AUBURN, Ala.— Producers make farm diversification an important part of their farm business plans because diversification helps spread the risks that come from production agriculture.
Diversification helps to increase the producer’s profits and reduce their risks.
What is Diversification?
Ken Kelley, a regional farm and agribusiness management agent with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System said that diversification is “the attempt to capture market gains and reduce risk by having multiple enterprise opportunities as part of my business plan.”
Farm diversity is important because it spreads the risk of crop failures and market fluctuations over multiple enterprises said Kelley.
Ben Ingram row crop producer in Lee County, Ala, said that raising one crop is not a good idea because it puts the producer at the mercy of that one particular.
Ingram began diversifying his operation when the peanut quota program dissolved. This allowed him to expand his cotton production to peanuts.
Mitch Lazenby, producer in Auburn, Ala., currently has an extensive row crop program, a cow-calf operation, a bull development program and hosts different agritourism events.
Lazenby makes farm diversifity a priority.
He said that diversification helps him to stay ahead of the curve and be relevant in agriculture.
Lazenby said that most producers have a primary enterprise, such as row crops. Diversifying is smart because it will supplement the income generated from the primary enterprise.
If the row crop production brings in 75 percent of the producer’s annual income, adding agritourism should add an additional 25 percent.
When Mindy Reynolds of Randolph County, Alabama, was growing up every July or August she would get a new steer calf to raise.
Every day through the fall and winter she would go out to the barn and work with her steer and keep her log books.
The log books showed how much money
she spent on her steer and how much time she spent working with the steer.
“We had paperwork on top of paperwork,” said Reynolds. “We had to keep logs every day; when you fed them, when you exercised them, how much food, how much it cost to start the project, how much the food was every month.”
All of her hard work paid off each March when she took her steer to the county 4-H livestock show.
Reynolds was judged on how well she kept her log books and on the performance of her steer in the show ring.
Since its inception in the early 1900s, 4-H programs have had a reputation of being only for farm children who showed livestock.
Even though this is the current stigma of 4-H and its programs, most do not recognize the many different opportunities from participating in 4-H.
The Smith Lever Act of 1914 established the Cooperative Extension System to educate people on new and developing methods in agriculture and home economics.
It also brought all after-school agriculture and youth programs under the umbrella of Extension and by 1924 4-H was a nationalized program.
For Reynolds, 4-H was more than just showing steers and horses in local 4-H shows.
She participated in bread and dairy demonstrations, livestock shows and public speaking contests each year.
“I learned organizational skills, good work ethic, having to work with other people, diversity, setting goals, the reward of achieving goals, overcoming my fears of public speaking, leadership skills and life experiences,” said Reynolds.
4-H agents would come to her school when she was in 5th grade each month and taught students about exercise, nutrition and citizenship.
Her time in 4-H gave Reynolds the opportunity to gain valuable cultural capital through the different life experiences she was exposed to.
She had the opportunity to travel to Washington D.C. for a leadership conference with other students from across Alabama when she was a junior in high school.
While in D.C. she went to the Lincoln Center to an opera, the Capitol building and went to formal dinners.
Even though Reynolds is no longer in 4-H she still believes in the importance of 4-H for children today.
“It’s a good organization for children today for teaching those same values,” said Reynolds. “Teaching respecting authority, taking care of your community, developing a work ethic and developing cultural capital.”
Reynolds also learned money management from 4-H.
After showing her steer in March she would sell it at auction and different businesses in the community would usually come and buy the steer.
“You would take that money and subtract what you invested in it and you’d have something to take to the bank,” said Reynolds. “That’s how I started a savings account.”
Today, 4-H still has a focus on farm children and livestock showing but that is no longer their main focus.
“The focus is on all kids, not just farm kids,” said Katelyn Johnson, extension agent in Appanoose County, Iowa.
4-H now has programs and activities involving fashion and robotics.
“4-H gives kids a chance to dive into different projects and areas,” said Johnson. “It gives them an opportunity to find what they are good at.”
Deborah Stewart, 4-H foundations regional extension agent in Lee and Tallapoosa Counties in Alabama, said that 4-H continues to highlight public speaking and has moved into highlighting technical based skills, such as sewing.
Stewart said the goal is to make children and youth ready for college or a career.
Even though the focus of 4-H has shifted over the years, the values Reynolds learned in the 1970s is still relevant today.
“4-H helps get children ready for real life and responsibilities, and gives them opportunities to become leaders,” said Johnson. “Clover Buds, for kindergarten through 3rd grade, helps make children more confident.”
4-H’s motto is: “to make the best, better.”
Stewart believes that 4-H helps children and youth learn to network and fine-tune life skills.
Though the focus has shifted, 4-H still continues to be an important part of Extension.
“Kids are our future,” said Stewart. “4-H shows the importance of agriculture and outdoor resources to children.”
Even though the main focus is no longer livestock judging, 4-H still offers activities to bring a focus back to agriculture and its importance.
Stewart said that 4-H is a way to expose inner city kids to the importance of agriculture.
Though 4-H has shifted its focus throughout the years, it still offers children an opportunity to learn about agriculture and valuable life skills.
Growing up in the late ‘60s in a small, blue collar, rural farm community in Massachusetts, Dr. Patricia Duffy would wake up early on the weekends and during school breaks to watch the farm shows on TV in the mornings.
As she was learning about garden mulching and corn prices, commercials for the Peace Corps, advertising “the toughest job you’ll ever love,” sparked her interest in one day joining this new program called the Peace Corps.
After graduating from high school, Duffy attended Boston College and graduated with degrees in English and French literature and then joined the Peace Corps.
She became a member of a new Peace Corps program that took people with foreign language skills to Michigan State University for intensive training in agriculture.
“They were having a hard time getting people in agriculture that wanted to join the Peace Corps and who could speak foreign languages,” said Duffy.
At Michigan State, she studied entomology, soil science and animal science for a summer before she was given her Peace Corps assignment.
After her training, Duffy was sent to Zaire, the area that is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Central Africa.
When she arrived in Zaire, she was taught tropical agriculture practices and later began teaching at a vocational agricultural high school.
While living in Zaire, Duffy was introduced to agricultural economics and discovered that she liked teaching.
“Not everyone could go to high school in Zaire and to get that far they had to be really, really smart and they were disadvantaged in terms of background and what they had for books and money, but they were very intelligent,” said Duffy. “Everyone’s IQ was probably 140 or more and that was my first teaching job.”
When she came back to the United States Duffy knew that she was going to go to graduate school.
She began writing to graduate schools, trying to convince them to accept her into their agricultural economics graduate programs even though she had never had an economics or business course in her life.
“I wrote these letters to these graduate program officers at all these major universities, trying to convince them that not only did they needed me as a graduate student, but that they also needed to pay my way,” said Duffy.
The letters worked. Michigan State University, University of Hawaii and Texas A & M accepted her into their graduate programs.
She decided on Texas A & M, not only because of the quality of the program but also because of the weather.
“I had spent two years in the tropics and I liked it,” said Duffy. “I liked not being cold.”
She fell in love with economics in Texas and after finishing her master’s degree, she went right on into the PhD program in agricultural economics.
James Richardson, her major professor at Texas A &M, gave her the best advice while she was getting her PhD.
“If you want to have a conflict with anybody when you’re at work make sure it’s not the staff. You always be nice to the staff.”
After graduating from Texas A & M in 1985 she knew she wanted to teach but academic jobs in agricultural economics was scarce, especially for married couples in the same field.
Duffy and her husband, Dr. Jim Novak, another agriculture economist, both began searching for academic jobs in the same town.
In 1985, Duffy and her husband both accepted jobs at Auburn University in the College of Agriculture’s department of agricultural economics and rural sociology.
“We were lucky,” said Duffy. “The year I finished up was one of the best hiring years, ever, for agriculture economists. So it was possible, barely, to get two jobs in the same city, so we came here.”
Her time at Auburn has not been uneventful.
Since she began teaching at Auburn she got another master’s degree in arts and English literature and is currently getting a master’s degree in statistics.
She was the assistant provost to undergraduate studies, where she helped develop the interdisciplinary studies major.
“I like doing interdisciplinary work,” said Duffy. “I think it can be more useful than straight disciplinary work. It’s got a broader audience.”
She also collaborated with a fellow colleague in nutrition to work on food policy 10 years after she came to Auburn.
This combined social science and nutrition to look at the impact of government food assistance.
Working in the office of the provost did come with its challenges. Having to deal with parents was the biggest.
Parents would call her office to question why their child failed a class and could not understand why Duffy would not give them detailed information into their child’s academic career.
Her time at the office of the provost was short-lived and after three years Duffy went back to the department of agricultural economics.
“I like teaching and advising the best,” said Duffy.
Even once she retires Duffy said she wouldn’t stop working.
She would look at continuing to teach economics at other local colleges and universities.
It isn’t hard to get her to come into work every day.
“I mostly like what I’m doing,” said Duffy. “I like the mix of having teaching and research.”
Since coming to Auburn Duffy has taught principles of agribusiness management, farm management, appraisal, microeconomics, agriculture policy and trade and agribusiness marketing, just at the undergraduate level.
She has also taught econometrics, operations research and farm management at the graduate level.
She loves economics and would love to go back and teach microeconomics again, but her busy schedule hasn’t allowed her to.
Duffy continues to be a favorite teacher of students in the College of Agriculture.
Lauren Cline, academic advisor for the College of Agriculture, first meet Duffy as an agricultural economics student in 2007.
“She was an extremely intelligent woman,” said Cline. “She had a lot of confidence, she knew what she knew and she really enjoyed students.”
Kate Johnson, extension agent in Appanoose County, Iowa, and recent agricultural communications graduate, recalls her first encounter with Duffy.
“I remember thinking that she was extremely monotone and that she was going to make a difficult and boring subject even more boring but Dr. Duffy tries hard to make the material interesting.”
Duffy is a favorite with students because she is approachable. She is available to students, even at the last minute before an exam.
“She didn’t make me feel like anything was a stupid question,” said Johnson.
Johnson describes Duffy the best, “Different and definitely her own character.”
Quietly in the basement of Comer Hall there is an advertising and public relations agency. But AgHill Communications, AHC, isn’t your typical agency because it is run entirely by agricultural communications students.
What is AHC?
Agricultural communications senior, Emily Thompson, first got the idea for AHC after reading an article about student-run agencies. Thompson was also noticing that her peers were applying for internships with little to no real work experience.
Wanting to help her peers, Thompson drew up a proposal for AHC and met with Dr. Paul Patterson, dean of the College of Agriculture, who approved her proposal in April 2016.
AHC, a fully operating advertising and public relations firm, staffed entirely by agricultural communications students opened in April 2016.
AHC’s clients include any College of Agriculture clubs and organizations and The Alabama National Fair.
AHC staff provide social media management, graphic design, photography, videography, event planning and web management to their clients.
The Mission of AHC
The mission of AHC is to give students practical experiences in design, public relations, social media strategy, writing and photography said Paul Hollis, agricultural communications academic advisor.
“It offers a non-judgmental environment where students can complete ‘real world’ work assignments,” said Hollis.
AHC operates like any advertising and public relations agency, giving staff the opportunity to experience working in an agency atmosphere.
Projects are overseen by a senior director, assistant director and account manager.
Helping Students Gain Real World Experience
Junior, Morgan Graham joined AHC when she came to Auburn this fall to take advantage of the many opportunities AHC offers.
“I believe working with AHC will give me the hand on experience that any employer is looking for,” said Graham.
Working for AHC gives staff an opportunity to network and make contacts with people in the work force and to build a portfolio.
Thompson also hopes that the staff will have jobs lined up before they graduate.
Thompson graduates in December 2016 and will be leaving AHC. She will be taking a job as director of communications for the Ohio Cattleman’s Association.
“I firmly believe that working in this firm helped me stand out against other applicants when applying for that position,” said Thompson. “And the experience I have received by being the Senior Director will only benefit me in the long run while working in Ohio.”
Agricultural communications students gain real life experiences by working for AgHill Communications, the student-run and led public relations and advertising agency.
For more information about AHC, check out their Facebook page.
On April 2, 2016, The Miracle League of East Alabama kicks off its 2016 baseball season at Billy Hitchcock Field at West Ridge Baseball Complex in Opelika, Alabama.
The Miracle League of East Alabama is a baseball league for children and adults with physical and mental disabilities. The Miracle League has grown from 56 players to nearly 250 players since the league was created in 2008. There are two different leagues, one for older players who are more mobile and another for players who have more physical handicaps. The Miracle League is free to all players. Volunteer “buddies” help players play baseball.
Games are held every Saturday in April and May from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Players play on a flat field made of specialized rubber to make it easier for the players.
Teams are sponsored by local businesses and organizations.
There is absolutely no charge for players to participate.
“My son is special needs, and he played regular baseball in Auburn for a league. I found out within the first year that he just wasn’t going to fit in with those children. So we came out here (Miracle League) the next year. After the first week, I saw how much fun they had and how they treated all the kids, buddies and families, I knew I wanted to get involved.” -Kenny Buck, Miracle League marketing director
“When I started to go out there and volunteer it really just opened my eyes to what it’s like for people with disabilities. Everyone is so unique in their form of communication and their way of handling certain situations so it’s always really uplifting when you get to know them and are able to make that connection that breaks those barriers. I’ve been with kids that weren’t even able to talk or walk, but they were so happy to be out there participating in an activity that they wouldn’t be able to do without a lot of assistance.” -Grace Cox, vice president of Diamond Dolls
This Saturday, downtown Opelika will be overrun by zombies and humans. Red Clay Brewing Company will be hosting a Zombie Beer Run on Oct. 15 to raise money for Central Alabama Mountain Pedalers, C.A.M.P.
Participants will meet at Red Clay on Saturday morning and will run the mile-long trail through downtown.
Humans, who are wearing red flags, enter Red Clay in groups of 20. After having a beer at the bar, they run out the back door of the bar towards Niffer’s. Zombies are then brought into bar to have a drink in groups of 20 and then run out the back chasing the humans.
Zombies will be chasing humans all over the downtown area. After leaving Red Clay, humans and zombies will run to Niffer’s, James Bros. Bikes, Cafe 123, Zazu and then back to the bar.
Along the route there will be several weapon caches for humans to use to defend themselves from the zombies. There will be buckets full of water balloons humans can use to throw at zombies said Kerry McGinnis, owner and founder of Red Clay.
When a human hits a zombie, they die. The zombie has to freeze where they are for a few seconds before resuming the chase. As humans are being chased by zombies they are trying to protect their red flag. If a zombie grabs a human’s flag the human is now a zombie.
The zombie at the end with the most flags and the humans with the best time are the winners.
Tickets are available online for $25 and will be available the morning of the race for $30.
“Participants sign up to be either a zombie or a human,” said McGinnis.
With the purchase of their ticket, humans and zombies will receive a T-shirt, beer before the race and food catered by Niffer’s.
“The more people who sign up online the better,” said McGinnis. “It helps us be more organized.”
Money from the event will be donated to C.A.M.P., a non-profit organization that builds multi-purpose trails in Auburn and Opelika.
“We love that organization,” said McGinnis.
C.A.M.P receives most of its funds through grants and is told how to spend the money.
The money they receive from Red Clay and the beer run, can be used how they see fit.
“We hope to have a wonderful time and raise a lot of money for C.A.M.P,” said McGinnis.
A woman of many talents and interests perfectly describes Autauga county native, Jessie Lynn Nichols.
Born into a family that loved horses and rode horses, Jessie Lynn grew up traveling from rodeo to rodeo competing and singing the National Anthem. She started singing in church when she was 3 and was classically trained until she was 16, but she had a love and a passion for country music.
Since beginning her music career, Jessie Lynn has performed everywhere from the Alabama Statehouse to backstage at the Grand Ole Opry to opening for the Oak Ridge Boys.
Coming to Auburn
Jessie Lynn knew Auburn was the place for her when she was 7. As a member of the Autauga county 4H Horse Program, she spent many summers participating in the different horse judging and vet clinics Auburn offered.
When she came to Auburn at 17 the dream was to go to vet school, however, that was not to be the case.
When she started Auburn she found the agricultural communications program.
“It encompassed two things I loved,” she said. “It encompassed agriculture and it encompassed the communications field.”
Jessie Lynn also plans to start graduate school in Spring 2017 and earn her Master’s in agricultural education. “I love to teach,” she said. “I enjoy watching that ‘aha’ moment.”
She says that her end goal, aside from the music, would be to teach.
Like any good college student, Jessie Lynn has had to learn how to balance her professional and academic lives. She says that you have to find the most important priority. For her, school will always come first. She believes that what is important in your life will be evident by how you prioritize your time.
The Ultimate Goal
“I have a lot of goals and a lot of dreams,” said Jessie Lynn.
Staying true to who she is, staying humble and never forgetting those who have helped her along her journey, are her big goals. She admits these are hard goals to reach but she likes the challenge.
Her time at Auburn has served as a launching pad for her.
“Auburn has given me the different tools I’ve need to enhance what I already knew,” Jessie Lynn said.
The faculty and staff here at Auburn have helped her to be successful as both a businesswoman and as a student about to enter the professional world. They have always supported her and continue to.
After graduation, Jessie Lynn hopes to either be teaching in North Alabama or in Nashville with a recording contract.
Highs and Lows
Like anyone with dreams, Jessie Lynn has faced her share of obstacles.
Personal health has been her major obstacle. Two years ago she was diagnosed with Clostridium difficile, also called C. diff. This causes stomach problems and migraines to flair up when she doesn’t get enough rest, which causes her performance in school and at work to suffer.
“Having to balance rest time and a world that’s so busy, that was a chore,” she said.
Her health problems have causedher to reevaluate her priorities to be successful in all of her endeavors.
Health problems and other personal problems were low points in her career but these lows make the highs all that much sweeter.
Graduating from Auburn in three years and “having this much success this early,” said Jessie Lynn are her high points in her academic and professional careers.
This little dream that started three years ago for Jessie Lynn is finally coming to fruition because of her hard work and dedication.
“On the Tracks,” Opelika’s biannual food and wine event hosted by Opelika Main Street, returns Oct. 7 to provide people with a new and exciting way to experience downtown Opelika.
“It’s the perfect way to experience downtown all at one time,” said Pam Powers-Smith, director of Opelika Main Street.
Guests are given a map with 28 different downtown retail stores mapped out. Guests follow the trail from store to store to sample food and wine and beer.
Retail stores partner with restaurants or artisan food vendors, like Niffer’s and Hot Damn Pepper Jelly Co., to provide guests with good food to sample on their tour.
Almost Anything, The Gallery on Railroad, Envy Salon, Coveted Closet and Taylor Made Designs are just a few of the stores participating in the event this year. Guests will also enjoy a tasting at Red Clay Brewery Company and John Emerald Distillery.
“The indescribable atmosphere down here,” said Powers-Smith, is what makes Opelika’s “On the Tracks” special.
Relationships with store owners are made while guests take their time to browse through the stores. During the event, guests can take their time to see what downtown Opelika has to offer, an opportunity many may not get during the work week.
Main Street has also made several different changes to the event this year.
“There will be a change in the look down on the street,” Powers-Smith said.
In years past there has been individual white tents along Railroad Avenue to provide guests with a place to rest. This year the individual tents will be gone.
This year there will be a big, white tent in the middle of downtown with places for people to take a break during their tour and enjoy the live music. Groups can purchase group tables and enjoy the event with friends.
A VIP ticket option has also been added. This ticket includes: the tasting, a parking spot, access to the party tent and store discount tickets.
On the Tracks started 13 years ago as an effort to draw people into downtown Opelika. The event was only offered in the spring but because of the success, 13 years ago Main Street added the fall tour.
The money Main Street receives from the event is put back into downtown Opelika. The money goes to help with beautification, landscaping and maintenance of the downtown area.
Tickets can be purchased in person at The Gallery on Railroad Avenue or at www.onthetracks.org. Basic tickets are $25 and VIP tickets are $40. Group tables are also available for purchase.