Recent Cold Snaps Helped State’s Strawberry Crop

Tuesday, April 09, 2013 | 02:22 pm
Cinna-Berry Bread
Cinna-Berry Bread

NASHVILLE –   Springtime cold snaps make strawberry lovers quake in their boots over the quantity and quality of the crop. Fortunately, Tennessee’s strawberry growers report that, if anything, the weather so far has only benefitted the burgeoning berries.

“All fruits sweeten best in hot, sunny weather,” says Pamela Bartholomew, marketing specialist with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, “but Tennessee’s cool, wet spring has actually prolonged the growing process. The cold has thinned out some strawberries, but that’s actually a good thing, too, since the remaining berries will get a bigger share of their plant’s nourishment. It all adds up to a great crop!”

Strawberries generally are available first in West Tennessee in mid-April, then work their way across the state. Early varieties of strawberries are ready now in West and Middle Tennessee, and will continue to be available to the end of May as later varieties reach maturity. In East Tennessee, strawberries are usually available throughout the month of May and the early part of June.

State Fire Marshal’s Office urges caution with outdoor burning

Thursday, April 04, 2013 | 03:59 pm

NASHVILLE, TN – As the weather slowly warms, many Tennesseans are sprucing up their outdoor property. Because these maintenance efforts often include the burning of limbs, lumber and other debris, the State Fire Marshal’s Office wants the public to be aware of outdoor-burning safety precautions.

“Negligent outdoor burning can lead to death, injury, property loss and environmental damage,” says State Fire Marshal and Commerce & Insurance Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak. “Care must be taken to ensure that burnings are conducted safely.”

Tennessee Beef Promotion Board to Meet

Thursday, April 04, 2013 | 01:56 pm

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Beef Promotion Board will meet April 18 at 2 p.m. CDT at the offices of the Tennessee Beef Industry Council, located at 530 Brandies Circle, Suite A in Murfreesboro, Tenn. The agenda includes a review and approval of minutes, a review of board finances and a program update. The meeting is open to the public.

The Tennessee Beef Promotion Board was created in 2012 by state law to oversee the collection and use of assessments paid by producers for the purpose of promoting beef and beef products in-state. The Board comprises representatives from the Tennessee Livestock Market Association, Tennessee Cattlemen’s Association, Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation, Tennessee Dairy Association and Tennessee Beef Cattle Improvement Initiative.

For more information, contact the Tennessee Department of Agriculture at 615-837-5160.

TDA Now Accepting Proposals for Specialty Crop Block Grants

Thursday, April 04, 2013 | 12:38 pm

NASHVILLE - The Tennessee Department of Agriculture is now accepting proposals for the USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. These federal funds are granted to enhance production and competitiveness of specialty crops, which include fruits and vegetables, dried fruits, tree nuts and nursery crops including floriculture. The grants are authorized through the federal Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 and are administered by TDA.

“Crop and income diversity are key elements for success as we work to grow rural economies in Tennessee,” said Ed Harlan, TDA assistant commissioner for Market Development. “Specialty crops are by definition crops that are not common or traditional to our producers. These crops are increasingly important to stable growth for agriculture related businesses, however.  Specialty crop grants can fund innovation, research and training to allow our producers and agriculture related businesses and organizations to improve, expand and try new income avenues with less risk.”

TDA officials anticipate the state will be eligible for about $480,000 in federal SCBG funds to support grower education, infrastructure, food safety and marketing. Universities, institutions, cooperatives, producers, for-profit industries or community-based organizations may submit proposals for project funding, but all fund recipients must be recognized by the IRS and must provide benefit to more than a single organization, institution or individual. Demonstration of long-term benefits is also required.

Tennessee Lawmakers to Celebrate "Ag Day on the Hill"

Tuesday, March 26, 2013 | 09:49 am

NASHVILLE – Tennessee lawmakers will celebrate Ag Day on the Hill on April 2 at Legislative Plaza. The day will highlight the importance of farming and forestry to the state of Tennessee.

Ag Day on the Hill will feature a variety of exhibits and activities including:

  • A milking contest between Senate and House members
  • A cattle weighing contest 
  • Live animals – cattle, goats, pigs, chicken, sheep, bees, mules and horses
  • Crops and farm equipment
  • Special presentations to the House Agriculture Committee

Ag Day on the Hill will begin at 8 a.m. with displays from agricultural organizations lining the halls while the contests, live animals, crops and farm equipment will be located at the courtyard entrance to Legislative Plaza. The annual milking contest will take place at 9:45 a.m. Special presentations to the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee get underway at 10:30 a.m. The winner of the cattle weighing contest, to be announced during the committee meeting, will receive a Pick Tennessee Products gift basket.

Chicks and Ducks Are Cute, but Not a Good Easter Gift

Friday, March 22, 2013 | 10:56 am

- Risk of human Salmonella infections from contact with live poultry -

NASHVILLE – Cuddly baby chicks and ducks are as much a part of the Easter holiday as colored eggs and the Easter bunny. But even though they are fun to look at and kids love them, you should not give them as gifts because of the health risks involved.

Live poultry, especially baby poultry, commonly carry Salmonella germs. People can get Salmonella from contact with the birds or their environments. These germs can contaminate a bird’s body and anything in the area where they are displayed or housed, such as cages or coops.

In recent years, many outbreaks have been linked to handling live poultry purchased from agricultural feed stores and mail-order hatcheries. In these outbreaks thousands of people became ill, hundreds were hospitalized, and several deaths occurred.

Henry Horton State Park to Offer Farmers’ Market This Summer

Tuesday, March 19, 2013 | 02:52 pm

Interested Farmers/Gardeners Should Contact the Park for Booth Space

CHAPEL HILL, Tenn. – Henry Horton State Park announced today that a farmers’ market will be offered at the park this summer to provide nearby residents with fresh and healthy produce choices. Farmers and gardeners interested in participating in the market are encouraged to contact the park’s office to reserve booth space.

State Soil Conservation Committee to Meet March 18

Wednesday, March 13, 2013 | 02:33 pm

NASHVILLE - The next meeting of the State Soil Conservation Committee will be held March 18 at 10 a.m. in the rear conference room of the Holman Building at the Ellington Agricultural Center, located at 440 Hogan Rd, Nashville, Tenn. 

The agenda includes a review of appointments to SCD boards as well as other business.

The meeting is open to the public. Individuals interested in addressing the committee should plan to arrive prior to the start of the meeting in order to be placed on the agenda.

Harlan Named Assistant Commissioner for Market Development

Monday, March 11, 2013 | 12:29 pm
Ed Harlan
Ed Harlan

NASHVILLE – Agriculture Commissioner Julius Johnson today announced the appointment of veteran TDA employee Ed Harlan as assistant commissioner for Market Development.

Harlan has served as director of agriculture and forestry development for the department since 2003. He succeeds Joe Gaines who retired in February after serving 43 years in state government.

“Ed brings a unique perspective to this position as a farmer, businessman and former county executive. He is highly respected and well known throughout the state because of his agribusiness development efforts,” Johnson said.  “I’m pleased that he has accepted this expanded role in helping us grow our food and fiber industry.”

Simply Fantastic Greens for Spring

Friday, March 01, 2013 | 02:34 pm
Garlic Spinach Sauté
Garlic Spinach Sauté

NASHVILLE -- Green is the first color of spring, and greens are the first crops of the garden season. In Tennessee, spring starts with turnip and collard greens, plus all kinds of lettuces. Spinach, though, is perhaps the modern favorite spring green. 

Famously nutritious, it’s also tender and sweet to eat from baby stage to full broad leaf. Spinach cooks quickly and can be successfully added to just about any savory dish for added color and nutrition.

Spinach and other “cool weather” crops like cabbage, potatoes, Brussels sprouts, onions, peas, broccoli, cilantro and asparagus begin to show up in farmers markets and on CSA, “community supported agriculture,”  farms as early  as March and will last as long as the weather remains cool and damp. Summer’s heat turns greens tough and peppery or bitter, and other cool crops begin to succumb to pests, molds and stress.