Share This:
Rural Routes

Commissioner Julius JohnsonThis edition's message by Commissioner Julius Johnson features the following staff highlight.

Dear Friends,

This year we’re celebrating 25 years of bringing consumers back to the farm. The Pick Tennessee Products promotional campaign has been helping consumers and retailers connect with local food producers for 25 years. I’m proud to have been a part of this campaign since its inception.

One of the first things we recognized was the need to 'brand' products grown and made in Tennessee. We visited several other states, reviewed their programs and selected the best features that were right for Tennessee’s diverse agricultural industry, and in 1986, Pick Tennessee Products was born.

We’ve seen changes throughout the years, but the goal of Pick Tennessee Products has remained steady – bring consumers closer to their food producers while supporting jobs and entrepreneurship both on our farms and in our urban food centers. We’re using the website to promote farm products and now we’re creating a presence on social media. We regularly promote more than 1,500 farmers and farm-direct businesses. The website averages more than 20,000 visits per month.

We want consumers to know buying local is not just good for the economy, but is also healthier. Knowing where your food comes from and getting the freshest products makes for a healthier lifestyle and encourages self responsibility.

Governor Haslam and Commissioner Johnson are committed to helping farmers continue to prosper in Tennessee by encouraging citizens to Pick Tennessee Products. We would like to thank all of our stakeholders who have helped make Pick Tennessee Products what it is today. We look forward to helping consumers Pick Tennessee Products for another 25 years.

Joe Gaines
Assistant Commissioner
Market Development Division

Divider Bar

TDA Weights & Measures inspector collects fuel quality samplePick Tennessee Products Celebrates 25th Anniversary with a Farmers Market Tour
TDA We’re celebrating Pick Tennessee Products 25th year with a statewide tour of farmers markets in June and July. Pick Tennessee Products is the promotional campaign through the Tennessee Department of Agriculture that works to connect consumers with locally made food products.

Pick Tennessee Products has been connecting farmers to consumers since 1986, and its message is even more relevant today than it was 25 years ago. The program began as a campaign to identify local food products in retail stores but has expanded with national trends to focus on farm-direct foods and local farmers markets.

Tammy Algood, spokesperson for the Pick Tennessee Products promotion and author of “The Complete Southern Cookbook,” will have a “25 Things to Remember at Your Farmers Market” session at each tour stop, sharing tips on choosing and storing fresh produce, and offering easy recipes for fresh produce. Copies of her new cookbook and baskets of farm-direct and artisan Tennessee foods will be given as prizes to lucky customers.

Choosing locally grown products is a great way for all of us to help each other. Farms and rural economies get the help they need to stay strong, and we all benefit from fresh foods that come from local farm businesses.

For more information about the tour, visit the and click on the 25th anniversary logo.


June 21 - Main Street Farmers Market, Dyersburg, TN
June 23 - West Tennessee Farmers Market, Jackson, TN
June 24 - Agricenter International, Memphis, TN
July 9 - Springfield-Robertson County Farmers Market, Springfield, TN
July 14 - Athens Farmers Market, Athens, TN
July 15 - Rutherford County Farmers Market, Murfreesboro, TN
July 21 - New Harvest Park Farmers Market, Knoxville, TN
July 22 - Cookeville Farmers Market, Cookeville, TN
July 27 - Greeneville Farmers Market, Greeneville, TN
July 28 - Dandridge Farmers Market, Dandridge, TN

Divider Bar

TDA Weights & Measures inspector collects fuel quality sampleMeet Our New Deputy Commissioner
Commissioner Johnson recently announced the appointment of McNairy County mayor and lifelong farmer Jai Templeton as the agency’s deputy commissioner.

“Jai is a proven leader who has extensive experience in government and firsthand knowledge of agriculture and rural issues both as a farmer and as mayor of a rural county,” said Johnson. “He will bring an invaluable perspective to the department as we seek to build our rural economy and better serve the farm community. Gov. Haslam and I are pleased that he has agreed to join our staff.”

Templeton joined the department on June 1. He succeeds Terry Oliver, who retired after more than 20 years of public service.

As deputy commissioner, Templeton oversees day-to-day operations of the department, helping to direct programs and services ranging from food safety, animal and plant health, pesticides and consumer protection to forestry and agricultural development.

Templeton served as mayor of McNairy County since 2006, leading that county’s successful efforts to reduce debt and increase fund balances without raising taxes during the economic recession. He is a former county commissioner and former president of the McNairy County Chamber of Commerce, where he helped form the McNairy County Regional Alliance to focus on economic development in the area.

He has a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Union University in Jackson, Tenn., and he is a graduate of Weststar, Leadership McNairy County and AgStar professional development programs. Templeton is a sixth generation farmer producing grain, cotton, hay, timber and cattle. He is a member of the 25 Farmer Network, a pilot effort to grow new and alternative crops to support the development of value-added markets in the Mid-South.

He and his wife, Allison, and their children, Mycaela, Canon and Eliza Smith, reside on their family farm in Stantonville, Tenn. and attend the First Baptist Church of Adamsville.

Divider Bar

Emerald Ash BorerVIPs Visit Ellington Agricultural Center
Since the last edition of Rural Routes, we’ve had a couple of notable visitors to Ellington Agricultural Center.

USDA Secretary Vilsack stopped by to visit with farmers and other stakeholders affected by the recent tornadoes in East Tennessee and the flooding in West Tennessee.

It was a productive meeting, discussing agricultural and rural community issues and the federal government’s role in disaster relief.

Another recent visitor to Ellington Agricultural Center was Governor Haslam. Governor Haslam met with the department's senior staff and toured other buildings on the campus.

TDA Weights & Measures inspector collects fuel quality sampleWe appreciated his visit and are glad he took time to see some of the great work done by TDA employees.

Divider Bar

Tennessee Identifies Large Animal Care Shortage Areas
TDA has identified four areas of the state that are now eligible for USDA assistance in filling a shortage of large animal veterinary practitioners.

The USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP) will pay up to $25,000 each year towards qualified educational loans of eligible veterinarians who agree to serve in an underserved area for three years.

Livestock production is a billion dollar industry in our state, and it’s critical that Tennessee farmers have access to quality veterinary services. This program is a great way for veterinarians to not only get financial assistance but to provide a valuable service to the agricultural community.

The areas eligible for the loan repayment program include Carroll and surrounding counties in West Tennessee; Hawkins, Greene and surrounding counties in East Tennessee; the Upper Cumberland; and, Bedford, Moore and surrounding counties in southern Middle Tennessee.

Criteria such as availability of current veterinary services, the number of veterinarians at or near retirement age and number of livestock operations were used to identify underserved areas in the state.

The deadline to apply for the VMLRP is July 8. USDA-NIFA will hold two live webinars on May 23 to provide an in-depth explanation of the application process. For an application and more information about the VMLRP, visit

Divider Bar

Community GardenTDA Foresters Offer Advice on Storm Damaged Trees and Forests
From tornados in the east and flooding in the west to general storm damage across the state, the recent wave of severe storms has caused significant damage to the trees in both urban and rural areas. TDA’s Division of Forestry is offering advice for homeowners and forest landowners.

While cleanup of downed trees is critical to recovery efforts in urban areas, damaged yard trees that are still standing should be left undisturbed unless they present an eminent hazard.

There are several factors for tree owners to consider when assessing damage:

Flooded trees will have to be watched over time. Flooding causes more root damage than top damage, so the damage may not be visible for several weeks. And, trees are less tolerant of flooding during the growing season of April through September than they are November through March.

After trees appear to be recovering, homeowners should consult a certified arborist, a trained and credentialed tree care professional. Homeowners can find a certified arborist in their area at

In rural areas, many forest landowners face the challenge of salvaging forest products from felled trees. Salvaging timber can be challenging and hazardous so it should be handled by professionals. Timing is also critical due to high heat and moisture, which will cause defects making the wood less merchantable.

Landowners seeking to pursue timber salvage should:

For further advice contact an area forester with the Division of Forestry. Visit to find a forester in your area.

Divider Bar

Community GardenEmerald Ash Borer Discovered in Blount County
TDA recently announced the discovery of the Emerald Ash Borer in Blount County.

We will continue surveying the region to determine the extent of the infestation and will be working closely with federal officials and other stakeholders to take steps to limit its spread and protect our forest resources and urban landscapes.

EAB attacks only ash trees. It is believed to have been introduced into the Detroit, Mich. area 15 to 20 years ago on wood packing material from Asia. Since then, the destructive insect has been found also in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

In response to the find, TDA is adding Blount County to the Emerald Ash Borer quarantine. Knox and Loudon counties were put under EAB quarantine in August, 2010. The quarantine prohibits the movement of firewood, ash nursery stock, ash timber and other material that can spread EAB. With the new discovery, citizens can expect expanded surveys and should report any symptomatic trees to TDA.

Typically, the Emerald Ash Borer beetles can kill an ash tree within three years of the initial infestation. Adults are dark green, one-half inch in length and one-eighth inch wide, and fly only from April until September, depending on the climate of the area. In Tennessee, most EAB adults would fly in May and June. Larvae spend the rest of the year beneath the bark of ash trees. When they emerge as adults, they leave D-shaped holes in the bark about one-eighth inch wide.

There are approximately five million urban ash trees in Tennessee at risk from EAB. The risk represents an estimated value loss of $2 billion. There are an estimated 261 million ash trees on Tennessee public and private timberland potentially valued as high as $9 billion.

We’re urging area residents and visitors to help prevent the spread of EAB:

Divider Bar

TDA, USDA Seek to Increase Biofuels in Rural Areas
USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program offers grants and loan guarantees for eligible fuel stations in rural areas to help to increase the availability of biofuels. The program is designed to help bring down the cost of purchasing and installing fuel pumps for ethanol flex fuel and biodiesel blends like E85 and B20.

“I’m pleased to support USDA Rural Development's efforts to help make biofuels available in our rural areas. Increasing biofuel availability is important to the future of our farm economy and our nation,” said state Agriculture Commissioner Julius Johnson.

To increase the use of flex-fuels in the U.S., a goal has been set to have 10,000 flexible fuel pumps nationwide within five years.

"By expanding the funding opportunities for flex fuel pump installation, we are doing our part to reduce American dependence on foreign oil and helping create local jobs and promote the development of renewable, domestically produced energy alternatives in rural Tennessee," said USDA Rural Development State Director Bobby Goode.

Grants may range from $2,500 to $500,000 but cannot exceed 25 percent of total eligible project costs to install new or to refurbish equipment. Loan guarantees are also available, and assistance may also be used in conjunction with state incentives. For more information contact USDA Rural Development at 615-783-1300 or 800-342-3149.

Divider Bar


July 5-8 Tennessee Junior Livestock Expo - Cattle Events (Murfreesboro)
July 11-14 Tennessee Junior Livestock Expo - Sheep Events (Cookeville)
July 18-22 Tennessee 4-H Roundup (UT Martin)

Ellington Agricultural Center | 440 Hogan Road | Nashville, TN 37220