December 2007
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Greggs Still Co-oping After 58 Years

Pork is Still King

By Susie Sims

Bud and Alice Gregg have a good life together. They have reared five children and are currently enjoying 10 grandchildren.

They live in the same house in Marion County they’ve always lived in—the one Bud’s family lived in.

The house is too close to the highway for Alice. She grew up at the end of a small road in Morgan County.

"I’m still not used to the noise from the road," said Alice. "It doesn’t bother him. He grew up with it."

Not much in the house has changed over the years. Except for the new photographs, the house looks and feels the same as it always has—comfortable.

Things have been added, though not much has left the house. During cold weather, house guests are ushered to the front room or the dining room to sit in front of the heater.

The walls of the dining room are covered with photos spanning a lifetime. Bud and Alice know each one and have a story to complement each photo.

Pork is King

There is an abundance of pig paraphernalia everywhere. For most of his life Bud raised hogs. Now he has what-knots to remind him of the good ’ole days when pigs were king.

"People knew I raised hogs so they gave me pigs as presents," said Bud, pointing to a plaque with two piglets snuggling.

When he "dresses up," Bud is famous for his brass hog belt buckle. He’s worn it as long as this 35-year-old writer can remember.

He and Alice aren’t sure when he got it other than it was "a while back." They think one of their boys gave it to him, but they can’t remember who.

His dedication to the pork industry is legendary in Northwest Alabama.

"He is the only man I know who will go to a steak house and order a pork chop," said fellow farmer Gary Weatherly.

Bud’s love of pork is evident. Just get him talking about his time on the state and national pork committees.

He recalled when the committees were developing a new cut of pork called "America’s Cut." One day after he delivered a load of hogs to Bryan Foods in West Point, MS, the folks in the office asked Bud if a reporter could contact him about his pork. Always willing to talk pork, he agreed.

Bud said two days later a fellow from up North flew into Tupelo and drove to Bud’s house near Hamilton.

Bud said he was happy to show the fellow around and teach him a few things about pork production.

Bud couldn’t resist plugging pork one more time. As a long-time board member of AFC, Bud recalled the board often ate meals together when they were doing business.

"We ate steak, chicken, catfish and the like," said Bud. "One day I asked why we couldn’t eat pork chops. We had pork chops at the next meeting."

Bud recalled helping a young man Gary Weatherly get his herd going in the early 1950s.

"Gary had gotten a couple of pigs from the FFA pig chain at school," said Bud. "He brought them over here so they could be bred."

Bud said he and Weatherly went to many hog sales together for many years.

As Weatherly is this writer’s father, she spent many hours with Bud and her dad at the hog sales. She has even been accused of being Bud’s daughter a time or two, which still makes Bud chuckle.

It’s still a sore subject to him. Bud would love to have pigs on his farm right now.

He sold out about 11 years ago, before the market went down.

"I got over 50 cents a pound for the last load I carried off," recalled Bud. "The next year they were bringing 10 to 20 cents. I’m glad I got out when I did."
Nothing But Farming

Bud hasn’t known much in his life other than farming. He graduated from Hackleburg High School in 1941 and then spent a year at Jacksonville State.

"I would have finished school in 1940 and would have been the Salutatorian," recalled Bud. "But my brothers were already in school at Jax State and didn’t want me to come until the next year."

Bud said he didn’t take a test that he needed to graduate so he could have another year in high school.

He did really well in college but left after only year.

Bud said because of the war, jobs were springing up everywhere and his father had four sharecroppers to leave in one week. Bud left school to come home and farm.

He received a farm deferment from the draft for a while, but when it was rescinded, he was eager to go serve his county.

He made it to Ft. McClellan but failed the physical exam because he can’t breathe through the left side of his nose.

"Apparently, they thought that meant I couldn’t fight," said Bud. He came home with a heavy heart and resumed farming.

The Gregg Clan

While Bud was busy farming, Alice was busy rearing children. The couple had five children during the 1950s—Woodfin, Tinsley, Hardwick, Ruth and Ellen.

Alice, who graduated from Alabama Polytechnic Institute (now Auburn University) in 1946, had a career before and after she had children.

She came to Hamilton to work for the Extension system in 1948.

She bought a second-hand car for $500, took her driver’s test and headed to Marion County.

Alice met Bud through one of the Extension System’s conferences and they began dating. They married on Aug. 14, 1949.

Now married, Alice had to give up her job.

"Back then, the Extension office had a policy that when a girl married she could no longer work for them," recalled Alice. "Seems silly now."

When baby Ellen made it to the second grade, Alice went back to work helping people. She went to work for the Office of Economic Opportunity, using her home demonstration training to aid low-income families still suffering from the Great Depression.

"It was many years after the Depression, but people still needed help with day-to-day living," said Alice. "They needed help cooking and fixing their houses, we did that."

She said the office had carpenters who would fix up people’s houses that had fallen into disrepair. She helped family members learn how to fix nutritious meals and use what they had to get by.

"The Depression was so hard on some people that even 30 years later they still couldn’t get on their feet," said Alice. "We helped them with what they needed most."

Her goodwill attitude is still active today. She bakes cookies and makes peanut brittle every holiday for most anyone she knows.

Alice likes to keep up with her neighbors, too. She checks to make sure everyone is doing okay. You’re her neighbor if she knows you.

Still Co-oping

Bud is a loyal Co-op customer. He has dedicated his career to the advancement of pork and the Co-op system.

He has been involved with the Marion County Co-op in Hamilton since "the beginning" in 1947. Bud has used much of his personal time to serve the Co-op and AFC.

You can’t go to many Co-op functions and not see Bud. He is always there to lend his support to farming.

It saddens him to see the downfall of some of the Co-op stores in the state.

"Farmers worked so hard to get those Co-ops going," recalled Bud. "It’s a shame to see them close."

Bud is of the generation who built the Co-op system in Alabama. He believes in being loyal to that system and it pains him to see farmers today walk away.

"They’re not just customers, they are members," he said. "If they realized that, they might think differently about taking their business elsewhere."

Marion County Co-op Manager Steve Lann knows he has a resource in Bud Gregg.

"When I became manager, Bud said he was thinking of retiring from the board of directors," said Lann. "I told him he couldn’t retire until I did."

Bud is still chairman of the Board for the Marion County Co-op.

"If everybody was as loyal as Bud is, our Co-ops wouldn’t have any trouble," said Lann. "He means a lot to this Co-op."

Susie Sims is a freelance writer from Haleyville.