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Rural Reminiscence: Memories of tobacco stripping

By P.D. Dickinson
The cold weather makes me think of us kids coming home from school each afternoon, changing into work clothes and going to strip tobacco in the stripping room.  We’d bundle up in layers so we’d be warm enough or be able to take off layers if too warm.
The stripping room was either attached to the barn side or was simply an old, empty house or shed set aside for the work.
Wherever located, our stripping rooms all had a familiar ambience to them. They were filled with tobacco, dust, music and camaraderie between adults and children alike, all working to get the job done.
We had heat from a cast iron stove, which had been set up and a toasty fire built inside. Sometimes if the stripping room was in an old house, we’d build a fire in a fireplace grate. Although there was a fire built for warmth, it still felt cold. This was largely due to the fact that the stripping room itself was invariably uninsulated or drafty.
We’d tack up plastic sheeting over walls we could see daylight through and drafty windows to keep cold air out and more warmth inside. Whatever precautions we took, our fingers still felt cold while we worked because you can’t really wear gloves to strip tobacco.
To help take our minds off the cold and help pass the time we had entertainment.
Someone unerringly brought a radio to help whittle away the hours to the tunes of Loretta Lynn, Conway Twitty, Flatt & Scruggs, Patsy Cline and other country radio stars of the time.
Some of us preferred to work quietly while others liked to sing along or carry on conversations with jibes and jokes at each other.
Another staple for our tobacco stripping work was a big bag of hard candy for everyone to share. It was used to help keep the tobacco dust at bay because the dust got in our throats and made us cough. Any flavored, hard candy was a great alleviant to abate coughing.
Like tobacco dust in the throat, some things remain, but other things have changed over time in the process. For instance, it was unheard of, then, to box and bail the stripped off tobacco leaves into firmly pressed bales as they do now. We had to tie the tobacco leaves into “hands,” which was a group of leaves gathered into your fist and tied together with a good-looking “tie leaf.” Starting with the tip end of the tie leaf — folded in half down the middle stem and held with your thumb — you wrapped it tightly around the stemmed ends gathered in your fist from the top to about 3 inches down. Then you pulled it through the center of the remainder, which was loose, to tie it off. When finished, a hand of tobacco crudely resembled a large, brown badminton birdie.
After tying the tobacco into hands, we “booked” it into a large stack along one wall. We, kids, crawled carefully — so as not to damage the tobacco — along the top of the stack to press it together, or book it, and then covered it up with plastic sheeting to keep it in order, which meant not too wet and not too dried out.
As with most work, tobacco farming has its own vernacular. Tobacco farmers know these terms. I merely explain some of them here to aid the inexperienced tobacco stripper.
Although they do things a bit different these days, much of the work remains the same. However, that was the way we did it then and had good times and memories of working together as a family.

Family-owned company thrives from grain sales

Barry and Leigh Groves (from left) smile with their son, Keith, in front of the family- owned grain elevator named for Leigh’s grandfather. Photo By Zirconia Alleyne

Barry and Leigh Groves (from left) smile with their son, Keith, in front of the family- owned grain elevator named for Leigh’s grandfather. Photo By Zirconia Alleyne

By Toni W. Riley
Walking into the new office of the W. F. Ware Co., one will see a modern, customer-friendly office that shows off a strong business tradition. What one won’t see is anything that reminds them of the old proverb, “Shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations.”
W. F. Ware Co., a successful grain elevator in Trenton, has moved into its fourth generation. What began in the early 1920s as a business that contracted popcorn from area farmers has steadily developed into a thriving, family-owned business that handles barley, canola, corn, soybeans, sunflowers and wheat, specializing in corn for human food products.
William Franklin Ware began the business in the ’20s. His son, Robert Franklin Ware, known as Mr. Bobby or Mr. Ware to everyone in the area, joined in the late ’40s. Mr. Bobby’s daughter, Leigh Ware Groves, and her husband, Barry Groves, were hired as employees when they graduated from Murray State and married in 1981. Their son, Keith Groves, became the fourth generation to join the family business three years ago. Continue reading

Farming and Faith: Just what do farmers do in the wintertime?

By Janie Corley
As we finish the fall season, we often hear from people who do not farm, “What do farmers do in the winter?” In the spring, everyone can see us out in the fields working the soil and planting. The fields are full of farm animals, tractor equipment and evidence of the farmers at work.
With summer comes the bounty of produce, the smell of fresh cut hay, and again, we see the farmers at work.  Fall arrives and brings with it the evidence once more of the farmers’ labors — the fields are full of combines and all are enjoying the fruits of spring and summer labors as the harvest is here.
But now, the weather turns cool and farming season is over so certainly the farmer gets to spend the winter months just resting, right?  What could a farmer possibly have to do in the winter?
“… Be ready in season and out of season …” (2 Timothy 4:2)
For us, we know it’s about being ready — Are the animals protected from the weather? Do they have hay and fresh water? Is the equipment serviced and ready for spring? Has all the proper paperwork been filed with the farm service agencies and tax authorities? Have seed and fertilizer purchases been researched and planned? Have we studied all available information for reducing our inputs and planning for greater yields and greater profits?
Our jobs are to be ready for each season, reviewing our previous year and preparing for the next, making changes as necessary, all in preparation of planting for the purpose of a harvest. No matter the season, there are always jobs to do to be prepared for the current and the next season.
When Timothy wrote those words about the Kingdom of God, he expounded on what it meant to be ready: “Preach the Word … reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.” He reminds us that we have a job to do to prepare for a great harvest, but that great harvest will only come if we are ready both in and out of season.
As we, farm families, spend our winter getting ready for the spring season of planting, it’s a great time to reflect on our own preparations in the Kingdom of God. Are we studying the Word with as much attention as we do the latest information on new farm technology and the latest seed products? Are we equipped to use patience to instruct those around us in the Truth found in God’s Word? We have the job of planting seeds. And we have the job of planting the Word. They both require effort to be ready.
Are we as prepared to plant the Word as we are to plant our crops? When the snow falls and creates a beautiful winter landscape are we reminded that Jesus is prepared to “wash us whiter than snow?” As we prepare for spring, are our hearts prepared for Jesus? Have we allowed Him to wash them clean?
We must continually ask, “Are we ready?” Have we made sure the ones around us are ready? Have we proclaimed the Word, corrected, encouraged and loved those around us with great patience and instruction?  Are we “ready to make a defense to everyone who asks us to give an account for that hope that is in (us), with gentleness and reverence”? (I Peter 3:5)
“For this reason, you also must be ready, for the Son of man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.” (Matthew 24:44)
It really does not matter what season it is or whether or not we are farmers. Our job is to be ready. I believe He is coming.

National Farm Machinery Show draws families to Louisville

By Toni W. Riley
Families are busy. Both parents work, each child has his or her own activities and finding time to have “family time” can be a challenge. Ag families are no different and have a bigger challenge when the Ag-career parent works long, sometimes unpredictable hours.
The National Farm Machinery Show from February 11 to 14 in Louisville may be the outing that Ag Families can enjoy together.
The 50-year-old event fills the Kentucky Farm and Exposition Center with nearly 900 different agriculture product dealers. It is the largest indoor Ag equipment show in the United States.
Besides the large number of vendors, the show provides seminars that enable visitors to learn the latest in agriculture production and technology. Another highlight of the show is a nightly tractor pull.
Matthew and Emily Spain and their three sons, Mason, 8, Isaiah, 4, and Cooper, 2, take advantage of the show for a nearby, inexpensive family get-away.
“The boys adore the show,” said Emily, who works as an administrative assistant at the Christian County Cooperative Extension Service.
The three boys love climbing up in the tractors and pretending to be farmers. They also like getting goodie bags filled with “freebies” from the vendors.
“The Ice Cream!” Isaiah says is one of the perks of going to the expo. He’s talking about the very large Ehrler ice cream cones that are available there.
More importantly than just a fun time for the boys, the farm machinery show gives the family a chance to learn more about what Dad, who works for Joseph Sisk, does every day.
“The farm machinery show opens us up to Matthew’s world to see what he finds neat and interesting,” Emily says. “We want Matthew to feel supported in what he does for employment; going to the Farm Machinery Show lets they boys and especially me learn more about what he does.”
Emily finds that her husband is intrigued with all the new equipment, and it’s special for her to see his interest.
For Matthew, it allows him time to teach his family about what he does, like explaining the app on his phone that shows him where the farm tractors are working.
“The technology is what amazes Emily,” he says. “It just blows her mind for someone that doesn’t deal with it every day.”
Emily enjoys the activities that cater more to her role in the family, like the family living center. This area is dedicated to food, nutrition, and health and, one of the boy’s favorite, farm toys.
According to James Johnson, director of the National Farm Machinery Show, the family living center has been a part of the event for the past 40 years. This year, there will be 70 vendors specifically geared to the farm family.
Another benefit of attending the show is to see farm families from across the nation. The show draws 850 exhibitors and hundreds of spectators, according to the show’s website.
“There are families that we only see once a year,” Emily said. “It’s our time to catch up with each other. It’s like a big family reunion.”
Matthew also explains that the vendors are the same from year to year, and he looks forward to seeing them each time, too.
Mason, who is a third-grader at Millbrooke, likes the technology. He proudly notes that he knows more about the equipment than “Momma.”
“It will be hard to bring Cooper this year because he likes fun,” Mason says about his little brother. “He’ll run ahead and check on the next vendor.”
Emily laughs as she admits that Cooper will not want to stay in a stroller and tries to keep up with his big brothers.
When asked what the best part of the farm-filled weekend is, Mason doesn’t hesitate, “It’s spending time with my family.”

If you go
What: National Farm Machinery Show
When: Feb. 11 to 14
Where: Kentucky Exposition Center
Cost: Free

Teen conquers goal despite fear, finances

Taylor Reed won her state title as All-Around Cowgirl while riding Trigger, a Mustang/Quarter horse that people told her to give up on but she refused. Taylor won the title in 2014. Photo by JD Photography

Taylor Reed won her state title as All-Around Cowgirl while riding Trigger, a Mustang/Quarter horse that people told her to give up on but she refused. Taylor won the title in 2014. Photo provided

By Zirconia Alleyne
The horse began to trot. The slow saunter that 11-year-old Taylor Reed had grown comfortable with gradually turned into a steady gallop and the horse bolted into the woods. She tensed up, held on tight and tears began to stream down her face. Her dream of riding a horse had suddenly turned into a nightmare, but Taylor couldn’t jump off or let go.
“I wanted to do it so bad for a long time that it became fun once I got over I wasn’t going to die or fall off,” she said.
Taylor, now 17, is glad that she didn’t give up, as she currently holds the title as All-Around Cowgirl for the Kentucky High School Rodeo Association — that was her goal when she first started riding six years ago.
The first time Taylor laid eyes on a horse she was smitten.
“When we moved in front of somebody who had horses, my friends and I used to sneak up there and pet them and feed them apples and waffle cones or anything we thought they would eat because we didn’t know a lot about horses,” she said. Until one day, they got caught.
The girls darted across the field, afraid of getting reprimanded by the people who lived there, but Taylor heard a woman yelling in the distance.
“She was yelling that it was OK, so I went back, but by that time my friends were already back at the house,” she said. “Then, she offered to give me lessons and said I could come back any time.”
The woman was Jessica Boyd, who had just moved to Hopkinsville with her husband, David. The couple’s home sat on 65 acres with a small horse pasture, arena and barn.
Jessica had just graduated from Murray State University, where she was a member of the equestrian team.
“I was around 23 when I started giving (Taylor) lessons,” she said. “We didn’t know a lot of people around here and she kind of kept me company too.”
Jessica started out by teaching Taylor the ins and outs of ground work. Cleaning the stalls, brushing the horses, putting on saddles. She helped out as much as she could and learned how to ride in exchange.
“She had a huge work ethic,” Jessica said. “Every day, she was at my house and wanted to learn more. She just had a passion.”
That passion has never faltered despite several scary experiences Taylor has had on horses. The first scare happened during one of her first trail rides on the Boyds’ horse named Cash. The horse took off into the woods with Taylor in tow.
“I did not want to get back on,” said the Christian County High School senior.
“She was terrified,” Jessica recalled, “but I wouldn’t let her get off until she calmed down. She stepped off for a minute when we got back to the trail and walked him, but I didn’t let her quit.”
Another scare happened once Taylor started competing in rodeos. She was getting ready to do a roping competition in Memphis on a horse named Fish.
“He got excited in the box, and the bit we had on him was too strong,” the teen said of the 1,300-pound steed. “He just reared up and lost his balance and fell over on me. I fell into the gate and he fell on top of me.”
Taylor’s mom, Cheryl Spain, was filming it and panicked when she didn’t see her come out of the box.
“It was horrible,” Spain said. “It took me a minute to realize what happened. By the time I got over there, they were calling the medics and she was unconscious.”
Taylor was determined to compete in the last event later that night, so she pushed through the pain and finished the competition.
Perseverance has been a recurring theme for Taylor since she started. Not only has she had tough times on top of horses, but buying her own horse and getting to rodeos wasn’t easy or cheap.
On top of being in Beta, National Honor Society and FFA, Taylor is the president for KHSRA and works two jobs to pay for her horse and rodeo fees.
Horses can cost between $1,000 and $4,000 while each rodeo registration can cost anywhere between $350 and $500, her mother noted.
The horse trailer they bought cost $6,000 and then needed $2,000 in repairs and interior updates.
Maintenance of a horse isn’t cheap either. For example, a horseshoer costs $80 every six weeks, Taylor said.
“We had to cut a lot of corners,” said Spain, who also works two jobs. “Our horse didn’t cost nowhere near the amount that everybody else’s did. We pulled one out of a field that used to rodeo. It used to duck and buck. She had to totally train it.”
That horse is now named Trigger. It’s a Mustang/Quarter horse that people said was the meanest horse they’d ever dealt with and encouraged Taylor to get a new one, but she stuck with it.
Spain said her daughter was determined to turn her horse into a winner.
“Ever since she started rodeoing, everybody’s told her get a new horse, get a new horse, but she wouldn’t give up on Trigger,” Spain said. “She had such high expectations of him … people offered her other horses to use, but she wouldn’t because she said if she couldn’t do it on Trigger, she didn’t want to do it.”
She finally won her title as All-Around Cowgirl in June while riding the underdog.
Her mom and coach were crying in the stands, but Taylor, who appears to be modest, said she was celebrating on the inside.
“It was really rewarding to me to show myself that I could do it and with Trigger,” Taylor said.
Jessica, a special education teacher at Christian County Middle School, said Taylor is a true testament that if you give a child the opportunity, then they’ll make it happen.
“I don’t really take credit for what she did at all,” the coach said. “I’ve learned that you can do anything, if you’re willing to try and put yourself out there, and you can take nothing and make it into something.”
Since then, Taylor has gotten two more horses — Roanie, a 29-year-old retired roping horse, and Chaos, a roping horse that she is currently training for barrels.

Taylor Reed smiles for a photo with her three horses (from left) Trigger, Chaos and Roney. Photo by JD Photography

Taylor Reed smiles for a photo with her three horses (from left) Trigger, Chaos and Roney. Photo by JD Photography

In May, she will graduate from high school and plans to go to Murray State to major in ag business. She hopes to become a professional horse trainer.
As far as her next goal, Taylor wants to rank in the top 20 at the National High School Rodeo Finals in Rock Springs, Wyoming. The competition takes place July 12-18.
The last time she was there, Trigger turned around and walked right out the ring. She and her mom think it was the noise and all the people that freaked him out. This time, she’s sure things will be different.
“If you can hear people in the crowd, then you know you’re not focused,” she said. “I try to focus on me and my horse and us doing our job.”

Homemakers clubs bring together women of all ages

Members of the Rosebuds Homemakers laugh together before a meeting. The club of young women meets at 6 p.m. the first Wednesday of every month. The Christian County Extension Office has homemakers clubs for women of all ages.

Members of the Rosebuds Homemakers laugh together before a meeting. The club of young women meets at 6 p.m. the first Wednesday of every month. The Christian County Extension Office has homemakers clubs for women of all ages.

By Diane Turner
What do you think when you hear the word homemaker? The first thing I think is someone who is lucky enough to stay at home with their children or does not have to work outside  the home. Others may think it’s about learning how to make jams and jellies or how to sew. Homemakers are really about learning information that will help to improve our families and communities and then using that information to make our communities a better place. Continue reading

3 grab and go meals inside a jar, plus dessert

Marinated White Bean Salad Jars
INGREDIENTS
For the Marinated White Bean Salad:
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 can (19 ounces) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
For the Salad Jars:
1/4 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved
4 cups packed arugula

INSTRUCTIONS
In small bowl, whisk together garlic, vinegar, thyme, lemon zest, mustard powder, salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes. While whisking, slowly drizzle in oil until all oil is incorporated. Add beans and toss to combine.
Divide Marinated White Bean Salad equally among mason jars. Layer onion, tomatoes and arugula, ending with arugula. Top with lids and refrigerate up to 3 days.
To serve, pour onto plate or bowl, stir and enjoy. Continue reading

Is tobacco the future of fuel? 2 farmers, brothers cultivate tobacco for ethanol research

Brothers Bruce, 33, and Mark, 35, Jenkins participated in an agronomic trial for Tyton BioEnergy Systems last summer to grow a one-acre test plot of the company’s energy tobacco. Tyton will test the tobacco later this year to see if locally grown tobacco can be used to produce ethanol. Photo By Zirconia Alleyne

Brothers Bruce, 33, and Mark, 35, Jenkins participated in an agronomic trial for Tyton BioEnergy Systems last summer to grow a one-acre test plot of the company’s energy tobacco. Tyton will test the tobacco later this year to see if locally grown tobacco can be used to produce ethanol. Photo By Zirconia Alleyne

By Zirconia Alleyne
Two brothers who have been farming for as long as they can remember are working on a new way to make money from their tobacco crop.
Mark and Bruce Jenkins — who grow corn, wheat, soybeans and tobacco — participated in an agronomic trial for a biofuel research and development company out of Virginia called Tyton BioEnergy Systems.
Last summer, the duo dedicated one acre of tobacco on their farm to the project. The crop will be tested to see if its sugar levels are conducive to making ethanol. If so, Hopkinsville could become an even bigger hub for ethanol production and area farmers could get more cash for their crop.
Ethanol is a higher octane fuel that is produced from corn, sugar cane, grasses and now tobacco. Ethanol has been championed as the fuel to improve engine performance in vehicles, reduce the need for imported fuels and possibly lower gas prices. Continue reading

MANRRS exposes students to agriculture careers

Brock Knight, 15, waters plants in the greenhouse at Christian County High School during an agriculture class. Photo By Zirconia Alleyne

Brock Knight, 15, waters plants in the greenhouse at Christian County High School during an agriculture class. Photo By Zirconia Alleyne

By Olivia Clark
High school agriculture clubs no longer have a “typical” student in their programs. Fifty years ago, you would have seen students with production farming backgrounds that typically filled the classrooms in most ag-related programs. In fact, female students were not allowed in agriculture courses at that point. Not only has the type of student changed but the programs and classes offered have changed as well. Due to these reasons, programs are created to capture the interest in agriculture of all students today.
Jr. MANRRS (Junior Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences) have allowed students to not only create an interest in agriculture but become leaders to better themselves and the community. Jr. MANRRS is a pre-collegiate national society that aims to expose underrepresented youth, grades seventh to 12th, to opportunities in the field of agriculture, develop leadership skills and enhance students personally and professionally. Jr. MANRRS’ sister chapter is the MANRRS collegiate chapter at the University of Kentucky in the College of Agriculture Food and Environment (CAFE), which hosts the MANRRS state conference annually and mentors the high school youth in Christian County. Continue reading

Garnett earns FFA American Degree

Anne Garnett is the most recent Christian Countian to earn the National FFA American Degree, the highest honor the organization awards.

Anne Garnett is the most recent Christian countian to earn the National FFA American Degree, the highest honor the organization awards.

By Toni W. Riley
Each year during the National FFA convention, a small percentage of members from across the country receive the American Degree and the “golden key,” the highest level of membership an FFA member can achieve. The organization calls the American Degree the “ultimate challenge” because it can only be awarded after members graduate from high school.
Earning the degree helps members establish themselves in an agriculture career and learn how to set and reach career goals. It also complements their supervised agriculture experience, their classroom education and their life experiences.
The most recent local American Degree recipient is Mary Anne Garnett, daughter of Philip and Marsha Garnett. Mary Anne was passionate about earning the American Degree because she knew the doors it would open. Continue reading

A revolutionary past and an optimistic future: Senator Humphries and family keep farm going strong

The Humphries family poses for a photo on their 600-acre farm in Trigg County.  From left, Kim Burnam Humphries and Stan Humphries smile with their children, Luke, 8, Lydia, 14, and Stephen, 16. Stan formed a partnership with his sister, Stephanie Humphries and his mom, Eunice Humphries,  to managed the family farm, which has been passed down to eight generations. Photo By Tony Hurt

The Humphries family poses for a photo on their 600-acre farm in Trigg County. From left, Kim Burnam Humphries and Stan Humphries smile with their children, Luke, 8, Lydia, 14, and Stephen, 16. Stan formed a partnership with his sister, Stephanie Humphries and his mom, Eunice Humphries, to managed the family farm, which has been passed down to eight generations. Photo By Tony Hurt

By Susan Hurt
After the Revolutionary War, the federal government awarded bounty lands to citizens and soldiers for services rendered. In its simplest form, this involved the exchange of free land to repay citizens for the risks and hardships they endured in the service of their country. One of the recipients of this land exchange was a young soldier by the name of Humphries, who received 40 acres of land in south Trigg County as payment for his service to the American colonies.
Fast forward seven generations later, and you will find 1st District State Senator Stan Humphries working that very same ground that once represented an American dream for a Revolutionary war veteran.
For several generations, the Humphries family continued to purchase land surrounding the original 40 acres and now own 600 acres where they raise commercial beef cattle and tobacco. Continue reading

Couple, migrant workers bridge cultural gap: H-2A program gets the job done, builds bonds

Beverly and Todd Harton live in Trigg County where they have been farming for more than 20 years. The Hartons have 34 tobacco barns along  with16 greenhouses where they grow and process more than 350 acres of tobacco. Harton Farms employed more than 70 migrant workers last year. Photo By Zirconia Alleyne

Beverly and Todd Harton live in Trigg County where they have been farming for more than 20 years. The Hartons have 34 tobacco barns along with16 greenhouses where they grow and process more than 350 acres of tobacco. Harton Farms employed more than 70 migrant workers last year. Photo By Zirconia Alleyne

By Mayra Diaz-Ballard
Todd and Beverly Harton have been using the H-2A program for almost 20 years to find reliable workers to harvest their tobacco crops. This past year, the Hartons employed more than 70 migrant workers on their 357-acre farm in Cadiz. The couple agreed that the program has been a valuable asset for not only getting the job done but building relationships across cultures.
The H-2A program allows farmers who meet specific regulatory requirements to bring foreigners to the United States to fill temporary or seasonal agricultural jobs.
Employers must prove that there is not a reliable, domestic labor force to do the job, which turns out to be a big issue in agriculture.
The Hartons said a dependable labor force has been the biggest advantage of the program. Continue reading

8 tips to avoid losing calves in the winter

By Susan Hurt

Winter in Kentucky usually brings cold and unpredictable weather. It is an especially critical time for farmers with new livestock being born; however, calving can be challenging due to snow, ice and cold. Cold temperatures during late February and early March are slowly on the rise, but inclement weather is always a possibility and the economic value of saving those calves being born on a cold winter’s night is crucial. Feeder calf prices hold great gains for this fall, so a saved calf could be worth well over $1,000 later on.
Calves can succumb to hypothermia in as little as 30 minutes, but farmers have a number of resources to protect newborns from frostbite and hypothermia, which can lead to death. New calves can survive harsh winter weather, but several things need to happen to ensure the calf is ready for the cold. Dr. Todd Freeman discusses how, with appropriate management, these losses can be avoided. Continue reading