Community foundation hosts annual talent show

By Tamas Mondovics

The Johnson County Talent Show has been showcasing the talent of young people (K-12) and to raise funds for more than a decade.
This year’s event was held in front of a full house at Heritage Hall Friday evening and featured 29 students in 24 different acts in four categories of competition—K-3, 4-6, Middle School, and High School.
Participants included winners from every school in the county as well as homeschool participated.

K-3 Category had eight acts
First place: Allie Mullins & Kearstan Jennings for a dance routine Second place: Elizabeth “Ellie” Averill for a gymnastics and dance routine Third place: Shelby Lipford singing “Twinkle, Twinkle”

4-6 Category had 7 acts
First place: LaRue Mills singing “Falling in Love with
You Second place: Hailey Isaacs singing “Gold Watch and Chain” while playing
guitar Third place was Joshua Ransom playing “The Caissons Go Rolling Along” on piano

Middle School Category
had four acts
First place: Elijah Hay-nes singing “Home” Second place Will Smith playing “Hallelujah” on piano Third place: Kyla Tolliver singing “The House That Built Me”

High School Category
had five acts
First place: Abigail Arnett singing “Linger” while playing guitar Second place: Cameron Clawson & Will Kerley singing “Cold Weather” on piano Third place: Julia Jenkins singing “Love Triangle”
Prizes in each category were as follows: 1st Place–$75, 2nd Place–$50, 3rd Place–$25 and all other students who participated received an honorable mention gift card worth $5 or more.
The Johnson County Foundation was established in June 2001 through the work of the Johnson County Champion Community Committee and the generous gifts of time, vision and resources by a group of Johnson County residents committed to strengthening communities and improving the quality of life in Johnson County.
Johnson County Education Growth began in 2002

Star LED already aiding local economy

By Jill Penley

Freelance Writer

The Johnson County Industrial Park is buzzing with activity as Star LED, the company specializing in LED lighting products for commercial, residential, marine and automotive applications, is making progress toward renovations and additions to 55,500-square foot facility which will eventually house the company’s manufacturing site, showroom, and office spaces.
Star LED CEO, Charlie Blanco is pleased with the progress of the project and explained all the materials for the project were purchased locally, and the contractors working at the site are also from the area.
“Our organization and brand are primed for growth and market penetration. A facility in Mountain City, Tennessee furthers Star LED’s strategy for expansion in the United States while supporting our strategic partners efficiently,” Blanco said. “Our presence here in Mountain City will enable Star LED to be ever more responsive to our partners’ and clients’ immediate needs by providing superior grade LED lights for any application and unparalleled service throughout our clients’ experience with us.”
LED, or “light emitting diode,” lights use 90 percent less energy than standard light bulbs. Additionally, they last longer, up to 25 times longer than standard light bulbs. They are also more durable and offer better light quality than other types of lighting. Star LED guarantees all its products for five years.
“By having the ability to assemble our product in the U.S., allows us to ensure that product quality is second to none against all of our competitors,” said Star LED Chairman Garry Garoni. “Manufacturing that is re-shored allows for better employment rates and better global economies. People feel patriotic when they support the U.S economy and create jobs for American workers, which is important to Star LED. People also want to know that the product is safe and the quality is superior in the marketplace, which is something we can guarantee and control with our facility.”
The company’s Tennessee distribution center is on track to begin manufacturing later this year.

Hurdles remain as school year nears end

By Jill Penley

Freelance Writer

With only one snow day remaining teachers, students and staff are finally looking toward all the festivities and ceremonies heralding the end of the 2017-18 school year. While 2017 was mild and didn’t cause many problems with school schedules, the second semester was met with harsh winter conditions causing the cancellation of school 17 days and making the last half day with students in attendance on Wednesday, May 23.
“These dates are dependent on us missing no more days for snow,” said Dr. Mischelle Simcox, Johnson County Director of Schools. “If we do miss, we would move the last instructional day by one day for each day missed.”
One hurdle to cross before summer recess is state testing which began this week. “I want to wish all of our students ‘good luck’ with the second through 11th-grade TNReady testing assessment,” said Simcox. “Our teachers and assistants have worked hard all year to ensure that our students will be successful with these assessments. I know they will do a great job and make Johnson County Schools very
The Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program, most commonly known as TCAP, has been the state’s testing program since 1988, and it includes TNReady, the state’s assessments in math, English language arts, social studies, and science.
“TNReady provides teachers and parents a unique feedback loop and big-picture perspective to better understand how students are progressing and how they can support their academic development,” explained Dr. Candice McQueen Tennessee Commissioner of Education, “but it is important to remember that results from annual assessments are just one snapshot.
The following is a list of some of the end-of-school-year events coming up – some school specific and some system-wide:
Friday, April 20 – “Teachers Got Talent” production at Heritage Hall at 7 p.m.
Saturday, April 21 – JCHS Prom at The Carnegie Hotel in Johnson City, TN
Tuesday, April 24 – National Technical Honor Society Induction at 5:30 p.m. at JCHS
Tuesday, May 1 – Good Neighbor Award at JCMS
Friday, May 4 – 6th grade Field day at JCMS
Friday, May 4 – FFA Banquet at 6 p.m.
Monday, May 7 – Presidential Academic Excellence Awards at JCHS at 6 p.m.
Tuesday, May 8– Senior Awards Night at JCHS at 6 p.m.
Tuesday, May 8– Mountain City Elementary School Testing Celebration
Thursday, May 10– Shady Valley Elementary School Field Day
Thursday, May 10– May School Board Meeting at 6 p.m.
Friday, May 11– Mountain City Elementary School Olympic Day
Friday, May 11– Roan Creek Elementary School Field Day and Career Day
Monday, May 14– Doe Elementary School Kindergarten Awards at 5:30 p.m.
Tuesday, May 15– Doe Elementary School Awards Day
Tuesday, May 15– Band Concert at Heritage Hall at 7 p.m.
Wednesday, May 16– Friday, May 18 – eighth- grade trip to Washington, D.C.
Wednesday, May 16t– Doe Elementary School Field Day
Thursday, May 17– Laurel Elementary School at Field Day
Friday, May 18– Roan Creek Elementary School Kindergarten Celebration at 1:30 p.m.
Saturday, May 19– JCHS Graduation at 10 a.m.
Monday, May 21– Roan Creek Elementary School 6th grade awards at 1:30
Monday, May 21– Mountain City Elementary School Kindergarten Celebration at 6:30 p.m.
Tuesday, May 22– Mountain City Elementary School Awards Day
Tuesday, May 22– Laurel Elementary School Awards at 1:30 p.m.
Tuesday, May 22– Roan Creek Elementary School 1st – fifth-grade awards at 1 p.m.
Wednesday, May 23– Last ½ day for students (if no more days missed due to inclement weather)

Woodard, Marshall honored on Little League opening day

Members of the Marshall and Woodard families pose for a photo last week during the annual Little League Opening Day ceremony. The event named the league’s field and a dugout in honor of the late the late Gary Woodard and Steven Marshall. Pictured L-R: Sawyer, Tanner and Danae Marshall, Lisa Woodard, Adrian and Anthony Hall and Gary Woodard jr. Photo by Tim Chambers

By Tim Chambers

It was only a year ago that a story titled, “role model to all” ran in the Tomahawk.
Those were the most fitting words one could find to describe Gary Woodard who died shortly after coaching the 11-12 Little League All-Star team in 2017.
His Marlin’s team had just run the table by going undefeated in league and tournament play. It was a memorable season for many that will never be forgotten.
The season became even more memorable last Saturday when 23 teams marched into Cunningham Park for the 2018 Little League’s opening day celebration.
Tears were flowing everywhere at “Gary Woodard Field” as mayor Kevin Parsons addressed the large crowd. A sign hung on the scoreboard as Parsons read the proclamation that the field from that day on would bear Woodard’s name, whose family was on hand to watch as a standing ovation followed Parson’s announcement.
There wasn’t a dry eye anywhere.
“I don’t know what to say,” said his widow Lisa Woodard with their children Adrian and Anthony Hall and Gary junior by her side. “Gary would not have wanted all this attention, but it does mean so much to our family and me. I will forever be grateful to our Little League, Mayor Parsons and everyone involved. Gary was a blessed man, and I know he’s
looking down and smiling at everyone.”
A dugout was also named in honor of Woodard who spent ten years as a coach including five at the major league level.
But the dedication didn’t stop there.
The tears kept flowing as league president Brian Day honored the late Steve Marshall’s family with a plaque naming the other dugout in his honor.
Marshall was a fixture at all the youth games and was often in the dugout or on the sidelines as a coach. Many young players were able to see their names in the paper because of Marshall. He always took the time to record the stats
and made sure that every player got recognized that contributed.
“It’s really special because we didn’t expect it,” said Marshall’s widow Danae. “This was his world when it came to youth sports. He loved helping his sons and all the kids. I know that he would be humbled if he were here to see what took place today.”
Somehow I feel like they were. Long live the names of Gary Woodard and Steven Marshall.

Passport applications now accepted in Johnson County

Staff in the Circuit Court Clerk Office including
Melissa Hollaway, Louise Lawrence, Sherry Sluder, Angel Snyderhave and Cheyenne Mathesongone are now certified to process passport applications. The staff trained
for the certifications on their own time in order to better serve the residents of Johnson County.

By Marlana Ward

Freelance Writer

The Johnson County Circuit Court, Clerk’s office, is now able to accept United States Passport applications. This new certification means that Johnson County citizens can begin the process of obtaining their passport for international travel without having to find and drive to offices in other counties as required in the past.
Staff within the Circuit Court Clerk’s office has gone through extensive training to achieve their status as an official site of application acceptance. “We had to pass a background check and be approved by the Department of State committee before we could even begin training and again after each receiving our certificates of training,” Circuit Court Clerk Melissa Hollaway explained.
Hollaway emphasized that after approval the second time, the court clerks office received our facility training designation certificate and identification number, as well as becoming certified passport agents with individual agent identification numbers.
“Each of us took an in-depth 12-course online training class with that courses included an intensive focus on security and fraud detection,” she said. “We also went to a passport training class at ETSU which provided hands-on training where we learned how to put the application together and in what order documents go in and how to handle applicants original documents to ensure everything is in order when the processing center gets the application. We are also required to have re-certification training every year.”
The ability to help residents gain their passports has been a goal for Hollaway because she realized how it could benefit the local population. “My office has always received phone calls asking about passports, and sadly we didn’t offer this service,” Hollaway said. “Upon inquiring about this service, the State Department informed me we were required to have a secure email domain. I contacted County Mayor Larry Potter and Purchasing Agent Dustin Shearin and asked about getting a secure email domain. They have been working on getting ungraded phone lines and internet, and when that was finally completed, the email domain was included which allowed me to continue the process of getting approval from the State Department to become a passport acceptance facility.”
All staff in the office is capable and eager to help residents begin the passport process. “We are very excited to be able to offer our friendly individualized approach to help citizens understand what is needed to obtain and update a passport,” Hollaway said. “My staff and I voluntary took the online classes on our on time to not take away from the public during regular office hours.”
Making the application process as stress-free and convenient as possible is very important to the staff of the Circuit Court Clerk’s office.
“Our newly established passport facility will offer a community service where convenience is key,” Hollaway said. “My staff and I will take the time to help folks understand the procedure and guide them through the process of obtaining a passport book and card. We also help provide peace of mind and security because passport applications contain private information and my staff and I will use the resources we already have to handle sensitive information. We are equipped with the means necessary to keep applicants personal information protected and secured. Applications will be mailed daily with tracking numbers, and we will keep track of those applications to ensure they are received at the regional processing center within seven business days.”
Not only will the service provide convenience to county citizens, but it will also provide funds to the county. “This service will also generate much-needed revenue for Johnson County as an execution fee of $35 per applicant is required in addition to the fees required by the Department of State,” explained Hollaway. “This money will go into the county general fund and be used wherever necessary as determined by county budget officials.”
Fees for a United States Passport varies depending on age and the type of passport. An Adult Passport Card will cost $65 for a first-time applicant while a Passport Book will cost $145 for the same applicant. The significant difference between the two passport types is that for travel by air, a U.S. Passport Book is required. According to documents from the State Department’s website, the passport cards are only valid when entering the US from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda at land border crossings or sea ports-of-entry.
Those who are considering applying for a passport should do so well ahead of a scheduled trip as it does take a few weeks for an application to be processed and approved. “Allow at least six weeks to get your passport,” Hollaway explained. “My office acquires the necessary documents from applicants and assembles the application. From here it goes to a lockbox facility, next on to processing, then sent to the passport facility for approval. From there, the information goes to the printing center and then the completed passport is mailed directly back to the applicant.”
Since it is the first time service such service is offered by the office, Hollaway recognizes that it may take a little extra time the staff works through all the procedures. “This is something new to us as well. My approach with my staff is that we will all learn together. It may take a little longer at first to get the hang of it, but we look forward to helping Johnson County grow and expand,” she expressed.
For those who are concerned about how long the application process may take, contacting the Circuit Court Clerk’s office ahead of time or visiting the office in the afternoon may help cut down on time spent waiting. “The Department of State recommends allowing approximately 30 minutes to complete the application process maybe longer if multiple applications are being done per customer,” advises Hollaway. “Appointment times are not necessary as we have five passport agents trained to help, but you may schedule an appointment at your convenience. We do follow a rigorous court schedule with four courts and five judges. We also close for lunch from 12 pm to 1 pm. Afternoons have usually settled down in the court system allowing for less crowding in our tiny office.”
Those wishing to learn more about the application process are encouraged to call the Circuit Court Clerk’s office at 727-9012. “We have a new, automated phone system that allows the public to choose an option to be connected to different departments. The passport option is not available yet but will be very soon. When you call, you may press any of the options 3-7 to get any passport questions answered.”
Forms, information on required documentation, fees, and other relevant information regarding international travel can also be found at the State Department’s official website,

JCHS students inducted into National Honor Society

JCHS Honor society

JCHS students stand proudly after being inducted into the National Honor Society. NHS officers standing left to right:Treasurer Gavin Reece, President Hannah Osborne, Vice President William Butler, Treasurer Renie Morrow and Blood Drive Chairman Madilyn Icenhour.

On April 9, 2018, the families of forty-three juniors and seniors from Johnson County High School gathered to witness the induction ceremony for the JCHS chapter of the National Honor Society. The National Honor Society is one of the most prestigious organizations at Johnson County High School. The Society stands for Character, Service, Leadership, and Scholarship.

The names of the 2018 inductees are Troy Arnold, Blake Atwood, Savannah Bumgardner, William Butler, Adrianna Canter, Mackenzie Cooke, Cristen Cornett, Kelly Dugger, Zachary Eller, Mikayla Fletcher, Jada Gentry, Cassandra Grayson, Haley Greene, Brandi Greer, Tea Greer, Avery Hopkins, Makenzie Howd, Madilyn Icenhour, Julia Jenkins, Jayden Joiner, Kaitlin Lowe, Brianna Mains, Isabella Miller, Margaret Morrow, Renie Morrow, Noah Mullen, Rebecca Nowak, Hannah Osborne, Hayden Osborne, Nora Parker, Zachary Peake, Kristina Phillippi, Trowa Potter, Cheyanne Pugh, Gavin Reece, Melinda Rozier, Elizabeth Shaw, Danielle Shepherd, Rory Springer, Mason Stanley, Jasmine Stephens, Lindsey Wills, Kaylee Wittenberg.

Out of these students, five were elected officers for the 2018-2019 school-year:
President: William Butler; Vice President: Hannah Osborne; Secretary: Renie Morrow; Treasurer: Gavin Reece, Blood Drive Chairman: Madilyn Icenhour.

Haslam announces $1 million music and arts education initiative

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced a partnership with the Country Music Association (CMA) Foundation to launch a $1 million competitive grant opportunity focused on expanding students’ access to high-quality music and arts education.Tennessee: State of the Arts is a first of its kind public-private partnership to ensure more students across the state of Tennessee will have access to a quality arts and music education. School districts in Tennessee will have the opportunity to apply for funding to improve or develop their music education programs. The statewide initiative will kick-off with the 2018-19 school year.

“I am grateful to the CMA Foundation for this generous investment that builds upon Tennessee’s deep roots in music history by bolstering music and arts education programs across the state,” Haslam said. “Research shows that music and arts education enhances students’ overall academic performance and improves their attendance and engagement in school, building well-rounded students ready to compete in
tomorrow’s workforce.”

In its first year, State of the Arts grants will be awarded to as many as eight districts across the state. The three-year grants will be administered by the Tennessee Department of Education and may fund a range of strategies including, but not limited to:
• Professional development for music teachers;
• Additional arts and music supplies; or
• Materials and equipment used to address equity challenges, or expansion of local arts educational outreach programs.

“We understand the tremendous impact a quality music education can have on a student’s academic achievement and social development, yet we still hear that music programs are underfunded and educators do not have the resources they need to create a thriving program,” said Sarah Trahern, CMA CEO. “By partnering with the State of Tennessee and the Department of Education, we will be able to curate a model for a statewide arts initiative that will impact children across the state of Tennessee — ensuring they have access to a quality music education and a robust arts program. Our hope is that other states will someday be able to replicate this model as we work to bring music to children across the country.”

Trahern added, “To have five-time CMA Awards winner Martina McBride join us today is indicative of the support from our artist community.”
The CMA Foundation has invested more than $21 million across all 50 states. Grant applications will be made available by the Tennessee Department of Education in July 2018.

How I got my magic beans

“Magic” half runner beans harvested from the Chapmans’ garden. Photo by Lewis Chapman.

By Jeana T. Chapman

If I hadn’t sold my fish, I’d have never got my magic beans. We were selling art at the Damascus Farmers Market last spring when a fellow vendor was kind enough to buy a large painting of fish from us. To my utter amazement and thrill, she paid fifty dollars for it. Well, there I was with actual cash in hand and an entire farmers market full of goodies to spend it on.

I bought blue-green and brown eggs, fresh greens, embroidered tea towels, dried mushrooms and then, wanting to return the favor; I went looking for the vendor who had bought my fish painting.I found her and luckily for me she still had a few items left to sell — and they were plants. She had a couple of six-packs of marigolds, several small pepper plants and seven half runner green bean starts. I bought her out.

We’ve always kept a vegetable garden but were new to this area and hadn’t tried growing anything yet in our rich mountain soil. Our old garden was large, about 1,000 sq. ft., and full of sandy, tobacco-worn-out soil, but we managed to enrich it enough to enjoy decent harvests of a variety of vegetables.The one thing that never seemed to do well were green beans. They grew okay but ended up tasting like soap for some reason, so we used the space to grow okra instead.Our new garden is much smaller, and that’s okay with my much older back.

The soil up here looks good enough to eat, but I predicted that it would be a bit heavy and moist for the marigolds and peppers and that it wouldn’t warm up in time for a decent bean harvest. At this point in the season, our snow peas were sitting there, and our tomatoes were trying to book flights to Tampa, we might have planted them too early. I found space around the tomatoes to plant the marigolds — planted them and wished them luck. The peppers were added to the pepper bed and I made a lovely row and twine trellis for my seven new green bean babies.

Then we waited.
We weeded and watered, and fended off birds, deer, voles, coons, skunks, mice, etc. and with warmth and time grew a garden, enough to eat and enough to give away. The pepper bed was a bit too shady, but the marigolds were glorious, and my magic bean plants thrived.

We ate more, delicious messes of beans off those seven plants than seemed possible, even picking twice a day for a spell, their bounty was remarkable.

We saved plenty of those seeds, but I’m afraid to plant them because I can’t tell which ones are magic.
We’ve brought the extra bean seed to the Tomahawk to share with any lucky reader that wants to pick some up — maybe you’ll get the magic ones.

Mountain View Nursery continues to flourish

By Meg Dickens
Staff Writer

Mountain View Nursery and Landscaping is much recognized in the Johnson County area. The business began when owner Harvey Burniston Jr. decided to use his skill and love for agriculture to fill a need in the community. Burniston already had a reputation for his hard work and excellence as an agriculture teacher at Johnson County High School and involvement in agriculture or horticulture. One of his first jobs was working in a garden center at age sixteen. Mountain View Nursery has a five-star rating on Home Advisor, a Triple-A rating from the Better Business Bureau, a Best of Houzz award for 2017 and 2018, a Reader’s Choice Award for Best Landscape Service for 2018 and a plethora of positive reviews and testimonials.

Burniston has received the following awards: USA Today Teacher of the Year for 2000, National Agriscience Teacher of the Year for 2002, US Forestry Service National Leadership Award for 2003, Leadership Award from the Governor of Tennessee, Johnson County Citizen of the Year, Tennessee Agriculture Teacher of the Year, Tennessee Agricultural Program of the Year, Chamber of Commerce’s Johnson County Citizen of the Year, Leadership Award from Tennessee Governor Don Sundquist, state winner of National Association of Agricultural Educators’ (NAAE) Outstanding Agricultural Education Teacher Award for 2008 and the NAAE Southern Region Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013.

According to Burniston, the key to running a successful business is to “do what you say you are going to do.” He goes on to add, “You have a lot more fun and will be a lot more successful with a good attitude.” Burniston runs his business much like he ran his classroom. He works to make learning fun and to focus on each customer as a person. The team at Mountain View Nursery is constantly looking for ways to improve and is implementing a few ideas soon. “I still teach every day” Burniston exclaimed. “I educate customers and employees. It’s fun!” Several of Burniston’s former students followed in his footsteps and now work at Mountain View Nursery. Tony Church, Logan Church, and Daniel Branch all started out in Burniston’s classroom.

This type of business does not pop up over night. Burniston started his journey thirty-five years ago. He now offers over 400 different species of plants along with landscaping, hardscaping, LED lighting and water features. Burniston began slowly building up his business while still holding down a steady job. “Start part-time and have another job because it takes a long time to build a business,” Burniston suggests to those interested in following his footsteps.

A good business is built on quality over quantity. Mountain View Nursery is 30,000 square feet and is based at Burniston’s residence for convenience. Twelve people are involved in the business total, and many of them have won awards for their work. Burniston and his team do the labor and his wife, Maureen, does the books. The Burniston family is quite involved in the business. Other than Maureen, Burniston also works with two of his sons-in-law and occasionally his three daughters, including Michelle, who came up with the name Mountain View.
Burniston has trouble taking a day off. Despite the flexibility of being the owner, Burniston’s passion keeps him going. He often quoted the saying “choose an occupation you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life” to his students.

Mountain View Nursery is a testimony that the road to success is paved with passion, hard work, and dedication.

Click below to view some examples of work done by Mountain View Nursery and Landscaping LLC.

Flatt takes on new role at TN Department of Agriculture

Whitney Flatt is the new Agribusiness Development Consultant.

NASHVILLE —Agriculture Commissioner Jai Templeton today announced the appointment of Whitney Flatt as the Agribusiness Development Consultant for food business growth at the Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDA).

As the newest Agribusiness Development Consultant, Flatt will be responsible for developing a strategic plan for and cultivating business opportunities in food, beverage, and other related sectors.

“We have revamped our Agricultural Advancement division to continue strengthening Tennessee agriculture, and Whitney will be a valuable addition to assist in accomplishing that goal,” Commissioner Templeton said. “This shift reinforces our efforts to become more strategic in facilitating agribusiness opportunities, particularly in our distressed and at-risk counties.”

Flatt has been with TDA since 2016, serving as a program coordinator for the Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement Program (TAEP). During her time with TAEP, she oversaw the grain storage, hay storage, livestock feed storage, and livestock working facility cover programs. She also served as TAEP’s outreach specialist, providing customer support to more than 3,000 producers annually.

Prior to joining TDA, Whitney worked as a project coordinator for the 2Seeds Network, a development non-profit based in Tanzania, East Africa. Her efforts with 2Seeds centered on agribusiness training, value and supply chain management, and human capital development.

“I am excited about the possibilities this new position holds,” Flatt said. “There is a wealth of opportunity for growth within Tennessee’s food and beverage sector, and I am eager to work with new and established businesses to further our state’s economic development in this area.”

Flatt grew up in Newbern, Tenn. She is a dedicated foodie, traveler, and a lover of the arts. In her spare time she enjoys trying farm-to-table restaurants, traveling, and attending film screenings at Nashville’s Belcourt Theatre. For food and beverage manufacturing inquiries, Flatt can be reached at

The Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Advancement Division can connect business owners and entrepreneurs to resources, offer ideas for innovation opportunities, and facilitate relationships with organizations and agencies that can assist. For more information, visit

Stress awareness month


Stress affects everyone. Although we cannot eliminate stress entirely from our lives, we can minimize it by choosing to live in the least toxic environments. American stress levels have been rising for many demographics since their low point in 2016. Common stressors include the future of America and money, along with uncertainty about health care. But not all demographics are affected in the same way. For example, women’s stress levels rose in the past year while men’s actually dropped.

But certain states have contributed more than others to elevating — or decreasing — stress levels in the U.S. WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across 38 key indicators of stress to determine the places to avoid and achieve a more relaxing life. Our data set ranges from average hours worked per week to personal bankruptcy rate to share of adults getting adequate sleep. Read on for our findings, expert insight from a panel of researchers and our full methodology.

With April being Stress Awareness Month and American stress levels on the rise since 2016, the personal-finance website WalletHub today released its report on 2018’s Most & Least Stressed States.

To determine the states with the highest stress levels, WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across 38 key metrics. The data set ranges from average hours worked per week to personal bankruptcy rate to share of adults getting adequate sleep.

Shady Valley Elm. visits Rescue DOG

Shady @ Rescue DOG

Shady Elementary students make friends with rescue dogs. Photo courtesy of Melissa Gentry.

By Melissa Gentry

After reading “Because of Winn Dixie” a book about a young girl befriending a little scruffy dog she found in the parking lot of her local grocery store, Mrs. Lashlee’s class wanted to show their love to the rescue dogs of our community. For weeks the students collected much needed items for Rescue DOG such as cleaning supplies, dog food, puppy toys, blankets, etc. The students exhibited tremendous compassion to the dogs and were very inquisitive about each dog’s life story. They learned that each pup is a former “Winn Dixie” but is safe now and will be placed with approved adopters. Rescue DOG, a no-kill rescue, also sent home vital information with the students regarding the importance of spay/neuter and proper veterinary checkups. The education and bonding of young hearts with animals will create a bond that will last a lifetime.

Rep. Phil Roe, M.D. (R-Tenn.) seeking re-election

Phil Roe


By Tamas Mondovics

To clarify the direction of his political future, U.S. Rep. Phil Roe a native of Tennessee, has recently announced that he is seeking re-election this fall.Roe, 72, chairs the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, and represents the First Congressional District of Tennessee has been voicing his belief that, “there is a lot of unfinished business left on the table.”

A resident of Johnson City serving his fifth term in Congress, Roe in known for his strong work ethic as he is serving his fifth two-year term in a Republican district that spans the northeastern edge of the state. His opponent so far is Todd McKinley, an Army veteran from Kingsport.
Roe himself a veteran has been an active supporter to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, the signature health care reform law pushed by then-President Barack Obama.

He served as a captain in the U.S. Army Medical Corps from 1973-74 and was stationed for nine months near the demilitarized zone, or DMZ, in Korea. He also served at an evacuation hospital near Seoul for three months. Roe earned a degree in Biology with a minor in Chemistry from Austin Peay State University in 1967 and went on and to earn his Medical Degree from the University of Tennessee in 1970. He served two years in the United States Army Medical Corps. Roe is Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, and serves on the House Education and Workforce Committee. He is the co-chair of the House GOP Doctors Caucus and a member of the Health Caucus.
Roe has three children – David C. Roe, John Roe, and Whitney Larkin – and is a proud grandfather. He is a member of Munsey United Methodist Church.

In a statement announcing his reelection Roe stated, “When I first ran for Congress, I wanted to lend my expertise as a doctor to the debate over how to improve our nation’s health care system. As a veteran, I also felt strongly about improving the care and benefits that our nation’s heroes receive. After being selected by my colleagues to chair the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and to co-chair of the House GOP Doctors Caucus, I believe I can help ensure East Tennesseans’ voice is heard loud and clear on some of the most important issues facing our region and nation. We are making real progress on behalf of East Tennessee, and I’m excited about the opportunities that lie ahead for our country. For this reason I’ve decided to seek another term in Congress.
“Over the last year, I believe we’ve made great strides toward comprehensive reform of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. Already this Congress, we’ve delivered reforms to bring real accountability to VA, and improved the GI Bill by guaranteeing eligible veterans can utilize the benefit for life. Still, there is a lot of unfinished business left on the table. There are more than 65,000 veterans in the First Congressional District, and I believe they’re counting on me to finish what we’ve started. They deserve a choice in their health care, timely access to the benefits they’ve earned and a VA that works for them.

“East Tennesseans deserve a member of Congress who will stand for their conservative values. Our tax bill has the economy moving in the right direction, and jobs are finally coming back. I look forward to discussing my campaign with you, and I thank East
Tennesseans for their continued support and trust. I would also like to thank my family for their understanding as we’ve worked together over
the last few months to make this decision. They are and will always be my priority, and I could not serve in this way without their love and support.”

Barter Players comes to Heritage Hall

Left; The Barter Players pose backstage before performing “Aesop’s Fables.” Actors (Left to Right) Katherine Lyle, Rusty Allen, Garrett T. Houston, Zoe Velling, Shaan Sharma, Sarah Van Deusen.  Photos by Meg Dickens.

By Meg Dickens
Staff Writer

The Barter Players wrapped up its tour of the Southeast United States with a bang at Heritage Hall Theatre on March 29. They held three performances. The first two were closed performances of “Call of the Wild” for local third through sixth graders. More than 600 students attended in total. The last performance was an open show of the historical fiction musical written by an Abingdon resident, playwright Catherine Bush, in 2012 called “Aesop’s Fables.”

According to Sarah Van Deusen, the Barter Players have a long history with Heritage Hall. “We have a special bond with this place. We feel at home here.” Heritage Hall is steeped in local history. What used to be a high school auditorium was transformed in 2005 into a platform where students, musicians and actors alike come to perform for the community. Heritage Hall House Manager Randy Dandurand declares the hall holds 388 seats.

The Barter Players enjoy performing for younger audiences. “They don’t sugarcoat things,” says Garrett T. Houston. “They don’t hold anything back.” Kids can also tell when you are “acting.” That is why being genuine and real is so important. It was clear how genuine the Barter Players were as they wandered through the crowd conversing with children and other attendees before and after the performance. They often travel to perform for students. Watching these performances as a child is actually what inspired Van Deusen to become an actress.
What does it take to bring a play to life? While touring, these actors are in charge of every aspect of the production. They check with venues, drive, set up and maintain sets and costumes, do sound checks and so much more. Multitasking is a must-have skill as well as bravery, imagination and nerve. Barter has a company motto: “run to the fear.”This basically means to get out of your comfort zone and confront your fears head-on so you can achieve personal growth. This motto is similar to the life lessons in “Aesop’s Fables.”

“Aesop’s Fables” is full of life lessons in an easy to digest format. Such as “it is better to bend than break,” “slow and steady wins the race,” “love tames the wild beast” and the main moral “love lives on.” Aesop uses his stories to help his stubborn, grieving master, Xanthus, deal with the loss of his wife, Calliope. The magic in Aesop’s stories reflects back the power of storytelling and following your passion. Both in life and acting, you must be open to the possibilities.

Did you miss “Aesop’s Fables?” The Barter Players will be performing it on their stage in Abingdon, Virginia from April 10 through April 21. Come see this excellent troupe and keep in mind how much effort goes into their work. They have performed “Aesop’s Fables” 72 times so far.

Barter Players on stage

The Barter Players on The Heritage Hall stage. Photos by Meg Dickens

USDA offers targeted farm loans to underserved groups and new farmers

USDA Tennessee Farm Service Agency (FSA) State Executive Director, Dennis H. Beavers reminds producers that FSA offers targeted farm ownership and farm operating loans to assist underserved applicants as well as beginning farmers and ranchers.

“Each year, a portion of FSA’s loan funds are set aside to lend to targeted underserved and beginning farmers and ranchers,” said Beavers. “Farming and livestock production are capital intensive business ventures and FSA is committed to helping producers start, expand and maintain their agricultural operations.”

USDA defines underserved applicants as a group whose members have been subjected to racial, ethnic, or gender prejudice because of their identity as members of the group without regard to their individual qualities. For farm loan program purposes, targeted underserved groups are women, African Americans, American Indians and Alaskan Natives, Hispanics and Asians and Pacific Islanders.

Underserved or beginning farmers and ranchers who cannot obtain commercial credit from a bank can apply for either FSA direct loans or guaranteed loans. Direct loans are made to applicants by FSA. Guaranteed loans are made by lending institutions who arrange for FSA to guarantee the loan. FSA can guarantee up to 95 percent of the loss of principal and interest on a loan. The FSA guarantee allows lenders to make agricultural credit available to producers who do not meet the lender’s normal underwriting criteria.

“During fiscal year 2017, Tennessee FSA obligated 569 loans totaling $51 million targeted for underserved and beginning producers,” said Beavers
The direct and guaranteed loan program provides for two types of loans: farm ownership loans and farm operating loans.

Farm ownership loan funds may be used to purchase or enlarge a farm or ranch, purchase easements or rights of way needed in the farm’s operation, build or improve buildings such as a dwelling or barn, promote soil and water conservation and development and pay closing costs.

Farm operating loan funds may be used to purchase livestock, poultry, farm equipment, fertilizer, and other materials necessary to operate a successful farm. Operating loan funds can also be used or family living expenses, refinancing debts under certain conditions, paying salaries for hired farm laborers, installing or improving water systems for home, livestock, or irrigation use and other similar improvements.

In addition to customary farm operating and ownership loans, FSA now offers Microloans through the direct loan program. The focus of Microloans is on the financing needs of small, beginning farmer, niche and non-traditional farm operations, such as truck farms, farms participating in direct marketing and sales such as farmers’ markets, CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture), restaurants and grocery stores, or those using hydroponic, aquaponic, organic and vertical growing methods. Microloans are available for both ownership and operating finance needs. To learn more about microloans, visit

Repayment terms for direct operating loans depend on the collateral securing the loan and usually run from one to seven years. Financing for direct farm ownership loans cannot exceed 40 years. Interest rates for direct loans are set periodically according to the Government’s cost of borrowing. Guaranteed loan terms and interest rates are set by the lender.

To qualify as a beginning producer, the individual or entity must meet the eligibility requirements outlined for direct or guaranteed loans. Additionally, individuals and all entity members must have operated a farm for less than 10 years. Applicants must materially or substantially participate in the operation.

For farm ownership purposes, the applicant must not own a farm greater than 30 percent of the average size farm in the county at the time of application. All direct farm ownership applicants must have participated in the business operations of a farm for at least three years out of the last 10 years prior to the date the application is submitted. If the applicant is an entity, all members must be related by blood or marriage and all entity members must be eligible beginning farmers.

For more information on FSA’s farm loan programs and targeted underserved and beginning farmer guidelines, visit or contact your local FSA Office. To find your local FSA office, visit

USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (866) 632-9992 (Toll-free Customer Service), (800) 877-8339 (Local or Federal relay), (866) 377-8642 (Relay voice users).

The opioid crisis cannot take any more lives

By Phil Roe, M.D.
U.S. State Representative
1st District of Tennessee

The opioid epidemic affects Tennesseans from all walks of life, no matter their race, gender, socioeconomic status, geographic location or background. In 2016, drug-related overdoses, driven in large part by opioids, claimed more lives than car wrecks. One thing is clear: we must continue fighting drug abuse at every level, using every available resource. We must ensure opioids are prescribed responsibly, and that medical facilities have the resources needed to fight opioid abuse and overdoses. According to the Tennessee Department of Health, at least 3 people die each day in Tennessee from an opioid-related drug overdose, and the number of deaths has continued to increase each year.

With that said, I’m very proud Tennessee is taking steps to address this serious issue across our state. While there is no silver bullet, there are programs, proposals and legislation being considered and ultimately implemented that will make substantial progress on addressing this epidemic. For example, Governor Bill Haslam’s plan – Tennessee Together – will allocate about $30 million to help combat the opioid epidemic in Tennessee by limiting the amount of opioids prescribed; increasing resources for treatment and recovery services; and ensuring law enforcement officials are better able to track, monitor and penalize the use and unlawful distribution of these addictive drugs.

There’s no question more needs to be done. For this reason, last year, I partnered with Reps. Kuster (D-N.H.) and MacArthur (R-N.J.) to introduce H.R. 3964, the Opioid Addiction and Prevention Act. This bill will limit an initial post-acute opioid prescription to no more than a 10-day supply. This legislation would still allow states to establish more limited timeframes for these prescriptions and would not have any impact on patients who use opioids for the regular management of chronic pain – including patients who have been diagnosed with cancer or are receiving end-of-life treatment. I believe this bill will help curb the opioid epidemic and ensure the responsible management of pain during a patient’s recovery.

Also, just last week, I joined Rep. Suozzi (D-N.Y.) to introduce H.R. 5298, the Modernizing Drug Enforcement Act, legislation to give the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) the tools they need to stay ahead of synthetic opioids which are helping to fuel this crisis. This legislation would pre-emptively reclassify drugs or other substances that act as opioids – such as synthetic fentanyl – as Schedule I narcotics based on their chemical structure and function. Currently, the DEA has to wait for producers to develop new opioid-like substances and then move administratively to have it classified under Schedule I, a process that can take up to a year and gives producers the upper hand. This bill will give law enforcement in a better position in trying to keep these deadly drugs off our streets, which will help further curtail substance abuse in our nation and in East Tennessee.

In Congress this week, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce is holding the second of three legislative hearings to examine the opioid crisis and possible bipartisan, legislative solutions. Over two days, the Committee will be considering 25 bipartisan bills aimed at addressing the epidemic. This is happening on the heels of President Trump unveiling his plan to combat the opioid crisis in New Hampshire this week. I look forward to reviewing the president’s proposal in full, and I am proud our president is taking a strong stance to fight such a devastating crisis that has affected so much of our nation.

I am encouraged by the work of President Trump, my colleagues in Congress and leaders in our state as we work together to fight this deadly epidemic.

Please never hesitate to reach out to my office with questions or concerns. And as always, feel free to contact my office if I can be of assistance to you or your family.

Visit for more press, floor speeches, member resources and to sign up for our e-newsletter.

House approves “National Motto in the Classroom Act”

By Meg Dickens
Staff Writer

On Monday, March 26, the House approved the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation’s “National Motto in the Classroom Act” sponsored by State Representative Susan Lynn. House Bill 2368 passed with a 81-8 tally and requires that Tennessee schools display “In God We Trust” prominently on their premises. Bill 2368 defines a prominent location as a “school entryway, cafeteria, or common area where students are likely to see the national motto display.”

This bill will take effect in the 2018-2019 school year. Similar bills are currently in effect in Arkansas, Colorado, Mississippi and Virginia. Florida has a similar bill in the works as well.

“Our national motto and our founding documents are the cornerstones of freedom, and they must be shared with our future generation,” Representative Lynn said. “I am honored to have sponsored passage of an initiative that will remind our current and future students about the true foundation of American life – faith and family.”

Bill 2368 will now go to Governor Bill Haslam to be signed. For a closer look at this bill, go to Representative Lynn can be reached at or at (615) 741-7462.

These kids got talent

Roan Creek Elementary talent show winners

On Friday March 16, 2018 Roan Creek Elementary held their annual talent show. Mr. Mike Taylor hosted the event Talent Show Winners are:

K-2- 1st place- Shelby Lipford
2nd place- Elsie and Vada Clifton
3rd place tie- Audrey Shaw and Madison Johnson

3rd-6th- 1st place- Hailey Isaacs
2nd place- Adrianna Porter
3rd place tie- Isaiah Meade and Justus Lewis, and Gunner Hutchins

NASS tracks market price movements after reports

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) released the annual Price Reactions following USDA Crop Reports report on March 9, showing commodity price reactions following the Crop Production reports. This publication also includes price changes after release of the NASS Grain Stocks reports.

Since the mid-1980s NASS has tracked market price movement for corn, soybeans, and wheat, and since the late 1980s for upland cotton. The commodity price changes shown below are calculated based on commodity prices one day after report release.

“There are several factors that affect average prices, including crop production, grains in storage, and domestic and world supply,” said Tennessee State Statistician Debra Kenerson. “NASS tracks what happens with the market the day after the release of its Crop Production reports for selected crops. Below are the averages of how these prices changed the day after the Crop Production report release from 1985 through 2017, inclusive, and for upland cotton, 1989 through 2017, inclusive.”

Corn Prices Day after Crop Production Reports, 1985-2017
Price increased: 68 times
Average increase: 7.8 cents/bushel
Price decreased: 78 times
Average decrease: 7.3 cents/bushel
No price change: 18 times

Soybean Prices Day after Crop Production Reports, 1985-2017
Price increased: 79 times
Average increase: 15.4 cents/bushel
Price decreased: 81 times
Average decrease: 16 cents/bushel
No price change: 4 times

Wheat Prices Day after Crop Production Reports, 1987-2017
Price increased: 74 times
Average increase: 7.9 cents/bushel
Price decreased: 84 times
Average decrease: 7.5 cents/bushel
No price change: 10 times

Upland Cotton Prices Day after Crop Production reports, 1989-2017
Price increase: 80 times
Average increase: 95.5 points per pound
Price decrease: 93 times
Average decrease: 93.4 points per pound
No price change: 0 times

“It’s not uncommon to hear that NASS crop reports always negatively impact prices when, in fact, these data show that the number of times price increased or decreased are nearly the same,” Kenerson continued. “Sometimes the release of these reports has no effect on prices.”
To view the full report, visit For more information about Tennessee surveys and reports, call the NASS Tennessee Field Office at (615) 891-0903 or (800) 626-0987, or visit

NASS provides accurate, timely, and useful statistics in service to U.S. agriculture. We invite you to provide occasional feedback on our products and services. Sign up at and look for “NASS Data User Community.”

USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Ave., S.W., Washington, D.C. 20250-9410 or call (800) 795-3272 (voice), or (202) 720-6382 (TDD).

New polls across state show overwhelming support for medical cannabis

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Medical Cannabis Trade Association (TMCTA) today released results from four polls showing Tennessee registered voters strongly support medical cannabis use when prescribed by a physician; a state-based solution, not DC-based; and the ability for municipalities to opt out – all elements of the Medical Cannabis Only (MCO) Act.

The results also showed voters are more likely to favor candidates that support providing access to this medicine. Given the overwhelming results, most striking are the similarities across the board between the four polls conducted earlier this month covering urban, rural, East, Middle and West Tennessee.

Registered voters who participated are from Blount, Sevier, Hamilton, Coffee, Warren, Van Buren, Sequatchie, Grundy, Franklin, Marion and Shelby counties.

“These results confirm and validate what everyone already knows: that it doesn’t matter where you go in our state, Tennesseans support restoring patient freedom with a conservative, state-based medical cannabis only bill,” TMCTA executive director Glenn Anderson said. “Two-thirds of the U.S. has access to medical cannabis but not Tennesseans. The Medical Cannabis Only Act provides industry oversight and safe patient access with law enforcement at the table and the right for municipalities to opt out. Now is the time for a medically responsible solution to help our sickest residents and prevent law biding Tennesseans from turning to the black market.”

This polling confirms the Vanderbilt University poll conducted during Fall 2017 that found nearly 80 percent of registered voters in Tennessee supported patients having medical cannabis as a treatment option, and a Pew Research Center national survey in 2016 found 69 percent of police officers backing medical cannabis.

While Arkansas patients already have access to medical cannabis, other states bordering Tennessee are quickly moving in that direction. Kentucky’s governor has signaled his support, and there is legislation moving through Virginia’s legislature.

The TMCTA is the leading group of business entrepreneurs, researchers and patient advocates supporting the Medical Cannabis Only Act in the state legislature this year. For more on the effort in Tennessee to make medical cannabis an option for those with debilitating health conditions, go to