Small Farm Expo
Recognizing Tennessee's Farmers
2014 Small Farm Expo
From beekeeping in Franklin County to crop growing in Williamson County, and 4-H and adult agriculture in Bledsoe County, the 2014 Tennessee State University Small Farms Expo Thursday highlighted the diversity in the state’s vast agricultural industry.
Participation in the Expo also showcased the University’s wide outreach initiatives through its Cooperative Extension Program, now covering more than 50 counties across Tennessee.
“This yearly Expo and TSU’s extension effort really give farmers an opportunity to educate the public about what we are doing out there,” said John Ingle, a Franklin County cattle breeder, who was this year’s Small Farmer of the Year Award winner. “Consumers only see the beef but it takes a lot more effort to get it to their dining room tables.”
As seasoned farmers, producers and University researchers, faculty and staff engaged the nearly 400 visitors with various displays and exhibitions, school children – from elementary to high school – considered potential future farmers of America, also got the opportunity to learn about agriculture.
Accompanied by chaperons and TSU staff, the children, who came in several busloads from the surrounding counties, took part in tours and educational workshops and hands-on activities including teamwork and leadership exercises, and demonstrations in alternative fuel production and technology.
“Coming here today was really eye-opening for me,” said future medical doctor Cierra Williams, a 10th grader from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, who wants to major in biology when she enters college.
Although Williams volunteers with the 4-H program in Rutherford County, through intermediate cooking and camp activities, she has never been on a farm before, and did not know TSU had a farm and a vast agricultural program.
“I am really excited to see this part of the university and to learn about these farm animals and plants,” she said. “Even though we might not think about it now, the team-building and leadership exercises today could be very helpful in the future in job interviews and other career efforts.”
The Expo, held at the Agricultural Research and Education Center on the main campus, also featured research and discussions on efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in corn croplands, enhancing sustainable production of bioenergy crops, pigeon pea production for limited resources farmers of Tennessee, and enhancing plant protection against fungal diseases and environmental stresses.
Workshops included organic vegetable production techniques, pesticide handling and safety, food preservation, new equipment technologies for small producers, and soil and plant tissue sampling, among others.
The highlight of the Expo was recognition of the state’s top four farmers for various awards. An overall winner was selected for the Small Farmer of the Year Award. That honor went to Ingle, of Cowan, Tennessee, who promotes a 100-percent green technology in cattle breeding and beef production. He was first recognized for “Best Management Practices.”
The other three award winners were Chris Hampton, a beef cattle farmer in Celina, Tenn., “Innovative Marketing,” for better recordkeeping that helps to meet customers’ need; Leigh Funderburk, of Franklin, Tennessee, “Innovative Marketing”; and Billy McCraw, of Clarksville, Tennessee, who received the award for “Alternative Enterprise.”
In presenting the awards, Dr. Chandra Reddy, Dean of the College of Agriculture, assisted by University officials, and Tennessee Agriculture Commissioner Julius Johnson, congratulated the honorees, and the institution and agency representatives for the support and cooperation in making the Expo a success.
“This could not have been possible without your partnership and cooperation,” Reddy told the packed luncheon on the TSU farm. He spoke about the “remarkable” growth in the college, especially its Extension program making special reference to head Expo organizer, Dr. Latif Lighari, Associate Dean for Extension, for “yet another” successful Expo.
Latif, who has headed the Expo since its inception 10 years ago, recognized his fellow organizers, the various farm managers and research leaders, small farmers, schools and students for their participation.
“Your input and participation made this event very successful,” Lighari said. “We thank you and especially the small farmers who are the lifeline of what we do.”
Other speakers included TSU Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dr. Alisa Mosley; State Sen. Thelma Harper, State Rep. Harold Love Jr., Agriculture Commissioner Johnson; and Dr. Tim Cross, Dean of Extension at the University of Tennessee.
Other TSU partners, Expo organizers, and agencies and sponsors present were the Tennessee Farm Bureau, U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Farm Service Agency, and the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency.
The other three award winners were Leamon Bratton, a beef cattle farmer in Woodlawn, Tenn., “Best Management Practice”; Ray and Elizabeth Clifton, honey and herb producers in Dickson, Tenn., “Alternative Enterprise”; and Marvin Lusk, owner of a 128-acre farm in McMinnville, Tenn., who was recognized for developing improved conservation techniques. He won the award for “Alternative Enterprise.”
In presenting the awards, Dr. Chandra Reddy, Dean of the College of Agriculture, assisted by University officials, Tennessee Agriculture Commissioner Julius Johnson, and State Rep. Harold Love Jr., congratulated the honorees, and the institution and agency representatives for the support and cooperation in making the Expo a success.
The following three small farmers were recognized at the 2011 Small Farmer of the Year Awards Ceremony:
Hilda Braun: Hilda Braun, along with her husband, Werner, operate a 100 acre cow-calf beef operation in Bledsoe County. Mrs Braun is a member of the Bledsoe County Cattleman’s Association, The Tennessee Livestock Association, and the Bledsoe County Farm Service Agency County Committee where she is active in several current programs including providing knowledge and assessment during times of natural disaster. With a small herd of 40 animals, the Brauns are able to manage their operations using current best practices including rotational grazing, cross fencing, and a new state-of-the-art watering system.
Realizing the need for a better grazing management system during the dry periods so prevalent the past few years, Mrs. Braun took the initiative to sign up for the 2010 Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Funded in March 2011, she has since been diligently working towards completion of all approved practices. Examples are a pumping plant, three frost-free watering facilities, a water well for livestock, and 1,650 linear feet of pipeline. She is also installing 3,180 linear feet of cross fencing and 4100 linear feet of access control fence to exclude cattle from all water bodies on the property.
Mrs. Braun has impressed the farming community with her tireless work and conservation ethic. She has taken a proactive role in the well-being of her livestock and, with these conservation practices in place, she takes pride in her current efforts while striving to become a better farmer for tomorrow.
Ray Radford: Ray Radford’s farming operation consists of approximately 425 acres with 300 acres in pasture and 125 acres in hay. His main farming enterprise is a cow/calf operation featuring the unique Corriente breed. Ray chose these cattle because of characteristics he particularly admired and appreciated.
To be sustainable, Ray had to develop a marketing plan which capitalized on the unique characteristics of his livestock. To do that, Ray decided to market his product directly to the consumer and carve a specific market niche. That niche includes leases for penning and roping, sale of seed and breeder stock, leasing of breeding and breaking bulls, and the sale of grain-fed and grass-fed cattle. Ray’s creative product line also includes locker beef, trophy skulls and horns, and exquisite tanned hides.
Ray is an involved community leader for both adults and youth, serving as the Tennessee Cattlemen’s Association President for Rutherford County. He recently led that organization in conducting a Youth Showmanship Class at no charge to area youth who show an interest in cattle. Recognizing the importance of “hands-on” experience, he has donated the use of his cattle to local youth organizations for agricultural events and workshop. Ray is also an active volunteer and leader in the “Approved Workmen Are Not Ashamed” church-based youth group and carefully works with various ethnic groups to ensure that religious preferences are respected and observed as animals are harvested. His creative and entrepreneurial spirit make him uniquely deserving of this award.
Walden Family Farm: In 1986, the Walden brothers, Robert and Raymond, their sister, Ramona, along with their spouses, purchased a 260 acre family farm on Rocky Fork Road in Smyrna, Tennessee. The Waldens wanted a farm large enough for all family members to have their own acreage and still be able to share their lives with one another. In 1999, Robert Walden’s son, Randy, and his wife, Heather planted a few rows of pumpkins just for fun. Not having planned for the bumper crop of 500 they harvested , they ended up selling the surplus to inquiring motorists who saw them piled up against the barn. This was the beginnings of the family pumpkin growing business. By fall season of 2000, the Walden Pumpkin Farm opened to the public. School tours were soon booked, and the accidental pumpkin farm was becoming a profitable business.
Definitely more than just a pumpkin farm, Walden offers many different activities including hayrides, “harvest-your-own’ pumpkins, farm animal petting area, and farm tours. There is no admission charge but pumpkins, flowers, crafts, and refreshments are available for purchase.
After over a decade, the family business is thriving and always expanding with new ideas. Many families make Walden Pumpkin Farm an annual tradition and many classes make their field trips there creating special memories in a place where students can learn about life on a farm.
2010 SMALL FARMER OF THE YEAR
2008 SMALL FARMER OF THE YEAR