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The Greeneville Sun

Salute to Agriculture

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Orr Sees Value In Farmer Cooperation And ‘Brainstorming’ BY CAMERON JUDD ASSISTANT EDITOR Milton Orr, director of the University of Tennessee Extension Service office in Greene County, has had a front-row view of local agriculture for years. It’s a view that sometimes brings surprises. He experienced one of those recently while the pandemic was going strong and meetings were done by computer. A “virtual meeting” was coming up that would involve farmers, some of them no longer young. Aware of the perception that many seniors shun computers, Orr wasn’t optimistic that some of the oldest farmers would take part in that online gathering. His pessimism was misplaced. “When I looked at the faces on the computer screen, I saw some people I wasn’t sure would even own a computer, much less learn to use something like Zoom,” he said. It astounded him. So much for the idea that rural senior citizens are unwilling to adapt and learn the proverbial “new tricks!” Tempering Orr’s surprise somewhat was an awareness that American farmers have embraced technology and agricultural science to their advantage. In fact, Orr says these days that “the biggest boon to agriculture in the last 50 to 75 years has been technology.”

Milton Orr

Largely because of agricultural technology and the science behind it, Americans enjoy what Orr says is demonstrably the “cheapest and safest food supply in the world.” Both of those factors, cost and safety, impact consumers’ food-buying decisions, Orr says, but studies and surveys have shown that food safety is the top concern cited by consumers. The safety of the American food supply is a pride point for Orr. “Agriculture has done a wonderful job of addressing food safety,” he noted. Orr points out also that agriculture involves far more than food. “Everything we wear or eat goes back to agriculture,” he said. For him, what distinguishes agriculture from hobbyist farming is that its goal is production, usually of food or fiber. On the food production side, agriculture has grown ever more efficient, again thanks to technology, Orr notes. Agriculture in America feeds a population about


Angus cattle are a prevalent cattle variety in Northeast Tennessee.

twice as big as it was in the middle of the 20th century, and does so with fewer land resources than existed all those many years back. That couldn’t happen if not for innovations such as crop hybrids, and on the animal side of the equation, scientifically guided breeding and genetic technologies, Orr asserts. In the period from about 1920 through 1950, Orr said, about 30 to 60 bushels of corn could be produced on an acre of land. Today that same acre can produce about 350 bushels. In reference to beef cattle, Orr’s personal specialty as a raiser of registered Angus cattle, he says that a beef farmer herd is able to feed twice as many people as a herd of the same size fed 70 or so years ago,

while using a third of the land and and less than half the water. And these modern farmers achieve this while reducing their carbon footprint more than 68 percent. Due to scientifically based breeding, beef cattle can be raised that produce more meat, which is why a modern cow herd can feed more people than could a herd of the same size from decades back. Dairy cattle, unlike beef cattle, are bred to produce more milk rather than more meat, which is why culled dairy cattle that outlive their productive lives and are sent to slaughter, usually are used to produce potted meat products and so on that do not require high-quality beef. What about dairy? How does Orr perceive the current state of dairy farming

in Greene County, which once boasted one of the most thriving dairy industries in the state, but now is in decline? Dairy continues to

struggle, according to Orr, particularly smaller dairies with herds of maybe 12 or 20 cows. SEE ORR ON PAGE 3

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From the Front Mary Beth Collette is this year’s June Dairy Days junior chairman. She lives in the Chuckey/Rheatown area of Greene County and attends David Crockett High School in Washington County. She is a 4H honor club member and FFA vice president. She has helped out at her family’s SideLine Farms since she was a child. The farm dates to 1858. It takes in about 170 acres of land and has about 80 head of cattle at present.


Saturday, May 29, 2021 • Page 3


These bovine buddies don’t appear overly concerned about the challenges of modern farming.


When Orr got his first job in Greene County’s Extension Service, there were more than 400 dairy operations in the county. Now that number is down to about 20, by his estimate. That was in the 1980s. By the time he became director in the Extension office in 2007, dairy already was seeing changing times, and that has continued. Can small dairies survive? Orr’s answer is that yes, they probably can, and one key to that is to work cooperatively.

One example he cites is dairy operators cooperatively buying commodity feed for several dairy farms rather than only one, and getting the benefit of the bulk-buying discounts. Something along the same principle can be done with beef cattle when multiple farmers join together to buy vaccines and health treatments cooperatively, sharing the savings. “They could say, ‘Instead of buying a truckload of cottonseed hulls for my little herd, lets buy 100 truckloads and get it cheaper,’” Orr presented as an example. “Or with vaccines farmers could say, ‘Let’s go together in a group and get

enough to vaccinate 2,000 head of cattle, not just my 40 cows. That’s where you get the power of buying in bulk.” There also are ways to add value to dairy cattle, he says, such as, perhaps, focusing on cattle varieties that produce milk with low lactose impact, and target-marketing the product accordingly. Orr sees possible potential in the development of farm-based milk processing and marketing … something that sounds almost like a dairy version of craft brewing. “Make the product attractive,” he said. “That’s value added.” He is an advocate of “brainstorming”

between cooperative farmers with creative minds and imaginative ideas about marketing their product in an environment far different than the one that existed when the local Pet plant was more than a name lingering on an old Greeneville smokestack. The Greene County Extension office is located on the lower floor of the Greene County governmental office building at 204 N. Cutler Street, in Suite 105. The phone number is 798-1710. Those who visit that office can identify Milton Orr easily. He’ll be the one with the magnificent mustache, one he has cultivated since 1974.

Page 4 • Saturday, May 29, 2021


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Betty Love’s Love Affair With Dairy Farming BY CAMERON JUDD ASSISTANT EDITOR What follows is an edited and updated version of a Greeneville Sun story about Betty Love first published in 2019. Integral to June Dairy Day for nearly 30 years, “Miss Betty” is involved in this year’s June Dairy events as well, but has indicated she may step back from it after this year. That “Miss Betty” Love is a huge fan of dairies and dairy cattle is a long-standing rumor, and a visit to her Love Hollow Road home in 2019 confirmed it. Cows everywhere. On walls, shelves, garments, furniture. Stuffed toy cows sat on a small, decorative bench, cow paintings and drawings were all around, with cow statuettes and toys, and sofa throws bearing cow images. “Even my Christmas tree has cows,” Betty said at


Betty Love, standing at right. judges a milk mustache contest on June Dairy Day in 2011.

the time. June is Miss Betty’s kind of month, being Dairy Month, a time when the dairy industry and its people (and cows) take center stage, particularly in Greene County, where dairy has been a major part of farm life for many

decades. It’s a changing industry these days, with dairy herds and farms either declining, shifting partially or fully from dairy to beef or some other form of agriculture or livestock, and with dairy farmers who do carry on

often struggling to make a living. The Loves had reduced their own dairy herd from as many as 40 or more cattle in the good years to only two cows as of 2019, used only to produce milk for family consumption.

The Loves drink their milk the old-school way: raw, unprocessed. Betty has said she knows people who told her their stomach problems markedly improved after a switch to unprocessed cow’s milk. Betty theorizes that the natural milk boosts micro-

organisms needed in human digestion. Betty is pro-dairy farming, pro-cow and pro-milk through and through. “Milk is still the best drink on the market,” she said in 2019. “There’s no denying I just love this whole dairy and cow thing, and I love promoting anything to do with June Dairy Month.” Personal heritage plays a big part in her dairy devotion. Betty’s girlhood days involved rising early to milk, before going to school. After school it was time to come home and milk again, do whatever other chores and homework had to be completed, then rest up for a tomorrow that would follow the same pattern. There are things other than dairying that are cherished in the Love household. Betty is an avid gardener, and she and Lanny continued being part the same church in which they met as youngsters, Cedar Grove United Methodist Church.

June Dairy Days Celebration Set For June 4 In observance of June Dairy Month, the Greene County Partnership’s Agribusiness Committee will host the annual June Dairy Days Celebration June 4 at the Greene County Fairgrounds Livestock Pavilion from 6 to 8 p.m. The event is held to honor dairy farmers and their dedication to the nutritious milk they produce, according to a news release. There will be contests

for all ages, entertainment and free dairy products to sample as Greeneville and Greene County pay homage to dairy farmers, said Betty Love, event chairman, and Contests will include a pedal-tractor race sponsored by Farm Credit Mid-America, pin the tail on a cow, bowling games, putt-putt contest, a milk chugging contest, ring toss for the milk bottle, a floating cow contest, a mooing

contest, a milk mustache contest, ice cream eating contest sponsored by TCBY Yogurt, a bouncy cow for the smaller kids, the Mayfield Cow and more. Beginning Monday, May 31, through Saturday, June 5, June Dairy cows will appear throughout The Greeneville Sun classified ads. Count the June Dairy cows that are in the ads each day and return the total on the entry form to

be eligible to win. All correct entries will be placed in a box for a drawing to be held June 10. A photo of winners will appear in the paper June 26. First prize will be Andrew Johnson Bank gift, second prize is a farm set from the Co-Op and third prize is a farm toy from Broyles Feed Store. The deadline for the entries is June 10, at The Greeneville Sun. Free food to be sampled

by those attending during the evening will include ice cream sandwiches provided by Mayfield, milk provided by Piedmont, homemade butter provided by the Farm Bureau Women, who will be taking turns at the churn during the event, and members of the Greene County Livestock Association will be in attendance, Angus Association will have chili and the 4-H organization will

have biscuits and ice cream cups. Cheese sticks will be provided from the Greene County Partnership. Parking for the celebration will be off of Fairgrounds Road. Follow the directional signs. For more information on the celebration, call Lori Dowell at the Greene County Partnership at 423-6384111, Mary Beth Collette at 423-607-9298 or Betty Love at 423-470-2019.


Saturday, May 29, 2021 • Page 7

Dairy, Beef Cattle Farms Challenged Over Past Year herd. Farmers also contend with STAFF WRITER other variables every year, like the weather. PrecipitaIt’s been a difficult year for some operators of dairy tion in 2021 has been below farms and other agriculaverage, and in speaking with dairy farmers in the Midwest, ture-related farming busihe said drought conditions nesses. there are possible. Milk prices remain rel“If we don’t get some rain, atively low and the cost of then the price (of feed) is not feed has skyrocketed, said going to get any cheaper,” Glenn Tweed, operator of Tweed said. a 350-acre dairy farm on The cooperative Tweed Lola Humphreys Road in belongs to sells its milk to Limestone. Ingles Markets. Having a Tweed, a dairy farmer for steady customer is welcome, 37 years, is one of the directors of the Appalachian Dairy but the price of milk paid to Farmers Cooperative, which dairy farmers “has not gone includes farms in Tennessee, up,” he said. Meanwhile, overhead Virginia and North Carolina. expenses for necessary items Tweed has currently has like feed continue to rise. about 220 head of cattle, Corn is nearly twice the price about the same number he it was one year ago. had in spring 2020 as the The current presidential COVID-19 virus began to administration’s emphasis spread through the region. on climate change means He grows his own corn, an more corn-based ethanol advantage not every farmer in gas. Add corn exports to with cattle has. Pandemic-related funding other countries like China, and Tweed does not see helped sustain many operafeed prices dropping in the tions last year. “The government, as a rule, coming year. “It doesn’t look like it will takes care of dairy farmers. With the COVID money, they come down a lot,” he said. Greene County once had a have been very generous in thriving agricultural econothat program,” Tweed said. But additional funds are my based on dairy products, not expected as the pandem- beef cattle and tobacco. Tweed estimated last year ic lessens. there were only 10 to 12 dairy “Since that ceased, milk farms left in the county, and prices are down and it’s as bad as I’ve seen for the price about five dairy farms in Washington County. of feed corn. The price of He estimated that 30 years feed corn and soy beans are ago in Greene County, there up,” Tweed said. “We raise all of our own corn and that’s were about 150 dairy farms. “There’s going to be some helping us, but people who more quit. I’ve heard a lot of are having to buy all of that, people talking about it. (It’s) it’s hitting them pretty hard financial hardship,” Tweed square in the face.” said. “It’s got more volatile Tweed added 50 acres of the last few years.” corn this year to feed his


U.S. Department of Agriculture insurance has helped sustain many farms like Tweed’s. Getting into the business is too expensive these days for many young people interested in farming, he added. “You have to milk (at least) 100 cows to be viable,” Tweed said.

INFLATION, FEED COSTS Tweed said that a farm tractor that sold for $8,500 in 1973 now costs about $100,000, reflecting inflation that has not meant commensurate prices for dairy products. “It’s feed costs verses milk prices. That’s it in a nutshell,” he said. The USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service figures show another annual decline in the number of licensed dairy operations in the United States in 2020. “After many years of depressed prices, some dairy farmers faced an extremely tough year as the industry struggled with a global pandemic,” according to the American Farm Bureau Federation. Since 2003, the U.S. has lost more than half of its licensed dairy operations, with about 32,000 dairy farms still in business in early 2021. The number of licensed dairy farms in Tennessee declined by 20 in 2020, according to the USDA. The AFBF notes that the rising cost of corn and soybean meal prices that began in late 2020 “are likely to carry through 2021 as higher feed prices, which will be


Glenn Tweed stands inside the milkhouse on his Greene County dairy farm in April 2020.


Dairy farm operator Glenn Tweed stands near some of his cattle in a field on Lola Humphreys Road in April 2020.

particularly tough for milk producers as milk prices are trending lower.” U.S. dairy farmers entered 2021 “still in a state of

flux following the disruptions caused by COVID-19 throughout 2020 and uncertainty on how new food assistance programs may

impact milk and dairy commodity prices,” according to the AFBF. SEE CHALLENGE ON PAGE 8

Page 8 • Saturday, May 29, 2021



Phillip Ottinger looks over one of his apple trees earlier this month at his Buffalo Trail Orchard farm.


Tweed has heard from other farmers that the coronavirus pandemic and market conditions have also negatively impacted local beef producers and other agricultural sectors. “The price of corn is not good for beef cattle, either,” he said. The price of chicken, pork and other livestock at the supermarket will likely go up. “It’s going to be higher at the store and cheaper (reimbursement) at the farm level,” Tweed said. “The ratio is messed up. Anything that eats corn is going to cost more.”

ORCHARD BUSINESS BLOOMING Paul Ottinger operates Buffalo Trail Orchard, on Dodd Branch Road in the Cedar Creek community. He tends about 1,700 trees that produce numerous varieties of apples, plums and peaches, as well as bushes that grow blueberries and blackberries. He also grows pumpkins and squash for sale in

the fall. Ottinger operates a produce stand at the orchard. Apples are picked outside and fruit could also be purchased outdoors, so the pandemic didn’t make a big dent in revenues at the orchard, “but I’m sure it affected it some,” he said. “I put out an outdoor sink so (customers) wouldn’t have to come in. We did things different,” Ottinger said. “If they wanted to meet and greet, they could.” When state and Centers for Disease Control restrictions were in place, children were not allowed at the farm because they could not socially distance like adults, Ottinger said. An orchard is also dependent on the right weather to have a full yield of fruit. A frost earlier this year affected peach and some other fruit trees. Ottinger anticipates a good apple crop this season and plenty of visitors eager to get out and pick them. He said tobacco was grown at one time on the farm. He also grows sweet corn and maintains a beef cattle herd. “What (COVID-19) affected the most was all those packing plants,” Ottinger said.

Phillip Ottinger operates Buffalo Trail Orchard in the Cedar Creek community.


Saturday, May 29, 2021 • Page 9

FFA Growing Next Generation Of Agriculture-Minded Professionals BY CICELY BABB STAFF WRITER Once known as Future Farmers of America, the National FFA Organization is “growing the next generation of leaders who will change the world,” according to the organization’s website, and locally, those involved say FFA and agriculture is much bigger than production. “Many people think agriculture is farming and animals, but it stands for so much more. Agriculture provides us with our economy, leaders and careers,” said soon-to-be Chuckey-Doak High School graduate Shelby Garland, who will also graduPHOTO SPECIAL TO THE SUN ate this year from her role as North Greene High School agriculture students and FFA members Kessie Antonelli, Haley FFA president at her school. Kirkpatrick and Eliza Brown divide ferns grown at the school. “Agriculture is not what we thought of 50 years ago. that changes the agricultural agriculture at Chuckey-Doak We are looking at jobs that alongside Murray. landscape almost daily.” weren’t around then,” said This is one way he said “Agriculture has many FFA Advisor and agriculture close ties to most sectors of that many students remain teacher at Chuckey-Doak involved in agriculture after business and industry,” said Chase Murray. “New techLarkin Clemmer, who advisSEE FFA ON PAGE 10 es FFA students and teaches nology emerges all the time


North Greene High School FFA President Leighton Casteel, who graduates this year, works on painting equipment. Casteel said he plans to continue running a small beef production farm that belongs to his family around a full-time job as an electrician in his own contracting business.


Shelby Garland, who is graduating this year and has served as president of FFA at Chuckey-Doak High School, plans to teach agriculture, as her father did.

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Jonah Palmer and Dakota Robbins, students at North Greene High School, work together on a solar go cart, one of the range of projects FFA Advisor Chuck Michel said students are able to gain experience with through FFA.


North Greene students Chase Arnold, Blake Cochran, Theron Carter and Chase Massey wire a trailer.


our students do not live on farms or have direct contact CONTINUED FROM PAGE 9 to agriculture,” Clemmer said. “Many of our students high school, if not directly by have an interest in smallworking to produce food full scale production or simply knowing more about food, time. but we have a little over 200 Today FFA is officially FFA members or agriculture called the National FFA students come through our Organization since national convention delegates voted in classroom, and I would say 10% of them or less are actu1988 to change the name to reflect the growing range of ally involved in production opportunities in the agriculagriculture.” Both Garland and gradutural industry and the organization’s openness to students ating FFA president at North Greene High School Leighton aspiring to any career path, Casteel do plan to continue according to the website. their involvement with agri“You would think I would have a big number, but culture, but they have very I actually have very few different plans. students that are farmers. A While Garland plans to lot of them go into the trades, teach agriculture like her fasome become teachers, some ther did for 15 years, Casteel go into nursing or health said his plan is to continue care. They do lots of different running a small beef producthings,” said FFA advisor and tion farm that belongs to his agriculture teacher at North family around a full-time job Greene High School Chuck as an electrician in his own Michel. contracting business. “The great majority of SEE FFA ON PAGE 11


CDHS student Dawson Gibson administers insecticide tags into the ear of one of his FFA chapter’s registered Charolais cows. This helps keep flies away from the cows’ faces.


CDHS students Hayden Sampson, Cooper Ward and Roberto Vazquez transplant flower and bedding plants in preparation for a spring plant sale.


Saturday, May 29, 2021 • Page 11


Both will continue their education starting in the fall, when Garland will start at Walters State Community College and Casteel at Northeast State. Garland’s plans also include studying at the University of Tennessee, and Casteel plans to finish his electrical certifications with Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) Morristown after he finishes studying business at Northeast State. Murray said he emphasizes to students that FFA and agriculture is more than “cows, sows and plows. It’s about beakers, speakers and job seekers,” and Clemmer said he agrees the skills taught in agriculture courses and in FFA are translatable and beneficial to a range of career paths. “They learn a lot of skills in FFA, like parliamentary procedures and employment skills like interviews and soft skills they need for any workplace,” Clemmer said. “We do a lot of contests that help to build their public speaking abilities, and it helps to build their confidence.” Students who do want to focus on agriculture also learn directly translatable skills like giving vaccinations to cattle at the Chuckey-Doak High School farm or welding and electrical work they learned in the shop, Clemmer added. Michel said his students have similar opportunities to pursue their own interests through FFA and agriculture classes at the shop and greenhouse at the school. Garland said her involvement with FFA and the guidance of her teachers has


North Greene High School students do all the work needed in the greenhouse at the school, according to FFA Advisor Chuck Michel.

helped shape her goals for her future. “One of the things I love so dearly about the FFA Organization is how it becomes a second family,” she said. “My agriculture teachers have had a big impact and become more than teachers, and I know they will always be there for help and lifelong advice. I have seen my dad become a father figure to his students in the same way Mr. Murray has been for me.” Casteel said he also sees FFA and his agriculture education as having shaped his future plans and goals. “I believe my involvement with FFA has allowed me to further myself not only in agriculture, but as a human being,” Casteel said. “I’ve been fortunate to be in FFA and work my way up to hold a chapter office for the past two years, and I believe it has inspired me to make myself a harder-working and more productive person in society.” All four Greene County high schools have agricul-


Dawson Gibson and Hayden Sampson work on trimming a show heifer’s coat to prepare her for an upcoming livestock show.


Addison McKechnie and Logan Tormanen, students at Chuckey-Doak, trim a goat’s hooves on their school’s farm. Keeping goats’ hooves trimmed is important to the animals’ health and well-being.

ture and FFA programs, and Murray said no two of them are the same. For more information

about FFA, visit For more information about Greene County Schools, visit


Chuckey-Doak student Garrett Ricker operates a drill press to machine pieces during an agricultural mechanics course on roll-over protective systems for trailers.

Page 12 • Saturday, May 29, 2021


Field School Helps New Farmers BY LORELEI GOFF LIFESTYLES EDITOR The Appalachian Resource and Conservation Development Field School offers new farmers an introduction to the industry before they get in too deep. “We’re teaching beginning farmers so we have as much of a goal to keep people from getting into trouble as to actually be successful,” said Dana York, the field school’s lead facilitator and trainer. “I would say we probably have 50 percent (of graduates) that don’t try to farm or maybe try it for a few years.” York said the field school’s broad goal is to educate people about what it takes to farm and then to be able to know the cost. “Our main goal is to teach you how to research what you want to do,” York explained. “We help you ask questions, help you do up a business plan and then we show you where you can get cost sharing. We show you markets.” According to York, people who go through the school say it’s the best thing they’ve ever done, even if they don’t continue on to farm. “There are those who say, ‘I don’t want to do this. Thank you very much! I could have spent all this money and then hated it or had no idea it was going to take this many things,’” she said. Field School Program Coordinator Rosie McVeigh says the school is offered each year with summer and winter sessions. “Summer field school is where we go and we take a


Dr. David Lockwood of UT Extension, left, was the featured speaker at the Appalachian Resource Conservation and Goodwater Vineyards Farm Manager Steve Bush, second from the left, prepares to give Appalachian Resource Conservation and Development Field School participants a tour of a vineyard. Development Field School held at Goodwater Vineyards in Mosheim. SUN PHOTO BY LORELEI GOFF

small group of beginning farmers, generally 15-20 people, out to visit farms and see their operations first hand,” McVeigh explains. “It’s very hands on. It’s really a good learning experience for people who want to get into farming. The winter field school is a business intensive program. So, it’s specifically to create a business plan at the end of the school for your farm.” “It has a great impact on the farmers,” she said. “In our winter field school program, we generally have around 20 people who graduate with business plans. Summer field school is more to get people aware of what happens on a farm and what it takes to run a farm, and then also just getting to see things with their own eyes.” Field School Director Lexy Close said about 200 students have graduated from the program in the last 6 years.

“We went online in 2020 during the Covid pandemic,” said Close. “In the summer, our online workshops were open to anyone to sign up. At first, we had 20-30 people attending, but about halfway through we started getting 200-400 attendees through Zoom and YouTube Livestream. A lot were from Tennessee, but we had folks from all over the U.S. attend. It was very interesting to see that happen! I’m not counting these in my totals because many were just engaged in one or two workshops. The 200 head count is for folks who engaged in a full winter or summer session. “For the Winter session, we had 22 farms sign up for the online workshops. They pay to attend all eight sessions on business planning, farm finances and marketing. We were able to reach a SEE SCHOOL ON PAGE 13

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much wider audience than our in person classes. A lot of students came from the Knoxville area and four were out of state, though some of those did own property in Tennessee.” Close said 30%-50% of graduates in a given year are still engaged in some form of farming on a variety of scales. “I don’t think I can quantify that, but many students do say that they radically modify their plans after completing the Field School,” she said. “They wind up focusing on enterprises and markets they weren’t considering before attending. We also make them aware of a number of grants, cost share programs, and low interest loan opportunities for farmers in Tennessee. Many say they didn’t know these existed, so they are able to access these kind of support programs more readily.” She added, “We also think it’s a success if folks take the program and realize that farming isn’t actually for them. One couple dropped out and started a barber shop instead. Getting into farming requires a lot of money and hours of hard work. Getting to a break even point in your investments can take years. It really has to be something you are passionate about, and I hope we can help people realize that. We give them an opportunity to really look at the numbers and their plans and intentions, and see if they can feasibly make money on it. The Field School’s first 2021 session met at Goodwa-


Goodwater Vineyards Farm Manager Steve Bush explains the winery setup and process to participants of the Appalachian Resource Conservation and Development Field School.

ter Vineyards in Mosheim. The session included a tour of the vineyard and winery, a lecture by Dr. David Lockwood of UT Extension and Goodwater’s Farm Manager Steve Bush, and a wine tasting. Bush said the family owned operation has been a learning experience and they could have benefited from the Field School before they started. “I can tell you, we went backward a half a million dollars or more,” Bush said. “We started and we started over and we’re still in the process of cleaning up mistakes. ... It’s an education. For the last 18 years, it’s been like I was going to college. … You’ve got to know your land, your soil, your climate.” “It’s the college of hard knocks,” added Lockwood, who agreed that investing in some education before starting an operation will save time and money over the long-term. “That’s why I say start small.” Cindy Bowman attended the winter session and has returned for the summer session. “The winter field school, I really learned a wealth of information,” Bowman

said. “They went from, why do you want to be a farmer, what do you want to farm, can you make a living at it, can you make money from it. And then they get into the business aspect of it, from financials, getting insurance, beginning the farm. There are many loans that are available to farmers, and actually Tennessee is one of the best places for that because we have the NRCS who help you get a loan. “I’m not farming yet but I grew up on a farm. My father is getting older and he still runs the farm that I grew up on. … It’ll be a process. I gave myself five years.” She added, “I definitely feel like I will be more successful when I farm because of having been through the field school.” Daniel Jernigan says he and his father don’t have a specific idea of what to farm yet. “We’re just here to learn everything,” Jernigan said. “Me and my dad, we want to get back more into agriculture. We’re just trying to understand better what would be something that we would enjoy. It’s been a lot of fun. Very educational!” Andy Deshkulkarni be-


lieves he has found his farming focus in local, sustainable agriculture “I’m interested in learning how to grow hops,” said Deshkulkarni, who envisions becoming part of the supply chain to area breweries and allowing them to make a

Cindy Bowman, a participant in the Appalachian Resource Conservation and Development Field School, stands in front of rows of grapevines at Goodwater Vineyards.

truly local product. “This will kind of help me to see some of the process. It’s different but still its small business and small, local breweries are taking off right now.” McVeigh said the Field

School, which serves eight counties in East Tennessee, has been funded in the past by Tennessee Department of Agriculture, and they also work with UT Extension, NRCS and others.


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Leaves and grapes bud on a grapevine at Goodwater Vineyards in Mosheim. Goodwater is an agritourism winery that recorded $500,000 in sales in 2020.

According to Dr. David Lockwood, wearing the orange shirt, agritourism provides a viable market for niche agricultural operations like Goodwater Vineyards. Lockwood spoke on May 13 during an Appalachian Resource Conservation and Development Field School at the vineyard.

Agritourism: Volatile But Growing Niche BY LORELEI GOFF LIFESTYLES EDITOR Agritourism may offer an avenue into finding a small farming niche within Greene County for both experienced farmers and those who are considering a start-up, but history shows the industry to be volatile with a marked decline between the two most recent agricultural census reports. Tourism is the second largest economic driver in Tennessee, with North-

east Tennessee generating more than $911 million in direct tourist spending and more than $194 million in payroll while employing nearly 7,000 people and generating more than $27 million in local sales tax receipts annually, according to Alicia Phelps, executive director of the Northeast Tennessee Tourism Association. The Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s Biennial Report for 2020 shows a total of 37,668 licensed agricultural operations in

Tennessee. The most recent tally by county available, the 2017 U.S. Census of Agriculture Data by Tennessee County for Farms Selling Agricultural Products Directly to Consumers for Human Consumption, shows Greene county had 96 such farming operations that garnered $267,000 in sales. Of the 96, six were listed as offering agritourism or recreational services, garnering $5,000 in sales. In comparison, the 2012 figures from the same

census showed 10 farms offering agritourism and recreational services with $121,000 in sales. The Tennessee Department of Agriculture does not track agritourism data by county, said Kacey Troup, business consultant for the Tennessee Department of Agriculture. In spite of its history of ups and downs, the impact of the industry in Greene County seems to be growing with 20 licensed operations this year, according to UT Extension Fruit and

Nut Crops Extension Specialist Dr. David Lockwood. Lockwood spoke recently at an Appalachian Resource Conservation and Development Field School session at Goodwater Vineyards, a winery in Mosheim, where he said the agritourism industry allows farmers the option of producing and marketing products in niche markets. Lockwood said there are 70 licensed wineries in Tennessee and that all of them are licensed as agritourism operations.

“If it wasn’t for agritourism, we couldn’t justify our industry,” Lockwood noted. Laura Poland, co-owner of Goodwater Vineyards, said the winery currently employs 11 people full-time and recorded $500,000 in sales in 2020. “We’re on track to do 25% more than that so far this year,” Poland said. Phelps said the outlook for agritourism in the state is good. “I know this is an industry that is rapidly growing,” she said.


Saturday, May 29, 2021 • Page 15

A Quick Look At Tennessee Farming BY FARM BUREAU TENNESSEE Tennessee farming is far from the mule-and-plow stereotype of the past. Staying attuned to the technological times, embracing sustainability and fostering innovation in an ever-changing industry is how agriculture and forestry have remained vital sectors in the Volunteer State, contributing approximately $81 billion to Tennessee’s economy each year. Leading agricultural commodities are cattle and calves, broilers and milk, and also soybeans, corn, hay, wheat, cotton, tobacco, and a variety of fruits and vegetables.

TENNESSEE FARM FACTS • Total farms: 66,600 • Average farm size: 162 acres • 41% of the land in Tennessee is farmland. • 351,000 people in Tennessee are employed by agriculture and forestry. • Farmers Markets: 160 • Production value: $4,288,143 (57% crops and 43% livestock) • 95% of Tennessee’s farms are considered small family farms. • 98% of Tennessee farms are owned by families. • 80% of the state’s land is used for agricultural purposes, including forestry.

TOP AGRICULTURAL COMMODITIES Soybeans Soybeans are planted on more acres than any other row crop in Tennessee and is currently the #1 commodity in the state in cash receipts. In 2018, farmers har vested 1.67 million acres of soybeans, which resulted in a total production of


Agriculture and forestry contribute approximately $81 billion to Tennessee’s economy each year.

75.985 million bushels of the crop. Tennessee soybeans brought in $655.3 million in cash receipts in 2018. Poultry Tennessee ranks 16th in the U .S. for number of broilers on farms. The state produced 177.3 million head of broiler chickens in 2018. Tennessee’s poultry industry has an overall economic impact of $6.55 billion. Poultry provides more than 27,000 direct and indirect jobs, and accounts for over $438 million paid annually in state and federal taxes. Broilers brought in $525.3 million in cash receipts. Corn Tennessee ranks 17th in corn acreage in the U.S. and 18th in total corn for grain production. The largest corn-producing counties in the state are in the western and central regions. In 2018, Corn brought in $385.5

million in cash receipts with nearly 113 million bushels of corn for grain and 722,000 t ons of corn for silage. Tobacco Tennessee farmers harvested 15,700 acres of tobacco in 2018, which produced 39.6 million pounds of the crop. Tennessee ranks No. 4 in the nation for tobacco production. Tobacco brought in $99.4 million in cash receipts in 2018. Wheat Tennessee’s climate is conducive for the production of high-quality, low-protein, soft red winter wheat. Wheat brought in $97.2 million in cash receipts in 2018. Farmers harvested 285,000 acres, which resulted in the production of more than 18.5 million bushels. Dairy products Tennessee has six commercial milk processing plants in Nashville, Murfreesboro, Memphis, Powell and Athens.

A typical Tennessee dairy farm has a herd of about 170 milking cows. The state is home to approximately 185 registered dairies. Dairy products brought $109.4 million in cash receipts in 2018. Cotton In 2018, Tennessee farmers harvested 355,000 acres of upland cotton that resulted in a production of 770,000 bales of the crop, each weighing 480 pounds. The majority of the crop is grown in the Western and Delta part of the state. The crop brought $231.6 million in cash receipts. Pork Tennessee ranks 21st in the U.S. for hog production. In 2017, Tennessee had a total inventory of 225,000 hogs. Hogs brought $79.5 million in cash receipts in 2018. Cattle and calves Beef cattle are produced in every

county in Tennessee. Tennessee is one of the top beef-producing states in the nation. In 2018, cattle and calves brought $548.8 million in cash receipts. In 2019, Tennessee had an inventory of close to 1 million cattle and calves. Hay Tennessee ranks 7th in the U.S. for hay production. Growers across the state harvested more than 1.72 million acres of hay in 2018, resulting in the production of 4.231 million tons of hay. Hay brought $157.4 million in cash receipts in 2018. Fun facts • A single acre of soybeans can make 82,368 crayons. • According to the U.S. Census of Agriculture, there were 1.2 million female farmers in 2017. • Tennessee ranks 15th in the nation for farms selling local foods direct to consumers.

Page 16 • Saturday, May 29, 2021






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Profile for The Greeneville Sun

Salute To Agriculture 2021  

This 16-page section of The Greeneville Sun spotlights Greene County agriculture. © 2021 THE GREENEVILLE SUN | | Greenevi...

Salute To Agriculture 2021  

This 16-page section of The Greeneville Sun spotlights Greene County agriculture. © 2021 THE GREENEVILLE SUN | | Greenevi...


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