Bates Turkey Farm: A tradition at Thanksgiving and year-round

Bates Turkey Farm

Turkeys at the Bates farms are raised as free-range birds, which the family believes produces a higher-quality product. (Michael Cornelison)

Here’s my Alabama Living feature on Greenville, Alabama, mainstay Bates Turkey Farm:

After flying countless bombing missions in Europe during World War II, Bill Bates returned home and declared, “I never plan to stand in another line or ask anyone for a job.” Instead, he had one purpose in mind: To produce the finest turkeys ever to grace a table.

Many Alabamians are familiar with how the turkey farm business was started by Bill’s parents. In 1923, W.C. and Helen Hudson Bates, Bill’s mom and dad, received nine turkey eggs from his Aunt Mamie Bates as a wedding present. In 1935, with the Great Depression taking its toll on small farmers, this small gift became the source that saved the farm as the bank allowed the turkeys to be used as collateral. When Bill returned from the war, his parents needed help with the growing industry. He stayed, and the turkey business has grown significantly from those original eggs.

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Bader Farms: Just Peachy

Bader Peaches

Bader Peaches

Check out an excerpt from my profile of Bader Farms from Missouri Life:

Missourians take pride in many things. There are the beautiful Ozark hills that gradually fade into the distance; clean, sparkling rivers that weave through the countryside like a ribbon fluttering in the wind; and rustic old mills that tell of a lifestyle generations ago. And then there are Bader peaches.

Growing up in the northwest edge of the Bootheel, Bill Bader stared working in the peach orchards as a high school student in 1970 to earn money to buy his school clothes. This part-time job changed his life.

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Uncle Rooster’s Café: Something to Crow About

Courtesy of Uncle Rooster's

Courtesy of Uncle Rooster’s

For the latest issue of Missouri Life, I took a look at Seymour, Missouri favorite Uncle Rooster’s Café:

After demolishing a storefront in 2004, Wayne and Bobbi Dunning took Wayne’s nickname, Rooster, and the vacant lot to open Uncle Rooster’s Café.

Serving up American delicacies, Uncle Rooster’s does more than just chicken, no matter what the name implies. The restaurant is known for its Chicago-style hot dogs and southwest Missouri-style Italian beef sandwiches.

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Five places to visit when in Cuba

(Carolyn Tomlin)

This large cemetery is the resting place for many famous Cubans. (Carolyn Tomlin)

With U.S. relations with Cuba being renewed, I share my favorite spots I visited there during my travels for the Chester County Independent:

It is not your typical Caribbean vacation. Following along the coast, the land is devoid of skyscrapers and high-rise hotels. Traffic jams are non-existent. In fact, when traveling down the main west-to-east highway connecting the sparsely populated countryside, travelers see few automobiles.

However, occasional horses pulling carts with a single or double occupant are the norm. On Saturday, in the rural area, lines of freshly-washed clothes dry outside in this tropical climate. Horses serve as lawnmowers as they are tied to small sections of the road where they eat lush green grass.

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Casey Jones Village: Right on Track

Entrepeneur Magazine - Casey Jones

I wanted to post this piece from my personal archives on the Casey Jones Village in Jackson, Tennessee. It originally ran years ago in Entrepreneur Magazine‘s “Business Beat” column:

In 1965, Brooks Shaw of Jackson, Tennessee started collecting country folk antiques as a way to combat stress from the high pressure job as president of a canned meat company. Little did he know that along the way he would fall in love with the story of American railroad engineer and folk hero Casey Jones and start something that 26 years later would become a top notch business.   Continue reading

Cuba’s Orchid Garden

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Here’s my piece on the Orchid Gardens of Soroa in Cuba, as it appeared in the Chester County Independent :

On a summer afternoon with temperatures in the high 90s and extreme humidity our group of 13 educators climbed approximately 206 meters (1 meter equals 3.28 feet) to Cuba’s Orchid Park in Soroa. Orchids and other tropical plants thrive in this micro-climate that includes abundant rains and an average annual temperature of 74 degrees.

The Orchid Gardens of Soroa were developed due to a great sadness of the owner. In 1942 Tomás Felipe Camacho, a successful lawyer and native of the Canary Islands, purchased a tract of land in an area of Soroa. Filled with lush native vegetation, he wanted to share this beautiful site with others. At first, he thought of building a resort on the land, but a turn of events changed his plans. His beloved daughter died while giving birth. Shortly after, his grieving wife passed away. From that day forward, Don Tomás devoted himself totally to honoring his deceased loved ones. Thus, he developed a captivating interest in growing orchids.  Continue reading

Horse Motel is Keeping the Barn Door Open

Bud Sikes checks on one of his Arabian stallions at the Southern Star Horse Hotel in Jackson, Tennessee.

Bud Sikes checks on one of his Arabian stallions at the Southern Star Horse Hotel in Jackson, Tennessee.

I’m extremely excited to have the cover story for the Winter 2015-2016 edition of Tennessee Home & Farm. Here’s an excerpt from the piece, which focuses on a “horse motel” in Madison County:

A well-known motel has the slogan: “We’ll keep the lights on for you.” For Bud and Lelia Sikes, owners of Southern Star Farms in Madison County, it’s more along the lines of: “We’ll keep the barn door open for you.”

Like a layover station for the Pony Express, the Volunteer State is becoming an area where owners and drivers look for overnight lodging before leaving home. Fortunately, they won’t be disappointed. One website lists 48 overnight stables sites and another 65. However, some of those listed are places to ride or train. With the Interstate 40 corridor connecting the eastern and western U.S., equestrians choose this route when transporting horses.  Continue reading