News On the Record: Pocket Calendars Still Popular with Farmers

On the Record: Pocket Calendars Still Popular with Farmers

On the Record: Pocket Calendars Still Popular with Farmers
May 2, 2024 |

By Marlee Jackson

Light rain drips outside as Augusta and Dorothy Cook gather around their kitchen table March 26, thumbing through a stack of small black calendar books.

It’s just before lunch, but Augusta’s next-day agenda already includes this task: Slipping 2024’s palm-sized planner from his shirt pocket, clicking open a fine-point pen and jotting down the previous day’s rain.

“Years ago, the Farm Service Agency wanted to keep up with rainfall in the south end of the county,” said Augusta, 89. “(Current Crenshaw County Farmers Federation President) Tony Beck told them, ‘I know someone who can tell you what it rained five years ago.’”

That’s because Augusta has recorded rainfall at his home in Brantley for decades, primarily in the little black books. Precipitation joins a treasure trove of details inside its cover, which sports the Alabama Farmers Federation’s square logo in gold.

Birthdays, anniversaries, church attendance and appointments fill the book, in addition to friends’ contact information and meeting reminders for the Federation and its affiliated Alabama TREASURE Forest Association. A forest landowner and former mail carrier, Augusta noted mileage and fuel for his 100-plus-mile route until he retired in 1999. 

“If anyone asks about something that’s happened in the past, I can answer them,” Augusta said.

July 27, 2000?

Luverne High School hosted the local Miss Alabama Agriculture pageant.

Dec. 6-7, 2004?

The Cooks joined more than a thousand Federation leaders at the statewide annual meeting. It was cool and rained an inch.

Jan. 10, 2008?

Brantley scored just 0.4 inches of rain, and Augusta presided over a local Federation board meeting. (He was Crenshaw County Farmers Federation president for seven years.)

Crenshaw County farmer Augusta Cook uses the Alabama Farmers Federation-supplied books to document meetings, rainfall, contact information, birthdays and more.

For decades, farmers across the state used Federation-supplied little black books for record-keeping, in addition to keeping their calendar straight. Book orders have drastically declined in the last decade as farmers have moved toward digital records for tracking weather, calving and contact information, said Federation Communications Department Director Jeff Helms. 

“While digital crop and livestock management programs are becoming increasingly important to farm families, we understand the value of tangible, tactile records to many Federation members,” Helms said. “For generations, these black books have been constant companions in the consoles of pickup trucks and bib pockets of overalls. Every year, we receive phone calls from farmers eager to receive a planner. Although we don’t hear from as many as we once did, we are proud to provide our members a useful tool — and reminder of a simpler, less hectic way of life.”

Helms said there’s just one manufacturer of the treasured black books left in America, which may impact future cost, availability and level of customization.

Farmers and forest landowners are familiar with evolving technology. Augusta remembers logging timber with a cross-cut saw and just this year observed heavy, modern equipment harvest wood on his property. He and Dorothy picked cotton by hand, too, early in their marriage. Today, row crop farmers manage land using million-dollar, high-tech machinery.

Augusta embraces other modernizations, too. 

In addition to the little black book, he slips a smartphone into his pocket each morning.

“I can do Facebook, and I can answer the telephone,” he said with a grin, “but I don’t try to keep up with anything (on the phone) because I’ve got my little black book.” 

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