Agriculture

Plenty of Rainfall Makes State’s Sorghum Crop a Sweet Success

Wednesday, October 02, 2013 | 11:01 am
Sorghum Granola
Sorghum Granola

NASHVILLE -- Sorghum is one of several crops in Tennessee that seems to have benefited from a rainy summer. Some highly anticipated fall crops, like pumpkins, have suffered in some parts of the state due to excess moisture and lack of sun. Others, like corn and sorghum, are on track for record harvests if current patterns of sunny, less-humid weather hold.

Sorghum syrup is a treasured traditional Tennessee food produced when the extracted juice from the sorghum plant is boiled down.  Tennessee is one of the nation’s leading states in sorghum syrup production.

Sorghum was the main sweetener and an important nutrition source for American colonists and pioneers. It remained America’s primary sweetener right up to the beginning of the 20th century.

Guthrie’s Has Farm Animals, Playgrounds, Fall Décor - Oh, And Redneck Zombies

Tuesday, October 01, 2013 | 01:40 pm

--Media Day at Area Farm Offers Close Up Look at Fall Farm Fun—

NASHVILLE - Guthrie Pumpkin Farm and Corn Maze near Riceville in McMinn County will host a Pick Tennessee Products media day on Thursday, October 3 to showcase fall farm fun. Media will have the opportunity to interview the farmers and area officials, get footage or images of activities and visitors, take a tour of the farm, and receive a “goody bag” including digital images and information about local foods and farms for fall and the holidays.

This year’s cool, rainy summer may have been a mixed blessing for area farmers, helping some crops and hampering others. For agritourism farmers like the Guthrie family, however, their biggest crop is fun, and Guthrie’s Pumpkin Farm and Corn Maze has fun in abundance. In addition to traditional and educational children’s activities including hayrides, a visit to the pumpkin patch, and petting farm animals, this farm goes all out to connect with every age group. That’s where “Redneck Zombie Paintball” comes in, and how the year’s maze got its “Game of Corn” theme. On weekends through October, the farm transforms from family friendly to, well, zombie friendly.

Ready…Set…DIG! Best Autumn Ever To Add Trees, Shrubs, Perennials to Landscape

Monday, September 30, 2013 | 01:27 pm
Dogwood Tree
Dogwood Tree

NASHVILLE - A cool, rainy summer has left Tennessee’s lawns and landscapes with soils still soft and retaining moisture.  Perfect. There’ll never be a better fall to improve your landscape.

Fall is always the best season to transplant trees, shrubs, bulbs or any other perennials.  Summer’s heat is too stressful for new transplants, and even daily watering can’t make up for heat plus drought. Perennial plants also need fall and winter to develop their root systems instead of growing, blooming or putting out leaves as they do in spring or summer. As long as the ground is not frozen hard, it’s not too late to transplant.

Fall is the also time of year to fertilize new plants—which is anything planted in the past 6 months or so—with a root stimulator. It‘s usually marked as such, but if not, look for a high middle number on the fertilizer packs. “N-P-K” stands for nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium; these are the three primary nutrients for healthy plant growth. Phosphorus, particularly, helps promote healthy root growth. By the time spring comes, a good root system can be established already and that plant will be ready to show off with growth and color.

Tennessee Wines Win Awards Coast to Coast—But Visit Them At Home In October

Wednesday, September 25, 2013 | 01:19 pm

NASHVILLE - Tennessee wineries have been racking up awards on both sides of the U.S. all summer, but now is prime time to visit them on their home turf, when the wine making process is underway at local wineries.

Depending on the grape variety, weather and vineyard location, the season’s harvest begins about August and wraps up in October. That’s when wineries start making the year’s wines, and when visitors to local wineries can get a close up look at the process. Most local wineries offer educational tours of their facilities.

Going straight to a winery to learn about wines has practical benefits, too. In retail stores, wines are often bought based on the look of the label, the price, or recommendation of someone at the store who may or may not know the wine being discussed. At a local winery’s tasting room, wines can be sampled before purchase. The vintner may even be on hand to discuss ways to serve and use it. The winery certainly will have an expert on hand whose whole purpose is to educate visitors about their products.

Tennessee Dairy Promotion Committee to Meet Oct. 17

Wednesday, September 25, 2013 | 10:26 am

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Dairy Promotion Committee will meet jointly with the American Dairy Association of Tennessee board on Oct. 17 at 9 a.m. CST at the Holiday Inn Express, located at 1228 Bunker Hill Road in Cookeville, Tenn. The committee and board will receive an update on current dairy promotion activities. 

The Tennessee Dairy Promotion Committee will officially meet to conduct business following lunch. The agenda includes a review of 2014 dairy promotion contracts. The meeting is open to the public.

Tennessee Apple Orchards Get “Reprieve” Thanks to Recent Turn in the Weather

Monday, September 23, 2013 | 10:40 am

-Media Day at Apple Valley Orchard Offers Up Close Look at State of State’s Apples-

NASHVILLE - Apple Valley Orchard near Cleveland will host a Pick Tennessee Products media day on Tuesday, September 24 to celebrate the year’s apple crop. Media will have the opportunity to interview apple growers and area officials, get footage and photographs of visitors, take a tour of the farm, and receive a “goody bag” including digital images and information about local foods and farms.

Despite a series of challenges, the state’s apple orchards are on target to produce an average sized crop. Tennessee’s apple crop is usually between 7.5 and 9 million pounds.

“We’ve had a reprieve,” says Dr. Dave Lockwood, professor of plant sciences at the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture. “High night time temperatures and rain produce adverse effects in an apple’s sugars and color, but now that night time temperatures have dropped and the weather’s been dry, the crop is just getting better every day.”

Tennessee Apple Orchards Get “Reprieve” Thanks to Recent Turn in the Weather

Friday, September 20, 2013 | 10:47 am

NASHVILLE - “We’ve had a reprieve,” says Dr. David Lockwood, fruit specialist and professor of plant science at the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture. “Despite this year’s challenges, the state’s apple orchards are on target now to produce an average sized crop.”

Tennessee usually boasts a statewide apple yield between 7.5 and 9 million pounds, and the fruit crop specialist says he’s guessing this year’s commercial crop will fall within that range.

“High night time temperatures and persistent rain produce adverse effects in an apple’s sugars and color, but now that night time temperatures have dropped and the weather’s been dry, the crop is just getting better every day,” says Lockwood.

Be Good to Sweet Potatoes and They’ll Be Good to You

Thursday, September 19, 2013 | 01:05 pm
Sweet Potato Souffle
Sweet Potato Souffle

NASHVILLE -- Tennessee grown sweet potatoes can be found at virtually every local farmers market across the state throughout the fall, peaking in October and November. When chosen and stored with care, this is that rare vegetable that actually gets better as it waits to be used. That’s great news for winter meals, since there are few options for fresh local produce between November and April. Following a few simple guidelines will keep your sweet potatoes in top condition until you use them.

Choose firm, relatively smooth sweet potatoes without wrinkles, bruises, sprouts, or decay. Even if cut away, a decayed spot may have already caused the whole potato to take on an unpleasant flavor.

Don't store sweet potatoes in a refrigerator. Temperatures below 55 degrees Fahrenheit will chill this tropical vegetable, giving it a hard core and an odd taste when cooked. Instead, store them for up to a month in a dry, cool (55-60 F) place, like a cellar, pantry or garage. Sweet potatoes contain an enzyme that converts most of its starches into sugars as the potato matures. This sweetness continues to increase during storage and when they are cooked.

State’s Soggy Summer Doesn’t Dampen Fall’s Farm Fun

Tuesday, September 17, 2013 | 03:35 pm

NASHVILLE - “We grew 134 varieties of pumpkins and gourds this year, plus the prettiest mums we’ve had yet,” said Andrew Dixon, farmer and operator of Granddaddy’s Farm near Nashville. “The rain didn’t hold us back. In fact, the corn maze is taller and greener, and everything is better than it’s been since we’ve opened the place — I think even the racing pigs run faster!”

Tennessee’s cool, rainy summer may have been a mixed blessing for farmers, helping some crops and hampering others, but now that fall is here, the state’s agritourism operators see no downside.   

“There’ll be plenty of pumpkins in the patch, plus hayrides, farm animals and a great corn maze, too,” says Ann Linginfelter of Deep Well Farm near Lenoir City. “Besides, our customers know that we offer a lot of awesome activities that just need the wide open spaces you find on a farm. Rope walls and monster slides and tire swings are fun anywhere — they’re just more fun at the farm, on a beautiful fall day.”

Dress Up “Summer” Produce for Fall

Wednesday, September 11, 2013 | 02:43 pm
Zucchini Pie
Zucchini Pie

NASHVILLE - Some types of produce — sweet potatoes, for instance, or pumpkins — are truly fall crops. Planted in summer’s heat and harvested as the year winds down, there’s only one season per calendar year when they’re available. Watermelons are a prime example of a true summer crop; local asparagus is available for only a brief time in early spring. 

Most types of produce, however, are merely cool weather or warm weather crops—meaning that as long as the weather conditions are right, they can be planted and thrive, providing harvests over and over. In Tennessee, the growing season typically runs seven to nine months.

Squashes like yellow crookneck and zucchini are called “summer” squashes only to set them apart from hard, or “winter,” squashes like butternut, acorn, patty pan and other true autumn varieties. Summer squash is planted in late spring to be available by early summer, but later plantings make these delicious and easy to use vegetables plentiful right up until frost.