Tennessee’s Strawberry Crop Late, But Still Great, For Most of State

Friday, April 25, 2014 | 12:28 pm

NASHVILLE - Despite the recent threat of a hard freeze across Tennessee, the state’s strawberry crop remains unscathed - mostly. The 2014 strawberry season is still on track to begin around the first week of May in West Tennessee, where temperatures are milder, and as late as June 1 for upper East Tennessee where temperatures are cooler and the majority of freeze damage occurred.

Tennessee strawberry growers tend to have loyal customers who make a trip to the strawberry patch an annual tradition. Since strawberry season is relatively brief, lasting just a month or so, strawberry lovers should locate local growers and markets that sell local berries ahead of the season, if possible, to get a shot at this coveted crop.

Call local growers to find out when a particular patch is ready to pick, hours of operation, and how the farm’s berries are sold. Some growers provide their own containers, and others expect pickers to bring their own. Some sell pre-picked berries, and will set aside containers berries for those who call ahead. Others may take a certain amount of berries to a local farmers market in a location which might be more convenient for customers than a trip out to a farm.

State Introduces New Mobile App for Farms, Farmers Markets

Wednesday, April 23, 2014 | 02:47 pm

NASHVILLE - A “Pick Tennessee” mobile app is now available which can find and then map the way to locally grown farm products, farms and farmers markets. The free app, downloadable from both iTunes for Apple products and from Google Play for Android devices, is the latest advancement of Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s Pick Tennessee Products promotion.

“I’m proud to introduce this new face of an old friend,” Tennessee Department of Agriculture Commissioner Julius Johnson said. “Pick Tennessee Products has thrived for 28 years not only by providing real and valuable services, but also by having the flexibility to adapt to change—changing cultures, consumer demands, and technology."

“Our government services must anticipate needs not just for the current year, but for 15 years down the road. With the new Pick Tennessee mobile app, we now reach consumers where they already expect to find us—on their phones and other digital devices.”

Impending Cold Snap, Freeze Risk May Threaten State’s Strawberry Crop, Fruit Trees

Monday, April 14, 2014 | 02:02 pm

NASHVILLE - Tennessee’s highly anticipated strawberry crop has survived a roller coaster weather ride until now, but low temperatures, wind chill and moisture has area strawberry growers working overtime to protect the valuable berries. Generally, this year’s crop has been on schedule to be ready for first picking around the first of May.

Other fruit-bearing trees may also be affected by a hard freeze. A little frost can actually be a good thing, naturally weeding out enough blooms that the remaining blossoms can produce bigger, better fruits, but depending on how much the warm, sunny days of the past week have prompted tender shoots and buds to expose themselves to the elements, it could also spell disaster.

Contact Dr. David Lockwood, UT Institute of Agriculture, (865) 414-2412, for details about how particular crops, from strawberries to grapes and fruit trees, may be affected by approaching weather conditions. Additional contacts are available through Patricia McDaniels, UT Institute of Agriculture Marketing and Communications, (615) 835-4570.

TDA Announces Dairy Product Recall for East Tennessee

Tuesday, April 08, 2014 | 11:35 am

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Agriculture in cooperation with Jersey Ridge Dairy of Knoxville, Tenn., is announcing a recall of Cruze Farm Girl Vanilla Ice Cream.

As a precaution, the company is voluntarily recalling the product because of improper pasteurization. The problem was discovered through TDA’s routine review of records at the dairy. The product is believed to have been produced on March 7 and distributed to several stores in the Knoxville area, but all product has since been removed from shelves.

Product Description

Vanilla Ice Cream
1 pint (16oz.) plastic containers
Red Label with “Cruze Farm Girl” printed on it
Flavor “Vanilla” handwritten on product
"PRODUCED AT PLANT 47-245" printed on product
No code date

A Bushel Full of Good Reasons to Join a CSA

Monday, April 07, 2014 | 09:50 am

NASHVILLE - There’s a whole bushel of good reasons to participate in “community supported agriculture,” a business model through which customers purchase a “share” or “half-share” of a farmer’s harvest, often before crops are even planted. The phrase may be awkward, but choosing local, homegrown foods is a national trend, and CSAs are gaining ground.

Paying the farmer before the growing season begins allows the farmer to buy seed, fuel, and other inputs necessary to grow crops for the year. As crops ripen, fresh, local food is already bought and paid for. This direct growing and purchasing relationship gives producers a stable income and the fairest return on their products. That’s a great benefit for the farmers, but the concept benefits CSA members at least as much.

First, locally grown fruits and vegetables have an unbeatable edge in nutritional value and flavor. When a fruit or vegetable is harvested, it immediately begins losing vitamin content. Getting veggies picked from their plants only hours before delivery ensures the consumer gets the best quality possible. CSA memberships can also be cost efficient, with no middleman taking a cut of the profits, and foods cooked at home are also less costly than pre-prepared foods. Those home cooked meals come without the preservatives, artificial colors and flavorings prevalent in processed foods, along with sugars and fats that detract from the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables.

Tree Planting Event Aims to Protect Whites Creek

Friday, April 04, 2014 | 09:32 am

- Volunteers needed to plant 500 trees -

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Agriculture Division of Forestry is partnering with the Tennessee Environmental Council (TEC) and the Whites Creek Watershed Alliance to plant trees in the Whites Creek Watershed this Saturday, April 5. The effort is a part of the Division’s Riparian Buffer Program and TEC’s Tennessee Tree Project.

“Healthy creeks, streams and rivers are dependent on healthy forested stream banks” State Forester Jere Jeter said. “Tree planting events such as this one help to improve the quality of water and life downstream.”

Volunteers are needed to help plant 500 trees along the beautiful Whites Creek from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. this Saturday. The event will take place at 2102 Ingram Road, Nashville (intersection of Ingram Road and Lickton Pike). No prior tree planting experience is needed. In fact, this is a great way to learn how to plant trees, meet some new friends and get some exercise. The event is also ideal for families with kids 6 years and older. Interested volunteers are encouraged to register with TEC prior to the event by sending an email to Information about the event can be found on TEC website at .

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

Thursday, April 03, 2014 | 01:10 pm

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.

TDA Now Accepting Proposals for Specialty Crop Block Grants

Monday, March 31, 2014 | 01:25 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.

“Tennessee’s rural communities are home to a lot of smart, hardworking people who see opportunities for the future,” Ed Harlan, assistant commissioner for TDA Market Development, said.

“For experienced agricultural entities who want to take their operations to the next level, Specialty Crop Block grants can be the missing piece of the puzzle,” Harlan said. “The projects funded by these grants have the potential to create a positive ripple effect of success for rural economies.”

Tennessee Beef Promotion Board to Meet

Friday, March 28, 2014 | 01:19 pm

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Beef Promotion Board will meet April 17 at 1 p.m. CDT at the Tennessee Beef Industry Council, 530 Brandies Circle Suite A., Murfreesboro, Tenn. The agenda includes a review and approval of minutes, a review of board finances, an update on the Tennessee Beef Industry Council being designated to collect state checkoff dollars on behalf of board and other business. 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.

State Soil Conservation Committee to Meet

Friday, March 21, 2014 | 12:57 pm

NASHVILLE - The State Soil Conservation Committee will meet March 31 at 10 a.m. CDT in the Holeman Building at Ellington Agricultural Center, located at 424 Hogan Road in Nashville. 

The agenda includes approval of previous meeting minutes, a review of recommendations for appointments to local Soil Conservation District boards and general discussion. The meeting is open to the public.