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.

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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.

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“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…

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MOOOOOOOvin’ on up!

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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?

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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.

Biscuits with a Side of Quail Hunting

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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

A Hidden Gem in Alabama

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Rock Bridge Canyon Park Director, Mike Franklin on his horse, just in front of one of the parks natural waterfalls.

Waterfalls, ice and horses are just a few of the things that I photographed on my next adventure with ALFA and their Neighbors magazine. This was an extremely cold day in January 2014, just after “Snowmageddon.” We left very early for our destination, Rock Bridge Canyon Equestrian Park, which is in Hodges, Alabama. Hodges is located in northwest Alabama in Franklin County.

Rock Bridge Canyon is an equestrian and hiking park, featuring several natural waterfalls and over 20 miles of hiking trails for humans and horses. The park also has a natural rock bridge which is one-hundred feet high and eighty-two feet long. You can even camp in the park with an RV or by just using a tent!

When we arrived, we were greeted with warm welcomes by the park administrators and also the Saddle Club. The Saddle Club is a group of horseback riders that frequently visit the park to ride the trails and just have fun. We were there to shoot photographs of them riding through the park. The park itself is absolutely amazing. There are thousands of trees and the waterfalls are breath taking. We followed the riders down to the main waterfall to get a shot of Mike Franklin on his horse for a possible cover photo. Mike is the park director of Rock Bridge Canyon and also the police chief of Hodges. Most of the water had been frozen during the ice storm, so it was very cold.

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A group of riders enjoying the trails through the park.

I was able to get a tour of the park by walking a few of the trails while taking photos of the horseback riders and the scenery. At one point, we were standing under the rock bridge, which seemed much larger than the numbers I previously provided. It was dark, massive, and astounding all at the same time. We wrapped up at the park and afterwards, we had a great lunch at small café, just down the road from the park.

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Icicles hanging off a ledge, slowly melting away after the ice storm.

I had never heard of Hodges before this trip, much less of Rock Bridge Canyon Equestrian Park. Both are definitely hidden gems in northwest Alabama that I hope I can visit soon again.

To read the article from Neighbors about Rock Bridge Canyon, please click here.