County News

SHORT the Squirrel "Turns Four on the Farm" with Pine Level Elementary School

To celebrate Alabama farmers and children’s literacy, Chairman Jay Thompson, Autauga County Commission was honored to join Sweet Grown Alabama, the state’s non-profit agricultural branding program, Alabama’s Literacy Mascot SHORT the Squirrel to celebrate his fourth birthday on February 22. Students, teachers, farmers, and other state and local leaders gathered at Pine Level Elementary School in Autauga County to celebrate agriculture as the theme of SHORT’s birthday party.


Alabama State Superintendent of Education, Dr. Eric Mackey, spoke on the importance of reading to young children and building a confident, literate generation that will shape the future of our state. 


“SHORT is so important to us because we want to make reading fun and we want children to love to read,” Mackey said. 

Among other public officials, Sweet Grown Alabama board member and Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries, Rick Pate spoke at the press conference and read to a classroom. He stressed the importance agriculture has on our state as one of Alabama’s largest industries.

"I am proud that SHORT the Squirrel chose agriculture to highlight for his fourth birthday party because agriculture brings in over $70 billion to the state's economy, and not only is literacy critical to our students, but agricultural literacy is just as important," said Pate. "We want Alabama students but agricultural literacy is just as important," said Pate. "We want Alabama students to understand that chocolate milk doesn't come from brown cows and that the food doesn't appear magically in the grocery store." 


Commissioner Rick Pate, Rep. Van Smith, Mayor Zach Bigley, Chairman Jay Thompson and others read “Modern Farms” to classrooms of students.


Sweet Grown Alabama donated 75 copies of the book “Modern Farms” written by Autauga County author and Sweet Grown Alabama member Jackie Nix to Pine Level Elementary School. 

“We are so excited to be at Pine Level and work with Sweet Grown Alabama to celebrate SHORT turning four,” said co-founder of SHORT the Squirrel, Monica Anderson Young. “We saw a need and developed a passion project where we can teach about literacy through different avenues like agriculture.”


SHORT the Squirrel enjoying his birthday celebration at Pine Level Elementary School.

In addition to Pate, Mackey and Nix, farmers and elected officials read “Modern Farms” to student classrooms while the SHORT the Squirrel mascot visited students. Other guests included:


  • Rep. Van Smith
  • State Board of Education Member Tonya Chesnutt
  • Autauga County Commission Chairman Jay Thompson
  • Allen Mills, farmer from Prattville Honey Farm
  • Mike and JoAnn Hodum, farmers from Hilltop Farm
  • Sharon and Rebecca Jones, farmers from Jones Farm


Thank you to Sweet Grown Alabama for connecting farmers and families and providing that leaders are readers! Consumers can search for locally grown products at, or by looking for the Sweet Grown Alabama logo when shopping.