Learning on the job

Published 10:10 am Tuesday, February 5, 2013

There are times as a writer when coming up with inspiration about a certain topic is difficult. Sometimes, gaining the inspiration will come from taking a break at a desk or talking an idea over with a listening ear, but this week I gained my inspiration through experience.

My assignment was to work on a story for our annual Progress publication that will publish in the newspaper on Feb. 24 that focuses on local farmers in the area, what they produce, where the food goes and who consumes the food. Although I knew what I wanted to write, the sources to give me information and the knowledge my deadline was quickly approaching, I didn’t actually understand my story until I interacted with what made my story.

Wednesday saw torrential rain on and off throughout the day but Dr. Arlie Powell, co-owner of Petals from the Past in Jemison, was gracious enough to trudge through the mud and meet with me to help make my deadline.

He was able to tell me about the various produce he grows on his property alongside his son Jason and wonderful staff that make up his business, as well as the techniques he uses for producing his fruit. After about an hour of meeting and writing down notes, Dr. Powell asked me if I would like to see some of the fruit he produced so we walked (in the rain) to the citrus portion of his farm. Once inside, he pulled off a tiny orange, resembling a Clementine, several varieties of kumquats and a few lemons and let me try them.

Without a doubt, I think the fruit I sampled might have been some of the best fruit I have tasted in a long time.

I then had the opportunity to meet with cattle farmer Gordon Burkhalter and his wife Nina on Thursday as they allowed me to tour their farm and see some of their 75 cows.

Mr. Burkhalter drove me around his property and I watched his gentle leadership over the cattle that immediately recognized him as their owner.

As I realized I was standing in the middle of a cow pasture on a sunny day snapping photos of creatures that weigh almost 500 pounds, I was thankful for the opportunity of a story assignment that brought me out of my comfort zone and taught me something I didn’t know before.

The experiences of tasting the fruits grown in this county, seeing cows up close and interacting with farmers who have labored to provide a lot of the foods I eat, gave a deeper meaning to what I was writing. I also had a certain level of pride for being fortunate to work in a county that has kind people, beautiful scenery and truly delicious kumquats.

Emily Etheredge is a staff writer for The Clanton Advertiser. Email her at emily.etheredge@clantonadvertiser.com.