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Rural Routes

In This Issue

Commissioner's Message

Helping During a Disaster

Excellence in Service

Music & Molasses is Back

Reserve Your Holiday Bird

Not Too Late for Autumn Fun

Spotlight at Sunbelt

In Case You Missed It


October 15-21

National Forest Products Week

October 16-19

Sunbelt Ag Expo, Moultrie, GA

October 17

TSU Workshop: Animal Care and Husbandry, Nashville

October 21

UT Fall Folklore Jamboree, Milan

October 23-25

TN, AL, MS Rural Tourism Conference, Pickwick State Park

October 25-27

TFA Annual Meeting, Memphis

October 26

UT Organic Crops Field Tour, Knoxville

November 3

TN Forage and Grasslands Council Meeting, Nashville

November 25-29

National 4-H Congress, Atlanta

November 26-27

TN Farmers Cooperative Annual Meeting, Nashville

December 2-5

TN Farm Bureau Federation State Convention, Franklin

December 2-5

State YF&R Convention, Cool Springs



Commissioner Jai Templeton: Our Unchanging Commitment

Just like producers across the state, we at the Tennessee Department of Agriculture aren't slowing down this harvest season. This past July and August I got the opportunity to travel with Governor Bill Haslam on a statewide farm and agribusiness tour. We met one-on-one with farmers and foresters, listened to their concerns, and heard their experiences. Common issues range from price stagnation and increased wages, to marketing and finding quality labor.

During that time, I've also met with local leaders in Tennessee's 19 distressed counties. Distressed counties rank among the 10 percent most economically distressed counties in the nation. I got a lot of feedback on how we can promote agribusiness and stimulate the economy in those towns.

With those goals in mind our department has realigned resources and staff positions to better address agribusiness growth and development. We've laid out plans to be more strategic in our efforts to attract, maintain, and support agribusiness opportunities, particularly in our counties that are most in need of support.

With input from the Governor's Rural Task Force, we also introduced the Agriculture Enterprise Fund. This incentive program targets agricultural and food businesses, nonprofits, local governments, and other entities that can bring job creation and economic development to Tennessee.

This administration has made it clear that we are focused on the rural communities of our state and making sure they have access to the resources they need to compete in this world.

Governor Haslam's Middle TN Farm Tour Recap

Helping During a Disaster

There's no question as to why Tennessee is nicknamed the volunteer state. When disasters happen, Tennesseans are some of the first to jump into action, including those at the Tennessee Department of Agriculture.

The United States experienced several natural disasters this past summer. Wildfires raged in several locations in the west and Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria left a trail of destruction and flooding behind.

Assistant Commissioner for Public Affairs Corinne Gould spent a week in Texas assisting the Texas Animal Health Commission in their response to Hurricane Harvey. Communications with the public are vital during a disaster and Gould worked with TAHC's information team to streamline and enhance external and internal messaging related to emergency response, animal sheltering and care, and animal health concerns.

During both Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, the Tennessee State Veterinarian's office waived health paper requirements so animals could be easily evacuated from affected states. The vet's office located sites that were willing to stable evacuated animals and had a team ready to respond if needed.

While the hurricanes left Texas and Florida with too much water, a different emergency occurred in the west. Massive wildfires burned for weeks, threatening many homes, forcing evacuations, and covering whole communities in smoke. Twenty-five wildland firefighters and support members from TDA's Division of Forestry deployed to locations in Colorado, Montana, and Oregon. All took time off from their positions with the state for a federal firefighting job that lasted for two to three weeks at about 16 hours a day.

Forestry Communications and Outreach Unit Leader Tim Phelps said he feels it's his duty to get out and help. "The drive to help is part of being a wildland firefighter. There is a sense of integrity when doing this type of work. We need to help others."

It's people helping people

Excellence in Service

TDA microbiologist Naomi Kelly was recognized by Governor Bill Haslam with the Excellence in Service Award for providing outstanding service to the state and her fellow Tennesseans.

Naomi Kelly started working for the state two years ago and has already brought a wealth of experience and knowledge to the Department of Agriculture. Naomi serves the agriculture industry as a microbiologist at the C. E. Kord Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory. In her time at the lab, Naomi has organized and streamlined the important analytic technique known as PCR, which has resulted in clients being able to receive their results much faster than before.

During the recent avian influenza outbreak, Naomi was instrumental in organizing the laboratory's response to the sudden influx of thousands of samples that needed to be analyzed very quickly. Her knowledge, ingenuity, and organizational skills resulted in rapid and accurate test results that aided greatly in stopping the outbreak.

Naomi earned an Associate's Degree in Arts and Sciences and an Associate's Degree in Medical Assisting from Whatcom Community College in Bellingham, Wash. Naomi also received a Bachelor's Degree in Forensic Science from Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, Ky. Naomi worked at the University of Kentucky Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in the Molecular Biology Department for five years before joining the C. E. Kord Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory in 2015.


It's Back! Music & Molasses Festival Returns

The annual Music & Molasses Arts & Crafts Festival returned in 2017 with an array of events, music, food and fun for the entire family The festival took place September 23-24 at Ellington Agricultural Center in Nashville.

"We were excited to bring this affordable family-friendly event back," committee member Amy Ladd said. "It was a fun-filled weekend with music and dancing on the lawn, arts and crafts, entertaining and educational activities for young and old. Plus local food trucks served up a delicious assortment of festival favorites!"

Close to 3,000 adults and children came to Ellington during the two day festival. Other activities included a working sorghum mill, grist mill and blacksmith's forge. Vendors taught weaving, woodcarving, spinning and quilting and sold an assortment of soaps, yarn, jams and jellies and fresh produce.

Reserve Your Holiday Bird

Most of us wish Thanksgiving promotions would hold off at least until summer is over. But if you want a locally raised turkey on your table, there's no time to spare. Farmers are taking reservations now for turkeys and other meats that are in high demand for the holidays.

A directory of farms that accept holiday meats and poultry reservations is available now at Pick Tennessee Products, the farmer to consumer service provided by the Tennessee Department of Agriculture.

Most Tennessee farms are small family farms, so herds and flocks are limited. Once flocks have matured and are ready to market, there's no time to raise more to fill additional orders.

David Horwath of Katharos Farm offers both turkey and bone-in cured ham. The Maury County farm will also have holiday combination packages to help customers plan their special gatherings through the entire holiday season. A number of farms offer orders of meats that not only make meal planning easier, but also make excellent gifts.

Pick Tennessee lists hundreds of farmers, like Karen Overton of Wedge Oak Farm in Wilson County, who sell a variety of meats all year long including beef, pork and poultry. Overton makes numerous artisan sausages and bacons, and sells large and specialty cuts of meat if they are pre-ordered.

Not Too Late For Autumn Fun

Tennessee's traditional agritourism season is in full swing as thousands of people visit pumpkin patches and apple orchards looking for décor, wagon rides, fall festivals and all sorts of farm fun right up through Halloween night. A number of Tennessee farm families are also finding ways to extend the season beyond October 31.

Instead of plowing under pumpkin vines and combining what's left of tattered corn mazes during the first week or so of November, some farms now let their customers help officially end the harvest season with a smashing good time. Hybrid pumpkins developed for carving are typically bland and don't make good, edible treats. So instead, agritourism farms are capitalizing on a craze that involves outrageous ways to demolish those pumpkins with implements of destruction ranging from complicated catapults to simple sledge hammers.

Find farms with special autumn activities with the Pick Tennessee mobile app and on

Tennessee is in the Spotlight at the 2017 Sunbelt Expo

Tennessee is in the spotlight for 2017, featured as the Spotlight State at the 40th annual Sunbelt Agricultural Expo in Moultrie, Ga. from Oct. 17-19.

The Sunbelt Agricultural Expo is an agricultural-based trade show known as North America's Premier Farm Show. Drawing more than 80,000 visitors every year, the Expo includes more than more than 1,200 exhibitors showcasing the latest in farming technology on a 600 acre working research farm.

Tennessee invites Sunbelt guests to experience "The Soundtrack of America – Made in Tennessee" at this year’s Spotlight State Exhibit. The exhibit will showcase the state's cultural diversity, agricultural history and the many wonderful places and experiences offered to residents and visitors alike.

Visitors to the exhibit will walk through the three grand divisions of the state and discover some of the authentic sounds, experiences and places that are original to Tennessee. From the home of the Blues and the King of Rock and Roll in West Tennessee, to the sounds of the Grand Ole Opry in Middle Tennessee, to the Chattanooga Choo Choo, Great Smoky Mountains and Bristol Motor Speedway in East Tennessee, visitors will truly hear the soundtrack of America and explore the sights, history and traditions of this major American agricultural state.

The Spotlight State Exhibit will include interactive engagements for guests who want to have some fun, learn something new, experience something old, and even sit a spell in a rocking chair. There will be opportunities to win Tennessee vacation package prizes and to taste and see many of the products made by Tennessee's farmers, craftsmen and industries.

  • Hungry? The iconic Moon Pie, which is made in Tennessee, turned 100 in this year! Come to the exhibit's Welcome Center to taste this Tennessee delicacy
  • Interested in history? Tennessee's Civil War Trail has more than 400 markers across the state as well as memorials and parks. The state also features segments of the Trail of Tears and the Natchez Trace. Pick up a map and locate a place you'd like to visit.
  • Need vistas or natural beauty? Tennessee is full of waterfalls and mountains, and lakes, rivers and streams perfect for recreation. The exhibit will highlight a few of the more famous.
  • Like Natural treasures? With 56 award-winning state parks, Tennessee provides many opportunities to enjoy the outdoors, including hiking, picnicking, fishing, boating, biking and camping, as well as interpretive programs.
  • Feeling lucky? We’ll have daily drawings for unique Tennessee-made products from rocking chairs to gourmet food baskets.
  • Got your dancing shoes? Boots or sneakers will do. Music will fill the air throughout the exhibit.
  • Like eagles? Tennessee has many resident bald eagles. One serves as an ambassador for the state park system. The eagle will visit the Sunbelt Expo courtesy of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.
  • Want to 'shine? The exhibit won't offer any well-known libations, however the recently unveiled Tennessee Whiskey Trail will show how some well-known agricultural products are distilled into world-famous products.

Tennessee State University’s Mobile Ag Classroom and the AgSimulator sponsored by the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation will also be featured. Regardless of your interests, you’re sure to find something to see and do at the Spotlight State Exhibit.

"Tennessee is a wonderful destination," Tennessee Commissioner of Tourist Development Kevin Triplett said. "We truly are blessed with incredible history, scenic beauty, culture, and of course music and food. Our top two industries are agriculture and tourism and we are proud of that. We appreciate the opportunity to showcase it at the Sunbelt Ag Expo."

Like the state's tourism opportunities, Tennessee's agricultural industries are many and diverse. The cattle and poultry industries are among Tennessee's top industries, soybean, corn and cotton fields and nursery crops flourish, and agricultural and forestry production impact the state’s economy to the tune of $74.8 billion annually. With more than 67,300 farming operations, 1,800 of those have achieved Century Farm status. Many are open as agritourism destinations.

Tennessee Commissioner of Agriculture Jai Templeton invites all visitors to the Sunbelt Ag Expo to be Tennessee's guests.

"We are proud of Tennessee's agricultural heritage and history," Commissioner Templeton said. "But you don't have to come from a farming background to appreciate what our state has to offer. Come visit the Spotlight State Exhibit for an experience that will have you planning your next trip to Tennessee."

The Tennessee Spotlight State Exhibit is a partnership of the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture; Tennessee State University Cooperative Extension Service; Tennessee Departments of Agriculture, Tourist Development and Environment and Conservation; Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation; University of Tennessee Institute for Public Service; and USDA's Farm Service Agency, Rural Development, Natural Resources Conservation Service and National Agricultural Statistics Service in Tennessee. UT Extension Dean Robert Burns served as the chair of the Spotlight State Planning Committee.

In Case You Missed It

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