Christmas Coal recipe


  • 2 packs of Oreo cookies
  • 1 1/2 bag marshmallows
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Sprinkles (optional)


  1. Place 2 packs of Oreos in a large ziplock bag, seal it, and crush the Oreos.
  2. Heat a medium pot on the stove over medium-high heat.
  3. Melt 6 tablespoons of unsalted butter (be careful not to burn). Add marshmallows and stir often, until butter and marshmallow is melted into a smooth liquid.
  4. Pour cookie crumbles into a large bowl. Immediately pour the melted marshmallow mixture over the Oreos and stir to combine.
  5. Grease a 9×13 pan and press the mixture evenly in the dish. Add sprinkles (optional)
  6. Chill for 1 hour.
  7. Slice & enjoy!

What is DelFest?

“Where have you been?” “I was home for DelFest, it’s a bluegrass festival in my hometown,” “How was that…I can’t even imagine…”

You can imagine, but until you experience DelFest for yourself, you won’t understand it. DelFest is four days of music, fun and love to kick off your summer.

Source//Chris Tart
The scene at DelFest. Source//Chris Tart

Start with the setting, DelFest is located at the Allegany County Fairgrounds in Cumberland, Maryland. The fairgrounds are settled in the valley with the nearby Potomac River separating Maryland from the mountains overlooking in West Virginia. 2016 was the ninth year of DelFest on Memorial Day weekend in Cumberland. The weather has varied over the years, chilly days when you better layer up and hot days where it’s best to put on your swimsuit and listen to the music echo off the mountains while you float down the cool river. The usual rain and thunder storms like to make their appearance too, but it’s just part of the DelFest tradition now it seems. The only protest DelFest goers have for the weather, “Del yeah, hail no!” (Hail has made an appearance or two).

So what is DelFest? According to, “DelFest was born from the desire to create a family-friendly music festival celebrating the rich legacy of McCoury music by providing a forum for world-class musical collaborations while also exposing fresh new talent.” There’s Del McCoury, the father, an American bluegrass legend who sings and plays guitar in “The Del McCoury Band” along with his sons, Ronnie, who plays the mandolin and Rob, who plays the banjo. Cumberland was the first site Del looked at and he was sold when he saw the river, the rock cliffs and perspective festival grounds.

Del "working on a building" Source// @ronniemccoury instagram
Del “working on a building” Source// @ronniemccoury instagram

“Once we had a festival, we didn’t plan on having it just one year, we wanted it to go on and be a part of the community and help the community,” said McCoury. (Larry 2016)

Through the years DelFest has raised and donated over $250,000 for local charities. This year the McCoury’s participated in a Habitat for Humanity “Build Blitz” where they helped construct a home in Cumberland. The heart and soul the McCoury’s put into this festival is returned by the love and sense of community DelFest brings each year.

The Del McCoury Band is the core of the music lineup. Each year, on the first day of DelFest, The Del McCoury Band kicks off Thursday with sound check. Beyond the family band is a mix up of incredibly talented Americana, bluegrass, rock, funk and soul artists. This year there were 36 music groups that played on three different stages. Some big name artists are Railroad Earth, Greensky Bluegrass, Old Crow Medicine Show, Yonder Mountain String Band, Trampled by Turtles, The Infamous Stringdusters and Keller Williams. These groups are festival favorites and have returned to play on the DelFest stage more than once. The up-and-coming band The Broomestix is a funky 10-person band, whose members graduated from high school just a few days before playing this year. Evan McCoury, Ronnie’s son, is the guitar player in the band. The variety of music and venue space plays a huge role in attracting fans from all ages to the festival.

The Infamous Stringdusters on the main stage at Delfest 2016. Source// Emily Hedrick
The Infamous Stringdusters on the main stage at Delfest 2016. Source// Emily Hedrick

So what is more fun than spending four days in the beauty of the mountains of Maryland, listening to amazing musicians, dancing in the rain and being surrounded by love? Nothing I can think of. There is plenty of good food at the festival, a fan favorite is Pie for the People’s David Bowie pizza. There are great beverage stations to grab a coffee drink, a water, or a beer complete with a Klean Kanteen souvenir cup. There are vendors selling instruments, clothes, Tarpestrys, Eno hammocks and handmade crafts and artwork. And the trend occurs again, those (vendors) who come to DelFest come back. DelFest even provides a kidzone with many activities for the children to enjoy the festival. There are arts and crafts, hula hoops and jump ropes to use and scheduled workshops. On Saturday my little sister went to a young yogis class and her and I got our lips read by Ariana. If you are looking for something fun for the whole family on Memorial Day weekend, make your way to Cumberland.

My sister and I with our matching red lipstick to get our lip prints read. Source//Emily Hedrick
My sister and I with our matching red lipstick to get our lip prints read. Source//Emily Hedrick

Now you know the origin, the music and the fun, but you still don’t know the meaning. DelFest is a community, a family if you will. I have been to all but the first DelFest and I’ve seen it not only grow in population, but togetherness. DelFest has its own culture and vocabulary. A “Delbow” -basically a high five, but with elbows, are exchanged all weekend, “Del Yeah” is said in excitement, approval and used as an overall feeling. Those who are lucky to get close enough to Del can even score a “Delfie.” During the weekend it’s common to see several crowd members wearing stickers that read “Del Yeah,” “Fun sure is fun” “I have no complaints” and more. The staff and festival goers are focused on making DelFest the best it can be and ensuring everyone has a great time.

In 2016, artist Dre Anders requested any DelFest fans to send in a video of themselves singing “Get Together” by The Youngbloods to use as the chorus and for the video of her recording. The song and video were released right before DelFest and the names of those who participated were featured in the credits of Dre’s album. The video perfectly captures the fun, the good music and the meaning behind Delfest. I am happy to be one of those people in the video (1:03, bottom left). Watch it here:

DelFest souvenirs; wristband, kandi, stickers and a Del cup. Source//Emily Hedrick
DelFest souvenirs.; wristband, stickers and Del cup. Source//Emily Hedrick

DelFest is special to me because it’s in my hometown. I go home to Cumberland twice a year: Christmas and DelFest. And DelFest is definitely my favorite holiday. I have volunteered the past seven years for the beverage crew and this year I was given an opportunity to be late night beverage supervisor. I love that I am able to volunteer 16 hours of my weekend to the festival in exchange for a weekend pass. If I have sparked your interest, start following the DelFest social media accounts and go ahead and start planning to attend the 10th anniversary of DelFest in 2017. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to contact me!





Social Media Release: PRCA State Conference




On April 20, 2016 The Public Relations Council of Alabama (PRCA) is holding a professional conference at the Auburn University Hotel and Dixon Conference Center from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.



The Public Relations Council of Alabama is the state’s largest and longest running organization of public relations practitioners. “The organization exists to further the professional and networking interests of today’s public relations and communication professionals in private, public and nonprofit businesses and organizations.” The group now consists of over 450 members across the state broken down into six chapters- Birmingham, East Alabama (in Auburn), Mobile, Montgomery, North Alabama (in Huntsville), and West Alabama (in Tuscaloosa).

Each year a different chapter holds responsibility for the annual conference and this year the East Alabama chapter is hosting. The conference will be held at the Auburn University Hotel and Dixon Conference center on April 20. “Game Changers,” this year’s theme was focused on creating a significant shift in the current manner of the public relations world.



  • One day event- April 20, 2016
  • The Auburn Hotel and Dixon Conference Center is located at 241 S. College St., Auburn, AL 36830
  • Six Guest Speakers
  • 135 total attending
  • 50 students receiving awards
  • 35 professionals receiving awards



“We want to be forward thinking and we want to be able to say we did change the game, however people want to interpret that. But i think another meaning of that is to adjust and adapt in our job if there is a change.” – Pam Powers-Smith, East Alabama PRCA president

“It was really insightful to see what we are learning in school being put into real life situations and what we need to work on (as seniors) to enter the work force and be successful in the industry”- Mollie Macklin, Auburn University PRCA


Social Media:




Young Women Leaders Program: Accepting Applications


The Young Women Leaders Program (YWLP) is a curriculum-based, after school mentor program which pairs young women from Auburn University and young women from Auburn Junior High School(AJHS). “Through YWLP, the mentors and mentees (also referred to as Big and Little Sisters) will develop leadership and relationship skills that are vital to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. This program provides an opportunity for teen girls to become more educated and aware of their personal values and goals,” according to the website.


YWLP came to Auburn in 2010 and is modeled after the University of Virginia YWLP which was founded in 1997. YWLP is a nationwide organization dedicated to facilitating the empowerment and autonomy of young school girls. It provides both one-on-one mentoring and structured group activities. Each week bigs attend a one hour human development and family science class about adolescence taught by Dr. Donna Sollie then have an hour meeting with their small group of other bigs. Bigs and littles are paired up at the beginning of the fall semester based on compatibility, after a “speed date.” Every week there is an on-site meeting at AJHS where small groups of about six pairs meet. Here the group goes over a lesson, connects the lesson with real-world situations and have fun playing games. Beyond the class and on-site meeting, pairs are required to spend one hour of one-on-one time each week. “My little sister and I went to an Auburn football game in the fall, and that is definitely my favorite thing we’ve done together,” said Laura Nall, a big in YWLP.

YWLP is beneficial to both bigs and littles. For bigs, you are not only teaching important lessons and skills, but also learning them on the way. Lydia Purcell, a YWLP big sister says, “I have learned how to be more understanding and how to thoroughly listen. Being in a place of leadership like that is intimidating but rewarding.” The mentor program exposes bigs to leadership and friendship roles, the importance of daily choices, knowledge and acceptance of others different from themselves, and a way to give back to the community while still learning and earning college credit!


YWLP is open to all female students at Auburn University interested in impacting a life and furthering their leadership experience. YWLP is a two-semester commitment from August to May. The fall semester counts as three credits and the spring semester counts for two. “YWLP is an incredibly rewarding and character-shaping experience, but it can also be challenging. If you want to broaden and deepen your perspectives, develop meaningful relationships with your peers, and have the opportunity to positively impact a younger girl’s life then this is the program for you!” said Megan Swanson, a current YWLP big sister. Applications are now being accepted for the 2016-2017 school year. Applications are due by April 8 and can be found online at . If you have any questions, please contact The Women’s Resource Center 334-844-4399 or email graduate assistant Lindsey Henson at

AU Women’s Center Hosts 10th Annual Women’s Leadership Conference

The 10th annual Women’s Leadership Conference, hosted by the Auburn University Women’s Center was held Friday, March 25 at The Hotel at Auburn University and Dixon Conference Center. This year’s theme was “Resilient Women,” with workshops and discussions on the ability to overcome adversity and become a successful woman leader. The conference kicked-off with a discussion panel open and free to the public at 6 p.m. Thursday night. The panel consisted of Dr. Julia Charles, Associate Professor of English at Auburn University; Ashley Edwards, Auburn alumna; Kim Evans, ovarian cancer survivor; and Meg McGuffin, Miss Alabama and Auburn alumna. The panel gave an opportunity for each woman to tell her story of resilience, with open discussion to follow.IMG_0242

The New Women’s Center logo. Source//Emily Hedrick

On Friday, the conference began at 8 a.m. with registration, then a welcome and opening session, followed by a coffee break. At 10 a.m. workshop session I began with the option to attend “Inclusive Leadership”, “Strand by Strand: Detangling the Myths of Hair Care”, or “Mindfulness – A Path to Optimal Health and Well-being.” After the 45 minute session and a fifteen minute break, workshop session II started, offering “Can Men be Feminists? And if so, how?”, “WE.Auburn – Be the Dot. Be the Difference”, or “Professional and Life Planning.” At 11:45 a.m. everyone shuffled into the ballroom for the conference luncheon.

Dr. Donna Sollie, Assistant Provost for Women’s Initiatives and Director of the Women’s Center welcomed the attendees to the latter part of the conference. As everyone was seated, a delicious honey-Dijon chicken with mashed potatoes, green beans and carrots was served with a dinner roll as the main course and a lemon cheesecake with strawberry topping for dessert. Sollie took the stage and spoke about the name change from the Women’s Resource Center to simply the Women’s Center and the new logo. She asked the little sisters from junior high and the big sisters from Auburn Young Women Leaders Program to stand and be recognized, as well as the conference planning committee, the conference and awards committee, the Women’s Center 20160325_122349advisory board, and the Women’s Center ambassadors.

Next, Dr. Mitchell Brown, presented the awards for Women of Distinction. The leadership awards went to Sara Rains (undergraduate), Lauren Gilmore (graduate), Barbara Yates (staff), Jennifer Jarvis (Administrative and Professional Staff), Angela Burque (faculty), and Lela Lofton (alumna).

The attendees enjoying lunch service. Source//Emily Hedrick

Maryclare Mastriano, co-chair of the women’s leadership conference, made her way to the stage to introduce the keynote speaker Elizabeth Huntley. Huntley is an Auburn alumna, Board of Trustees member, attorney and author. She began telling her story; coming into a life with parents as drug dealers, her father going to jail and her mother taking her own life soon after. Huntley and her sister were split up from her other siblings and went to live with their grandmother who strongly believed in four things; you mind your elders, you go to church, you stay clean and you get an education.Unfortunately, in Huntley’s new home she was sexually abused and again her innocence was taken from her. She went to preschool and thrived in an environment made for children, where she felt happy and carefree. She learned quickly that by “being smart” and well behaved in school she was rewarded. Days off and summer vacation were the worst for Huntley because of the trauma in the household. Huntley loved school and was brought up knowing education was important, so she kept school as a priority. She excelled in her classes and ultimately graduated from Auburn University, became an attorney and has written a memoir on the struggles she faced and the way she dealt with them to make her the woman she is today.

When Huntley ywlpfinished, she received a standing ovation from the attendees. “Her vulnerability was so powerful,” said Auburn student Kayla Warner, “she is a testament to resilience.” Closing remarks were made and the conference dismissed at about 2 p.m. Mary Isbell was doing photography for the WLC and has attended some capacity of the conference for the past six years. “I love the Women’s Leadership Conference because it is a great opportunity to hear inspirational women from around the nation speaking on what it means to be a woman in today’s society,” she said.

Young Women Leaders Program bigs and littles with keynote speaker Elizabeth Huntley. Source// Victoria Hoehn.



The Infamous Stringdusters in Nashville

In Nashville, the music and fun never stop. After spending the evening before playing in St. Louis, The Infamous Stringdusters made their way to the city where it all began for them on Thursday. A mixed crowd of concert-goers in their 20’s to 50’s generously dressed in green entered the Exit/In for a night of jamgrass. The smaller, intimate venue holds about 500 people max with an open floor area, limited seating upstairs, and a bar area on the main floor.

Nicki Bluhm performing. Source // Emily Hedrick
Nicki Bluhm performing. Source // Emily Hedrick

At 8 p.m. sharp the opener, Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers, took the stage. The band hails from the bay area and has a California sound born of country, folk, rock, soul, and psychedelia. The band consists of Nicki Bluhm (singer), Deren Ney (lead guitar), Steve Adams (bass guitar), Dave Mulligan (rhythm guitar), and Mike Curry (drums). On stage, Nicki and the Gramblers played several songs from their latest album “Loved While Lost” which was released in April 2015. They covered “Piece of  my heart”, by Janis Joplin, and the audience couldn’t help but sing and dance along to the classic. After getting the crowd moving, the band played one more song, then left the stage after their 45 minute set.

During the break between bands, the audience mingled in excitement for the next set and prepped for the show with fresh drinks. The Infamous Stringdusters sound engineer Drew Becker ran around the stage setting up stands, connecting cords, and testing the microphones while tour manager Katrina Hennigar  set up fans, taped the set lists down at each stand and got the band’s drinks ready before the set

The Infamous Stringdusters playing at Exit/In. Source// Emily Hedrick

Around 9:15 The Infamous Stringdusters came out on stage, all of them in button-down shirts. Looking at the stage you see Andy Falco (guitar) stands the farthest left, then Travis Book (bass), Jeremy Garrett (fiddle), Andy Hall (dobro), and Chris Pandolfi (banjo), all of them in position,  tuning their instruments while the audience welcomed them with cheer.

The band opened with an upbeat “Once You’re Gone” then played “Light and Love” and “Rivers Run Cold” both high energy songs with sections of full-on jamming. During the jams, as each instrument is highlighted, the other members of the band circle around, feeding into the energy. Next up was the ‘Dusters fun, classic “Get it While you Can” which got the crowd singing along,  “I like your biscuits in my gravy ma’am, before the stores are closed get it while you can.” After the crowd settled, Book talked about the band’s latest album “Ladies and Gentlemen” which was released in early February and features different female vocalists on each song. He introduced a guest singer, Lindsey Lou and claimed that the only reason she wasn’t on the album was because they didn’t know her yet. In a flowing white blouse, high-waist bellbottoms, and with naturally curly long brown hair Lou joined for one song, singing “Old Whiskey Bottle” off the ‘Dusters album.  Next the guys played their cover of U2’s “In God’s Country”, then Falco sang “Peace of Mind” which went into the “Cissy Strut” then back to the end of “Peace.” The audience was full of energy and when the following song, “Sirens” –a fast paced instrumental- was performed no one could resist moving to the music and occasionally shouting out in excitement. Book sang “All the Same” next, then invited Nicki Bluhm onto the stage. She appeared in a long sleek green dress, perfect for the holiday, and a long beaded necklace. She sang “Run to Heaven” a gritty country-bluegrass song from their new album. The first set ended with the band and Bluhm covering Jefferson Airplane’s “Somebody to Love.” The bluegrass flare added to the classic was fun for the crowd to singalong and move to the strong banjo sounds. When the song finished around 10:15 p.m., Book announced they would be taking a short break and coming back out for a second set.

The ‘Dusters and Bluhm together for the encore. Source// Emily Hedrick

The break was good for moving, stretching and refueling the crowd and lasted about 25 minutes. The boys came back out starting strong with “Big River” then “Old Chuck Hen.” Garrett announced his two sisters were at the show and dedicated “Night on the River” to them. They jammed out to that song and continued with “Well Well.” Bluhm rejoined the band for three more songs, “Listen” and “See How Far” from the album and an “Amarillo” cover. Book dedicated “The Places I’ve Been” to his wife, who was also in the audience. They kept pickin’ and the audience kept moving to “Space”, “Highwayman”, and “Blackrock.” Next they unplugged and performed the soulful “Let it Go” acoustic. “Seventeen cents” another fun song followed, then a last jam to “Rain.” For the last song, the ‘Dusters, Bluhm and the Gramblers all took stage and performed “Little Too Late.” The crowd went wild as the musicians bowed and left stage chanting, “one more song!” The ‘Dusters reappeared with Bluhm and they played “Not Fade Away” for the finale.

The night in Nashville was a high-energy, positive, and fun experience. After personally seeing the ‘Dusters about a dozen times, their shows just keep getting better. If you want to go see an extremely talented, high energy band, go see The Infamous Stringdusters.

“I have never seen these guys before, but I have heard some of their stuff and I just moved here from Michigan so I wanted to just get out. They can jam, I’m going to be seeing more of them.” – Allie Fitzgerald.

“The Infamous Stringdusters are one of my favorite bands. I really got into them after seeing them at a music festival. The sound of their instruments together is unique and not to mention their stage presence and the meaning of their lyrics. I drove from Indiana to come see them.” – Ryan Martin.

Collecting rainwater in Alabama

With over 77,000 rivers and streams and an average rainfall of 55 inches per year, Alabama is a state blessed with natural water resources. Catching and reusing water is an ancient technology that has current value to save energy, money and conserve an important natural resource.

If interested in collecting rainwater, first you must decide if you want to collect on a small or large scale.

A cistern system, for commercial collection. // Source: Eve Brantley
A cistern system, for commercial collection. // Source: Eve Brantley

For personal collection, you can use something as simple as a rain barrel. Wood, metal, or plastic are all good containers for rainwater collection, as long as they do not have residues of harmful chemicals. It is wise to use a dark container, or paint the container dark to discourage algae growth. The container used for collecting should be covered, with a screen protection at the opening to keep mosquitos out and minimize leaves or other materials from entering. For larger scale collection,cistern systems are recommended.  In 2010, Birmingham-Southern College installed a 15,000 gallon cistern that captures rainwater off of the roof and uses it for landscape irrigation. According to this practice is saving 50,000 gallons of water per year.

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System hosts residential rain barrel workshops each year to demonstrate construction, placement and uses of rainwater harvesting systems. Harvested rainwater can be used for household chores like watering lawns/gardens, irrigation in the yard, flushing toilets, and washing cars. Be sure to check with local plumbing codes and ordinances if you are interested in using rainwater inside your home.

Two rain barrels collecting rainwater on a small scale. //Source Jen Morse
Two rain barrels collecting rainwater on a small scale. //Source Jen Morse

Collecting rainwater saves money and energy. The collector will save money by using the free resource instead of treated water. “Why not take advantage of what’s free and falling from the sky,” said Alabama Extension specialist Dr. Eve Brantley. “Collect it and hold it until you need to use it rather than constantly using water that has been treated. It saves energy, it saves money, and it’s a good use of water resources,” she said. Although Alabama has plentiful water resources droughts occur about every 12 years. It is smart to practices water collection and conservation so it becomes a habit. It is anticipated that climate variability will result in more frequent and/or more extreme droughts. It is smart to practice water collection and conservation so it becomes a habit.


Don’t hesitate to start collecting rainwater now.

You can read into how to collect rainwater at or contact your local Alabama Cooperative Extension agent. If you are a homeowner interested in an attractive, low-maintenance, and sustainable home landscape check out the Alabama Smart Yards app on your mobile phone.

‘Assassins’ to take stage at Auburn

The Auburn University Theatre presents “Assassins,” to take the main stage at Telfair Peet Theater each weekend from February 25 to March 6.

Assassins is a dark yet entertaining reflection of American political violence. It explains the assassinations of Presidents Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley, and Kennedy and highlights the attempted assassinations of F. Roosevelt, Nixon, Reagan, and Ford. The story is a glimpse into the minds and motivations of the men and women who made an effort to assassinate Presidents of the United States, successful or not. Steven Hatcher, who plays Sam Byck in the play explains his character’s history and his disdain for Nixon.

“Hopeful at first, his optimistic attitude is taken over by the bleakness of his life and the horrible way the nation has treated him,” Hatcher describes.

Assassins painting by local artist Cindy Mask
Assassins painting by local artist Cindy Mask


The production tells the stories of real people, who have been let down many times in their life, not to be viewed as just killers. Teyonna Johnson, a member of the ensemble, says she likes this particular story because it shows things from a perspective she’s never thought of before.

“Assassins” opened off-Broadway in 1990 with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. At Auburn it is directed by Chase Bringardner with choreography by Jeri Dickey. Show dates are Thursday, February 25 through Sunday, February 28 and Wednesday, March 2 through Sunday, March 6. Evening performances start at 7:30p.m. and matinees, on Saturday and Sunday, begin at 2:30p.m. Auburn University students receive free admission to the show with ID. AU faculty, senior citizens, and non-AU students each pay $10 a ticket and the general public is $15. Tickets can be purchased at the box office or online. For more information please visit

Growing Grapes in Alabama

Auburn, Ala.—Growing grapes in Alabama has been practiced since the state was first settled, but has only been successful in certain areas for dedicated growers. To produce quality bunch grapes one must learn about their area, choose the grape variety, perfect the setup and devote plenty of attention to the grapevine.

Muscadines are a type of grape that grows well almost everywhere in Alabama. They are native to the Southeast and are used for fresh consumption, juices and wines. Muscadines thrive because they are resistant to a key grape killer, Pierce’s Disease (PD). PD is caused by a bacterium carried by an insect that feeds on infected vegetation, acquires the bacterium and can inject it into the sap of the grapevine. The bacterium multiplies and clogs the xylem vessels so water and nutrient transportation to plant organs is being limited. Consecutively, over time the plant fails to receive nutrients and dies.

Mature bunch grapes growing along their trellis system.
Mature bunch grapes growing along their trellis system.  Source: Pixabay

Cultivars resulting from crosses between American species or between  French and American species are known as hybrid bunch grapes.

Elina Coneva, an Extension specialist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension explains, “American species produce an inferior quality fruit, but can be resistant or tolerant to PD. Because of this quality they are used in crosses with French cultivars that possess high fruit quality, but are susceptible to diseases including PD, which is the major factor preventing French or European grape production in the Southeast.”

Eleven PD  resistant or tolerant hybrid bunch grapes including  Black Spanish, Blanc du Bois, Champanel, Chardonel, Conquistador, Cynthiana, Favorite, Lake Emerald, Seyval Blanc, Stover and Villard Blanc, have been recently tested in Alabama.  The top three performing hybrid bunch grape cultivars in north Alabama conditions are Black Spanish, Cynthiana, and Villard Blanc.

Regionally produced hybrid bunch grapes yield wine, juice and jams. According to North Alabama Horticulture Research Director Arnold Caylor, Black Spanish is processed to wine, whereas Conquistador is used for juice or jam. Hybrid bunch grapes are susceptible to foliar disease and are attacked by several insect pests so it is important to use pesticides when growing grapes in Alabama.

Progress continues to be made in Alabama toward growing grapevines resistant or tolerant to PD. Currently, Coneva is testing PD resistant French grapes developed by  the grape breeding program at U.C. Davis in California. Based on their upright growing habit, these vines are trained in a vertical shoot positioning system, which also facilitates more efficient  pest control, while concentrating the crop load within a compact fruiting zone. French grape selections are showing promise for Alabama environment and for the first time can provide an opportunity for cultivating high-value French grapes in Alabama and the Southeast.

Learn about the area, choose your type of grape, then set up to plant. The site should be in full sunlight most or all day. If planning to grow several vines, it is best to have straight rows for level land and contour rows for hilly terrain.

“The spacing between rows will depend on the vigor of the cultivar of the grape that you are growing,” said Caylor.

Make every effort to establish a permanent sod between rows to reduce soil erosion. Use a trellis system to train the vines horizontally, managing a dense canopy by dividing it, allowing more sunlight to reach the fruit renewal zone. Prepare a large hole for the entire root system; set the plant at the correct level, fill the hole with topsoil, firm it, water liberally and do not add fertilizer. Hand weeding and hoeing is necessary as there are not many choices for herbicides for the first year of growth. Pruning should be done while vines are dormant.  Summer  hedging can help maintain the vine canopy and ease vineyard operations .

If interested in learning more about growing bunch grapes contact your county Extension office for information and tools to get started at


Featured image by Andrew Hagen/


A Good Time for a Good Cause

Guests trying oyster samples at the Auburn Oyster Social.


The second annual Alabama Oyster Social was held Jan. 29 at the Alabama Farmers Pavilion at Auburn University. The social is a nonprofit event held to promote the importance of Mariculture in Alabama as well as raise money for the Auburn University Department of Fisheries and Aquatics.

The Auburn Shellfish Laboratory in Dauphin Island focuses on the research, education, and training for farming quality oysters in a sustainable way and is led by Dr. Bill Walton. In 2011, Auburn University found an opportunity to lease 60 acres of oyster rights from a family. There would be a research area for Auburn and area for Alabama oyster farmers for five years. “The intent of it was to help jumpstart the industry to provide a zone that was permitted for this where you have your neighbors to cooperate with and keep an eye on things,” said Walton. By 2013 the park had been filled with about 17 farmers who had gone through the Auburn training and were using the waters. Because of the growth, Auburn began talking about extending the lease contract for 10 years and after contacting the family everything seemed to be moving forward.

The first Alabama Oyster Social was held in January 2015 and raised $8,000 to give to the university. “In a town where there’s usually something going on there is not a whole lot to do in January. So it’s a good time to get people together and party for a purpose,” said Chef David Bancroft, host of the event. With the success of the first social, they were eager to plan for the next year. Then around May of 2015, Auburn learned that the lease was denied renewal and that no one would get the oyster rights. It was upsetting but they would be able to find water and get the permits for a new farm. “The first thing we’re trying to solve here is what do we do with all these farmers that have businesses that depend on their oysters in the water and their gear in the water, they need another area,” said Walton. The contract ends this summer and everything must be out. Auburn has sighted two areas and are in the permitting process for both, they hope to come out stronger and arrange two farms with longer lease contracts. The current farmers will have an opportunity to move to either of the parks, but it will be an expensive and time-consuming move to get their equipment out of the water and relocated to the new park. Auburn hopes to help offset costs for these farmers.

Bancroft contacted an all-star team of 16 chefs from around the South that are supporters and users of local seafood to come and partake in the second social. After talking with Walton and learning about the denied renewal, the chefs came up with an ambitious goal of $100,000 to raise through ticket sales and donations. Ten days before the social, general admission and VIP tickets had sold out. At the social on Friday night a crowd of about 300 people sampled oysters and other specialty dishes, listened to live music, and socialized. Towards the end of the evening, Bancroft presented Walton with a check for $25,000 for the AU Shellfish Lab. Bancroft said he intends to reach the $100,000 goal by the end of 2016.

To learn more about the Auburn University program please visit and if you would like to make a donation to the Alabama Oyster Social you may do so at