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

AGRICULTURE
Ruling the Roost
AlAbAmA's poultry industry tops stAte's Ag products

ALABAMA
FOREVER EVERGREEN
Research helps restore state's longleaf pine ecosystems

Sponsored by the Alabama Department of Agriculture & Industries // www.ALagriculture.com // 2012

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A L A bA M A AGRICULTURE

TABLE OF CONTENTS

7 A look inside 8 Alabama Agriculture overview 10 going global

booming world population means more challenges, opportunity

Top Commodities
14 branching out

AGRICULTURE

ALABAMA

2012

Export markets boost forestry industry Poultry business provides boost to Alabama economy

20 ruling the roost

25 Flocking to technology 26 peanut proud

Farmers gain efficiencies from Auburn’s poultry tech center Crop rotation benefits cotton and the state economy Ag equipment ensures efficiency, accuracy Nursery and landscape industry has deep roots Farm-raised catfish production is a fast-growing industry

31 Harvesting success

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

32 business is blooming 36 What a catch

40 growing the business

Catfish farm diversifies operation with tilapia and hydroponic lettuce

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

ALABAMA AgricuLture 2012
Environment & Conservation
42 Fine pines
Initiative restores longleaf ecosystems for environmental and financial benefit First Generation Soil Survey helps determine best uses for land

TABLE OF CONTENTS

48 laying the groundwork

60
Consumer Protection
64 safety First
Agriculture department inspects everything from grocery stores to fertilizers Accuracy of weights and measuring instruments protect businesses and consumers

Local Food
54 buying Alabama’s best 57 A local link
Association brings together state food producers and sellers to promote Alabama products Farmers markets connect consumers with the people growing their food Farm to School program connects students to fresh, local food Agritourism ventures fertilize a growing industry

67 For good measure

59 you Are What you eat 60 Have a Field day

International Trade
69 A gateway to the World
Alabama exports benefit from excellent highway and rail systems, first-class port in Mobile

on tHe coVer Photograph by Antony Boshier Tree Farmer of the Year Dr. Salem Saloom on his tree farm with Long Leaf Pines.

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www.ALagriculture.com
TOP COMMODITIES: POULTRY

Visit us online at

A LOOK INSIDE

Roost
the
Poultry business provides boost to Alabama economy

Ruling

Digital

phOTOgRAphY BY ANTONY BOShIER

whIch came fIrst, the chIcken or the egg? They may not be able to answer this question, but they can certainly explain the difference between broilers and layers. They are Alabama’s poultry farmers, and in this state, birds are big business. The poultry industry contributes more than $10 billion to the state economy and is the leading agricultural revenue segment for the state. Alabama ranks third nationally in broiler production and 14th in eggs. “The poultry industry in Alabama is strong and a big part of the state’s economy, particularly in the rural areas of the state,” says Johnny Adams, executive director of
Third-generation farmer Christina Cooper runs a commercial poultry operation in Phil Campbell, Ala., with her husband and two sons.

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Edition

optimized For online
each article can be read online, as a web article or in our digital magazine.

AGRICULTURE

ALABAMA
John mcmillan Alabama Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries

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• A GUIDE

AlAbA mA's poult ry indus try tops stAte Ag produ 's cts

Rulin the g Roost

AM AGRICULTURA E
TO THE STATE’S FARMS, FOOD AND FOREST RY •

ALAB

FOREVER EVERGREEN
Resear ch state's helps restore longlea f ecosys pine tems

Tablet
Sponsore d by the Alabama Departme nt of Agricultu

re & Industrie

s // www.ALa

griculture

.com // 2012

Edition

the special tablet edition is designed especially for use on ipads and other tablet devices.

AGRICULTURE
www.ALagriculture.com

ALABAMA
Visit us online at

2012

perspective of the largest industry in our great state – agriculture. For the one-fifth of Alabama families who make their living in agriculture and agribusiness, these have been the best of times and the most difficult of times. Throughout 2011, farmers enjoyed some of the highest prices ever for the commodities they produce, including cotton, soybeans, corn, peanuts, wheat, beef and poultry. We are one of America's largest producers of these commodities, thanks to Alabama's abundant resources of fresh water, fertile land and favorable climate. Also important to our industry is our deep-water port in Mobile. Its critical link to international markets cannot be overemphasized. but we've faced our share of challenges as well. Alabama farmers, especially our poultry growers, demonstrated true resilience in 2011 when, on April 27, tornadoes struck north Alabama with a ferocity not seen in decades. Tornadoes, some as wide as a mile, cut a deadly swath across much of the northern half of our state, killing 248 Alabamians and wreaking more than $3 billion in damage. Poultry farmers sustained significant damage, losing some 500 poultry houses and three million chickens. It's taken months, but production has since rebounded. Drought plagued much of east Alabama last year, forcing farmers in the region to replant cotton, corn and peanut crops. A frequency of drought conditions in recent years serves to remind us that Alabama must focus on adding significant acreage to our irrigated farmland while moving decisively to comprehensive water resource management. More to the point: Alabama agriculture and agribusiness have a unique opportunity to meet a rapidly growing demand for food and fiber that will double in the next four decades. As we become more productive, we must also be more adaptive to new technology and more effective ways to conserve our land and water resources. Alabama agriculture will remain forward looking and forward thinking, thanks to our wonderful land-grant colleges and the positive work ethic of our farmers and agribusinesses. We also thank you for your support of Alabama agriculture and the many opportunities ahead.
ALAGRICULTURE.COM

I present to you, wIth great pleasure, a comprehensive

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OvERvIEW

Alabama Farms, Food and Forestry
An overview of the state’s top industry
It’s the state’s top industry, a major employer for Alabama citizens and a leader in export markets And it’s more than you might think. Alabama’s agriculture industry comprises crop and livestock farms, food manufacturing and transportation, greenhouse and nursery businesses, forestry and lumber products, extension services, university and private industry research, and more. Drive across the state, and you’ll notice the diversity among the farms that dot the landscape, from poultry houses in the north to cotton and peanut production in the south. Other top farm enterprises include beef cow-calf operations, freshwater catfish farms, soybeans and corn, wheat and hay production, peaches, sweet potatoes and pecans. All of these together make up more than 48,500 farms across Alabama, with a total 9 million acres in production. The state’s food manufacturing industries add value to farm commodities through businesses that specialize in livestock processing, grain milling, food preserving and drink manufacturing. Many of the nation’s most-recognized brands are headquartered or manufactured in Alabama. Often not thought of as agriculture, forestry is, in fact, a major agricultural commodity, especially in Alabama. More than 70 percent of the state’s land area is forested, and more than 90 percent of the forest land is privately owned. Forestry products, mostly timber and paper products, account for $19 billion in economic impact each year. The state is also considered a leader in agriculture-related exports, due to its diverse ag industry and excellent rail and highway systems. Ag exports totaled more than $802 million in 2010, a growth of more than $250 million since 2006. Also contributing to this success is the Port of Mobile, which was originally built with agriculture products in mind. Forestry products and poultry are the port’s third and fourth top exports each year, behind coal and steel. The Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries expects agricultural export markets to grow even more in the next five years, through new trade agreements and an increasing world population.

POULTRy INDUSTRy GROwTh
200 million

1961

agrIculture Is bIg busIness In a labama .

1 billion
2011

$5.07 billion
Farm receipts in 2010 totaled $5.07 billion, an increase of 8 percent from the previous year. These receipts included livestock and poultry, crops, government agricultural payments and other farm-related income.

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POULTRy
As Alabama's top commodity, poultry comprises 68 percent of total commodity receipts. The state is home to broiler production (raising chickens for meat), laying flocks (for egg production) and hatcheries. Poultry represents nearly half of the state's agriculture exports. Cullman, DeKalb and Marshall are the leading counties in poultry production.

GREENhOUSE, NURSERy & SOD
Alabama's “green industry” has seen tremendous growth in the past 30 years and today, contributes nearly $3 billion to the state's economy. It's also a major employer for the state, with more than 43,000 Alabamians working in greenhouses, nursery operations and sod farms.

CATTLE & CALVES
As of Jan. 1, 2011, Alabama was home to 1.23 million head of cattle and calves. And during the year, the industry saw a 12 percent increase in the number of cattle marketed, reaching $ 395 million in cash receipts. The vast majority of cattle operations in Alabama are cowcalf farms.

SOybEANS
2010 saw a slight decrease in total soybean acreage, but it's still a top five commodity for Alabama. More than 345,000 acres were harvested last year, with an average yield of 26 bushels per acre. Soybeans are grown all across the state, but the top counties are Limestone, Jackson, Madison and Lawrence.

COTTON
Once known as the “king” crop for Alabama, cotton is still an important commodity for the state. Primarily grown in the coastal plain region of the state, cotton is the fourth largest commodity and represents more than $126 million in exports. Alabama ranks 10th in national cotton production.

ALAbAmA RANkS 2ND IN ThE NATION IN CATFISh PRODUCTION, 3RD IN POULTRy AND 3RD IN PEANUTS. ThE STATE ALSO RANkS 2ND IN ThE NATION FOR COmmERCIAL FOREST LAND. ALAbAmA ExPORTS
What’s online
Access more agriculture facts at Alagriculture.com

$802 million
in 2010. poultry accounted for 48 percent of those exports.
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service

Alabama agricultural exports totaled

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Global

Going

Booming world population means more challenges, opportunity

11 // A A bA M A AGRICULTURE 10 // A LLA bA M A AGRICULTURE

today, according to the United Nations. by 2050, the world will have more than 9 billion. How do you feed and shelter them all? That’s the question the agriculture industry is now asking itself, and in Alabama, ag leaders are determining the state’s role in this effort. It’s not just that the world is growing – it’s also growing wealthier. The global middle class is expected to grow from about 1 billion people today to 3 billion by 2050, according to the U.N. Population Fund’s report State of the World Population 2011. As people move into the middle class, they generally add more meat to their diets. With 12,000 commercial growers producing more than 1 billion broiler chickens each year, Alabama is already the third-largest poultry producer in the United

there are 7 bIllIon people In the world

tHe groWing middle clAss

States. In 2010, poultry accounted for almost half of all Alabama agricultural exports. And the market is set to expand, fast. “I think all of the United States agribusiness community is going to have some good export opportunities as we assist in feeding population growth,” says John McMillan, commissioner of the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries, adding that Alabama already exports more than $800 million worth of agriculture products annually. The world’s booming middle class owes much of its existence to the Green Revolution of the 20th century, which saw massive gains in crop yields thanks to the creation of disease-resistant plants and the growing use of chemical fertilizers and mechanization. Instead of starving, places such as India and China became home to rising economies.
ALAGRICULTURE.COM

AnotHer Food reVolution

ILLUSTRATION BY KRIS SEXTON

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The rise of the middle class also indirectly affects crop demand, which is expected to double by 2050. As more people add meats to their diets, more corn, soybeans and other grains are needed for animal feed. “The grand challenge when you have 9 billion people is, how do you provide enough fiber and food? How do you produce enough energy for them? How do you intensify your agriculture in an environmentally sustainable way?” says William batchelor, dean of the College of Agriculture at Auburn University. “Those challenges fall right within the mission of Alabama agriculture.” University researchers are working to boost crop yields and lower the costs for producing livestock. One major project has resulted in a way to grow three times as much catfish in an acre of pond, and researchers are developing methods for growing poultry more efficiently. World population growth will also mean greater demand for housing and paper goods, which Alabama is wellpositioned to provide. Alabama is already the No. 2 timber-producing state in the United States, almost in spite of itself. James Shepard, dean of the Department of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences at Auburn University, says that much of Alabama’s timberland isn’t actively managed. Rather than planting and tending to trees, many landowners simply sell their timber to a harvester once a generation, then allow nearby trees to reseed the soil. “A lot of people don’t really understand what their timber is worth,” Shepard says. “We had a guy who drove a bread truck his whole life but also owned some timber land. Somebody offered him $150,000 to harvest his timber, so he started calling around.” He eventually received $750,000. Shepard says that the housing downturn has sapped much of the demand for forestry products, but he expects Alabama to step up once the market rebounds. Sustainable forestry, and education, will be key, he says. – Dan Hieb

more tHAn Food products

the World's population growth
The world ’s population has doubled in the past 50 years, reaching 7 billion in October 2011. between now and 2050, it ’s expected to grow by more than 30 percent, resulting in an estimated 9 billion people to feed. Of the 7 billion people in the world, 1 billion currently do not have enough food to eat.
Source: United Nations population projections, May 2011

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TOP COMMODITIES: FORESTRY

phOTOgRAphY BY ANTONY BOShIER grover Allgood, vice president of timber procurement for mcshan lumber, stands with thousands of logs soon to be processed into lumber. mcshan, a family-owned sawmill in west-central Alabama, produces high-grade southern yellow pine lumber.

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Branching

Out

Export markets boost forestry industry
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a labama’s 22 mIllIon acres of commercial forests help the state’s economy stand tall. The state’s forests are the nation’s second-largest timberland and each year supply $12 billion worth of wood and paper products for countless industries. Furthermore, the forestry industry generates income for more than 250,000 Alabama landowners, provides direct employment for more than 46,000 workers and indirect employment to thousands more. Most of all, forestry creates $19 billion worth of economic impact for the state. Every county is home to at least one of the state’s 670 forest products manufacturing operations. While declining housing starts and an increasingly paperless society have taken a toll on lumber, furniture and paper producers across the country, the industry in Alabama is rising to the challenges. by exploring new global markets and adopting new business strategies, industry leaders are proving that they really do see the forest for the trees. “We have very innovative business owners in this industry,” says Chris Isaacson, executive vice president of the Alabama Forestry Association. “Our companies have made strategic adjustments to operate effectively in this environment and are poised to be even more successful when the economy turns around.”
McShan Lumber is one of those companies. Established in 1907 in west-central Alabama, this

mAking An inVestment

family-owned sawmill produces high-grade Southern yellow pine lumber. Traditionally, 20 to 25 percent of their products have been exported. According to Mark Junkins, McShan’s sales manager, that number has climbed to 60 percent as the company cultivates more overseas customers to make up for the declining domestic market. Convinced that they will be well positioned when housing starts to recover, McShan is currently making a $4.5 million capital investment in its operation. “We have an exceptional and abundant forestry resource in Alabama, and the world is looking to our state to supply the products they need,” says Grover Allgood,

Mark Junkins, sales manager for McShan Lumber, says up to 60 percent of the company's lumber products are exported to other countries each year.

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vice president of procurement at McShan. “We’re taking this opportunity to make significant facility upgrades that will position us to meet the increasing global needs and to be ready when the domestic market returns.” The Westervelt Co., based in Tuscaloosa, has business operations in the timber, wood products, ecological services and renewable energy sectors. Joe Patton, vice president of wood products for the company, explains that Westervelt worked diligently to identify and

logging neW business

cultivate new opportunities in export markets even prior to the economic downturn. In fact, Westervelt Renewable Energy recently broke ground on a new facility near Aliceville that will produce wood pellets that can be burned to produce power. The plant is scheduled to begin production in November 2012. Its first two customers are large utility companies in Germany and The Netherlands. “The development of our renewable energy platform will see an increase in international commerce, since primary global consumption for

wood pellets as a fuel source occurs in Europe,” says Patton. Ken Muehlenfeld, director of the Forest Products Development Center at Auburn University, says that although this has been a challenging time for the industry, there are benefits to the fact that producers have become leaner and meaner. “We’re ending up with a strong cross-competitive manufacturing base,” he explains. “I’m optimistic that when the market comes back the industry will be in a good position.” – Cathy Lockman

leAn & meAn

looking to the Future
Timber, paper and other wood products comprise the bulk of the uses for Alabama’s abundant forestry resource. Wood pellets that can be burned to produce power provide a new and growing market as well. However, “converting wood directly to liquid fuel is really the brass ring” for the future of the industry, according to Chris Isaacson, executive vice president of the Alabama Forestry Association. “We know how to do it, but we can’t do it cost-effectively yet,” he says, explaining that it would cost more than $7 per gallon to deliver with the technology currently available. “With the unlimited demand for liquid fuel, it’s a golden opportunity for the forestry industry. When we have the technology to get the production costs down, it will be a huge boom for Alabama.”

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More than 7 percent of Alabama’s workforce is either directly or indirectly employed by the forest industry.

Alabama produced

million tons of pulp and

ALAbAmA’S FORESTS ARE GROwING TImbER mUCh FASTER ThAN IT IS bEING hARVESTED. IN FACT, TImbER GROwTh ExCEEDS REmOVALS by

million tons of paper and paperboard in 2010.

9.4 8.4

34.1%

of Alabama's total land area is forested.
Sources: USDA Forest Service, Auburn Forest Products Development Center, Alabama International Trade Center, U.S. Census Bureau and Alabama Development Office

70%

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TOP COMMODITIES: POULTRY

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Roost
the
Poultry business provides boost to Alabama economy
phOTOgRAphY BY ANTONY BOShIER

Ruling

They may not be able to answer this question, but they can certainly explain the difference between broilers and layers. They are Alabama’s poultry farmers, and in this state, birds are big business. The poultry industry contributes more than $10 billion to the state economy and is the leading agricultural revenue segment for the state. Alabama ranks third nationally in broiler production and 14th in eggs. “The poultry industry in Alabama is strong and a big part of the state’s economy, particularly in the rural areas of the state,” says Johnny Adams, executive director of
Third-generation farmer Christina Cooper runs a commercial poultry operation in Phil Campbell, Ala., with her husband and two sons.

whIch came fIrst, the chIcken or the egg?

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What’s online
For more Alabama poultry statistics, visit Alagriculture.com

the Alabama Poultry & Egg Association. More than one-third of the state’s counties rely to some degree on the poultry industry. Favorable climate and geography certainly makes Alabama particularly well-suited for poultry farming. “We also benefit greatly by a supportive state legislature that understands our business,” Adams says. While heavily impacted in recent years by higher fuel and feed costs, the future is bright for the poultry industry in Alabama, says Adams, adding that exports of Alabama poultry is expected to increase in coming years. Alabama already ships nearly $424 million in poultry exports annually. The Alabama Poultry & Egg Association represents more than 3,500 family poultry farms, 10 processing companies and more than 100 allied companies in the state. The poultry industry provides jobs for more than 80,000 individuals in Alabama. The partnership between poultry farmers and poultry companies or integrators benefits both parties, Adams says. The system has provided farmers an opportunity to participate in poultry production while allowing integrators the opportunity to invest more capital in processing and marketing.

locAtion And public support

The Coopers store chicken feed in large bins, which were recently rebuilt. The Coopers' farm was devastated in the April 2011 tornadoes, including the loss of feed bins and poultry houses, plus heavy damage to their home.

Alabama’s poultry industry was especially hard hit by severe tornados in April of 2011. More than 1,000 poultry houses suffered damage from the storms. Individuals and businesses from across the state rushed to aid victims of the storm, and the Alabama Poultry & Egg Association established a tornado relief fund to help poultry farmers with immediate personal needs after the storm. The funds helped farmers with food, clothing, housing, medication, transportation, and other needs and provided a bridge of support until federal and state assistance and insurance benefits arrived.

Help AFter deVAstAting tornAdo

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broilers are Alabama's no. 1 commodity, with receipts of

billion
in 2010, up 11 percent from 2009.

$2.8

Poultry accounts for

60%
of Alabama’s agricultural revenue.
mArsHAll

top broiler counties:
1. Cullman (120 million birds) 2. DeKalb (116 million birds) 3. Marshall (60 million birds) 4. Coffee (50 million birds)

dekAlb cullmAn

top laying Flock counties:
1. Cullman 2. DeKalb 3. Randolph 4. Marshall

rAndolpH

coFFee

Christina Cooper, a thirdgeneration poultry farmer from Phil Campbell, Ala., lost all four of her poultry houses and sustained heavy damage to her home. Cooper says the money she received from the association’s relief fund was a life saver for her and her family. I don’t know what I would have done without their help,” she says. “We are truly grateful.” The relief funds the Cooper family received helped her with expenses until insurance funds arrived. Now she is rebuilding her farm. Phillip Roberson, a poultry farmer from Mt. Hope, near Russellville,

lost six poultry houses and most of his equipment. “I couldn’t believe it when 50 or 60 people arrived at our farm to help us clean up the damage,” Roberson says. With the help of the relief fund and other assistance, he plans to rebuild at least four of his houses. “We have a resilient group of farmers who have persevered through this terrible storm,” Adams says. “Many have decided to rebuild and we are particularly pleased that we were able to provide some immediate help through the tornado relief fund.” — John Fuller
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TOP COMMODITIES: POULTRY

Flocking to Technology
labama’s poultry growers are getting a welcome and helpful hand from the National Poultry Technology Center, located right in their home state. The mission of the Auburn University-based center is to help improve bottom-line profitability for poultry farmers. While the center is national in its scope, it has benefited Alabama poultry growers in particular. Experts at the center have been helping growers increase efficiency in housing, equipment, energy and environmental control of their poultry houses. Gaining such efficiencies is crucial as growers face mounting utility costs.

Farmers gain efficiencies from Auburn’s poultry tech center

A

Technology center engineers and economists are extremely hands-on, making frequent visits to farm sites and conducting seminars in poultry-producing centers across Alabama and nearby states. Jim Donald, interim director of the center and professor of biosystems engineering at Auburn, says the center was established in recognition of the fact that the poultry industry was a critical part of Alabama’s economy, yet farmers were struggling with escalating costs, particularly for energy. “We see our role as helping the farmer become more efficient,” Donald says. “If we

tecH experts proVide HAnds-on support

do that, the farmer and the poultry industry will remain strong.” The center has helped farmers reduce expenses in a variety of ways, especially to “tighten up” their poultry houses, Donald explains. This ranges from fuel savings to the critical maintenance of proper temperatures to keep chickens thriving in the houses. The introduction of spray foam insulation in poultry houses, for example, has shown dramatic savings. While a complete insulation project may cost $8,000 to $10,000, a three-year to five-year payback achieves fuel savings of 40 to 50 percent. A great deal of heat is concentrated in the attic areas of the poultry houses and the technology center has adopted some new methods to recirculate the warm air throughout the houses. These advances alone can save as much as 25 percent in fuel costs for farmers, Donald says.

situation,” says Gene Simpson, an extension economist at the center and professor at Auburn’s Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology. “This is particularly critical in the rural areas of Alabama and neighboring states.” The center has also encouraged farmers to use energy-efficient light bulbs, a move that can save farmers their entire investment in just two to three flocks of chickens. Engineers are also studying solar energy as another way to gain energy efficiencies. In 2010, engineers at the center introduced a system to reduce water costs by collecting rainwater in tanks beneath poultry house gutter spouts. The water is filtered and retreated so it is suitable for birds to drink. based on early trials, this system could reduce the need for treated water by about 80 percent per year. The tragic tornados that struck Alabama in April of 2011 brought widespread destruction to Alabama poultry farmers. Poultry Technology Center engineers have helped affected farmers rebuild their poultry houses by using the latest engineering construction methods to enable the houses to withstand some of the most severe storms in the future. – John Fuller

center Helps FArmers keep proFitAble

“We’re helping put Alabama’s poultry growers in a profitable

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TOP COMMODITIES: COTTON & PEANUTS

ADVANTAGES OF CROP ROTATION
In the 1800s, cotton was king in Alabama, but its consistent plantings on the same acreage each year was slowly depleting the soil of its nutrients. George Washington Carver, head of the agriculture department at Tuskegee Institute, developed a crop-rotation technique, which would alternate cotton crops with plantings of legumes (such as peanuts or soybeans). Legumes restore nitrogen to the soil, which then increases cotton productivity and yields and reduces the need for fertilizer the next growing season when cotton is planted. An added benefit is that the peanut market is strong, as the average American consumes nearly six pounds of peanuts each year.

GROwING SEASONS

peanuts: planted April to June; Harvest begins in early september and finishes in early november. cotton: planted April to June; Harvest begins in september and finishes in early december.

$126.5
million each year

Alabama cotton exports account for

are grown in the grey sandy soils of south Alabama. top counties include:

peanuts

monroe Houston escAmbiA

A “king cotton” History

geneVA

bAldWin

Alabama was the top cotton- producing state for much of the 1800s, but acreage began to drop significantly during the early 1900s, due to soil erosion, boll weevil invasions, labor shortages and low prices. In 1867, almost 1.25 million acres of cotton were planted in Alabama. In 2010, Alabama farmers planted 340,000 acres.

5.55 million
SANDwIChES IN 2010.

IF 1 ACRE = 30,000 PEANUT bUTTER SANDwIChES, ALAbAmA PRODUCED

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the Roots of ROtatiOn
Cotton and peanut farming technique developed in Alabama, still used today
ALAbAmA IS 2ND IN NATIONAL PEANUT PRODUCTION AND 10Th IN COTTON
harvested more than 480 million pounds of peanuts on 185,000 acres of farmland. The production from just one of those acres translates into 30,000 peanut butter sandwiches, which in economic terms is hardly peanuts. In fact, according to Randy Griggs, executive director of the Alabama Peanut Producers Association, the peanut industry generates more than $100 million per year for the Alabama economy and has an overall economic impact of between $400 and $500 million. Much of that success is a result of the climate, the soil, and the rich tradition of peanut farming in southern Alabama, specifically in the Dothan area. With nearly half of the U.S. peanut crop produced within a 100-mile radius of the city, Dothan has earned its nickname as “The Peanut Capital of the World.”

l ast year, a labama farmers

Washington Carver, turned to peanuts as an alternative. Carver, who headed the Department of Agriculture at the Tuskegee Institute, promoted peanuts not only as a food source but as a basic ingredient in nearly 100 products including cosmetics, dyes, paints and plastics. In addition, he, along with other agricultural experts, encouraged farmers to implement a crop rotation system as a way to improve their soil, increase their cotton yields and provide an alternative cash crop. The science behind crop rotation centered on restoring nitrogen to the soil, which becomes depleted when cotton is planted year after year. by alternating cotton with peanuts or other soil-enriching legumes, such as sweet potatoes or soybeans, cotton crops improved. What started as a way to boost cotton production has turned into a boom for peanut producers as well. According to Kris balkcom, a research associate at Auburn University and a peanut specialist, “Crop rotation is the key to high peanut yields because it breaks the cycles of plant disease and pests” that are common when the same crop is planted year after year. He suggests a three-year rotation, two years of cotton and
ALAGRICULTURE.COM

yielding results

Alabama’s success in developing and sustaining peanut production is rooted in both practicality and science. In the 1800s, cotton was king; however, in the early 1900s the crop was devastated by a boll weevil epidemic and by practices of repeated cotton plantings, which depleted the soil. Alabamians, urged on by the research of George

From king cotton to premier peAnut

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My is not to chase “ afteradviceprice but to the

follow the science. In the long haul the steady high yields will be better than riding the price roller – Kris BALKcoM coaster.

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A L A bA M A AGRICULTURE

Much of the state's peanut and cotton research is conducted at the Auburn University Experiment Station in Headland, Ala. Researchers like Kris Balkcom study crop rotation methods, test seed varieties and work to increase production efficiencies, then share their findings with Alabama farmers.

one of peanuts. by rotating the crops, farmers discourage the nematode population, a pest that feeds on peanuts but not on cotton, thus improving peanut yields, he explains. So both crops – and the Alabama farmers who grow them – benefit. Currently, Alabama is second only to Georgia in peanut production, and with nearly 480,000 bales of cotton harvested each year, Alabama ranks 10th in U.S. cotton production. benefits to the state extend beyond the direct financial impact of a crop’s market value as well, with textile mills and peanut processing plants also impacting Alabama’s economy in terms of dollars and employment opportunities. A new peanut butter manufacturing facility, for instance, is set to open in Troy creating 130 new jobs for the local economy. With such proven success, why would farmers not follow crop rotation practices? balkcom says it’s about trying to capture the highest crop prices, a practice he discourages. “My advice is not to chase after the price but to follow the science,” he says. “In the long haul the steady high yields will be better than riding the price roller coaster.” – Cathy Lockman

A peanut primer
According to the National Peanut Board, the average American consumes nearly six pounds of peanut butter and peanut products each year. Alabama plays a prominent role in producing much of it. The next time you take a bite of a peanut butter sandwich consider these facts: • Four varieties of peanuts are grown in the United States: Runner, Virginia, Spanish and Valencia. In Alabama, 95 to 98 percent of the peanuts grown are runners, and nearly half of them are used to produce peanut butter. • It takes about 540 peanuts to make a 12-ounce jar of peanut butter. • By law, peanut butter must be at least 90 percent peanuts. • Americans spend almost $800 million on peanut butter each year. • The peanut is not a nut, but a legume related to beans and lentils. • Peanuts and peanut butter contain more than 30 essential nutrients and phytonutrients.

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Alabama’s top row crops

in 2010, more than 1.15 million acres of farmland were used for the state's four main row crops, an increase of more than 20,000 acres from the year before.

soybeAns 350,000 acres
In terms of acreage, soybeans are the state's top crop. Alabama's soybean production in 2010 totaled 8.9 million bushels, with an average yield of 26 bushels per acre.

cotton 340,000 acres
Acreage and yield were both up in 2010, as was value of cotton and cottonseed. Alabama cotton farmers saw a total production of 480,000 bales.

corn 270,000 acres
Corn acreage remained steady in 2010, despite late planting due to a cool, wet spring. Corn farmers averaged a yield of 116 bushels per acre.

peAnuts 190,000 acres
Farmers produced 481 million pounds of peanuts in 2010. Farmers were challenged by dry conditions, resulting in scattered yields and quality issues.

Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Statistics Service, 2010

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TOP COMMODITIES: COTTON & PEANUTS

Harvesting Success
Ag equipment ensures efficiency, accuracy
Dothan peanut farmer, a Limestone County soybean producer and a brewton cotton farmer may have completely different operations, but they have at least one thing in common. They all have a lot of money tied up in the tools of their trade. Whether that includes a new combine equipped with all the latest bells and whistles or a well-worn but meticulously maintained peanut digger, the investment is significant. While it’s difficult to estimate the average dollar amount of equipment assets for individual operators, the value of all U.S. agricultural equipment manufactured in 2009 totaled more than $37 billion. The agricultural equipment industry is big business, and for farmers that means big decisions. Improved technology has dramatically enhanced the capabilities of agricultural equipment. Today, it’s all about precision, with global positioning systems and other advances creating efficiencies that optimize returns and preserve resources. According to John Fulton, associate professor of biosystems engineering at Auburn University, the three precision agriculture technologies of GPS guidance, variable rate application, and automatic section control allow farmers to plant, spray and harvest with greater accuracy. Such precision reduces overlap, which, in turn, lowers fuel and fertilizer costs and lessens risk to the environment from runoff and leaching.

A

precision decision

Fulton estimates that more than 60 percent of the land in Alabama is farmed using at least one of the three precision agriculture techniques, which translates into significant savings. “Using GPS guidance alone can create an average 10 percent savings for the operator, which equates to about $15 million for Alabama farmers,” he says. If all three technologies are used, Fulton estimates the savings could be as high as 22 percent, or between $5 and $8 per acre. Plus, it provides farmers with the added bonus of collecting data as they farm, which enables them access to their planting, spraying and harvesting history.

beneFits money cAn’t buy

Of course, all those benefits come with a cost. but, as Fulton

says, “a farmer who is already looking at making an investment of $200,000 or $500,000 for a piece of equipment will likely spend a few thousand more on the GPS receiver to unlock the software capabilities of the computer in the cab if they understand the benefits.” And once farmers have used precision agriculture technology, they’re hooked, says Fulton, and not just because of the economics. “We’ve surveyed Alabama farmers, and they tell us it’s actually a quality-of-life issue,” he says. “The automatic guidance systems lessen fatigue for those who work 10 to 12 hours in the field. It’s an intangible benefit that you can’t put a price on.” – Cathy Lockman

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TOP COMMODITIES: NURSERY

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Blooming
Nursery and landscape industry has deep roots
davy wrIght remembers watchIng the greenhouses beIng built on his family’s property in Plantersville. He was 8 years old, yet already a veteran of the greenhouse and nursery industry. “I’m 33, and I’ve pretty much been involved for 33 years,” he jokes. In 1967, his grandfather founded Wright’s Nursery & Greenhouse, which serves north and central Alabama. Davy Wright spent much of his childhood learning about the business, by growing his own plants to sell to family and friends. Yet he was already thinking about the future of the business. In 1996, he worked with his dad to add a computerized transplanting line that made the greenhouse more efficient.

Business is

phOTOgRAphY BY ANTONY BOShIER

davy Wright

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The NU mb E R S:

billion dollars the Alabama "green industry” (greenhouse, nursery and sod) contributes annually to the state's economy.

2.9

million, the amount of square feet of greenhouse and nursery space Alabama producers operate.

9

What’s online
learn about other Alabamabased nurseries at www.Alagriculture.com

“It was very forward-thinking on my dad’s part,” Wright says. “He understood that he might not be capable of taking care of it, but I would be.” The nursery now sells between 4 million and 5 million plants a year, he says. Most are sold commercially to retailers or landscapers, although he also sells directly to consumers. Wright credits the Alabama Grown website (www.alabamagrown.com) for helping consumers learn about his brand. It's a year-round business, Wright explains, and he relies heavily on his staff of 14 to keep the business moving forward. “They all live and grew up within 30 miles of here,” he says. “Some

have been working here as long as I’ve been alive.” More than a few Alabama residents rely on the greenhouse and nursery industry for their livelihoods. As of 2007, 3,400 companies employed 43,000 in the state, according to the Alabama Nursery and Landscape Association. The industry’s sales had also increased by a billion dollars in just four years, hitting $2.9 billion in 2007, according to the association’s director, James Harwell. The real estate downturn halted that growth temporarily, Harwell says, though there continue to be bright spots.

“Usually in bad times, people stay home more and they do more landscaping and gardening,” he says. “Since people are staying in their homes longer, more of them are redoing their landscape.” That nesting effect has kept business steady for landscapers and landscape maintenance companies, Harwell says, with homeowners and commercial real estate owners changing out plantings to keep their landscapes fresh and vibrant. And that attention to beauty pays off. According to data gathered by the American Nursery & Landscape Association, this type of work can

tHe nesting eFFect

Wright's Nursery, located in Plantersville, is a family-operated nursery business that sells to independent garden centers in central and north Alabama. Davy Wright grew up working at the nursery, which was started by his grandfather in 1967. Today, Wright manages the business, with the help of his wife and children.

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ALAbAmA IS hOmE TO ALmOST 100 SOD FARmS.

GREENhOUSE INDUSTRy GROwTh:

1978
million

$50

in cash receipts

Alabama producers operate more than 9 million square feet of greenhouse and nursery space.
add between 7 and 15 percent to the value of a home. It’s definitely an investment back into your home. Alabama growers, like the Wright family, are a big part of the nursery industry nationwide. bonnie Plants, which was established in 1918 in Union Springs, has evolved into a brand-name supplier to large garden centers nationwide. You’ll find its plants at Wal-Mart, Lowe’s, the Home Depot and smaller sellers. More than 70 of the company’s grow stations dot the nation. Another grower with a wide range is Southern Growers, based in Montgomery, which sells to independent shops and landscape companies in Alabama and neighboring states. Southern Growers’ roots reach back to 1950, when it started as a retail florist. The florist eventually grew into CCC Associates Co. Inc., which also manufactures artificial plants and flowers. The nursery, which covers 90 acres, employs 40 people year round and 20 more in the spring. – Dan Hieb

2010

$224
million
in cash receipts

A nAtionAl leAder

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TOP COMMODITIES: CATFISH

Travis Wilson checks on the health of fingerling catfish on his farm. Travis Wilson owns a catshish farm in Dallas County Alabama, Dean Wilson Farms. Due to the large amounts of fresh water aqaculture thrives in Alabama.

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What a Catch
Farm-raised catfish production is a fast-growing industry
a s a specIal for bIrmIngham’s restaurant week, Little Savannah added cornmeal-battered Alabama catfish to its menu alongside Creole stewed tomatoes and okra with Parmesan grits. Alabama catfish is flavorful, protein-rich, and best of all, local. And it’s a growing industry. Mississippi still ranks No. 1 in U.S. catfish production, but Alabama is holding more of the market share. The reason? Compared to Mississippi and Arkansas, where many farmers have filled in their ponds and returned to row crops, Alabama farmers have maintained their catfish ponds, says Mitt Walker, director of the Alabama Catfish Producers. The resulting lower supply and increased demand is leading to a record year for the state’s catfish farmers, who produce more than 100 million pounds of the white, flaky fish annually.
For Travis Wilson, 2011 Alabama Catfish Farmer of the Year, it meant keeping the family farm through tough times in the 1980s. Wilson Farms, located in Dallas County, still retains a 300-head beef cattle herd, sticking with more than 150 years of tradition. but its catfish – with annual production rates of 3 to 4 million pounds – is what keeps the farm going. “It’s an industry that enables us to live on the family farm and be
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phOTOgRAphY BY ANTONY BOShIER

From cAttle to cAtFisH

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TOP COMMODITIES: CATFISH

Catfish farmer Travis Wilson checks the health of his fish and the water quality of his ponds. He and his family produce 3 to 4 million pounds of catfish each year on their farm in Dallas County.

involved in agriculture,” Wilson says. but he’s quick to point out that it’s not an easy farming enterprise. These days, the price of corn and soybeans has continued to remain high, which makes fish food almost prohibitively expensive and entices farmers to return to row crops. The fish are also fetching higher prices, but it’s a delicate balance. Walker says the feed prices continue to affect profitability. The future of the business, Walker says, is in making it more efficient and offering a sustainable alternative to wildcaught fish from waterways that

sustAinAbly supplied

are overfished. “Over time, as those wild populations have to be more closely controlled for ecological purposes, it’s a good alternative,” Walker says. Much of the world uses fish as a main protein source, leaving the native supply depleted. Wilson is trying his hand at a raceway system that allows him to better focus feed consumption, water quality and waste management while also diversifying with tilapia. These efforts may need to be replicated by other farmers as the market for U.S. farm-raised catfish grows. After crossing multiple state lines, most fish end up in frozen filets on America’s

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CATFISh FARm RECEIPTS: 1997:
$52

$107

2010:

mILLION

mILLION
Alabama catfish production and processing have a combined economic impact of around $500 million annually, not including feed sales and service providers.

2nd
nationally in catfish sales

Alabama ranks

2,000
Alabamians are directly employed in catfish production and processing.
dinner tables. Restaurants such as Little Savannah that focus on local food make up only a small portion of overall sales, but think it’s important to keep people interested in the regional fare. “We like to let people know where things come from,” said Maureen Holt, co-owner of Little Savannah restaurant with her chefhusband, Clif. “I think it is getting better, and people are a little bit more aware.” but the world’s changing demographics may also open an international market. Walker says China became a net importer of seafood for the first time last year. That changes not only the potential for the United States to sell catfish to China, but also to the countries to which China sells. “As places are looking to source it, I think there will be more opportunity for Alabama to fill those markets as well,” Walker says. – Sonja Bjelland

more than

top catfish counties
greene HAle perry

Hale county produces nearly half of the state's catfish. The majority of Alabama’s catfish industry is centered in Alabama’s black belt. Catfish farming is one of the few remaining viable enterprises in this historically and culturally rich, but economically depressed area.

sumter

dAllAs

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Growing the Business
Catfish farm diversifies operation with tilapia and hydroponic lettuce
joint venture with the United Soybean board and Auburn University to test tilapia. That allowed the family to build a barn with 10 tanks, each capable of producing 10,000 tilapia every six months. With the filtration system, Wilson only adds 1 percent fresh water to the tanks daily. That filter also allows the collected fertilizer to be used for vegetables in a hydroponic greenhouse. The tilapia marks only the newest way the farm has become more sustainable and efficient. In 2006, the family installed an in-point catfish raceway, also in conjunction with Auburn University. Through this system, which involves keeping the fish in more tightly controlled areas within the pond, Wilson can concentrate his aeration efforts on certain raceways, which reduces his energy needs. He’s still determining if the system is worth incorporating into all 450 acres, but so far it has helped achieve better feed-rate conversions while allowing him to study what treatments work best for sick fish and monitor pounds per acre. Catfish are going to be a mainstay just as cattle have always been on this farm, he says. The tilapia are new and going swimmingly, but he’s considering options. “We’re always looking for a door that’s open and looks better than the one we’re looking though now,” he says. – Sonja Bjelland

Willard Powe checks the pH of the water he uses to raise hydroponic vegetables. Proper pH is essential to the enterprise, since the water serves as the plants' growth medium.

hanging with the market, Travis Wilson’s father transitioned from cattle to catfish when row crop farmers suffered in the 1980s. Now Wilson eats catfish a couple of times a month and, diverting from Southern tradition, he prefers it grilled with some “Southern

C

Flavoring” seasoning. To preserve his way of life, he continues the farm’s evolution alongside his dad and brother-in-law. “It’s a great way to raise a family and have your family and your kids on the farm and all together,” he says. Devoted to growing its fish business, Wilson Farms worked in a

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TOP COMMODITIES: CATFISH

Wilson Farms has diversified its operation to include hydroponic lettuce and other vegetables. The family saw an opportunity to utilize the fertilizer they collect from the tilapia tanks for growing vegetables hydroponically.

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ENvIRONMENT & CONSERvATION

PHOTOGRAPHy By ANTONy BOSHIER

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FINE

Initiative restores longleaf ecosystems for environmental and financial benefit
Forests oF longleaF pines have dwindled From 90 million acres across much of the Southeast to just 3 million acres today. But private landowners in Alabama and eight other states are working to restore this ecosystem. The three-year-old Longleaf Pine Initiative is helping to provide technical and financial assistance to private landowners in Alabama and across the region to improve the sustainability and profitability of longleaf ecosystems. States participating in the initiative hope longleaf’s many advantages will result in more acreage being planted. Longleaf’s superior traits include resistance to drought, fusiform rust and attack by the southern pine bark beetle, as well as its ability to withstand wind storm damage better than slash or loblolly pine while creating vital habitat for animals, says Dr. William Puckett, state conservationist for the Alabama Natural Resource Conservation Service.

PINES

Dr. Salem Saloom is working to restore longleaf pines on his property in southern Alabama.

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We want to “ place better,leave this to give

back to the ecosystem. Meanwhile, one can enjoy it along the way.

– Dr. sALeM sALooM

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“We’re helping private landowners to restore, plant and manage longleaf forests,” Puckett says. The initiative’s goal is to restore 8 million acres of longleaf forest across its original multistate range stretching from Texas to Virginia, says Tim Albritton, state staff forester for Alabama. The state has 501,172 acres of natural longleaf and 154,459 acres of artificially regenerated longleaf. Another 200,000 acres hold mixed forests of longleaf and other species of trees. Dr. Salem Saloom believes growing longleaf is the best use of the 1,762 acres he owns in southern Alabama. He became involved with the initiative after Hurricane Ivan struck in 2004.

His property was devastated, but he noticed his longleaf pines weathered the storm far better than his loblolly. So far, Saloom has transitioned 450 acres to longleaf. “We know the longleaf will thrive, and it’s the right thing to do,” he says. As his longleaf pines grow, they contribute to cleaner air and water on his property. They also create a thriving habitat for gopher tortoise, a threatened species, and other animals including bobwhite quail, red-cockaded woodpeckers, deer and Saloom’s particular passion, wild turkeys. When it’s time to harvest the wood, Saloom expects a substantially greater return on his

In addition to being a profitable forest product, longleaf pines contribute to cleaner air and water, and they serve as a habitat for wildlife. Pine straw can also be sold each year to the landscaping industry.

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What’s online
get details about the longleaf pine initiative at Alagriculture.com

investment than if he had planted loblolly or slash pine. With longleaf, he expects to get up to 70 percent pole production, compared with around 20 percent for loblolly. Longleaf lumber is more valuable too.

Longleaf can be profitable even before the trees are harvested. Many landowners receive $50 to $100 per acre every year for their longleaf straw, which is valued by the landscaping industry, says Albritton.

“The pine straw markets have dramatically increased over the past five to 10 years, and across the Southeast longleaf straw brings a premium,” he says. Financially, ecologically and aesthetically, longleaf can be the right choice for many landowners, Puckett says. “For all the multiple uses, it forms a beautiful ecosystem,” he says. Saloom is already enjoying the benefits of his decision to restore longleaf on his land. “We want to leave this place better, to give back to the ecosystem,” he says. “Meanwhile, one can enjoy it along the way. We hunt and fish on the property. We do a lot of field days for children.” – Bill Lewis

the number of endangered or threatened plant and animal species that make longleaf pine habitats their home.

122 2.5

The N Um bE R S:

million dollars was made available to help Alabama landowners improve habitat on agricultural land, nonindustrial private forest and tribal land.

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ENvIRONMENT & CONSERvATION

Laying the

PHOTOGRAPHy By ANTONy BOSHIER

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Groundwork
First Generation Soil Survey helps determine best uses for land
particular type of tree or crop, or construct a building, the answer is waiting in the results of the state’s first generation soil survey – a detailed profile of all private, Native American and federal lands across the state. The first generation survey, completed in September 2011 after more than a century of work, assists landowners in determining the best use of their property based on the type of soil it has and what uses it will support. “It helps us see what soils produce the best trees or handle septic tanks and other forms of urban development,” says Charles Love, state soil scientist for the Alabama Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS). “The survey has evolved from a strictly agricultural orientation to one that includes interpretations for woodland, wildlife, recreation, reclamation, sanitary facilities, building site development and other non-farm uses.”

If you want to know the best places In a labama to buIld a road, grow a

A team from the Alabama natural resource conservation service (nrcs) take soil samples to be tested, as part of the state's first generation soil survey.

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The survey found 390 varieties of soil across the state, Love says, and once the findings are published in volumes of books, the results of the survey are available to read on the Internet. “Soil survey users are more sophisticated than in the past,” he says. “In order to meet current and future needs, a digital soil survey that enables users to answer questions concerning the state’s soil resources rapidly and accurately is essential.” Knowing the type of soil underfoot helps determine land values and has a direct impact on daily life, from where our food is grown to land zoning decisions that affect urban growth patterns, says Dr. William Puckett, state conservationist for the NRCS. “Lots of public and private sector entities use soil surveys including real estate agents and appraisers. You walk on it, drive on it. You live on it every day without thinking about what soil does for you,” he says. The survey is a cooperative effort of many groups including Alabama A&M, Auburn, and Tuskegee

Eddie E. Davis Jr., an Alabama NRCS senior soil scientist, uses a soil hydrometer to determine the soil texture and particle size distribution for a particular land area.

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universities, the Alabama Soil and Water Conservation Committee, Professional Soil Classifiers Association of Alabama, Alabama Health Department, the Geological Survey of Alabama, local and county governments, the U.S. Forest Service, the Extension Service, Agriculture Research Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, and others. “Thousands and thousands of people have been involved,” Puckett says. Teams spent four or five years in each Alabama county taking a soil inventory. Earlier surveyors took bore samples 24 inches deep and relied on topographic maps to categorize the soil. Today they bore 80 inches down and use high-tech equipment including LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) to precisely determine the elevation and contours of the land and help determine soil types. Completion of Alabama’s first generation survey is a landmark achievement, says Joey Shaw, alumni professor of soil science in the Department of Agronomy and Soils at Auburn University. “The soil survey is the foundation for natural resource assessment, planning and management in the U.S.,” Shaw says. Now that the first generation effort is complete, NRCS and its teammates are undertaking a new effort, the Next Generation Soil Survey. The new survey is employing modern technologies to update soil surveys conducted in the middle of the 20th century using that era’s less-precise methods. Some techniques haven’t changed very much, though. “We’re talking about going out every day with an auger and boring a hole in the ground,” Puckett says. – Bill Lewis

Handheld GPS units are used to remotely upload data to digital soil survey maps, part of the state's first generation soil survey.

Alabama is home to

390

varieties of soil.

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LOCAL FOOD

BESt
1

alabama’s

Buying

Association brings together state food producers and sellers to promote Alabama products
sales boost Alabama’s economy to the tune of $2 billion dollars. And with an additional economic impact, the food service industries employ one out of every four Alabamians. With profits and jobs at stake, the Alabama Food Manufacturers and Producers Inc., was created to answer the need to promote Alabama-made products. A 501(c)(6) corporation, the organization has one

from potato chIps to jelly, food product

mission: to identify and increase the awareness and sale of Alabama food products and to raise funds for state charities. The association collaborates with the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries (ADAI) and the Alabama Grocers Association. The buy Alabama’s best campaign raises money for philanthropic pursuits, including the Children’s Hospital of Alabama. To date, the association has raised over $250,000 to help find a cure for childhood cancer.

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phOTOgRAphY BY JEFF OTTO

bLUE bELL CREAmERIES
Although headquartered in Texas, the company has a production facility in Sylacauga.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

2

3

GOLDEN FLAkE SNACk FOODS
The company, named for its principal product, potato chips, is located in Birmingham.

mILO’S FAmOUS TEA
A family-owned business, Milo's is located in Bessemer and sold in several states.

4

SISTER SChUbERT’S
Inspired by a family recipe, this company is based in Luverne.

GEORGE’S OLD TImE bARbECUE PRODUCTS
George's started as a BBQ restaurant in Brewton, but has grown to include a line of products.

5

6

7

wICkLES PICkLES
A secret 70-year old family recipe differentiates these pickles, made in Dadeville, from all others.

ALAGA SyRUP
This sweet syrup recipe was born when a Georgia boy married an Alabama girl. It's now made in Montgomery.

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The

NUmb E R S :

$2 billion
the impact that Alabama food product sales have on the state's economy

One out of every four Alabamians work in the food service industries.

$250,000
the amount of money to date that buy Alabama's best has raised for Alabama charities

The program also helps connect consumers with Alabama products, by sharing information about homegrown products and services to the public. “Awareness brings consumers,” says John D. Fox Jr., regional vice president of Moore’s Marinade and Wing Sauces and a member of buy Alabama’s best. “Without consumers, we have no business. Without business, we have no jobs.” The association is made up of companies that are headquartered in Alabama or produce or manufactures products in the state. Association members have various outlets to promote their product through the buy Alabama’s best campaign, which has been around for six years and now includes more than 40 companies of varying sizes. “For the smaller companies especially, the campaign is beneficial in getting their names in front of consumers,” says Ellie Taylor, executive director of buy Alabama’s best. Randy Daniel, vice president of coffee and tea with Red Diamond Inc., recognizes the campaign’s ability to counteract a small distribution. Many companies represented in the association don’t have statewide distribution, and the campaign helps to bring awareness of those products to new markets. but the dollars generated by in-state food production and manufacturing go beyond food items. “The groceries have to be packaged, like the cardboard boxes for our tea. They are also made in Alabama,” Daniel says. “Then there’s shipping. Products are running up and down Alabama’s highways in trucks that buy Alabama fuel, so the benefits really splinter out.” The association targets specific months – March and September – to facilitate special product promotions with merchants. Press conferences kick off the month’s events and serve as opportunities to involve retailers, the legislative community and the media. – Kirby Smith

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LOCAL FOOD

Farmers markets connect consumers with the people growing their food
on Wambles used to think about farming in terms of raising a crop. but that word is too impersonal for the life-sustaining gifts that make their way from farmers’ fields to family dinner plates, he says. “Years ago, I realized we’re not just growing a crop,” he says. “We take great pride in the fact that we are growing food for people.” The personal connection is becoming more apparent as consumers flock to farmers markets for the chance to meet the people who grow their food. As the director of the state’s Farmers Market Authority since 1995, Wambles has had a front row seat for the explosion of farmers markets in Alabama. In 1999, the state had 17 farmers markets, he says. As of late 2011, there are 135. “The number one advantage by far, is the fresh, wholesome supply of fresh fruits and vegetables,” Wambles says. “but the one advantage that people don’t realize until they go to the market is the socialization aspect. They create this nostalgic atmosphere where people from all walks of life come together and socialize over the food that we eat. Farmers and consumers come together and create an understanding and appreciation for one another.” The markets also let farmers sell their products directly to consumers, cutting out middle men and boosting their bottom lines. Wambles attributes much of the growth of this industry to four magic words: “buy Fresh, buy Local.” The Farmers Market Authority used that slogan for a short ad campaign in 2004, and “our sales of fresh local produce exploded,”

A Local Link
D

he says. “(Consumers) are driven by the fact that we not only want something fresh, but we want to support our local growers. We want local produce. It has been proven that our consumers would prefer local produce to organic produce. It’s that important to them to have local stuff.” Across the state, about 1,100 farms participate in the farmers markets each year, which operate in all but one county and generates at least $16 million in sales – a number that Wambles calls a low-ball estimate. He expects more growth due to the still-surging interest. “All we need to do is grow it and show people, ‘here we are,’ then do a good job with the food, the presentation and the activities that are part of the market,” he says. “They go home with some of the best tasting food that they’ve ever had.” – Dan Hieb

in 1999, Alabama had

17
farmers markets. in late 2011, there were

phOTOgRAph BY JEFF ADKINS

135
farmers markets.
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LOCAL FOOD

You Are What You Eat
Farm to School program connects students to fresh, local food
ne day each year, Alabama students enjoy state-grown sweet potatoes on their school lunch trays. And on other days, they are served local watermelons, satsuma mandarins and apples, all through the Alabama Farm to School program. In the mid-1990s, Alabama became part of the National Farm to School Network, which originated in North Carolina with the help of an unlikely pair – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former Sen. Elizabeth Dole. “The program (in this region) basically got started in North Carolina,” says Nick Zorn, manager of the State Farmers Market in Montgomery. “When Mrs. Clinton was first lady, she was interested in child nutrition. Elizabeth Dole was the U.S. senator from North Carolina.” They saw that strawberries from California were being served in North Carolina schools, Zorn says, but both women knew North Carolina grows strawberries. Together, they launched the Farm to School network. Farm to School – now expanded to more than 2,000 programs in 50 states – is a win-win for farmers and students. Alabama has been participating in the program for more than 12 years, through a partnership between the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries and the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). In its inaugural year, the DoD bought 577,520 pounds of watermelons, sweet potatoes and

O

satsuma mandarins from local growers to use in schools, according to Zorn. During its 12 years, the program has reached most Alabama students. Of the 800,000 in Alabama public schools, the school lunch program feeds 500,000 kids a day. Students get not only fresh produce in their diet, but other benefits. Some who choose healthier cafeteria options eat more fruits and vegetables at home, consume less unhealthy foods and sodas, reduce TV-watching time and exercise more, according to a 2009 nationwide report titled “bearing Fruit: Farm to School Program Evaluation Resources and Recommendations.” Farmers benefit from the program too. The average income from Farm to School represents up to 5 percent of all sales for individual farmers, according to the report. “This has also been really good for our farmers,” Zorn says. “The

schools want (500,000) 10- to 12-ounce sweet potatoes. In Alabama, we have three or four farmers who can reach that (by deadlines set by the Alabama Department of Education ,which handles school orders). Now, we have a market for sweet potatoes (which are too small for the commercial market and grocers) and get a pretty good price for it.” Zorn explains that the state department of education gives him three months to coordinate the distribution from farmers to schools. Fresh fruits and vegetables must be at the distribution center on a Friday in order to be served at schools the following Monday and Tuesday. Organizers have tried to add different fruits and vegetables to the program, but the growing season is not always conducive. The state has an abundance of corn, peas and beans, but these don't meet the school deadlines for fresh fruit and vegetables, Zorn says. “Our growing season is the biggest problem,” Zorn says. “The program calls for fresh food. It can't be frozen or canned ... That holds us back.” The main Alabama crops going to schools are apples, sweet potatoes, watermelons, grape tomatoes and satsumas, Zorn says. State schools are allowed to buy produce from other states that meets the “fresh” criteria. “It's a good program and we sure want to keep it up,” he says. For more information, visit www.farmtoschool.org. – Laurie Kiefaber

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LOCAL FOOD

Agritourism ventures fertilize a growing industry

phOTOgRAphY BY ANTONY BOShIER

Day
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Field

Have a

Agritourism proponents believe that the best way to learn about agriculture is to see, touch and experience it. Activities like a corn box allow children to play with corn kernels, which excites them to learn about the crop.

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Picking pumpkins and interacting with livestock are two favorite activities of agritourism visitors. These experiences can often mold a child's view of agriculture for a lifetime.

a school fIeld trIp was once the only connection many people had to a farm. but these days, farmers markets, roadside stands and farm-to-fork restaurants dot the Alabama landscape, bringing more public awareness to food – and a realization that it didn’t just come from a factory. The more people have this epiphany, the more interested they become in visiting farms, says Tom Chesnutt, tourism specialist with the Economic and Community Development Institute through Alabama’s Cooperative Extension System and Auburn University. The combination of people taking vacations closer to home and the spawn of the local food movement has given a boost to Alabama agritourism. Attracting people from Nashville

and Atlanta to Alabama’s agritourism sites is key to building the industry, says Chestnutt, who hopes new road signs will help. Recent legislation requires the Alabama Department of Transportation to install signs for certain agritourism destinations. One of the first agritourism businesses in the state started about 15 years ago. Tate Farms in Meridianville, which grows cotton and other row crops, was in the middle of an intensive spray effort conducted by the boll Weevil Eradication Program. Owner Steve Tate and his family decided to venture into seasonal agritourism – pumpkins – with surprising success. “We’ve been growing cotton out here for 100 years, but in Huntsville we’re known as the pumpkin people,” he says.

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Farmers considering agritourism first must decide if it would be a good fit for their personality. Chesnutt authored a 20-page booklet about what goes in to the business, such as being around people and dealing with customer service. Tate’s goal is to recreate some of the rural good times he remembers as a kid – but in a safe environment. To keep agritourism growing, the enterprise has to be something people bring their families to year after year. Having someone on the inside who understands marketing and public relations is a huge factor, says Tate, as is having someone who can be a visionary. Aside from the five to six weeks of pumpkin tourism, they also rent out their barn and area grounds for weddings and large outdoor parties.

The diversification at Tate Farms has created a more stable income. They can’t buy crop insurance for the pumpkin segment of the farm because it’s considered a hospitality business, but it’s enough money to be worth the effort, Tate says. The fall events associated with the pumpkin business now generate 15 percent of the farm’s gross income. In 2011, Tate Farms maintained 3,100 acres of cotton, 900 of corn, 700 of soybeans and 700 of wheat. Then there are the 80 varieties of pumpkins, gourds and other squashes. “There’s more income per acre on the 57 acres of pumpkins than any of the other crops that we grow,” Tate says. “but it is a lot of work. You earn every cent, and it doesn't happen overnight.” — Sonja Bjelland

more than u-pick Farms
Alabamians can enjoy more than 40 different types of agritourism experiences across the state. A few to consider: • Farmers markets and farm stands • Garden center or crop tours • Agricultural museums • Historical exhibits • Winery tours • Exotic animal farms or petting zoos • Birdwatching or nature walks • Trail rides • Guest ranches • Hay rides • Barn dances • Festivals and fairs • Hunting and fishing

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CONSUMER PROTECTION

Dr. Joseph A. Basile, a chemist with the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries, checks a sports drink to ensure that its nutrition information is accurate. The food safety team performs checks on any food products to be sold in the state.

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Safety First
Agriculture department inspects everything from grocery stores to fertilizers to ensure safety of food, animals and plants
a re you concerned about makIng sure your family’s food supply is safe to eat? If so, you can thank the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries (ADAI). Few of the department’s responsibilities are more vital to the well-being of Alabamians than the department’s role in ensuring the safety of the state’s food supply. “To be successful, food safety regulation must be timely and fair,” says Lance Hester, food safety director for ADAI. “And that means our inspectors must be experts.” beyond education and experience, Hester says the most important characteristic of a good inspector is the ability to adapt. “We ask a lot of our inspectors,” he says. “On a given inspection, they deal with everything from rodent infestations to power outages. So it is very important they know what to look for and how to look for it.” Much of the work done by inspectors comes at the retail level in large grocery stores and convenience stores. One of the main goals of these inspections is checking Class 1 foods, which include all refrigerated items. Product labels are also verified for accuracy, and a variety of individual products are selected for lab testing. but food safety doesn’t end at the supermarket. ADAI inspectors currently conduct around 38 food processor inspections annually making sure that raw materials and production operations are safe.
phOTOgRAphY BY ANTONY BOShIER

Food recalls: did you know?
the majority of food product recalls are related to food allergies.

until recently, all recalls were voluntary. in January 2011, president barack obama signed the Food safety modernization Act, which gave the u.s. Food and drug Administration (FdA) the authority to remove products from the market in the event that company refuses a voluntary recall.
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AdAi currently employs

food safety inspectors.

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Alabama food safety inspectors also check usdA school lunch programs to make sure meat and poultry products are delivered safely.

What’s online
learn more about food safety at Alagriculture.com

Dr. Rong Wu, an Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries chemist, performs a food safety check at the department's lab in Montgomery.

The safety inspectors also conduct agriculture inspections. Seeds, pesticides and animal feeds are among the raw materials on farms that undergo lab testing. Inspectors also sample fertilizers and other products that the farmer purchases from agriculture businesses. Alabama’s nearly 170 miles of coastline means seafood is also an important part of the department’s role in overseeing food safety. The focus on seafood was expanded after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. For the seafood project, funded by bP Oil, ADAI has partnered with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Alabama Department of Public Health. Seafood inspectors sample and test fish and other seafood from the Gulf for manned antibiotics. “Every time the ocean is stirred up, people will question the safety of the seafood,” Hester says. “In that sense, this isn’t just about food safety; it is about keeping the economy moving.” This same consumer confidence also follows food and product recalls, which are one of the most visible ways ADAI is involved in food safety. “When a recall occurs, we make sure products are removed from the marketplace that could be considered adulterated,” Hester says. “We deal with hundreds of recalls a year, almost daily. Unfortunately we can’t inspect every store to make sure products are removed.” To address this problem, effectiveness checks are conducted to make sure communications from manufacturers to distributor are carried out so retail stores know to remove contaminated products. Hester says this communication is also especially important in times of disaster, such as the tornadoes that tore through Alabama in April 2011. “Food contamination was a big concern when the tornadoes hit,” he says. “That’s why we are always looking to expand our ability to communicate in real time.” – Brandon Lowe

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Accuracy of weights and measuring instruments protect businesses and consumers
very day across Alabama, inspectors weigh and measure consumer goods and raw materials. The accuracy of those measurements is vital to maintaining a healthy economy. “Our job is to protect the public,” says Stacy boshell, a unit manager for the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries (ADAI). boshell oversees the Weights and Measures division of ADAI, which regulates the accuracy of anything that determines the quantity, size or count of a consumer good – from the extraction of raw materials in coal mines to the produce scanners in grocery stores. Economically, one of the most critical areas regulated by these inspectors is at the gas pump. ADAI inspects equipment at gas stations as well as the terminals used by gas distributors in the fuel industry. “The purpose of a measuring device is to create an equal means of trade for both parties,” boshell says. “In other words, if an inaccurate device is not hurting the consumer, it’s hurting the business owner.” ADAI also checks the accuracy of scanning devices in the supermarket, in taxicabs, and at large-scale mail and delivery services such as UPS and FedEx. because the need for accurate

For Good Measure
E

measurement, weights and measures affects such myriad industries, inspectors undergo a rigorous screening process. “It takes a unique individual to be an inspector,” boshell says. “On a day-to-day basis, they don’t have someone telling them to do this or do that. That’s why when we hire, we look for self-starters who are familiar with the industry they’ll be inspecting.” While the professionalism of inspectors is fundamental to this department, new technologies are changing and shaping the way the inspectors deliver their services. The immediate access to information through smartphones and tablet computers helps increase accuracy and efficiency. “There are so many laws that deal with weighing and measuring accuracy,” boshell says. “In the past, that information was not readily available to inspectors in the field. Having that information in hand makes our people more efficient and more accurate.” boshell notes big operational changes revolving around the use of technology are coming in 2012. “We work for the taxpayers,” he says. “And if expanding our technology can help us get them more bang for their buck, then we are all about it.” – Brandon Lowe

ADAI weights and measures inspectors engage in regular annual and semi-annual inspection routines. However, if an unexpected problem is anticipated or arises, it takes priority over routine inspections. If you are aware of any such instance related to weights and measurements, please call (334) 240-7133 to report it.

hOw TO REPORT A PRObLEm:

Approximate number of gasoline pumps throughout the state of Alabama.

90,000 5,000 4,000

Approximate number of heavy capacity scales in service in Alabama. these scales measure large amounts of raw materials. one such example would be the scales found in lumberyards.

Approximate number of high-speed meters in service in Alabama taking a variety of measurements on everything from household gas use to miles traveled by taxicab drivers.

Approximate number of lightweight capacity scales in service in Alabama. these scales measure small weights such as post office packages or produce scales in grocery stores.

14,000

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INTERNATIONAL TRADE

a Gateway
Alabama exports benefit from excellent highway and rail systems, first-class port in Mobile
products are making their way overseas with the help of an excellent transportation system and favorable foreign trade agreements. Exports of the state’s agriculture and forestry products totaled more than $2 billion in 2010 and are projected to keep increasing in the future, according to farm and trade experts. Export products leaving the Port of Mobile include Alabama-raised poultry, cotton, soybeans and peanuts as well as forestry products which includes lumber and other supplies. Much of the lumber products are destined for the Caribbean region. “The potential growth for Alabama agriculture due to foreign trade is tremendous,” says brett Hall, deputy commissioner of the Alabama Department of Agriculture

World
to the

more of a labama’s farm and forestry

& Industries. “The nations of the world are increasingly seeing Alabama as a good, reliable trade partner, and this can only help us further in the future.” Hall says one major reason for this export explosion is the growing affluence of countries such China and India, where consumption of poultry and beef is on the increase. Alabama is also benefiting from recent trade agreements that have been made between the U.S. and the nations of South Korea, Columbia and Panama. These trade pacts are expected to enhance the appeal of Alabama farm products in the future. Poultry, the leading agriculture product in the state, is shipped frozen all over the world. Export of Alabama poultry totaled $423.7 million in 2010. Alabama cotton exports have also risen sharply as prices have increased

increAsed meAt consumption WorldWide

• lumber products • poultry • cotton • soybeans • Wheat & products • peanuts

leading Agriculture & Forest product exports

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Coal, steel, forest products and frozen poultry are the top four commodities shipped through the port of Mobile, which is the 13th largest port in the country.

to record levels. Cotton is shipped to many Caribbean countries, and catfish is another fast-growing export. Alabama benefits from excellent highway and rail systems and a first-class port in Mobile, which has expanded and improved its warehouse and container terminal facilities and rail infrastructure to handle increased traffic in the future. The Port of Mobile, the 13th largest port in terms of tonnage in the U.S., is a huge plus for the shipment of Alabama’s products and is also a major distribution point for grain from the Midwest as well as farm products from the rest of the Southeast. The leading commodities leaving the port are coal and steel, followed by forest products and frozen poultry. “Agriculture is extremely important to the Port of Mobile,” says James Lyons, director and chief executive officer of the Alabama State Port Authority. “The Port of Mobile was originally built with Alabama agriculture in mind.” Lyons says the port is well-suited for the shipment of Alabama agricultural products with two dockside

freezers and an additional 600,000 square feet of warehouse space. While beef is not a direct export from Alabama, the state’s cow and calf farms are indirect beneficiaries of a growing overseas beef market as well, according to billy Powell, executive vice president of the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association. Alabama’s cattle producers sell cattle and calves to producers in other states, such as Kansas, Texas and Oklahoma, where they are fed and further fattened for market. “The bright light for cow-calf producers in Alabama is the export market.” says Powell, who added that his organization has been a big proponent of the recent trade agreements. “I think with emergence of other industries in our state, such as automotive, that many people forget that agriculture plays a major role in our economy,” says Leigha Cauthen, executive director of the Alabama Agribusiness Council. “Our growth in agriculture exports only serves to underscore that importance.” – John Fuller

port oF mobile plAys mAJor role

cAttle producers beneFit From trAde boost

www.ALagriculture.com

VISIT

for a special mobile edition
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grow, cook, eat, learn
ingredients 1 roasting hen, 6 to 8 pounds 2 bay leaves 2 lemons, sliced 2 teaspoons poultry seasoning salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste 1 large yellow onion, sliced 3 stalks celery, including leaves, sliced 1 clove fresh garlic, minced Fresh parsley, chopped (for garnish) instructions 1. Rinse chicken and pat dry. Take out neck and gizzards, and reserve for another use. Take 1 sliced lemon, ¼ of the onion, ¼ of the celery and ¼ of the garlic, and place in cavity. 2. Place chicken in slow cooker. Add rest of onions, garlic and celery. Sprinkle with poultry seasoning, salt and freshly ground pepper. Add bay leaves. Do not add any water to chicken. (It will make its own liquid). Start on high setting, then after 30 minutes, turn to low. Let cook for 6 to 8 hours. Discard bay leaves. 3. To serve, pull meat off bones. Garnish meat with fresh lemon slices and parsley. Serve with fresh asparagus and garlic mashed potatoes.

AGINSIDER
2012 EDITION, VOLUME 1

teNNessee

Slow Cooker Roast Chicken
Use your slow cooker to roast a chicken with fresh herbs and vegetables, and when you get home at night, it will literally fall off the bone.

Senior V.P./Agribusiness Publishing Kim Newsom Holmberg Content Director Jessy yaNcey Proofreading Manager raveN Petty Content Coordinator blair tHomas Contributing Writers soNJa bJellaNd, JoHN fuller, daN Hieb, laurie Kiefaber, bill lewis, catHy locKmaN, braNdoN lowe, Kirby smitH Publication Design Director murry KeitH Senior Graphic Designers laura gallagHer, JaNiNe marylaNd, Kris sextoN, viKKi williams Graphic Designers racHael gerriNger, taylor NuNley Senior Photographers Jeff adKiNs, briaN mccord Staff Photographers todd beNNett, aNtoNy bosHier Color Imaging Technician alisoN HuNter Ad Production Manager Katie middeNdorf Ad Traffic Assistants KrystiN lemmoN, Patricia moisaN Chairman greg tHurmaN President/Publisher bob scHwartzmaN Executive Vice President ray laNgeN Senior V.P./Operations casey Hester 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 alex marKs Sales Support Project Manager sara QuiNt System Administrator daNiel caNtrell Database Manager/IT Support cHaNdra bradsHaw Web Creative Director allisoN davis Web Content Manager JoHN Hood Web Project Manager Noy foNgNaly Web Designer II ricHard steveNs Web Development Lead yamel Hall Web Developer I Nels NosewortHy Web Account Manager laureN eubaNK Photography Director Jeffrey s. otto Creative Services Director cHristiNa cardeN Creative Technology Analyst becca ary Audience Development Director deaNNa NelsoN Distribution Director gary smitH Executive Secretary Kristy duNcaN Human Resources Manager Peggy blaKe Receptionist liNda bisHoP

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 Agriculture industry, contact: Tennessee Department of Agriculture Ellington Agriculture Center, 440 Hogan Rd, Nashville, TN 37220-9029 www.tn.gov/agriculture © Copyright 2012 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

For more recipes, visit FarmFlavor.com

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