'Holy Smoke' wins ag communications alumna national honors

By Jamie Creamer

In southwest Alabama’s Clarke and Marengo counties, agriculture is most frequently spelled t-i-m-b-e-r.

“Go north of Marengo, and you run into catfish, and south of Clarke, you’ll find poultry, row crops and horticulture,” says 2016 Auburn ag communications alumna Marlee Moore. “But in my west Alabama, timber is at the top.”

She grew up around the timber industry, which is bound to happen when your dad’s a forester and basically every other male in your extended family is either a forester, a logger or a paper mill employee. It’s what she knew, so her senior year of high school, determined not to enter college as an “undecided,” she announced that biosystems engineering would be her major.

There was never a question of where she would get that degree. The daughter of two 1992 alums, she was born an Auburn fan.

“I was a counselor’s worst nightmare, because Auburn was the only school I applied to,” Moore says. “Why waste time on forms and applications and fees when you know what makes you happy?”

Biosystems was her degree choice, mainly because her dad had majored in forestry engineering and because she thought she knew what she wanted to do for the rest of her life.

“I thought I wanted to study water quality and environmental factors and how science and technology work to help others,” she says. “But then I realized that math and hard-core science aren’t for me.”

She also realized that she was a right-brainer.

“As a child and teenager, I gravitated toward the arts,” she says. “I was a theatre kid. Choreography, rehearsals, costumes—that was the world I lived in from seventh grade up.”

And that didn’t jibe with engineering.

When she arrived in The Loveliest Village in the fall of 2012, changing her major was foremost on her mind. She and her mom had perused the Auburn Bulletin back home and happened upon the agricultural communications degree program.

“Even though I had no background in ag, it seemed like the perfect fit,” she says.

That proved to be an understatement. Shortly after graduating with her agricultural communications degree in May 2016, she landed what, to her, was the ultimate dream job: as an agricultural communications specialist with the Alabama Farmers Federation.

“Marlee had done an internship with the federation in 2015, and I jumped at the chance to hire her,” says Debra Davis, publications director at the agricultural organization. “With Marlee, I knew exactly what I was getting. She’s one of the best hires I’ve ever made. She does Auburn’s ag communications program proud.”

One of Moore’s job duties is writing for the federation’s Neighbors magazine. Among the feature stories she has to her credit is one that appeared in the February 2017 issue of Neighbors. The article featured a couple of retired military men/game wardens–turned–entrepreneurs in Escambia County, Alabama. The name of their business: Holy Smoke. Their trade: reloading shotgun shells with the cremated remains of grieving family members’ lost loved ones, most often for survivors to fire as a tribute to the deceased.


In July, a year and two months after graduating from Auburn, Moore won first place in a national writing contest for her story, “Going out with a bang: Holy Smoke offers outdoorsmen one last shot.”

The American Agricultural Editors’ Association presented the award—in the Humorous Story category—at a national conference in Snowbird, Utah. She was competing against 10 of the top agricultural writers in the nation. Not too shabby.

As for her time at Auburn, Moore officially transferred from the college of engineering to agriculture spring semester 2013—just in time to submit her application to become part of the college’s official representatives, the Ag Ambassadors. She was tapped and remained a proud Ag Ambassador the rest of her Auburn career.

A member of the Auburn College of Agriculture family, she will always be.

“I’ve been immeasurably blessed,” she says. “From my parents to my mentors at Auburn to my current bosses, I know these people care about me and have helped guide me.

“Giving back is extremely important to me. Participating in the College of Agriculture’s alumni mentoring program is one way I’m doing that.”

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