From farm to fork – a day on the farm

The fourth annual Farm Day proved to be a huge success with 3rd & 4th graders across Johnson County. A partnership between UT-TSU Extension and Farm Bureau, Farm Day gives all third and fourth graders in Johnson County the opportunity to visit a local farm for a day of hands on fun and education. On Monday, October 2nd, students visited Iron Mountain Farms in Butler to learn about agriculture and its’ impact on everyday life. Students visited 9 stations led by local farmers and industry professionals to learn about where their food and other everyday items originate. Stations included beef cattle led by Agricultural Agent Rick Thomason, dairy led by 4-H Program Assistant Leigh Anne Taylor, sheep and wool led by Jane Plaugher and Debbie Stone from the Blue Ridge Fiber Guild, horse led by Katie Shoun-Harrell of Shoun Lumber, poultry led by Lori Kegley, soil conservation and water pollution led by Jason Hughes and Debbie Lipford from the Natural Resource Soil Conservation office, fruits and vegetables led by Cindy Church from the Garden Barn, forestry led by Danny Osborn from the Tennessee Department of Forestry and beekeeping led by Ben Wheeler from the Johnson County Beekeeper’s association. Highlights of the tour included discovering how many different types of wool there are and the long process of making useable items from raw wool, watching honeybees interact and work in an observation hive and tasting the honey, petting Bud a 2,000 pound draft horse and learning that chickens are the closest living relative to the t-rex dinosaur. Throughout the day students learn just how much agriculture impacts their everyday lives and how each meal they eat goes from “Farm to Fork”. Each student also received a bag of goodies to take home and a water bottle courtesy of Farm Bureau and Farm Bureau Women. We appreciate James and Lori Kegley of Iron Mountain Farms for hosting Farm Day along with all the volunteers, speakers and donors who make this event so special for our youth.


All ages stay fit and ‘young at heart’ as they enjoy square dancing together

By Paula Walter

If you happen to pass by the United Methodist Church on a Monday evening, you may just hear the sounds of music and laughter coming from the fellowship hall as The Young at Heart square dancers gather together for an evening of dance, fun and music. Not only is it fun, but square dancing just happens to be the official Tennessee state folk dance.
According to Sarah Ransom, who is the University of Tennessee extension family consumer science agent, there are currently 18-24 active members of the Young at Heart group who meet on Monday evenings. While many of the dancers have been there for years, approximately 10 to 12 new people have recently joined. They vary in age from nine up to 83 years old. The majority of the group are seniors. “The group is very friendly and welcoming,” said Ransom. “We laugh, have fun and have a good time.”
The group has recently offered dance lessons for those who are new to square dancing. There are approximately six home school students who have joined in on the fun and as a bonus, they are able to count their time dancing as a physical education credit. According to Ransom, square dancing is good for you, not only for physical activity, but it helps with memory, recall and listening. “It teaches you teamwork as well,” Ransom said. “You have to remember the order and carry out the steps.”
Besides just having fun, there are many reasons to square dance. It is a great form of stress relief. You and your partner can dance together and it’s a good way to socialize. Dancing is a safe way to exercise. It keeps your brain sharp as you remember the calls and dance steps associated with them. You burn calories, approximately 200 to 400 calories for 30 minutes of dancing. It’s low impact and helps improve your heart health. As with any exercise, it can result in a lower resting heart rate and lower your blood pressure.
It’s been recommended that people get in at least 10,000 steps a day. It’s been estimated that square dancers get in between 9,000 to 10,000 steps per dance. The dance movements help strengthen bones, especially those that are weight bearing. It is also reported to slow down the loss of bone mass. Dancing keeps your joints moving. It’s also been shown that those who engage in mental and physical activities help slow the onset of dementia and Alzheimer disease, and those who dance seem to fall less as they age.
The Young at Heart meeting Monday evenings 6:30 pm to 7:00 pm for those taking lessons, and dancing is from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm. The cost is $5 per member, $10 for a family, just $2 for beginners and the first two classes are free. You can come alone or with a partner. There are no classes on holidays or if there is inclement weather.
If you have any questions, contact Willie Hammons at 727-8750.

Co-workers and friends at courthouse mourn recent death of Jerry Farmer

A display set up at Johnson County Courthouse in memory of the late Jerry Farmer.

By Paula Walter

The weight of sadness can be felt in the Johnson County Courthouse. One of their own, Jerry Farmer, known to all as “Farmer,” passed away suddenly on Friday, September 29, while he was on duty at the courthouse. Farmer was 67 years old. Despite attempts to revive him, he passed away from a heart attack.
Farmer leaves behind not only his family, but also those he worked with at the courthouse. Even though it’s been a few weeks, their grief is still raw.
At the time of his death, Farmer was in his 46th year of law enforcement. He not only served as a deputy sheriff in Johnson County, but also previously served in Watauga and Yancey counties.
Tom Wilson, the first woman bailiff at the Johnson County Courthouse, has worked for four years at the courthouse. Wilson and Farmer worked together. “He was very loving,” Wilson said. “He never had a hard word to say about anyone. He would go out of his way to help people, even inmates. He was a good Christian man.” According to Wilson, his heart attack was sudden. “He looked as healthy as a bear,” she said with tears in her eyes.
“He was a loving and caring person,” Wilson said. “He loved everyone in the courthouse and there wasn’t anything he wouldn’t do for you. He was the kind of person you would think would live on and on. God took him for a reason. He’s there with his Mama and other family. We will see him again. He just paved the way for the rest of us. He was my best friend in the whole world.”
Sherrie Fenner, Johnson County Clerk and Master, worked with Farmer approximately nine years. Farmer was often in the courtroom as he was one of the county’s bailiffs. “He liked everything in place and nothing out of place,” Fenner recalled. “He did everything the right way. The worst days he could turn into a good day.” Farmer was one of those special people who had a positive impact on all he met. “Farmer always stood out to people by his happy character, his big heart and his clever grin,” said Fenner. “He was a dear friend and co-worker to me who was always there to help in any way that he could. He left this world doing what he loved to do. The hallways and courtrooms of this courthouse will never be the same without him.”
Farmer’s impact went beyond the courthouse. According to Sheriff Mike Reece, Farmer worked for the sheriff’s department two different times. After working for a while in North Carolina, Farmer contacted Reece. “I want to come back home,” Reece recalled Farmer saying. “Farmer is not someone you meet every day,” Reece said. “He was more than just an employee. He was a friend. I know once I told him something, I knew it was done. I knew he was going to take care of everything.”
According to Reece, he received compliments from different judges that Johnson County always had the best bailiffs. “I always received compliments on Farmer,” he stated. “Farmer was a good person, all the way around. He never complained, never said he was sick. I never knew him to complain.”
According to Reece, anytime anyone needed help, Farmer was there. “He treated everyone the same way,” Reece said. “He was just a unique person, Farmer was. Day or night, I could pick the phone up and he’d be there. There was nothing he didn’t do I asked him. We’re really going to miss him, not only at his job, but having Farmer as a friend.”
During his career, Farmer received numerous awards and was inducted into the American Police Hall of Fame for Distinguished Achievement in public service. He worked as a Deputy Sheriff in Watauga County, and also served as Deputy Sheriff in Yancey County, North Carolina. He also served as police officer in Watauga Medical Center and as chief of security at Chetola Resort. Farmer was buried with military honors. The somber moments of the final call and bag pipes echoed through the air as friends and family gathered to see their Farmer laid to rest.
Farmer leaves behind his wife, Linda, their daughter and two sons, along with a brother and sisters, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He also leaves behind a community of people who were blessed to call him friend.



National agency still trying to identify John Doe found in Shady 40 years ago

Sketch from the case file of the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs)

By Angie A. Gambill

The Tomahawk was contacted recently by the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) requesting information about a body that was found in 1977 in Johnson County. Forty years later the middle-age male remains unidentified. We are reaching out to our readers that lived in the area during this time that might have information helpful to the investigation.
Articles that appeared in The Tomahawk in December of 1977 recount a gruesome tale of some two dozen elderly men living in the abandoned buildings and grounds of the property known as the Shady Mountain Orchard. Many of the men were disabled, some had skin diseases that required hospitalization, and most appeared malnourished and in general poor health.
According to the men interviewed by authorities at the time, they had been living in a facility in Atlantic City, NJ that was run by a man named Lee Cohn. They said they were not in Tennessee by choice, but that Cohn had loaded them up and brought them to the orchard. Later reports said the hotel building in NJ had been condemned and demolished.
The men also reported that there was no heat in the buildings on the property, they were fed only two meals a day consisting of a “small portion of macaroni and some wine,” and alleged that Cohn took all their Social Security and Veterans benefits to pay for room and board. Johnson County Sheriff Burl Brown stated that one resident showed him a receipt to Cohn for $220 per month for “food, lodging and services.” The receipt also showed that he had paid what he said was his entire Social Security check of $217.50, which left him owing $2.50 each month.
According to the articles, charges were filed against Cohn and on September 30, 1977 he was officially “made aware of the minimum standards and regulations for nursing homes and homes for the aged,” and was told that he must meet with local officials to “discuss the problem concerning his facility.” In mid-October, Shady Valley residents reported to the sheriff that the men were still living in the orchard. When Brown visited the site on October 18, all the residents were gone. Indications were that they had left in a hurry but neither an exact date nor means of departure could be determined. Cohn later alleged that Johnson County deputies had planted drugs on the property and that he had moved his residents to various locations in the northern states.
Investigation revealed that before Cohn had brought the men to Johnson County, that he had apparently brought this group and men at other facilities from locations throughout the United States to New Jersey. When authorities in NJ began to question the conditions of the facilities, he had moved this particular group to Shady Valley.
In early December, the badly decomposed body of a male between the ages of 51 and 60 was found near a stream on the property. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation was called in, but the remains have never been identified. It is assumed that the John Doe was one of the men that had lived on the 385-tract of land leased by Cohn, as no local residents had gone missing during the time frame.
NamUs has requested that anyone living in the Johnson County area in late 1977 that remembers this incident and might have any information leading to the identification of the deceased to call their toll-free hotline at 1-855-626-7600. The current case file is available at on website. The original articles in their entirety and pictures of the scene can be accessed on The Tomahawk’s website at
Any help in giving John Doe a name will be greatly appreciated.




Special Olympics basketball team being organized in Johnson County

By Paula Walter

Tonya Mink knows the importance of exercise for everyone. She is the physical therapist at Johnson County Middle School. Mink is currently organizing a Special Olympics basketball team in Johnson County.
The Special Olympics was first formed in 1962 when President Kennedy’s sister, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, held a day camp for children with intellectual disabilities at her home in Maryland. From there, Shriver’s endeavor has grown to provide training and competitions for 5.7 million athletes with mental or physical challenges. The events are held year round across the globe.
Mink would like to see anyone ages eight and up with special needs to sign up for the newly organized Special Olympics team. “We are encouraging children and adults in our community to participate,” Mink said. “We welcome all ages and abilities.” The basketball team isn’t just for students, but is open to adults with disabilities as well. According to Mink, the Special Olympics organization is trying to encourage development of more teams. Currently, there are no other Area Three Special Olympics teams. This includes Johnson, Carter, Washington and Unico counties.
Children with challenges often cannot participate in many sports because of physical disabilities, Mink explained. It’s often difficult for them to keep running back and forth on the basketball courts. “Team sports are difficult because they don’t have a lot of opportunities,” she said. “When they are younger, they can be involved in team sports, but as they get older, they can’t make the team. They quit or become discouraged and there are no avenues for them.”
Students with disabilities can attend school up to 22 years old. Special Olympics participants can be as young as eight years old and there is no age limit. Devin Shaw is the coach for this newly formed basketball team.
Weekly practice will be held at the gym at Mountain City Elementary. “This is a great opportunity for physical activity and social interaction,” Mink stated. “It’s not just physical, it’s social. There’s a social aspect to it. We hope to play games against the Watauga County, North Carolina team,” she added.
There will be an organizational and sign-up meeting on Friday, October 20th at Mountain City Elementary in the gym. There is no limit to the number of participants who may sign up. “We will split into two if we have to,” Mink said. There is no affiliation with the Johnson County School system.
More information on the local Special Olympics will be available in the near future.


Autumn splendor in the mountains

Every year at this time Mother Nature shows her true colors in the mountains of Northeast Tennessee. Splashes of orange, red and gold set the subdued green hues of summer ablaze with autumn splendor. Variations of this breathtaking scene unfold throughout the area in mid-October making fall the favorite season of many.

The Addams Family coming in time for Halloween

Just in time for the Halloween season, the Johnson County High School Players in collaboration with Johnson County Community Theatre, are bringing the Tony Award winning, Broadway musical “The Addams Family” to Heritage Hall. In the kooky, upside-down world of the Addams family, to be sad is to be happy, to feel pain is to feel joy, and death and suffering are the stuff of their dreams. Nonetheless, this quirky family still has to deal with many of the same challenges faced by any other family, and the spookiest nightmare faced by every family creates the focus of Lippa, Brickman, and Elice’s musical: “The Addams Kids Are Growing Up.” The Addams’ have lived by their unique values for hundreds of years and Gomez (Derek Visser) and Morticia (Megan McEwen), the patriarch and matriarch of the clan, would be only too happy to continue living that way. Their dark, macabre, beloved daughter Wednesday (Abigail Arnett), however, is now an eighteen-year-old young woman who is ready for a life of her own. She has fallen in love with Lucas Beineke (Connor Long), a sweet, smart boy from a normal, respectable Ohio family — the most un-Addams sounding person one could be! And to make matters worse, she has invited the Beinekes (Scott Loveless and Josie Ward) to their home for dinner. In one fateful, hilarious night, secrets are disclosed, relationships are tested, and the Addams family must face up to the one horrible thing they’ve managed to avoid for generations: change.
Assisted by nine Addams family ancestors plus Uncle Fester (Travis Ward), Pugsley (Andrew Robinson), Grandma (Kaelyn Sussex) and Lurch (Zach Isaacs) the stage comes alive with song and dance. Performances are at Heritage Hall, October 20, 21, 27 and 28 at 7pm and October 22 at 3pm. Advance adult tickets are $10, $12 at the door and student tickets are $5.

The Field School was a beginning farmer training program

By Rick Thomason

University of Tennessee
Johnson County Extension Director

The Field School, East Tennessee’s beginning farmer training program, is launching its third year of programming in November!  They are currently recruiting new and beginning farmers for their program.
The Field School is a monthly series of workshops (November 2017 through August 2018) that provides you with an overview of small-scale farming in East Tennessee’s mountains and valleys, taught by 20+ farmers and agricultural professionals.  It is arranged by the Appalachian RC&D Council, Green Earth Connection, and many area partners with major support from USDA.  F
ield School students attend classroom and on-farm sessions to build the knowledge, networks, and confidence for planning out a farming operation to fit their land and business needs.
After two successful years of running the Field School, we are pleased to announce that we are expanding the session options to include two Tracks.  Students can choose from either Produce or Small Livestock and dive deep into specific farming operations and production methods.
Can’t decide which track to take or want to attend them all?  You can sign up for the Dual Track option and attend all 13 sessions being offered!
Field School Students Can:

*   Tap into the knowledge of seasoned farmers and Ag professionals from across the region.

*   Meet like-minded people who also want to take their passion for farming to the next level.
*   Learn how to connect with the local food scene, with government resources, with new ideas, with markets for farm products, with proper laws and legal guidance.
*   Experience different farming styles and see behind the scenes on area farms through field visits and classroom presentations taught by “real” farmers, including several full-time farmers.
Registration fees for the “Produce” and “Small Livestock” track is $75 each and consists of 9 monthly sessions.
The “Dual Track” allows participants to attend all 13 sessions and costs $100.  There are limited spots in the ‘17/’18 Field School.  To reserve yours, you must fill out the online application<> and send in payment.  The fee includes curriculum materials and a meal at each session.  More information and the on-line application can be found at the following website:
Three full Scholarships are available for Veterans, so please call 423-979-2581 or email<> if you qualify.  The cost of the Field School is subsidized by grants from USDA, Tennessee Department of Agriculture, Appalachian Regional Commission, and local Business Sponsors.

Johnson County 4-H hosts horse clinic

The Johnson County 4-H hosted a Horse Clinic on Saturday, September 23, 2017 at Chamber Park. The horse clinic offers a safe and fun environment for students to engage in hands on learning, without having to own a horse. This year 17 students attended our clinic which focused on teaching students to safely interact with horses while learning how to groom, saddle, lead a horse, the importance of colors and markings and how a horse’s senses are different from a human’s.

Following the clinic, students could exhibit their horse in an assortment of classes during our show. This year we had 3 lead-liners and 4 students entere the various classes to exhibit their horses’ athletic ability in a variety of disciplines.
All of our exhibitors this year did a wonderful job showing their horses. In Addition each of the participants displayed exceptional sportsmanship for one another. The show results are as follows:

Lead Line:
Joyce Ann (JoJo) Aldridge
Katelyn Jones
Ella Ruth Simcox

Halter Conformation: 1st Megan Rice
2nd Emaline Cornett
3rd McKinzie Jones
4th Bud Robinson
5th Katelyn Jones

1st Emaline Cornett
2nd Bud Robinson
3rd Megan Rice
4th Katelyn Jones
5th McKinzie Jones

Western Pleasure 2-Gait:
1st Emaline Cornett
2nd Megan Rice
3rd McKinzie Jones
4th Katelyn Jones

Western Pleasure 3-Gait:
1st Emaline Cornett
2nd Katie Simcox

Western Horsemanship:
1st Emaline Cornett
2nd Katie Simcox
3rd Megan Rice
4th McKenzie Jones
5th Katelyn Jones

1st Emaline Cornett
2nd Megan Rice
3rd Katie Simcox
4th Katelyn Jones

Barrel Racing:
1st Katie Simcox
2nd McKinzie Jones
3rd Katelyn Jones

Pole Bending:
1st Katie Simcox
2nd Katelyn Jones
3rd McKinzie Jones


The Johnson County 4-H would like to thank all the volunteers, parents, coaches, students and supporters that worked together to make this event a success.

Linda Walraed, en plein air artist, paints the beauty of the flowers in the mountains

Linda Walraed, who owns a vacation home in Callalantee in Johnson County, is an artist who paints en plein air, a French term for in open air. According to Walraed, the flowers she paints came from seed she cast out in the spring.
“With the rains we have had, our flower garden has certainly produced gorgeous flowers and put on a grand show.  We have many butterflies, bees and birds that visit the garden daily,” she said.  “I am painting in an impressionist style of cosmos, spider flowers and zinnias. My dog, Tiffany Rose is a constant companion and loves to go out on location with me.”
Her favorite medium is oils using panels.

HGTV comes to Johnson County in search of a secluded log cabin for featured family

By Paula Walter

Home and Garden Television, better known as HGTV, recently sent a film crew to our own Johnson County to film a segment of the show, Log Cabin Living. The upcoming episode is entitled Tennessee Homestead Cabin. Set your DVR, as the show will be aired November 11th at 11:00 pm. According to a recent press release, some of the filming for the show was done in the Pioneer Landing area of Johnson County.
Log Cabin Living focuses on finding log homes for those people who want to escape the craziness of city life and are seeking peace, quiet and privacy in a rural setting. Some of their past episodes including finding a home in Blue Ridge, Georgia with a view of the Appalachian Mountains, a family searching for a cabin and a yard for the dog facing the mountains on the island of Oahu, and a couple searching for a get-away cabin in Wisconsin away from the hustle and bustle of Chicago. The show has also focused on finding cabin home in western North Carolina, Montana, the Alleghany Mountains, Fredericksburg, Virginia, northern Minnesota and the Smoky Mountains.

In this episode set in our own Johnson County, a family of three who love the outdoors are looking for a secluded cabin. The family enjoys hunting and foraging for wild mushrooms. They also repair, modify and build guns. Their budget is $550,000 and they are hoping to find that special log cabin for their family that includes private flat land to homestead.
Make sure to check your local listings to verify the Tennessee Homestead Cabin show time.


Representative Timothy Hill supports Tennessee’s education and students

(NASHVILLE) — Throughout the first half of the 110th Tennessee General Assembly, Representative Timothy Hill supported legislative initiatives focused on education benefiting both the state’s educators, as well as Tennessee’s students.
In 2017, Hill and his Republican colleagues passed a balanced budget that includes $200 million in funding for the state’s Basic Education Program (BEP). This funding includes $100.4 million for teacher salaries across the state. Over the last two years, the Tennessee General Assembly has made the largest investment in K-12 education in state history without raising taxes on the backs of hardworking Tennesseans.

Hill fought to support the educational dreams of our National Guard members without fear of financial struggle by sponsoring the Tennessee STRONG (Support, Training, and Renewing Opportunity for National Guardsmen) Act. The legislation establishes a four-year pilot program for eligible members of the Tennessee National Guard to receive a last-dollar tuition reimbursement toward a first-time bachelor’s degree.

Additionally, he supported passage of the Tennessee Reconnect Act. This plan offers all Tennessee adults without a degree access to community college tuition-free and at absolutely no cost to taxpayers. With the passage of the Reconnect Act, Tennessee becomes the first state in the nation to offer all citizens — both high school students and adults the chance to earn a post-secondary degree or certificate free of tuition and fees.

Lastly, Hill worked to enhance transportation safety for Tennessee students by supporting passage of House Bill 322. This legislation requires all school districts, as well as charter schools to appoint a transportation supervisor to monitor and oversee student transportation. The supervisor must receive annual training and also implement a school transportation policy adopted by the local board of education.
It requires all new school bus drivers to complete a driver training program and also increases the minimum age for individuals seeking to obtain a school bus operator endorsement license from 21 to 25.
“When we invest in our teachers, support the educational outcomes of our citizens, and ensure the safety of our children, we are taking the appropriate steps in order to ensure that Tennessee continues to thrive,” said Representative Hill. “It truly is an exciting time in communities across our state, and I look forward to furthering our work of making Tennessee a model of success that our entire nation can follow.”

Timothy Hill serves as House Majority Whip. He is also a member of the House Calendar & Rules, House Transportation and House Insurance & Banking Committees, as well as the House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee. Hill lives in Blountville and represents House District 3, which includes Johnson and part of Carter and Sullivan Counties.
He can be reached by email at: or by calling (615) 741-2050.

Farmers Market finds a permanent home at Ralph Stout Park

By:  Jana Jones

Johnson County Farmers Market Manager

Since its founding in 2009, the Johnson County Farmers Market (JCFM) has been looking for a place to call home. We are grateful to Danny Herman for allowing us to use his Quonset hut by Rainbow Road and Highway 167 for the first three years, and to the county for allowing us to use the courthouse parking lot for the last six years.

These locations have served us well as the community has supported us in good weather and not so good weather. But we have longed for a permanent, covered space to call our home that would allow customers to shop out of the rain and ease vendors’ fears of their tents being blown away by wind gusts that can occur out of nowhere here in the mountains.

The JCFM will be celebrating 10 years in 2018 and we are thrilled to announce that Mayor Kevin Parsons and the Town of Mountain City, with the help of the JCFM, will be applying for two grants through the USDA Rural Development Department to build a pavilion at Ralph Stout Park that will be used as a permanent home for the Farmers Market! Architect and engineer, Eric Nordmark, has designed a beautiful timber-framed pavilion and will be working with general contractor, Alan Hammons, to gather bids for the project. Pictured is Nordmark’s pencil sketch front view and aerial view that was revealed at our Harvest Celebration Dinner last Saturday.

Aside from Farmers Market on Saturday mornings, the proposed pavilion will mainly be used as an additional picnic shelter for the community and will be available to reserve for special events. The design is made up of two 30’X50’ buildings set at an angle that are attached in the center by the roof structure covering. The location at Ralph Stout Park will be behind the existing stage in the grassy area below 421.
Should the grants be fully funded, we are estimating that construction could commence as early as March 2018. Since we don’t expect the building to be completed at the start of our 2018 season, the JCFM vendors will set up tents in the vicinity of the stage area until our new pavilion home is completed.

But for the remainder of our 2017 season, the JCFM is located at the county courthouse parking lot across from the post office in downtown Mountain City, open every Saturday from 9 until noon through the end of October. We accept SNAP/EBT and currently have a program that doubles the dollars for fresh fruits and vegetables for our EBT customers.

Follow us on Facebook to keep abreast of new items offered each week, or visit us online at Johnson We welcome all to come enjoy live music, kids’ activities, sample recipes and all of the great items offered by our terrific farmers and vendors at every market!


It’s Scarecrow on Main time!

It is not too late to reserve a lamppost on Main Street for the annual Scarecrows on Main event.  Anyone can call 423-727-8005 or come by city hall at 210 South Church Street for more information.  There is an application fee of $30 which will provide you with a fodder shock, hay bales, mums, and pumpkins. Scarecrow exhibit dates will be from October 7th through the 31st. Prizes will also be awarded so get busy designing your unique and creative scarecrow. Let’s all work together to make Main Street as festive as possible.
The town is proud to sponsor this event as it brings many people here from all around the tri-cities.  The influx of tourism dollars from this event help local businesses grow as well as helping the town and county through much needed sales tax revenue.


State Attorney General expresses deep concern about Equifax data breach

Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III today expressed in a letter to credit reporting firm Equifax his deep concern that the personal information of over 3 million Tennessee residents has been stolen by unauthorized individuals, leaving consumers vulnerable to identity theft and financial loss. In doing so, he added his voice to those of several other attorneys general who recently wrote to Equifax with similar concerns.
General Slatery encouraged Equifax to “take all possible steps to help consumers access any rehabilitative services easily and efficiently” and advised Equifax of the frustration that many consumers are experiencing when they contact Equifax or visit its website. General Slatery also strongly encouraged Equifax to focus on free credit monitoring as opposed to any fee based credit monitoring so consumers are not confused into thinking they must pay for a service that is being offered for free.
Additionally, while appreciative that Equifax will be reimbursing consumers who paid a fee to freeze their Equifax credit reports as of September 7, 2017, the date the breach was announced, General Slatery urged Equifax to extend the free credit freezes past the current deadline of November 21, 2017 and to reimburse fees paid by consumers for security freezes by other credit reporting agencies.
“It is distressing that this massive breach leaves consumers exposed to financial and other harm. Consumers need to be vigilant about regularly monitoring their financial accounts and credit reports, and Equifax must actively assist consumers in those efforts,” General Slatery said.
Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak said, “The Tennessee Division of Consumer Affairs supports this effort by General Slatery and other attorneys general on behalf of consumers across the country.”
Consumers can access helpful tips at the FTC website, located at

‘Scarecrows on Main’ time

It’s time for “Scarecrows on Main.” The Town of Mountain City is sponsoring “Scarecrows on Main” and applications are available at City Hall, 210 South Church Street, from now until October 6th. There is an application fee of $30 which will provide you with a fodder shock, hay bales, mums, and pumpkins. Scarecrow exhibit dates will be from October 7th through the 31st. Prizes will also be awarded so get busy designing your unique and creative scarecrow. Let’s all work together to make Main Street as festive as possible. For more information, call 423-727-8005.

Farm to Table Harvest Celebration this Saturday

The Johnson County Farmers Market is hosting the first annual Harvest Celebration Dinner to be held September 23.  Tickets are still available at the Johnson County Welcome Center or at the Farmers Market Saturday mornings for $35 for a 4 course Mediterranean themed meal with live classical and folk music.
Call 423-677-2222 to reserve your ticket or for more information.  Vegan and gluten free options are available.

Encouraging the world one painted rock at a time

By Paula Walter

You may have noticed small brightly painted rocks with encouraging messages around Johnson County lately. It’s all part of The Kindness Rock Project, an endeavor to promote random acts of kindness across the country.
According to Tonya Townsend of Johnson County, the Kindness Rock Project began when Megan Murphy from Cape Cod painted just one rock. Her parents had died when she was young and Murphy still missed them every day. She would walk the beach every day looking for a rock-shaped heart for her father and a piece of sea glass for her mother. She had not intended to start the Kindness Rock Project until she hid her first rock on the beach that she had painted, adding kind and encouraging words. It so happened a friend of Murphy’s found the rock and had been experiencing a bad day, until she found the rock.
Townsend started a local Facebook group to share messages of comfort and optimism called Color Mountain City (Johnson County) after running across a nearby group, Damascus Rocks. Color Mountain City started with just a few participants, but has grown in size to approximately 250 members, with more members added daily. Currently, about 30 members are active in bringing smiles to people around the county. The rocks are not only painted and hold a special message, but often you can find the name of the group on the back of the rock. Those finding the rocks will take a picture and post it in order to let the group know one of their rocks has been found. Sometimes people will hide the rock they found again and pass the message along for someone else to find, or they may decide to keep it as a souvenir.
According to Townsend, there are a few simple rules the group should follow. “First, this is a kindness project,” she said. “So everyone be kind, keep the rocks family friendly, don’t take unpainted rocks from private property, businesses or government property unless you have permission from the owners. Also, please don’t hide rocks in the grass or anywhere that can cause damage to equipment or cause someone to fall.” She stresses writing your name or the Facebook group you are connected with on the back of the rock and seal the rocks with a paint sealer. The group tracks where the rocks end up. Additionally, there are those who put their own personal name or hash tag on the rock. “We track our rocks with our group name on the back of them and some people also add their own personal hash tag on their rocks,” Townsend said. “ That way if someone that is visiting finds any of our rocks and takes it back to their home place that’s 200 miles away, and they hid it there another person visiting that area finds that same rock and takes it even further away. That’s what we call our traveling rocks. As long as the finder posts the rocks to our page or the page written on the back of the rock, then we can keep track of where our rocks are at.”
Some of the rocks bearing messages of encouragement have been left at Ralph Stout Park, on Main Street, both inside and outside stores and restaurants. One woman who works at the Abingdon Walmart found one of the group’s rocks outside the store. “I found a pretty big flat rock outside the Church I attend, Mountain City Church of Christ. It had all kinds of different beautiful pattern,” Townsend said. “ I started looking more closely and it was a three-d rock with Jesus kneeling down. It was beautiful.”
According to Townsend, its best to wash the rocks off first before you begin painting them. If the rock has deep holes or any place that needs filling, use wood filler and sand the excess off. You then apply Mod Podge on every rock as it makes it so much easier to paint and draw on. It keeps the paints or sharpie pens from running. Finally, after the rocks have dried, spray a paint sealer on them to keep the paints from washing off in the rain.
This activity encourages families and friends to spend time together. ”Together we can help turn the world back to God by spreading kindness and help make it a better place again. It’s so much fun getting together as a family, church group, friends or even alone painting, hiding, finding, hiding the rocks again and posting about the rock,” said Townsend.

Credit agency breach affects 143 million Americans

By Paula Walter

This past week, Equifax, one of three credit reporting agencies, recently announced hackers were able to obtain personal information, including names, social security numbers and other identifying information, from an estimated 143 million Americans. This amounts to approximately half the population of the United States. In this recent breech, credit card numbers for approximately 209,000 people and documents containing personal identifying information for an estimated 182,000 were also stolen.
Equifax, Experian and Trans Union are the three credit reporting agencies in the United States. These companies gather information on individuals that are used to determine credit scores for millions of people across the country. Information is obtained from names, addresses, social security numbers, date of birth, driver’s license and even credit card information.
With this breach of personal information, anyone who has ever applied for credit or had credit could be affected. Farmers State Bank has posted information on their website to assist you in the event your personal information has been obtained in this latest hack. They offer suggestions to help protect yourself and your credit, including enrolling in Equifax service. Due to the breech, Equifax is offering free credit monitoring for one year, regardless if your personal information was compromised or not.
“Keep an eye on your bank account regularly to check for fraudulent transactions,” said Clifford Mahala, Vice President and Security Officer for Farmers State Bank. Pull up your credit reports from all three agencies, Equifax, Trans Union and Experian. The Fair Credit Reporting Act allows you to access a free credit report from each credit monitoring company once a year. “Monitor credit reports, banking accounts and watch out for scams related to the breech,” Mahala stated. “Don’t click on any links from emails, but go directly to the browser. Online banking and mobile banking are beneficial because it gives you the opportunity to look at your accounts anytime.”
Johnson County Bank’s online home page offers contact information should you be a victim of identity theft or fraud, or lost or stolen credit cards. Contact numbers for Johnson County Bank can be found in case of a stolen or lost debit card, along with phone numbers for the bank, Social Security Administration, as well as Experian, Equifax and Trans Union. To help in the fight against identity theft, when you open an account at Johnson County Bank, you will be asked for your phone number, address, date of birth and other identifying information. You may also be asked to produce your driver’s license or other identifying documents.
Brad Reece, Executive Vice President at Johnson County Bank, also stresses the importance of reviewing account activity on statements your financial institutions send you. “If something looks wrong, don’t hesitate to question it,” said Reece. “Additionally, many customers use on-line banking tools to manage accounts. If transactions have occurred that appear suspicious, customers can take action considerably earlier than waiting to notice it on a statement in an effort to prevent future losses.”
Those who steal identity information use the information they have to access your credit cards and your personal information. They may open credit cards and other accounts in your name, pretending to be you. This may be something you are unaware of until you are contacted by a company regarding a late payment or you notice charges on a credit card bill. Make sure to check your credit reports for any discrepancies, such as credit cards you didn’t apply for, or the wrong information on your credit report, missing money from your bank or inquires from companies you have never heard of contacting you regarding your credit. “The idea of identity theft is a scary thought,” said Reece. “Criminals take advantage of every angle they can to illegally benefit from others in society, and the recent issue at Equifax unfortunately will undoubtedly aid them in these unethical endeavors. The Federal Trade Commission has some excellent suggestions for those who are looking to take actions to safeguard their information and are concerned with the potential that it may have been compromised.”
Placing a security freeze on your credit report should prevent any new accounts being opened in your name. If you decide to go this route, you need to contact each of the credit reporting agencies. Creditors will not be able to offer any new credit, keeping identify thieves from opening false accounts in your name. If you decide to apply for new credit, you would have to contact all three companies to lift the freeze.
Additionally, a fraud alert could be placed on your accounts, requiring all creditors to check your identity before opening up any new credit cards or even increasing your credit limits. If you place a fraud alert with any of the credit reporting agencies, they are required to notify the other two credit agencies. An initial fraud alert is good for 90 days, but can be renewed. An extended alert is also available for victims of identity theft for a period of seven years. This differs from the initial fraud alert in that creditor must contact you to determine that you indeed are making the request.
To see if your personal information has been compromised, go to Farmers State Bank website, and click the banner at the top of the page. At the bottom of the page is a link where you can obtain information directly from Equifax as to whether your personal credit information has been compromised. There are also links that will take you to the Federal Trade Commission’s web page, as well as information on how to protect yourself from becoming a victim of identity theft.