Share This:
Rural Routes

In This Issue

Farewell From Comm. Johnson

Templeton Takes the Reins

Womack's New Role

Wildfires Fought

Gould Named Asst. Commissioner

Strawberry Time Comes Early

New Leadership in Plant Certification

Jean Brings Ag to Life Through Video

Music Made From Tennessee Hardwoods

Veterans Get Support on the Farm

In Case You Missed It


May 17

Montgomery Co. Landscape Management Workshop, Clarksville

Jun 3

Dairy Month Kick-Off Luncheon, Nashville

Jun 23

UT Field Day, Tobacco, Beef and More, Springfield

Jul 11

TN Ag Museum Summer Saturday, Horsing Around

Jul 18

TN Ag Museum Summer Saturday, Old McDonald

Jul 21

UT Tobacco & Forage Production Field Day, Greeneville

Jul 21

TSU Small Farm Expo, Nashville

Jul 25

TN Ag Museum Summer Saturday, Goats Galore

Jul 28

Milan No-Till Field Day, Milan



A Farewell From Commissioner Johnson

From my childhood experiences on the family farm and in 4-H to farm policy development and public service, every phase of my life has been marked by something better, more challenging and more meaningful. Now, with a tinge of nostalgia, I enter probably the most important phase of my life -- giving back to my church, community and family in a personal way.

It's truly been an honor and I'm grateful to Governor Haslam to have had the opportunity to serve as Tennessee's 36th Commissioner of Agriculture. Under his leadership and with the support of dedicated public servants, we've been able to set a direction for future industry growth, increase agribusiness investment, improve state services and raise the standing of our rural communities through better and more access to education.

I hope that whatever small role I've played has a positive and lasting impact on the industry and the rural people of this state that I so dearly love. I commend Commissioner Jai Templeton to you as a strong and effective leader with a genuine heart for agriculture. I leave knowing that this department is in good hands.

Thank you for your support and for the opportunity to serve you in this way.

Julius Johnson
Commissioner of Agriculture
2001-April 2016

Commissioner Johnson Looks Back

A Commissioner Celebrated

Jai Templeton Takes the Reins

A lot of change is happening among the leadership at the TN Department of Agriculture. Soon after Commissioner Julius Johnson announced he was retiring, Governor Bill Haslam appointed his replacement.

Jai Templeton Takes the Reins A lot of change is happening among the leadership at the TN Department of Agriculture. Soon after Commissioner Julius Johnson announced he was retiring, Governor Bill Haslam appointed his replacement. Jai Templeton, a sixth generation Tennessee farmer, became commissioner of the Department of Agriculture on May 1. Templeton previously served as the department's deputy commissioner, leading the day-to-day operations and directing programs and services that range from food safety to animal and plant health to agricultural development.

"Jai has played a critical role in developing the department's 10 year strategic plan to grow Tennessee's agricultural and forest industries. As a lifelong farmer, he will be a champion for the farming industry and continue the department's work to strengthen our rural communities," Haslam said.

Prior to joining the department in 2011, Templeton served as mayor of McNairy County. He and his family have farmed in McNairy and Hardin counties for decades, producing grain, cotton, hay, timber, and cattle.

Templeton is a member of the Agricenter International Board of Directors, the McNairy County-Chester County Cattlemen's Association, the McNairy County Forestry Landowner's Association, the Tennessee Farm Bureau, the National Cattleman's Beef Association, Memphis Ag Club, Mid-South and First Farmer's Cooperative and a former board member of the Tennessee Cattlemen's Association.

He and his wife, Allison, reside on the family farm in Stantonville and are members of First Baptist Church of Adamsville. They have three children, Canon and Eliza Smith, and Mycaela Rhodes and husband, Alex.

Tom Womack's New Role

With nearly 30 years of experience working for the state, Tom Womack will continue his service in a new role as Deputy Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Agriculture. The appointment took effect May 1st.

"I am delighted that Tom has accepted the appointment," Templeton said. "He has given his career to this department and the industry I hold so dear. For almost three decades, Tom has been a confidant to Tennessee's Commissioners of Agriculture. He knows the department and its people, as well the various constituencies, stakeholders and citizens we serve. He has their confidence and will continue to build strong relationships."

Agriculture is in Womack's blood and public service is in his heart. Womack is well-known and highly respected in the agricultural community, having spent the majority of his tenure with the department as its spokesman and director of communications. In 2015, Agriculture Commissioner Julius Johnson appointed Womack Assistant Commissioner for Public Affairs. In that position, Womack provided administrative support for media relations, policy development and all agency programs ranging from food safety and animal health to forestry, marketing and conservation. Womack also administered the fairs program and the Tennessee Agricultural Museum, the department’s primary education and outreach program.

"My entire career has been in service to the citizens of Tennessee, agriculture and rural communities through this department," Womack said. "I am deeply honored and grateful to Commissioner Templeton for the opportunity to contribute in this new way and to help build upon the solid foundation developed by Commissioner Johnson."

Womack obtained his bachelor's degree in Government from Western Kentucky University. He is also a 2003 graduate of the Tennessee Government Executive Institute. A former state secretary and strong supporter of the Future Farmers of America, Womack has been recognized by the National FFA Organization with the Honorary American FFA Degree and currently serves on the board of directors of the Tennessee FFA Foundation.

Tom and his wife Chrystal have five children. The couple raises beef cattle and produces hay on the family farm in White House, which is located on the Sumner/Robertson County line.

22 Wildfires in One Week

The Division of Forestry kept busy this spring assisting with a rash of wildfires in the span of one week. More than 20 fires broke out in eight different East Tennessee counties threatening both lives and property.

"Just as the spring season was greening up our landscape, this string of wildfires kept our crews extremely busy," said the Division of Forestry's East Tennessee District Forester Darren Bailey. "So busy, in fact, that our resources were operating at capacity for several days in a row. Thankfully, other division resources were sent this way to assist us in case conditions worsened."

130 employees with the division were ultimately called to assist in battling the fires. This included personnel mostly from the East TN District, and also included personnel and equipment resources from the neighboring Cumberland District, the Highland Rim District located farther to the west, and administrative resources from the division's headquarters in Nashville.

The wildfires burned just over 4,000 acres and resulted in $1.5 million in damage. Of the 22 fires, 15 were being investigated as arson. In Sevier County, the fires included one on Bluff Mountain that began as a structure fire. Six homes were destroyed, several other damaged. No one was inside the home where the fire started.

A photo gallery of the Bluff Mountain fire fight is available here.

State Rep. Faison recently joined State Forester Jere Jeter and Assistant Commissioner Carol McDonald to present Forestry employees and fire fighters in Cocke County with resolutions thanking them for their heroism with the backdrop of one of the larger fires that occurred, the State Line Fire. The State Line Fire was located along the Cocke County, Tennessee and Madison County, North Carolina line and burned over 1,000 acres. Firefighters from the USDA Forest Service and North Carolina Forest Service worked under a unified command and received assistance from North Carolina State Forest Service, Tennessee Division of Forestry, Cocke County Sheriff, Tennessee and North Carolina Emergency Management Agency, Cocke County Emergency Management Agency, Cocke County Fire Department, Tennessee and North Carolina's Department of Transportation, Country Volunteer Fire Department, and Del Rio Fire Department.

Gould Named Assistant Commissioner

Agriculture Commissioner Jai Templeton has appointed Corinne Gould as assistant commissioner for public affairs for the Tennessee Department of Agriculture.

"We are pleased that Corinne Gould has accepted the challenge of leading the Department of Agriculture’s public affairs office," Commissioner Templeton said. "Since joining TDA, Corinne has worked hard to immerse herself in learning the issues of Tennessee's farm and forest communities. She is committed to maintaining the integrity of the department's outreach mission."

As assistant commissioner, Gould will focus on strengthening relationships with the public, stakeholders and industry representatives. She will oversee internal and external communications and provide administrative support for media relations, policy development and all agency programs. She will also supervise the public relations team and regional staff and administer the Tennessee Agricultural Museum.

"Every single person is touched by agriculture every single day," Gould said. "The Tennessee Department of Agriculture has a powerful story, and I am truly grateful for the opportunity to share that story with the public. I look forward to serving with Commissioner Templeton and the department’s staff in a greater capacity to promote our state’s agriculture, forestry and rural communities."

Gould joined the department in 2014 as deputy director for public affairs. She ultimately took on the role of director of communications which included managing the department's rapidly growing social media platforms and expansion of photographic and video contributions.

Prior to TDA, Gould enjoyed a decade-long career in television news. As a producer at the NBC affiliate in Nashville, Gould won a regional Emmy award and was nominated for a national Emmy award for breaking news coverage of the floods that devastated Middle Tennessee in 2010. The recognition was particularly personal for Gould, who lost her own farm to the rising water. That experience and the support she received from her community solidified her dedication to give back to the citizens of Tennessee.

"Corinne established her talents with the Nashville media market and earned a reputation she can be proud of," Templeton added. "Her rural upbringing will be particularly important as we continue to strategize and identify economic opportunities for rural Tennessee. She has a passion for agriculture and forestry, and those sectors and related industries will be well served with Corinne as their chief governmental spokesperson."

A native of Rhea County in southeast Tennessee, Gould obtained her bachelor's degree in Mass Communication and graduated magna cum laude from Middle Tennessee State University. She is also a graduate of the 2015 Tennessee Government Executive Institute and serves as communications coordinator for her class.

In addition to riding, showing and raising American Quarter Horses, Gould spends her free time traveling the country announcing horse shows.

Strawberry Time Comes Early

Berry lovers were pleasantly surprised this strawberry season. The delicious red fruit was ready to be picked two weeks early. Farmers even speculate that this could be the best crop they've had in years.

Other berries, such as blueberries and blackberries, are also expected early this year.

It's Strawberry Time in Tennessee

New Leadership in Plant Certification

For decades Gray Haun's top priority was the health of plants in Tennessee. As the Plant Certification and Apiary Programs Administrator he oversaw the movement of plant material in the state. Now after 30 years with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture he has a new priority: retirement.

Haun started his career with TDA in 1986. He has held multiple positions beginning as an Apiary Inspector for the East Tennessee region. In 1990 he transferred into the Plant Certification Section as a plant Inspector. In 1995, Haun was appointed State Apiarist and a year later he was promoted to the position of Plant Certification and Apiary Programs Administrator and became the State Plant Regulatory Official for Tennessee. A retirement reception was held for Haun in January.

Taking Haun's vacant position is Anni Self, who also has a career spanning decades with TDA. Self says she's always enjoyed having her hands in the dirt. She began her career with TDA in 1989 as a Nematologist, testing soil and plant samples. She held that position for seven years before moving to the Market Development division to promote Tennessee's horticultural products across the world. Most recently, Self has served as a plant pathologist.

Anni Self led the department in its regulation of hemp last year. She was the point person for federal interaction and all local growers. Self reviewed applications, issued licenses, handled the seed orders and federal paperwork. Several other states have modeled their hemp programs after the one Self developed in Tennessee.

As the new Plant Certification and Apiary Program Administrator, Self wants to reassure producers that the department is in the business of helping them succeed. "When diseases or pests move into the state quarantines are imposed not to stifle business, but to protect the long term health of the industry," Self said.

Jean Brings Ag to Life Through Video

More and more video is appearing on the TDA Facebook page. That's thanks, in part, to a new addition to the TDA staff. In January, Commissioner Julius Johnson appointed former Nashville television news producer Samantha Jean as deputy director of communications.

"Samantha brings a wealth of media experience and knowledge to her new role with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture," Johnson said. "Her talent for visual storytelling will be an asset in sharing the stories of farming, forestry, and the rural communities of Tennessee."

Jean joins the public affairs team and helps coordinate media relations, public outreach and videography for the department.

Jean is an Emmy-award-winning producer with nine years of experience in the news and television production industries. She most recently produced weekend newscasts and managed staff and resources at NewsChannel 5 in Nashville, and she continues her involvement with production and coordination of the MidSouth Regional Emmy Awards Gala. With a degree in mass communication from Middle Tennessee State University, her skills in writing and shooting and editing will highlight the impact TDA has on all Tennesseans.

"People can take for granted the role agriculture plays in their lives," Jean said. "No matter where you live or work, the moment your feet hit the ground, agriculture keeps things moving. I look forward to being a part of that important story in Tennessee."

Jean is a native of Michigan but moved to Cookeville as a child and considers Tennessee home. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling with her family, watching documentaries, baking, and knitting for her church's prayer shawl ministry.

Music Made From Tennessee Hardwoods

Dr. David Mercker from UT Extension likes to say, "Trees are to Tennessee, as hogs are to Iowa, corn is to Illinois, and lobsters are to Maine. It's what we do here."

Tennessee's trees, specifically hardwoods, are the inspiration for the annual Tennessee Healthy Hardwoods Field Days. The first of three events was held March 19th at the D'addairo Promark Sawmill in Elkton. The mill begins the process of making Promark drum sticks, which are cut primarily from Tennessee hickory.

The field day was divided into two parts: a tour of the Promark facility and a tree planting seminar with demonstration which included foresters from the Division of Forestry.

Each field day's main objective is to teach landowners responsible stewardship of their hardwood forest. The forest industry adds about $20 to $22 billion per year to the state's economy.

The state nursery in Delano hosted a Healthy Hardwoods Field Day on April 23rd and UT's West Tennessee Research and Education Center in Jackson hosted a field day on April 30.

A photo gallery is available here.

Healthy Hardwoods Field Days

Veterans Get Support on the Farm

Many of America's veterans are leaving the battle field and going to work on the farm. TDA is partnering with several agencies to help those new or returning farmers find success after a career in the military.

Sixty-five current and prospective farmer-veterans attended the Farmer Veteran Workshop on April 2 in Clarksville. This event was coordinated by an active-military farmer, Charlie Jordan and Montgomery County Extension Agent, Karla Kean.

The workshop provided a sample of resources available for today's farmers. Participants visited more than 20 educational displays which included University of Tennessee's Agribility program, The Center for Profitable Agriculture, Farm Services Agency, Natural Resource Conservation Service and Tennessee State University's Beginning Farmers Academy.

This summer TDA will launch its Homegrown By Heroes (HBH) program to recognize active and retired military personnel in its Pick Tennessee Products directories.

HBH is an official farmer veteran branding program administered by the Farmer Veteran Coalition. The HBH logo serves to inform consumers that products donning the logo were produced by military veterans. The program is available to farmers, ranchers, fishermen, and value-added producers who come from of all branches and eras of military service.

The program was founded by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture. The Farmer Veteran Coalition has been administering the program since 2013 and it currently includes more than 250 members in 43 states. HBH is supported by several national agriculture and food safety leaders such as USDA, Farm Credit Services of America, and the American Farm Bureau.

If you are a veteran and would like information on how to apply for the Homegrown By Heroes program please email the Farmer Veteran Coalition at Pick Tennessee Products does not administer or make any decisions related to eligibility for the HBH program. HBH will notify Pick Tennessee Products when veterans have been approved as HBH members.

In Case You Missed It

Ag Day On The Hill

Weights and Measures: Grocery Store Superheroes

Take a Look at the Pick TN Conference

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