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Sisters travel from afar to learn farming resources

Sisters Renee Cole of Salem, Ala., and Rhonda Hazlette of Cleland, Tenn., inherited 75 acres between Andalusia and Dozier when their father died.

After years of trying to manage the 25-acre CRP plot and 50 acres of timber on their own, the two found valuable resources, answers and contacts Tuesday at the Alabama Forestry Commission’s annual regional forestry field day.

“We’re what you’d call absent farmers,” Cole said. “We needed a way to find out all we could. We’ve had the land 15 years. It was my father’s, and we want to do all we can to protect it for the future, for our children and hopefully one day, grandchildren.”

Which was exactly what the day is designed for and the exact message received by 200-plus people who attended the day’s event held at Gail and Phillip Jones’ Full Circle Farm on Judge Smith Road.

Topics included discussions on how to sell timber, long leaf pine management, protecting one’s land from predators, as well as presentations and demonstrations.

Speaker of the House Seth Hammett also discussed recent legislative measure that impact agriculture –“the No.1 industry in our state.”

“There were three bills in the last regular session that affect farmers,” he said. “The Alabama Farm Preservation Act, which basically means if you have a farm that you’ve had for years and you get a new neighbor. Say that neighbor files a grievance about the smell or the noise or whatever. Well, too bad, you were here first.”

Hammett said the second enhanced the ability of law enforcement to confiscate equipment used by logging thieves, and the third made the willful and intentional setting of fires that cause property damage a crime.

He also spoke of the innerworkings of the legislature and his impending retirement.

“You could say that I’ve come ‘Full Circle,’” he said. “The last 32 years I’ve spent in the legislature have been good ones.”

Renee Cole and Rhonda Hazlette, sisters take a look at door prizes at the annual regional forestry field day. | Stephanie Nelson/Star-News