Farmers Market Fresh program is coming back!

Submitted by
Sarah Ransom

We all know the farmers’ market is an excellent place for picking up fresh fruits and vegetables. This summer, in addition to picking up some home grown tomatoes, you can pick up some research-based knowledge as well. The University of Tennessee/Tennessee State University Extension in Johnson County will be at the market offering food samples, as well as selection and storage suggestions for the flavorful fruit and vegetables available at the market. This program is called Farmer’s Market Fresh. The market consumers have enjoyed the delicious treats, free information and prize giveaways in the past years. We are excited to be offering this program in the next few weeks.
According to Dr. Christopher Sneed with UT Extension, the primary objective of the Farmers’ Market Fresh program is to encourage purchasing of fresh fruits and vegetables at the farmers’ markets. “We are particularly interested in helping limited-resource families, especially those receiving EBT/ SNAP have access to fresh fruits and vegetables at the farmers’ market. We hope our presence at the market along with the food demonstrations, tastings, and activities will encourage people to check out all the market has to offer,” states Sneed.
Throughout the summer, members of the local Extension office will have a booth at the market where they will be offering food demonstrations, recipes, and research-based advice on the best ways to select and store some of our favorite summertime items. The best part of the program – each person who stops by the booth will receive a recipe card for the food being demonstrated that day. At the end of the season, consumers could have an entire collection of recipes all featuring items fresh from the farmers’ market. Recipes to be featured include: summer squash salad, corn salad, fruit and nut slaw, tomato and cucumber sandwiches, peanut butter yogurt dip, quick picked beats and a berry spinach salad that will make you want seconds! “We intentionally picked recipes that would be easy to prepare,” states Dr. Janie Burney of UT Extension. “Summer in Tennessee can be hot. So, we selected recipes that did not involve using the stove or oven. We wanted foods that were cool, refreshing, and delicious.” And, it just so happens they are all really good for you as well.
Grown-ups are not the only ones who will enjoy a stop by the Farmers’ Market Fresh booth. The young ones are sure to enjoy a sample of the food prepared. In addition, they will be able to participate in a weekly children’s challenge. Through the challenge, they are able to earn prizes for the fruits and vegetables their families purchase, prepare, and taste at home. There is even some buzz that a special visitor – Rudy the Raccoon – may make an appearance at the market. To participate, all you need to do is stop by the Farmers’ Market Fresh booth for all the details.
“We are very happy and excited to be part of this program,” states FCS Agent, Sarah Ransom of UT Extension Johnson County, “Partnering with the farmers’ market is just a natural fit for our office given our focus on food preservation, cooking skills, and healthy eating. We can’t wait to get started! We can’t wait to see you there!”
For more information about the Farmers’ Market Fresh program including the exact dates and times the Extension office will be at the market, call the local UT/TSU Extension Johnson County office at 727-8161.
This material was funded by USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – SNAP.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides nutrition assistance to people with low income. It can help you buy nutritious foods for a better diet. To find out more, contact your local Department of Human Services Office or call 1-866-311-4287 (toll-free). In cooperation with Tennessee State University Cooperative Extension. The USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. Programs in agriculture and natural resources, 4-H youth development, family and consumer sciences, and resource development. University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture and county governments cooperating. UT Extension provides equal opportunities in programs and employment.


Staff Report

Despite the wet start to spring, sweet and juicy strawberries are prime for picking in most areas of Tennessee. If you are looking for the freshest berries, you need to go straight to the farm.
“We are seeing more ripe strawberries by the day.” Mitchell Hyde of Hyde Farms in Loudon County said. “The more sunshine, the more berries we will have ready to pick!”
One West Tennessee farmer has already started a reservation list for people who want to pick their own. “We are picking heavily this week—lots of strawberries are ripe and ready,” Timothy Brady of Dixie Chile Ranch in Obion County said. “All you have to do is let us know how many 5 quart buckets you intend to pick and we’ll let you know what times are available.”
In Middle Tennessee, berries are selling fast. “We sold 65 gallons of strawberries within the first hour of opening,” Jon Kelley of Kelley’s berries in Trousdale County said. “The first week in May is generally the best time to visit the strawberry patch. However, we will have ripe strawberries well into June.”
Never picked fresh strawberries before? To learn more about the picking process for the farm you are going to visit, all you have to do is call and ask. Farmers also suggest calling ahead of time to ensure that berries are available. If you want fresh strawberries without the work, many farms provide the option for customers to purchase already-picked strawberries.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the number of Tennessee strawberry farms has increased by almost 4% during the last five years.
The traditional season lasts about four to six weeks, depending on weather—so the best tasting strawberries you’ve ever had won’t last long.
Support your local economy and buy fresh strawberries from your local farmer today. Go to or use the free Pick Tennessee mobile app to find a farm near you.
To learn more about seasonal recipes, products, and activities.


Press Release

NASHVILLE – Are you a landowner looking to establish or enhance your woodland or a logger looking to improve your harvesting capacity? The Tennessee Department of Agriculture Division of Forestry (TDF) is offering cost share programs to assist forest landowners and industry with improving forest health and sustainability.
“More than half of Tennessee is covered in trees,” Agriculture Commissioner Charlie Hatcher, D.V.M. said. “We are working to promote and support agriculture in Tennessee, and our forest resources are a significant part of that. These cost share programs for forest establishment, improvement, and forest industry play a main role in our work to encourage landowners to implement forestry practices.”
Forestry programs under the Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement Program (TAEP) and Southern Pine Beetle Initiative (SPBI) were developed to promote long-term investments in Tennessee’s forests by providing cost share incentives to qualifying landowners.
The programs promote sustainable forest management practices on family forestland, which provide multiple resource benefits such as timber, wildlife habitat, clean water, and soil protection.
Forest landowners are eligible to receive a 50% – 75% cost share reimbursement for funds spent with a combined maximum reimbursement of $15,000 per year. The landowner cost share sign-up period begins May 1 and ends May 31.
TDF also offers TAEP and SPBI financial assistance for forest industry to help protect stream habitats and overall water quality by utilizing forestry Best Management Practices. Forest industry practitioners, such as loggers and sawmill owners, are eligible to receive a 50% cost share reimbursement for funds spent. The TAEP and SPBI programs each have a maximum reimbursement of $15,000 per year, allowing eligible recipients to receive up to $30,000. TAEP cost share for forest industry is available for sign-up year-round, while SPBI sign-up period is between May 1 to May 31.
Those interested in TDF forestry practices cost share programs should contact their local Area Forester to determine eligibility, implement a plan, and sign-up.
For Area Forester contacts and more information about cost share programs, visit

Seasonal Gardening – Management Structures

By Sarah Ransom

Gardeners can maintain their gardening environment to enable crops to grow for extended periods of time. With careful planning, crops can be extended a few days or weeks.

There are two main ways of doing this: management practices and structures or materials to alter temperatures. This week, we are going to focus on structures and materials.

Several methods for seasonal gardening may focus on absorbing or trapping the radiation from the sun to warm up the environment for your crops.

Dark mulches absorb light and conduct heat that warms the soil below; clear plastic covers transmit and trap light which increases the air temperature.

Agricultural plastics have made a lot of progress to improve seasonal planting. The biggest question is how much money to invest in materials and how much time goes into each structure and material used.

Passive systems, rely only on natural air movement and natural sunlight. These are the most flexible, most cost efficient and applicable for home gardeners.

Mulch can be used to influence soil temperature by absorbing the light and heat and then reflecting the light. Solid black and woven plastics also help warm the crops environment.

Mulch and plastics can also help reduce heat loss that comes from evaporated water or changing nightly temperatures.

Another structure that can be used is a floating row cover, also known as direct covers. These are plastic films, agricultural fabrics or buckets that can be laid or placed over a crop to hold heat. This type of structure is often secured by the soil, wooden posts or other materials.

These covers often need less irrigation, it depends on the type used, and how long they are placed, one benefit is they can reduce the speed of rainfall, which decreases erosion and crusting and can help protect against insects. Row covers are typically only used for temporary measures in the spring and fall.
Low tunnels are very similar to row covers and can be used to help extend the growing season. Low
tunnels give the appearance of a miniature greenhouse.
These need to be made sure they are appropriately vented to allow enough airflow, so crops do not get overheated.

Shade structures can help reduce the amount of heat in the crops environment, and this can allow for cool-season crops, such as leafy greens, to be grown longer in the spring.

If you are looking for a permanent fix on structures, you can build cold frames, high tunnels, and greenhouses.

All of these structures provide more control over your crop’s environment and can significantly alter the ability to extend your harvest season.

Regardless of how you choose to garden, there are many options for extending your fresh vegetable intake!

To check out additional information on seasonal gardening, read

Farmers Market to open at Ralph Stout Park Saturday

The Johnson County Farmers Market is open every Saturday from 9 AM to noon at Ralph Stout Park in Mountain City.

By Bethany Anderson

This Saturday the Johnson County Farmers Market moves back to it’s “Summer Season” home of Ralph Stout Park in Mountain City. During the “Winter Season” the market moves indoors at the Johnson County Welcome Center so that it can be a real, year-round market. It is a rarity in our area and much appreciated by both the farmers and other vendors who sell their good there as well as the shoppers who frequent the market looking for local goods.

During the Summer Season, the market expands quite noticeably to include many more vendors and fresh seasonal produce. The outdoor venue allows more space to spread out and the season allows for more options when it comes to the produce available.

“I can’t wait for the outdoor season to start!” says one JCFM shopper. “I love that the market is available year-round, but I really look forward to the outdoor season all year.”

When asked what they are most looking forward to this Summer Season, vendor Sharon Springer of Soul Shine Soaps replied, “Seeing everyone, old friends and making new ones.” Market shopper Denise deRibert said, “Friends, food, and flowers!”

This season the market will welcome many favorite vendors from years past as well as new vendors and options for shoppers to enjoy. Grace Hands Massage Therapy joined the market during their “Winter Season” and will continue with the market in the coming season. There will also be a return from semi-retirement from local woodworker Webb Griffith, who has become a market favorite over the many years he’s participated as a vendor.

Each week the market features live music with local musicians. This year there will also be a “Market Cafe” tent for people to sit and enjoy the food and coffee available for sale while they listen to music.

The GoJoCo Kids’ Tent will also be back this year thanks to the generous work by our local GoJoCo Council and the grants provided by their efforts. Just like in years past, there will be a weekly food-related project for kids to get some “hands-on” time learning about healthy eating habits, as well as a physical challenge to get them up and moving. For each time that children participate, they will earn tokens that can then be used to make purchases at the market, which is meant to encourage children to take what they have learned about healthy eating habits and use those skills in a real-life setting.

“My kids just love it,” said a local mother. “They get so excited to earn the tokens and make their own decisions on what to buy at the market.”

The Market’s mission statement includes the fact that their purpose is to “strengthen a sustainable, local agriculture and food economy.” In keeping with this, EBT (Food Stamps) and Credit Cards are accepted at the Market Manager’s Tent, which gives shoppers the flexibility that they are used to getting in other retail environments. The JCFM hopes that it will encourage shoppers to frequent the market in addition to local grocery stores.

The Johnson County Farmers Market will be at the park each Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon, through the end of October, then they will move back to their “Winter Market” home at the Welcome Center. The market is open to new vendors joining as well, as long as they follow the market’s guidelines of “Home-Made or Home-Grown” products.

For more information on the Johnson County Farmers Market, check their website at email them at or call the Market Manager at (423) 291-9145.

Seasonal Gardening – Management Practices

By Sarah Ransom

A fundamental fact to gardening is that crops grow, develop and produce based on the temperature and environment. Gardeners must be sure to carefully plant cold and warm season crops in the appropriate times to maximize their harvest. Gardeners can also alter their gardening environment to enable crops to grow for extended periods.
With careful planning, crops can be extended a few days or weeks. There are two main ways of doing this: management practices and
structures or materials to alter temperatures. This week, we are going to focus on the first way of seasoning gardening.
Management practices are going to focus on proper site selection, raised beds and transplanting. Crops close to a body of water tend to stay more moderate throughout the seasons, plants near buildings tend to stay more protected from the wind and cold, crops planted on slopes can assist with draining water away from plants. With raised beds, soil temperatures can impact seed germination, root growth, as well as water and nutrient intake. Raised beds allow for the soil to drain quicker, bringing warm air into
the ground and heating the area faster. It also can increase the exposure to the warming effects from the sunlight.
However, as the seasons change, soil can cool down much quicker in the fall. Raised beds are easy to cover with plastic, low tunnels, mulches or row covers to assist with early and later plantings. Lastly, gardeners can extend their growing season by transplanting their crops. Some of the best crops to start early and transplant include tomatoes, peppers, cabbages, broccoli and more! The conditions after transplanting will affect the growth of the crops.
Pest pressures may also be reduced by early planting, and transplanting later in the season. Planting can also be delayed with the transplant method.
Regardless of how you choose to garden, there are many options for extending your fresh vegetable intake! To check out additional information on seasonal gardening, read

Include fresh produce in your everyday meals

By Sarah Ransom

We all have grown up hearing about how good it is for us to eat our fruits and vegetables. We know these foods provide a good source of fiber, potassium, folic acid and a variety of vitamins. We have been told that fruits and vegetables show benefits to lowering blood pressure, improving cardiovascular health and helping reduce risks of many chronic conditions, helps with weight management, improves vision and more.
Even with all these reasons to eat fruits and vegetables, we find people are preparing and eating these less and less.
Some quick tips to eating more fruits and vegetables include the following: keep fruit and vegetables where you can see them. Have ready-to-eat fruits and vegetables in a bowl. Grapes, carrots, apples, celery, berries, and broccoli are just a few that are great to have easily accessible and ready for snacking. Explore the produce aisle, or visit your local Farmers Market, and purposefully choose a new food to try.
Variety and color are key to having a healthy diet. Skip the potatoes. We all know how much we enjoy potatoes, and while they provide some vitamins and nutrients, they are high in starch. Step
out and try another vegetable on occasion. Salads,
soups, and stir-fries are a great way to increase vegetable intake.
If you still find you are struggling with including these great foods, especially vegetables, here are some additional ideas of ways to include it with foods you may already be making! Shred those veggies and include them in bread, scrambled eggs, and breakfast casseroles.
In your fruit smoothies, add a few healthy greens, beets or other vegetables of choice to get those vitamins without altering the flavors too much. Add extra chopped vegetables to your spaghetti sauces or pasta dishes, and speaking of pasta – don’t hesitate to try some noodles made from vegetables. Add them to pancakes, chili or baked goodies. Add chopped vegetables to your homemade burgers. Using sliced zucchini, avocado, carrots or green beans, you can make some tasty alternatives to fries. Add vegetables, finely chopped, to your pizza, soups, and stews. When the weather warms up, many fruits and vegetables also turn out great on the grill.
If you would like more ideas on how to include fruits, veggies or learn more about having a healthy, balanced diet – please contact Sarah Ransom at the UT/TSU Extension Office (423)-727-8161 or e-mail for more ideas or recipes you can try. Be sure to visit us at the Farmers Market this summer for some great recipes and samples to try.
Source – The Nutrition Source, Vegetables, and Fruits by Harvard Public School of Health; Choose MyPlate

UT Gardens’ April Plant of the Month: Iris

The Iris, genus Iridaceae, is the official state cultivated flower of Tennessee.

By Andy Pulte

In Greek mythology, Iris was the goddess of the rainbow; she was a messenger who brought an arc of color to the sky. In our gardens, the blooms of the iris bring a rainbow of color to our landscape. It doesn’t matter if you live on a country road or on a downtown street; iris are plants that catch your eye when in bloom. For most of Tennessee and the Mid-South this begins in April and persists through May with other iris blooming later in the season. By mid-April, the largest flush of bearded iris flowers are what is taking center stage in most gardens.
There are 200-plus species of iris including some North American natives. Species are separated into two main groups – rhizomatous and bulbous. Bulbous irises form a more typical bulb and include Persian, reticulate and many dwarf irises. Rhizomes are underground stems that grow horizontally and are used as storage for the plant. Bearded iris falls into this group as do both the Japanese and Siberian iris.
The Iris, genus Iridaceae, is the official state cultivated flower of Tennessee. While iris come in several different colors, and the act naming the iris as the state flower did not name a particular color. However, by common acceptance, the purple iris is considered the state cultivated flower.
If you love and enjoy iris you may consider having a secession of iris bloom in your garden comprised of several different species. This could begin with Iris reticulata a small bulbus iris, followed by a dwarf bearded iris like ‘little sighs.’ Next, add classic tall bearded iris to your garden. There are many to choose from, ‘Team Player’ and ‘Gypsy Lord’ are two of my favorites. Follow this up with a Siberian iris like ‘Caesar’s Brother’ and Iris tectorum, the Japanese roof iris.
If you like iris, why not get involved with one of the many iris societies we have right here in Tennessee? These can be great ways to meet new gardening friends, share knowledge and gain insight into gardening in your specific region of the state. There are iris societies in neighboring states as well. To get more information, simply search the internet for any of these iris gardening groups. Or visit the website of the American Iris Society at

Managing your home garden

Elevated Gardens

By Sarah Ransom

While gardens are very popular in Johnson County, it is essential to take proper care of your garden and to manage it well so that
you can reap bountiful harvests all summer and early fall. Growing some of
your food at home can be a big saver. Take full advantage of these benefits of home gardens – there are some helpful things to know when it comes to gardening besides planting, watering and getting adequate sunlight.
The first is weed management. Weeds take your
crops water, nutrients
and can block out sunlight. Weeds also can attract
insects or hold diseases
that are harmful to your plants.
Annual weeds, germinate, grow, mature, produce seeds and die all in the same season. Perennial weeds typically live for three years or longer; these can be the most challenging.
Prevention is the best way to manage weeds that
appear. Most methods are meant to reduce weeds
over time. Mulching is a process of covering the sur
face of the soil; this helps reduce weed pressure, maintain moisture and moderate temperatures; depending on the type of mulch, you can also improve soil structure. Using solarization is a process of using plastic to trap the sun’s radiation and heat the soil to kill off annual weeds.
Row spacing, and how
you are planting is another way to combat weeds.
Crops like beets, radishes
or lettuce can be planted close together to cover the ground and prevent weeds from being able to grow there. Placing cover crops at the end of the season can help smother and cover the ground to prevent weed growth.
You can also use hand or machine weed management techniques that include hand pulling, hoeing, tilling, and spraying. These can be effective in the short term process, but they are also time-consuming. The amount of water can also affect plants; it is estimated that garden crops need 1-1.5 inches per week of water.
There is much more information about various mulching methods and types, weed management, watering techniques and more in the article Plant Management Practices. Information for this article came from this resource. Visit

Spring into action with spotlight on Home and Garden

By Meg Dickens

With winter fading it is time to spring into action.
It is the ideal time to beautify and improve your surroundings while taking the term ‘spring cleaning’ to a whole new level with lawn and garden renovations.
It is no secret that Tennessee has a rich agricultural history. Johnson County’s economy has been hinged on agriculture for most of its existence.
It was known as the Green Bean Capital of the World, and current school breaks are a byproduct of planting schedules. Present day agricultural staples continue to put Johnson County in the spotlight.
For starters, the Johnson County High School agricultural facilities continue to draw many visitors from around the world.
The region is also boasting of a real estate boom as realtors report record sales for the beginning of 2019. Agencies around the area are low on inventory, which may increase property prices to reflect the shortage prompting this spring to be the ideal time to sell extraneous properties. Agents agree that spring is a fruitful time for real estate because of the blooming flowers so improving property values with home and garden renovations is a must.
“I would have to say that ‘first’ impressions even in real estate are a big deal,” said local real estate agent Mina Norfleet. “Homeowners can do some very simple things to improve the value of their homes.”
Curb appeal is the first impression. Whether this is positive depends on several factors. Landscaping and hardscaping are essential steps toward improving this impression. They also improve home values quite a bit.
“Landscaping does wonders for curb appeal for a home or business. The return on investment is usually 100 to 200 percent,” said local expert Harvey Burniston Jr.
Outdoor lighting is a commonly neglected way to advance curb appeal. This aspect has a plethora of uses. Outdoor lighting increases property values, and it is also an excellent tool for safety and outdoor events. The easiest way to improve curve appeal is by applying new paint.
Local expert Michael “Red” Jordan declares that this is an excellent time of year to paint. The best window to paint is from late April through July because of the lower humidity. Pressure wash and remove flaking paint before adding a new paint job. Flaking paint prevents new paint from bonding effectively. According to Red, contrast is an essential part of painting.
“A new coat of paint will do wonders,” said Red. “It’s like a facelift.”
Accents and contrasting colors can make a home look more extensive and more open. Two such techniques include accent walls and high contrast exterior walls. Red suggests to paint the base of the house in a lighter color and to pain the eaves in dark colors.
Add a different type of color with great landscaping and gardening.
It is the ideal time to plan your garden. The Farmer’s Almanac lists this year’s last spring frost date as May 7. Without the frost, a plant’s worst nightmare is pests. There are simple ways to protect them with items lying around the house.
Deer are one of the most persistent pests. Despite that, they are relatively easy to deter. Scare tactics such as light tricks only require a reflective surface. Stringing fishing line and planting in levels are also effective. According to a study from the University of Vermont Extension Department of Plant and Soil Science, tallow in soap repels deer as well.
Many renovators use DIY (Do it Yourself) projects to cut costs. This method is useful but not recommended for renovators without experience. Small mistakes can skyrocket budget costs.
“You can’t replace experience, and you can’t beat a man at his own trade,” said Red.
The Tomahawk’s service directory is a renovator-friendly source. Locals offer everything from construction and excavations to lawn care and installations. For those who want to try their hand at DIY renovations, there are three simple steps to follow.
Do your homework. Learn as much as possible about the project. It includes online tutorials. Different sources emphasize different aspects. These tutorials also show possible pitfalls to avoid.
Buy the right tools. Saving cash on less practical or improper tools could actually cost more in the end. Be aware of tool pros and cons before making a purchase. It is also wise to practice before taking on the project. Tools differ per project. For example, a professional landscaper would need a larger rototiller than someone using the machine for personal use.
Find a consultant. Whether it is a professional or just someone knowledgeable in the field, find someone with experience. Experienced DIYers can save money by completing some labor independently. Average labor costs fall between 25 percent and 60 percent.
Timing is everything. Plants have their own preferences and grow accordingly. Soil and fertilizer maintenance, weather, and sunlight are important factors in plant growth. Vegetables planted during their proper time of the year taste better than others. Each plant has its own needs.
Home and garden renovations go hand-in-hand. They are not mutually exclusive, but they are mutually beneficial. Whether the renovations are for personal use or to increase property value, they are well worth the effort.

Equine influenza detected in Tennessee horses

TDA Press Release

NASHVILLE– The State Veterinarian has announced that several horses returning from out-of-state events have been sickened by equine influenza virus (EIV) in Tennessee.
Equine influenza is highly contagious, and the virus is spread by contaminated stable equipment and infected, coughing horses. Symptoms in horses may include fever, nasal discharge, cough, loss of appetite, and weakness. Sick horses cannot directly infect people with EIV.
“With EIV, it is much
easier for horse owners to take preventive measures than to provide treatment,” Interim State Veterinarian Dr. Doug Balthaser said. “Maintaining hygiene procedures with stable equipment and vaccinating your horses is a great start for prevention efforts. Your veterinarian can help you decide the best vaccination plan for your horse.”

Other tips include:
•Isolate newly introduced horses or horses returning from events for two weeks.
•For events or stables, restrict entry to healthy horses only.
•Don’t share equipment or supplies between horses, especially if one spikes a fever, has nasal discharge, or is coughing.
The C. E. Kord Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory now offers a full line of equine disease testing, including WNV, equine infectious anemia (EIA), equine herpes virus (EHV), equine protozoal myeloencephalitis (EPM), eastern equine encephalitis (EEE), and equine influenza virus (EIV). Contact your veterinarian for more information.

Do you have TAEP feedback? Share your suggestions now

TDA Press Release

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDA) is requesting input on the Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement Program (TAEP) through an online survey. TAEP has transformed the state’s rural economy by helping farmers make strategic investments to increase their efficiency, safety, and profitability.
With the survey responses, TDA plans to identify opportunities to improve cost share offerings and set the program’s future strategic direction. Farmers and producers, agribusiness affiliates, extension agents, agricultural educators, industry association representatives, and others are invited to participate in the survey.
TAEP provides cost share dollars to agricultural producers for the purpose of making long-term investments in Tennessee farms and communities. Participation allows producers to maximize farm profits, adapt to changing market situations, improve operation safety, increase farm efficiency, and make positive economic impact in their communities.
“TAEP has made a real difference and has been a true resource for rural Tennessee,” Agriculture Commissioner Charlie Hatcher, D.V.M said. “We want to ensure that the program continues to serve producers’ needs by helping them adapt to the rapidly-changing production environment and marketplace.”
The University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture’s Human Dimensions Research Lab, the UT Center for Profitable Agriculture, and TDA collaborated to prepare the TAEP survey. The survey is available online at and will be accessible now through March 27. It can be completed in less than 15 minutes.
For more information on the evaluation and survey of TAEP, contact Keith Harrison by emailing or by calling 615-837-5336.

Johnson County 4-H Contest draws large crowd

By Danielle Pleasant

The annual Johnson County 4-H County Demonstration and Table Top Exhibit Contest held Thursday, March 21st at Mountain City Elementary saw a sizable group of participants, adding the event’s great success.
This years’ contest proved to be a triumph as 28 contestants from across Johnson County presented their demonstrations and exhibits as the 4th and 5th-grade demonstrations ranged from healthy snacks to making slime.
The 6th graders presented tabletop exhibits, which showcased a wide range of project work including citizenship, line, and design, performing arts and more.
All of the contestants earning a blue award ribbon and first place may advance to the regional competition scheduled for Thursday, May 9, at Bulls Gap School in Hawkins County.
In addition to the wonderful demonstrations and exhibits, the 2019 county poster design winners were also recognized. This year the 4-H t-shirt design winner was Lexi Mullins, a 5th grader from Mountain City Elementary.
Her design features a clock with the slogan “It’s always time for 4-H”.
The other posters that were chosen to advance to the regional contest were designed by Chloe Sutherland a 5th grader from Roan Creek Elementary and Sam Cretsinger a 6th grader form Shady Valley Elementary.
Congratulations to all of our competitors and thanks to all the judges, parents, family and friends who support the contestants and the 4-H program.

4th Grade
Clothing and Textiles
Shelby Reece 1st place

Companion Animal
Bella Justice 1st place

Engineering and Safety
Eric Chant 1st place
Asia Stanley 2nd place

Food Science
C.J. Lipford 1st place

Line & Design
Brylee Gentry 1st place

Nutrition, Health, and
Emma Brown 1st place

Performing Arts and
Gavin Curd 1st place


5th Grade
Dalton Ward 1st place

Julia Crews 1st place

Clothing and Textiles
Brookelyn Lawley 1st place
Destiny Stout 2nd place

Companion Animal
Chloe Sutherland 1st place

Consumer Education and Economics
Izzy Thompson 1st place

Engineering and Safety Science
Dylan Blevins 1st place
Madi Howard 2nd place

Food Science
Shayla Sileo 1st place
Kendon Keith 2nd place

Line and Design
Jocelyn Stout 1st place


6th Grade
Joshua Ransom 1st place

Clothing and Textiles
Lanie Mink 1st place

Companion Animal
Mimi Zaldivar 1st place

Food Science
Savannah Lewis 1st place

Line and Design
Landell Walker 1st place

Performing Arts and
Anna Porter 1st place
Hannah Johnson 2nd place

Trinity Slemp 1st place

A.J. Laing 1st place

2019 Statewide Spring Turkey Hunting Season Opens March 30

Staff Report

NASHVILLE — Tennessee’s 2019 spring turkey season opens in all 95 counties on Saturday, March 30 and continues through Sunday, May 13.
“Turkey hunting in Tennessee is fantastic,” said Ed Carter, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency’s executive director. “We have abundant public land, one of the longest seasons in the southeast and one of the biggest bag limits and plenty of turkeys. It’s a great way to experience the outdoors, especially this time of year.”
Spring turkey harvest numbers have been consistent for years in Tennessee.
And this year is looking to be even better than last year with more favorable conditions than last spring when harvest numbers slipped below 30,000 for the first time in 16 seasons. Bag limit is one bearded turkey per day, up to four per season.
A hunting and fishing combination (Type 001), plus a supplemental big game license, or a sportsman license is required. Don’t forget to check game when you harvest a gobbler.
Turkey harvest can be checked online at or through the TWRA On The Go App (report capable with or without cell service).
The Middle Tennessee area is again expected to be a hot spot. Nine out of the top 10 county harvests came from mid-state.
Maury County led the way though East Tennessee’s Greene County had a productive year finishing second overall in the state. Dickson County was third.
Hunting hours are 30 minutes prior to legal sunrise until legal sunset (times found based on your location in the TWRA On the Go app). Legal hunting equipment includes shotguns using ammunition loaded with No. 4 shot or smaller, longbows, recurve bows, compound bows, and crossbows. Firearms and archery equipment may have
sighting devices except those devices utilizing an artificial light capable of locating wildlife.
More information on the 2019 spring turkey season can be found in the 2018-19 Tennessee Hunting &
Trapping Guide. The guide is online at and from local agents.

Can Frogs Adapt To Traffic Noise?

Laura Reinert, left, Louise Rollins-Smith, PhD, and colleagues are studying how frogs adapt to harmful traffic noise. Photo by Anne Rayner

Submitted by Craig Boerner

Frogs don’t like living near noisy highways any better than people do, but research from Vanderbilt suggests that frogs, like hardened city-dwellers, can learn to adapt to the constant din of rumbling trucks, rolling tires and honking horns. And, just like those urbanites who can’t get a good night’s sleep without the sporadic sounds of sirens, some frogs have grown accustomed to the rattle and hum of the highway.
“The broad interpretation is that frogs adapted to noise are better able to cope with noise,” said Vanderbilt professor Louise Rollins-Smith, PhD, who conducted the research in collaboration with Penn State and three other institutions. “It suggests that these populations that are exposed to noise from the time of road building, which is 1940s, 1960s onward, have actually kind of evolved to accept these kinds of noise conditions.”
Published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the study suggests that traffic noise is harmful to frogs, yet frogs can adapt.
To accomplish the study, researchers collected eggs of the wood frog Rana sylvatica from ponds in quiet locations and noisy locations, such as near major highways. Back in the laboratory, the eggs were allowed to hatch and undergo metamorphosis, and then the frogs were split into groups and exposed to a recording of either ambient noise or traffic noise for eight days.
“The main thrust of this,” said Rollins-Smith, “is that the ones from quiet places actually were stressed by the [traffic] noise and the ones that came from noisy places were not so much bothered.”
One of the findings was that traffic noise reduced the ability of frogs originally from quiet ponds to produce the antimicrobial peptide (AMP) brevinin-1SY. AMPs are short proteins which confer protection against a wide range of threats, including viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites. In frogs, AMPs are secreted from specialized glands in the skin. “Most species [of Rana] make quite a number of them, and this [species] makes only one well defined and tested antimicrobial peptide,” said Rollins-Smith, a professor of Professor of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology.
AMPs, like brevinin-1SY, inhibit Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, an aquatic fungal pathogen that is associated with global amphibian declines. The fungal pathogen “enters through
the [frog] skin. And so, this layer of antimicrobial peptides in the mucus of the skin is one of the protective defenses,” Rollins-Smith said.
This finding suggests that traffic noise may contribute to global amphibian declines by reducing the ability of wood frogs to defend against infection.
Traffic noise also impacted frogs’ immune and stress responses. When frogs originally from quiet places were exposed to traffic noise, researchers saw an increase in the number of monocytes, a particular type of white blood cell. But for frogs from noisy places, it was ambient noise that caused an increase in the number of monocytes.
A similar trend was observed for a hormone that becomes elevated in response to stress. Rollins-Smith said, “they were more accustomed to noise, so when it was too quiet, they responded differently.”

The work was supported by The Pennsylvania State University, Sigma Xi, the American Society for Ichthyology and Herpetology, and by the National Science Foundation.

Tennessee’s 250K Tree Day garners community support

A large group of residents gather for a photo on a beautiful day while taking part in TN’s 250K Tree Day, last weekend, supporting the statewide effort to beautify homes and communities. Participating groups included Northeast Tenn. Regional Economic Partnership Stewardship Council; AmeriCorps; Watauga Watershed Alliance; Sierra Club; Mountain Trails Riders Association; DMRA; Friends of Buffalo Mountain Trail #2. Photo by Dennis Shekinah.

By Tamas Mondovics

Welcomed by one the most beautiful days so far this spring, Tennessee residents including a sizable group representing Mountain City and Johnson County TN has turned out to show its support for the environment last week.
The draw was the annual TN’s 250K Tree Day, that urged residents across the state to beautify their properties and their communities by planting trees on Saturday, March 23, 2019.
This year’s event was organized by the Tennessee Environmental Council (TEC), which works tirelessly to maintain a healthy tree canopy in communities across Tennessee. Tree species offered to plant include Red Oak, Red Bud, Pine, and Plum or similar fruit variety.
Since 2007, TEC has planted more than 540,000 trees fulfilling its mission to educate and advocate for the conservation and improvement of Tennessee’s environment, communities, and public health.
“We are thrilled each year to be able to offer low-cost trees for the people of Tennessee to beautify their properties and participate in the largest community-tree-planting event in America,” said Jeffrey Barrie, Interim CEO for Tennessee Environmental Council, and one of the event organizers.

Knowing Your Plants and What They Need

By Sarah Ransom

Growing your own food is becoming increasingly popular across the United States, and with Tennessee residents, as it can help provide financial benefits and give access to high nutrient foods for your family. Natalie Bumgarner, of The University of Tennessee writes that “the bounty of a fresh harvest, and the activity, enhances personal health and well-being.” However, growing your own food is not always as easy as it may seem.
If you are going to be growing your own crops, be sure to have a basic understanding of the best crop maintenance that is needed so you can take full advantage of growing your own food.
The University of Tennessee’s Extension service program has prepared a variety of fact sheets to help inform producers of information to help increase success in production.
There are seventeen essential elements needed for plants to grow and reproduce.
Some of these are obtained primarily from water and air, but some additional nutrients come from the soil, which is why it is so imperative for you to make sure your soil is in the best condition possible.
Testing your soil is the best way to know if it will produce the best crops. The root systems of your plants are the most vital part of their ability to take water and nutrients to the plant, when transplanting, be extra careful with the root structure. Fertilizers, both chemical and organic, can be used to help manage the nutrients readily available in your soil.
For more on fertilizers, visit
Remember, sometimes fertilization can also be very beneficial during the growing season. Garden crops can benefit greatly for nutrient additions during their growing season. Regardless of how you choose to fertilize, be sure to follow recommended uses and amounts to keep from harming the plants or yourself.
Source –

UT Gardens’ March 2019 Plant of the Month: Blackberries

Submitted by Holly Jones and Carol Reese

Blackberries are a good candidate for the home garden. Delicious and nutritious eaten out of hand or cooked, nothing says summer in the south like fresh blackberries. Not only are they great for consumption, but they provide ornamental appeal as well. White flowers resembling small old-fashioned roses appear in late spring, fruits change from green to red to purple black as they ripen, the leaves often show fall color and overwintering canes display interesting shades of red and purple. They are also a good crop for U-Pick orchards and even commercial production but the berries are soft and shelf life is brief, so they can be challenging to harvest, store and sell.

The common terms brambles and cane fruit refer to all plants in the genus Rubus, which includes blackberries, dewberries, raspberries and boysenberries. The most common growth pattern of brambles is to have roots that are perennial, but shoots that only live for parts of two growing seasons. The first year of emergence these shoots are purely vegetative growth (stems and leaves) and are called primocanes. In the second season of growth, these same stems produce flowers and fruit and are called floricanes. They die at the end of the second season and should be removed. Primocanes emerge in the late spring and grow side by side with the current year’s floricanes.

Blackberries thrive best on fertile, well-drained soil in full sun. The plants will tolerate part shade but yield and sugar content will be diminished. Periods of high rainfall or overzealous irrigation during the ripening phase can also lead to a less sweet crop. While easily grown, they can become a management challenge if not maintained. It is their nature to sprawl and growth is rapid so consider a trellising system and a regular pruning regime to remedy what can quickly become a blackberry jungle. Erect and semi-erect types of brambles may only require some tip pruning and heading back to keep vines from covering too much garden space and hindering harvest, but trailing types benefit most from trellising to get the fruit off the ground.
While erect types are the easiest to maintain, flavor and sweetness can be subjective and growers will benefit from experimentation with an assortment of varieties. At the UT Gardens, Knoxville, Kitchen Garden a trailing variety called ‘Triple Crown’ has been the crowd favorite for more than five years due to heavy production of sweet, flavorful berries. The University of Arkansas is a leader in breeding blackberries, developing cultivars that have improved flavor, production, disease resistance, and minimized maintenance. Of course, thornlessness has been addressed and several varieties are available as well as a relatively new group of blackberries that will produce on the first year canes, which revolutionizes commercial blackberry production. Recommended University of Arkansas cultivars that produce on floricanes (second year) are named for Native American Indian tribes, and those that will produce on the primocanes will have the prefix ‘Prime” attached to the name. The University of Arkansas resources are included here as a starting point:

Recommended University of Arkansas blackberry cultivars for home gardens include:
Thorny: Chickasaw,
Choctaw, Kiowa and Shawnee
Thornless: Apache, Arapaho, Natchez, Navaho, Osage and Ouachita

Additional information about blackberry production can be found online at the UT Extension publications page: Just enter “blackberries” into the search engine.

Preparing and Planning Your Garden

By Sarah Ransom

There are many things to consider when preparing for the upcoming gardening season. The University of Tennessee has put together some great tips for preparing and planning your garden.
They have created a Tennessee Home Vegetable Garden Calendar that holds monthly tips and helpful to-do tasks for gardening.
The time is now right to start your transplants, beginning your warm-season crops now allows them to grow and be ready to transplant for maximum production.
Tomatoes are a great thing to start early. Preparations of your garden soil can begin now, tilling the cover crop and decomposing the material can take up to two-three weeks.
Early season growth can begin for cool-season crops that are seeded or transplanted two to six weeks before the frost date – it just depends on the crop.
Garden planning provides the ability to help save money, save time and prepare your space to maximize your crop harvest.
By planning what vegetables and crops you will plant, you can work to provide proper space for each crop, have a disease prevention plan and work to rotate crops to provide them maximum nutrients. There are warm and cold season crops.
Warm season crops tend to do very well against last Tennessee summer heat. Cool season crops can be an early or late harvest in Tennessee, just as long as they miss the hottest part of the summer season.
As you plan your garden, think about what will grow best in the space you have and what you will
productively use.
Purchase your seed from reputable suppliers and be sure to properly store any seed purchased. You can direct seed or transplant certain plants straight into your garden.
No matter what you want to plant, having a plan makes your job easier.
If you would like more information on the planting calendar or how to better prepare your garden – check out these additional articles.

The Tennessee Vegetable Garden: Garden Planning, Plant Preparation and Planting at or Tennessee Home Vegetable Garden 2019 Calendar at

Keywood Animal Clinic to conduct breeding soundness test

By Sarah Ransom

The University of Tennessee/Tennessee State University is partnering with Tri-State and Keywood Animal Clinic to conduct a Breeding Soundness Exam for local cattlemen on Saturday, March.
The exam is scheduled to be held at the Johnson County Livestock Association Cattle Handling Facility located inside the Chamber Park in Doe.
Suzanne Robinson from Keywood Animal Clinic is coming to conduct the bull’s breeding soundness tests.
Testing bulls can help reduce the risk of spreading unwanted diseases or genetic issues and help increase higher pregnancy rates to help with cattle production and increased profit.
According to the University of Tennessee’s Extension Veterinarian, Lew Stickland, “failure to properly evaluate bulls before and during the breeding season can result in huge economic losses…a bull’s fertility can be considered fertile, sub-fertile, or sterile.”
The cost of testing is $45.00 per bull.
However, Tri-State Growers Co-Op is providing a $10 sponsorship per bull to help cover part of the cost for testing. The testing fee is $35 per bull.
Once the test is complete, all bulls that receive a satisfactory score for breeding purposes will also receive vaccinations and deworming at no additional cost.
BVD-PI testing is also available for an additional $15, and it is a great deal for those hoping to breed their bull this season.
Tests are scheduled through the UT/TSU Extension office that can be reached at (423)-727-8161. Those interested can stop by the office, located at 212 College Street.
For more information or additional questions, please contact the Extension office.
UT Extension serves the citizens of Johnson County with educational programs in the areas of Agriculture, Family and Consumer Sciences, Community Resource Development, and 4-H Youth Development.
The office has a wealth of research-based publications, addressing virtually any issue related to the home or farm.
Johnson County 4-H is the largest youth serving organization in the county working with 900-1,000 youth annually in grades 4-12. The Mountain City
office is an outreach branch of the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture and Tennessee State University, providing research-based solutions and information to the citizens of Tennessee.
Extension is an educational organization, funded by federal, state and local governments, that brings research-based information about agriculture, family and consumer sciences, resource development and youth to the people of Tennessee.