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Rural Routes

In This Issue

Commissioner's Welcome

Emerald Ash Borer Spreads

Firewise on the Mountain

30 Years of Pick Tennessee

Top Products & Fan Favorites

Women in Tennessee Ag

Climbing to New Heights

Red, White & Blueberries


Aug. 5-6

TN Poultry Assoc. Annual Meeting, Nashville

Aug. 7-13

National Farmers Market Week

Sept. 2-11

TN Soybean Festival, Martin

Sept. 9-18

TN State Fair, Nashville

Sept. 9-18

TN Valley Fair, Knoxville

Feb. 19-20

Tennessee FFA Alumni Convention, Burns

Feb. 20-27

National FFA Week / TN FFA Goodwill Tour

Feb. 26-27

Mid-South Farm & Gin Show, Memphis

Feb. 28-March 1

Tennessee Association of Conservation Districts Convention, Chattanooga



Welcome From Commissioner Jai Templeton

When I took the oath of office in May, I knew I had big shoes to fill as Tennessee's next Commissioner of Agriculture. Former Commissioner Julius Johnson left a mark on the agriculture community that will be felt for years to come. When a problem arose, he would say, "Let's work to find a yes." That phrase still holds true today.

More than ever the Tennessee Department of Agriculture is committed to customer service and working to find a yes that moves Tennessee's farm and forestry industries forward. During a recent visit with a dairy farmer, he pointed out that the government profits more through taxes from the retail value of his product than he does. This type of dialogue is encouraged and needed. We want to know your concerns. If we don't have an immediate solution, we will work to find a yes. We have some of the best staff in all of state government. They work diligently every day to help the citizens of Tennessee. For that I am grateful.

You may have the chance to meet some of those employees as we come into an exciting season for agriculture. Farmers' markets are full with summer produce and fair season is upon us. I've encouraged the TDA staff to enjoy the markets and fairs in their hometowns and I hope you will do the same. It's a time to make connections with our neighbors, reflect on successes or struggles, show off our work, and bring a boost to the rural economy. At the end of the day, we all have one common goal and that’s to increase and promote agriculture and forestry in this state. Use this time to meet those around you and learn from each other.

On the Farm with Commissioner Templeton

Emerald Ash Borer Spreads

An infestation of Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) has inched further across the state.

Officials recently detected EAB in Marion and White Counties, prompting county-wide quarantines prohibiting the movement of ash trees and ash tree products. This quarantine has now reached 49 counties in Tennessee.

EAB is a destructive forest pest that was introduced from Asia into the United States in the 1990s. It was first detected in Tennessee in July 2010. EAB beetles can kill an ash tree within three years of the initial infestation.

The insects are transported mainly by humans through infested ash nursery stock, firewood, unprocessed saw logs, and other ash products. Citizens should report any symptomatic ash trees to TDA and follow these simple rules:

  • Don't transport firewood, even within the state.
  • Use firewood from local sources near where it will be burned.
  • If you purchase firewood, make sure that it is labeled and certified to be pest free.
  • Watch for signs of infestation in your ash trees.

For more information about EAB and other destructive forest pests, as well as tips for infestation prevention, visit Protect TN Forests.

English Mountain Recognized as FireWise

The English Mountain Community of Sevierville is leading the charge in staying safe during wildfires.

The community recenly earned Firewise Communities/USA® recognition from the National Firewise Communities Program based on its efforts to reduce the vulnerability of homes and landscapes to wildfire. This is only the 15th community in Tennessee to earn this designation since the program was started in 2002.

During a ceremony on June 25, the Tennessee Department of Agriculture Division of Forestry presented the community with a commemorative plaque and Firewise Community signs.

"Getting involved in the Firewise Program was the best thing that has happened to the community in respect to wildfire safety," English Mountain Firewise Chairperson Cindy Mitchell said. "We have experienced two serious wildfires within the past few years. We have learned that wildfire does happen here and that there are simple things that we can do to minimize the risk."

The community worked with the English Mountain Volunteer Fire Department, East Sevier County Utility District and TDF to develop a community protection plan.

"The English Mountain Community is a model in recognizing the importance of communities taking responsibility to address wildfire safety concerns," TDF Fire Management Unit Leader John Kirksey said. "We welcome to the opportunity to work with others in the same way."

Pick Tennessee Products Celebrates 30 Years

Thirty years ago, Danny Shelton grew cantaloupes and peppers on his farm in New Market, near Knoxville. That's when he heard the Tennessee Department of Agriculture was launching a brand new program called "Pick Tennessee Products." The program would help food growers and makers find new markets and new marketing strategies to keep their Tennessee businesses growing.

Now, as Pick Tennessee celebrates thirty years of success, Shelton Farms stone ground cornmeal, grits and flours are the choice of top tier chefs and cooks around the nation.

"A lot of this is Pick Tennessee's fault," Shelton said with a smile. "I started with cantaloupes, then went to tomatoes, and now it's this. Pick Tennessee has pointed me in new directions, sent me to a lot of tradeshows and put my products in a lot of places. They've been with me all along and I owe a lot to Pick Tennessee." Shelton still uses the original logo, which features a banjo, on his artisan products.

The Pick Tennessee Products website launched in 1995 and was the state's very first online consumer site. It remains the home to all Pick Tennessee farmer-to-consumer information. Pick Tennessee is active across social media, and users of the free mobile app search for the local foods, farmers markets and on-farm fun near them, then use the app's GPS mapping to get there. The latest feature of the Pick Tennessee app is a directory of restaurants committed to supporting local farmers and foods.

As part of the 30 year celebration, Pick Tennessee launched its first ever eCookbook. It is available for free on the Apple iBook app or can be downloaded at the Pick Tennessee website.

Pick Tennessee now lists nearly 2,500 Tennessee farmers and farm-direct businesses with almost 10,000 products. All Tennessee producers of agricultural products are eligible and can apply online. To be included, farmers and food producers must be in compliance with all permits, licenses and inspections administered by TDA.

Pick Tennessee's Top Products of 2016

Six Tennessee food makers claimed winning titles at the 2016 Pick Tennessee Products trade show held in Nashville during the recent Tennessee Grocers & Convenience Store Association's Food Expo.

The products, all produced in Tennessee and part of the Pick Tennessee Products program, were judged on originality, taste and packaging.

Javaneh Hemmat's Hummus Chick won first place, dubbed the "Pick of Tennessee." Hummus Chick is a Nashville based company built around freshly made varieties of hummus packaged for retail and wholesale markets.

Willa's Shortbread, owned and operated by Eric Rion in Madison, won second place and Lynchburg Cake and Candy Company, owned by Billy and Nancy Thomas in Lynchburg, won third place.

Honorable mentions include: Susan Binkley's Out of the Blue Granola from Monteagle; Matt Rogers' infused honey products, RogersMade, from Chattanooga; and Maryann Byrd's Southern Belle Biscuit Company in Nashville.

Happy Skin Naturals skin care products won a new artisan non-food product award this year. Renee Whitfield produces Happy Skin Naturals in Sevierville.

Celebrating Women in Tennessee Agriculture

Only 30 percent of farmers in the United States are women. It's a number that's growing, but slowly.

Meet Stephanie Allen of Allenbrooke Farms in Spring Hill. She's breaking stereotypes of what some say a farmer "should look like." Stephanie wasn't raised on a farm, but quickly found that her passion was in the ground. After a few years of tending an acre garden and having a full-time job, she found a way to make farming her family's only business.

The Tennessee Department of Agriculture will be profiling female farmers in Tennessee over the next few months. Be on the look out for more videos.

Climbing to New Heights

The next generation of foresters came together for a fun week at Fall Creek Falls State Park.

More than fifty high school students from all across Tennessee attended FFA Forestry Camp from May 30 to June 3. A total of 23 FFA Chapters were represented.

New this year, students were taught about the importance of urban forestry and learned how to safely use ropes to climb into trees. Other activities are highlighted in the video below.

Forestry Camp is a Success

Red, White and Blueberries

They are blue, juicy, and were ready just in time for Independence Day in Tennessee.

With a bumper crop at many farms, the blueberries were bountiful across Tennessee this year.

Blueberry season typically runs the month of July, but some farms were able to open a week early.

Blackberries are now ripe for the picking. Find a berry farm near you.

Red, White and Blueberries

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