Page 1


MARC H /APR IL 2 01 2

A Publication of Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation •

MISSISSIPPI FARM CO UNTRY Volume 88 Number 2 March/April 2012

M ississippi Fa rm Country (ISSN 1529-9600) magazine is published bimonthly by the Mississippi Farm Bureau® Federation. Farm Bureau members receive this publication as part of their membership benefit. Periodicals postage is paid at Jackson, MS and at additional mailing offices. Postmaster: Send address changes to P. O. Box 1972, Jackson, MS 39215

EDITORIAL and BUSINESS OFFICES 6311 Ridgewood Road Jackson, MS 39211 601-977-4153 E DITOR - Glynda Phillips AD VE RTISING Angela Thompson 1-800-227-8244 ext. 4242 FARM BUREAU OFFICERS President – Randy Knight Vice President – Donald Gant Vice President – Ted Kendall Vice President – Reggie Magee Treasurer – Billy Davis Corporate Secretary – Ilene Sumrall FARM BURE AU DIRECT ORS Carla Taylor, Booneville Mike Graves, Ripley Ronald Jones, Holly Springs Bill Ryan Tabb, Cleveland Randle Wright, Vardaman Neal Huskison, Pontotoc Mike Langley, Houston Bobby Moody, Louisville Wanda Hill, Isola James Foy, Canton Fred Stokes, Porterville James Brewer, Shubuta David Boyd, Sandhill Lonnie Fortner, Port Gibson Jeff Mullins, Meadville Mike McCormick, Union Church Lyle Hubbard, Mt. Olive Gerald Moore, Petal J. B. Brown, Perkinston Ken Mallette, Vancleave Betty Mills, Winona Jason Hill, Woodland



8 AGRICULTURE’S FUTURE Young farmers are agriculture’s future. Come with us as we meet the 2011 Young Farmers & Ranchers State Achievement Award and Discussion Meet winners

1 6 SOLVE THE MYSTERY Which Humphreys County town is located near Sky Lake Boardwalk? Read about the boardwalk and make your guess.

2 8 MFBF ANNUAL MEETING The 90th Annual Meeting of the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation was held in December in Jackson. We look back at this event through photos and articles

“Our mission is to create an environment in which Mississippi farmers, ranchers, and Farm Bureau members can have a better life and make a better living.”

Departments 4 6 7 12 18 20

HONORARY V ICE -PRE SID ENTS Louis Breaux, David H. Bennett Warren Oakley Material in this publication is based on what the editor believes to be reliable information. Neither Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation nor those individuals or organizations contributing to the MFBF publication assume any liability for errors that might go undetected in the publication — this includes statements in articles or advertisements that could lead to erroneous personal or business management decisions. FARM BUREAU®, FB® and all Farm Bureau logos used in this magazine are registered service marks owned by the American Farm Bureau Federation. They may not be used in any commercial manner without the prior written consent of the American Farm Bureau Federation.

President’s Message Commodity Update: Cotton Commodity Update: Beef Public Policy Notes Counsel’s Corner Member Benefits Spotlight

About the cover Vardaman sweet potato farmers Brad and Carla Spencer are the 2011 Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation Young Farmers & Ranchers State Achievement Award winners. Brad is shown at the Spencer & Son Potato Shed.

Design: Coopwood Communications, Inc. MARCH/APRIL



PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE Randy Knight, President Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation

Our Volunteer Leaders Make a Difference

State convention always brings a sense of closure to the year. The crops are in, colder weather has set in, and the holiday season is upon us, with Thanksgiving behind us and Christmas just ahead. During annual meeting – our 90th this year – we are able to visit with friends, talk about important issues, and approve the policies that will guide our organization in the coming year. We also get to honor those volunteer leaders who have made a difference in the lives of others – not only during the past year, but quite often, over the course of a lifetime. In 2011, in addition to our outstanding county Farm Bureau programs, we recognized an especially noteworthy group of leaders – from retired dairy farmer and longtime volunteer leader Warren Oakley, to retired Yalobusha County Extension Director Steve Cummings, to outstanding young farmers Brad and Carla Spencer and television meteorologist Barbie Bassett. Who has the time to volunteer these days? Farm Bureau members make the time. We believe in giving back because we have been given so much. Our volunteer leaders are often involved in church and community activities, and they are always the cream of the crop. This issue of our magazine features state convention activities and those volunteer leaders, including the young farmer contest winners, who are making a difference in the lives of others. I have said this before, but it certainly bears repeating, our Young Farmers & Ranchers Program is without equal. Agriculture’s future is definitely in capable hands. Read this issue, and see if you don’t agree. And speaking of making a difference, I want to focus my column this time on the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation (MFBF) Women’s Program. The old saying is certainly true: “If you want a job done well, just ask a woman.” Our women volunteer leaders aren’t afraid of hard work. They roll up their sleeves and jump right in. The MFBF Women’s Program, which is a part of our Member Services Department, works with a variety of important efforts each year. Volunteer leaders raise funds and collect household items for the Ronald McDonald House in Jackson. They raise funds for a college scholarship that is presented to four deserving young women annually. They collect Mississippi Pennies, which are distributed to charitable organizations and other worthwhile projects around the state. This year, Mississippi Pennies donations were presented to Smithdale High School in Monroe County to help rebuild the library destroyed by a tornado. Our women volunteer leaders are dedicated to making sure that every Mississippi student learns about agriculture. Through our Ag in the Classroom program, they take curriculum materials for grades K-12 into classrooms across the state. They also actively support agricultural education efforts at the Mississippi Children’s Museum in Jackson. If you haven’t visited the Mississippi Children’s Museum, I encourage you to do so. All of the exhibits are great, but the ones devoted to 4

agriculture are especially meaningful to farmers. An education specialist that Farm Bureau helps to fund serves as an advisor for the agricultural exhibits and coordinates special ag-related events and projects each week, using materials from the our Ag in the Classroom program. For the past two years, our women volunteer leaders were an essential part of our eminent domain campaign, helping to gather the signatures that would ensure that Initiative 31 was placed on the ballot and making sure the public understood the importance of voting “yes” on the measure in the general election. They spent many hours handing out materials at county and state fairs and at other special events across the state. If you are unfamiliar with our women’s program, here is how it is structured. Every county Farm Bureau has a women’s committee, with a chair and a vice chair. Every region has a women’s committee comprised of the county chairs. The State Women’s Committee consists of those women who are elected to chair the regional committees plus two more women who are elected to serve as state chair and vice chair. State Women’s Committee members include: Deniese Swindoll of DeSoto County, Region 1; Kay Perkins of Tishomingo County, Region 2; Peggy McKey of Hinds County, Region 3; Jody Bailey of Yalobusha County, Region 4; Betty Edwards of Amite County, Region 5; Joan Thompson of Neshoba County, Region 6; Carolyn Turner of Jones County, Region 7; and Wanda Hill of Humphreys County, Region 8. Chairing the state committee is Betty Mills of Montgomery County. Shelby Williams of Covington County serves as vice chair. All of these women have farming backgrounds, and many of them actively farm. Make a point of expressing your appreciation to our women volunteer leaders for their hard work on behalf of Farm Bureau and Mississippi agriculture. For more information about this program, contact Women’s Program Coordinator Clara Bilbo at (601) 977-4245. By the time you read this, spring will have arrived. But as I write my column, it is January and we are still talking about the passage of Initiative 31 for eminent domain reform. Farm Bureau is an effective grassroots organization because of our statewide network of informed and involved volunteer leaders. People listen when we support an issue because they know that we have the best interests of our state and nation at heart. In conclusion, I want to leave you with this thought: Even as the winds of change blow hard across this great nation of ours, threatening to erode the very foundation upon which our country was established, Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation remains true to those democratic principles set forth by our founding fathers. We are a conservative grassroots organization whose members value God, family and country. Always. It is just that simple, and it is just that powerful.




90th MFBF Annual Meeting Highlights

arm Bureau members from across the state gathered in Jackson on Dec. 3-5 to participate in the 90th Annual Meeting of the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation. Here is a recap of the highlights. Newly-elected or reelected directors from odd-numbered districts include: District 1 – Carla Taylor, Prentiss County; District 3 – Ronald Jones, Marshall County; District 5 – Randle Wright, Calhoun County; District 7 – Mike Langley, Chickasaw County; District 9 – Wanda Hill, Humphreys County; District 11 – Fred Stokes, Kemper County; District 13 – David Boyd, Rankin County; District 15 – Jeff Mullins, Franklin County; District 17 – Lyle Hubbard, Jeff Davis County; and District 19 – J. B. Brown, Stone County. Betty Mills of Montgomery County was reelected to chair the State Women’s Committee, and Shelby Williams of Covington County will again serve as the committee’s vice chair. Prior to convention, Jason Hill of Chickasaw County was elected to serve as chair of the Young Farmers & Ranchers State Committee. Newly-elected or reelected regional women’s chairs from even-numbered regions include: Region 2 – Kay Perkins of Tishomingo County; Region 4 – Jody Bailey of Yalobusha County; Region 6 – Joan Thompson of Neshoba County; and Region 8 – Wanda Hill of Humphreys County. Outstanding county Farm Bureau programs include: Region 1 – DeSoto County; Region 2 – Yalobusha County; Region 3 – Humphreys County; Region 4 – Monroe County; Region 5 – Simpson County; Region 6 – Jefferson Davis County; Region 7 – Walthall County; and Region 8 – Jackson County. Walthall County received the President’s Award as the best overall county program in the state. George County Farm Bureau was presented the J. K. Simpson Award for highest numerical membership gain in the previous year. Perry County Farm Bureau and Lafayette County Farm Bureau received the Gary Chittom Membership Award, which is presented to the county Farm Bureau in each membership category that achieves membership quota first. Vardaman sweet potato farmers Brad and Carla Spencer received the 2011 Young Farmers & Ranchers State Achievement Award. Sunflower County row-crop farmer Clint Russell won the State Young Farmers & Ranchers Discussion Meet. MARCH/APRIL

2012 Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation Board of Directors

Retired Yalobusha County Extension Director Steve Cummings received the 2011 Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation Distinguished Service Award. Retired dairy farmer and longtime volunteer leader Warren Oakley of Starkville was presented the 2011 Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation Excellence in Leadership Award. Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation presented its 2011 Friend of Agriculture Award to Gov. Phil Bryant of Rankin County, Rep. Frank Hamilton, House District 109, of Jackson County, and Rep. Tom Mayhall, House District 40, of DeSoto County. WLBT-TV Chief Meteorologist Barbie Bassett of Madison received the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation Ag Ambassador Award for 2011. Alan Smith of Pearl River County was named Farm Bureau Ambassador for 2012. Kelsey Unruh of Noxubee County was selected alternate. Both are students at Mississippi State University. The 2011Women’s Program Awards of Excellence recipients in each of eight regions include: Region 1 – Bolivar County; Region 2 – Pontotoc County; Region 3 – Scott County; Region 4 – Choctaw County; Region 5 – Lawrence County; Region 6 – Leake County; Region 7 – Stone County; and Region 8 – Sunflower County. Receiving the Women’s Program Outstanding Achievement Awards for 2011 are Montgomery County for Information, Organization and Government Relations; Marion County for Youth/Safety; Yalobusha County for Agriculture in the Classroom; and Jackson County MISSISSIPPI FARM COUNTRY

for Community Service. County Farm Bureaus achieving quota by state convention include Coahoma, George, Humphreys, Lafayette, Leake, Lee, Newton, Perry, Pontotoc, Sharkey and Webster.


COMMODITY UPDATE: COTTON Clint Tindall, MFBF Cotton Advisory Committee Chair Justin Ferguson, MFBF Commodity Coordinator for Cotton

Cotton Market in 2012: Hard To Call In 2011, the U.S. cotton crop faced one of the most devastating droughts in recent history. Texas, the nation’s largest cotton-producing state, which typically accounts for over half the nation’s acres, produced well under half of normal production. The span of time from October 2010 to August 2011 was the driest 11-month period of time in Texas since the National Weather Service began keeping records in 1895. Texas economists predict that the 2011 drought cost the state more than $5 billion in agricultural losses, an estimated $1.8 billion alone in cotton crop loss. According to the USDA’s latest December crop production report, Texas harvested only 3.2 million acres of cotton of the 7.5 million acres planted in the state, and the U.S. crop was predicted at 15.8 million bales, a reduction of 3 million bales from the 2010 crop. Despite this substantial news on the U.S. crop, the world economic situation still remains the dominant factor in the world cotton market. Analysts agree that 2012 is definitely full of uncertainty and will indeed be a year hard to call for the cotton market. Many bearish experts point to world economy indicators as factors in their assumptions. Countries whose economies drove world demand and economic development through the past two decades are now only slightly above recession levels. World and U.S. economic growth is positive, but only by a small percent. World unemployment is high, impacting buyer demand and frequency. World cotton consumption has been down the last two years. In addition, world ending stocks are expected to



increase to 58 million bales, compared to 46 million bales in 2010-11. Yet, some cotton market analysts remain bullish about market prices due to the lack of pre-plant moisture and continued risk of drought in the Southwest United States, which many climatologists indicate will continue for some time and even spread to the Mid-South and Southeast. World planting is expected to be down a good bit, and some experts feel like U.S. planting will be down to 11.4 to 12.0 million acres. Some predict cotton prices will continue to follow the prices of grains/oilseeds and food prices, holding prices upward. Only time will tell how the 2012 marketing year will shape up.

Important Notice

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) ban on hand-held cellular phones went into effect Jan. 3, 2012. Drivers operating a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) in interstate commerce who violate the restriction will face federal



civil penalties of up to $2,750 for each offense and disqualification from operating a CMV for multiple offenses. Also, states will suspend a driver’s Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) after two or more serious traffic violations. Farmers are not exempt from this rule.


COMMODITY UPDATE: BEEF Mike McCormick, MFBF Beef Advisory Committee Chair Jon Kilgore, MFBF Commodity Coordinator for Beef

Cattle Industry Outlook for 2012 The January 1 cattle inventory estimate is currently being compiled by USDA and will be released on January 27. Expectations are that it will show a continued decline in beef cow numbers. If it does, that will mark the sixth consecutive year of declining beef cow inventory. Beef cow numbers last notched year-over-year increases in 2005 and 2006. That brief and modest herd expansion was cut short by rapidly rising production costs along with weather Kilgore problems in some parts of the country. Beef cow numbers are now at about the same level as the early 1960s. Of course, it is a much more productive herd than it was 40 years ago. While cow numbers are historically low, beef production in 2011, at 26.3 billion pounds, was only about 3 percent below the record level established in 2002. Still, with record export demand and a steadily growing domestic population, per capita beef supplies have been histori- McCormick cally tight. The tight supply situation in 2011 has helped to provide very strong support for beef and cattle prices. Retail beef prices reached record levels in 2011, and the same was true for wholesale beef prices as well as cattle prices at every level of the industry. In fact, the economic incentive for beef industry expansion in 2011 was arguably as strong as it has ever been – certainly as strong as it has been in many years. So, why does everyone expect a further decline in inventory numbers to start out the year? One of the main reasons is that the drought that devastated the Southern Plains region in 2011 forced cattle liquidation on a massive scale. David Anderson with Texas AgriLife Extension has estimated that Texas cow numbers declined by 600,000 head in 2011 due to the drought. That’s a figure equal to roughly 2 percent of the entire nation’s beef cow herd. That is not to say that all of those cows are gone forever. It is difficult to get a reliable read on how many of those cattle went to slaughter and how many were moved out of state to places with more favorable pasture conditions. That will be one of the big questions that we look to the January 1 inventory report to answer. High cull cow prices in 2011 were also a factor in keeping herd liquidation going another year. With relatively tight meat supplies globally, a weak dollar that made lean trim imports expensive, and


strong demand for hamburger, cull cow prices in 2011 were nothing short of spectacular. For example, Sioux Falls regional breaking cow prices averaged just over $73 per hundredweight (cwt) through the first 11 months of 2011. (Complete December data is not yet available.) This was a 23 percent increase over the 2010 average price and a whopping 47 percent increase over the 2009 average price. These prices provided a strong incentive for producers to cull aggressively. At the same time, high feeder calf prices made it harder to hold onto heifers for replacement. Looking ahead, while the January 1 beef cow inventory will most likely be lower year-over-year, beef herd expansion should begin in earnest in 2012. The past year’s generally favorable returns seem to be encouraging interest in replacement females. If weather and pasture conditions cooperate – unfortunately a pretty big ‘if’ right now – that interest will grow. Of course, it takes time for herd expansion to translate into larger beef supplies. In fact, as females are held off the market, the short-run effect will be to further reduce beef production. The historically tight per capita supply situation mentioned earlier will probably get even a bit tighter. For this reason, the supply side of the market should remain quite supportive of both beef and cattle prices in 2012.

Magnolia Beef and Poultry Expo

Make plans to attend the 2012 Magnolia Beef and Poultry Expo to be held April 12, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., at the Smith County Ag Complex in Raleigh. This event offers educational seminars and a trade show featuring agricultural equipment and other valuable information for beef and poultry producers. The 2012 Magnolia Beef and Poultry Expo is sponsored by Mississippi State University Extension Service: Jasper, Newton, Rankin, Scott, Simpson and Smith counties, and Community Bank. For details, contact your local Extension office or Community Bank.



Y F oung





armers are

Agriculture’s Future By Glynda Phillips

Brad Spencer’s ancestors were members of that first group of sweet potato farmers who migrated to the Vardaman area from Sheran, Tennessee, in 1915 and introduced commercial sweet potato farming to Mississippi agriculture. The area’s sandy-loam soil and climate, combined with the knowledge and vision of these hardworking men and women, gave birth to an industry that today produces potatoes renowned worldwide for their sweet and delicious flavor. Brad is proud of his heritage and the way that the sweet potato industry has grown and prospered through the years, but he sees even greater things on the horizon for state sweet potato production. To that end, he is not afraid to work hard, dream big, and speak out on behalf of the industry. “I think the sky is the limit as far as how big our sweet potato industry can grow and the types of fresh and processed markets we can serve,” he said. “We are only limited by our own failure to dream big. I have always said that all great things begin with a single idea.” Visionary Brad grows 500 acres of sweet potatoes with his father Keith in a partnership called Spencer & Son Farms. Beyond the planting, harvesting and marketing aspects of his vocation, coming up with better ways to do his job is the part of farming that Brad enjoys most. He was honored in 2006 by the Mississippi Sweet Potato Council for promoting new ways of marketing potatoes. Brad has expanded markets for not only his own potatoes but those of the brokers who use his packing facilities. “One of our biggest challenges in the sweet potato industry has been figuring out how to more effectively market our crop,” he said. “We want to be able to sell to both the fresh and processed markets, and we want to sell the entire crop, including the culls. After investigating different marketing options, we now use processors and canneries for our lower-grade potatoes and for other farmers’ potatoes as well.”

As another important aspect of his visionary approach to farming, Brad enjoys cooperating with researchers in growing test plots of sweet potatoes. “I’ve assisted with different types of research efforts for many years,” he said. “I worked with Southern Ethanol in Colorado to grow a very large potato that can be used by the ethanol industry. I have also worked with scientists at Mississippi State University to come up with ways to rid the sweet potato industry of the insects that harm our crops. I want to continue to work with researchers to improve our industry.” Ever since he was a kid, Brad has studied the equipment that local farmers use to plant, harvest, wash, grade and pack their sweet potatoes. In recent years, he has modified quite a few pieces of his own machinery in order to do his job more efficiently. In the Spencer & Son Potato Shed, Brad added two packing lines to an existing line and designed this so that all three lines use the same washer. A local machine shop built the equipment. By redesigning his packing line with these modifications, he has cut his time in half and increased production by 40 percent. As another cost-saving measure, Brad modified a piece of equipment so that it can be used for both sweet potatoes and peanuts. It is made so that you can spray and plow with the same piece of equipment. Brad and his father have diversified their farming operation in recent years to include soybeans and peanuts as a way of coping with the whims of Mother Nature and rising input costs. Brad also raises cattle and watermelons with his sons to teach them responsibility and a good work ethic. Money made from selling cows and melons goes into a fund to pay for their college educations. And finally, Brad says he is not afraid to “go back to old school” as a forward-thinking tactic. He has begun using chicken litter as a fertilizer, and he says that this not only saves him money but works as well if not better than existing commercial fertilizers.

We are only limited by our own failure

to dream MARCH/APRIL




2011 Young Farmers & Ranchers State Achievement Award recipients Brad and Carla Spencer will receive 100 hours use of a John Deere tractor. Making the presentation is Larry Long of John Deere.

Leader Beyond the visionary aspects of his character, Brad is a born leader. While in school, he

served as class president for nine consecutive years, excelled in baseball, served as student body president, and was inducted into his high school’s hall of fame. Brad and his wife Carla are active members of the Chickasaw County Farm Bureau, where they sit on the board of directors and are involved in the Young Farmers & Ranchers (YF&R) Program. They also served a twoyear term on the YF&R State Committee and were active in a variety of state YF&R activities. Brad served as vice chair of the state committee. Brad has served as vice chair of the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation (MFBF) Sweet Potato Advisory Committee and has participated in the Farm Families of Missis-

sippi campaign, which takes the farmer’s story to the consuming public. The Spencers were recently named recipients of the 2011 YF&R State Achievement Award, and they placed in the top ten finalists nationally. They were recognized for their farming innovations, leadership skills and involvement in Farm Bureau and their community. Brad also sits on the board of directors of the Mississippi Sweet Potato Council and Mississippi Fruit and Vegetable Association’s Sweet Potato Co-op. The Spencers are active in their church and participate in a variety of community activities. He coaches two baseball teams as a volunteer and is the volunteer pitching coach for the local high school baseball team. Brad and Carla have two children, Hunter, 11, and Justin, 8.

The Spencers were overcome with emotion after learning they had been named recipients of the YF&R State Achievement Award. They later placed in the top ten finalists in national competition in Honolulu, Hawaii. 10

2011 Young Farmers & Ranchers State Achievement Award recipients Brad and Carla Spencer will receive 250 hours use of a Kubota tractor. Making the presentation is Lee Parish of Kubota Tractor.

Future Plans Brad’s future plans include building a new sweet potato facility that will expand his storage capability and offer a cannery yard so that trucks can be loaded indoors. The new facility will not only upgrade what he and his father have now, but will employ more people. His target date for operation is Aug. 20, 2012. Brad also plans to use a guidance system in his fields in 2012 to more efficiently use the land. In addition, he would like to help sweet potato farmers get a viable crop insurance product in place for sweet potatoes. Finally, Brad and Carla intend to continue their involvement with Farm Bureau and state sweet potato organizations. For more information about the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation Young Farmers & Ranchers Program, contact YF&R Coordinator Kirsten Johnson at (601) 977-4277.

2011 Young Farmers & Ranchers State Achievement Award recipients Brad and Carla Spencer received a new Ford pickup truck, compliments of Southern Farm Bureau Casualty Insurance Company. They are pictured with Jack Williams. The Spencers also received $500 from Ford and $1800 from MFBF toward the purchase of technology. As regional winners, they received $500 from Southern AgCredit and Mississippi Land Bank and $500 from Southern Farm Bureau Casualty Insurance Company.



Excellence in Agriculture Contest

YF&R State Committee Chair

Jason Hill will chair the 2012 Young Farmers & Ranchers (YF&R) State Committee. He and his wife Kelly farm 2,200 acres in Chickasaw County, growing cotton, corn and soybeans. He also owns and manages pastureland, where his grandfather grazes cattle. The Hills became involved in the YF&R Program when approached by their regional manager, Samantha Webb. They have thoroughly enjoyed the experience and encourage others to become involved. The Hills feel young farmers really benefit from the leadership opportunities the program offers and, also, the opportunity to become a positive advocate for agriculture. Jason and Kelly have two children, Katelyn, 8, and Tyler, 3.

By Kirsten Johnson, MFBF Young Farmers and Ranchers Coordinator

During the Sunday evening general session at state convention, it was announced that a new contest will be offered for the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation (MFBF) Young Farmers & Ranchers (YF&R) Program. The Excellence in Agriculture Contest is a national American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) YF&R contest that recognizes members, ages 18-35, who are active in agriculture but who make the majority of their income off of the farm. This exciting contest recognizes individuals who do not qualify for the Achievement Award but who are professionals vital to everyday agriculture. To apply for the contest, individuals will need to contact their regional manager for an application. The applications will be submitted to the state office, and all contestants will be required to design a PowerPoint presentation about their involvement in agriculture, Farm Bureau and their community. Judging will be based on contributions to and involvement in agriculture, Farm Bureau and their community. The state winner of this contest will receive a new zero-turn lawn mower, sponsored by Southern Ag Credit. The state winner will also have the opportunity to compete at the AFBF Annual Convention, where the national winner receives their choice of a 2013 Chevy Silverado or 2013 GMC Sierra. For more information about this contest, please feel free to contact Kirsten Johnson at 601-977-4277 or at

YF&R Activities

Each year, the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation Young Farmers & Ranchers (YF&R) Program, under the guidance of the YF&R State Committee, sponsors the following activities:

● Gary Langley Memorial Fundraising Event during the summer and silent and live auctions at state convention to raise money for the YF&R Scholarship Foundation ● Washington, D.C. Trip for second-year committee members ● National YF&R Leadership Conference for firstyear committee members ● State YF&R Leadership Conference ● Tour of College of Veterinary Medicine and various Mississippi State University research sites ● YF&R Scholarship Foundation, which awards scholarships to students who are sophomores or higher and are majoring in ag-related areas.

The Young Farmers & Ranchers Program also offers Achievement Award, Discussion Meet and Excellence in Agriculture contests. The Achievement Award Contest recognizes young farmers on the regional and state levels who excel in their farming endeavors and in leadership activities. The Discussion Meet provides participants with an opportunity to exchange ideas and information in an effort to solve a problem. The new Excellence in Agriculture Contest recognizes individuals who are active in agriculture but who make the majority of their income off of the farm. Winners of these contests are announced during the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation Annual Meeting in December. For more information, contact Young Farmers & Ranchers Coordinator Kirsten Johnson at (601) 977-4277.

YF&R Live Auctions The Young Farmers & Ranchers (YF&R) Program holds live auctions during state convention to raise funds for the YF&R Scholarship Foundation. Pictured is a John Deere Gator for children, one of the many items auctioned.




Calendar of Events March 1 Ag Day at the Capitol Jackson March 6 Women’s Day at the Capitol Jackson March 9 – 10 Women for Ag Conference MSU March 8 National Ag Day March 15 Teacher Grant and Regional Coloring Contest Deadline


Young Farmers Visit Washington By Samantha Cawthorn MFBF Public Policy Director

Each year, Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation takes the second-year Young Farmers & Ranchers (YF&R) State Committee members to Washington, D.C. This year, we had a wellrounded group, which included poultry, livestock and row-crop farmers. The group met with Senator Cochran and Senator Wicker, as well as Representative Harper, Representative Palazzo and Representative Nunnelee. The main topic of conversation was farm programs. We just happened to be there the week before the Super Committee an-

nounced its failure to come to a consensus on cutting the deficit. It was a great opportunity for the YF&R State Committee members to experience what it’s like to lobby on a position, ask important questions, and to see Farm Bureau policy in the process. The YF&R State Committee was also able to do a little sightseeing. They had the option of touring the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, and Smithsonian museums. This trip is a good experience and one we will continue to share with future Young Farmers & Ranchers State Committee members.

April 12 Magnolia Beef and Poultry Expo Raleigh April 20 – 21 Super Bulldog Weekend MSU April 24 – 25 Secretaries’ Conference Jackson April 27 State Women’s Leadership Conference Jackson April 28-30 Southern Region Presidents & Administrators Conference Mississippi June 4 – 7 Youth Safety Seminar Timber Creek Camp June 12 – 14 AITC Workshops Grenada, Jackson, Gulf Coast June 19 – 22 National AITC Conference Loveland, Colorado 12






For State Discussion Meet Winner

Third Time’s the Charm

each time I entered and from the people watching Sunflower County row-crop farmer Clint Russell me. I think I was a little too aggressive in the first considers his speaking ability a God-given talent. two meets.” Nevertheless, it took him three tries plus years spent Clint, who chaired the 2010 YF&R State Commaturing and developing leadership skills in order mittee, says that this leadership experience helped to win the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation him gain insight into how to conduct himself during (MFBF) Young Farmers & Ranchers (YF&R) State a discussion meet. Discussion Meet, competing with contestants from “As chair of the state committee, I was able to across the state. participate in state board meetings, and I soaked up “I have a real competitive spirit. I like to win,” he that experience,” he said. “I also credit my working said. “I felt that I could achieve success in this conwith the state staff and with other young farmers test if I kept trying.” with helping me to grow and mature as a leader. I Clint was also wise enough to learn from his listened to them and began to understand that other first two attempts as well as from efforts by his people have opinions, too, and that others know friend Shea Whitfield, who competed nationally in Clint Russell competed in the more than I know about certain topics or situations. 2010. You can’t think you have all of the answers. You “I learned that you must be disciplined and stick Sweet Sixteen semi-finals nationally. learn from people with different backgrounds and strictly to the rules. A discussion meet isn’t a debate,” he said. “You must be careful when you jump into the con- get their input and opinions as well. “I also learned that you lead by example, not be being aggressive versation, and you must stay on point and make statements relevant to the conversation. I had the rules explained to me by the YF&R or bossy. You make sure everyone is on board and involved,” he coordinator the first time I participated. After that, I learned from said. “You learn how to deal with different personalities when you

S 14



Sunflower County row-crop farmer Clint Russell won the 2011 Young Farmers & Ranchers State Discussion Meet. He received a 4-wheeler ATV, compliments of Southern Farm Bureau Life Insurance Company. Making the presentation is Randy Johns. Clint also received cash awards from Southern AgCredit, Mississippi Land Bank, and Ford.

participate in this program. We have farmers from every segment of agriculture involved, and we all have different challenges that need to be addressed. We have to be careful not to get frustrated with each other, but to work together toward a common goal.” In his experience with the young farmers program, Clint also served on the new state advisory committee, which surfaced ideas about how to improve the program. One idea was to hire a full-time coordinator, which has been accomplished. Another idea was to form an alumni group, which is in the beginning stages. “We took a positive step forward with the alumni banquet at state convention,” he said “We had good attendance, and we hope to build on that. I know that our opinions on the YF&R State Advisory Committee have been taken seriously. Those in authority listened and understood what we wanted.” Clint says that he used a new strategy in the 2011 YF&R State Discussion Meet. “A big part of this contest is effectively engaging the other competitors,” he said. “If I thought that someone was being passed over, I made a point of asking them questions and getting them to contribute to the conversation. We represented different segments of agriculture, and I didn’t know about poultry or beef cattle operations. I wanted to learn about them, and I wanted the audience to learn, too. “This contest is not about who is talking the most,” he added. “It is about speaking intelligently, making clear points, and engaging your competition.” Clint says discussion meet competitors are aware of the topics beforehand. He gathered material related to those topics, but he also used other interesting facts and figures about agriculture. “I am doing the same thing for national competition,” he said. “I will try to ensure that I progress in the contest, but I want to represent Mississippi Farm Bureau the best way I know how. I respect the ideals that our organization stands for, and I want to be a good ambassador for the organization and for state agriculture. I am really looking forward to this.” Clint says he can’t say enough about the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation Young Farmers & Ranchers Program. “It has definitely made me more aware of issues of importance to agriculture and what it means to be a Mississippi farmer,” he said. “It has given me experiences I never would have had before. It has taught me a lot of life lessons and how to be an effective leader.” MARCH/APRIL

Clint says his involvement in the young farmers program has also developed his entrepreneurial spirit. “I want to try something different,” he said. “I may try growing vegetables. We have the soil here, the climate and the ability to do that.” Clint will soon age-out of the program, but he intends to remain involved in Farm Bureau. He hopes one day to be blessed to serve on the state level again. “I thank Farm Bureau for the opportunities it has given me. It has allowed me to learn from not only the Farm Bureau community but other agricultural organizations as well. We are all in this together to make Mississippi agriculture better.” Clint is president of Sunflower County Farm Bureau. He is a member of the Mississippi Rice Council and the Drew Rotary Club (which he served as president). He is a deacon at First Baptist Church of Cleveland and a graduate of Mississippi Delta Community College. He attended Delta State University before returning to run the farm upon the death of his father in 2001 Clint grows corn, soybeans, rice and wheat on a 3,000-acre farm. “I believe that you know you are a farmer from a very early age. It is just in your blood,” he said. “Farming is an awesome way of life. I have friends with 8-to-5 jobs or sales jobs, and I don’t envy them at all. Farming gives you freedom. A farm is a great place to raise your children. You can teach them the values you learned growing up on a farm, and you can hunt and fish with them on your own land. Farming is tough at times, like in 2009 when we got so much rain. But you can find a balance of good and bad. “When all is said and done, I am living the dream,” he concluded. “I am farming, and I have a great wife and kids.”



Photo courtesy of Wildlife Mississippi

Solve the




Our mystery town is located in Humphreys County and was featured in a past Solve the Mystery. We are featuring it again, but this time, we are giving you only one clue. Here is the clue: This Humphreys County town is located near Sky Lake Boardwalk.

Read about the boardwalk and make your guess.

Step Back in Time The Sky Lake Wildlife Management Area features a treated pine boardwalk that is almost 1,800 feet long and stretches out over a swampy tract of land near Sky Lake. Growing in the swamp are ancient baldcypress trees that represent one of the largest remaining tracts of old-growth cypress on earth. The other sites are located in Arkansas, Florida, North Carolina and South Carolina. You will also find six other species of hardwood trees, including oak, ash and Tupelo gum. The swamp’s biggest cypress is over 48 feet around. The secondbiggest is over 46 feet around. It is estimated that the timber from the second-biggest tree, if it were sound, could build six ordinary houses. Inside the trunk of this tree are four rooms, hollowed out by fungi, wind and time. Both trees are estimated to be over 1,000 years old. The knees on some of the ancient cypress trees are huge. Cypress knees don’t bring oxygen and food to the trees. They support them. 16

About 78 years ago, area trees were harvested by loggers, and the land was cleared and used to grow crops. Fortunately, the trees in the swamp weren’t destroyed. Some of the old cypress trees were cut, and new trees were planted. But in the main, most of the older trees still stand after thousands of years. It is like stepping back in time. Mark & Peggy Simmons A local couple, Mark and Peggy Simmons, sold the swampland as part of a 773-acre tract of land to the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks. In 2006, Wildlife Mississippi, through a grant from the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks Recreational Trails Program, began the Sky Lake Boardwalk Project. The Office of the Governor and the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta Levee Board also helped with planning efforts. Wildlife Mississippi conceptualized the boardwalk, raised the funds, and oversaw the design and construction of the boardwalk



and its associated amenities. The Sky Lake Boardwalk is a part of the Sky Lake Wildlife Management Area (WMA). The WMA now encompasses approximately 4,273 acres. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has acquired nearly 3,500 acres of former agricultural land around Sky Lake and restored the vegetation through reforestation of bottomland hardwoods with a variety of tree species, including water oak, willow oak and Nuttall oak. Mark, who has served on the Humphreys County Farm Bureau Board of Directors since the late 1950s, says he is very pleased with what has been done with the property as well as future plans for it. Mark, 79, and his father once farmed the land near the swamp. Mark has wanted to preserve the area since he was a child. The swampland is being preserved for the birds and wildlife, for historical significance, for scenic and ecological purposes, and for scientific study. All along the boardwalk, you will find signs with information about the swamp and the area around it. Soon, signs will be placed on the trees, so you will be able to identify them. Area wildlife includes deer, black bear, coyotes, mink and raccoons. Sky Lake has been a resting place for ducks. As many as 10,000 mallards have been spotted on the water during duck season. The park is near Jaketown, a Native American archaeological site that is located 3.5 miles away. The area is also located near the Choctaw boundary line, drawn between the early settlers and the Native Americans. This line runs through 10 states. Other Features Near the parking lot, are restrooms and a picnic pavilion. You will also find an amphitheater that seats 150 people. The theater is built with flagstone from Arkansas. Near the theater, you will see hollow cypress logs that are estimated to be 1,000 to 1,500 years old. Mark says the facilities were built with donations and grants and very little tax money. The cost of the entire project was $716,000, of which $145,000 was private donations raised by Wildlife Mississippi. The land where the boardwalk begins is owned by the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta Levee Board. It is estimated that, eventually, approximately 72,000 people will visit the park each year. The Sky Lake Boardwalk was dedicated on November 3. It is open to the public free of charge, seven days a week, from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. The park is located off of Highway 7 and is about six miles north of Wister Gardens, which is also near our mystery town. MARCH/APRIL

Name the mystery town. For more information about this unique park, Mark Simmons says you may call him at 662-836-7016.

Correct Guesses Mail guesses to Solve the Mystery, Mississippi Farm Country, P. O. Box 1972, Jackson, MS 39215. You may also e-mail your guesses to: Please remember to include your name and address on the entry. Visit our Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation Web site at: When all correct guesses have been received, we will randomly draw 20 names. These 20 names will receive a prize and will be placed in the hat twice. At the end of the year, a winner will be drawn from all correct submissions. The winner will receive a Weekend Bed and Breakfast Trip, courtesy of the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation. Families may submit only one entry. Federation staff members and their families are ineligible to participate in this contest. The deadline for submitting your entry is March 30. January/February The correct answer for the January/February Solve the Mystery is the town of Taylor.





The Pettit Legacy By Sam E. Scott, MFBF General Counsel

have been reading the history of cattle ranches in Texas and the West during the 19th century and find it fascinating to learn more about what a fine line divides great hardship from success in what, at least in West Texas, is arid country. There today, it takes from 10 to 25 acres of ranchland to support one head of cattle. For that reason, there are still many enormous cattle ranches, the best known being legends of their own such as King Ranch – now 825,000 acres. As to legends, none is more American than the cowboy. Though today there are many competitors, 60 to 70 years ago, cowboys, along with baseball players, airplane pilots, ship captains, and railroad engineers, were seen as larger-than-life heroes. Twenty-five cents would get you into the Saturday matinee picture show with a Coke® and popcorn. Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Hopalong Cassidy and their sidekicks held sway. When TV came along, the “Lone Ranger,” Rowdy Yates in “Rawhide,” Matt Dillon in “Gunsmoke,” and the entire cast of “Bonanza” held our attention. And who can forget “Rooster Cogburn” (John Wayne), Jack Palance in “Shane,” and Gary Cooper in “High Noon,” plus many others? Also in the great cowboy genre, think of FDR’s favorite song, “Home on the Range,” “Cool, Clear Water” by the Sons of the Pioneers, or Willie Nelson’s “My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys,” or “Desperado” by the Eagles. In the 60s and later, rodeo cowboys also became big celebrities. Cowboys are special – always have been, even though the real cowboys were far different from matinee heroes. Charles Goodknight, one of the 19th century’s great cattlemen, said: “I wish I could find words to express the trueness, the bravery, the hardihood, the sense of honor, the loyalty to their trust and to each other.” Unfortunately and unfairly, in Saturday Westerns, the Indians were not ranked much higher than bank robbers and cattle rustlers, but that is a story for another day. All of this leads up to the title of this article and my friendship with Jack Pettit from Gustine, Comanche County, Texas. Jack’s children are fifth-generation ranchers, and he epitomizes the qualities of American heroes, many of whom are unsung. Jack is a tall, lanky cattleman whose eyes have gazed over many acres of ranch pastures and herds of cattle, tanks (ponds in our vernacular), and lights in another small town you can see from ten miles away in that country with few trees.


In his time, he has battled drought, cattle diseases, mesquite, low prices and high costs, and he and his son are still ranchers. Jack is not in the pasture every day as he once was because a few years ago, on Christmas Day, he suffered a stroke which has left him largely immobile. But with his sharp mind, great attitude and cowboy courage, he makes the best of a tough situation for a man who has lived in the outdoors most of his life. Two Pettit brothers came to Texas from Alabama in 1860. When they reached the Brazos River, each decided to go a different way, and they never saw each other again. Jack’s greatgrandfather, J.P. Pettit, settled in what became Gustine, Texas, not far from today’s Hamilton. He was a hard worker and a good man, and he eventually owned several thousand acres of land and a successful cattle operation. He opened a small bank in the community and donated land for the Baptist church, which they named after him. In the agricultural depression after WWI, the small bank failed. Mr. J.P. didn’t take that lightly and said, “Well, the bank’s broke, but I’m not,” and proceeded to sell cattle, land and whatever else he could scrape up and paid off all the depositors. Part of the old Pettit homestead can still be seen. The church survives, and the old spirit is still alive and well in the family. This helps you understand why my friend Jack is one of those people with a hardship, but if you call or visit to cheer him up, you will be the one cheered up. A man who was a natural on a horse still gets out of his wheelchair into a pickup with the help of his son and wife and views the now droughtthreatened ranch with the steely determination of his grandfather. His kind is the heart and soul of American farmers and ranchers. Though I have known him for only about 15 years, he is one of those with whom you feel it is forever. And you can see, with people like that, the legacy runs in the blood. – “Light rises in the darkness for the upright.” Psalms 112:4 Sam E. Scott is general counsel for Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation and practices law in the Law Firm of Samuel E. Scott, PLLC, in Jackson. The foregoing information is general in nature and is not intended as nor should be considered specific legal advice, nor to be considered as MFBF’s position or opinion.



Strong prices, high yields send crop values to record high By Linda Breazeale MSU Ag Communications

Mississippi’s agricultural commodities are predicted to reach a record-high value of more than $6.7 billion for 2011. Mississippi State University Extension Service economists compiled the numbers from poultry, forestry, agronomic crops, catfish and livestock for the annual value estimate. If government

payments are factored in, the state’s value of production reaches $7 billion for the first time in history. Extension agricultural economist John Michael Riley said the record is a result of high yields and strong market prices for most commodities in 2011. “Livestock and the major row crops had strong markets during the year,” Riley said. “But farmers did not get a break

in the cost of production. Land prices, chemical prices, labor costs, fuel, energy and equipment are all increasing each year.” The state’s top three commodities remain poultry and eggs ($2.44 billion), forestry ($1.04 billion) and soybeans ($860 million). Their values changed little from 2010. 2011 Value of Production

1. Poultry & Eggs 2. Forestry 3. Soybeans 4. Cotton 5. Corn 6. Catfish 7. Cattle/calves 8. Rice 9. Hay 10. Wheat 11. Hogs 12. Horticultural Crops 13. Sweet Potatoes 14. Milk 15. Grain Sorghum 16. Peanuts

$2.44 billion $1.04 billion $860 million $599 million $595 million $222 million $155 million $153 million $138 million $127 million $104 million $94 million $66 million $42 million $22 million $16 million


$7 billion

Commodity Total Government Payments



$6.7 billion $357 million



Member benefits that can save you money By Greg Gibson, MFBF Member Services Director

Spring is just around the corner, and if you are like me, you are ready to get out of the house and have some fun away from home. When you leave home, though, your property is at greater risk of being taken or destroyed in a fire. Farm Bureau’s Member Benefits Program can help protect your property when you aren’t there. ADT Home Security Southern Security Services, a Mississippi-based company, is offering an ADT Basic Home Security System installed at no charge (36-month monitoring contract required) to members of Farm Bureau. Basic, hard-wired alarm system will include the following: (1) Three contacted doors; (2) One inside siren; (3) One motion detector; (4) One control panel with a backup battery; (5) One keypad; (6) One smoke/heat detector; (7) 90-day warranty on system; and (8) $29.99 + tax per month. This is a basic, hard-wired, non-wireless package. Some restrictions may apply. Residential accounts only.

Child Safety Seat This is one of our most-used benefits. Farm Bureau offers its members the ability to purchase a child safety seat for only $25 or a child booster seat for only $15. According to Mississippi law, all children under the age of four must be protected by a child passenger restraint device or system. All children between the ages of 4 and 7 who are less than 4 feet 9 inches tall or weigh less than 65 pounds must be protected by properly using a belt-positioning booster seat system. For more information on these and all of the other member benefits available to you as a Farm Bureau member, check out our Web site,, call your county Farm Bureau office, or call Member Benefits Coordinator Dedra Luke at 601-977-4169.

Theft Reward Members can offer a $500 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone committing theft, arson or vandalism against their property. In order for the reward to be payable, the individual must provide information that leads to the arrest and conviction of anyone committing the theft. The Farm Bureau member must have the reward sign posted in a conspicuous location at or near the entrance to the property. Persons providing the information cannot be someone with a direct interest in the property, a law enforcement officer, or an employee of Farm Bureau or affiliate companies. The maximum amount payable is $500. If more than one person provides the information, the $500 will be divided among the eligible parties. Any information should be presented to the Claims Department for further investigation. Scholarships Farm Bureau offers several scholarships each year to Farm Bureau-member students already studying in an agricultural area. These are designed to provide opportunities to those students showing need for financial assistance as well as academic ability and leadership qualities. Applicants must have already completed their college freshman year in an agricultural major at any Mississippi university or community college. The deadline for applications to be received is June 1 of each year. For more information on all of the different scholarships, see our Web site at 20






erman Cockrell, 86, has spent a lifetime growing produce. For more than half a century, his Smith County vegetables have been much in demand by loyal customers around the state and many areas of the Southeast. He sells the vegetables at his booth at the Old Farmers Market in Jackson. His daughter, Brenda Langham, manages the booth, which has been in operation for 54 years. “People come and ask for Daddy’s Vegetables. By that, they mean the vegetables grown by my father,” she said. “Some customers don’t know my father personally, but I have said ‘daddy’ so much, people ask for his produce like that.” Herman grows tomatoes, watermelon, cantaloupe, squash, turnips, corn, peas, beans, onions, mustard, collards, broccoli and cabbage, just to name a few. Favorites among his customers are tomatoes, watermelon, white sweet (field) corn, and squash. Since sometime in the 1970s, Herman has been called the Watermelon King by customers who come to buy his watermelons. If you are recognized for your watermelons in Smith County, you know you are good. Herman’s produce is also sold at the Neshoba County Fair. “We have a customer from Georgia who brings a freezer on the back of a trailer each year and buys seven bushels of vegetables, which he takes home and puts up,” Brenda said. “Anybody can be good at this if they work at it,” Herman said. “You can’t put it in the ground and forget about it. You have to be there when the plants need you. This is a seven-day-a-week job, from before sunup until well after sundown. You must have total devotion, and you must love it.”




Herman Cockrell, his daughters, Lynda Cooper and Brenda Langham, and his dog Snow.

Back when he was starting out, Herman says he learned from the old-timers and through trial and error. But he claims that a lot of it is just plain common horse sense. He says you tend the crops when they need it, and you don’t put it off. “A lot of people will lose a crop by waiting,” he said. “When they finally get around to doing what needs to be done, it’s too late and the crop is gone.” Herman buys his seed from Kelly Seed Company and Magee Co-op. Bowing to more modern times, he buys hybrid and resistant varieties. He finally put in irrigation in 2011. Herman now has a John Deere 5520 tractor with a front-end loader and air conditioning and heat. But mainly, he sticks with the old tried-and-true tools he started out with as a boy. He claims they work much better than some of the newer ones. “Let me show you my walking cultivator,” he said one crisp autumn morning in early November. “I got it when I was 18 or 19, and we pulled it with a pair of bull yearlings. Today, I pull it with a Kubota tractor, and it works just fine.” Herman also favors an antique Farmall 140 that runs like a charm. He uses it to plow, and says it makes the cleanest garden in the whole world. He uses an old International 140 (an industrial version of the Farmall 140) to plant and put out liquid fertilizer. “I like to say that I plant it and the good Lord raises it,” he said. “Used to, I didn’t have irrigation so I took whatever the Lord sent me. One year, I needed rain bad. All


around me, people were getting rain, but my farm was dry. Well, one day, it started raining late and was still raining in the morning. That rain saved me.” Herman says he tries to grow as natural as he can. Sometimes, if the weather doesn’t cooperate, he will replant. Sometimes, he replants more than once. “The customers who come to our booth

I like to say that I plant it and the good Lord raises it.”

don’t realize how much time, love and effort Daddy puts into his crops each season, in terms of long hours of hard work,” Brenda said. “I try to have the very best,” he said. “It is so rewarding to know that through the years I have raised enough produce to feed thousands of people who couldn’t have grown it themselves.” Herman says that sometimes – and especially lately – his children will tell him he is working too hard and needs to slow down. “You know what I tell them?” he asked. “I tell them that if the good Lord takes me while I am out in the fields, then I will be happy. MISSISSIPPI FARM COUNTRY

They will know that I went the way I wanted to go. So don’t say, ‘Daddy, don’t’ to me.” Herman has extra help when needed, and his children, Lynda, Tommy and Brenda, help out as necessary. His wife, the late Wilma Luckey, worked beside him out in the fields and came home and cooked breakfast, lunch and supper every day. He and Wilma were married for 62 years before she passed away in 2006. Herman has been a member of the Oak Hill Masonic Lodge for 65 years, a Master of the Lodge for two years, and a member of the Okatoma Water Board. He has served as an election commissioner since 1983 and served as chairman of the Smith County Election Commissioners for 20 years. He is a longtime Simpson County Farm Bureau member. He was named 1997-1998 Farmer of the Year by the Smith County Soil and Water Conservation District. Next time you want fresh, locally grown veggies, tell Brenda you want Daddy’s Vegetables. See if you can’t taste a difference when your food is grown by a Mississippi farmer. And see if you don’t agree that Herman Cockrell has pretty much perfected the fine art of growing produce.


Quilt is Love Letter to


Longtime Tate County quilter Sallye Giles carried out one of her late husband Gene’s most heartfelt wishes and has reaped a whole lot of attention and many awards as a result. What Gene wanted to do was create a quilt that would showcase everything positive about his home state of Mississippi. He 24


wanted to include all that our state has to offer, not only to its own citizens but to people around the nation and the world. The Giles, who joined Tate County Farm Bureau in 1962, became intrigued with the Ag in the Classroom “State of Mississippi” jigsaw puzzle on display at their county Farm Bureau MARCH/APRIL

office. They were also inspired by the “Mississippi” quilt on display at Mississippi State University (MSU). “Gene said those were examples of the type of thing we needed to do, but on a much bigger scale,’” Sallye said. Gene and Sallye’s quilt would involve five years of research, with help from MSU experts, and almost two years of handwork. The endeavor would involve a trial-and-error process as Gene and Sallye tried different ideas, backed up and tried again. When Gene became ill before the quilt was finished, Sallye steered the course and was able to present him with the finished product before his death. The resulting quilt is a beautifully-designed love letter, not only to the state of Mississippi but to her late husband as well. The finished quilt is 8 feet x10 feet in size and boasts a huge Mississippi map at its center, surrounded by 56 12-inch-square blocks of information. The blocks feature pictures of the state bird, fish, mammal and flag (and all of the other flags that have flown over Mississippi), as well as all of the state’s colleges, agricultural commodities, ship-building facilities, military facilities, museums, the Nissan plant, historical facts, the state Capitol, famous Mississippi writers, musicians and actors, and many other items of interest. The center map is a replica of the official state map. “I took that map to the local FedEx office and blew it up as big as I could,” she said. “We used it to make the templates for each county. I embroidered the names of the counties and all of the rivers within the counties. I used a star to denote each county seat. “Gene and I travelled the state, taking phoThe Quilt


tos of farm commodities. We copied the photos and also artwork onto pieces of fabric instead of paper. Sometimes, we found fabric with designs that depicted what we needed. It took a lot of time and effort, but it was so much fun. “The hay and rice were grown near Tunica, the cotton was grown near Senatobia,” she said. “The wheat is a fabric design. We took pond photos around here, but the image of the catfish was found on a poster for a musical group. We asked their permission to use it.” Mildred Mount of Arkansas helped with some of the handwork on the quilt. Bobbye Thompson, Sallye’s sister, and Chuck Giles, Sallye’s son, lent their encouragement and support. “I had sewn and quilted my whole life, but had never entered a contest,” Sallye said. “Gene was so proud of this quilt that I decided to try entering it.” The quilt won Best of Category and Grand Champion at the Mississippi State Fair in 2011; First Place in Category, Best of Show in Category, and Grand Champion at the Delta Fair and Music Festival; and second place at the Mid-South Fair. “I’m from Texas, and you know that Texans always do things on a big scale,” Sallye said with a laugh. “When Gene expressed an interest in creating a state quilt because of his passion for Mississippi, we went all-out with it, and this is the result.” The quilt was signed by Governor Haley Barbour during the Mississippi State Fair. It was on display at the Governor’s Mansion during the Christmas tours this past holiday season. The quilt has been a huge success. Gene Giles would have been proud. The Awards



Tishomingo County By Glynda Phillips

Farm Bureau Spotlight


Some of the nicest people in the world live in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in northeastern Mississippi. The town of Iuka is home to many of them. Iuka is also home to the new Tishomingo County Farm Bureau office building, one of the prettiest in the state. Approximately 5,000 square feet in size, the structure boasts a large foyer, offices, a boardroom, a kitchenette, and plenty of counter and desk space for the secretaries. The building also offers a drive-through window with an intercom and retractable drawer. When customers don’t care to come inside, business can be conducted from the comfort of their vehicle. In addition, the new building boasts about 2,400 square feet of unfinished space that will be developed into offices to be rented. The new Tishomingo County Farm Bureau building was designed by architect Harold Baine, with suggestions from a committee of county board members, including Donald Crane, Carol Tuckier, Tommy Moody, and their wives. It was constructed by builder Harry Oswalt. “We had our own ideas about what we wanted and how we wanted it to look,” said Tishomingo County Farm Bureau President Dr. Jim Perkins. “We are well-pleased with how the office turned out.”

Zenobia Oaks I was able to tour the building recently and to visit with Zenobia Oaks, a valued member of the Tishomingo County Farm Bureau family. Zenobia, who is 92 years old, has watched Farm Bureau grow and strengthen through the years. She says one thing has remained constant – Farm Bureau is like one big family. Zenobia worked for 42 years in the Tishomingo County Farm Bureau office as the federation secretary. Her late husband Prentiss (Jess as he was called) was one of the first insurance agents in Tishomingo County. “We had Farm Bureau long before we had the insurance program,” Zenobia said. “Back in the early years, Mississippi had a lot of what were called “demonstration farms” scattered around the state. All of those farm-


ers were Farm Bureau members. “Every October, we would hold a membership drive. We would go out and try to get more farmers to join,” she said. “The person who sold the most memberships would be given an expense-paid trip to national convention. Back then, the convention was held in Chicago. My husband and another man were able to go one year. They were on their way to Chicago when Pearl Harbor was attacked. “I remember when we had just 300 members,” she added. “We thought that was really something.” Now, Tishomingo County boasts approximately 3,300 members. The entire district totals about 44,000 members. At one time, Tishomingo County was the largest Farm Bureau in the state, and Alcorn County was the second-largest. Now, the district is the state’s largest, while Tishomingo County is in the top 10 in terms of membership numbers. “I love to hear that because Tishomingo County Farm Bureau is my family,” Zenobia said with a smile. “I am Farm Bureau 100 percent.” “Zenobia has probably done more for Tishomingo County Farm Bureau than anyone else,” said Perkins. “We try to let her know how much we love her every chance we get. We held a special appreciation celebration for her on her 90th birthday. “We’re thrilled to have this office – we think it’s one of the prettiest in the state – but we are just as thrilled to have leaders like Mrs. Oaks. We feel that we are truly blessed here in Tishomingo County.” Working Together Tishomingo County Farm Bureau was chartered in March 29, 1923. The first president was W. W. Bingham. In those early years, the office was



“We felt very strongly about this issue,” Perkins said. “We put up banners and educated people about Initiative 31. We feel that the volunteer leaders across the state were instrumental in getting Initiative 31 on the ballot and getting it passed. We are very proud of our role in that.”

Tishomingo County Farm Bureau volunteer leaders and staff

housed in the county co-op building, which burned in January 1977. Tishomingo County Farm Bureau built a new building and later enlarged it. When that building became too small, members began planning the current one. “Tishomingo County Farm Bureau is made up of good, hardworking folks,” Perkins said. “We have always been close. Whenever there is a problem, we work together to solve it. If we have something to celebrate, we celebrate together.” Tishomingo County Farm Bureau holds its annual meeting in the high school cafeteria, with plenty of good food and music. Each year, the meeting grows. In 2011, some 150 to 160 members attended.


Tishomingo County Farm Bureau is active in the community, supporting the local 4-H program and the county cattlemen’s association. It also partners with the county Extension office for a variety of efforts. Tishomingo County Farm Bureau offers “candidate meet and greets,” so members can get to know their local and state lawmakers. It also holds special “appreciation days” for beloved members of the community. For the past two years, Tishomingo County Farm Bureau worked hard to make sure that the statewide eminent domain campaign was a great success. Volunteer leaders collected petition signatures and spread the word about the need for stronger private property laws.


Excited About Future In addition to the office in Iuka, Tishomingo County Farm Bureau offers a satellite office in Belmont. Board members include Jim Perkins, Ed Wynn, Carol Tuckier, Gary Pardue, Paul Witlock, Tommy Moody, Donald Crane and Kay Perkins. The agency manager is Billy Rainey. Secretaries are Donna McAnally (membership) and Theresa Cleveland in Iuka, and Peggy Nunley in Belmont. Tishomingo County Farm Bureau has five agents and three CSAs. Jim served for many years on the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation Board of Directors. Kay is the county women’s chair and also chairs the Region 2 Women’s Committee. “Over the years, Farm Bureau has become a household name that people can trust and depend on,” said Perkins. “Our people live up to their word and responsibilities. A lot of people have respect for us, and that is so gratifying. “Tishomingo County Farm Bureau believes deeply in Farm Bureau and all that it stands for,” he concluded. “We are proud of our part in its history and very excited about our role in its future.”


Farm Bureau Events 90th Annual Meeting

Rep. Frank Hamilton of Jackson County received the 2011 Friend of Agriculture Award. He represents House District 109. Hamilton is pictured with Clyde Brown and Ken Mallette, Jackson County Farm Bureau.

Retired Yalobusha County Extension Director Steve Cummings received the 2011 Distinguished Service Award. He is pictured with a few of the many outstanding young farmers he mentored during his career. Cummings was cited for truly making a difference in the lives of Mississippi farmers.

Above: Mississippi Pennies donations were presented to Smithville High School to help rebuilt the library, which was destroyed by a tornado. Pictured with State Women’s Committee Chair Betty Mills, far left, are Nora O’Brian; Chad O’Brian, Principal of Smithville High School; Nita Jackson, Monroe County Women’s Chair; Shelby Williams, State Women’s Committee Vice Chair; and Women’s Program Coordinator Clara Bilbo. Donations totaled $5,100.

Rep. Tom Mayhall of DeSoto County received the 2011 Friend of Agriculture Award. He represents House District 40. Mayhall is pictured with MFBF President Randy Knight.

Right: Gov. Phil Bryant received the 2011 Friend of Agriculture Award. He is pictured with his wife Deborah.




Retired dairy farmer and longtime volunteer leader Warren Oakley of Starkville received the 2011 Excellence in Leadership Award. He was recognized for making significant contributions to Farm Bureau and agriculture in Mississippi. Oakley is shown with his family.

Perry County Farm Bureau received the Gary Chittom Membership Award in the category of less than 1750 members. Making the presentation is MFBF President Randy Knight.

Each year at state convention, the Women’s Program offers a general store to raise funds for the Berta Lee White Scholarship.

Lafayette County Farm Bureau received the Gary Chittom Award in the category of more than 1750 members. Making the presentation is MFBF President Randy Knight.

The 2011Women’s Program Awards of Excellence recipients are: Region 1 – Bolivar County, Lil Gant, chair; Region 2 – Pontotoc County, Sherrie Poe, chair; Region 3 – Scott County, Anita Webb, chair; Region 5 – Lawrence County, Dori Lowe, chair; Region 6 – Leake County, Dott Arthur, vice chair, and Dian Grundy, chair; Region 7 – Stone County, Louise Brown, chair; Region 8 – Sunflower County, Helen Allison, chair. Not pictured is Region 4 – Choctaw County, Frances Odom, chair. MARCH/APRIL



Farm Bureau Events 90th Annual Meeting

Region 1 Women’s Chair Deniese Swindoll of DeSoto County presented a workshop, entitled “Talking Tools,” which gave tips for effective public speaking. Deniese is a graduate of the American Farm Bureau Federation Women’s Communications Boot Camp, which helps women in agriculture become better communicators.

WLBT-TV Chief Meteorologist Barbie Bassett received the Ag Ambassador Award for 2011. She was recognized for going beyond her normal range of activities in promoting Mississippi agriculture. Barbie, who grew up on a farm and is a former Miss Farm Bureau-Mississippi, is pictured with his parents, Harold and Brenda Wiggs of Quitman County, and MFBF President Randy Knight.

The 2011 Women’s Program Outstanding Achievement Award recipients are as follows: Information, Organization and Governmental Relations, Montgomery County, Georgia Caffey, chair; Community Service, Jackson County, Debbie Hackler, chair; Agriculture in the Classroom, Yalobusha County, Jody Bailey, chair; and Youth/Safety, Marion County, Glenda Shivers, chair.

2012 Farm Bureau Ambassador Alan Smith of Pearl River County is pictured with, from left, State Women’s Committee Chair Betty Mills, Kelsey Unruh of Noxubee County, alternate, and MFBF President Randy Knight. Smith received a $2,000 scholarship, and Unruh received a $1,000 scholarship. Both are students at MSU. Left: Entertainer Paul Ott presented the devotional during the closing general session.



Lester Spell, who announced in 2011 that he would be retiring as Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce Commissioner, spoke during the opening general session. MARCH/APRIL

George County Farm Bureau received the J.K. Simpson Memorial Award for having the highest numerical membership gain over the previous year. Making the presentation is MFBF President Randy Knight.

Walthall County Farm Bureau received the President’s Award as the best overall county program for 2011. Accepting the award from MFBF President Randy Knight is Walthall County Farm Bureau President Bill Pigott.

Outstanding County Award recipients for each region include: Region 1 – DeSoto County; Region 2 – Yalobusha County; Region 3 – Humphreys County; Region 4 – Monroe County; Region 5 – Simpson County; Region 6 – Jefferson Davis County; Region 7 – Walthall County; and Region 8 – Jackson County. Making the presentation is MFBF President Randy Knight.

The Young Farmers & Ranchers (YF&R) Program holds a silent auction during state convention to raise funds for the YF&R Scholarship Foundation. MARCH/APRIL

Tishomingo, Pearl River, Neshoba, Chickasaw and Panola counties were presented the Mike Blankenship Safety Award, which recognizes outstanding safety education efforts by county Farm Bureaus. They are pictured with MFBF President Randy Knight. MISSISSIPPI FARM COUNTRY


Farm Bureau Events 90th Annual Meeting

The featured speaker during the “Farm Bill Update” program was Dale Moore, Deputy Executive Director, Public Policy, American Farm Bureau Federation.

Reelected members of the State Women's Committee are, from left, Jody Bailey, Region 4; Joan Thompson, Region 6; Wanda Hill, Region 8; Betty Mills, chair; Shelby Willians, vice chair; and Kay Perkins, Region 2.

Addressing the environmental program, entitled “Environmental Lawsuits and Your Farm,” was Ellen Steen, General Counsel and Secretary, American Farm Bureau Federation.

Presenting toys and gifts to Blair E. Batson Hospital are State Women’s Committee members Wanda Hill, Shelby Williams, Betty Mills, Carolyn Turner, Joan Thompson, Jody Bailey, Deniese Swindoll and Kay Perkins. They are pictured with Dr. Tishawn Thames of Blair E. Batson Hospital. The toys and gifts were collected by volunteer leaders around the state. 32


Addressing the safety program, entitled “Weather Safety and Preparedness,” was Jared Allen, Meteorologist, National Weather Service–Jackson. MARCH/APRIL

Right: Speakers during the “Estate Planning” program were Bob Hughes and Frank Blossman, estate planning specialists, MFB Casualty Insurance Company, and Chris Cole and Will Hobson with Hillyard Lyons.

Retiring county women’s chairs with over five years of service are Eddie Myrtle Moore, Rankin County, and, not pictured, Sandra Sojourner, Adams County.

Cindy Hyde-Smith, Commissioner, Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce, was keynote speaker during the opening general session.










Mississippi Farm Country  

March/April 2012

Mississippi Farm Country  

March/April 2012