Rural Routes - Aug. 2018

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Crossville Work Center Tree Planting

Commissioner Jai Templeton: Busy Time for All, Especially Forestry

As our crops continue to grow and our livestock stays cool, Tennessee agriculture is active and engaged at this point in the year. Every division within the Tennessee Department of Agriculture is busy, but our Division of Forestry has a few major developments we want to highlight.

First, I want to recognize Assistant Commissioner-State Forester Jere Jeter for his leadership and outstanding record of public service as he retires. Throughout his 40-year career, he has set a standard of integrity and professionalism that we at the department would be well served to follow. I know you join me in wishing him the very best in a well-deserved retirement.

With Jere's departure, we are proud to announce that Assistant State Forester David Arnold has been appointed as our new State Forester. David is a 28-year veteran of the Division of Forestry, starting as an area forester for Union County. We know his professional experience and personal dedication to service will allow him to continue the great work that Jere started. You can learn more about David, as well as our new fire chief and Cumberland District Forester, below.

While many forestry changes and events are taking place here in the state, I want to thank the wildland firefighters within the Division of Forestry who have taken time away from their loved ones and their homes to assist with major fires out west. A crew from Tennessee, including 13 firefighters from the Division of Forestry, is currently working on the Ferguson Fire in California, and we had multiple crews assist with the Rhea Fire and Winter Valley Fire in Oklahoma earlier this year. Those who deployed to Oklahoma met with and were recognized by Governor Haslam for embodying the volunteer spirit of our state.

Tennessee is leading the nation in new Firewise communities this year, with more scheduled city and community recognitions to come. While Gatlinburg recently joined the list to be recognized, we are also seeing multiple areas throughout our state working alongside key partners and leaders to implement plans to reduce fire risk.

We opened a new Forestry work center in Crossville recently with a tree-planting ceremony and open house. The work center consolidates three offices into one centralized location that will save costs, improve workflow efficiency, and provide a place for Forestry personnel to store and maintain wildland firefighting equipment. We appreciate the Tennessee General Assembly and Governor Haslam for their commitment to improve our facilities, as two additional state forest projects are expected in the near future.

While you will find more information about these recent events and additions in this newsletter, I invite you to read the updates from our other divisions as well. Thank you for your continued support of Tennessee agriculture.

Horse in Field

Potomac Horse Fever Case Confirmed in Tennessee

The State Veterinarian is advising all horse owners to be alert as Potomac horse fever has been confirmed in a horse in Davidson County, Tenn.

Freshwater snails and aquatic insects are sources of the bacteria that causes Potomac horse fever. Horses may be exposed when drinking from creeks or rivers, and can then suffer from colic, fever, and diarrhea. Potomac horse fever has not been found to directly transmit from horse to horse.

Another potentially deadly disease, strangles, was confirmed in four horses at a private facility in Shelby County last month. This disease is a contagious upper respiratory tract infection that causes lymph nodes to swell around the head and neck, possibly leading to coughing, difficulty swallowing, airway obstruction, or death. Other symptoms can include nasal discharge, fever, and depression. According to the veterinarian treating the Shelby County horses, all are improving and are under voluntary quarantine until they fully recover.

Neither strangles nor Potomac horse fever are a threat to human health.

“Potomac horse fever and strangles are serious infections, and if you notice any signs of illness in your horses, you should contact your veterinarian immediately,” State Veterinarian Dr. Charles Hatcher said. “With these confirmed cases in Tennessee, we urge horse owners to be sure their horses are protected by using best management practices, which includes consulting with your local veterinarian for appropriate vaccination needs and schedules.”

Dr. Hatcher also suggests the following recommendations for horse owners to prevent disease:

  • Regularly disinfect stalls, water buckets, feed troughs, and other equipment
  • Eliminate standing water sources where disease-carrying insects may gather and breed
  • Avoid co-mingling your horses with other, unfamiliar horses

The State Veterinarian and the staff at the Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s C. E. Kord Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory are strongly committed to supporting horse health. The laboratory offers veterinarians advanced testing to confirm several equine diseases, including influenza, leptospirosis, salmonellosis, clostridiosis, herpesvirus, West Nile virus, and equine protozoal myeloencephalitis. For more information, contact your local veterinarian or the State Veterinarian’s office at 615-837-5120.

AEF Award

Agriculture Enterprise Fund Recipients Announced

Ten more Tennessee businesses will now have the opportunity to grow and positively impact rural economies through grants provided by the Agriculture Enterprise Fund (AEF).

Tennessee Agriculture Deputy Commissioner Tom Womack and Economic and Community Development Assistant Commissioner Amy New joined local, state, and business leaders in Adams, Tenn. to announce the third group of recipients of funding through the new program. This year’s total funding currently adds up to more than $923,000 of the $1 million set aside for the AEF.

A product of the Governor’s Rural Task Force, the AEF is an incentive program that supports Governor Haslam’s priority of job creation and economic development by facilitating agricultural development in Tennessee. It provides assistance to new and expanding Tennessee agriculture and food businesses, particularly in rural counties.

“The first year of the Agriculture Enterprise Fund has been extremely successful, and we look forward to seeing the economic benefits in the recipients’ communities,” Tennessee Agriculture Commissioner Jai Templeton said. “From Shelby County to Johnson County, from sawmills to mold detection technology, the Agriculture Enterprise Fund has strengthened Tennessee’s number one industry in the places that need it most.”

Successful grant recipients must demonstrate a strong potential for impact on local farm income, access to markets, increased capacity or agricultural innovation. Priority is given to businesses located in at-risk or distressed counties.

“Creating a business-friendly environment that promotes economic growth, especially in our rural communities, is one of our state’s main goals,” TNECD Commissioner Bob Rolfe said. “With the assistance of the Agriculture Enterprise Fund, the communities selected to receive these grants will be given the tools they need to succeed in Tennessee and will be better equipped for economic and agricultural development.”

AEF grant recipients and projects announced include:

  • Adams Innovation, Grainger County – beta testing mold detection technology on farms
  • Dorsett Processing, Gibson County – expanding a meat processing facility
  • East TN Wood Products, Blount County – expanding business to produce headings for bourbon barrels used in Scotland
  • Melon Pride, Robertson County – diversifying crops
  • Mooresburg Forest Products, Hawkins County – expanding a pulpwood processing facility
  • Silver Bait and Willow Oaks Farm, Grundy County – extending 3 phase power to a worm farm and poultry farm
  • Stone Mountain Mulch, Hawkins County – expanding a hardwood and pine bark processing facility
  • Sweetwater Valley Farm, Loudon County – creating a renewable energy source from waste
  • TMS Family Farms, Macon County – adding a commercial kitchen

“It is a great honor for our small family business to be awarded this grant,” Mark Dixon of East TN Wood Products said. “We are excited to be able to expand and further our company with the assistance of the AEF. Our goal is to put the funding to good use for East TN Wood Products, our community, and the state.”

You will find more information about the Tennessee Agriculture Enterprise Fund by clicking here.

Forestry Staff Changes

After serving the state of Tennessee for 38 years, we wish State Forester Jere Jeter the very best in a well-deserved retirement. Many initiatives and accomplishments took place under Jere's leadership, including championing the Division’s development of technology based information systems to tell the story of how we keep Tennessee’s forests healthy, productive, and diverse through our work with private forest landowners; he combined rural forest management, urban forest management, and forest health units into a newly created unit titled the Forest Health and Sustainability Unit to emphasize forest health as the focus of the Division's operations; and he reinvigorated the Forest Businesses Unit by making it more relevant and responsive to forest industry community needs through increased information and analysis sharing and marketing opportunities. Watch the video below to hear from Jere as he looks back on his career.

Governor Haslam and Commissioner Templeton have announced the appointment of David Arnold as the new State Forester and Assistant Commissioner for Forestry. Arnold will transition from being Assistant State Forester, where he was responsible for overseeing as much as $4 million in federal grants annually, contributing to the development of the division’s short- and long-term strategic and tactical plans, and supporting budgeting, planning, and hiring within the division.

As Arnold transitions into the role of State Forester, there are a couple of new Division of Forestry additions to announce. With more than 14 years of experience with forestry and wildland fire management, Wade Waters has been appointed fire chief the Division of Forestry. As fire chief, Waters will manage the prevention, detection, and suppression of wildfires in partnership with federal, state, and local organizations. He will also be responsible for programs and services that aim to minimize damage to Tennessee’s forests and the risk to the safety of the public and firefighters. Waters was first introduced to wildland fire management when he went to work for the U.S. Forest Service.

“I look forward to establishing new relationships with Division of Forestry personnel and our partners in fire management and emergency management,” Waters said. “I’m excited to address fire and fuels management issues through the appropriate supervision and expansion of various programs directed at assisting landowners."

Andy McBride, a 15 year veteran of the Division of Forestry, will transition from Assistant District Forester to District Forester for the 27 county region known as the Cumberland District, which includes more than 70,000 state forest acres. He will oversee the delivery of all state forestry services, including wildfire management and prevention, state forest management, landowner assistance, logging forestry best practice management courtesy checks, prescribed fire, tree planting, and other assets. McBride started his career as a forester for Standing Stone and Pickett State Forests. In 2015, he became the Assistant District Forester for the same district that he will now be managing. McBride, a Georgia native, graduated from the University of Georgia with a Bachelor of Science degree in Forest Management.

“I am honored to represent the Department of Agriculture’s Division of Forestry in this role,” McBride said. “I look forward to working with our great team to protect, promote, and manage the public and private forestlands within the Cumberland District.”
For more information on Division of Forestry staff and services, click here.

Smokin' Joes

Tradeshows Connect Tennessee Producers With Larger Buyers

Tennessee food and farm product entrepreneurs promoted their products to retail buyers at tradeshows in Chicago and Chattanooga with assistance and support from Pick Tennessee Products (PTP), a service of the Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDA).

Tennessee businesses Winfrey Foods and Blackberry Farm both participated in National Association of State Department of Agriculture’s American Food Fair this past May in Chicago. This annual event brings together more than 60,000+ attendees, from buyers to brokers to other state departments of agriculture, as well as all the latest innovators in food and beverage trends. Winfrey Foods promoted their chow chow relish and Blackberry Farm promoted a variety of artisanal items such as beer, cheese, and preserves.
Other PTP members competed for recognition and promoted their products to retail buyers at the 2018 Pick Tennessee Products Tradeshow held in Chattanooga as part of the Tennessee Grocers and Convenience Store Association (TGCSA) Convention. Smokin’ Joe’s Food Products (pictured above), Gypsy Circus Cider, and Winfrey Foods' Royal Relish Chow Chow are the official winners of the PTP Tradeshow. Many other exhibitors went home feeling like winners as well, having met and even struck deals with major Tennessee retailers.

Winners were chosen by a panel of local food media members and agricultural professionals. The recognition earned by winning provides an accolade to assist in marketing and acknowledges the proficiencies of the small businesses. The contest also gave an opportunity for entrepreneurs to prepare and practice their presentations before they met with grocery store and convenience store buyers.
The tradeshow has been a fixture of Pick Tennessee for more than 20 years and focuses on value-added products. In 2012, Pick Tennessee began hosting their tradeshow in partnership with TGCSA, giving member businesses access to the state’s largest buyers of processed products. Pick Tennessee also connects aspiring food and farm product businesses with commercial kitchens and local farm sources. TDA’s Consumer and Industry Services division helps new entrepreneurs navigate necessary permits for production and packaging.

Smokin Joe’s is a Nashville fish batter and sauce company, with products already on the shelves at Kroger stores and other retail outlets. Smokin’ Joe’s took first place with Smokin’ Joe’s Original Tartar Sauce. Second place winner Gypsy Circus Cider Company near Kingsport uses locally-sourced apples when possible to produce their range of ciders. Nashville’s Winfrey Foods took third place with Royal Relish Chow Chow, available at Publix and other stores. Tennessee companies Olive and Sinclair Chocolate and salsa, sauce, and marinade maker EV Originals won honorable mentions.

Pick Tennessee helped offset the cost of exhibiting at the these conventions, which led to many contacts being made and increased trade for Tennessee agriculture. Learn more about Tennessee food and farm products, the Pick Tennessee program, farmers markets, farm fun activities, and more at Follow Pick Tennessee on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for seasonal updates, recipes, and events.

The Julius T. Johnson State Metrology Laboratory officially opened with a ribbon cutting ceremony and dedication. The expansive laboratory includes the most current equipment and testing capabilities to ensure fairness in commerce.

Gatlinburg Firewise

Tennessee Communities Recognized for Wildfire Preparedness

The city of Gatlinburg has earned Firewise USA recognition, making Tennessee a national leader in new Firewise recognitions so far this year with 5 new communities. This lead to a total of 24 in the program, with more recognitions scheduled for the near future.

To become Firewise, these communities conducted wildfire hazard assessments and developed protection plans to address safety concerns with guidance from the local fire departments, the Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s Division of Forestry, and sometimes nearby national parks. Residents then worked together to implement the plans to reduce fire risk.

“These areas recognized are model communities by taking responsibility to address their wildfire safety concerns,” State Forester Jere Jeter said. “The Firewise USA program has provided the framework to develop more prepared communities with wildfire awareness and risk reduction activities. We are pleased to have been a part of these accomplishments and proud to see the recognitions, as they are extremely well deserved.”

The free and voluntary Firewise USA recognition program allows communities to apply for grants from the Division of Forestry to implement projects specified in their Community Wildfire Protection Plans.

Contact Tim Phelps at or 615-428-5913 for more information.

Weird Veggies

"Weird" Veggies Are Favorites You Just Haven't Tried

A stranger is just a friend you haven’t yet met, the saying goes. The same is true for the unfamiliar vegetables that are showing up at farmers markets and in community supported agriculture (CSA) boxes this summer.

As the national movement toward eating more fresh and local produce grows, so does the need for more variety. Other, less nutritive foods are tempting if you grow bored with a limited roster of vegetables and recipes.

Pick Tennessee Products has new recipes on their website that feature produce you may not yet have tried, including bok choy, kohlrabi, jicama, fennel bulb, and leeks.

Many vegetables that are unfamiliar at farmers markets are actually items we already enjoy at restaurants, we just don’t recognize them in a fresh, whole state. CSAs often include recipes for whatever produce is in the box. At a farmers market, the best way to explore new produce is to ask the grower. Farmers are happy to share tips for proper storage and uses for that produce.

Having fresh foods on hand makes healthy cooking and eating more likely. Take time to identify vegetables you don’t recognize and experiment with a quick and simple recipe. Using local produce leads to eating seasonally, and many people discover they enjoy eating fruits and vegetables more when they are at their tasty best.

Pick Tennessee Products connects farmers with consumers. It is a free service, offered by the Tennessee Department of Agriculture. Find Tennessee produce and farmers markets on the Pick TN mobile app and at Follow Pick Tennessee on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for seasonal updates.

This blackberry trifle recipe was written by PTP members. The full recipe is posted on the PTP website at

Interested in finding more PTP recipe videos? Watch our other recipe videos for Meatballs and for Mac and Cheese!