3 months ago

Alabama-grown: Chilton County farmer cultivates her dream

THORSBY, Alabama – Taylor Boozer Hatchett didn’t grow up on a farm, but she has a passion for tending the land and sharing its bounty like many who did.

Her father, Bobby Boozer, worked with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System and Auburn University and spent his 26-year career helping farmers throughout the state, particularly fruit growers.

As a child, Hatchett sometimes tagged along with him on farm visits, while he scouted orchards, inspected crops, set out insect traps and visited with farmers. As she grew older, she and her family helped sell peaches for local farmers and eventually planted their own peach trees and other crops, establishing Boozer Farms in Chilton County as a fledgling summer project.

Today, it’s no longer just a summer job, and Hatchett is a full-time farmer. She and her dad run Boozer Farms, which provides fresh produce to communities across Alabama through restaurants, local farmers markets and a growing Community Supported Agriculture program.

Despite early agricultural ambitions, Hatchett didn’t follow a direct path into farming. She planned to study nursing in college and even worked briefly in the medical field, before she returned to her first love.

“I am honored to work to bring our community fresh, local, quality food and narrow the gap between tables and farms,” Hatchett said. “I am thankful to work in an industry full of some of the hardest working and most dedicated individuals you will ever find.

“Farming is my joy … it’s in my blood.”

NEW GENERATION OF FARMERS

Boozer, 37, isn’t your typical Alabama or U.S. farmer. Federal agriculture statistics show the average farmer is over 58 years old, and their numbers have been dwindling for decades.

However, there are signs that more young people are taking an interest in farming, amid generational shifts and growing interest in food sourcing and supply, said Hunter McBrayer, commodity director at Alabama Farmers Federation and executive director of the Alabama Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association.

Some of them are full-time farmers, while others work in another industry and do farming on the side, he said. ALFA has an active young farmers group, and the organization’s goal is to provide resources to help them move into full-time food production.

McBrayer, who is 31, said there are a variety of factors fueling the trend among his peers.

“A lot of research says the younger generation wants to know they’re doing good, and what’s better than providing food for the rest of the country?” he said. “Some of them are driven by family traditions, with people who want to get back to the farm. Others have a desire to be their own employer, knowing the harder they work, the more it pays off.”

Many have gone to school to study agriculture, or perhaps even business or marketing, and then bring that back to the farm, to help grow it in a different way than it has in the past, he added.

CSA programs, like the one at Boozer Farms, are a particularly fast-growing source of revenue for Alabama farms right now.

“I think the pandemic has added even more to the CSA programs,” McBrayer said. “People have gotten so used to ordering groceries online or doing pickups. With a CSA, it’s easy for you to expect what you’re going to get. You pay up front for your subscription, and you’re going to have farm-fresh, locally-grown fruits and vegetables.”

WINDING PATHWAY

For Hatchett, the summer after third grade made a lasting impression and was a sign of things to come.

She and her sister began traveling to Slocomb on the weekends to help their dad sell peaches grown by a farmer friend in Chilton County and supplement the family income.

“It always felt like such an important adventure to be included on,” Hatchett said. “We would wake up early on Saturday morning and set up our peaches to sell.  We learned how to cup up peaches into baskets for display, how to help customers and how to make change.

“It was awesome on-the-job training for two young girls, and we loved every minute of it.”

As a teen, Hatchett worked weekends and summers at Petals From the Past nursery in Jemison, and her favorite task was propagating plants in the greenhouses. She learned to make cuttings, start seeds, graft and more, but as college approached she was headed in another direction.

Everyone around her was encouraging her to go into the medical field, based on the availability of well-paid jobs. So, the summer after high school, she took a job as a tech in the surgery department of a local hospital, but it was a true fish-out-of-water experience.

Hatchett then scrapped her plans to go to nursing school at Auburn, and after taking her dad’s advice, she decided to study the field that she loved, settling on Agronomy and Soils. Still, she thought she would just complete her basics at Auburn’s College of Agriculture and then transfer to some type of medical program.

“I was required to take Basic Crop Science my first semester, and that was it,” Hatchett said. “I’m not sure how many weeks in my mind shifted, but I never again considered switching majors. I was absolutely fascinated by that class.

“It was so exciting to learn the science behind so many things I ‘knew’ about but really only had surface knowledge.”

STARTING OUT

Looking back, that semester was also when Hatchett decided that one day she wanted to farm. But she viewed it as more of a retirement plan, after she had worked and made money.

“Although I grew up around farmers, I didn’t grow up with farming resources. My family owned seven acres – and half of that is woods – and had never even had a riding lawn mower, much less a tractor. I knew I wanted to farm, and I felt like one day I would be able to. But it wouldn’t be like other people sitting next to me in class who had multigenerational family farms to return to,” she said.

During college, Hatchett went back to peddling peaches as a summer job. She and her siblings set up in a parking lot across from Ag Hill in Auburn, selling peaches grown by Chilton County farmer Henry Williams, who had supplied the produce she sold as a child.

Eventually, Hatchett talked her dad into planting their own peach trees, as well as blackberries, and Boozer Farms was born. By the time Hatchett graduated with her bachelor’s degree in 2005, the family had a small blackberry patch well established, along with nearly two acres of peaches on land a neighbor allowed them to use.

“Both of those orchards are no more, but the memories made in them I will cherish forever,” Hatchett said. “There was a lot of blood, sweat and tears left in those fields, but I wouldn’t trade that time with my family for anything. Each summer we would add another location or stop to sell, and by the end of my college years we had built up a wonderful summer business.”

Even after she graduated, Hatchett continued working the tiny farm, and the sales at markets each summer helped cover college expenses for her and her siblings.

Meanwhile, she went on to get a master’s degree in Plant Pathology at Auburn and then started her career following in her dad’s footsteps as a Regional Home Grounds Agent with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

TURNING POINT

It was a sweet time in Hatchett’s life, as she supported backyard gardening education, as well as Master Gardener programs in her region. But the medical field beckoned again, and she was offered the job of quality control director at a medical device manufacturer.

“Looking back now I wish I had followed my dad’s advice to seek joy and not money, but the salary offered was substantially more than I was making and with my husband in school full-time I decided it would be the best decision for us,” she said.

“I spent two years at a job that I was not created to do, and to say I was miserable is an understatement.”

In 2011, after a series of devastating tornadoes ravaged Alabama, Hatchett volunteered on a cleanup team with her church and caught a ride home with Joe Mims, a longtime educator, cattle farmer and sod farmer in Chilton County. He was also the neighbor who had loaned her family the land for their peach orchards years earlier, and he had long been a grandfatherly figure to Hatchett.

During that ride, she poured out her heart over her misery at her current job, and he joked that she should take over his farm.

Several days later, however, it wasn’t a joke anymore. Mims, who was ready to retire, contacted Hatchett with a proposal, which she saw as a miraculous answer to years of prayer and a door to the life and career she truly wanted.

“He laid out the most beautiful lease agreement that gave me access to his sod farm, his equipment, his entire business and in a way that I only paid him if I made money,” she said.

“It was one of the most gracious gifts that I have ever been given. He proposed that I work under him part time and begin to learn the ins and outs of the sod business and work towards running it fully by myself.”

So, Hatchett switched to part-time at the medical device company, working three days a week there and three days a week farming. That arrangement worked well for about six months, but then Hatchett’s boss said he needed her to go back to full-time.

BECOMING A ‘REAL’ FARMER

For Hatchett, there was no going back.

“I had a taste of a job that I had dreamed about,” she said. “Three days a week it didn’t matter how hard I worked, how early I started or how late I stayed, I had found the job that brought me joy. I remember looking up with tears in my eyes and telling my boss he would have to consider that my two weeks’ notice. I couldn’t walk away from my chance to farm.”

In February 2012, Hatchett marked her first day as a “real” farmer, a title that makes her smile because she’s still amazed that this is her life.

Hatchett is involved all aspects of farm life, but sales and customer service is her main task, while her dad’s primary focus is production. She stays busy communicating with customers, marketing the farm’s CSA program – which is its primary means of sales – and establishing new markets.

While there are plenty of challenges involved in farm life – finding reliable labor and balancing her roles as a wife and mom chief among them – Hatchett is committed to the long-term.

She hopes the farm continues to move forward, always providing quality produce, being open and honest about growing practices and staying up to date with new research and farming methods.

“I want to continue to farm in a way that ensures that our farm, both the people and the land, are sustainable,” she said. “It does no good to sustain your land if you can’t keep an environment where people want to work.”

Hatchett said her ultimate long-term goal is to keep farming, since many small farms don’t have a long life expectancy.

“When I look at all that God has blessed us with and how He has grown the farm it never ceases to amaze me,” she said. “I still have just a little head knowledge and just a little experience but He has been so gracious to allow me to continue to work every day at a job that brings me genuine joy.”

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

4 hours ago

Huntsville City Schools will go on with its vaccination clinic for minors without parental consent

Americans have been bombarded with requests, pleas, shaming and excoriations about how you must get vaccinated.

I bought in, and I think I may have even jumped the line accidentally. I also have a three-year-old, and I don’t envision a scenario where I rush him out to get a vaccine. If he were 14, 18 or 24, I wouldn’t pressure him to get vaccinated. If he were over 18, what could I do?

But if he were 14? That’s a no from me.

Schools in Alabama disagree, and at least one school system doesn’t care what you think.

Madison, Birmingham and Huntsville schools have all taken up the task of vaccinating your kids even though doctors, pharmacies and Wal-Mart have vaccines readily available.

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In the coverage of the Huntsville vaccinations, the Alabama Media Group article specifically states that Huntsville City Schools will not require parental consent for those over 14.

Students under 14 must have a parent or guardian accompany them for the vaccine, according to the announcement on the Huntsville schools website. Everyone receiving the vaccine must present a legal form of identification including a driver’s license, passport, non-drivers ID, or a birth certificate. Participants must sign a consent form prior to receiving the vaccine and must register online in advance to receive the vaccine.

To put it simply — your 14-year-old can decide to take an experimental vaccine without your knowledge.

This is a betrayal of parents by Alabama schools.

They don’t care.

Keep in mind that this is happening as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is still looking at the impact of the vaccine on young people.

Even the World Health Organization thinks this is a bad idea.

Some Alabama lawmakers are taking note.

State Senator Sam Givhan appeared on WVNN’s “The Dale Jackson Show” and suggested the school systems should hit pause.

Explaining that just vaccinating everyone who shows up without parental consent is just a bad practice, Givhan said, “They don’t have everyone’s full medical history, and they don’t know the unique situations from certain kids. … And I just don’t think the high school should be giving these shots when, you know, you could actually cause someone to have medical problems from this, and then they’ll hide behind their state immunity shield and say you can’t sue them.”

Obviously, it is entirely possible that no children have been vaccinated without parental consent, but how would we know?

Huntsville City Schools seems hell-bent on continuing this. Attempts to speak to the school board we unsuccessful.

The board said in a statement, “We appreciate the invitation. Please see the information below surrounding the vaccine clinic. We have nothing more to add at this time.”

The gist is this: “Sorry, not sorry. We will vaccinate your kids without your permission. What are you going to do about it?”

The answer is people with means are going to either change these schools or flee American schools more than they already have.

Listen:

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 AM weekdays on WVNN and on Talk 99.5 from 10AM to noon.

6 hours ago

Guest opinion: ‘For the People Act’ was always a bad idea

For months, we have been inundated with stories of a federal proposal named by the Democrat Party as the “For the People Act.” Upon closer examination of this mammoth piece of legislation, it should be renamed the “From the People Act” because this legislation clearly seeks to take the election process out of the hands of the American people. As a former probate judge, I see this for what it is – a federal attempt to take over our elections in violation of the United States Constitution.

The number of things wrong with this “Act” could fill a novel, but the most troubling aspects of this historical attempt to alter our elections and change the fabric of our nation include:

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Automatic voter registration — The bill mandates that individuals who have interaction with certain government offices would be automatically registered to vote, but there is no mandate in the bill to only limit that registration to American citizens with the right to vote. Therefore, an individual who goes to the DMV for a driver’s license is automatically registered to vote, even if a felony has eliminated their right to vote or if they are not a citizen of the United States. The same holds true for those interacting with other government offices for assistance with a variety of services. Democrats argue that is not the intent of the provision but still refuse to establish any voter eligibility verification requirements in their proposal.

Funding of political campaigns — This act would divert money collected from fines of corporations from the nation’s general budget to a fund that would be specifically earmarked for the funding of political campaigns. This newly created “Freedom From Influence Fund” will serve as the exclusive source of funds for all federal public financing programs of political candidates. The idea that this bill increases funding for political campaigns from our government’s coffers is sickening. Our government has a gargantuan debt but this bill seeks to collect fines and, rather, than devote them to paying down that debt, diverts them to the accounts of political candidates. Absolutely mindboggling.

The list of problems with this proposal goes on and on and, although the proposal appears to be at a dead end now, it will rear its ugly head again. “We the People” must remain aware of attempts, such as these, to undermine our Democracy and we must oppose such measures at every turn.

Wes Allen currently represents Pike and Dale Counties in the State House of Representatives.

10 hours ago

Joia M. Johnson appointed to Regions board of directors

Regions has added Joia M. Johnson to its board of directors, according to a release from the company.

Johnson will serve on the boards of Regions Financial Corp. and its subsidiary, Regions Bank, beginning on July 20.

She arrives at her new responsibilities having recently retired as chief administrative officer, general counsel and corporate secretary for Hanesbrands Inc., a leading apparel manufacturer and marketer.

Charles McCrary, chairman of the Regions Financial Corp. and Regions Bank Boards, believes Johnson’s experience will be a valuable addition to the board.

“Joia’s leadership experience, both at the corporate level and in various board roles, will add greater depth and insights to the Regions Board of Directors as we advance policies and strategies to benefit our customers, associates, communities, and shareholders,” McCrary explained.

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Johnson added that she sees that experience as an asset in assisting the company achieve its vision for growth.

“I believe the breadth of my corporate experience and civic engagement will complement the additional experience and skills reflected throughout Regions’ current directors,” she stated. “As the company focuses not just on continuous improvement but also on long-term, sustainable growth, I am thrilled to become a part of building on Regions’ history of success – while also defining a very bright future for the organization and the people and communities we serve.”

McCrary also noted the alignment between Johnson’s unique skill set and the company’s mission.

“The Regions mission is to make life better for the people we serve, and we accomplish that mission by creating shared value for all of our stakeholders,” he remarked. “With her passion for strong governance and strategic community engagement, Joia will help us build on our progress and reach new heights in the years to come.”

After receiving an undergraduate degree from Duke University, Johnson earned a Master of Business Administration from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania and a law degree from the University of Pennsylvania School of Law.

Johnson’s financial services experience includes on the board of Global Payments Inc., a Fortune 500 payments technology company and eight years as a board member for Crawford & Company, which specializes in insurance claims administration.

Upon her installment, Johnson will serve on Regions’ 13-member board which will consist of 12 independent outside directors.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

10 hours ago

State Rep. Oliver: Combatting Critical Race Theory in Alabama is ‘the way we stand up to woke-ism’

Republicans have made taking on so-called Critical Race Theory a priority in recent weeks claiming such philosophies are an effort to undermine cultural norms and indoctrinate in a way that benefits the Democratic Party.

Florida, Arkansas, Idaho and Oklahoma have banned the theory from their public school classrooms. Many would like to see Alabama follow suit, and there have been bills filed for the legislature’s 2022 regular session to do as much. One of those bills is being brought by State Rep. Ed Oliver (R-Dadeville), who takes it beyond the classroom and applies restrictions throughout state government.

Oliver discussed the bill during Tuesday’s broadcast of “The Jeff Poor Show” on Mobile radio’s FM Talk 106.5.

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“[I]’ve got a bill that’s fairly unique, and we expect it to go through the state government committee,” he said. “My bill actually covers any state agency, its contractors and subcontractors, to include schools. We felt like it was important to address this issue with a holistic approach.”

“The first thing is deciding what you don’t want taught,” Oliver continued. “That’s the most important piece. And I would like to say, this bill, it absolutely describes what we don’t want taught — it doesn’t mean that you can’t teach inclusion or diversity. It means you can’t teach some things as fact and then we’re not going to teach our kids that one sex or race is better than another. And in a nutshell, that is the crux of it.”

The Tallapoosa County lawmaker said his effort could serve as a bulwark against a creeping effort to indoctrinate.

“[I]t’s the way we stand up to woke-ism,” Oliver declared. “If we’re ever going to draw a line in the sand, Critical Race Theory is it. I say that not because I’m the smartest guy in the world or this is something I’ve thought all my life, but I’ve got a child that goes to a major university in the state. And I am absolutely appalled by what I’ve witnessed there the last three years with my child. If you don’t think universities are indoctrinating your kids, everybody needs to wake up.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly, and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.

11 hours ago

Manufacture Alabama backs Ainsworth for reelection

As Alabama maintains its status among the top states in the nation for manufacturing, the industry’s dedicated trade association has made its choice for lieutenant governor.

Manufacture Alabama has given its full support to Will Ainsworth in his bid for reelection to the office, according to a release from the group.

George Clark, president of Manufacture Alabama, cited Ainsworth’s background in manufacturing and knowledge of its key issues in announcing the endorsement.

“Manufacture Alabama is endorsing Lieutenant Governor Will Ainsworth for reelection due to his commitment to maintaining a business-friendly environment in Alabama,” Clark said. “Lieutenant Governor Ainsworth grew up in the manufacturing industry and understands firsthand that our members are the backbone of the state and nation’s economy. He is a friend to our association and a tireless advocate for manufacturers across Alabama. In his leadership role, it is clear that he is dedicated to serving his home state with enthusiasm and integrity. We are proud to give him our full endorsement for the reelection of Lieutenant Governor.”

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Ainsworth, who has now picked up a string of endorsements from trade associations, believes the state’s successes in manufacturing are something that can continue.

“I am proud to have the endorsement of Manufacture Alabama,” he stated. “Our tremendous manufacturers are sources of good-paying 21st century jobs for hardworking Alabamians, and the goods and materials they produce are integral across a broad range of sectors. Alabama is open for business, and I’m firmly committed to making our state the workforce engine of the Southeast so we can continue to grow jobs through expansion and recruitment. Working together, I am confident we will build an even stronger Alabama for our children and our children’s children.”

The manufacturing industry employs more than 250,000 people in Alabama, a figure which makes up a double-digit percentage of the state’s workforce.

Ainsworth announced his reelection campaign earlier this month.

Since that time, he has received the endorsement of the Alabama Forestry Association, the Petroleum and Convenience Marketers Association and U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL).

RELATED: Lt. Gov. Ainsworth: Huntsville preferred location for Space Command ‘based on merit and based on policies’

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia