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Bounty BALDWIN’S

WOMEN IN AGRICULTURE

2018

GULF COAST MEDIA THE COURIER • THE ONLOOKER • THE ISLANDER • THE BALDWIN TIMES


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4 • Baldwin’s Bounty 2018 • Gulf Coast Media • GulfCoastNewsToday.com

BALDWIN’S

TABLE OFS T N E T N O C

WOMEN IN AGRICULTURE

06  Carrying on the family business ■ 07 McMullen turns life-long love of gardening ■ into career

08 A girl and her olives ■ 08 Picking the best farm equipment ■ 09 Foley High School’s Future Farmers of America ■ 10 Forland Family Farm ■ 11 Craine Creek Farm ■ A specialty publication of Gulf Coast Media

publisher

Parks Rogers parks@gulfcoastmedia.com

editor

Allison Marlow allisonm@gulfcoastmedia.com

design and layout Paige Marmolejo

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Women are the future of farming By ALLISON MARLOW allisonm@gulfcoastmedia.com

The days of relying on sons to take over the family farm may be slowly fading. National and state statistics show that women are stepping up to meet the nation’s food, fuel and fiber needs. Across the U.S. just under 1 million women operate farms, controlling 7 percent of U.S. farmland according to the National Agriculture Statistics Service. In Alabama 18,374 women are farmers. In Baldwin County women are growing, harvesting and selling vegetables, honey, blueberries, olive oil and a host of other products. Some have cultivated their farms on their own with little more than a dream and an empty field. Others stepped in when family duty called. Hope Cassebaum was the daughter of a farmer and became a farmer’s wife on her wedding day. Today, she is the first woman president of the Baldwin County Farmers Federation. Cassebaum says women have always been an integral part of farming and have always done as much work as the men. They just haven’t always been as visible, or necessarily been the head of the operation. “The wives have always been there, always working,” she said.

LouAnn Love louann@gulfcoastmedia.com 251.243.7620 Frank Kustura frank@gulfcoastmedia.com 251.923.8129 Jeniece Bouzan jeniece@gulfcoastmedia.com 251.978.0497

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Hope Cassebaum and her husband.

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This year her daughter Kelsey graduated from Auburn University and returned home to help manage and work the family farm, meaning the family’s legacy, started by her great grandfather who immigrated from Germany, will continue for a fourth generation. Still, Cassebaum worries about the future of agriculture for her daughter and young farmers, both male and female, who come after her. “A lot of the agriculture industry is not necessarily farming now but chemical sales, equipment and ag teachers,” she said. “A lot of the younger generations are working in ag but not necessarily on farms.”


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6 • Baldwin’s Bounty 2018 • Gulf Coast Media • GulfCoastNewsToday.com

Carrying on the family business ALLISON MARLOW / STAFF PHOTOS

By ALLISON MARLOW allisonm@gulfcoastmedia.com

Hope Cassebaum knew long before she married what life as a farmer’s wife entailed. As the daughter of a farmer, she knew the land was the priority. And on the day she and husband Todd Cassebaum married, he was working the field before the ceremony. The next morning they both were busy irrigating the sweet corn. It’s a life she loves. “It’s a way of life. It’s rewarding to see your children grow up in this atmosphere and the values they learn from hard work,” she said. “It’s a blessing. A young person these days can’t just go out on their own and start

a farm. Financially I don’t think it’s feasible.” The Cassebaums operate a third-generation farm, created by Todd’s grandfather who immigrated from Germany in the 1920s. The elder Cassebaum landed initially in Chicago where he worked on a farm and then moved to Baldwin County when his brother, who was already living in Alabama, sent him news of a farm available for sale. The family works the 2,000 acre plot year-round growing practically everything Baldwin County is known for: cotton, peanuts, wheat, oats, field corn, pecans, peas, butter beans, cantaloupes, sweet corn, watermelons, tomatoes and cattle. Over the years Hope farmed. Her

I think now there’s more girls who have gone to college to study agriculture and their daddies are looking twice at them as far as being recognized as doing as much as men.” - Hope Cassebaum

children, Kelsey and August, learned to farm. Women, she said, have always been an important part of the business. “Women have always been there, riding right along with the men, they just don’t get the credit for it,” she said. But, slowly, the ladies are finally getting their due. In 2015 Hope Cassebaum was elected president of the Baldwin County Farmers Federation, the first woman not only to be elected president but to serve on the board. She served on that executive committee since 2010 after moving up from the Young Farmers of Baldwin County. ALFA is Alabama’s largest farm organization comprised of and representing agricultural and associate members in all 67 Alabama counties. The Alabama Farmers Federation strives to protect and improve the ability of farmers engaged in production agriculture to provide a reliable supply of food through responsible stewardship of Alabama’s resources. And the Cassebaums’ love of the land will continue for another generation. Both of their children plan to

make a career on the family farm, including daughter Kelsey who recently graduated from Auburn University with a degree in Agricultural Business and Economics. The trend of daughters not just working the family farm, but taking the lead is growing, Hope said. “I think now there’s more girls who have gone to college to study agriculture and their daddies are looking twice at them as far as being recognized as doing as much as men,” she said. “My husband was tickled to death that Kelsey wanted to come back,” she said.


Gulf Coast Media • GulfCoastNewsToday.com • Baldwin’s Bounty 2018 • 7

McMullen turns life-long love of gardening into career By JOHN UNDERWOOD john@gulfcoastmedia.com

ELBERTA — Managing the Garden Center at the Elberta Farmer’s Co-Op seems to be a perfect fit for Deena McMullen. “My mom and dad both loved all things green,” she said. “They both loved gardening and my dad learned how to graft camellias, which is something that takes a lot of work.” It’s a love they passed down to McMullen and all of her siblings. Well, almost all. “Somehow my sister missed that gene,” she jokes, “but she does everything else well.” For her parents and other siblings, gardening has been a life-long hobby, but McMullen has taken that love to

the next level and made it her career of choice. The Mobile native has worked for several businesses in the horticulture and gardening industry, even working for a short time at Bellingrath Gardens before going to work for the Elberta Co-Op nearly 12 years ago. The Elberta Farmer’s Co-op is a member-owned cooperative affiliated with the Alabama Farmer’s Cooperative. EFC is the oldest farmer’s cooperative in Baldwin County, established in 1949. “We provide the community’s hard-working farmers with the materials for their livelihoods as well as everyday household items,” according to EFC’s website. “The Elberta Co-op carries what you need for your farm, household, yard and pets. Come by and

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see our selection of seeds, fertilizers, lawn and garden items, hardware, and feed for every animal.” As manager of the Garden Center, McMullen supervises and maintains all of the plants in the Garden Center. She also works with customers advising them on the ideal times for planting and what to plant. Another part of her responsibilities is working with deer hunters and plot managers supervising what seeds to

plant and times to plant for the best results. “I work with all levels from the home gardener to experienced landscapers,” she said. “I love what I do here and my customers are the best.” You can visit the Elberta Farmer’s Co-Op at 13320 County Road 83 in Elberta, call 251-986-8014 or go to elbertacoop.com for more information about the Co-Op and how to become a member.


8 • Baldwin’s Bounty 2018 • Gulf Coast Media • GulfCoastNewsToday.com

A girl and her olives By ALLISON MARLOW allisonm@gulfcoastmedia.com

Beth Clark has turned from gardener to farmer in just a few years. After an olive farm in Georgia caught the eye of the self-professed foodie and retired flight attendant, Clark and her husband Brooks wondered if the fruit would survive the Alabama heat. They attended conferences by the Georgia Olive Growers and visited small growers in California’s Napa and Sonoma area. And then they planted three varieties on 7 acres in Lillian. “I’m a crazy woman with logs of energy,” she said of the leap into farming. “I wanted to do something interesting in my old age. This might prove to be too interesting.” So far, everything is coming up olives. The pair has 3,000 trees split among three varieties, Arbequina (the bulk of the crop), Arbosana and Koroneiki, planted in what is known as a high density grove meaning the trees are planted closer together to make best use of the land. Her precisely spaced, perfectly manicured grove is quietly tucked behind a neighborhood in Lillian. The plants, which started at just a few inches from the ground, strung along a trellis, are now taller than she is and can reach heights of up to 50 feet. While olives may be best known for growing in Mediterranean regions, olives can tolerate the heat of the American south. Last year Clark’s

What is Extra Virgin Olive Oil? EVOO is simply the pressing of olives with the end result being pure oil. To be EVOO the end product should contain no more than .8 percent acidity. Also in order to qualify as EVOO the oil must pass an official chemical test in a laboratory and a sensory evaluation by a trained tasting panel. The olive oil must be found to be free from defects while exhibiting some fruitiness. Virgin olive oil (without the word extra) is produced through the same process and is not blended with other oils. It is simply made from slightly riper olives and has around 2 percent acidity. EVOO has a longer shelf life.

ALLISON MARLOW / STAFF PHOTOS

Once every tree is mature the farm may produce up to 60 gallons per acre. That’s a lot of olives to pick. Temple University research shows EVOO Clark said the most difficult part is protects against memory loss, preserves balancing all the needs of the farm grove produced nearly 1 ton of olives, the ability to learn and reduces conditions in the most economical way possible. enough to press and produce just associated with Alzheimer’s Disease. Also “When I get discouraged I have over 8 gallons of extra virgin olive olive oil reduces brain inflammation and to look around and reoil. activates the autophagy process, where by toxins are removed. Such debris and toxins member, we have Oil from that first press was given come a very long to family and friends in her signature are firm markers of Alzheimer’s disease. The FDA says eating two tablespoons of olive way,” she said. bottles bearing her farm name: A oil a day may reduce the risk of heart disease, The farm in fact, Girl and an Olive. due to its monounsaturated fat content. may go a long way in That was last year, before all the EVOO also contains polyphenols which act looking at olives as trees were producing. as antioxidants, reducing the oxidative stress a new crop for the This year the pressing process may throughout your body. A small amount of entire state. prove to be the most interesting part Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are also “Is it viable of her new hobby. present in EVOO which are essential for for the state? The couple hand-picks many of brain health. Vitamin E which is great for skin I don’t know their olives. health is also found in EVOO. yet. The cost The olives are funneled into a versus what crusher that separates the water Picking is not a fast process either. you can make from the oil. The left over, now oilis the chalPickers must be careful to keep the less olives are used for compost and lenge. But basket of olives as clean and dirt animal feed. we’re here and free as possible, with few leaves and The catch is, the crusher works branches. Last year the 50 bottle pro- we’re trying best when it is constantly being fed. it,” she said. duction took six days of around the And the olives have to be pressed clock work. within 24 hours of being picked.

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Gulf Coast Media • GulfCoastNewsToday.com • Baldwin’s Bounty 2018 • 9

Foley High School’s Future Farmers of America By JESSICA VAUGHN jessica@gulfcoastmedia.com

Foley High School offers a threeteacher program that is designed to teach students everything from Veterinary Science to wielding. The Future Farmers of America is dedicated to preparing students for a future in a varying degree of careers, and is even working on a Research Center that will give students a hands-on experience in agriculture. One of the shining lights is the program’s acceptance of all students, allowing women to prepare for a future in agriculture. Three students in the program, Alicia Quinley, Secretary Dorsey Gardner, and President Madison Dees, all grew up in the area and around farming, inspiring them all to join the club once they became high schoolers. “We have a lot of fun, and I love Dr. Beth Taylor’s class especially,” said

Dees. “We have a lot of interesting things that go on in there, we have several horses, and we have goats and puppies and lots of other random interval animals that come in and out. Right now we’re working on a project, we’re building an electric fence out there for the horses, to keep people out and animals in. There’s a lot of fun and crazy activities going on around here.” The women all stated that belonging to a club among people with similar interests to them was a huge factor that drew them in, as well as the teachers. In the future, all three are planning to go to universities for degrees within Veterinary careers. Even so, they’ve all branched out and participated in many different areas of the club, which offers teams for meat judging, livestock, land judging, forestry, aqua culture, horticulture, poultry, vet science, tractor driving, and more.

“I would really like to see students get more involved,” said Quinley. “There’s a bunch of students that take the classes, but don’t necessarily get involved with the team or their chapter, and I’d really like to see more students get involved.” Another area that needs female growth is outside of the Vet Science program, which is primarily female, while some of the other areas remain primarily male. “There’s a bit of a stigma, most of the girls do more of the animal side of things, so I’d really love to get some involved in the shop side,” said Dees. “I’m taking construction and framing this year, and we’ve been talking about the classes and the majority of people who have signed up are obviously male, so I’ll probably be one of the only girls in there.” Aside from incorporating both women and men into all the areas of

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the club, the girls hope to help set the club up to become involved within the community before their future graduation. “I really want to see the good stuff that we start now continue and become something that future officers continue to support,” Gardner said. The FFA members have plans to get involved with the elderly community in nursing homes around the area, as well as visiting the elementary and middle schools to get younger students interested early.


10 • Baldwin’s Bounty 2018 • Gulf Coast Media • GulfCoastNewsToday.com

Forland Family Farm By CRYSTAL COLE

is doing the farm market and selling aspect of it, getting it on the tables and that kind of stuff. We do CSA baskets as well. So, I take what they give Alescia Forland, operational me and connect it with someone in manager for the Coastal Alabama Farmers and Fishermens Market and the community who needs or wants it.” owner of the Loxley Farm Market, Alescia married into the Forland stays busy- especially when her famifamily. Her former husband, along ly’s produce is in season. with their daughter Michelle, do most From the Forland Family Farm in of the work on the farm, with his Silverhill, to the markets in Loxley brother managing the cattle aspect of and Foley and trips to Fairhope and the farm. Alescia’s father has aided more, Forland spends her days providing fresh, locally-grown produce to her work, as well. “My dad also farms now that he’s the residents of Baldwin County. retired,” Forland said. “I help him, “I mostly do the farm market part and he brings me the other stuff I of the business,” Forland said. “I do need. Between both sides of the famhelp sometimes on the farm. So far ily, they keep me well-supplied when this year, the only thing I’ve really things are in season.” done is to help pick peaches. I like to Michelle marks the fourth generatend to the cherry tomatoes myself. When the peas get ready, I’ll help pick tion of farmers in the Forland family. Alescia says being a woman in the agsome more of those. Mostly my part crystal@gulfcoastmedia.com

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CRYSTAL COLE / STAFF PHOTOS

ricultural industry isn’t as challenging as it may have been previously, but it certainly isn’t expected. “In the beginning, I started doing the farm market in 1995, it was a little more difficult for women because there weren’t many women doing any type of farm business,” Forland said. “Nowadays, everything is so diverse I really don’t think about it. I’ve just been doing it for so long. Another thing is I’ve been doing it so long most everyone in this business kind of knows me.” Forland said the world needs farmers, male or female, and added that the growing popularity of small farmers markets has helped bring more women farmers onto the scene. “With the rise of family markets, it’s easier to focus on small endeavors like greenhouses which is a lot easier for women to do themselves,” Forland said. “It’s not easy for us to hook up that machinery. We as women go into more things like fruit trees and things that we can manage, small vegetables in greenhouses. You can make money doing small acreage- you have more time to tend- and raised beds. We as women have adjusted a lot of farming to meet our needs of what we can do and how we can do it better.” Her advice to any young women looking to get into an agricultural line of work — just do it. “If it’s something that you enjoy, you need to do it because you have to

work your entire life,” Forland said. “Might as well be doing something that you enjoy. People who work in the farming industry are so much happier because they learn how to be patient. They’re not used to instant gratification. They don’t make as much money as others would make, but their health is better. It’s a very rewarding occupation. You get to plant something and watch it grow. You get to take care of it, harvest it and enjoy the bounty yourself and with others.”


Gulf Coast Media • GulfCoastNewsToday.com • Baldwin’s Bounty 2018 • 11

Craine Creek Farm By CLIFF MCCOLLUM cliff@gulfcoastmedia.com

Lettuces and more leaf vegetables than you can imagine are always on hand at Craine Creek Farm in Loxley, where sustainable indoor agriculture is the goal for Anita Craine and her family. Craine Creek Farm specializes in hydroponic non-GMO lettuces and leaves that are grown without pesticides and can offer their wares year-round to individuals, restaurants, farmers markets and buying clubs. The process used to help grow the plants is controlled environment agriculture within their hydroponic greenhouse. Microprocessors allow the family to control the plant’s environment over the course of the day that allow the plants to stay in photosynthesis through making minor changes in that environment. This process makes for happier, stronger plants.

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“We have systems that are monitored by computer 24/7 that help keep the plants in optimum growing conditions to maintain nutritional needs for the plants,” Craine said. “We don’t really have a need for herbicides and we never use pesticides since we try to focus on preventive measures with our plants.” Craine co-founded the farm with her son Micah back in 2012, and the business has continued to grow in that time. With hydroponic lettuce, there is little downtime at Craine Creek, where plants stay in the nursery for 14 or 15 days and then moved to trays where

CLIFF MCCOLLUM / STAFF PHOTOS

they’ll stay 35 to 40 days. Because of that quick turnaround, Craine Creek products can be delivered to the customer, restaurant or market within 24 to 48 hours after harvesting. “It’s important that we can get our products to our consumers while it still has a nice, complex and fresh flavor to it,” Craine said. Some of the Craines local customers include Jesse’s Restaurant, Villaggio Grill, the Dumbwaiter Restaurant, Fisher’s, the Loxley Farm Market and Forland Family Market.

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By focusing on leaf plants, the Craine family has grown more than 50 varieties of plants for their customers to enjoy, including sorrel, tatsoi, wasabi leaf and a lot of other plants you won’t find elsewhere in Baldwin County. “We wanted to find crops that weren’t already being brought to local tables,” Craine said. For those interested in learning more about Craine Creek or how to purchase some delicious greens, call 656-6748.

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Baldwin Bounty 2018  
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