home, says Roepke, “Your electric co-op is a trusted energy resource. Talk to them first.”n Paul Wesslund writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the national trade association representing more than 900 local electric cooperatives. From growing suburbs to remote farming communities, electric coops serve as engines of economic development for 42 million Americans across 56 percent of the nation’s landscape. www.alabamaliving.coop
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| Alabama People |
The state’s top financial watchdog Rachel Riddle of Prattville was named the chief examiner for the Alabama Department of Examiners of Public Accounts in June 2018, becoming the first woman to hold the position, and the first new person in that position in 37 years. No stranger to state government, she worked as an analyst and fiscal oﬃcer for the Legislature for several years and holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Alabama and a law degree from the Thomas Goode Jones School of Law. She took time to answer a few questions for Alabama Living about the job, and it became quickly apparent that she is very passionate about it and is eager for the public to know more about the department’s important work. –Lenore Vickrey What was your biggest challenge coming in as Chief Examiner? Opening lines of communication and educating auditees, government officials, and the public at large. From the onset of my appointment, I made it my mission to try to educate other government officials, as well as the public, about our department. It was surprising to me how little people really knew about what our department did. While yes, we are the governmental entity that keeps an eye on the public’s money and how it is spent, we do so much more. The department conducts audits that allow for the flow of federal funding to state government, as well as local governments, colleges and universities, and local boards of education. Previous articles have noted that a reduction in staﬀ has been a challenge and that you wanted to rebuild. How is that coming along? Being around government long enough, I knew money or funding alone was not going to fix our staffing and delinquent audit issues. I knew coming in that I was going to need a plan. Upon taking over as chief examiner, I assessed past and current staffing levels. We decided the department didn’t necessarily need to strive to get back to previous staffing levels and could perform the required duties with approximately 60% of prior cut in staff. After this assessment, I came up with a two-year plan to rebuild and move forward. The Legislature, through the department’s Oversight Committee and the appropriations process, graciously provided the first year’s funding needed to implement the plan. As we go into the fiscal year 2020 session, I will be asking for the funding necessary to finish implementation. Were you able to hold the training sessions for board and commission members that you wanted? Yes, the department has restarted training for all state board and commission members and their staff. My hope is to spread these types of trainings to other categories of auditees in state and local government. We have had nothing but positive feedback from this initiative. I personally have even had individuals call and email asking if they could come and just listen because they had heard the training was so useful. Why is it important that our state have a Department of Examiners of Public Accounts? It is the government entity charged with making sure public funds are spent legally and appropriately. As a legislative department, we are the check on state and local government entities. 30 FEBRUARY 2020
Without the audits and examinations performed by the department, there would be no one analyzing how the public’s tax dollars are being spent. We are also the department that provides expertise when public funds are thought to be misspent, mismanaged, or stolen. In addition to being the check on all forms of government, the department also provides required audits for the federal government and bond issuances and covenants. This is a service that many do not know that we provide. These audits are essential to the continued running of government at the state and local level. Recently, we have been educating the public on the presence of our department, hoping to provide some reassurance that there is someone out there looking. What motivates you to get up in the morning? First and foremost, I get up to fulfill my purpose to the ones I love the most. My husband and 3 young children (ages 7, 3 and 8 months) really drive me in all I do. As far as my work goes, I truly have a passion for this state and working with the Legislature. I feel that in some little way that this is my contribution to make our home a little better for us and those that come after us. How do you wind down? Sometimes it’s pretty hard to wind down from a hectic day. My husband, kids, and I are a very active crew and love being outdoors. The best winding down I get is when I am able to get outside and play with the kids, dig in the flowerbeds, work out or just sit and enjoy nature.n
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Expanding Social Security field office hours
ll Social Security field offices will now remain open until 4 p.m. on Wednesdays, with typical field office hours from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. You can locate the closest field office to you using our field office locator online. In another move to improve service to the public, Social Security Commissioner Andrew Saul announced in his Open Letter to the Public at socialsecurity.gov/agency/coss-message.html that the agency is hiring 1,100 front line employees to provide service on the agency’s National 800 Number and in its processing centers. The agency is currently bringing onboard 100 new processing center employees and approximately 500 new teleservice representatives for the 800 Number. An additional 500 hires for the 800 Number will occur later in 2020. “Improving service is my top priority. Increasing full public service hours at our nationwide network of more than 1,200 field offices is the right thing to do and will provide additional access,” Commissioner Saul said. “The additional hiring of National 800 Number and processing center employees is an important step in the right direction to greatly improve the service we provide.” Kylle’ McKinney, SSA Public Affairs Specialist, can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
While we continue to improve both the access to and the experience with our services, it is important to note that most Social Security services do not require the public to take time to visit an office. People may create a my Social Security account, a personalized online service, at socialsecurity.gov/myaccount. Through their personal my Social Security account, people can check personal information and conduct business with Social Security. If they already receive Social Security benefits, they can start or change direct deposit online, and if they need proof of their benefits, they can print or download a current Benefit Verification Letter from their account. People not yet receiving benefits can use their online account to get a personalized Social Security Statement, which provides earnings history information as well as estimates of future benefits. Currently, residents in 40 states and the District of Columbia may request a replacement Social Security card online if they meet certain requirements. The portal also includes a retirement calculator and links to information about other online services, such as applications for retirement, disability, and Medicare benefits. Many Social Security services are also conveniently available by dialing our toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213. People who are deaf or hard of hearing may call our TTY number, 1-800325-0778.n
Across 1 Alabama Seafood favorite, served with hush puppies and coleslaw, 2 words 8 Alabama’s state flower 10 Fizzy drink 11 French for the 13 Alabama writer, Harper ___ 15 The Alabama Power Building in Birmingham is an art ___ structure 17 Genesis lady 18 Green light 19 __ Eliot (poet)
21 23 24 25 27 28 30 32 36 37 38 39
by Myles Mellor
Put in an offer Alabama’s state nut Driver’s license, e.g. Going __river The A in IPA Tide-Tigers cheerleaders wave them, 2 words Birds found along Alabama rivers and water bodies, bald _____s Popular fruity Alabama dessert, 2 words Have some cake Driving locale at Kiva Dunes, for example Fried vegetable that makes a delicious Alabama dish Mobile and Orange Beach are on Alabama’s ____line
Down 1 Confront 2 Belief system 3 Fried ___ pickles 4 Tuna type 5 Distance measurement (abbr.) 6 Many southern people like their meat ___ 7 One of two well-known music studios in Muscle Shoals 9 Paved the way 12 Alabama’s oldest city 13 Goes with behold 14 French for summer 16 Very long time 18 Tom Hanks character who came from Alabama, Forrest ____ 20 Tall glass of beer 22 Suggestion 23 ____ cheese: “The caviar of the south” 26 ___ of Allegiance 29 Below Jr. 31 Shrimps’ partner 32 Big ___ 33 Battery size 34 Two singers 35 Angler’s equipment Answers on Page 49 32 FEBRUARY 2020
February | Around Alabama
Monroeville, Genealogy and history workshop. The Monroe County Museum will host its 19th annual event from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Old Courthouse Museum on the square in downtown. Coffee and light refreshments provided. Pre-registration is suggested; $25 workshop fee. Email Nathan Carter at mchm@ frontiernet.net or call 251-5757433.
Wetumpka, Jasmine Hill Gardens tour, 10 a.m. Participate in the history and beauty of Jasmine Hill Gardens with a tour led by Jim Inscoe. Tour included in the price of admission. JasmineHill.org or 334567-6463.
8 Country music artist Pam Tillis will perform at the historic Pastime Theatre in Winfield on Feb. 15.
February Mardi Gras Events 7-25 Mobile, The Port City (and several towns in Mobile and Baldwin counties) celebrate Mardi Gras with parades and other events that culminate with Fat Tuesday, which is Feb. 25. For schedules, visit mobile.org and mobilemask. com. 8 Prattville, Mardi Gras parade and celebration. Food vendors, arts and crafts vendors and inflatables from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The parade begins at 2 p.m. prattvilleal.gov. 15 Millbrook, Millbrook Revelers Mardi Gras Festival and Parade at Village Green. Festival grounds open at 9 a.m., with food vendors and activities for children. The family-friendly parade starts at noon. MillbrookRevelers.org 22 Decatur, Carnegie Carnival. Events include the Carnival Frolic 13.1-mile race at Founder’s Park, “Mardi Grass” live music event at The Brick Deli, children’s games and train ride at the Morgan County-Decatur Farmers Market, Prince and Princess Parade, Carnival Canines on Parade and the grand finale parade at 6 p.m. on Second Avenue to Bank Street. Visit CarnegieCarnival.org for information on all the events. 22 Wetumpka, Order of Cimarron’s Eighth Annual Mardi Gras celebration in the historic downtown area. Festivities begin at 9 a.m. with vendors in Gold Star Park and a street parade at 1 p.m. Beads, Moon Pies, toys and other throws. 334-324-8667.
Gulf Shores, Gulf Shores Woman’s Club’s 43rd annual tour of homes. 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets are $20 each and include five tickets for raffle prizes. Homes are located in Gulf Shores Craft Farms and in Orange Beach. Money raised goes to local scholarships and charities. 251-5544889.
Montevallo, American Village celebrates its 20th anniversary, Washington’s Birthday and the opening of the fourth annual Festival of Tulips (weather permitting). 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. AmericanVillage.org.
Montgomery, Jewish Food Festival and Treasure Market, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Temple Beth Or, 2246 Narrow Lane Road. Brisket, potato latkes, baked goods and famous Carnegie Deli cheesecake. Visit the Treasure Market and attend a session on Jewish customs. 334-262-3314.
Selma, 55th Anniversary Bridge Crossing Jubilee. A weekend full of events, including workshops, an educational summit, a voting rights panel, church service and more will conclude with a re-enactment of the crossing over the Edmond Pettus Bridge, starting at Brown Chapel, followed by a gospel concert and awards event. Selmajubilee.com.
Gulf Shores, 2020 Sweetheart 5K, Sea Turtle Half-Marathon and Sweetheart One-Mile Fun Run, 7 a.m. at the Hangout, 101 E. Beach Blvd. Final race in the 2020 Run The Beach Series. Visit runsignup.com and type “Gulf Shores” in the search field for information.
Chatom, Indian artifact show, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Chatom Community Center, 222 Dixie Youth Drive. Sponsored by the Rebel State Archaeological Society. Free admission. Contact Bimbo Kohen, 251-542-9456 or 251-377-1191. Orange Beach and Bay Minette, Baldwin Pops Concert Band performances. Feb. 10 event is at the Orange Beach Event Center; Feb. 11 event is at the Gulf Coast Community College Auditorium. Both begin at 7 p.m. BaldwinPops.com.
Winfield, Pam Tillis and her trio perform a Valentine concert at the Pastime Theatre, 1052 U.S. Highway 43. Guests may have dinner next door at the Pastime Civic Center before the concert. Show tickets are $35. 205-487-3002.
To place an event, e-mail email@example.com. or visit www.alabamaliving.coop. You can also mail to Events Calendar, P.O. Box 244014, Montgomery, AL 36124; Each submission must include a contact name and phone number. Deadline is two months prior to issue date. We regret that we cannot publish every event due to space limitations.
Orange Beach, 28th annual Seafood Festival and Car Show, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Wharf, 4830 Main St. The Orange Beach Sports Association sponsors this free event with food, live music on two stages, kids’ activities and more than 125 arts and crafts vendors. 251-2241000 or OrangeBeachAl.gov. Moulton, Fourth annual Fat Tuesday Adult Spelling Bee, 6 to 9:30 p.m. Teams of 2-5 adults compete in this Mardi Gras-themed event, and teams decorate tables. Call the Lawrence County Public Library at 256-974-0883 for more information. Dothan, Youth Wildlife Day at Landmark Park. Live animal meet and greet, youth BB gun shooting range, fish casting practice, youth archery range and reptile presentation. 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; free for park members and ages 15 and under; $4 adults. LandmarkParkDothan.com. Robertsdale, Baldwin County Cattlemen’s Festival, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Baldwin County Fairgrounds. Free. Chili cookoff, crafts, farmers’ market, antique tractors, live music, car show, petting zoo and family and children’s activities. Email BaldwinCoBeef@yahoo.com or call 858-663-1379.
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FEBRUARY 2020 33
| Worth the drive |
Pizza fanatics ﬂock to Cullman for made-to-order meals Story and photos by Jennifer Crossley Howard
ucy Gable assumed she would follow in the footsteps of her father, Dr. Harry Blaylock, after she graduated from Auburn University and become a veterinarian. Her father had other plans. He had just bought an Italian restaurant in her hometown of Cullman, and he needed help running it while maintaining his veterinary practice. She came home and started pitching in what has become the family business. “I went from an animal science major, to this,” Gable says, gesturing to a dining room that would soon fill for lunch. She hasn’t looked back. “It’s so rewarding every day, though it feels overwhelming at times,” she says. “We really try to maintain the Carlton’s tradition.” She describes that tradition as maintaining all of the original owner’s recipes. All sauce and pizza dough are made in house, and cooks use nothing frozen to prepare their menus. “Literally every ticket is made to order,” Gable says. “That is, I guess, the hardest part. Every pizza we hand roll and top and then bake.” The most popular dish is the lasagna, followed by Dr. Blaylock’s Supreme, a 10-topping pizza cooked in a slate oven at 600 degrees. “It cooks just perfect,” Gable says. “A lot of pizza fanatics come here,” she added, including those from Birmingham and Huntsville.
All in the family
Her father bought the restaurant a few years before retiring, and he relied on the women in his family to run the business, includ-
ing Gable’s other daughter, Katie Blaylock. But as he worked, a unique team stepped in to run the place: his wife, Leslie Blaylock, and ex-wife, Kaye Blaylock. The two women worked side by side for years with the common mission of operating a successful business. It got to where, “truthfully, they were best friends,” Dr. Blaylock says. Business picked up as it got closer for Blaylock to sell his veterinary practice in Hanceville. “It’s just been snowballing ever since then,” he says. “I love it. I enjoy coming to work every day.” Though switching from treating animals to wooing the palate of humans might seem a bit of a stretch, there are similarities. Dr. Blaylock dealt with the public as a veterinarian, and he does so daily still. He wanted to own a restaurant since he was 12 years old. After eating and making memories at Carlton’s for years, when it came for sale, he couldn’t pass it up. He met with the owner and made an offer on the spot. Later, “I went home and told my wife I bought a restaurant,” he says.
Walking into Carlton’s, located in downtown Cullman, sets the mood for what will surely be a sensory experience. Old, worn wood doors lead diners inside to an open dining room with a tiled
Southern Accents Architectural Antiques in Cullman, another locally- and family-owned business, had renovated the Carlton’s space shortly before Dr. Harry Blaylock bought it. The décor is full of salvaged and repurposed materials. Below right, Dr. Blaylock’s Supreme, a 10-topping pizza, is a best-seller.
34 FEBRUARY 2020
Lucy Gable, manager of Carlton’s, and her father, Dr. Harry Blaylock, owner, have worked together since her father, a retired veterinarian, bought it in 2009.
floor. Lighting is low, even on a rainy day, and fresh Peruvian lilies sit in bud vases on each table and booth. Southern Accents Architectural Antiques, another local, family-run business, had renovated Carlton’s before Blaylock bought it. The restaurant’s location and decor sold him. “I thought this was a diamond in the rough,” Dr. Blaylock says. “There wasn’t picture on the wall or anything. This was just a beautiful restored building.” Its standout features include wooden doors used as booth tables, salvaged from Chicago brownstones, and brick on the patio from the old Sweetwater Mill in Florence. “Everyone always asks, ‘Don’t you want a bigger building?’” Dr. Blaylock says. “But that’s what makes us Carlton’s. It’s rustic, and you can’t replace the building.” In the future, Dr. Blaylock envisions possibly expanding the building at its current space adding a bar and maybe a cigar bar, which would be a first for Cullman.n
Carlton’s Italian Restaurant and Catering 208 Third Ave. SE Cullman, AL 35055 256-739-9050 Hours: 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; closed Sunday www.carltonsitalian.com
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| Gardens |
Alabama’s biodiversity makes it a haven for mushrooms
hen a spate of warm, rainy weather causes mushroom populations to mushroom in your landscape, there’s no cause to worry. It may, however, be time to find the sauté pan. Mushrooms, along with molds and yeasts, belong to the fascinating kingdom of fungi. Unlike members of the plant kingdom, which make their own energy through photosynthesis, fungi gather sustenance directly from their surroundings through mycelium, the vegetative part of a fungal colony made up of thread-like structures that reside in, and absorb nutrients from, soil and other organic substrates (leaf litter, dead wood, etc.). As mycelium feed, they also recycle nutrients, promote decomposition, build soils and filter pollutants, plus they provide food for other creatures. Most of this process occurs out of our sight until moist, humid weather conditions prompt fungi to go forth and multiply, which they do primarily by forming above-ground fruiting bodies (what we call mushrooms) that rise up to release fungal spores into the world. These ‘shrooms emerge, usually in sporadic flushes, in a diverse array of shapes, sizes and colors that spark another post-rain spate of activity — groups of humans dashing to the woods to admire and acquire wild mushrooms. Anthoni Goodman, president of the Alabama Mushroom Society (alabamamushroomsociety.org and on Facebook), is one of those mushroom hunters. Goodman says this pastime is especially rewarding here in Alabama, home to thousands of different fungi species, including potentially dozens that have not yet been described. Goodman, who lives in the Birmingham area, founded AMS in 2018 to help connect the state’s mycophiles (fungi lovers) and to educate the public about Alabama’s Katie Jackson is a freelance writer and editor based in Opelika, Alabama. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
36 FEBRUARY 2020
fabulous fungi resources. (AMS now has two active chapters, North Central in Birmingham and AMS South in Mobile.) “Our members join with a host of interests, from fungal taxonomy and photography to cultivation and unique culinary adventures,” Goodman says. The organization’s 100-plus members work together toward the AMS mission to “garner interest in and facilitate education” of Alabama’s amazing fungi kingdom. They do this through educational programs and other events, such as expert-led fungi foraging outings during which a hike can become a harvest of what Goodman described as “highly sought-after ingredients that can’t be bought in stores” — edible fungi. Wild edible fungi (typically mushrooms) are healthful, nutritious and coveted by epicureans and chefs for their distinctive flavors, which range from earthy to woodsy, meaty to briny and nutty to smoky. However, because some wild mushrooms are toxic, foragers should always keep this cautionary adage in mind: “There are old mushroom eaters and bold mushroom eaters, but there are no old, bold mushroom eaters.” “You should never eat things (berries, leaves, ‘shrooms, whatever) you find in the forest unless you are 100-percent confident in your identification,” Goodman says, adding that it’s also wise to not be “too bold about that confidence.” Education is the key, but more riskaverse mushroom mavens have another option: home-grown mushrooms, which are the specialty of AMS board member Allen Carrol, co-owner of Fungi Farm LLC in Dadeville. Fungi Farm (fungifarmllc. com and on Facebook) offers high-quality wood-grown mushroom supplies and advice for home or commercial production, and they can be grown almost anywhere, from warehouses to shady yards to urban apartments. What’s more, growing mushrooms is good for the food web. “If you’re growing mushrooms, all you’re really doing is composting with a very specific organism,” Carroll explains. While
The Alabama Mushroom Society offers expertled hikes to look for Alabama’s amazing fungi, such as this interesting and edible shaggystalked bolete. PHOTO BY ANTHONI GOODMAN
the byproduct of that composting is fresh mushrooms to eat, the process also builds soil, which can then be used to grow more vegetables and fruits and to strengthen the health and wellbeing of ecosystems. Even when they pop up in our yards, mushrooms contribute to this cycle of life, so unless they pose a threat to curious pets or children, the best thing to do with a flush of mushrooms is leave them to their work. And, once you are 100 percent sure they’re safe to consume, maybe toss a few in the sauté pan.n
FEBRUARY TIPS • Plant roses, trees, shrubs and hardy perennials.
• Repair gardening tools and equipment. • Clean out and properly dispose of unwanted or outdated chemicals.
• Start seeds for early spring crops and flowers.
• Clean and refill bird feeders and baths. • Celebrate Valentine’s Day with gifts for, and of, the garden.
FEBRUARY 2020â€ƒ 37
| Alabama Recipes |
STYLING/PHOTOS BY BROOKE ECHOLS
38 FEBRUARY 2020
Cook of the Month
Evelyn Milner, Wiregrass EC Pork in Brown Sauce 3 cups beef or chicken broth 2 tablespoons molasses or cane syrup 4 teaspoons soy sauce ½ teaspoon salt ¼ tsp paprika ¼ teaspoon pepper 1 cup carrots, sliced ¾ cup onions, chopped ½ cup green bell pepper, chopped 1 to 1 1/3 pounds ground pork 3 ounces sliced mushrooms, drained ½ cup water 1 /3 cup flour
Blend syrup (molasses or cane) into warmed broth. Add in soy sauce. Blend in the salt, paprika and pepper. Add oil to a cast iron skillet and sauté pork, draining fat. Add mushrooms, carrots, onions and bell pepper to pork. Pour in broth mixture; cover and simmer about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, put ½ cup water in a jar with a lid. Add flour to water and shake (with the lid on) to blend. Stir into meat mixture; simmer and stir until thickened like a gravy.
Instant Pot Baby Back Ribs
Instant Pot Baby Back Ribs are a great way to have that sultry cookout food anytime you want it. In less than 30 to 40 minutes, these ribs are slathered with a great wet rub. The addition of Southern Flavor Charbroil seasoning and apple cider vinegar will have you tasting that great apple smoked flavor, but without all the mess or fuss. If you don’t have an electric pressure cooker, never fear! Just prep these gorgeous guys the same way the recipe calls for: Wrap them in some aluminum foil and slow-cook them in the oven at 250 degrees for 2 to 4 hours or until internal temperature reaches 180 degrees. Take them out and place under the broiler for a few minutes until they brown like you like them! No matter how you cook them, you can have Baby Back Ribs any old time. For more great recipes like these, visit us at www. Brooke Burks thebutteredhome.com.
1-2 small to medium racks of baby back pork ribs 1 cup water ¼ cup apple cider vinegar 1 cup BBQ sauce, optional or on the side 2 teaspoons salt 1 teaspoon pepper 1 teaspoon Southern Flavor Charbroil seasoning 1 teaspoon minced garlic 1 teaspoon chili powder 1 teaspoon onion powder 1 teaspoon smoked paprika 1 teaspoon brown sugar 1 teaspoon prepared mustard 1 teaspoon maple syrup Set ribs out to come to room temperature. Remove membrane from back of ribs carefully. Mix salt, pepper, southern flavor, garlic, chili powder, onion, smoked paprika, brown sugar, mustard and syrup in a small bowl. set aside. Place trivet inside 6 qt or larger Instant Pot. Add in water and apple cider vinegar. Rub racks of ribs down with wet rub and carefully place around outside of inner pot standing on their sides, meat side out. (If you are using two racks of ribs, it is ok to nestle one inside of the other.) Close lid, seal vent and set to manual or pressure cook for 20 minutes for one rack, 30 minutes for two. When done, allow to release pressure naturally for 10-15 minutes. Release the vent to allow any more pressure to escape. Carefully open lid and place on oven safe pan. Ribs should be 180 degrees internal temp for doneness. Place under the broiler for 2-3 minutes until outside skin is brown and crispy to your liking. Enjoy! PHOTO BY THE BUTTERED HOME FEBRUARY 2020 39
Easy Hawaiian Luau Loin 1 5-pound pork loin 1 20-ounce can pineapple chunks, with juice 1 tablespoon vegetable oil 1 small onion chopped (about ½ cup) 2 cups ginger ale Pour oil into a heavy skillet, sear loin on each side. Remove loin and add onion. Cook until transparent. Transfer loin and onion to crock pot. Cover with pineapple, pineapple juice and ginger ale. Cook 8 hours on low heat. Serve with rice. Becky Chappelle Cullman EC
Pork Chop Surprise 4 pork chops 6 potatoes, sliced ¼-inch thick 1 can cream of mushroom soup Water 1 envelope dry onion soup mix Brown pork chops on both sides. Transfer to a slow cooker. Add potato slices. Pour soup over chops. Add enough water to cover all ingredients. Cover and cook on high for 6-8 hours. Variation: combine 1 envelope dry onion soup mix with the water before pouring over chops and potatoes. Mary McGriff Cullman EC
Tender Pork Roast 1 1 ¾ ½ 2
3-pound boneless pork roast 8-ounce can tomato sauce cup Moore’s Original Marinade cup sugar teaspoons ground mustard
Slice roast in half; place in a 5-quart slow cooker. Combine remaining ingredients; pour over roast. Cover and cook on low for 8-9 hours or until meat thermometer reads 160-170 degrees. Remove roast to a serving platter and keep warm. If desired, skim fat from pan juices and thicken for gravy. Yields: 8 servings. Mary McGriff Cullman EC
40 FEBRUARY 2020
Easy Hawaiian Luau Loin
Maple Glazed Pork Chops
Barbecue Boston Butt
4 2 2 1 4 4 2
6-8 pound Boston butt 1 cup original barbecue sauce ½ cup regular Sprite ¼ cup red hot sauce 1 package fajita seasoning mix
boneless pork chops tablespoons onion powder tablespoons garlic powder teaspoon paprika tablespoons brown sugar tablespoons maple syrup tablespoons olive oil
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place pork chops in a baking dish (or line a sheet pan with aluminum foil) and cover pork chops with the olive oil. Combine the brown sugar, garlic powder, onion powder and paprika in a cup or small bowl. Rub the brown sugar mixture over the tops of each pork chop. Bake them in the oven for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, pull them out and pour the maple syrup over the top, approximately 1 tablespoon per pork chop. Put them back into the oven for 5-10 minute or until golden brown and fully cooked. Katelyn McBride Central Alabama EC
Rinse meat and pat dry. In a slow cooker, mix barbecue sauce, Sprite and hot sauce. Rub fajita seasoning all over the Boston Butt and place in slow cooker. Cook on low 6 hours. Remove from slow cooker. Trim off fat; take 2 forks and shred meat. Serve with mustard slaw, a little extra barbecue sauce on a bun. Teresa Hubbard Franklin EC
prize and title of
Themes and Deadlines: May: Avocados | Feb. 7 June: Potluck | March 13 July: Squash | April 3 Please send us your original recipes (developed or adapted by you or family members.) Cook of the Month winners will receive $50, and may win “Cook of the Month” only once per calendar year.
3 ways to submit: Online: alabamaliving.coop Email: email@example.com Mail: Recipes, P.O. Box 244014 Montgomery, AL 36124
Source of Key Nutrients
Pork is both a good source of protein and also provides several important vitamins and minerals. A 3-ounce serving of pork is an “excellent” source of thiamin, selenium, protein, niacin, vitamin B6 and phosphorus, and a “good” source of riboﬂavin, zinc and potassium.
Protein in Pork
Today’s pork is 16 percent leaner and 27 percent lower in saturated fat compared to 26 years ago. Eight cuts of pork meet the USDA guidelines for “lean” by containing less than 10 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat and 95 milligrams of cholesterol per 100 grams of meat. Popular pork tenderloin has the same amount of fat as a skinless chicken breast.
Pork Facts Heart-Healthy Leaner than Chicken
According to the National Pork Board, America’s pig farmers have worked closely for the past 20 years to make changes in what pigs eat, how they are raised and bred to develop a leaner, quality pork product. Pork today compares favorably for fat, calories, and cholesterol with many other types of meat and poultry. While providing a greater amount of vitamins and minerals, many cuts of pork are as lean or leaner than chicken.
Pork is naturally low in sodium and a “good” source of potassium – two nutrients that, when coupled, can help regulate blood pressure. The American Heart Association has certiﬁed the pork tenderloin and pork sirloin roast meet the criteria as heart-healthy foods, indicating that they contain less than 5 grams of fat, 2 grams or less of saturated fat and 480 milligrams or less of sodium per label serving, among other criteria. Source: National Pork Board
the best of
Mail order form and payment to: Best of Alabama Living Cookbook P.O. Box 244014 Montgomery, AL 36124-4014 COOKBOOKS @ $19.95 EACH:
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FEBRUARY 2020 41
A small sounder, or social group, of feral hogs trapped in a corral in Tuscaloosa County. One expert says that in trying to eliminate the hogs, it’s best to PHOTO COURTESY ALABAMA DEPARTMENT OF CONSERVATION AND NATURAL RESOURCES try to trap an entire sounder, if possible.
Growing feral swine population difficult to control By John N. Felsher
hen Spanish explorer and conquistador Hernando de Soto landed in North America in 1539, he brought domestic pigs with him to feed his troops. During his wanderings across what would become the southeastern United States, including Alabama, many swine escaped and turned wild. Now, their descendants number in the millions. “Pigs are extremely prolific,” says Matt Brock, the top wild hog biologist for the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division. “Sows can reach sexual maturity as early as six months and reproduce up to twice a year. Generally, they have four to 10 piglets per litter, but average about six to eight.” Until about three decades ago, wild pig populations in Alabama remained concentrated primarily along the lower Tombigbee and Alabama river drainages. Some people trapped feral swine to release on hunting properties throughout the state. Now, wild hogs populate every county in Alabama. “Wild hogs don’t naturally expand outward very quickly,” Brock says. “Highly territorial, pigs gather in social groups called sounders that typically occupy about 300 to 900 acres for their home range, depending upon the habitat type. For 450 years, pigs were confined to a few counties in south Alabama, but now they’re everywhere. I don’t know if they have quite reached the same numbers as deer, at least not yet, but in certain parts of the state, they probably have.” Pigs can cause severe problems for other animals by displacing native wildlife like white-tailed deer and competing with them for food. Pigs eat almost anything. Wild swine can also carry diseases, such as anthrax and brucellosis that could spread to humans, wildlife and domestic livestock. “As a state wildlife agency, we want to improve native wildlife populations,” Brock says. “Hogs probably affect deer and deer habitat most, but they can affect small ground-dwelling reptiles, mammals and birds as well. They eat anything that nests on the ground, so hogs are potential threats to those species. They’ll eat quail and quail eggs, but there’s also evidence that they have consumed turkey poults and eggs as well. Anyone who captures a wild hog in Alabama must kill it on site. It’s illegal to transport live wild hogs in the state.”
Effects on the environment
Hogs can also cause significant environmental damage. When searching for food, pigs root around with their noses. After hogs
42 FEBRUARY 2020
go through an area, it looks like someone rototilled it by plowing up the dirt and uprooting plants that other animals need for food or cover. Feral hogs also consume large quantities of agricultural crops like corn, soybeans and peanuts. Many people hunt pigs. Landowners can also apply for free permits from any district wildlife office to remove nuisance hogs. With a permit, people can shoot hogs on private property at night during certain months. However, hunters can only do so much to trim burgeoning hog populations. “To control wild hog populations, people need to kill 70 percent of the pigs in an area annually just to maintain the status quo,” Brock says. “I don’t see recreational hunters killing 70 percent of the hogs across the board, but it might happen on certain properties.” Some landowners hire hog control experts like Barry and Bart Estes with Alabama Hog Control in Prattville. The Estes brothers use rifles equipped with thermal sights to shoot pigs at night. “When people are having hog problems, they call us and we do our best to decrease that number dramatically,” Barry says. “In 2018, I killed 1,310 feral hogs. I killed more than a thousand with thermal optics and trapped more than 250.” To trap pigs, Estes uses a Jager Pro M.I.N.E. Trapping System. M.I.N.E. stands for Manually Initiated Nuisance Elimination. With this system, Estes places bait in a large corral-like trap. Motion sensors send texts to his smart phone when pigs arrive. Estes can remotely watch the trap with video cameras. When the entire sounder enters the corral, he can transmit an electronic code to close the gate. “We want to catch the whole sounder in a single drop,” Barry says. “If we don’t, the rest get wise. My personal record for a single drop is 51 pigs. I give a lot of pigs away to people who need the meat. I’ve also given away hundreds of pigs to reptile farms and zoos to feed the animals and I’ve donated pigs to wild game cookoffs.” Landowners can ask state biologists for technical assistance on how to reduce hog populations on their properties. Periodically, officials hold public seminars to teach landowners how to control pigs. For more information, call Brock at 334-549-3032. Controlling feral hog populations takes time, money and effort. Despite these efforts, feral hog populations will continue to grow in Alabama and elsewhere as de Soto’s gift from centuries ago keeps giving year after year.n www.alabamaliving.coop
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FEBRUARY 2020 43
| Outdoors |
Matching wits with the toughest game animal in Alabama
Game camera captures a group of feral hogs in west Autauga County.
ristling with razor sharp tusks and protected by a tough hide covering thick hardened scar tissue, a big, ornery boar makes a fearsome adversary. “The largest hog that I have ever seen was probably a little over 300 pounds,” says Matt Brock, an Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division biologist. “I’ve heard of people who claimed to have killed 400- to 500-pound hogs. I know such hogs do exist, but any boar that’s 300 pounds or more is an extremely large pig. Most will be between 200 and 275 pounds.” Fearing nothing, feral pigs offer extremely challenging hunting. Hogs can’t see very well, but they can instantly notice movement. With their incredible noses, they can detect danger from a distance. “Hogs are adaptable and learn very quickly,” Brock says. “They can be difficult to hunt. If they smell a human, they react quickly. They learn to avoid areas where they have conflict with people, but their weakness is food. They are enslaved by their stomachs.” Omnivorous hogs eat almost anything including nuts, fruits, roots, berries, bulbs, mushrooms, insects, invertebrates, even carrion. Most people hunt hogs from stands overlooking food plots or natural nutrition sources. Look for pigs to come out at first or last light to feed around field edges. “On public land, people need to find food sources,” says Barry Estes with Alabama Hog Control in Prattville. “Pigs love white oak
John N. Felsher lives in Semmes, Ala. Contact him through Facebook.
44 FEBRUARY 2020
acorns and swamp chestnuts, but by December, most of the acorns are gone. In the winter, hogs don’t have much to eat and there isn’t much green food available except for planted food plots. Now it’s legal to bait for hogs so that will help get them in at certain times.” In 2019, the state passed a new law that allows people to hunt feral hogs and white-tailed deer over bait on private property if they buy a baiting license. Many people use spin feeders that fling corn or other tidbits in all directions at predetermined times. Pigs quickly learn to associate feeder sounds with food, so they frequently come running when the spinner goes off. “All hunters wishing to hunt over bait must purchase the baiting privilege license,” says Chuck Sykes, the AWFFD director. “This includes even all hunters historically exempt from purchasing a hunting license. Baiting on public lands remains illegal for both deer and hogs. Also, it is still illegal to hunt any other wildlife other than deer or hogs with the aid of bait.” Estes also suggests using a “pig pipe” to bring hogs into range. Take a length of PVC pipe, cap one end and drill holes into it big enough to barely let corn kernels out. Add a screw cap to the other end so the sportsmen can keep refilling the pipe with more bait. Then, place it in a likely area where pigs will find it. “A pig pipe keeps hogs around longer because it takes them three or four hours to empty the pipe,” Estes says. “They’ll roll that sucker around all over the place.” A big pig can take considerable punishment, so many hunters use large caliber, high-velocity rifles firing full-metal jacketed rounds or shotguns loaded with 00 buckshot. Some sportsmen hunt hogs without guns. They follow chase dogs trained to find and bay pigs. Once the chase dogs corner a pig, the hunters release a catch dog, usually a tough pit bull that grabs the hog’s ear, nose or another vital organ and holds it until a hunter can kill the beast with a knife. From May 1 through Aug. 31 each year, sportsmen can use dogs to hunt hogs at night on private property, but they cannot use firearms to kill hogs after dark without a permit. Some of the best hog hunting occurs in late winter or early spring after most of the foliage disappeared, giving hunters better visibility. In addition, hogs move around more at that time to look for food. On private land, people can shoot pigs all year long without limit. Since hogs eat so much and cause such damage, many landowners welcome hunters who want to kill hogs on their properties. Most wildlife management areas allow sportsmen to kill hogs during any open hunting season with weapons legal for that game animal. Some wildlife management areas offer special hog seasons.n www.alabamaliving.coop
DOUG HANNON’S FISH & GAME FORECAST 2020 FEBRUARY
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4:18 - 6:18 5:06 - 7:06 5:54 - 7:54 6:42 - 8:42 7:30 - 9:30 8:18 - 10:18 9:06 - 11:06 10:42 - 12:42 11:30 - 1:30 NA 1:06 - 3:06 1:54 - 3:54 2:42 - 4:42 3:30 - 5:30
4:42 - 6:42 5:30 - 7:30 6:18 - 8:18 7:06 - 9:06 7:54 - 9:54 8:42 - 10:42 9:30 - 11:30 11:06 - 1:06 11:54 - 1:54 12:42 - 2:42 1:30 - 3:30 2:18 - 4:18 3:06 - 5:06 3:54 - 5:54
10:45 - 12:15 11:33 - 1:03 NA 1:09 - 2:39 1:57 - 3:27 2:45 - 4:15 3:33 - 5:03 5:09 - 6:39 5:57 - 7:27 6:45 - 8:15 7:33 - 9:03 8:21 - 9:51 9:09 - 10:39 9:57 - 11:27
11:09 - 12:39 11:57 - 1:27 12:45 - 2:15 1:33 - 3:03 2:21 - 3:51 3:09 - 4:39 3:57 - 5:27 5:33 - 7:03 6:21 - 7:51 7:09 - 8:39 7:57 - 9:27 8:45 - 10:15 9:33 - 11:03 10:21 - 11:51
4:18 - 6:18 5:06 - 7:06 6:42 - 8:42 7:30 - 9:30 8:18 - 10:18 9:06 - 11:06 9:54 - 11:54 11:18 - 1:18 NA 12:30 - 2:30 1:18 - 3:18 2:06 - 4:06 2:54 - 4:54 3:42 - 5:42 4:30 - 6:30 5:18 - 7:18 6:06 - 8:06 6:54 - 8:54 7:42 - 9:42 8:30 - 10:30 9:18 - 11:18 9:54 - 11:54 10:06 - 12:06 NA 12:30 - 2:30 1:18 - 3:18 2:06 - 4:06 2:54 - 4:54 3:42 - 5:42 4:30 - 6:30 5:18 - 7:18
4:42 - 6:42 5:30 - 7:30 7:06 - 9:06 7:54 - 9:54 8:42 - 10:42 9:30 - 11:30 10:18 - 12:18 11:42 - 1:42 12:06 - 2:06 12:54 - 2:54 1:42 - 3:42 2:30 - 4:30 3:18 - 5:18 4:06 - 6:06 4:54 - 6:54 5:42 - 7:42 6:30 - 8:30 7:18 - 9:18 8:06 - 10:06 8:54 - 10:54 9:42 - 11:42 10:18 - 12:18 10:30 - 12:30 12:06 - 2:06 12:54 - 2:54 1:42 - 3:42 2:30 - 4:30 3:18 - 5:18 4:06 - 6:06 4:54 - 6:54 5:42 - 7:42
10:45 - 12:15 11:33 - 1:03 1:09 - 2:39 1:57 - 3:27 2:45 - 4:15 3:33 - 5:03 4:21 - 5:51 5:48 - 7:18 6:09 - 7:39 6:57 - 8:27 7:45 - 9:15 8:33 - 10:03 9:21 - 10:51 10:09 - 11:39 10:57 - 12:27 NA 12:33 - 2:03 1:21 - 2:51 2:09 - 3:39 2:57 - 4:27 3:45 - 5:15 4:21 - 5:51 4:33 - 6:03 6:09 - 7:39 6:57 - 8:27 7:45 - 9:15 8:33 - 10:03 9:21 - 10:51 10:09 - 11:39 10:57 - 12:27 NA
11:09 - 12:39 11:57 - 1:27 1:33 - 3:03 2:21 - 3:51 3:09 - 4:39 3:57 - 5:27 4:45 - 6:15 6:11 - 7:41 6:33 - 8:03 7:21 - 8:51 8:09 - 9:39 8:57 - 10:27 9:45 - 11:15 10:33 - 12:03 11:21 - 12:51 12:09 - 1:39 12:57 - 2:27 1:45 - 3:15 2:33 - 4:03 3:21 - 4:51 4:09 - 5:39 4:45 - 6:15 4:57 - 6:27 6:33 - 8:03 7:21 - 8:51 8:09 - 9:39 8:57 - 10:27 9:45 - 11:15 10:33 - 12:03 11:21 - 12:51 12:09 - 1:39
DST NEW MOON
The Moon Clock and resulting Moon Times were developed 36 years ago by Doug Hannon, one of America’s most trusted wildlife experts and a tireless inventor. The Moon Clock is produced by DataSport, Inc. of Atlanta, GA (www.moontimes.com), a company specializing in wildlife activity time prediction. Alabama Living
FEBRUARY 2020 45
Come in, we're open!
www.brundidgealabama.com from your home to your office ... for entertainment and enjoyment ... 46 FEBRUARY 2020
We have what you need! www.alabamaliving.coop
YOUR STATE SENATORS
Sen. Jimmy Holley
Sen. Will Barfoot
Senate District 31 721 State House 11 South Union Street Montgomery, AL 36130 334-261-0845
Senate District 25 733 State House 11 South Union Street Montgomery, AL 36130 334-261-0895
YOUR STATE REPRESENTATIVES
Rep. Wes Allen
House District 89 427-M State House 11 South Union Street Montgomery, AL 36130 334-261-0593
Rep. Chris Sells
House District 90 401-C State House 11 South Union Street Montgomery, AL 36130 334-261-0568
Rep. Rhett Marques House District 91 527-B State House 11 South Union Street Montgomery, AL 36130 334-261-0473
FEBRUARY 2020 47
| Our Sources Say |
Doing what we can A
few months ago, I wrote about comments I receive on my articles. I quote another reader this month. He said, “I read with interest Gary Smith’s CEO column in Alabama Living about climate change and current debates. Although I also do not see the practicality of the drastic and radical changes that some of the candidates are proposing, it is interesting that the CEO of a power company is undermining the need to plan for a future where renewable energy will play a significant role. Whether Mr. Smith will live to see it or not, fossil fuels will eventually run out. It is in the interest of America to look far into the future and be at the forefront of developing technology and energy sources of the future. Please don’t justify your opinion by mentioning cost. Remember how computers were expensive at the time when typewriters were the mainstream; and how trains used to be dangerously fast for human beings to ride? Either we stick to our typewriters, keep riding our horses and succumb to our fate, or we keep America great and lead ahead of the Chinese and Europeans. It starts with CEOs with vision for the new economy and the world to come, and leaders who plan how we can get there.” The reader makes some interesting points. Fossil fuels may eventually run out, but I doubt if I live to see it. Most estimates indicate that proven oil and gas reserves will last over 50 years at current consumption rates. Of course, consumption rates are likely to increase as more people in the world move out of poverty and use more fossil fuels. However, more reserves are discovered every year as extraction technologies improve. The reader also lectures not to justify a position by mentioning cost. Costs cannot be ignored in any economic or industrial evaluation or activity. This is not the time to delve into the laws of energy or the laws of physics, but the energy revolution, if there is one, will not be guided by Moore’s Law, which applies to the economies of computing power, but by the scientific laws of energy and physics. Energy costs will not scale like the economies of computing power. The reader challenges leaders to adopt a vision for the new economy and the world to come. That vision should apply to everyone in the world, not just the U.S. The rest of the world is trying to get where we are, and they are doing it with fossil fuels. China and India are building coal-fired generation plants at a very rapid pace. Those plants will operate for decades. They will continue to use fossil fuels because they are energy-dense, cheaper, and more reliable than renewable resources.
Because of changes in environmental regulations, PowerSouth is improving its emission footprints and moving away slightly from fossil fuels. We will close our coal-fired generation units in October 2020 because of increased regulation of coal ash. We will replace that generation with a highly efficient natural gas combined-cycle plant. The new natural gas plant, although producing more electricity, will emit about half the carbon dioxide and will not have the ash issues associated with the coal plant. We have a Purchased Power Agreement in the Vogtle Unit 3&4 nuclear expansion near Augusta, Georgia, for 5% of the capacity (or 125 MWs) for a 20-year term. That power is carbon-free and is a pure hedge against carbon-free mandates or carbon taxes. It will be more expensive than natural gas generated power but will be more environmentally friendly. We are entering into a Purchased Power Agreement for 80 MWs of solar power below our average energy cost. We have held off on solar generation until the price dropped below our average cost of energy. We would like to have more solar generation, but we are uncertain we can reliably manage the intermittency of more than 80 MWs of solar generation and meet our responsibility as an electric utility to balance load with generation. We are looking at battery technology and waiting for the price of batteries to drop to a price comparable to our average cost of service. However, we will not have sufficient renewable energy or battery capacity to operate more than a minimal amount of our system on batteries. There is no significant wind in Alabama to support wind generation and transmission of wind generation from the west costs too much to be reasonably affordable. We don’t expect wind generation to be a material part of our generation mix. We have done about all we can do to cut carbon emissions and clean up our generation without a significant breakthough in technology. Today, I see no real evidence of that type of advancement. We are doing about all we can reliably do to add renewable generation. Considering that, I have to take exception with my reader’s position. The world will be dependent on fossil fuels for electric generation for some time – probably multiple decades - because we have no other alternative. There is no renewable or carbon-free generation resource that will provide the reliable and affordable service we provide our members today. Anything else will be unacceptable. I hope you have a good month.n
Gary Smith is President and CEO of PowerSouth Energy Cooperative.
48 FEBRUARY 2020
| Classiﬁeds | How To Place a Line Ad in Marketplace Closing Deadlines (in our ofﬁce): April 2020 Issue by February 25 May 2020 Issue by March 25 June 2020 Issue by April 25 Ads are $1.75 per word with a 10 word minimum and are on a prepaid basis; Telephone numbers, email addresses and websites are considered 1 word each. Ads will not be taken over the phone. You may email your ad to firstname.lastname@example.org; or call (800)410-2737 ask for Heather for pricing.; We accept checks, money orders and all major credit cards. Mail ad submission along with a check or money order made payable to ALABAMA LIVING, P.O. Box 244014, Montgomery, AL 36124 – Attn: Classiﬁeds.
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Land, Lots & Real Estate
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FEBRUARY 2020 49
| Hardy Jackson's Alabama |
Who remembers the streakers of ‘74? C
ome with me back to those thrilling days of yesteryear. February 1974 to be exact. That was when brave Southern boys and girls broke down the last barrier that stood between themselves and good taste and took off their clothes – in public. Though it was still winter, the weather cleared, cold air from Canada stopped above the Ohio River, and the sun broke out to heat the ground. Deep Dixie is famous for February warm-up, daffodils pushing out, plum trees budding, a false spring that brightens spirits before March comes in like a lion. It was one of those February days. And because winter had been particularly bleak, Southerners welcomed the warmth like a long-lost friend. Some say it began at Auburn University. Some say at UGA. Other schools Harvey H. (Hardy) Jackson is Professor Emeritus of History at Jacksonville State University and a columnist for Alabama Living. He can be reached at email@example.com.
50 FEBRUARY 2020
claimed the honor. The one thing the claimants had in common was that they were Southern. The day was sunny and a few male students, full of themselves as young men are, stripped down and ran from one dorm to another. Seeing this as a challenge, other students followed suit without suits. Coeds, emboldened by the Women’s Rights Movement, joined their brothers in the buff. Afternoon stretched into evening and as night fell more students came out, bared it all, and “streaked” across campus. The next day university officials issued the order, “Wear clothes please, we’re Southern” – or something to that effect. But it was too late. It was a movement. On university campuses throughout the Dixie students stripped down in the prespring rite. Now, of course, most students did not take part in this. However, I firmly believe that even those who watched and cheered, fully clothed, supported the movement and wished they were bold enough to be in it.
Still, there was opposition. College administrators, of course, took a dim view of such doings. Young Republicans grumbled that it was just the sort of thing one would expect from students raised on Dr. Spock parenting and Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. Campus religious organizations also took a dim view of the proceedings, though none ventured to say that their members weren’t involved. Others claimed to see the Lord’s displeasure in the cold front HE sent down a few days later to nip the buds and slow the sap HE had warmed the week before. So it followed that by the time spring came for real, colleges were prepared with rules and penalties. It was over. But consider this – they are still among us, those boys and girls of February ’74. In the years since then, they have taught our children, run our companies, sat in church with us, and worked to make our communities better places in which to live. Good for them. And if you are one of them – good for you.n www.alabamaliving.coop