• A GUIDE TO THE STATE’S FARMS, FOOD AND FORESTRY •

AGRICULTURE

ALABAMA

Who You Gonna Call?
Rural crime unit protects farmers

Blooming Business
ALaBaMa'S GREENHOUSE INDUSTRY CONTINUES TO FLOURISH
Sponsored by the Alabama Department of Agriculture & Industries // www.ALagriculture.com // 2014

TABLE OF CONTENTS

5 Commissioner’s Welcome Letter 6 Alabama Agriculture Overview 8 Big Impact 10 Who You Gonna Call?

Crops, Plants & Forestry
14 Blooming Business 17 Guarding the Crops 18 Branching Business 20 Blame It on the Rain 25 Sweet Potato Movement

Animals & Livestock
26 Progressive Poultry 30 Safe Steers 32 Milking Technology 33 No Kiddin’

AGRICULTURE
20 26

ALABAMA

2014

Local Food
34 Nothing But the Best 37 Marketing Maven 38 Catch of the Day 41 Buy Fresh, Buy Local

Ag Education
42 Class Act 44 Future Farmers 47 Plant Protection
On the Cover Flowers are part of Alabama’s fourthlargest agriculture sector, the greenhouse, nursery and floriculture industry.
PHOTO BY JEFF ADKINS

• A GUIDE TO THE STATE’S FARMS, FOOD AND FORESTRY •

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CROPS, PLANTS & FORESTRY

Visit us online at

A LOOK INSIDE

Blame It on the

Rain
Story by Keith Loria

The far-reaching effects of weather challenges row crops

Staff Photos by Michael Tedesco

ALAGRICULTURE.COM

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ALABAMA
AGRICULTURE
Back in 1883, the Alabama Department of Agriculture was founded with a mission to promote and support the state’s No. 1 industry while regulating and reporting on various aspects of farm production. Until 1891, the agriculture commissioner was appointed by the governor; since that time, it has been an elected position serving concurrently with Alabama’s six other constitutional officers. Agriculture rapidly changed during the last century thanks to mechanized farming and now technology-based agronomy. It was during the last half century when much of Alabama’s population shifted from rural farm communities to metropolitan areas. During this time, Alabama’s manufacturing and technology sectors have flourished to the point that we now have a greater percentage of our work force employed by manufacturers than any other state in the South. The bedrock of our economy remains farming, agribusiness and forestry. More than one-third of Alabama’s workers earn their living from the cultivation, production and fabrication of food and fiber. Agriculture, agribusiness and forestry, along with their supplier companies, generate nearly $71 billion a year. Thanks to economic research conducted by the Alabama Agribusiness Council and Alabama Cooperative Extension System, we now have a comprehensive economic impact study that measures the number of jobs and dollars generated per industry on a county and statewide basis. Businesses are stakeholders in this vast industry and have a global perspective of providing for domestic and international markets. Truly, our greatest challenge today is meeting a global demand that is expected to double in the next three decades. It will take greater focus on research and technology to rise to this challenge. We commemorate our 130 years of serving Alabama agriculture, confident in our mission and in the men and women who dedicate their lives and earn their livelihoods from farming, agribusiness and forestry. They are the true and reliable providers of food and fiber to the world for generations to come. Sincerely,

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• A GUID

Rur al crim protect e unit s farm ers

Who GonnaYou Call?

BAMA AGRICU LTURE
E TO THE STAT E’S FAR MS, FOO D AND FOR EST RY •

ALA

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Spon sored by the Alaba ma Depa rtmen t of Agric ultur e & Indus

ALABAM A'S GRE CON TINU ES TO ENHOUS FLOURIS E IND USTRY H

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The digital magazine is available for tablet and phone viewing.

2014

AGRICULTURE
Visit us online at

ALABAMA
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John McMillan Alabama Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries

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oVeRVieW

Alabama Agriculture
A glimpse into Alabama’s successful and diverse agriculture industry
Story by Hannah Patterson

The poultry industry makes up about 60% of total agriculture cash receipts in the state.

WHEtHER It bE bY LaND OR

sea, Alabama produces top-quality agricultural products. With 67 counties and 9 million acres of farmland, the Yellowhammer State is a national leader in livestock, crops, forestry and aquaculture. Agriculture, forestry and related industries are the second-largest employer in the state, employing roughly one out of every four Alabamians. In addition, these industries have a $70.4 billion economic impact and employ 580,295 Alabamians annually. Jobs related to agriculture and forestry include manufacturing, processing and transportation. Livestock tops Alabama’s commodity chart. Ranked No. 4 in the United States for poultry and eggs, Alabama-raised broilers, chicken eggs and chicken meat have an economic impact of $15.1 billion and generate 86,237 jobs. Cattle and calves rank second in Alabama, with hog production coming in at No. 10. Alabama soils are particularly good for growing peanuts. In fact, approximately half of the peanuts grown in the United States originate within 100 miles of Dothan, Ala. In 2012, peanut farmers harvested 219,000 acres of peanuts, producing 876 million pounds. This harvest

provided employment for an additional 3,500 full-time employees. Not to be outdone by crops and livestock, aquaculture contributes significantly to Alabama’s economy. Ranking second in the nation, Alabama’s aquaculture industry produces catfish, tilapia, shrimp, crawfish, and ornamental and game fish. The most significant product of Alabama’s aquaculture industry, catfish, generates $158.2 million and 5,829 jobs. The state has 18,000 acres of fish ponds, as well as offshore operations on the Gulf Coast. Forestry is a major money-maker in Alabama. Ranked third in the nation, timberland covers 68 percent of the state, or 22.9 million acres. Loblolly and Shortleaf pine are the predominant trees, covering 38 percent of the timberland. This industry generates $21.4 billion annually and employs 122,020 Alabamians. Forestry planting, harvesting, manufacturing and processing also offer ample employment opportunities. With such diverse agriculture, it is no wonder Alabama ranks among the country’s top producers of numerous commodities and exports. This important part of the state and national economy continues to flourish like the crops in Alabama’s fertile soil.

HuNtiNg, sPOrt FishiNg aNd wildliFe watchiNg eMPlOy

42,319
PeOPle directly.

34.5%
of total sales of forest products and related sectors.

Paper mills account for

What’s Online
Access more agriculture facts at ALagriculture.com.

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Alabama Agriculture

Poultry processing directly employs 22,562 people.

FarMlaNd cOVers

28%
OF the state.

186 acres.
AlaBaMa raNKs third NatiONally FOr sOd PrOductiON.

The average farm size in Alabama is

There are 100 acres of commercial satsumas produced in Alabama.

OF AlaBaMa’s FOrests are PriVately OwNed.
Most commercial aquaculture production is found in only

71%

ROughly

seven counties.
Alabama has the fourth-largest number of aquaculture farms in the nation, with 215.

AlaBaMa’s aNNual agricultural eXPOrts tOtal

$1 billion.

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ToP IndUstRies

Impact
Story by Matthew D. Ernst

BIG
“People are always speculating just how big Alabama agriculture’s impact is,” says Deacue Fields, Auburn University agricultural economist and the study’s lead author. “A study like this helps create an ‘apples-to-apples’ comparison between agriculture and other industries, and it creates a level basis for comparing the economic impacts from different sectors.” The study reports the total output impact in Alabama from agriculture, forestry and related

New study shows importance of Alabama agriculture and forestry industries

AGRICULTURE aND FORESTRY
are important industries in Alabama and a new study is helping quantify the impact. Alabama’s agriculture, forestry and related industries combine to create the state’s top industry by value of production and are the second-largest employer, according to a study released in February 2013 by Auburn University’s Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology and the Alabama Agribusiness Council.

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AlabaMa AGRicUltURe

industries at $70.4 billion for 2010. There were 580,295 jobs impacted by those industries, including nearly 354,000 fulland part-time workers directly employed, according to the study. The largest agricultural sector in Alabama is poultry and egg production, accounting for 65.6 percent of agricultural sales reported in 2010. Cattle production contributed 8.4 percent of farm gate sales value, while the green industry (greenhouse, nursery and floriculture) made up 5.1 percent of agricultural product sales. The total $4.7 billion in agricultural product sales supported another $13 billion in total sales value of processed agricultural products. The poultry industry’s economic impact is great because of the number of people employed by poultry processors. Statewide, about two additional jobs were created for every person employed in poultry processing in 2010, according to the study. “That impact comes largely from the local economic activity in Alabama created as employees of poultry processors spend the

BIGGEST IMpaCT

dollars that they earn at the grocery store, at the car dealer, at all sorts of businesses that employ additional people,” Fields says. Total sales from forest products and related sectors totaled $11.2 billion in 2010. That includes $1 billion in sales from forestry and commercial logging and $10 billion in total sales from forest products manufacturing. Economic impact from activities like hunting, sportfishing and wildlife-watching were not counted in the study, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reports the impact of those activities in Alabama as $3.6 billion and 42,319 jobs in 2006. Fields notes that economic impact studies do not count for the value of social benefits from different industries – such as the ecosystem benefits from responsible land management or the beauty of good landscaping. “The green industry has a number of entrepreneurs who employ a lot of people, but they also provide services that beautify the state,” he says. Such businesses also purchase inputs like plants,

fuel and machinery from other Alabama firms. Alabama businesses that provide inputs and materials to Alabama’s food and forestry industries – such as those supporting Alabama’s fishermen and seafood processors – also are important. “Firms making crab traps and shrimp nets, as well as businesses supplying inputs to the freshwater aquaculture industry, definitely have an impact on the economy,” says LaDon Swann, Auburn Aquaculture Extension director in Mobile. “And there are many truck drivers employed to transport fish and shellfish to the retailers and the processors.” The study was produced by Fields and Zhimei Guo, a postdoctoral research fellow in the Auburn department, and staff from the University of Florida Center for Economic Impact Analysis. The work has already helped stimulate conversations from businesses, large and small, about expanding their presence in Alabama’s agricultural, forestry and related industries. “Alabama agriculture is a winner, and people are willing to invest in it,” says Fields.

FaR REaCHING

MORE THaN MONEY

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RURal CRiMe Unit

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AlabaMa AGRicUltURe

Gonna Call?
WILSONVILLE FaRMER BILL
Johnson got a call no farmer ever wants to get. His neighbor called to say some of his cattle in a nearby pasture had been shot. Johnson couldn’t believe it. The neighbor heard the calves bawling for their moms and knew something was wrong. Sure enough, five of Johnson’s cows had been shot. The next week five more of his cows were shot. All the cows had calves that were still nursing and were bred to have another calf next year. Johnson, who has a cow-calf operation in Shelby County, reported the loss to the local authorities, but didn’t hold out much hope. “Who would have ever thought someone would come in and do that?” Johnson says. “I didn’t know a motive. Was it drugs or alcohol, who knows?” The case was turned over to the new Agriculture and Rural Crime Unit (ARCU), authorized earlier in 2013 by the Alabama Legislature as part of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency. Members of the unit were selected for their extensive law enforcement training and experience, and their passion for rural Alabama. The unit enhances current law enforcement efforts and focuses on crimes such as cattle and farm equipment theft. The unit, which covers the state’s 67 counties and has eight agents in the field, started in June 2013, and since then has recovered more than $1 million in tractors, trailers and agricultural equipment. “We set it up like a task force with agents from different state agencies – many had been laid off as the result of budget cuts,” says Lt. Gene
Agriculture and Rural Crime Unit chief investigator Lt. Gene Wiggins (right) and special agent Slaton Jemison (left) stand in front of farm equipment recovered by the unit.

Who You

Rural Crime Unit protects Alabama farmers
Story by Charlyn Fargo

Staff Photos by Michael Tedesco

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Wiggins, ARCU chief investigator. “The good thing is we all work under one roof instead of all of us being in different agencies, so we can share information. “When we started this, agriculture thefts were on the rise,” Wiggins says. “The first week we opened, we had a couple of cattle rustling cases. The current cattle market is attractive because the demand for beef is high and prices are high. FBI stats say the average a guy gets from robbing a bank is $7,500. You can steal six cows and get more than that. You steal a tractor and it may be worth anywhere from $20,000 to $100,000.” The unit has recovered lawn mowers, all-terrain vehicles, tractors, cattle and irrigation equipment. “We’ve worked a lot of cases and had a lot of success,” Wiggins says. “We’re not the primary responder – folks still call the sheriff’s office first, then they call us if we can help. But a sheriff’s office may be investigating a murder, drug case and a stolen tractor. Guess what’s top of the list? The murder gets the focus, so they call us to help. We’re committed to agriculture.” In one case, a center pivot irrigation had been vandalized and

all the copper tubing stolen. The unit put a $10,000 reward on the case. Wiggins says an individual came forward with information that led to the arrest of a suspect in the irrigation case who was also linked to three burglaries in three counties. In another case involving a zero-turn lawn mower that had been stolen, two agents returned to the area of the crime and saw a car matching a given description pulling in and out of rural driveways. They arrested the suspect on an adjacent state highway and solved the crimes. “What we’re trying to do is make farms so they’re not easy prey,” Wiggins says. “We tell farmers not to leave equipment on the side of the road – to take those extra steps to secure everything.” And about those cows? “They came in, took my case and within two days made the arrests,” Johnson says. “It was a wonderful thing. I can’t say enough about the job they do.”

RePOrt susPiciOus actiVity thrOugh the Agriculture aNd Rural CriMe UNit tiP liNe at (855) 75-CRIME Or ONliNe at arcu.alaBaMa.gOV.
The unit covers all 67 counties in Alabama.
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What’s Online
For more photos of the ARCU, visit ALagriculture.com.

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CRoPs, Plants & foRestRY

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AlabaMa AGRicUltURe

Enterprise
Greenhouse industry is growing, blooming and flourishing
FROM tHE MOM-aND-POP
nurseries that grow specialty plants to the large, diversified operations that have customers throughout the world, the greenhouse, nursery and floriculture industry has made Alabama a beautiful place in more ways than one. While the state is bursting with colors from the various camellias, ornamental shrubs and countless perennials, it is also reaping quite a bonanza from the industry’s economic impact. The greenhouse, nursery and floriculture industry is Alabama’s fourth-largest agriculture sector, according to figures from a February 2013 report produced by the Alabama Cooperative Extension System and the Alabama Agribusiness Council. The industry accounted for $561.6 million in statewide output and created 6,988 jobs in 2010,

Exquisite

Story by John McBryde

according to the report. Its valueadded impact ranked third behind poultry and egg production and commercial logging. “We’re one of those bright spots in Alabama agriculture,” says James Harwell, director of the Alabama Nursery & Landscape Association. “We’re probably the fastest-growing commodity group in the state.” Harwell says several factors contribute to the industry’s success, and one is quite simple. “When gas prices go up, people tend to stay home and do more landscaping in their yard. I’ve seen a survey that says the value of a home can increase by 8 to 10 percent with good landscaping.” Southern Growers Nursery & Greenhouses has been doing its part for the industry since the late 1950s,

MakING IMpaCTS

Bill Cook, vice president of agriculture operations for Southern Growers Nursery & Greenhouses, says the company grows more than 100 species of plants at its Montgomery location.

Staff Photos by Michael Tedesco

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Left: Rose Hardy, a greenhouse employee for 24 years, tying up poinsettias at Southern Growers in Montgomery. Right: A beautiful Camellia sasanqua, the specialty of Green Nurseries in Fairhope.

in statewide output and created

jobs in 2010.

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Alabama Agriculture

CAMELLIA SASANQUA HYBRID: GREEN NURSERIES

$561.6 million 6,988

The greenhouse, nursery and floriculture industry accounted for

not long after James L. Thompson opened a retail florist in Montgomery. The company, now known as CCC Associates, built its first greenhouse in 1958 and later added nurseries. “We are a wholesale nursery, which grows woody ornamental shrubs and perennials, and we have a greenhouse operation, all here on the same 280acre complex,” says Bill Cook, vice president of agriculture operations for CCC Associates. “In the greenhouse division, we grow seasonal color and bedding plants and holiday plants, as well as hanging plants – anything that requires protection and heat during the winter.” CCC Associates, which is now owned by Thompson’s son and daughter, has other divisions in the industry: Southern Homes & Gardens Landscaping; Cassco, a nursery growers supply division; Caffco, which sells a complete line of floral and home décor items throughout the world; and two Southern Homes & Gardens retail outlets in Montgomery. Southern Growers has at least 100 species of plants, Cook says. “That’s kind of the nature of our operation. We grow a lot of different

varieties of blooming plants and shrubs to cater to the type customers that we service.” CCC Associates has around 100 employees, 35 to 40 in the nursery division. Green Nurseries in Fairhope specializes in certain plants. A wholesale nursery, it grows Camellia sasanqua, Camellia japonica, winterinterest plants and choice plants considered rare. “We ship to around nine to 12 states,” says Bobby Green, whose father started the business in 1932. “If you drew a line between Washington, D.C., through Memphis and to Houston, we sell to any state below that.” Green says his nursery develops its own camellia hybrids, and has ties with PDSI, a branch of Flowerwood Nursery Inc., and the Southern Living Plant Collection for marketing and distribution. “For a wholesale nursery, we’re quite a small mom-and-pop,” Green says, “and the way we can expand on that is by doing what a lot of ornamental growers do, forming partnerships with marketing and distribution companies.”

cRoPs, Plants & foRestRY

Guarding the Crops
T
he greenhouse and nursery industry is one of the fastestgrowing segments in Alabama agriculture. Keeping damaging pests away from these precious crops, and other important commodities such as cotton and soybeans, is serious business. That’s where Alabama’s Plant Protection and Pesticide Management division comes in. “There are many invasive species that could devastate trees and crops that are a huge contributor to Alabama’s economy,” says Tony Cofer, program director of the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries (ADAI) Plant Protection and Pesticide Management division. “We work to help prevent the introduction and spread of plant pests, invasive species and plant disease.” Cofer says that among the many threats to Alabama’s plants, the most severe is Sudden Oak Death, a disease caused by the plant pathogen Phytophthora ramorum. The damaging disease kills oak trees and other species, and has already wreaked havoc on oaks in some western states. The pest can only be controlled by early detection and disposal of infected plant material. Another troublesome pest threatening the state is the Emerald Ash Borer. The Asian green beetle spends most of its life cycle within the tree, making it hard to identify. Cofer says Alabama has already

Representing the interests of growers through promotions, legislation, research and educational programs

Plant Protection division works to reduce invasive species damage
established an aggressive surveillance program to destroy this pest before it gets out of hand. The Plant Protection and Pesticide Management division does its best to keep an eye out for new and developing invasive species, but if farmers find themselves with a pest problem, the ADAI works with them to get chemical pesticides in place to save the crop. “We can declare an emergency to get the registered pesticides,” Cofer says. “We can address it very quickly.” For the ADAI, surveillance is key. “There’s always something new to address and resources are limited,” Cofer says. “We keep surveillance on pests that could potentially become a problem.” – Rachel Bertone

Alabama Plant Protection and Pesticide Management division helps protect plants and trees, like the oak trees pictured here.

1810 Reeves St. Dothan, AL 36303 334-792-6482

www.alpeanuts.com
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cRoPs, Plants & foRestRY

Branching
BUSiNeSS
Story by Keith Loria

Diverse forestry industry offers many benefits to the state
FOREStRY HaS PLaYED a VItaL ROLE IN
Alabama’s economy since the state’s earliest days. The industry offers diversity to the state and is made of numerous landowners, loggers, forestry researchers, truckers, mills and much more. Alabama’s forests cover more than two-thirds of the state and generate more than $21 billion in timber production and processing revenue. Chris Isaacson, Alabama Forestry Association executive vice president, says the forestry industry represents just under 10 percent of the state’s total economy and approximately 7 percent of the state’s workforce is employed in jobs directly or indirectly supporting the industry. “It’s the second-largest manufacturing industry in the state and it’s the largest landuse,” he says. “The size, scope and impact of the industry has been stable over the years, and has its ups and downs in tune with the economy.” The forestry industry provides much more than just an economic benefit. Forests improve overall water quality and improve the environment. Much needed wildlife habitat is provided by healthy forests.

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Alabama Agriculture

Lower left: Uncut wood that will soon be cut into lumber. Above: A sawmill worker cutting, grading and sorting boards cut from logs.

There are three basic segments to the forest products industry – pulp and paper, solid wood products and energy-related – and each has its own set of demand drivers in terms of economic impact. In the energy-related segment, Alabama currently has two pellet mills for renewable energy. This area has great growth potential and is expected to increase in the future. The solid wood segment, primarily saw mills and plywood mills, is heavily tied to home building, representing a higher value. “This segment drives the return for landowners,” Isaacson says. “They will manage their land to maximize the production of saw timber because that’s where [landowners] get the most return.” Currently, Alabama has 16 pulp and paper mills. Although lower-value products, they are higher on the manufacturing end because they are value-added products. Because of this, paper and pulp have a bigger economic impact on the state, Isaacson says. Ben Smith, wood procurement manager for the Mahrt Mill in Phenix City, says transportation accounts for a lot of cost associated with wood. Smith, an Alabama Forestry Association board member, stresses the importance of having good and close markets for a landowner. “Efficient wood yards are key to the supply chain. We are pretty lucky in the state that for the most part, markets are readily available and the transportation fees tend to not be that high,” he says. “Wood yards today run very efficiently

THE BIG THREE

and focus on getting trucks in and out, which is valuable to those cutting and hauling the trees.” According to Isaacson, when a logger goes out to harvest a track of pine timber, it may have anywhere from two to five types of products on it. “Generally speaking, it doesn’t just go to one mill. The logger will merchandise the tract in a way that optimizes the value to the landowner,” he says. Small trees, anywhere from 6 to 10 inches in diameter, will be sent to the paper mill. The mill feeds trees into a digester. Pulp will then be laid out on a screen, run through the machine and turned into paper. Landscape timbers 10 to 16 inches in diameter, will be taken to a sawmill set up to run small logs and turned into 2-inch-by-4-inch and 4-inch-by-4-inch lumber. Larger trees, 16 inches in diameter and up, will likely be taken to a mill that produces high-value, wide-dimension lumber. If the wood is high quality, it could go to a plywood mill and be sliced into the more expensive plywood, utility poles or other treated products. Smith says hardwood logs would go to a hardwood sawmill and be used for flooring or lumber in furniture production. The entire process involves the landowner, the logger, a wood dealer, the delivery truckers and the mills themselves. “Alabama is very fortunate to have the amount of forested acres that it does,” Smith says. “It keeps the soil intact and the air fresh, and we as a society benefit from having this vast amount.”
ALagriculture.com

FROM STUMp TO CONSUMER

WOOD YaRDS aND LOGGING

Staff Photo by Jeffrey S. Otto

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cRoPs, Plants & foRestRY

Blame It on the

Staff Photos by Michael Tedesco

Rain
Story by Keith Loria

The far-reaching effects of weather challenges row crops

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A LabaMa FaCED SEVERE

drought between 2006 and 2012, causing difficulties for row crop farmers and livestock producers. In 2013, rain came in waves, forcing farmers to deal with an entirely different set of challenges. C. Dale Monks, Ph.D., Auburn University professor and extension row crop agronomist, says effects of excessive water early in the season include seedling and small plant death; lack of plant growth, with stunted plants and limited root systems; loss of nutrients; and a variety of other issues. The primary problem excessive rain brings is that farmers can’t work in their fields, which equates to loss of income. “When we do get on the field, it causes compaction that takes years to get back out of the fields,” says Angela Dee, an Aliceville row crop

farmer. “When the ground is completely saturated, as it was in 2013, there is no pore space for the oxygen that the plant roots need to use to grow, and it reduces microbial activity in the soil that work to keep the soil healthy to feed the plant. It causes stress on the plants and the soil.” Dee says the heavy rains delayed planting of several crops and caused future problems with the land and livestock. “We like to plant corn starting March 1 and finish by the end of March, but in 2013 we did not plant any corn until the last week in March and planted the last corn May 17,” she says. “We harvest wheat starting May 25 usually, but it rained so much, it was the last week in June before we could harvest. It kept raining and raining.”

Another problem: the combine kept getting stuck in the mud and making deep ruts in the fields. That meant more than 1,000 acres of soybeans were not planted. While it helped the grass grow, the rain made it hard to collect wheat for the winter, which will hurt livestock. Brandon Moore, former Alabama Farmers Federation Young Farmer director, had a more positive experience with the rain, accounting for an above-average year for the farm. “With the rainfall we received, we have seen yield increases as high as 50 percent in some areas of our fields. Even our lowest yielding spots have seen 30 to 40 percent increases in yield from the adequate rainfall and good growing conditions,” he says. “The rain and cooler temperatures provided nearperfect growing conditions for our corn crop.”

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Alabama Agriculture

ANNIE DEE: JODIE MORE, HAYDEN MORE PHOTOgRApHY

Reduced crops are a hardship for the total economy, and the whole state feels the trickle-down effect. “The effects of excessive rainfall were seen in some of the crops most of the season. For corn, the yields turned out to be very good in most of the state; however, whenever there is a weather catastrophe there is always an area that is worse than others,” Monks says. “In some areas of the state, yields of soybean, corn, cotton, and peanuts will benefit from the rain. In others, the excessive rainfall resulted in disaster; so much so, that the governor requested and received approval from the federal government to declare several counties disaster areas.” Moore is often amazed at how most people go about their lives without realizing the impact agriculture has on the state.

ECONOMIC IMpaCT

“When I look at our farm alone and think about the businesses, small and large, that we depend on to keep running, it is easy to see the economic footprint agriculture has on Alabama,” he says. “I am talking about the mechanic shops, industrial electricians, agronomists, accountants, engineers, veterinarians, salesmen, building contractors and input suppliers that we spend thousands of dollars purchasing their goods and services, that in turn generate income and payroll taxes, sales taxes, ad valorem taxes and property taxes.”

What’s Online
Find out more about Alabama row crops at ALagriculture.com

$918.3 million
iN 2010.

TOtal FarM gate sales FOr AlaBaMa crOPs was

From left to right: Brandon Moore is a soybean and corn farmer in Toney. Annie Dee, a row crop farmer in Aliceville, checks soybeans. A mature corn plant is ready to be harvested in the fall.

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cRoPs, Plants & foRestRY

Sweet Potato Movement
weet potatoes are in high demand by consumers nationwide – and not just around the holidays any more. Extremely nutritious, with high levels of protein, calcium, fiber, iron, vitamins A, C, E and B6, fat-free, cholesterol-free and low in sodium, this potato makes the perfect side dish. In fact, sweet potatoes top the list as the most nutritious vegetable grown in the world. With this orange-fleshed spud making a comeback on the dinner table through its addition to healthconscious recipes and as a smart food choice among diabetics, Alabama’s sweet potato farmers are increasing production and dedicating more field space than ever before. Fourth-generation farmer Clark Haynes, of Haynes & Sons Farms in Cullman, is one of the largest and best sweet potato growers in the state. He dedicates approximately 300 acres to the crop in order to meet the surge in demand. Although some new varieties might be grown in the near future, the farm has been producing Beauregard and Covington sweet potatoes for several years now. “The shape and color has a lot to do with what we grow, since the market dictates what [consumers] want … it has to have a good flesh color and outside color,” Haynes says. Once the sweet potatoes are harvested, the farm sells wholesale primarily to large grocery store chains or produce houses. A lot of produce is sold to Wal-Mart, working with three different

Farmers increase crop yield to meet demand

S

A farmer cuts sweet potato vines before they are harvested.

distribution centers, as well as markets in Atlanta on a yearround basis. Around Thanksgiving and Christmas the crop makes it as far north as Chicago to help keep shelves stocked in northern states. For locals craving fresh, homegrown sweet potatoes from the farm, Hanes also supports Cullman County’s farmers markets. “Alabama has done a lot of promoting how good the sweet

potato is for you,” he says. Haynes has noticed a recent trend towards sweet potato French fries and chips. “Sonic, Burger King and Hardees are doing promotions with sweet potato fries that are catching on pretty fast.” If this nutritional movement continues, as it likely will, Haynes and other sweet potato farmers in Alabama should benefit greatly from the demand sweeping the country. – Keri Ann Beazell

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aniMals & liVestock

Progressive Poultry
Story by Jill Clair Gentry

Industry improves genetics, efficiency, technology and husbandry

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AlabaMa AGRicUltURe

Above: Chicken houses at the farm of Robby and Clay Nichols contain broilers which are chickens used for meat production.

RObbY NICHOLS OF

Letohatchee built his first chicken house in 1999. There weren’t many around him then, but now they seem to be everywhere. Nichols’s farm is no exception to the expansion, having built seven more himself. “I walked out on a limb when I invested that money in those houses,” Nichols says. “But it’s paid off really nice – it’s put all my kids through college. And I only see the demand for chicken going up from here.” His son, Clay, also raises chickens. Nichols says since he began raising poultry, technology in the houses has improved drastically. “People would be surprised how comfortable it is in those houses on a hot summer day,” he says. “It feels like the inside of your house with the air moving in there, and the birds seem to be really

comfortable. That part of chicken growing has come a long way.” Ray Hilburn of the Alabama Poultry and Egg Association says improvements in chicken houses benefit birds and consumers. “We’ve improved the conditions of the houses so much that the birds aren’t stressed any more,” Hilburn says. “The environment is perfect for them to grow in, and we get better-quality chicken because of that.” Improvements in technology and husbandry practices are only part of the poultry picture. Major strides have also been made in the birds’ genetics, thanks to Huntsville-based Aviagen Broiler Breeders. Aviagen is one of three primary poultry breeders in the world and supplies day-old grandparent and parent stock chicks to customers in 130 countries worldwide. Aviagen is

ranked No. 1 in developing poultry genetics globally and No. 2 in providing poultry stock in the U.S., says Ben Thompson, president of Aviagen North America. “More than 50 percent of the breeding stock used globally comes from Aviagen genetics,” Thompson says. “About 20 percent of our total production is exported outside of the U.S.” Hilburn says when consumers buy chicken at the grocery store, the price is almost exactly the same as it was five years ago – that’s because of Aviagen’s work. “We can grow the bird in a shorter length of time, and we have a much better quality bird,” Hilburn says. “The genetic potential of these birds, along with better technology, has improved the quality and kept the price of chicken down in the grocery store.”
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Staff Photos by Michael Tedesco

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POultry iNdustry
The poultry industry is made up of 27,075 farm families, thousands of workers at processing plants and people with advanced degrees who perform research that ensures farmers are raising birds with the best genetics and consumers are receiving a high-quality, affordable product.

No.1
cOMMOdity.

POultry is AlaBaMa’s

POultry geNerates MOre thaN 86,000 JOBs iN AlaBaMa.
Every year, poultry adds more than

Alabama is second only to Georgia in broiler production, producing 21 million broilers per week and more than 1 billion annually.

$15.1B
to the state’s economy.

Thompson says because of the improvements in genetics, farmers are raising larger birds without using more resources. “Better genetics provide for a sustainable agricultural model where we are making an efficient use of grain, ground and water,” Thompson says. “If we do a better job with genetics, all those things are conserved.” Animal welfare is a top priority at Aviagen and for Alabama poultry farmers. “The health of the bird comes first,” Thompson says. “If it can’t make it to market weight, it doesn’t do anyone any good. You know you’re doing a good job when the livability of those birds is high, and 95 to 100 percent of birds live until market age.” Aviagen Group CEO Randall Ennis says the company’s Alabama location is an asset for the company. “Aviagen is fortunate to be located in a state like Alabama that demonstrates a high degree of support to the poultry industry and the agribusiness industry as a whole,” he says. “This relationship and support is vital to the continued success and growth of agriculture in Alabama.”

Robby Nichols (left) and son, Clay Nichols (right), stand in one of their poultry houses in Letohatchee.

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aniMals & liVestock

Safe Steers
Story by Keri Ann Beazell

Moving safety and sustainability to the top of the list

SaFE aND SUStaINabLE aRE twO wORDS tHat
Alabama’s cattle industry takes very seriously. Having enjoyed record high output, it is still more important than ever to improve production practices to supply consumers with top-quality food while still maximizing the well-being of the animals.

One of the most important aspects safeguarding the state’s cattle industry is the Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) program. Provided by Alabama’s Cooperative Extension System, the training focuses on using common sense combined with appropriate management tools and the latest science-based research. The program’s goal is to ensure that animals receive the best care possible, which includes low-stress handling, vaccine administration and facility design. When it came to BQA certification, Clay Kennamer of Jackson County, who manages a stocker operation, just knew “it was the right thing to do,” he says. In a single year, his operation handles more than 3,000 cattle. So it’s critical that he and his team are informed about how to “adhere to proper techniques and use all the proper dosages” when it comes to vaccinations, he explains.

BEEF CaTTLE SaFETY

“We also try to keep our facilities as animal-friendly as possible,” Kennamer says. “I’d rather get the animals to do what I want to do, the way they want to do it,” because this mindset makes it easier and less stressful on everyone. “When we are setting up the facility, we try to look at it the way the cow looks at it,” he says. For example, understanding how lighting, dangling objects and gate placement will impact the herd. Jonathan Gladney, a regional extension agent with BQA, often receives calls about modifying work pens so that they flow well for the animal and the handlers. Upon request, he helps design facilities to better fit the contour of the land and utilize resources that the rancher already has. “You don’t have to buy the greatest and latest. Just some simple things can make life a whole lot easier … [such as] walking through that facility like you’re the animal,” Gladney says. During BQA training, there is a facility checklist used to assess and prioritize changes that improve safety and comfort. “It’s better for both the animals and the cowboys.” BQA also helps beef producers reduce animal sickness, learn proper techniques for vaccinations without causing

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Alabama Agriculture

Above: Beef cattle at Clay Kennamer’s stocker operation in Jackson County. Below: Clay Kennamer uses lessons from the Beef Quality Assurance program to ensure cattle receive the best care possible.

detriment to the product and gain access to a large network sharing information and resources. Another important feature of Alabama’s cattle industry is its increasing sustainability. One of the biggest changes has been the ability to raise fewer cattle while increasing output through better genetics and buying better bulls. “Instead of a 350-to-400-pound calf going to the market, we’ve now got 550-to-700-pound calves going to market. We’re producing more pounds of beef, higher quality beef, with fewer cattle than we did 20 or 30 years ago,” says Billy Powell, Ph.D., Alabama Cattlemen’s Association executive vice president. Alabama’s climate and landscape are ideally suited to maximize the production of beef cattle, ranking the industry second behind poultry in cash receipts. Since farmers are typically diversified, raising cattle has blended in well with other facets of their livelihood. “Every beef producer’s goal is to produce a very high-quality, safe, wholesome product for the consumer,” Dr. Powell says.

FOCUS ON SUSTaINaBILITY

Staff Photos by Michael Tedesco

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aniMals & liVestock

Milking Technology
Dairy farmers adapt to new industry climate

L

ike most facets of agriculture, the dairy industry is constantly evolving to keep up with demand, best practices and regulations. Alabama is home to 55 dairies, each with approximately 175 milking cows. These farmers constantly strive to bring consumers quality products despite rising operating costs. “We have to continuously find ways to manage our dairy more efficiently and improve both the quantity and quality of the milk our cows produce in an industry with profit margins much, much tighter than they were 10 years ago,” says Will Gilmer, operator of Gilmer Dairy. “These are the ‘rules of the game,’ so to speak. We all have to adapt if we want to keep farming.” Stricter regulations and high production costs force dairy farmers to improve their herd genetics and upgrade their facilities. Modern dairy farming is now a sophisticated science that relies on technological innovations and the ability to adapt. “Most Americans do not have a direct personal or family connection with a farm, and oftentimes I find that they have a romanticized view that agriculture was at its best two and three generations ago,” says Gilmer. “It’s important that we show how advances in technology have allowed us to produce higherquality products while conserving more of our natural resources.” Gilmer created a website 10 years ago to share information about the farm and industry with the public so people could better understand what happens on a modern dairy farm. Gilmer started a blog in 2007 in order to engage the public in the day-to-day activities.

Will Gilmer with his wife Joni and their children, Jillian and Linton, on their dairy farm in Lamar County.

“Social networks like Facebook and Twitter were the logical next step, as they allow for a steady exchange of information and dialogue with a virtually unlimited audience,” Gilmer, one of the 46 percent of young farmers who now use social media, says. “Regardless of the delivery method – website, blog, social media – the overall goal has always been the same: show people where and how their food is produced and be available to answer questions they might have about it.” Gilmer takes pride in knowing that he is a trusted source of information for people

who may never actually see a cow in person. “Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, both from consumers who say they better understand where their milk comes from thanks to our outreach efforts, and from other farmers,” Gilmer says. “We cannot put a monetary value on the ‘return on investment’ from using social media because we do not use it specifically to market the milk or beef we produce on our own farm, but helping people understand what happens on our farm and in our industry is good for consumer confidence.” – Hannah Patterson

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Alabama Agriculture

aniMals & liVestock

No Kiddin’
A
labama may be known for broilers and cattle, but the Yellowhammer State has a healthy goat industry as well. In fact, the state ranks No. 10 in the nation for meat goats. Drexel Johnson, a goat farmer from Coffee County, says he’s been farming goats pretty much his whole life, and now works as a goat broker. “I buy, sell and produce goats, Johnson says. “One day I may have 200 goats, then only one or two the next day from livestock auctions and such. My operation is more diversified than the run-of-the-mill goat producer.” Johnson says that Alabama’s goat industry is five times as big as it was 15 years ago, especially in terms of population and structure. “There are a lot of farmers exporting internationally, and everyone sells from state to state,” he says. In 2011, the state had an inventory of 56,500 head of meat goats, compared to 53,000 in 2007. Goat markets within the state are in Florence, Russellville, Cullman, Moulton, Ashville, Uniontown, New Brockton, Opp and Brewton. And in 2013, cash receipts from January through July totaled $6,263. Despite growing demand for Alabama’s meat goats, Johnson says the supply is down, due to a decrease in labor. “There are less people willing to work,” he says. Nathan Jaeger, of the Alabama Farmers Federation Meat and Goat Sheep Producers Division, agrees. He says the goat business has been on a steady downward trend from its initial popularity, which peaked about eight years ago.

Goat production booming, faces challenges
“Despite the decline, farmers are starting to see demand for their product stabilize and a potential increase in overall goat numbers could be in store over the next few years,” he says. “The maturation of ethnic markets in southeastern metropolitan areas is the main reason for optimism.” – Rachel Bertone

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local food

Nothing
But the
State branded program supports local products, benefits Children’s of Alabama
PURCHaSING tHE HIGHEStquality, best-tasting food for your family and friends is often a top priority. Selecting Buy Alabama’s Best (BAB) products nets highquality foods, shores up valuable economic impact and significantly strengthens the lives of children. BAB was launched in 1996 by a statewide group of manufacturers who were happy with the success of the 1995 Alabama tourism campaign, the “Alabama Year of Food.” BAB’s main purpose is to create consumer awareness of products produced, processed and made in the state. The partnership includes Alabama manufacturers, local retailers, the Alabama Grocers Association and the state’s Department of Agriculture and Industries. “When a consumer buys things locally, they know they are supporting their local economy, local jobs and most importantly, they know where the products originated,” Ellie Taylor, BAB’s executive director says. “Consumers want to know that their products are safe, have been inspected and taste good.” Alabama’s food product sales generate a $2 billion impact on the state’s economy and tax base. “Along with the grocery and food service industries, Alabama food sales employ one out of every four Alabamians,” Larry Woodward, BAB’s association president, says. “When we buy local, we are helping our neighbors.” Retailers throughout the state have displays and shelf tags highlighting Alabama products throughout the year. Every March and September those retailers specially feature the state’s products in ads, build displays and help increase awareness. “During these months we also host events at stores where consumers can come in and sample products,” Taylor says. “You have the opportunity to meet personnel from these Alabama companies, and in some cases even the owner of the company, who can educate you on their product and how their company got started.” “We encourage you to ask for local products, which can be found at grocery and specialty stores, and

Best
STaTEwIDE ECONOMY

Story by Susan Hayhurst

WaTCH FOR BAB’S LOGO

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Alabama Agriculture

2 1

BarBer’s Dairy
Barber’s Dairy offers a variety of milk options, including whole, fat free, reduced fat and the ever popular TruMoo. Barber’s exceeds the standards in temperature, storage and shipping just to make sure their milk is fresher, better, longer. They also offer products such as buttermilk, sour cream, cottage cheese, party dip, egg nog, whipping cream and much more!

1

CraZy WaNda
Headquartered in Pelham, Crazy Wanda offers two different types of breading, Cracker Meal and Chicken Tender. Crazy Wanda’s can be used to bread a variety of food, including chicken, oysters, shrimp, green tomatoes, onions and much more. They have a flavor and a flair of lower Alabama and can be found in many independent grocers or shipped directly to you.

2

3

4

GOldeN Eagle SyruP
Started in 1928, Golden Eagle Syrup offers a delicious, mild syrup. Since then, Golden Eagle Syrup has become a favorite to generations of families. That same quality syrup is still produced in Fayette, Ala., today. Their mission is to continue to produce Golden Eagle Syrup in the manner of the founder’s vision: “A Syrup Without an Equal for Any Meal” and, as always, “The Pride of Alabama.

3

even the farmers market. A complete list of BAB’s participating companies and Alabama products can be found at buyalabamasbest.com or by visiting BAB’s Facebook page at facebook.com/buyalabamasbest.” Since 2006, the BAB program has prioritized giving back to the community. “Alabama manufacturers realized we needed consumer awareness of our products to help both our state’s consumers and companies,” Taylor says. “If we are asking the people of Alabama to support us, we want to give back to them through a reputable charity. A portion of the sales proceeds of participating companies in March and September go directly to Children’s of Alabama

BAB GIvES BaCk

– Division of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology to find a cure for childhood cancer.” Retailers also sell $1 icons in their stores during those months to raise additional funds for this worthy cause. Woodward is pleased the state’s retailers, manufacturers and producers are unified behind such a successful program. “This is a partnership of Alabama companies working together to impact the lives within our communities. To date, our efforts have raised nearly a half million dollars for pediatric cancer research. Our commitment to Children’s of Alabama keeps us focused and motivated as a group. The future is bright.”

MOOre’s MariNades & Sauces
Started more than 40 years ago, Moore’s Marinade is the secret to award-winning barbecue, offering five great flavors of sauces, including Original Hickory Marinade, Buffalo Wing Sauce, Honey BBQ Wing Sauce and Asian Teriyaki Sauce. Moore’s can be found in supermarkets across the United States.

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What’s Online
Find out about more Buy Alabama’s Best products at ALagriculture.com

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local food

Marketing Maven
W
hile most commodity farmers don’t handle the marketing of their crops, value-added products require a more direct marketing approach. Many farmers have added these niche products alongside more traditional crops to diversify their farms and generate more income. One value-added product gaining ground in Alabama is goat cheese. Belle Chévre, an award-winning goat cheese company in Elkmont, makes its cheese from goat milk from local and regional farmers who sell their product directly to the company. Owner Tasia Malakasis then sells the cheese to retail markets and directly to customers through the company’s website, sites like Amazon.com and Belle Chévre’s cheese shop and tasting room in Elkmont. Malakasis says when she bought Belle Chévre six years ago, the first task she tackled was rebranding the company. Goat cheese has traditionally been viewed as either a health food or something only for the elite to enjoy, but Malakasis says the cheese has roots in Europe and is seen as a common product there. “The rebranding was all about getting people comfortable with our product,” Malakasis says. “Cheese can be intimidating, like wine, and I wanted to make it an everyday product, but still hip and healthy. We also wanted it to be more accessible in the South because it was well known in New York and California, but not with people in our own backyard.” Malakasis is involved in just about every aspect of the process – making the cheese, communicating with farmers, organizing marketing campaigns and selling the product to retailers. Belle Chévre’s marketing strategy also includes educating the consumer. Malakasis and her team come up with recipes and creative ways to use the cheese, and with this information, they produce YouTube videos and recipe booklets. They also send representatives to grocery stores so people can taste the cheese and learn more about it.

Value-added producers market directly to consumers
“Not only do I want to make a good product, I want people to know how to use it and feel comfortable with it,” Malakasis says. “There are a lot of people who don’t know how to use goat cheese, so we still have a story to tell. I don’t want to make a piece of cheese and send it out and let someone else make a brand. We make it, we ship it and we market it. That’s what’s fun about this.” – Jill Clair Gentry

BELLE cHÉVRE: STEpHANIE SHAMBAN

Belle Chévre, in Elkmont, creates award-winning goat cheeses made from local goat milk.

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local food

Catch of theDay

Story by Susan Hayhurst

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AlabaMa AGRicUltURe

Alabama’s Gulf seafood industry hauls in lots of variety

IF FEaStING ON A LabaMa’S

big four food groups – shrimp, oysters, crab and fish – floats your boat, then take time to thank one of the 11,000 fishermen and processors who make up Alabama’s robust Gulf seafood industry. The state’s seafood industry boasted nearly a $500 million impact in 2011, involving all aspects of industry employment, including restaurants, retailers, fishermen and women, inspectors, wholesalers and processors. Working with this dedicated group impresses Chris Blankenship, director of Alabama’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Marine Resources Division. “The hard-working men and women of the seafood industry are the backbones of these coastal communities. The harvesting and processing of seafood adds money

to the local economy, much like farming. When you buy local seafood instead of imports, you are putting money right back into our state.” Fourth-generation seafood processor Bon Secour Fisheries, Inc. prides itself on more than 110 years of seafood harvesting, processing, packing and distributing of fresh, healthy fare. Recognized as one of the largest oyster processing and distribution companies in the U.S., Bon Secour is family-owned and -operated by John Ray Nelson and his sons, John Andrew, David and Chris. “We are an integral part of Alabama’s proud and vital seafood industry, which played such an important role in settling South Alabama,” Chris Nelson says. “Our 100 employees process and pack

FROM TIDE TO TaBLE

Left: Shrimp boat Miss Peggy moored in Bon Secour. Above: Oysters on the washing and sorting line at Bon Secour Fisheries, Inc., one of the largest oyster processing and distribution companies in the U.S.

Staff Photos by Michael Tedesco

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Left: Workers wash and sort oysters before they are packaged. Right: A worker prepares oysters on the half shell for freezing at Bon Secour Fisheries Inc.

under Bon Secour Brand Gulf shrimp and Nelson’s Brand Bon Secour oysters, turning a $4.5 million impact annually.” Alabama seafood is defined as any seafood product sold by Alabama businesses and sourced from Gulf and local waters. “Even though Alabama fishermen catch and land a great deal of seafood in the state, much seafood is brought to Alabama from other Gulf states and processed here,” Blankenship says. “Our processors bring in sack oysters from Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi and Florida, as well as Alabama, and shuck and process them here. The most important part of the definition is the product has to be domestic seafood from the Gulf of Mexico or other Gulf Coast states and sold or processed by an Alabama business.”

Blankenship assures consumers they can feel safe when eating Alabama Gulf seafood. “The state has a first-class seafood testing program,” he says. “The Marine Resources Division takes seafood samples from our waters every month. Our big four food groups are tested by the Alabama Department of Public Health. The Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries also samples seafood product from our state’s seafood processors monthly to ensure that what comes into our state is safe.” Seafood inspection is even more critical because less than 5 percent of imported seafood is inspected by the federal government, Nelson says. “You must ask and verify that the shrimp you have ordered at the restaurant or see in the fresh seafood case at your local grocery is in fact Gulf shrimp.”

Variety is definitely the spice of life when it comes to selecting Alabama seafood for your next meal. From brown, white and royal red shrimp to half-shell or shucked quarts and gallons of oysters, your dining table will hold a feast. Fish species abound, from offshore red snapper and grouper to inshore sheepshead, Spanish mackerel, flounder and mullet. “In Alabama, we have a real cornucopia of seafood to choose from,” Blankenship says. “The closer you get any product to the source, the fresher and better it is. I encourage people to visit eatalabamaseafood.com. You can search for Alabama seafood in your city or town by restaurant, wholesaler or retailer. It’s a great site with recipes and how-to illustrations and videos.”

BUYING THE BEST

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Alabama Agriculture

local food

Buy Fresh, Buy Local
FMA promotes buying and selling at local markets
n an age when food is commonly flown thousands of miles from where it was grown, visiting a farmers market is a revelation for shoppers looking for a more personal connection to their food. The Farmers Market Authority (FMA) plays a key role in providing Alabama with fresh, nutritious produce. The FMA fosters the growth of farmers markets, connects farmers with markets and promotes markets to consumers. “The mission of the FMA is to advocate for the interest of farmers and educate them about the benefits of direct marketing, and to educate consumers about the importance of supporting local agriculture” says Don Wambles, FMA director. With access to a vast network of producers, markets, restaurants and vendors, FMA creates opportunities for farmers to sell their wares to local restaurants and other sales outlets. “In 1999, there were only 17 farmers markets in Alabama. Today, there are 148,” Wambles says. “That growth is due solely to the Farmers Market Authority program implementation.” Consumers are easily able to locate farmers markets in their community by searching the FMA website for markets by county. Meeting the farmer directly gives customers confidence in the freshness and quality of the food they purchase. “When you are buying it fresh and local, you can taste the difference,” Wambles says. The FMA Nutrition Programs help producers meet the nutritional needs of their communities, regardless of their income.

I

Participating farmers accept coupons from “low-income seniors and nutritionally at-risk women and children,” giving them access to fresh produce and a healthier lifestyle.

The Farmers Market Authority is a lifeline between local farmers and consumers, creating a healthy economy and a healthy community. – Hannah Patterson

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aG edUcation

Class Act
AITC program gives Alabama students look at farm life

Story by John McBryde

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AlabaMa AGRicUltURe

JaN HILL DOESN’t EXPECt tO tURN OUt

any farmers from the Montgomery school where she is principal. In fact, most of the students at Forest Avenue Academic Magnet will probably never work in the agriculture industry. But when Hill and a teacher from the school attended an Alabama Ag in the Classroom (AITC) workshop a few years ago, they knew the program would be the perfect fit for their downtown Montgomery school. “We saw the importance of it,” Hill says of the Alabama AITC’s Summer Institute. “We have children from all over the county, and they’re mostly all from the city. These children really had no idea about agriculture and the importance of farmers. “The way we approached it with parents and students was to say, we don’t really expect our students to grow up to be farmers, but we do expect them to be leaders in their community. They might be legislators or somebody who can make a real difference in farmers’ lives down the road once they understand and realize the importance of that.” Therein lies the purpose of AITC, which was established as a nonprofit in Alabama in 1982. It is part of the national Ag in the Classroom program, whose mission is to increase agricultural literacy for students in grades K-12. The program has been implemented in public and private schools throughout the state. “I feel like it’s one of the most important projects we do as far as education, to show that if we didn’t have agriculture, we wouldn’t survive,” says Kim Ramsey, chair of Alabama AITC. “It’s a way that we can help educate not only young people but also adults about agriculture, help them understand where their food and fiber come from. “A lot of people think that whatever they buy, whether it be food or clothing, that it just comes from a retail establishment, and they may not know about the blood, sweat and tears there were to produce that item.” The Alabama AITC program uses several tools and methods to integrate agriculture into curriculums. It conducts a three-day workshop each summer for teachers, school media specialists, extension agents and others as a way to generate interest. “It’s a time for teachers to learn about agriculture and the ways they can introduce agriculture to their students through hands-on learning and curriculum and books we share with them, as well as farm visits and learning about farm life firsthand,” Ramsey says. Teachers and school administrators can apply for mini-grants available through the AITC Foundation. The program provides a variety of resources, including books, DVDs and materials from agriculture-related organizations such as the National Honey Board or the United States Cattlemen’s Association. “We have a lot of materials we share with our teachers that they can share with their students,” Ramsey says.

Not long after Hill and her colleague completed the Summer Institute, they mapped out a strategy to introduce AITC to Forest Avenue – literally. They painted a mural inside the school that showed a map of the United States. It displayed top agriculture commodities in each state, and students were presented weekly questions relating to the map. “That map is still on our wall, and you’ll see classes stop by and looking at it for research and things like that,” says Hill, who has presented at a national conference of AITC. The school also designates October as agriculture month. Field trips are held to places such as pumpkin patches, corn mazes and the George Washington Carver Museum in Tuskegee during the month, and each grade level focuses on a particular commodity.

PUMpkINS, CORN aND PEaNUTS

What’s Online
To find out more about the AITC Summer Institute, mini-grants, student and teacher resources, and more, visit www.AlabamaAITC.org.

LEaRNING EXpERIENCE

Left: First graders at Forest Avenue Academic Magnet learn about peanuts through crafts projects. Above: The kindergarten class uses art projects to learn about pumpkins.

Staff Photos by Michael Tedesco

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aG edUcation

Farmers
Story by Charlyn Fargo

Future

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AlabaMa AGRicUltURe

Alabama FFA chapter tackles hunger in their community

WHEN tHE R EHObEtH HIGH

School FFA decided to help their community, they thought big. “We realized we had a problem with hunger in our area, and we wanted to do something about it,” says Brad Willis, Rehobeth High School FFA adviser. “The problem was we didn’t have any equipment or any place to do it.” They didn’t let a few details stop them. “It just seemed like the more we pursued this, the more doors opened up,” Willis says. “We got a farm on school property with the capacity to grow 5 acres of produce, and we got some equipment donated.”

His FFA students went to work planting 20,000 plants – tomatoes, watermelon, sweet corn, squash, eggplant, cucumbers, cantaloupe and okra – in a 2,000-square-foot greenhouse. They sold some to the public to help fund the entire project, students took half the plants and the rest they transplanted into the farmland. Everything harvested was donated to Love in Action, a notfor-profit that feeds the homeless in downtown Dothan. “The best part of the project was what the students learned,” Willis says. “They learned you don’t take your food for granted, and they are

Rehobeth High School FFA members use a tractor to prepare the field for planting (left) and repair holes in the irrigation system (above) on the school’s working farm.

Staff Photos by Michael Tedesco

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The best part of the project was what the students learned. They learned you don’t take your food for granted, and they are blessed to have food readily available. Those are real life lessons.

– BRaD WIllIS, REHObETH HIGH SCHOOl FFA ADVISER
FFA teacher Brad Willis helps students learn about food production and agriculture at the school’s working farm.

blessed to have food readily available. Those are real life lessons. And they also learned a whole lot about how to raise produce.” FFA in Alabama is undergoing something of a resurgence. “Our numbers are up this past year in terms of students,” says Jacob Davis, education specialist/ state FFA advisor with the Alabama Department of Education. “We’re not back to our heyday of 20,000 students but we had 13,900 last year.” Curriculum requirements hindered participation for a few years, as students needed other courses to qualify for college. But that is changing to include agriculture courses, Davis says. “You’re seeing increased flexibility for students to take elective courses like agriculture, and hopefully that’s going to continue to grow our programs,” he said. His main need is for more agriculture teachers. “We have five shortages yet to be filled this year,” he says. “That’s our biggest challenge.” He’s convinced agriculture programs like FFA help students develop everything from leadership skills to teamwork, how to get along with others and responsibility. The programs also give students recognition for achievements. When an FFA chapter like Rehobeth learns about feeding the hungry, Davis says the program has new meaning. “Several chapters are doing things that partner with hunger initiatives,” he says. “We had an event at the state FFA convention where we packed 42,000 meals for the Montgomery Area Food Bank. FFA members put together prepackaged dried meals of rice and other things that could be reheated. Those kind of things teach a student so much. We’re all about that.”

What’s Online
See more photos of Rehobeth High School FFA at ALagriculture.com

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Alabama Agriculture

AG EdUcation

Plant Protection
F
rom food production to human health concerns, pesticides are an important regulation tool in Alabama agriculture. The Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries’ (ADAI) Pesticide Management division works quietly, but efficiently, to protect agriculture crops, farm worker safety, consumers and the environment with the use of pesticides. Pesticides themselves are chemical substances that are used to prevent, destroy or mitigate any type of pests, usually on plants or crops. Tony Cofer, program director of the ADAI Plant Protection and Pesticide Management Division explains how the division helps to protect some of Alabama’s most important crops. “The role of Pesticide Management is to regulate the sale and use of pesticides. We do this by certifying applicators and licensing application businesses,” he says. “We also ensure that pesticides are used safely and according to all state and federal requirements.” In the encompassing umbrella of plant protection, pesticides are a critical means to helping prevent and stop invasive species. But pesticides aren’t important just for farmers. Cofer says the public is touched by the efforts of the Pesticide Management

Pesticide Management works to safeguard crops
division every day, without even realizing it. “Our department registers every pesticide product for sale in the state,” he says. “Those 14,000 products range from the bleach people use to disinfect their laundry to the weed killer used on their lawns to cotton defoliate used to aid in the harvest of one of Alabama’s largest crops.” Cofer adds that it’s important for consumers to comply with label directions and wear appropriate clothing when using a form of pesticide, as the regulations put in place for the application of pesticides are to protect the users themselves. – Rachel Bertone

Over 100 Years Sweetness of the South

Whitfield Foods • 334-263-2541 • www.alagasyrup.com

We are proud to be a part of Alabama agriculture

100 North Point Center East Suite 400 • Alpharetta, GA 30022 www.goldenpeanut.com

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ALABAMA
AGRICULTURE
2014 Edition, Volume 3 JOURNAL COMMUNICATIONS INC.
Project Manager LISA SCRAMLIN Marketing Director SARA QUINT Agribusiness Content Team RACHEL BERTONE, HANNAH PATTERSON, JESSY YANCEY Proofreading Manager RAVEN PETTY Contributing Writers KERI ANN BEAZELL, MATTHEW D. ERNST, CHARLYN FARGO, JILL CLAIR GENTRY, SUSAN HAYHURST, KEITH LORIA, JOHN MCBRYdE Senior Graphic Designers STACEY ALLIS, LAURA GALLAGHER, JAkE SHORES, KRIS SEXTON, VIkkI WILLIAMS Graphic Designers JACKIE CIULLA, LINDSEY HIGGINS, kACEY pASSMORE, MATT WEST Senior Photographers JEff AdkINS, BRIAN MCCORd Staff Photographers MICHAEL CONTI, WENdY JO O’BARR, FRANk ORdOÑEZ, MICHAEL TEdESCO Color Imaging Technician ALISON HUNTER Ad Production Manager KATIE MIddENdORf Ad Traffic Assistants KRYSTIN LEMMON, PATRICIA MOISAN Web Services Team dAVId dAY, NELS NOSEWORTHY, RICHARd STEVENS Chairman GREG THURMAN President/Publisher BOB SCHWARTZMAN Executive Vice President RAY LANGEN Senior V.P./Agribusiness Publishing KIM NEWSOM HOLMBERG Senior V.P./Agribusiness Sales RHONdA GRAHAM Senior V.P./Operations CASEY HESTER Senior V.P./Journal Digital MICHAEL BARBER V.P./External Communications TEREE CARUTHERS V.P./Sales HERB HARpER Controller CHRIS DUdLEY Senior Accountant LISA OWENS Accounts Payable Coordinator MARIA MCfARLANd Accounts Receivable Coordinator DIANA GUZMAN Sales Support Coordinator CHRISTINA MORGAN IT Director DANIEL CANTRELL Web Creative Director ALLISON DAVIS Photography Director JEffREY S. OTTO Creative Services Director CHRISTINA CARdEN Creative Technology Analyst BECCA ARY Executive Secretary kRISTY GILES Human Resources Manager pEGGY BLAkE Integrated Media Manager JESSIE WILkS

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Alabama Tourism Department
www.tourism.alabama.gov

Alabama Ag Credit/ Alabama Farm Credit Alabama Farmers Cooperative Inc.
www.alafarm.com

www.alabamafarmcredit.com

Auburn University College of Agriculture
www.auburn.edu

www.alfafarmers.org

Alabama Farmers Federation Alabama International Trade Center
www.aitc.ua.edu

www.aviagen.com

Aviagen Inc.

Buy Alabama’s Best/ Alabama Grocers Association
www.buyalabamasbest.com

www.alpeanuts.com

Alabama Peanut Producers Association Alabama Power Company
www.alabamapower.com

First South Farm Credit ACA
www.firstsouthland.com

Alabama Agriculture is published annually by Journal Communications Inc. and is distributed by the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries. For advertising information or to direct questions or comments about the magazine, contact Journal Communications Inc. at (615) 771-0080 or by email at info@jnlcom.com. For more information about the Alabama Department of Agriculture, contact: Brett C. Hall, Deputy Commissioner 1445 Federal Drive, Montgomery, AL 36107 (334) 240-7100 or by email at brett.hall@agi.alabama.gov No public funds were used in the publishing of this magazine. © Copyright 2014 Journal Communications Inc., 725 Cool Springs Blvd., Suite 400, Franklin, TN 37067, (615) 771-0080. All rights reserved. No portion of this magazine may be reproduced in whole or in part without written consent. Member Member The Association of Magazine Media Custom Content Council

Golden Peanut Regions Bank

www.goldenpeanut.com www.regions.com

www.areapower.coop www.alasu.edu

Alabama Rural Electric Association Alabama State University

www.trigreenequipment.com www.whitfieldfoods.com

TriGreen Equipment

Whitfield Foods Inc.

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Alabama Agriculture

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