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Rural Routes

Commissioner Julius JohnsonCommissioner Message
This is the time to reflect on the past year. In some ways, it’s been a year of challenges with flooding and tornados which soon turned to drought for many areas. But overall, it’s been a respectable production year for most farmers.

It’s also been a year of change and opportunity at the Department of Agriculture. With the support of Governor Haslam and the General Assembly, we’ve been able to make progress on several fronts.

We’ve been able to fund more farm projects through the Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement Program, for example. The Agriculture and Forestry Economic Development Task Force was formed to assist with rural economic development. We celebrated 25 years of Pick Tennessee Products helping consumers reconnect with farmers and local food sources. We’re continuing efforts to improve department efficiency and effectiveness, and communications through venues like Rural Routes.

Our successes are your successes. I want to thank all of you for your support as we’ve strived to better serve Tennesseans. We have every reason to optimistic about next year and I look forward to working with you to build upon this foundation. From all of the employees at the Department of Agriculture, I want to wish you Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Julius Johnson

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TDA Weights & Measures inspector collects fuel quality sampleStay Warm This Winter with the Perfect Firewood
The department is offering advice to consumers purchasing firewood this winter. When purchasing firewood, consumers need to take into consideration a variety of factors including the type of wood, its origin and the quantity.

“Firewood can be purchased almost anywhere and in many varieties,” said Steve Scott, State Forester. “Consumers should educate themselves to make sure they get the best product for their money.”

The first factor to consider while purchasing firewood is the type of wood because different woods burn differently and produce varying amounts of heat. For example, oak burns slower and produces less smoke while pine burns faster and produces more soot and smoke. Educate yourself about the type of wood that will best serve your needs.

After deciding on the type of wood, be sure to ask retailers about the seasoning of the wood. Seasoning is the process of drying wood. Firewood typically takes nine months to become seasoned. Burning wood that has not been dried out properly or seasoned will produce less heat, burn poorly and create unnecessary soot and smoke.

Another factor to take into consideration when purchasing wood is the origin of the wood. This is important because buying wood from other states may transport invasive exotic insects into Tennessee. Consumers can help avoid potential problems by purchasing firewood locally harvested near where they plan to burn it.

“The Emerald Ash Borer and Thousand Cankers Disease are two examples of invasives that have devastated many native hardwood trees in the U.S. as a result of the transportation of infested wood products,” said Scott. “We continue to survey for both EAB and TCD since their discovery in Tennessee last year. Citizens can help slow the spread by burning firewood near where they buy it and by obeying county firewood quarantines.”

The last factor to consider when buying firewood is the quantity. Firewood has its own unit of measurement called a cord. Firewood must be sold by the cord or fractions of a cord starting at 1/8 of a cord. A cord of wood by law must equal 128 cubic feet. Be wary of terms such as face cord, rack, rick, tier, pile or truck-load, as these terms are not standardized in the sale of firewood. Some firewood dealers also try to sell firewood by the truckload. A typical pick-up truck cannot hold a cord of firewood. Rest assured, when purchasing firewood at brand retailers, there are established labeling protocols for firewood.

If consumers follow these tips, they can feel confident that they purchased a local, worthy product that will keep them warm throughout the winter months.

For more information on EAB and TCD, visit For more information on the TDA’s Weights & Measures Section, visit

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TDA Weights & Measures inspector collects fuel quality sampleTennessee Cattle Producers Vote to Support In-State Beef Promotion
The results are in and Tennessee cattle producers have voted to increase the assessment they pay to support in-state promotions of beef announced Commissioner Julius Johnson.

“In today’s competitive market, it’s important for farmers to reassess their efforts in the marketplace and how they can best reach today’s consumer,” Johnson said. “I’m pleased to have authorized this referendum and to have provided an opportunity for producers to have a say in determining their business future.”

Tennessee cattle producers cast their votes last week in a statewide referendum authorized by the department. The referendum was requested by the Tennessee Cattlemen’s Association, the state’s largest cattle organization.

More than 56 percent or 718 of the 1,275 producers who cast ballots at local UT Extension offices supported the measure. The measure increases by 50 cents the assessment farmers pay per head of cattle sold to support in-state research, education and promotion of beef. Only a majority of the votes cast were needed to pass.

The 50 cent increase will go into effect in the spring. Currently, cattle producers pay $1 per head to help build consumer demand for beef products nationally. The national beef program was authorized by a vote of cattle producers and implemented in 1985.

Tennessee ranks as one of the top beef producing states in the nation with nearly two million head of cattle. According to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, cattle and calves generated $545 million in Tennessee farm cash receipts in 2010, making beef the state’s top commodity. There are approximately 47,000 cattle producers in the state.

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Community GardenProducts So Local, They're In Your Phone!
Happy Holidays! TDA has a gift for you: a store full of locally grown and made products you can keep inside your telephone.

The Taste of Tennessee Online Store is a featured section of the Pick Tennessee Products site. Holiday shopping with the online store makes local artisan foods not only easy to find but easy to send, as well.

The online store features a wide variety of upscale and specialty products in addition to Tennessee’s traditional farm fare. Tennessee produces international award winning caviar, handmade artisan chocolates, farm-direct cheeses (including goat and even sheep cheeses), fruit butters and sauces. E-shoppers can send, straight from the farm, an aged country ham, local honey or sorghum syrup, a naturally raised fresh turkey—or even a Christmas goose.

Several companies specialize in gift baskets made with Tennessee farm products. Click on the gift basket picture within the online store to go directly to Tennessee gift basket companies. Gift baskets are also an option from some other Taste of Tennessee producers who produce items like honey and jellies, so it’s worth taking a look in their online stores, too.

Many of Tennessee’s farmers and artisan food makers do not do e-commerce, but still sell and send items when contacted via telephone. The farmers and producers of these foods are not included in the online store but are listed by food category in the Pick Tennessee Products “Food” section. A number of the state’s wineries are also happy to put together and send a basket of items from their gift stores. Locate Tennessee wineries through the “Beverages” button or by clicking on the wine glass photo on the home page.

Find local, artisan foods at To access the online store, click on the “Shop Now” and “Taste of Tennessee” picture. To find other Tennessee farm foods, click on the green “Food” button at the left hand side of the home page screen, and then click on any food category button. Follow Pick Tennessee Products on Facebook at and on Twitter at!/PickTnProducts.

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TDA Weights & Measures inspector collects fuel quality sampleHomeland Security and Agriculture Go Hand in Hand
Major Donnie Allen and Captain Jason Grinder of the 45th Civil Support Team recently demonstrated the Analytical Lab System at Ellington Agricultural Center in Nashville. Commissioner Julius Johnson got a firsthand look at how the mobile lab would be used in a suspected biological, chemical or radiological event. One of only 58 in the U.S., the unit would be critical in helping agricultural officials respond to a homeland security threat involving a foreign animal disease, food safety or farm chemicals.

The demonstration was part of a meeting of the Tennessee One Health Committee. Begun in 2009, the committee is collaborative effort to promote, improve and defend the health of humans and animals by sharing information and resources. Members of the committee include representatives from the Tennessee departments of Agriculture, Health and Homeland Security and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and Tennessee Emergency Management Agency.

Farmers play an important role too in protecting agriculture, the environment and our food supply by practicing good biosecurity and reporting any suspicious activity on the farm.

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Ferrell Named Forestry Employee of the Year
Glenn Ferrell was recently named the Tennessee Department of Agriculture Division of Forestry’s Employee of the Year. The award is presented annually to a division employee who shows outstanding efforts and work accomplishments for a particular year.

“Glenn has been a tremendous asset in the Cumberland District. The technical and professional staffs there, along with the citizens they serve, are fortunate to have such a dedicated individual working with them,” said State Forester Steven Scott.

Ferrell has served the division’s Cumberland District since 1982 – 13 years as a part-time wildland firefighter in Cannon County and the last 16 years working full-time as a Forestry Aide 2 in DeKalb County. He is charged with operating a dozer used in fighting wildfires and works in forest management activities along with Forestry Technician Joe Bryson.

“I always wanted to work in forestry,” said Ferrell. “You get to work outside and do different stuff everyday. It’s not always the same job.”

Ferrell currently resides in DeKalb County with his wife Louise and has a step-daughter and two young grandchildren. In his spare time, Glenn enjoys watching dirt track racing and spending time with his grandchildren.

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Barnett Named Division Forester of the Year
Dwight Barnett was recently named the Tennessee Department of Agriculture Division of Forestry’s Forester of the Year. The award is presented annually to a division forester who exemplifies the highest level of professionalism in serving the citizens and forest landowners of Tennessee.

“The citizens of Tennessee are fortunate to have such a dedicated individual working to improve the sustainability and quality of our forests,” said State Forester Steven Scott.

Barnett is a native of Oregon where he grew up outside of Corvallis. He attended Oregon State University and received his Bachelor of Science degree in Forest Science in 1975. His forestry career started by working with several forest industry firms in Oregon until he landed a job with the USDA Forest Service as a soil scientist where he worked for six years. In 1985, his family moved to Tennessee and he began his career with the Division of Forestry as the Information and Education Program Specialist. In this role, Barnett promoted the forestry profession and general conservation ethics and practices to the public and served as the division’s spokesperson. In 2006, he moved into his current position as Area Forester serving Davidson, Robertson, Sumner, Williamson and Wilson counties and is also responsible for managing Cedars of Lebanon State Forest.

“This is the job that most suits me. Dealing with forest resource issues at the watershed level, working with land use planners on development pressures facing our forests, and assisting rural landowners with integration of forest management decisions that can combine timber management with non-game wildlife habitat gets me to work every day with a smile on my face,” said Barnett.

Barnett and his wife of 34 years, Joni, reside in Smyrna and have two sons and one grandchild. During his off-time, he enjoys reading about history, physics and science. He is an advisory board member of Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation and is a member of the Faith Christian Reform Church in Nashville.

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Jan 10 Tennessee 107th General Assembly Convenes
Jan 19-21 Tennessee Cattleman's Association Convention (Murfreesboro)
Jan 26-28 2012 Agritourism Conference (Nashville)
Feb 1-4 Cattle Industry Convention & NCBA Trade Show (Nashville)

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