Meet Ambassador Danna Standridge
Happiness is Homemade (and Locally Grown), Y'all!
January 9, 2024
One of three 2024 Sweet Grown Alabama Ambassadors, Danna Standridge is joining the team to promote Alabama farmers and locally grown products this year. Help us welcome Danna to the Sweet Grown Alabama family! We caught up with Danna to get to know her better and learn about her passion for locally-grown products.
1. Who is Danna Standridge?
I was born in Blount County, Alabama. My husband, Rep. David Standridge of district 34, and I are part of Standridge Farm and raise beef cattle. My husband and I were both raised on family farms.
I am a retired high school biology and English teacher and still play a pivotal part in the youth leadership program which I designed and implemented where students in Blount County earn community service hours and learn leadership skills as they serve their school and community.
We reside in Hayden and have three children. Lonna is an elementary teacher in Hayden; Caleb is an Air Force veteran and an aerospace engineer in Huntsville; and Joshua is a veterinarian in Cleveland, Alabama. Our children helped out on the farm when they were growing up. As a matter of fact, when Caleb was a cadet at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, he said he faced many challenges that were solvable because of things he learned working on Standridge farm. We are also blessed with five grandchildren.
My maternal and paternal heritage is steeped in farming and good cooking going back many generations. My paternal grandfather, Coy Swann, raised tomatoes, okra, watermelons, squash and was well-known around the Southeast for his cantaloupes from the 1920’s to around 1958.
Trucks came from all over Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and Tennessee to load his fine cantaloupes into their trucks right in his field. He had a houseful of kids, and they were all in the field with him producing the highest quality produce with the many “secrets” he learned through the years. We still have the old wagon that my family used in their early farming days.
My maternal grandfather, Lonnie Campbell, was the local authority/mechanic on tractors and balers and was dedicated to farmers for many decades at the Farmer’s Gin and Tractor Company in Warrior, Alabama. I’m blessed to have one of his old cotton scales that he used at the gin.
And, both sides of my family had large gardens, fruit trees, and raised hogs and cattle for family use. They processed their own meat and made use of the smoke house on the farms. They canned, salted, dried, and froze produce for winter use.
2. How did you begin your cooking journey?
I’m blessed to have a mother and grandmothers who are known as excellent family cooks, and the cooking gene was passed on to me, thank goodness. Growing up with a family known for its cooks, I started at a young age collecting their recipes. Later, I shared my culinary heritage recipes and family stories as author of the official bicentennial cookbook for the state of Alabama in 2019. Time to Eat, Y’all! was a limited edition, went through several printings, and is currently out of print. It was a labor of love from me to the state of Alabama and all monies raised by this cookbook were donated for the beautification and upkeep of the Alabama State Capitol.
With the success of the Alabama bicentennial cookbook, interest in my cooking accelerated. I am blessed to now have a presence on social media as a cooking creator on both Facebook and YouTube. With 81,000+ followers, people from all over the United States and the world join me in my Alabama kitchen every week.
It is a joy to share my culinary heritage with the world. I get in my Alabama kitchen and teach them authentic Southern food that my family has cooked for generations, such as chicken and dumplings, cornbread, old fashioned banana pudding, biscuits, gravy, carrot cake, and of course, turnip greens. Sometimes I leave the kitchen and take them on an adventure. One such adventure was a trip into the turnip green patch to show them how to get a “mess of greens.” I walk them through the whole process from picking to washing to cooking. Armed with my dad’s turnip green recipe, people are amazed that turnip greens can taste so good.
With the continued demand for my stories and recipes, I authored Happiness is Homemade, Y’all! in 2020. It is a now a best-seller on Amazon.
I am blessed to also be affiliated with several local Alabama companies who are located in and around Blount County and the central Alabama area: Blue Springs Living Water, Birmingham Christian Family Magazine, Psalms 34 Bakery and Catering, and Y’all Sweet Tea.
3. What is your all-time favorite meal?
My all-time favorite meal is my mom’s "Sunday Best Pot Roast" and my "Ugly Biscuits" to sop up the gravy, my dad’s "Gerald’s Turnip Greens" with his cornbread for the pot likker, and "Nanny Swann’s Chicken and Dumplings" and our family’s sour dough bread which has been handed down for generations, and my old-fashioned carrot cake. And of course, all these are made with local produce and the recipes can be found in Happiness is Homemade, Y’all!
4. What draws you to locally grown products?
Fresh local produce from our farming neighbors is how I roll. Just like in my family with the cantaloupes, I appreciate that farmers have specialties and work for generations to learn the best way to grow their produce for top flavor. I adore Blount County tomatoes, sweet potatoes, peaches, strawberries and blueberries. And I visit the family turnip green patch often as well and also enjoy the local produce stands and all they have to offer.
I’m a happy girl when I’m at the produce stand!
My focus on the culinary heritage of my own family inspires me to look into the culinary heritage of the local farmers and their families. These dedicated families who have been raising these crops and livestock for generations and like my family, have many “tried and true” recipes to pass along.
5. Where is your favorite spot in Alabama?
That’s so easy…My very favorite spot in Alabama hands-down is my kitchen!
I call it my "Sweet Home Alabama Kitchen." This is where I can gather my family and feed them the very best meals from the best local produce and farms. It is where I can take a walk down memory lane and remember my loved ones who have passed on by cooking their recipes and specialty dishes. It’s where I work diligently to make meals for my family that will sustain them as they go out and face the world. I can also visit the world through my little kitchen as I create meals from different parts of the world. My kitchen is where I do some of my very best praying. Cooking and praying with the Good Lord is what we Southern mammas have been doing for generations. And, praying over the food as you cook- it is the secret seasoning that takes a good meal over the top.
6. If you had to pick just ONE of the following to keep, which would you pick and why? Local flowers, local watermelon, or local eggs?
Well, that’s a tough one as I adore all three of them. So, I’m going to tell you my thoughts on this.
Without flowers there would be no honey or produce or watermelons or peaches or vegetables or apples... the list goes on.
Without eggs there would be no fried chicken, or scrambled eggs, or fried eggs, or omelets, or cakes, or my Nanny Swann’s famous chicken and dumplings... the list goes on.
Without watermelon, there would be a sad husband in my house because it’s a favorite of his.
So ultimately, I would choose to keep flowers because all fruits and vegetables must flower during their growing cycle in order to produce fruits and vegetables. And, I’m so very thankful that I don’t have to do without any of them!