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June 2020

Market price vs. expense Horace McQueen See page 3

Tolerance Baxter Black See page 5

Game Warden Field Notes Texas Parks & Wildlife See page 8

Couple enjoys life through organic farming By Shelli Parker

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Athens Review

orty years ago James Kirksey rented a house to Diane and the two hit it off and married. Their empire has now grown to six grown children, 17 grandchildren, and a farm called the Gardens at Peaceful Valley. James retired from his lifetime career of dirt work and excavation which was his bread and butter, but said he always wanted to be a farmer. “He is a man that will not stop,” Diane said. “This is his retirement plan.” The couple started off seven years ago with a table and umbrella and kept adding on. The farm now has acres of gardens of organic produce, free range chickens, compost, greenhouses, and five employees. The grandkids work the farm every summer and only what is grown on the property is sold there. “Whatever you can grow in east Texas, we grow here,” Diane said. “Our coolers are not always full here because we only sell what we grow and are harvesting.” Organic gardening is both art and science. Diane says they experiment on new techniques, but they aren’t all successful. For example they lost a crop of potatoes this year. Organic gardening is a slower acting process but over time gardeners will see the bugs lessen and the dirt improve. The Kirkseys discourage pesticides and encourage patience. See Organic on Page 10

Peachy Keen

Despite shuttering of 2020 event, Variety key to plentiful peach production youths reap By Lisa Tang huge support, W scholarships from CCJLS supporters Special to the Palestine Herald-Press

ith plentiful rainfall and a temperate climate, East Texas peach growers experience mostly favorable conditions. The best crops come after a winter with at least a few days of freezing weather and a warm spring with no late freezes. Those conditions, plus a variety of peach trees, can produce a continuous crop from May to August. Freestone and Clingstone are the main families of peaches. Clingstone peaches ripen in early May through late June; Freestones ripen in July and August. Growers usually plant different varieties to allow more continuous production throughout the season. Cooks often prefer the larger, less juicy Freestone peaches, which are less fleshy and easily fall free of the pit. Juicier and sweeter Clingstones are more difficult to prepare, but are favored for canning and preserves.  Randy Ragsdale sells peaches from a roadside stand on Highway 79 west of Jacksonville. He said many more peach farms existed in the area when his father started one in 1948. Today, Ragsdale grows roughly 1,000 peach trees on 10 acres in Rusk County. Though a late freeze left this year’s crop less than bountiful, Ragsdale said he still turns a profit in some years. 

Ragsdale has operated his own farm since 1978, and is continuing, even after retiring from a 40-year career with the Jacksonville Fire Department. After growing peaches all his life, Ragsdale says he continues to farm them because he always has. Ragsdale grows six varieties, which he sells directly to the public. In some years, however, production does not keep up with demand. “We don’t have enough peaches to keep the store open every day,” he says, primarily due to a late freeze this spring. Lack of rain can also limit production. Both large and small peach farms have taken root across East Texas. Some larger operations – such as Cooper Farms in Fairfield, Ham Orchards in Terrell, and McPeak Orchards in Pittsburg – supply independent retailers and grocery chains. Smaller orchards allow visitors to pick their own peaches or sell the fruit on-site. Some peach varieties even share names with East Texas locales. Fairfield in Freestone County and Pittsburg in Camp County are both locations that suggest East Texas is the birthplace of peaches, but that would belie their much longer history.  Cultivation of peaches originated in China more than 1,000 years ago, and spread to Europe through trade routes. Spanish explorers brought peaches to the Americas in the 15th century; today, all states in the lower 48 grow the tangy, tasty fruits in dozens of See Peaches on Page 3

By Jo Anne Embleton

C

Jacksonville Progress

ommunity spirit proved stronger than a viral pandemic that shuttered this year’s livestock show, with supporters raising approximately $170,000 for Cherokee County youth. “It just reaffirms their commitment to the kids, and the board’s confidence in the countywide support” of the Cherokee County Junior Livestock Show, said board president Bart Bauer. “These are good folks.” Program supporters and stock show participants were recognized during a June 8 dinner at the county showbarn. “It was the first county-wide event since the pandemic began. CCJLS raised $130,000 for the kids, and $40,000 in scholarships – the $130,000 was add-on money that went toward kids’ projects,” he said, adding that the 2020 show would have been the biggest one to date, with approximately 500 youths scheduled to show 800 projects. The financial support “shows you how dedicated – and how many dedicated – people are to helping kids through agriculture. Even without a show, they still supported it,” Bauer said. During the dinner, along with announcement of scholarship recipients, the 2020 Club of the Year and this year’s stockshow queen were announced. Lookout 4H of Jacksonville was dubbed Club See CCJLS on Page 3


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You are what you eat

June 2020

Penny’s Pastured Poultry offers pasture raised broilers, eggs By Shelli Parker

W

Athens Review

hat do you do when your child starts entering adolescence at five years old? Penny and Daniel Nichols, were shocked to find their 5-year-old son experiencing signs of puberty. At the time they were living in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex and started researching the cause. They concluded, what people put in their body is important and that growth hormones, antibiotics and pesticides were not something they wanted to feed their children anymore. “As a mother I want to protect my family from harm but when my son and father-in-law started having health issues I felt helpless,” Penny said. “I decided to do my own research and I found that diet and gut health have a huge impact on overall health.” So they left their busy lives filled with day care and corporate jobs moving out to Eustace on an eight acre farm. Once they arrived they built pens and started raising their own chickens. The result was Penny’s Pastured Poultry, a farm offering pastured raised broilers and eggs in Athens and surrounding areas. “What our food eats, and its quality of life, has a huge impact on it’s fitness to be consumed. You truly are what you eat, even further: you are what you eat,

eats. I threw out the processed foods and began seeking healthier food options for my family,” Penny said. “I grew my own vegetables and raised a flock of chickens for their eggs. My family’s health began to turn around and we got to enjoy delicious, high-quality foods. What could be better?” The farm consists of leghorns, cornish rock cross and barred rock. Some of them are used for eggs, and some are used for meat, but all are clucking around in the grass eating bugs and living the good life until they come of age. In eight weeks these chickens go from cute fuzzy chicks to dinner. Penny says it is a full time job making sure your chickens arrive to the table. Late summer is no time to raise chickens as they cannot stand the heat. If it is rainy, they risk getting too cold, if it is hot, they risk heat stroke. Every morning begins with rising with the sun, as Penny goes out to check on the chickens. After making the rounds and checking on each group, she then moves the chicken tractors, a movable coop lacking a floor that one person can drag around the yard. At first she moves them twice a day, but as the chickens grow it becomes something she does every two hours. As the tractors move around the property, it indeed appears as if actual tractors have rolled over the land. Once the chickens reach maturity, they carefully select who goes to processing. In 24 hours they are ready for the table. So what is the difference in what you

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get from Penny’s Pastured Poultry and the grocery store? “My chickens are raised on grass and supplemented with all-natural whole grains to: Non-Soy, non-GMO feed,” Daniel said. “You can have peace of mind knowing you are serving you and your family the best chicken on the market. If you have never tasted a pastured raised chicken you should know that chickens raised on pasture are tastier and it has a huge impact on nutrients pleasing the pickiest of eaters.” Pasture raised chickens are raised on non-GMO feed and are soy, antibiotic and hormone free. “Chickens love to forage and scratch and peck for bugs which makes a happier, healthier, and much tastier chicken,” Penny said.

There are also numerous health benefits to pasture-raised poultry and eggs including: • 50% more Vitamin A than feedlot and vegetarian fed chickens • 10 times more Omega 3s than birds living in chicken houses • One of the richest sources of conjugated linoleic acid, or CLA, for heart and immune health • Contains more choline for brain and lutein for eye health • Important source of Vitamin D for bone, digestion, and immunity “Our egg layers are also on the grass in a mobile coop. They are moved to provide them with fresh grass. I supplement them with a non-GMO non-soy feed and Oyster Shells for additional calcium. They have a deep rich yolk and a strong shell that you won’t find at a store,” Penny said. The Nichols do not raise chickens during the heat of summer and will take a small break before their next group. They sell the chickens and eggs at the Athens Farmers Market and online both individually and in shares. Shares include six chickens over a twelve week period. For more information please visit at www. pennyspasturedpoultry.com. “We are just a small family farm trying to make a difference in the world,” Penny said.


June 2020

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Market price vs. cost of expenses

I

n most of East Texas we seem to be just two weeks away from a drought. Rains need to come often and leave behind some real moisture. Biggest concern now is the low prices paid for livestock and the need to make sure plenty of pasture is available for the summer months. Many producers are pulling their calves over 400 pounds off the cows and heading them to market. With the backlog of fat cattle in the feedlots and not a lot of promise for the next few months for better prices, it may be better to be safe than sorry.

Regardless of whether calves are bringing $2 a pound or less than $1, the expense of raising them is the same. A number of cattle raisers are trying to figure out whether to keep some of their best heifers—maybe selling the old cows that are not doing a good job raising a calf.

program will come back home eight months later, bred to the bull of your choice, and off your payroll for those eight months while at SFA.

Maintaining a heifer is costly — often that heifer when she calves at two years of age has created a $1,500 investment.

The basic cost to enroll a heifer weighing 500-599 pounds is $600—probably less than it would cost to keep her home. That 500 pound heifer should come out of the program in March 2021 weighing 900-1,000 pounds.

There is another option: At Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, the students and faculty have been taking in heifers for several years. A weaned heifer consigned to the

For more information, or to visit the facility, call or e-mail Dr. Erin Brown, program director, at 936468-4433 or e-mail browneg@ sfasu.edu. The enrollment deadline is fast approaching.

On a growing number of college campuses, students wanting a quality education are being shouted down by militants who want to dictate the future of those institutions. Consider the University of Texas in Austin. One demand is to replace the UT school song, “The Eyes of Texas” with something new. Why? The radicals say the song was written during segregation. Plus, they want all statues and building names with any link to the Confederacy removed and replaced with those of their choosing. Will the “Aggie War Hymn” be a target of the radicals

Organic, continued from page 1 They grow everything from artesian tomatoes to asparagus. Granddaughter Ryan works the farm every summer and is a very skilled canner. “It’s an amazing craft that people don’t have anymore,” Diane said. “We want to offer classes but have been so busy, it’s in the works.” Diane says the prize jewel of the shop is the organic gardening supplies. Gardening delights and hard to find items such as bulk seeds, beneficial nematodes, mushroom compost, natural pest control and corn gluten meal await. It is a wonderland for gardeners. “Gardening takes your mind off everything,” Diane said. “Gardening is what’s getting us through.” This pandemic has opened peoples eyes to something that has laid dormant. People are supposed to be connected to the land they live on. It is life itself. Humankind is 100% dependent on the earth for air, water and food, and it’s time we remember that before it is too late. Local farming has also seen a surge in support as people witnessed firsthand if transportation or exporting is blocked, you do without. Having a good relationship with local farmers is essential. Some choose to take it a step further and are gardening again themselves. Diane has classes for that too. “People are realizing how important gardening is,” Diane said. “The best tool you have in gardening is your eyes. Walk your garden everyday, use your eyes, and the minute you see a problem, fix it.” Stop by and see the family legacy Diane and James Kirksey have built at The Gardens at Peaceful Valley. Go shop, see what they have or just take a tour. It is the place to go if you like gardening, sharing recipes and making new friends. For more information call 903-677-1060 or visit them online through Facebook or http://gardensatpeacefulvalley.com/

before it’s all over? Stay tuned.

Peaches, continued from page 1 varieties. Cooper Farms is one of the largest peach orchards in the region, growing roughly 80 varieties of peaches on an orchard of 300 acres in Freestone County. They sell wholesale to Central Market, Whole Foods, Brookshire Brothers, and a few smaller retailers. Cooper Farms general store and gas station in Fairfield sells dozens of peach products — from peach preserves and peach blossom honey, to peach salsa and wine. They also sell from stands in Huntsville, Waco, and Conroe a few days a week during the season.

CCJLS, continued from page 1 of the Year, while Piper Jones of Lookout 4H was crowned queen. Contest runnersup were Emily Monday of Wells FFA, first runner-up; Cadence Ellis of County Line 4H, second runner-up; and Kylee Powers of Alto FFA, third runner-up. The following participant received scholarships: • $750 Nicky Wheeler Memorial Scholarships were awarded to Drew Morton and Emmy Walley; • $1,000 Hay Show Committee Scholarships were awarded to Foster Hall, Avery Kinney, Drew; Morton and Sarah Wofford. Bauer said the committee previously awarded two $1,000 scholarships each for hay judging, land judging and wildlife judging; separate livestock and forestry judging contests had been canceled. • The Soil & Water Conservation’s Outstanding 4-H Member award was given to Avery Kinney; • The Soil & Water Conservation Outstanding FFA Member award was given to Drew Morton: • $5,000 Branded by Christ’s Coverall Classic Scholarships were awarded to Foster Hall, Avery Kinney and Tyler Lloyd; • $1,100 Cherokee County Junior Livestock Show scholarships were awarded to Avery Kinney, Tyler Lloyd, Sarah Wofford, AlexaJane (AJ) Glaze, Cailee Sanford, Hailey Strom, Brianna (Bri) Sanchez,,Adrianna (Anna) Sanchez, Ryan Griffith and Kaleb Nichols.


4

June 2020

East Texas Farm & Ranch Living

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Falling into Gardening T

he subject of fall gardening has come up frequently lately. Should I or shouldn’t I? Do I still need to rotate crops from season to season? When should I plant? All of which are excellent questions. Due to our long warm season here in East Texas we have ample opportunity to grow a second crop of our warm-season favorites like squash, cucumbers, peas, corn, tomatoes, and more. Since TomatoFest is September 19th this year, many discussions have come across my desk regarding fall tomatoes, so we are going to focus on my favorite garden vegetable for a few minutes. Tomatoes can most definitely be grown as a fall crop. The optimal timing for your fall tomatoes would be to sow your seeds any time from early-to-mid June, and put transplants out into your garden any time from late June to early August. The transplants will spend the heat of July

and August growing and then be ready to produce when the temperature is right. Tomato production is all about the pollen - having the right temperature and humidity to keep the pollen happy and viable. When the nighttime temperatures are below 55 or above 72 degrees the pollen is not viable, and so none of your blooms will develop fruit. The blooms will continue to abort until the temperature is right for the pollen to be usable. In the heat of the summer, our nighttime temperatures are too high

for fruit to set for almost all tomatoes. Some exceptions would be small fruited tomatoes like cherries, and some varieties that are said to be ‘heat set’ tomatoes (which means able to set fruit even in higher heat). Even the cherry tomatoes slow production to a trickle in the heat. The daytime temperatures are high enough that the plant processes slow down internally. The plant isn’t making enough energy to produce very much fruit. There are so very many varieties of tomatoes to choose from. For a fall

crop, choose small or medium fruited varieties. The larger fruiting ones will have a hard time getting ripe before our first freeze. Another consideration would be days to harvest, which would be the number of days from planting to fruit harvest. Many large fruited tomato varieties are 90-100 days to harvest. There are some early setting varieties like Early Girl (who is 55 days to harvest) however she is not necessarily heat tolerant, which might not make her a good choice for a fall tomato. Another option for choosing a fall tomato is to root a ‘sucker’ from your current tomatoes. The suckers are the small shoots that grow out of the point where the leaf meets the main stem. Those suckers will root in soil or water, although they will transplant easier if they are rooted in soil. Provide a regular water supply to your fall garden cut down on stress to the plants in the heat. The

more stressed the plants are, the more susceptible to disease and insects the plants become. Young transplants are particularly susceptible so be sure they are watered in nicely. They will need to be watered daily in most cases, and that is best done in the morning. You should be mindful of crop rotation as well when it comes to fall gardening. If you plant your fall crops where your spring ones where, you will be giving the bugs and insects a buffet of opportunity to cause problems with your fall crops. Try to make sure your plant families get rotated, meaning don’t plant potatoes where your tomatoes where, for example. They are both from the Solanaceae family and will have the similar insect and disease problems. Fall gardening is a great opportunity to maximize the benefits our summer sun and is well worth trying. There is a great

Kim Benton

Cherokee County Horticulturist fall gardening guide from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension that can be found here: https://agrilifeextension.tamu.edu/browse/ featured-solutions/gardening-landscaping/fallvegetable-gardening-guidefor-texas/. Additionally, I have a Spring and Fall planting guide that gives some good time frames for seeding and planting. It can be found here: http://counties.agrilife.org/cherokee/ files/2019/09/East-TexasPlanting-Guide-Springand-Fall_Updated.pdf. Enjoy those yummy fall vegetables!

Keeping cool as summer heats up By Jo Anne Embleton

S

Jacksonville Progress

ummer officially begins today, and Cherokee County residents looking for ways to stay cool at home without sustaining too hard a hit on their wallets have several different energy-saving options to employ. The top two tips from Bart Bauer, director of engineer for the Cherokee County Electric Cooperative Association, are to utilize ceiling fans and block the sun from coming inside during the hottest parts of the day. “Ceiling fans not make it any cooler, but moving air makes feel cooler, so if you can adjust the setting on your thermostat and set it to 78 instead of 75, then turn on the ceiling fans, people can cut approximately 17 percent on cooling costs,” he said. “To me, that’s a good statistic.” And, ceiling fans use 90 percent less electricity than an air conditioner, he added. Another tip is to keep window blinds closed or shades drawn later in the day to prevent the sun’s powerful rays from creating a heated environment inside a residence. “You keep them open in the winter and closed in the summer – Venetian blinds can cut heat gain during the summertime by 29 percent. Remember, glass windows act like a magnifier, keeping the floors hot” and making it difficult to cool down the interior of a residence, Bauer said. Regular check-ups on the cooling unit ensures that it’s “running at the best of its ability,” as does making sure to swap out filters on a regular basis, he added. From mid-June to about the beginning of September, the heat can be “just brutal” to residents; interestingly, summer is not when CCECA sees demands go up. “We’re actually a winter-peaking cooperative, with demands (at a high) in January and February,” he said. “It’s actually cheaper to cool than it is to heat.”

According to www.energy.gov, helpful tips to improve the energy efficiency and comfort of a residence as warmer temperatures arrive include: 1. Service your air conditioner. Easy maintenance such as routinely replacing or cleaning air filters can lower your cooling system’s energy consumption by up to 15 percent. Also, the first day of spring could serve as a reminder to check your air conditioner’s evaporator coil, which should be cleaned annually to ensure the system is performing at optimal levels. 2. Open windows. Opening windows when it’s cooler creates a cross-wise breeze, allowing you to naturally cool your home without switching on air conditioners. This is an ideal tactic in spring when temperatures are mild. 3. Use ceiling fans. Cooling your home with ceiling fans will allow you to raise your thermostat four degrees. This can help lower your electricity bills without sacrificing overall comfort. 4. Cook outside. On warmer spring days, keep the heat out of your home by using an outdoor grill instead of indoor ovens. 5. Install window treatments. Energy efficient window treatments or coverings such as blinds, shades and films can slash heat gain when temperatures rise. These devices not only improve the look of your home but also reduce energy costs. 6. Caulk air leaks. Using low-cost caulk to seal cracks and openings in your home keeps warm air out – and cash in your wallet. 7. Bring in sunlight. During daylight hours, switch off artificial lights and use windows and skylights to brighten your home. 8. Set the thermostat. On warm days, setting a programmable thermostat to a higher setting when you are not at home can help reduce your energy costs by approximately 10 percent. 9. Seal ducts. Air loss through ducts can lead to high electricity costs, accounting for nearly 30 percent of a cooling system’s energy consumption. Sealing and insulating ducts can go a long way toward lowering your electricity bills. 10. Switch on bathroom fans. Bathroom fans suck out heat and humidity from your home, improving comfort.

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June 2020

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5

Tolerance W

hen our opinions get as immovable as a granite outhouse, God has a way of shaking the foundation. I was searching for an artist who could lend just the right feeling to a book I was putting together. I found such a person. He lived in a remote mountain town and had no phone. With the help of the local postmistress and several letters, he agreed to illustrate my book. Besides his unique artistic style, he was a good cowboy. Over the months of correspondence and our occasional visits on his local pay phone, I developed a genuine liking and respect for him. We agreed to meet at the Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada.

I arrived Thursday night and began to test the limits of my envelope! I had the makin’s of a personal best brewing when I spied an old friend, a big man whose effort had done much to promote cowboy poetry. I shook his hand warmly. It was then I noticed he was wearing a little short ponytail. I was overcome! I dressed him down for his uncowboy fashion statement and finished by removing the decorative ribbon binding his furry polyp! Just then I felt a tap on the shoulder. I turned and a young man reached to shake my hand. He was decked out in his buckaroo finest. He introduced himself and remarked that he enjoyed my work. He explained that he was an actor. As he talked, I focused on his earring.

Earring! I became incensed! I lectured him on manly pride and ended up trying to bite off his earlobe! In retrospect it occurred to me that I might have overreacted. Fortunately these good fellows merely escaped my grasp rather than permanently disfigure me. The next day I was walking through the crowd when I heard a voice call my name. I turned. A hand pressed into mine and the voice said, “Hi, I’m yer new artist!” He had blond hair braided into a pigtail that reached his waist. Eight, count’em eight! Earrings decorated his left ear! I was dumbfounded! He continued, “I’d like you to meet my wife.” I looked to his side where and attractive woman stood wearing a bowler

‘Texas’ Finest Blueberries’

hat and a gold ring in her nose! Looking back, I suspect God set me up. He said to Himself, this boy needs a lesson in tolerance. He was right. I was due. I’ve learned that a closed mind is like lookin’ at the world with one eye closed. I guess we could use a dowse of kindness and understanding in our nation’s capitol… Washington, (sorry George), D.C.

Echo Springs Blueberry Farm built from ground up by Shelli Parker

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Athens Review

n 1998 Phyllis and Ivan Vaseleniuck were “California dreaming” about a small farm to call home. Ivan’s business grew in Dallas and the idea of staying in the mountains and raising avocados became an unrealistic plan. The couple knew one thing, they would have to sell their property in California, be close enough to commute and they did not want to raise livestock. The search for property commenced when they stumbled upon a rundown blueberry farm that had been on the market around four years. In spite of knowing zilch about berries or farming, Ivan saw potential. Deciding they were up for the challenge the couple cashed in their youthful naiveté for almost 10 acres of stressed out berries and a lot of hard work. “I guess we were younger and felt up to the challenge,” Phyllis said. The result was Echo Springs Blueberry Farm, located on FM 607N, four and a half miles South of Highway 31, between Brownsboro and Murchison. Every year, Echo Springs attracts visitors from around the world who come to pick or purchase “Texas’ Finest Blueberries.” Blueberries from Echo Springs receive their superior taste from the labyrinth of natural fresh water springs flowing under the ground. A career change mid-life is daunting, and there was a lot to learn. Lucky for Phyllis and Ivan, experts such as the late Rick Hirsch, Henderson County Extension Agent, the Ag department of Stephen F. Austin University and others came in to assist the beginners. “We rolled up our sleeves and since 1999 have thought of little else,” she said. Ivan’s dream was becoming a reality as the farm went from wholesale only to the retail operation it is now. Many improvements, additions and many more acres of berries have been added since the property was purchased. “Our pick-your-own store opened in 2005, at that time we felt the farm had improved enough to be open to the public,” she said. With a team of long-standing employees the farm grew. Now some of the staff members teenage children work there which prompted the couple to start a scholarship program. High achieving students who have worked at Echo Springs can apply for scholarships to college. Echo Springs Farm scholarship fund is a way of giving back to their wonderful community according to Phyllis. “We really want to keep this about the kids,” she said. What started as a retirement farm has grown to one of the largest in Texas with over 75 acres of blueberries, 12 acres of blackberries, roads, well, modern irrigation and processing facility and gift shop. “We take great pride in showing the farm to our visitors,” she said. “we look forward to welcoming you to Echo Springs.” Phyllis is a very health conscious woman and believes strongly in the power of healthy eating. In addition to their normal items such as baked goods, jams, syrups,

prepared mixes, berries and gift items, Phyllis offers healthy options as well. Echo springs offers Stevia sweetened treats daily and gluten free items through preorder. “We want everyone to feel comfortable here,” Phyllis said. “I think Echo Springs provides a safe environment for people to come wander the fields in nature and enjoy a day in the country.” Whether you want to make a visit with the family to pick berries or need wholesale services, Echo Springs can provide. They have a large presence providing berries for numerous establishments in Dallas and all over Texas. Enjoy a day at the farm from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. while having plenty of space to observe social distancing from May until the end of July. If you would like to visit Echo Springs Blueberry Farm, the website is www. echospringsblueberryfarm.com or call 903-852-5277.

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June 2020

Athens’ Smith finds way to allow more riders to compete

T

he Cheyenne Frontier Days is well known for drawing numerous high profile competitors who ride and rope in the Wyoming rodeo in late July. But this year, the iconic rodeo has been canceled because of coronavirus concerns. With that in mind, Stace Smith, who has served as the senior stock producer in Cheyenne in recent years, heavily focused on allowing a way more than usual amount of competitors to ride in the 2020 Coleman PRCA Rodeo. As a result, numerous world class riders saddled up in the smaller, rural West Texas community and competed in the June 11-13 rodeo. “We’re kind of making Coleman be our Cheyenne for the summer, right here in Texas,” said Smith, an 11-time Professional Rodeo

Cowboys Association Stock Contractor Of The Year who is from Athens in East Texas. Smith and the organizing committee devised a plan that allowed way more bucking stock riders to compete. Numerous roughstock riders rode in the slack, an overflow performance that featured competitors who were not scheduled to compete in the main shows. In other words, a noticeable number of world class bronc and bull riders made their bone jarring rides after 10 p.m. instead of between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. The Coleman rodeo normally allows 36 bareback riders, 36 saddle bronc riders and 60 bull riders who compete throughout the three main shows on a Thursday, Friday and Saturday night. But this year, Smith and the Coleman rodeo organizing committee worked out

a deal with the PRCA to allow unlimited entries. The result was a big spike in entries, especially in the roughstock events. According to prorodeo. com, 57 bareback riders entered the rodeo, 62 saddle bronc riders signed up and 92 bull riders were on the card. “It’s important to give the opportunity to cowboys to get out and go and enter and help get the rodeo industry kick started back to full speed,” said Patrick Justiss, who chairs the Coleman rodeo’s organizing committee. Committee member Don Eddleman said: “The community really wanted it. Coleman always steps up and beyond with the rodeo.” One cowboy who was grateful to compete was 2015 world champion Jacobs Crawley of Stephenville, who serves as the PRCA’s board

chairman. He rode in the Thursday night slack performance and tied for eighth overall in saddle bronc riding with a score of 82. Crawley, a nine-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier, said he didn’t mind making a late night ride. “If you want something bad enough, you’re going to make concessions,” Crawley said. “You’re going to kind of bend a little bit more than you have typically. We might not sign up for this slack if we had been rodeoing full time up to this point. But since we have been at the house and you tell me I have to get on at 11:30 at night, I will be here to get on at 11:30 at night.” Another cowboy who made a late night ride was 2019 National Finals qualifier Daylon Swearingen of DeKalb who snared the bull riding title

at the three-day rodeo with a 90.5 aboard a younger, stronger, rapid-fire spinning bull named E13. “It’s good to see all of the contestants and this rodeo take all of the contestants that they could take,” he said. In order to accommodate the influx of roughstock riders, Smith brought in multiple stock contractors in addition to his Stace Smith Pro Rodeos that served in the senior stock contracting role. According to prorodeo.com, the other PRCA contractors who supplied stock in Coleman were New Star Pro Rodeo, Andrews Rodeo, Dakota Rodeo, Harper & Morgan Rodeo Co, Hurst & TNT Pro Rodeo, Pickett Rodeo and United Pro Rodeo. Another bucking stock rider who capitalized in Coleman was five-time National Finals qualifier Orin Larsen who clinched the bareback riding title

HUDSON

Brett Hoffman, a Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame member, has reported on rodeos for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram for more than three decades. Email him at bchoffman777@earthlink.net.

with an 88.5 aboard a bronc named Slick, which is owned by United Pro Rodeo. He was grateful for the opportunity to compete. “It makes you appreciate what you have and what you’ve done in the past,” Larsen said. “Just to have the opportunity to just go rodeo in general is pretty huge.” Another cowboy who was grateful to compete in Coleman was threetime National Finals qualifier Reese Riemer of Stinnett. He tied for sixth in tie-down roping with a 9.7 after competing in a Friday morning slack performance. “It’s greatly appreciated from a contestant’s point of view,” Riemer said. “We’ve been unemployed for three months. It’s a crazy year. It’s a crazy time to be alive. But for rodeo committees to step up and help us means a lot. Anything we can do to help them... we’re all in if there were more committees like at Coleman.” Jill Wilson of Snyder, who ranks fourth in the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association 2020 barrel racing standings, tied for 10th in the title race with a 16.69. She applauded Coleman’s organizing committee for producing the rodeo. “Right now, rodeo is hurting and we need all of the rodeos we can get,” she said. “I hope that other committees, if they are able, will take notice of some of these rodeos that have stepped up and say ‘We can still do this.’”

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June 2020

7

East Texas Farm & Ranch Living

Support Agriculture Businesses... They are the Heartbeat of Our Economy

Banking on Bobwhites

Texas researchers hopeful that study will stir interest in translocating quail By Matt Williams

T

Outdoors Writer

ranslocation is nothing new to the toolbox of strategies used in wildlife management. Experts have relied on the technique for years to help restore native wildlife populations of different kinds, cultivate new ones or to supplement those that already exist. It’s a laborious task that has worked with everything from black bears to grey wolves and giraffes. Wild turkeys, white-tailed deer and bighorn sheep represent three of Texas’ greatest wildlife translocation stories. Research scientists with the Rolling Plains Quail Research Foundation and Tarleton State University are hopeful that northern bobwhite quail might one day join the list. Founded in 2006, the RPQRF is a nonprofit outfit centered on preserving Texas’ rich quail hunting heritage. The organization has conducted all sorts of intensive research projects aimed at benefitting the iconic game birds that continue to struggle across much of their native range. Bass Pros Shops, Park Cities Quail and other Texas Quail Coalition chapters are among the generous supporters of those efforts. RPQRF has been heavily involved in several translocation projects involving bobwhite and scaled quail dating back to 2013. Those projects, along with others carried out by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Texas A&M University AgriLife Extension Service and Texas A&M-Commerce, have met with mixed levels of success.  RPQRF executive director Dale Rollins has heard the bells of optimism ring many times before. The music is particularly sweet these days at the 2,200-acre Quahadi Ranch in Erath County near Stephenville, where month-old quail broods are roaming landscape in numbers not seen in a very long time.  The Central Texas ranch is owned by Steve and Joan Smith. The couple has worked hard to improve the habitat while stepping up predator control over the last few years. It’s hardly a Garden of Eden, but as quail habitat goes it’s an island rich with opportunity. The property is the site of a multiyear translocation study built around

Photo courtesy Elizabeth Brogan

Bobwhites from West and South Texas take flight at the Quahadi Ranch in Erath County as part of a multiyear translocation study being conducted by researchers with Rolling Plains Quail Research Foundation and Tarleton State University. wild-trapped bobwhite quail provided by several ranches in South and West Texas. The main goals of the permitted scientific study are to demonstrate that translocation is a viable option for bolstering wild quail numbers and creating a sustainable population where habitat is sufficient, and to create a blueprint other Texas landowners around the state, including those in East Texas, can use to duplicate the effort down the road.  “We’re building data to say we believe translocation can work in Texas like it has in other states,” Rollins said. “It may not work in every situation, but there are situations where it will.”  The tactic has been used with great success in several southeastern states including Georgia, Florida and the Carolinas. As such, translocation is a

Photo courtesy John Palarski

Researchers rely on telemetry tracking gear to monitor the birds daily.

subject that is grabbing lots of attention with quail hunters and property owners, alike. “It’s a pretty hot topic nationally right now,” Rollins said. Currently in its second year, the RPQRF research effort in Erath Co. appears to be showing a wealth of promise following the release of 236 birds this spring. The March release included 46 West Texas bobwhites and 190 South Texas birds. The birds were transported to the property within 24 hours of capture and held in surrogators to acclimate at strategic locations for 1-2 weeks before release. Nearly half (110) were equipped with nickel-sized transmitters that allow researchers to track their movements using high-tech telemetry gear. Tarleton State graduate student John Palarski is doing his thesis on the project. He spends 4-11 hours daily on the property monitoring movements, documenting nesting activity and gathering other pertinent data. The boots-to-the-ground research indicates the transplants are enjoying their Central Texas lifestyle. As of June 15, Palarski had documented 34 different nests and about 50 percent nesting success — well above the 30-35 percent average. He has seen several healthy broods on a piece of property that had only a handful of quail when the study began. “The main key in translocation is that the birds survive and that they reproduce,” he said. “So far we’re seeing both. We’ve got well over 200 chicks on the around already. It’s really encouraging. The nesting success has been exceptional and most of the birds are staying close. Some of the nests are within a stone’s throw from where they were released.”  With a hot summer setting in, Palarski is doing a rain dance to spur an uptick in insects to keep chicks growing and hens healthy enough to make second nesting attempts.  “We need a good soaking,” he said. “One hen can potentially produce 20-30 chicks in a summer. You can see a boom pretty quick if you’ve got that happening with a bunch of birds.” Rollins is equally encouraged by the numbers, but he is hesitant to call the study a success just yet. A student of quail for decades, the scientist has seen healthy quail populations take sudden dives before, sometimes for no apparent reason.  “We’re hesitant to crow too loud about it for fear that the wheels might fall off, but right now it’s looking really good,” Rollins said. “Fifty percent nesting success is definitely worth writing about. It’s been a

180-degree improvement over the bust we saw last year.” Scientists had high hopes when the study first launched in April 2019. Sadly, Mother Nature had other ideas. A cold front passed through the region about a week after 167 birds were released, bringing several days of cold rain and chilly temperatures. Palarski said more than half of the original study birds died within a month. He found whole carcasses that had lost 1/3 of their released body weight. He said the carcasses were evaluated by some the country’s best diagnostic labs with inconclusive results. “We don’t know if was a freak weather pattern, disease or a combination of the two,” he said. “We were unable to recover after that. It really set us back. We only saw 9 nests last year.” It’s way too early in the game to say whether or not researchers have found the magical formula that might one day result in a sustainable wild quail population on the Quahadi Ranch and other islands of suitable habitat. But the foundation has been laid with plans to build on it in Spring 2021. Time will ultimately tell the tale of the translocation tape.  Matt Williams is a freelance writer based in Nacogdoches. He can be reached by e-mail, mattwillwrite4u@yahoo.com.

Photo courtesy John Palarski

The study is built around 236 wild-trapped bobwhites that were released on the 2,200-acre ranch in March. More than 100 of the birds are wearing transmitters that allow researchers to monitor movements, nesting success and gather other pertinent data.

TPWD Announces Funding Opportunity for Streamside Landowners TPWD Reports Outdoors Writer

T

he Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is looking to expand public access to fishing and paddling on Texas rivers through leased access agreements with streamside landowners. Private streamside properties are essential to achieving this goal,

and TPWD is requesting applications from landowners for the River Access and Conservation Areas program. “Texas has over 40,000 miles of free-flowing rivers and creeks, and with 95% of the land held in private ownership, it can be a real challenge finding safe legal access to these waters.” said John Botros, TPWD River Access Coordinator. “We are really excited about this opportunity to create more

private-public partnerships while expanding public access to the exceptional fishing and paddling resources that Texas rivers and creeks provide.” The objective for TPWD is to establish lease agreements with landowners, resulting in increased river access for both anglers and paddlers. Since 2012, 24 public river access leases have been established with cooperating landowners.

These agreements for access area use enabled or enhanced paddling and river fishing on more than 211 miles of 10 different rivers across Texas. Find out more information and review descriptions of all the outstanding river access areas supported through the leased access program by visiting the TPWD River Fishing page. River Access and Conservation Areas are funded by a combination

of sources including donations from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, sales of the Texas Rivers Conservation License Plate, and grant awards through the U.S. Farm Bill and Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program. For more information or to submit an application, please see the River Access Request for Applications on the TPWD Grants Page. Landowners interested in

partnering with TPWD in this effort can gain additional valuable insight into the program by checking out this fact sheet that answers some of the more frequently asked questions. Landowners are encouraged to apply at any time, however, to receive preference for 2021 funding cycle, applications should be received by September 30, 2020.


8

East Texas Farm & Ranch Living

Support Agriculture Businesses... They are the Heartbeat of Our Economy

June 2020

Game Warden Field Notes The following items are compiled from recent Texas Parks and Wildlife Department law enforcement reports.

Hook, Line, and Sinker While patrolling Lake Lewisville, two Denton County game wardens responded to a call of an assault to find that a bank fisherman had flung his lure towards a boat, hooking a female occupant in her right hand. As the woman pulled the hook loose, she lost her phone. Charges are pending.

Float On As a Bell County game warden was wrapping up his day, he responded to a call on Belton Lake in regard to a capsized kayak with a female occupant who was unable to get back in and continued to cling to the boat as she drifted farther from the shoreline. The warden arrived to meet the local fire department as they were transporting one male and one female, still wearing the personal floatation devices (PFDs), and kayaks back to shore. The male subject made the comment to EMS that he had always been made fun of for wearing his PFD while kayaking but noted that wearing them undoubtedly saved two lives that evening.

You Must be This Tall to Drive Denton County game wardens patrolling Lake Lewisville noticed a boat with an adult male driving and a child as his passenger. Minutes later, they noticed the same boat entering a local marina but with the child operating the boat. Upon conducting a water safety inspection and discussing a malfunctioning navigational light with the adult, one of the wardens noticed the smell of alcohol and numerous cues that he was impaired. Since the adult had just been observed operating the boat only a few minutes earlier, he was arrested for Boating While Intoxicated.

A Sinking Feeling While patrolling along the Trinity River, a Houston County game warden saw some unusual tire marks near the riverbank. A month later, he was notified

that local authorities had spotted a partially submerged vehicle in the river where he had previously spotted the tire marks. Leon County game wardens then responded by boat in order to assist with the truck’s recovery. After further inspection, the truck was found to be stolen out of Brazos County a month prior. The investigation is still ongoing.

Watts up with that? A Houston and a Trinity County game warden patrolled the Trinity River for fishing violations when they approached a man in a boat who appeared to have casually thrown something into the water upon seeing them. Wardens contacted the boat and asked the man what he threw. He denied having thrown anything into the water but one of the wardens recognized him from years ago when he had been caught shocking fish. The man eventually said that he threw a small fish back into the water, but it was later determined by wardens to be wires. Wardens located a shocker still running inside a battery box. While one of the wardens was attempting to open the battery box, the man said that if the box was that hard to get into, the shocker probably wasn’t in there. Several cases have been filed and evidence was seized.

Don’t Bother Knockin’ An Orange County game warden received a call from a Bridge City resident who had discovered a large alligator on their front porch. At this point, there was no time to refer the resident to an animal control technician, so the warden responded himself. When he arrived, he discovered that the home was located next to a drainage ditch that connected to a nearby marsh. The resident’s fence had been damaged during a recent thunderstorm, allowing the alligator access to the area. The warden was able to capture the gator, which measured close to eight feet, and relocated it to a marsh within a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Wildlife Management Area.

Ya Snooze Ya Lose While patrolling around Lake Somerville, a Washington County game

Jacksonville: Local community garden opens

warden noticed a vehicle parked in the road with its flashers on. When the warden approached the vehicle, he noticed that the subject inside had fallen asleep. Upon waking the person, the warden asked him to step out of the vehicle, revealing a meth pipe in plain view. The subject was then detained, and a search was performed on the vehicle. The search turned up almost 6 grams of suspected meth, tablets of suspected Xanax and marijuana, along with multiple forms of paraphernalia. The subject was taken into custody and multiple citations were issued.

Ghosted Lake Belton is known as a great spot for jugline fishing. However, this can sometimes cause problems with “ghost fishing”, killing fish and littering in the lake. A Bell County game warden cleaned up over 40 improperly marked or derelict juglines along the north end of the lake. Unfortunately, there were many juglines that the warden had to leave behind as his boat couldn’t store any more. As a result of his clean-up effort, one 20” and one 16” blue catfish were returned to the lake. Multiple citations were issued to all individuals identified with illegal juglines. More patrols will be scheduled to pick up remaining equipment and citations will be issued.

Wait Until Your Mother Hears About This! A McLennan County game warden contacted a subject that had been identified through a Facebook post sent to him by a Colorado game warden. The post was made in December of 2019 but then quickly deleted. In the post the subject admitting to shooting ducks over the limit and wounding several more. The same individual had been cited earlier in 2020 for duck hunting a week early. The subject

was eventually located after contacting his mother. When the game warden presented the subject with the Facebook post, he confessed to shooting four red heads and two mallards over the limit the day the post was made. He then confessed to there being a second individual with him that day that shot two mallards and three Wigeons over his limit. Contact was made with the second subject and he also complied, giving a full confession. Both claimed they read the Outdoor Annual incorrectly. Citations were issued and restitution was assigned.

Ditch and Pitch A Burleson County game warden was dispatched to a call of a man walking down a road yelling for help. More information then came in regarding a single rollover accident near the same location. The game warden was the first on scene and discovered a vehicle in the roadway with its front smashed in. Witnesses still on scene with the vehicle said that the driver left on foot. Another vehicle was found in the ditch nearby with the driver still inside. The game warden dispatched medics to the area. Once backup arrived, the warden drove the immediate area searching for the man who fled the scene. A man fitting the description was located at a nearby gas station. The man’s story didn’t make sense, but he did admit to drinking that night. The man had seatbelt burns on his stomach and chest. The witnesses to the accident were brought over for a drive-by ID and confirmed he was the individual they had seen leaving the scene. The incident was handed over to DPS and charges are pending.

Hay just met its match!

By Jo Anne Embleton Jacksonville Daily Progress

T

he Community Garden of Jacksonville located at Nellie Crim Park officially opened in mid-June, featuring a variety of available produce, said Sandra E. Fry, founder and executive director of YOU! Empower, which has coordinated the project. “Currently, the garden has green tomatoes – perfect for frying – and squash ready to be picked! There (also) are a variety of peppers, eggplants, beans, purple hull peas, okra and melons growing,” she said, adding that YOU! EMPOWER staff and volunteers will be on hand during the garden’s hours of operations to assist those who want to harvest vegetables for their families, help maintain the garden or assist with planning and preparation for our fall vegetables. YOU! EMPOWER guidelines for the community garden includes practicing social distancing and the option to wear a mask while at the garden. Meanwhile, Fry said, “additional chairs, benches, picnic tables, a medium size deck, arbors, fence panels and volunteers to help build raised beds (that will) accommodate the elderly and wheelchairs, are needed at the community garden.”

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The effort not only benefits the community, but is a result of community effort. “We applaud and appreciate the support and excellent work done by the City of Jacksonville – Public and Community Services Department,” as well as the support and donations from Texas Organic Soil, Texas Basket Factory, Walmart, Flint Gypsies of Bullard, Quinter’s Plants, Neches Compost and the many volunteers, “including a dozen youth volunteers (who) helped build raised beds, plant vegetables and landscape the garden,” she said, giving a special shout-out to District 4 Councilman and mayor pro tem Rob Gowin for sponsoring and planting the garden’s inaugural fruit orchard. Summer hours at the Community Garden of Jacksonville – located behind Texas Basket Factory – 8 to 11 a.m. and 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, and from 9 until 11:30 a.m. Saturday. The summer schedule will run through Aug. 15. “Everyone is welcome at the community garden,” Fry said, noting that individuals and families interested in adopting a plot to grow fall vegetables at the garden may request applications by calling 903-339-8605, while donations may be dropped off at the garden during hours of operation. Cherokee County youths ages 8 to 13 are invited to enter a T-shirt design contest that will be held through Friday, June 26. The winning design will be featured on shirts for youth volunteers and participants to wear at the garden, she said.  Prizes will be awarded to the top three place winners, with design submissions dropped off at the garden during hours of operation or emailed tosandra.fry@ hotmail.com. To learn more about YOU! EMPOWER’s programs, contact Sandra E. Fry at 205 E.Commerce St., call 903-339-8605 or emailsandra.fry@hotmail.com.  YOU! EMPOWER is a dynamic 501c3 non-profit of Cherokee County and Northeast Texas, that is passionate about helping our communities thrive.  The program’s Facebook page is “You Empower Non-Profit Organization of Cherokee County and Northeast Texas.”

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June 2020

9

East Texas Farm & Ranch Living

Support Agriculture Businesses... They are the Heartbeat of Our Economy

East Texas Stock Prices HUNTS LIVESTOCK EXCHANGE

ATHENS COMMISSION COMPANY

Updated: 6/15/2020 Head Count: 710

STEERS

Updated: 6/19/2020 Head Count: 1083 Sellers: 198

STEERS

200lb - 299lb

1.00 1.90

300-DOWN

1.00 2.10

300lb - 399lb

1.00 1.75

300lb - 400lb

1.00 1.65

400lb - 499lb

1.00 1.51

400lb - 500lb

1.00 1.45

500lb - 599lb

1.00 1.41

500lb - UP

0.75 1.35

600lb - 699lb

1.00 1.27

HEIFERS

700lb - 899lb

1.00 1.17

300-DOWN

1.00 1.80

300lb - 400lb

1.00 1.45

HEIFERS 200lb - 299lb

1.00 1.80

400lb - 500lb

1.00 1.35

300lb - 399lb

1.00 1.45

500lb - UP

0.70 1.30

400lb - 499lb

1.00 1.45

SLAUGHTER

500lb - 599lb

1.00 1.29

Cows

0.30 0.72

600lb - 699lb

1.00 1.29

Heavy Bulls

0.75 1.00

700lb - 899lb

0.95 1.11

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UNDER 300lb

1.35 2.10

300lb - 400lb

1.25 1.80

400lb - 500lb

1.20 1.45

500lb - 600lb

1.10 1.35

600lb - 700lb

1.05 1.25

700lb - 800lb

1.00 1.18

HEIFERS UNDER 300lb

1.35 2.00

300lb - 400lb

1.20 1.40

400lb - 500lb

1.10 1.35

500lb - 600lb

1.05 1.25

600lb - 700lb

1.00 1.20

700lb - 800lb

0.95 1.15

SLAUGHTER Cows

0.35 0.70

Heavy Bulls

0.85 1.06

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STEERS Under 300lb

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300lb - 400lb

0.45 1.42

400lb - 500lb

0.60 1.32

500lb - 600lb

0.56 1.28

600lb - 700lb

0.99 1.11

700lb - 800lb

0.80 0.85

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HEIFERS Under 300lb

1.35 1.43

300lb - 400lb

0.40 1.85

400lb - 500lb

0.79 1.39

500lb - 600lb

0.32 1.23

600lb - 700lb

0.85 1.00

METAL BUILDINGS OF ALL SIZES

700lb - 800lb

0.85 0.95

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Cows

0.41 0.71

Bulls

0.65 0.96

PAIRS

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BRED COWS GOATS

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NACOGDOCHES LIVESTOCK EXCHANGE Updated: 4/23/2020 Head Count: 1160 Buyers: 99 Sellers: 91

STEERS

300-DOWN

1.45 1.90

UNDER 300lb

1.30 2.16

305lb - 400lb

1.35 1.71

300lb - 400lb

1.30 1.76

405lb - 500lb

1.27 1.50

400lb - 500lb

1.20 1.64

505lb - 600lb

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500lb - UP

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1.05 1.27

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1.30 2.22

300-DOWN

1.27 1.76

300lb - 400lb

1.20 1.66

305lb - 400lb

1.20 1.50

400lb - 500lb

1.10 1.61

405lb - 500lb

1.12 1.44

500lb - UP

1.00 1.32

505lb - 600lb

1.09 1.30

600lb - 700lb

N/A N/A

605lb - 800lb

1.00 1.22

SLAUGHTER Cows

0.35 0.74

Bulls

0.65 0.98

0.50 0.73

PAIRS

$900 $2200

0.90 1.04

STOCKER COWS

SLAUGHTER Cows Bulls PAIRS

p u p S orte d u o r r s P $900 $2125

BRED COWS

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10

East Texas Farm & Ranch Living

June 2020

Plenty of home-grown tasty produce now in season Support Agriculture Businesses... They are the Heartbeat of Our Economy

By Jay Neal

J

Jacksonville Progress

acksonville has long been known for its delicious tomatoes, but fresh, home-grown tomatoes are not the only tasty produce treats that can be found at vegetable stands throughout Cherokee County. A check at Guinn’s Produce, 1603 S. Jackson St., on Monday afternoon found plenty of tomatoes (red and green), watermelons, peaches, plums, cantaloupes, peppers, squash, cucumbers, new potatoes, corn, onions and peas. Guinn’s, who has been selling produce in Jacksonville for more than 20 years, actually has three different variety of peas – purple hull, pinto and cream – available now. As for the best sellers, tomatoes remain at the top of the sales chart, according to Wanda Guinn, one of the owners of the stand. “Our tomatoes have been selling well,” she said. “Also peas, onions and peaches are doing well.” Guinn’s has been open for about a month now. Customers will notice a clear plexiglass shield has been installed, separating customers from the employees, as a safety measure to guard against the transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19). Guinn said that business has been a little soft, so far, this year, but she expects things to pick up soon. “It has been a little bit slower than it normally is at this time,” she said. “I don’t think as many people have been getting out (due to the virus), but as more start to shop and get around, I expect our business to increase.” Guinn’s is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

Late bloomers

Couple quit city jobs to start flower farm By Shelli Parker

L

Athens Review

ike many changes in life, every transition is an opportunity to evaluate your next direction. For married couple Ronald and Cindy Cindy Oliver, retirement from intense but loved careers brought a chance to try something new. Cindy liked the idea of flower farming and R/C Flower Farm was born. “I wanted to do something completely different and thought I might like the idea of a cut flower garden,” Cindy said. “I ran across a book called The Flower Farmer and we decided to try it.” When the former Dallasites found a property in North Athens which seemed to be a perfect fit, they jumped into the unknown and a different lifestyle. Cindy had no prior experience with flowers so she started off small with workshops and gradually advanced to a master gardener. Cindy started with “cool looking flowers” such as Snapdragons, Larkspur, Canterbury Bells, and Amie. Those did very well and were well received at the market. “I joined the association of specialty cut flowers, attended workshops, flower farms in Texas and am constantly trying to learn more,” she said. “I went through the master gardeners class last year and learned a lot from that.” Cindy said the flower farming community is very helpful and they reach out to each when needing advice or assistance. Ron helps with irrigation and the couple works together in order to keep the beds turned over with new amendments, compost, and rotating the flower selections and life cycles. “Each year they get healthier as the dirt improves,” she said. Cindy always intended to sell her flowers at farmers markets, and liked the idea of keeping it small and modest eliminating weddings and events. She also has chosen to focus on planting things that have a long stem, grow well in East Texas and a long vase-life. Cindy said she enjoys trying a new thing each year, but if it doesn’t go well in the first two years she moves onto the next flower. “I’m finding out some things just don’t grow in Texas,” Cindy said. “If it doesn’t work in two years, I move onto the next

thing. I try to refine what works and doesn’t.” Zinnias, Sunflowers, Celosia, Cosmos, Comfrina, and Basil are the hardiest flowers to grow locally in the summer heat. “In October we turn over the entire garden,” she said. “I am more active now than when I was working.” So what is special about fresh cut flowers? “When you buy flowers from the grocery store, they have probably been in transit for at least a week,” Cindy said. “You will only be able to buy flowers that are grown to go without proper water and food for a week. Therefore, sometimes they only last a few days. When you buy fresh flowers at the Market, they have only been cut days before.” The other benefit of local fresh cut flowers is the broad varieties of flowers you won’t see in the grocery store. Specialty cut flowers are grown for stem length and vase life. Cindy also enjoys educating her customers on how to gain the maximum amount of enjoyment through proper care. Cindy and Ron have no desire to grow beyond their current production in order to keep retirement simple. They prefer limiting it to what they are capable of doing themselves making the vibrant blooms even more precious. “The thing I love about gardening most, is that when you are out there in your garden you don’t think of anything else,” she said. “It’s very relaxing to me.” For those interested in having their own cut-flower garden, Cindy says you can start small. A small three foot by 10 foot area is sufficient. Zinnias and Sunflowers are easy to grow and handle the Texas heat well. This year has been the best year for the local market which has meant Cindy can’t grow enough. For those wanting to have some of these lush and beautiful flower arrangements to call their own get to the market early. R/C Flower Farm has been selling out within the first two hours of people arriving at ATXFM. —————— On the Net: www.facebook.com/rcflowerfarm

Profile for Herald Press

Farm and Ranch Living June 2020  

A special publication of the Palestine Herald-Press focusing on Farm and Ranch Living in East Texas.

Farm and Ranch Living June 2020  

A special publication of the Palestine Herald-Press focusing on Farm and Ranch Living in East Texas.

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