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Rural Routes

In This Issue

State Veterinarian's Message

Preparing for Avian Influenza

Summer Sizzles for Winners

Lessons Learned in the Woods

Equine Health Advisory

Fun at the Fair

A Square on the Trail

Celebrating Summer Saturdays


July 11, 18 & 25

Summer Saturdays

July 21

Tennessee 4-H Roundup

July 22

Coffee Co. SCD Field Day

July 30

TSU Small Farm Expo

August 4

Steak & Potatoes Field Day

August 7-8

TN Poultry Association Annual Meeting and Summer Getaway

August 11-12

TN Farmers Co-op Farm Fest

August 25

Fall Gardners' Festival



Message from the State Veterinarian:

Fortunately, in Tennessee we have not detected the highly pathogenic H5 strain of avian influenza currently affecting other states. As president of the National Assembly of State Animal Health Officials, I have heard firsthand accounts of the devastating impacts of the disease on other poultry producing states. It is already the costliest animal disease incident in U.S. history.

While there is no known threat to public health or to the food supply, AI does pose a serious risk to our one of our top industry sectors. We have been working hard to prepare for the possible introduction of AI in Tennessee as the migration of waterfowl increases the risk of exposure this fall.

First, we have an emergency response plan that outlines coordination with USDA and other federal, state, local and industry partners to limit the spread of the disease. The plan covers quarantine, testing, disposal, cleaning, disinfection and monitoring. Secondly, we regularly test our plan and conduct extensive surveillance of both backyard and commercial flocks. Additionally, we recently dispatched an animal health team to Minnesota for real-life emergency training, and I have ordered robust health requirements for birds that are brought into Tennessee.

As a poultry producer or enthusiast, there are some things you can do too, like preventing contact with wild birds, limiting access to your farm and flocks, practicing good biosecurity and reporting unusual bird sickness or deaths. For a complete rundown of recommended practices, I encourage you to visit USDA’s biosecurity website.

By being informed and taking proper precautions, we can all better protect bird health, our environment and our economy.

Charles Hatcher, DVM

Tennessee Prepares for Avian Influenza

The recent high path avian influenza (HPAI) outbreak is now considered one of the most costly animal health disasters in American history. Although HPAI has not been detected in Tennessee, the Tennessee Department of Agriculture is taking steps to prepare. Three staff members recently returned from Minnesota where they used their skills to assist with the efforts to stop the spread of the illness.

Veterinary medical officer Dr. Doug Balthaser and animal health technicians Wes Montooth and Marshall LaFever spent three weeks in Willmar, Minn. That location is central to an area coping with HPAI. The three learned aspects of the logistical response and gained valuable experience in the field.

Dr. Balthaser worked as a liaison between state and federal officials and producers to complete inspections and assist with paperwork. "The magnitude of this outbreak becomes clear when you consider the area where the virus has spread," Dr. Balthaser said. "You have cases 30 miles south of Willmar all the way up to northern Minnesota."

Montooth and LaFever collected samples from poultry in the affected area. They covered thousands of miles to test multiple backyard flocks. "They hit the ground running with backyard surveillance testing and really did Tennessee proud," Dr. Jacob Davis with USDA APHIS said. "They became my 'go-to' team when something needed to be done. I would be glad to work with them any time."

Lessons learned in Minnesota will be critical in the event that HPAI is reported in Tennessee. Officials believe water fowl migrating south from Canada are the source for HPAI. This strain is not known to be communicable to humans and is not posing a threat to the food supply. However, it is deadly for domesticated fowl. HPAI has been reported in 21 states, affecting more than 48 million domesticated birds. Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa have declared states of emergency. USDA response efforts have costs more than $400 million. The cost of dead poultry stands at $191 million and the total economic impact in Iowa alone is estimated at $957 million.

The State Veterinarian and staff are focused on animal health and disease prevention. Each year, the Kord Animal Health lab tests approximately 22,000 samples from poultry for avian flu. This includes routine surveillance and testing of commercial and backyard flocks and for the National Poultry Improvement Plan program. Additionally, the U.S. Wildlife Services conducts testing on waterfowl. We will continue surveillance and will consider increasing monitoring and sampling as required.

As a precaution, a State Veterinarian's Order has been issued requiring that effective August 1, all out of state birds transported to Tennessee must have proof of a negative AI test within 21 days of movement or National Poultry Improvement Plan AI Clean certification.

If avian flu is detected, Tennessee has prepared a multi-agency response plan which includes quarantine, testing, disposal, cleaning, disinfection and monitoring in affected areas.

Summer Sizzles for Winners

Summer means sizzle and 12 lucky winners are filling their grill with meat fresh from Tennessee farms.

Pick Tennessee Products hosted the Fill Your Grill Contest. More than 4,500 people entered to win a $200 gift certificate to a Tennessee farm that features farm-direct meats.

Several Tennessee associations including the Tennessee Beef Industry Council, the Tennessee Pork Producers and the Tennessee Sheep Producers Association partnered with Pick Tennessee to promote state meat producers and help fund the contest.

Chosen by random drawing, the following winners were able to select the farm and the products of their choice:

Margaret Horton -- Crum Farms
Sheila Humphries -- Vaughn’s #1 Bermuda Grass-Fed Beef
Kenneth Johnson -- Utopia Farm
Holly King -- J & J Farms
Katie Peachey -- Batey Farms
Joyce Porter -- Vernon Farms
Linda Rushing -- Angus Grass-Fed Beef of Tennessee
Kevin Smith -- Parker Family Beef
Gyver Vick -- 4 Corners Ranch Grass-Fed Longhorn Beef
Beverly Wanless -- Cook's Ranch
Susan Wasikowski -- Tennessee Valley Farms
Jennifer Wright -- Ans Farm

Pick Tennessee Products is the Tennessee Department of Agriculture's statewide program to connect Tennessee farmers, farmers markets and local food makers to consumers. The program is a free service to Tennessee farmers and is available on the Web at, via mobile app, and on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Lessons Learned in the Woods

The 66th consecutive Tennessee Forestry Camp was another great success, hosting 43 students who represented 16 FFA chapters from across the state. Held at Fall Creek Falls State Park from May 31 through June 5, the camp introduced Future Farmers of America students to the multifaceted field of forestry and its practices through field lessons. Those lessons included forest ecology, forest mensuration, tree identification, forest protection from insects and disease, fire control and prescription, forest management plan development, urban forestry, wildlife concepts and core silvicultural methods.

The courses of study were taught by foresters from the Division of Forestry, an industry forester from Domtar Paper Company, a private consulting forester and a UT grad student. Career and technical education teachers from across the state attended as counselors and learned a thing or two to incorporate into their curricula. It was a great week of conservation education, leadership building, and the formation of lifelong friendships.

Making a special return this year was the Biltmore stick activity, where students made a basic forestry tool used to measure tree diameter and number of merchantable logs in a tree. Those two measurements combined are then used to read a table, also printed on the tool, to determine the volume of wood from the logs. Camp alumni often refer to still having their personalized Biltmore stick while recollecting their fond memories of camp. The activity was cut from the schedule several years ago due to time constraints, but camp organizers were successful in squeezing the activity back in this year, and it’s here to stay this time. Middle Tennessee Lumber Company graciously supplied the wooden blanks made of Tennessee grown northern red oak.

Tennessee Forestry Camp is sponsored by the State of Tennessee Department of Agriculture Division of Forestry, Tennessee Association Future Farmers of America, Tennessee Forestry Association, Domtar Paper Company, University of Tennessee Department of Forestry, Wildlife & Fisheries and Middle Tennessee Lumber Company.

To get a glimpse of camp, visit the Division of Forestry's YouTube channel for a week-in-review slideshow video.

Equine Health Advisory

The state veterinarian is advising horse owners of two more confirmed cases of equine infectious anemia (EIA) in West Tennessee. In late May, a horse stabled in Gibson County tested positive for EIA. A horse in Henderson County was also confirmed as positive for EIA. Veterinarians are testing additional horses that were stabled with or near the infected animals.

With these latest cases, a total of six equines have been diagnosed with EIA in Tennessee in 2015. Four were euthanized. Two EIA-positive mules from Henderson County have joined a research herd at the National Veterinary Services Lab in Ames, Iowa. Although they must remain in permanent quarantine with other EIA-positive equines, they will live an otherwise normal life and receive excellent care. As part of the research herd, they will contribute blood samples to be used in efforts to develop additional testing materials for EIA.

EIA is a viral disease most commonly transmitted by biting insects. Although an infected horse can run a low-grade fever or become lethargic, often there are no clinical signs. A horse remains infected throughout its lifetime and can pass the disease to other horses. Owners of EIA-positive horses have two options: lifetime quarantine of the animal or euthanasia. A yearly Coggins test will screen for antibodies that are indicative of the presence of EIA. State law requires a negative Coggins test for any horse that is transported from its home farm to any event or other location.

To ensure the safety of your horse, make sure its Coggins test is current and that your animal does not have close contact with any horses that are not up-to-date. Cleanliness in and around your barn and a manure management plan can also help reduce the fly population.

Tennessee normally experiences a few cases of EIA each year. For more information, contact your local veterinarian or the state veterinarian's office at 615-837-5120.

Are You 1 in 3 Million?

It's fair time in Tennessee. With 62 fairs that stretch across the beautiful state, will you be one of the three million people to attend the extravaganza near your hometown? From carnival rides, to exhibits, to delicious food, it is a time that you don't want to miss.

The fair season is more than just fun, food, and games. It’s educational too. "I am so pleased that we have so many fairs across this great state that strive to educate an upcoming generation," Fair Association President Ruthie Jeans said. "They might never understand, might never know about gardening, dairy goats, beef and sheep if it were not for the wide variety of agricultural education that is taking place."

Several fairs are offering brand new activities. This year, the Hamilton County Fair will have Ag-Ventures, which is a rotation through stations to learn more about agriculture in today's society. And you will not want to miss the tractor parade held at the Franklin County Fair that includes more than 100 tractors, ranging from the antique to the modern-day. With the theme "Red, White, and You" the Tennessee State Fair will bring in an interactive traveling exhibit from the Tunnel to Towers Foundation called "9/11 Never Forget." This exhibit displays artifacts and documentaries on the lives that were lost during the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.

You'll hear the cries of the carnival rides, the crackling of the popcorn, and the mooing of the calves when you visit your local county fair. It is sure to be a fun and educational time with friends and family that you definitely will not want to miss. Click here to find a fair near you

A Square on the Trail

The Tennessee Agricultural Museum at Ellington Agricultural Center has joined Tennessee's Quilt Trail.

More than 7,000 quilt squares are featured on barns and buildings in more than 40 states. The squares celebrate the traditional craft of quilting and what the craft represents--recognition of rural life, family history and tradition.

"Quilt Trails connect us back to our local farms and they support the state's diverse communities," Department of Agriculture Commissioner Julius Johnson said. "As people follow these trails along our state's rural routes, they rediscover pieces of our heritage in a colorful and historical way."

The Tennessee Agricultural Museum educates visitors through its collection, programming and events focused on Tennessee's agricultural and rural heritage. Adding a quilt square to the show and horse barns next to the museum is a natural tie to the museum’s purpose and recognizes the history of the Ellington Agricultural Center, which was named for former Agriculture Commissioner and Governor Buford Ellington. Commonly called a Dresden Plate, the original quilt square used for the design was sewn by Catherine Cheek Ellington, First Lady of Tennessee (1959-1963 and 1967-1971), and her mother Fannie Belle Cheek, at the family's home in Verona, Tenn.

The museum and the Oscar L. Farris Agricultural Museum Association thank the Five Rivers Resource, Conservation & Development Council for partnership on this project and for providing a grant toward the production of the quilt squares.

OLFAMA board member Carol Edwards explained that the popularity of a barn quilt square often originates with its association to the history of a property. "Mrs. Ellington's square design certainly is a worthy link to a piece of Tennessee's agricultural past and a celebration of the continuing work being done by the Tennessee Department of Agriculture," Edwards said.

Ann Ellington-Wagner, daughter of Governor and Mrs. Ellington, agreed. "The success of our state's farmers and agricultural industry was at the very heart of my parents' lives. That the work began in the late 1950s on the grounds of this center, and that the museum continues with such dedication and determination, would make them both very proud."

Ellington-Wagner continued that the very image of a quilt brings to mind, "a more pastoral way of life, of warmth and comfort, of family lineage and community, and of the care and time purposefully taken to create a treasured heirloom by hand."

Contact Five Rivers RC&D Council to learn more about the quilt squares in their area.

To see the Tennessee Agricultural Museum barn quilt square, visit Ellington Agricultural Center located at 440 Hogan Road in Nashville.

Family Fun Every Weekend in July

If you are looking for weekend fun, the Tennessee Agricultural Museum has a great option. Summer Saturdays in July offer free hands-on activities and education for all ages.

Every Saturday during the month of July, from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. the Tennessee Agricultural Museum will spotlight Tennessee farm life and agriculture. The schedule includes a wide variety of activities ranging from gardening to spinning, to blacksmithing to sheep shearing, and plenty of farm animals, contests, and opportunities to learn.

Saturday, July 11 was a great time to Horse Around. Visitors petted the horses on display and watched as the Metro Police Department Mounted Patrol demonstrated their skills. The sweet sounds of the Grand Old Dulcimer Club filled the air as all enjoyed a wagon ride and competed in a stick horse race.

On July 18, visit Old MacDonald's Farm. Kids will have the opportunity to ride a miniature donkey and feed and groom farm animals. After you test your skills on the weaving loom, the sound of buzzing bees will lead you to a lesson about how honey is made. You also might want to stop by the gristmill to take home some freshly ground cornmeal.

July 25 is Goats Galore Saturday. All are welcome to pet and help milk and feed the goats. While parents check out the soaps and lotions made from goat's milk, children will be able to participate in an adventurous scavenger hunt and watch the sheep shearing under the shade tree.

These fun-filled Saturdays are free of charge for the young and the young at heart. For more information, please check out the Tennessee Agricultural Museum's link to Summer Saturdays

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