The Buzz About the Honey Bee Population

Many people hear, nowadays, that the honey bee population is decreasing from genetically modified organisms (GMOs), the use of chemicals from agricultural practices and many other reasons. This is fake news. Guess what…’s actually increasing!


So why do we even care about the honey bee population?

For the full story on Storify, click here.


A Blessing All the Way Around

Well, it’s been awhile since I have made a post, so I figured it was time. A lot has happened in the last few months. First off, I finished my second year at Troy, which was definitely bittersweet. Then, in the beginning of August, I moved to Auburn and began my degree in Agricultural Communications.


Comer Hall, built in 1910, houses the College of Agriculture at Auburn University. There are currently 1,430 students enrolled as AG majors at Auburn, which is a record for the college.


Moving to Auburn has certainly changed my life in more ways than one. I left a place where I had been surrounded by family my entire life, so I figured it would be difficult to adjust living away from home. I was excited for the adventure nonetheless. Little did I know I would become a part of another family so quickly. A family not connected through blood, but a spirit, the Auburn Spirit. Now Auburn is just as much of a home as Ramer is. Both will always be.

As far as classes are going, it’s the same old story. There is the glorious syllabus day, then material and then a test. However, it’s truly an awesome feeling to be sitting in a classroom learning how to better communicate agriculture to others, and learning how to plant vegetables. Some would say it’s senseless to think like this, but I would have to say it’s a blessing all the way around. Because, those classes aren’t only about planting vegetables and talking about cows, they are about preparing. Preparing for our future. This future holds more mouths to feed and a constant battle for advocates to promote the importance agriculture has to our existence.


“Tigertron,” otherwise known as the largest video-scoreboard in college football, made its debut during Auburn’s first home game on Sept. 12.

Nearly everyday, there is a new finding to witch fingers are pointed at the world’s largest industry to prove that parts of it are “bad.” From antibiotics in meat to genetically modified corn, we’ve heard it all. I feel that God has meticulously placed each person in the College of AG, so they can prove these findings incorrect. We will not give up; we simply have to take it one step at the time.

As I sit among my peers, I know without a doubt, the future of the agricultural industry is bright.

War Eagle, Hey…

MOOOOOOOvin’ on up!


One of my grandfather’s calves grazing in the pasture.

This week I decided to talk about Alabama’s beef industry, which is the second largest animal industry in the state just behind poultry.

The beef industry accounts for thousands of jobs and represents $2.5 billion. There are roughly 1.2 million head of beef cattle across Alabama. There is nearly 90 million nationally. Each of Alabama’s 67 counties is involved, in some way, in cattle farming or processing.

A large number of people may think beef is not healthy. According to Facts About Beef, beef is actually a very healthy food, in moderation of course as in nearly every other food. There are many diets that are healthy, which include beef. The DASH diet includes about 1.4 ounces of red meat a day. It is estimated Americans eat about 2.5 pounces of beef daily.

One of my grandfathers, Floyd Glenn Hicks, raises about 60 head of cattle. He has been a part of the industry for nearly 80 years, and he is still going strong at the impressive age of ninety. He said that one of the best parts of his day is waking up and going to check on all of his cows. He enjoys being able to get out of the house and ride in one of his three red “pick-ups,” as he refers to them. The cows know the sound of his truck, so they will come right up to it. They know when the truck is there, it is feeding time!

Caring for cows is not exactly an easy task. During the summer, you must grow hay so the cows will have something to eat during winter as the grass dies away. They also have to be sprayed for lice and other parasites.

I have really enjoyed growing up around the cows, and being able to watch and learn the different processes of life. Small family-owned farms are great places for students, researchers or anyone that wants to learn a thing or two about agriculture.

For more Alabama Beef facts and information, please visit Alabama Cattlemen’s Association’s website.

Cheep, Hop, POP!

Balloons, baby chickens and an Easter egg hunt are great ways for children from the Ramer/Grady community to learn about Jesus Christ, and what it takes to be a poultry farmer.

Students listen and learn from "The Balloon Man" at Brown Farms.

Students listen and learn from “The Balloon Man” at Brown Farms.

On April 2, nearly seventy elementary students, from South Montgomery County Academy, ventured to Brown Farms on an all-day field trip. Brown Farms is located in Ramer, Alabama, which is also my hometown. The farm is owned and operated, by Jeremy and Lindsey Brown along with their two children, Ansley (6) and Lydia Grace (3). I am extremely proud to claim them as part of my family. Together, they have six chicken houses and trucking company that transports chicken litter to area farmers and land owners.

The day started off with a welcome from Lindsey and her friend, Carlos the Puppet. The Easter Bunny also had enough time to make an appearance. After the introduction, Greg Taunton, also known as “The Balloon Man,” gave an inspirational balloon show about Jesus Christ and how He saved us all from sin while using his balloon to tell the story. He pumped a giant balloon full of air, worked his way inside and then knelt down making the balloon pop, displaying how Jesus can take our sins away. Once his show was over he fulfilled the request of every child that was in attendance by making them all a “one of a kind” balloon of their choice.

Greg Taunton shown here climbing into a giant balloon.

Greg Taunton shown here climbing into a giant balloon.


Later that day, students received a tour of the chicken houses, given by Jeremy. They were not only amazed at how large the houses were, but also the amount of chickens each house contains, which is around 28,000. They were also able to see a few tractors and trucks, here and there.

Brown Farms owner, Jeremy Brown, speaking to a group of students about poultry farming.

Brown Farms owner, Jeremy Brown, speaking to a group of students about poultry farming.

Then it was time for the egg hunt. Many of the students scrambled to find as many eggs as they could get their hands on. I feel quite sure that there was not a single egg left in the yard.

All of the kids received bags filled with gifts from the Alabama Farmers Federation, which included a coloring book, crayons made from soybeans and interesting AG facts on bookmarks. It was a truly great day for this event. The weather was perfect, and as many would say, “You could not have paid for a better day.”

Until next time…

Wild Game What?


Hundreds of community members attended South Montgomery County Academy’s annual Wild Game Supper on March 14.

Every year my high school hosts an event around the beginning of turkey hunting season to raise money for the school. It is called, The Wild Game Supper, and it is exactly what it is called. A huge line of wild game, there is also a few “regular” foods, prepared and ready to eat. This event has become a major fundraiser for South Montgomery County Academy. More than $30,000 was raised this year, which was the most successful Wild Game Supper the school has ever had. All of the money raised goes directly toward educating the children at the school, from the surrounding area.

There was quail, alligator, deer, turkey, squirrel, wild rabbit, catfish, duck and so much more….. One of my personal favorite foods, that was also included in the line up, was cheese grits. I eat wild game, but cheese grits holds a truly special place in my heart. It is one of the few foods that is hard to “mess up.” If none of the food interests you, there are plenty of other ways to support the school through this event.

In addition to the food, there was also a silent auction. There were more than four hundred items that people could bid on. There were several items that were handmade, including incredible cedar furniture and jewelry. Although, several bidding wars occurred, it was all in good fun.

Along with the auction, the school had a $5,000 money draw down and a turkey rodeo. The turkey rodeo was a first and ended up being a great success with many participants. Teams of two people per team went out on a hunt and whichever obtained the best bird, won a pair of shotguns. There were a large number of tickets sold for the money draw down. Each ticket held ten spots that each cost $10.CMH_7746psd

This event is a great way for the members of the community to come together to help out the small, private school located only just a few miles from where I live. The school hopes that the next year’s Wild Game Supper will be even more successful than this year.

Ready… Set… COOK!

This past weekend I covered the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America Culinary Arts Competition in Birmingham. The event was held at Virginia College’s Culinary Institute, known as Culinard. Thirteen high school teams from around the state of Alabama competed for more than 115,000 dollars in scholarships and prizes.

The day was filled with much excitement from participants and even a few spectators. I, for one, was amazed at the precision of each team and how they cooked their meals with such focus. I have never been to any event quite like this one. It was very much like the famous television show on the Food channel, Iron Chef.


The “gold” winning team, from Huntsville Center for Technology, preparing to go into battle at the 2015 FCCLA Culinary Arts Competition.

Huntsville Center for Technology ended up taking home the “gold” prize, which doesn’t happen every competition. In order to have “gold” status the team must score 90 or more. They did it! They were extremely excited to have their school called out as the winning team. The team was also given a complete knife set made by Mercer Cutlery, a gift card to use at local Birmingham restaurants, and all schools that took part in the event received two culinary books. Just two years ago, there was roughly $25,000 in scholarship money awarded. That figure has more than tripled in the past two years.


The fantastic apple trifle dessert made by the HCT team.

All teams were required to prepare breast of chicken with a mustard cream sauce with sautéed broccoli and rice pilaf. For dessert they prepared an apple trifle. HCT took it a step further and actually made their on caramel sauce and drizzled it atop the dessert. No other team did this for their dessert.

Each dish had it’s own appeal to it. No dish was exactly the same, because students with all kinds of artistic abilities prepared them. All of the dishes were lined up, in front of each school’s name, so they could be viewed

This was the first event that I covered by myself, so I had to shoot enough photos and acquire enough information in order to write an article about it. I wrote my very first article, ever, about this event. I am very proud to have had the privilege to do so.

Until next time…

Young Farmers Meet in Montgomery for Annual Conference

This past weekend I attended the 2015 Young Farmers of Alabama Conference held in Montgomery, Alabama. This conference is a great way for young farmers across Alabama to come together and learn more about agriculture. It is also when the three finalists of the Outstanding Young Farming Family are decided and announced at the final dinner.

The night started off with a great buffet style dinner, consisting of fried catfish with a side of cole slaw. What could possibly be more southern than that?! There is possibly only one thing, a room full of 250 farmers, agriculture advocates and also a few agriculture scientists. As we ate dinner, the president of the Alabama Farmers Federation, Jimmy Parnell, answered various questions the crowd had. After dinner it was time to hit the hay (pun intended), so that we could wake up in time for the delicious breakfast and attend the first keynote address of the day. The morning keynote was given by Matthew Lohr, who is from Virginia and been a farmer for many years. He gave a truly inspiring story of his late wife’s battle with cancer. From what I could tell, she was an extraordinary woman.

After the morning keynote, it was time for the workshops. There were three workshops throughout the day that we attended. Each time slot had two options to choose from. In the first workshop I went to, a panel of scientists discussed how to stop the spread of misleading articles about agriculture in social media. For the second workshop, I chose to go to Matthew Lohr’s, which was a very good decision. He spoke about how to be better advocates for agriculture. In order for us to get to know one another better he used a unique “icebreaker,” by which we had a to tell another person what our most embarrassing moment. There were some very interesting stories. Lunch was then served and the keynote speaker then was Jolene Brown. She and her husband own a farm in Iowa, and she spoke about her adventures in the jungle. Later that day, she spoke about “The Top Ten Mistakes That Break Up A Family Business” in her workshop.

The day was concluded with the banquet along with an auction to benefit the Alabama Agriculture Foundation. The top three finalists for OYFF were announced this night also. This conference has definitely been one of my favorites.

Biscuits with a Side of Quail Hunting


Andalusia attorney, Mike Jones, taking a shot at one of the many quail during the hunt.

My post this week will be about a trip we made to Florala, Alabama, to shoot some photos at the Wildcat Creek Hunting Lodge. The lodge is owned and operated by Al Cravey, along with fellow hunter and good friend, Cecil Ammons. He started this business in 1999 and wanted to be able to provide great experiences for every customer that ventured there. One of the main attractions to the lodge is the superb quail hunting. The land in which the lodge stands on is more than perfect for the sport. An attorney from Andalusia, Mike Jones, was also there hunting while we were shooting photos.


Cecil Ammons and Mike Jones watching the dogs every move until they find a covey of quail.


A closeup shot of a Bobwhite quail.

Cravey prepared for the hunt by placing a covey of quail into a pile of brush, so the dogs could sniff out them and someone would be able to take a shot. All three of the men, even Mrs. Davis and I, enjoyed watching the dogs try to find were the quail were. The dogs would run, jump and bark until they found every last quail.


Owner of Wildcat Creek Hunting Lodge, Al Cravey, is preparing a covey of quail for the dogs to sniff out.


Good friends, Cecil and Al, standing on the porch of the Wiley House, which is the name of the hunting lodge. The Wiley House is estimated to have been built around 1922.

After the hunt, we enjoyed a delicious steak and homemade buttermilk biscuits made by Cravey. Those were the best biscuits I have ever had in my entire life! This particular adventure was exciting, because one of my photos was chosen to be the cover photo for the January 2015 issue of Neighbors. I felt truly humbled for one of them to have been chosen. The whole day was definitely a memorable, but possibly one of my favorite parts was the delicious meal.


Al Cravey with one of his extremely well trained hunting dogs and one of the several prizes from the day.

“Hot” Humidity Makes a Great Day for a Tour


Cotton blossoms just beginning to bloom at one of the experiment station’s several cotton fields.

Towards the end of the month of August, 2014, a much warmer month than the present one, Mrs. Davis and I made yet another trip. This time our destination was to the Crops Field Day in Headland, Alabama at Auburn University’s Experiment Station. Headland is located just north of Dothan in the southern part of Alabama. Although the day was definitely warm, the humidity was not at all pleasant. Because it was so humid, my camera lens immediately began to fog up as soon as I got it out of my camera bag. This was an annoyance, because it was several minutes before I was able to shoot photographs of the tour.

This Auburn experiment station performs research on various crops, soil and different planting strategies throughout the year. Much of the research at the facility was being performed on peanuts, cotton and sesame seeds. Several rows of peanuts were planted in what is known as a “twin row,” which is two rows of peanuts planted very close together. This is done to see whether water is conserved since both of the rows are almost on top of each other. There were also many acres of cotton that had been planted around the station.


A tour group listening intently to a scientist from Auburn University.

Tours were set up in the fields for persons attending. Scientists form Auburn University discussed plant production, how to control diseases, sesame seed production and ways to produce more peanuts. Every tour was different and had some very interesting information. I learned that if you are a peanut farmer, you could possibly rotate it with sesame.

Along with all the interesting information, we also came home with several great looking photos. The cotton had just started to bloom, which was quite a sight to see. The blossoms consisted of deep shades of pink to white. Each was unique in its own way. The sesame was fascinating, because I had never seen it planted before. There were very small orange/yellow blossoms on almost every plant.

We ended up having a great time on that warm August day. Information was shared, photos were taken and all had fun!

To view more blogs, please click here or here.


Dogs, or Cats, Are Where It’s at!

Having an animal as a pet is not only beneficial for the person, or family that owns the pet; it can also be beneficial to the pet itself. I believe that every person or family should own at least one animal as a pet.

Growing up in the rural, southern part of Alabama, there have been many animals that have lived in the backyard of the Hicks household, even a few inside. Several dogs, chickens, turtles, fish, hermit crabs, and even rabbits had established their lives at my house throughout the years. Animals can be a wonderful way to teach, not only children, but adults also, how to care for them. Everyone can learn how caring for animals is important and can impact their lives. They can teach you extremely valuable lessons. Children can learn responsibilities as to feeding and providing the animals with food and water, cleaning out the cage or area the animal lives in, and even the emotion of love.

Each type of animal has different need. For example, a dog or cat needs to have stimulation (play time) in order to release pint up energy, where as a hermit crab simply needs a rock to climb on. I currently have one dog, one rabbit and a few saltwater fish. Having these animals has been a great experience, but each one requires special care. The saltwater fish require many hours of work and also time to keep them and the tank up to par, so they can grow and thrive. I once had a rooster, who lived for almost seven years. He wasn’t the nicest rooster in the world, but he earned his keep “cockle doo a doing” throughout his life.

Animals can also be a great way for one to just get outside and enjoy some time in the sun. The spring months are always exciting, because the weather is usually great and that means the dog walks shall commence! Walking your dog can be great exercise, which I certainly could use more of. There can be many health benefits to owning a pet.

There are thousands of animals that can make great pets, so your choices are certainly not limited. I believe every person should be able to experience pets and all of their “awesomeness” that comes with them.

Until next time…