Milk drinkers getting a raw deal?

Tennessee legislature seeks to prohibit using raw milk for personal consumption or other personal use, even if it is derived from one’s own stock. Photo by Bill Ward.

By Jill Penley

There was a time in the not so distant past when all one had to do for a refreshing glass of milk was visit a neighbor’s dairy farm. People reared in the mountains of East Tennessee, and surrounding areas have been drinking raw milk, straight from cows, sheep, and goats, for ages. Milk, which has long been one of the most nutritionally complete foods in the human diet, remains an important part of nearly every culture’s cuisine, but a bill moving forward in the Tennessee legislature seeks to prohibit using raw milk for personal consumption or other personal use, even if it is derived from one’s own stock.
“In Tennessee, it has pretty much always been illegal to sell raw milk,” said Bill Ward, who grew up on a local farm and is now with the Johnson County Assessor’s Office and Adjunct Instructor with King University teaching courses in Appalachian Studies.
It is not illegal to consume raw milk, but 20 states outlaw its sale for human consumption altogether. Thirteen states allow its sale in stores, 17 states allow its sale only on farms, and eight states — including Tennessee — allow it to be sold only through certain arrangements.
The current law regarding the consumption of raw milk in Tennessee, called the Herd Share law, allows multiple people to ‘own’ a cow or herd and by owning the share, allows access to the milk the cow produces. “Purchasing a cowshare, or herdshare, is buying an interest in a particular animal which entitles you to consume the products of that animal,” explained Ward. “It’s often referred to as an agister agreement and included is a legal bill of sale and a document that outlines the responsibilities of all parties involved.” Ward said that his agreement was set up by the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund when he was still dairy farming several years back.
Sen. Richard Briggs, MD (R-Knoxville) introduced SB0015 in mid-December, which has now passed on first and second consideration. As introduced, it would prohibit a person who owns a partial interest in a hoofed mammal from using the milk of the animal for the person’s personal consumption or other personal use. The Knoxville senator, who is also a physician, introduced the legislation in the wake of a serious outbreak of E. coli this past summer in his district, which caused several children to be hospitalized. The outbreak was never directly linked to raw milk.
Proponents of herdshare strongly oppose the pending legislation. With many Tennessee farmers already struggling to be profitable, they question why a single, highly publicized incident should dictate policy. “Farmers should have the right to provide clean and safe food directly to the consumer,” said Ward. “Farms legally operating cowshare programs are meeting a need and filling a void in the struggling dairy industry. I have a lot more confidence in raw milk produced and handled properly by a local dairy farmer than lettuce from California.”
Other Tennessee small farm owners agree. “Even if you have no interest in ever drinking raw milk,” said Amanda Leigh Henson, of Miller Branch Farms in Bluff City, “we can all agree that the government has no right to dictate what we can and cannot eat or drink.”

Tennessee Population Total Tops 6.77 Million in 2018

Reported by The University of Tennessee
New estimates from the US Census Bureau show Tennessee remained the nation’s 16th most populous state for the third year in a row in 2018. The data, analyzed by the Tennessee State Data Center, housed in the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research, indicates that the state’s population grew by 61,216 people between 2017 and 2018, increasing the population estimate to 6,770,010 residents.

The one-year increase in population of 0.91 percent fell slightly from the 2016–17 rate of 0.96 percent.

The state’s 79,474 births outpaced its 67,259 recorded deaths, and the difference—called natural change—accounts for 20 percent of the total population increase last year. Births have hovered at around 80,000 annually since 2011, while deaths have increased by 1.6 percent each year over that same period.

“We’re not surprised to see the growth slow slightly,” said Tim Kuhn, director of the center. “In fact, the steady rise in the state’s death rate over the last 20 years and declining birth rate, especially among women under the age of 25, will likely edge the growth further downward despite a continued influx of new residents.”

Overall, the rate of natural change has fallen steadily by 5 percent every year since 2010. However, that slowdown has been offset by migration from other states.

Nearly two-thirds of the state’s population increase is driven by residents moving from other states, including almost 40,000 people who moved to Tennessee from surrounding states in the past year. In prior years, Florida, Georgia, and Kentucky have been the largest sources of new residents.

“The Southeast (including Tennessee, Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas) continues to be among the fastest-growing parts of the country,” said Kuhn. “Tennessee has a strong economy and favorable climate. We should expect the growth to continue.”

International migration accounted for 8,994 residents, or about 15 percent of the gain.

The 2018 state-level estimates will be followed by county-level estimates in March and municipality-level numbers in May.

The Census Bureau’s Population Estimates Program produces annual population estimates of the nation’s territories, states, counties, and cities.

The Tennessee State Data Center is a cooperative program funded by the State of Tennessee, working in partnership with UT and the U.S. Census Bureau. It operates from the Boyd Center, which is housed in UT’s Haslam College of Business. Its mission is to provide efficient access to census data and products, training, and technical assistance to data users; to report feedback on data usability to the Census Bureau; and to respond to state and local government data needs and operational issues.

Reducing food waste during holiday season and year-round

By Sarah Ransom

Agriculture in Johnson County

The United State Department of Agriculture estimates that in the United States alone, around 30-40 percent of our food supply is wasted. For the average family, this would break down to around $1,500 of wasted money on food annually. One of the ways to reduce this loss both of the actual food and loss of finances is to work to reduce waste. During the holiday season, it is easier to make a few small changes to help diminish the excess loss of food.
Plan your menus carefully and make a grocery list. Be sure to check and see what food items you have on hand before starting to plan your menu. It is always easier to start planning with what you have. If you need additional items, be sure to check your pantries, cabinets, freezers and refrigerators to make sure you do not already have items you are getting ready to purchase.
Remember – if a food has a “sell-by-date” that has already passed, it does not mean the food is bad. Check out the USDA Food Product Dating Fact Sheet for more information. Also, do not forget to plan according to how many you have coming over! An easy way to reduce food waste is to only prepare enough food to feed everyone. It can be hard to estimate the proper amounts, but by carefully considering how much food needs to be prepared will help reduce amounts of food wasted or leftovers.

In the United States alone,

around 30-40 percent of our

food supply is wasted.

When the meal is over, be sure to properly store food that was not eaten. Leftovers can provide many lunches and suppers after the celebration is over. The FoodKeeper app for your phone is a free resource regarding storage times for foods.
Use all of the edible parts. Many people cut off the stems of their broccoli, kale, or tops and bottoms of celery – all of these parts are edible.
When you squeeze a lemon, use the extras for making flavored water, the peels for zest or to make fragrant scents throughout the house. Using vegetables in soups is also a great way to stretch the food a little further. Save the bones from your turkey, ham or chicken for making stuffing, soup or stock with them
once you have removed the meat.
When you are having parties, or if you end up with too many leftovers – plan what to do with them. Have take-home bags or plates for your guests or bake only half of your casserole and give the other to a neighbor who may need a little extra something, or donate unused foods to local food banks. If you want to have a fun exchange as well, encourage guests to bring their favorite recipes or favorite things to do with leftovers and swap ideas and recipes. It is a great way to add a twist to your usual leftover meals.
When all else fails, and you have to throw some food out – don’t pitch it in the garbage. Start composting. Composting can provide a lot of nutrients back to the soil, and various foods make garden vegetables grow better in the follow year. Avoid adding meats and dairy to your compost items, because these rot quickly and produce unwanted smells and invite unwanted guests. Composting proper foods is a
great way to give back to the earth.
Take time this year to become more aware of food waste, but be especially sensitive around the holidays. Make this holiday season a time of great financial savings, helping the environment and great food.

New requirements for captive deer herds following CWD detection

NASHVILLE —After the confirmed detection of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in ten wild deer, Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDA) Commissioner Jai Templeton is implementing emergency rules to prevent further spread of the disease.
Hunters harvested the deer in Fayette and Hardeman counties. Targeted sampling by the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency (TWRA) indicated the presence of CWD.
CWD has no known risk to the health of humans or livestock. However, testing is recommended prior to consuming deer or elk meat harvested within the CWD Management Zone, which includes Fayette, Hardeman, and McNairy Counties. CWD is a contagious and deadly neurological disorder that affects cervids, which are animals in the deer family including deer, elk, moose, caribou, and reindeer.
“We have been working hard to prepare for this potential threat,” Commissioner Templeton said. “In collaboration with TWRA, the United States Department of Agriculture, hunters, and captive herd owners, we have developed a response plan. That plan is critical in protecting the wild and captive deer and elk in our state.”
With the new emergency rules in place, owners of captive deer and elk will be required to report their herd inventory, location, and any sick animals to the State Veterinarian. They will also be required to report deaths among their fenced captive cervids within 24 hours and make the carcass available to TDA for further testing.
Additionally, the importation of captive cervids into the state and the movement of captive deer or elk within the state require prior approval and a permit from the State Veterinarian, as well as USDA-approved identification. The requirements from the new emergency rule do not apply to white-tailed deer and wild elk, which are prohibited from being retained in captive facilities.
“Just a few weeks before this detection, we joined TWRA, USDA, and other partners for a tabletop exercise to discuss and finalize a response plan,” State Veterinarian Dr. Charlie Hatcher said. “Now, we’re following through. We encourage captive herd owners to keep a close eye on the animals in their care and report any signs of illness immediately.”
A voluntary program administered by TDA, the Tennessee CWD Herd Certification Program was put in place in 2013 to provide uniform herd certification standards and to support the domestic and international marketability of cervid herds. Facilities can be certified as disease-free after five years of program enrollment with no evidence of disease, and the program is required for the interstate movement of CWD-susceptible cervids. For more information about CWD, visit

USDA NRCS in Tennessee now accepting FY 2019 EQIP applications

NASHVILLE, December 18, 2018– Producers in Tennessee who are interested in implementing conservation practices to improve natural resources on their farmland have until Friday, January 18, 2019 to submit their application for financial assistance through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).

“We accept applications for this program on a continuous basis, however, only the applications received by January 18th will be considered for funding this fiscal year,” said Sheldon Hightower, NRCS Tennessee State Conservationist. “EQIP places a priority on water quality, water conservation, and promotes soil health practices by offering financial and technical assistance to address these resource concerns on eligible agricultural land.”

EQIP will be offering funding for High Tunnel and On-Farm Energy initiatives for this signup in addition to traditional funding opportunities. EQIP is an incentives-based program that provides technical and financial assistance for conservation systems such as animal waste management facilities, irrigation system efficiency improvements, fencing, and water supply development for improved grazing management, riparian protection, wildlife habitat enhancement, and cover crops for soil resource protection.

Applications can be taken at all Tennessee NRCS county offices and USDA Service Centers. To locate an office near you, please click on this link: USDA Service Center. Applications MUST be received in your local Service Center by 4:00 p.m. on Friday, January 18, 2019.

NRCS continually strives to put conservation planning at the forefront of its programs and initiatives. Conservation plans provide landowners with a comprehensive inventory and assessment of their resources and an appropriate start to improving the quality of soil, water, air, plants, and wildlife on their land.

Conservation planning services can also be obtained through a Technical Service Provider (TSP) who will develop a Conservation Activity Plan (CAP) to identify conservation practices needed to address a specific natural resource need. Typically, these plans are specific to certain kinds of land use, such as transitioning to organic operations, grazing land, or forest land. CAPs can also address a specific resource need, such as a plan for management of nutrients. Although not required, producers who first develop a CAP for their land use, may use this information in applying for future implementation contracts.

To find out more about EQIP, fill out the eligibility forms, or obtain an application, visit the Tennessee NRCS website.

Workshop series to teach farmers how to develop a business plan

JACKSON, Tenn. – Many farmers may want to start their new year by attending a workshop series designed to teach them how to develop a business plan. “Building a Sustainable Business Workshop Series” will be held in Jackson with satellite locations via web conferencing in Columbia, Knoxville and Memphis. The workshop is being conducted by the University of Tennessee Center for Profitable Agriculture in cooperation with UT-Martin, UT Extension, AgLaunch and the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation.

Having a written business plan improves communication between producers and their business partners, stakeholders, lenders and other funding sources, says Hal Pepper, financial analysis specialist with the UT Center for Profitable Agriculture. “Business planning is an on-going, problem-solving process that can identify business challenges and opportunities and develop strategic objectives to move toward an operator’s vision. And some funding sources require a written business plan,” Pepper says.

Pepper, along with instructors from UT-Martin and UT Extension, will present a two-hour workshop each Tuesday evening beginning January 8, for eight weeks to help producers of direct marketing, food processing and agritourism enterprises develop a business plan. Different topics and speakers will be featured each night. Specialists will be available at each workshop location to answer questions and provide one-on-one technical assistance in the development of business plans over the eight weeks of the workshop series. The course will meet on these dates: January 8, 15, 22 and 29 and February 5, 12, 19 and 26.

Pre-registration is required, and the workshop will begin with check-in at 5:30 p.m. Central Time/6:30 p.m. Eastern Time. The workshop will begin at 6 pm Central Time/7 pm Eastern Time. Class locations are provided upon registration.

The registration fee is $25 for the total workshop series for one person or $20 per person for two or more people from the same farm. Space is limited and pre-registration is required no later than December 31. Information about the workshop series is available on the CPA’s website: and registration is now open online at

This workshop series fulfills a Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement Program (TAEP) requirement in the Agritourism, Fruit and Vegetable and Value-Added Producer Diversification Sectors. Producers must attend a minimum of four sessions to receive one TAEP credit. Value-Added producers are eligible to receive two credits if all eight sessions are attended. For TAEP credit, missed sessions cannot be made up.

The “Building a Sustainable Business Workshop Series” was developed by the UT Center for Profitable Agriculture through funding provided by Southern Risk Management Education and is based upon work supported by USDA/NIFA under Award Number 2015-49200-24228.

Learn more about the Center for Profitable Agriculture online at Contact Pepper with questions about the workshop at or 931-486-2777.

The University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture celebrates 50 years of excellence in providing Real. Life. Solutions. through teaching, discovery and service.

2019 Workshops set for new food manufacturing businesses

Staff Report

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. Farmers and gardeners are often interested in turning their surplus products and favorite recipes into a food manufacturing business. Vegetables, fruits, herbs, nuts, honey or other farm products can be processed jams and jellies, salsas and chow chows, juices and wines, breads, pies or any number of other value-added products.

“Turning products into profit, however, takes planning and patience,” says Megan Bruch Leffew, marketing specialist with University of Tennessee Extension Center for Profitable Agriculture. “There is a lot more to consider than most people initially think.”

“Whether canning, pickling, drying, baking, fermenting or freezing, starting a food processing business is challenging,” according to Nathan Miller, Extension assistant for food safety in the UT Department of Food Science. “Understanding food manufacturing regulations and learning how to produce foods safely are vital pieces of the food processing puzzle.”

To help producers interested in starting their own food processing enterprises, UT Extension is once again offering Pennsylvania State Extension’s popular food processing education program to Tennessee. Food for Profit workshops take participants step by step through the information necessary to start and run a small food product business. The workshop provides information that participants will be able to use immediately to ensure that their business starts out and grows in a way that matches their vision and goals. Topics covered include the realities of a food business by a local food manufacturer, regulatory requirements, packaging, safe food handling, marketing, financing, and developing a game plan.

The workshop will be offered in two locations this winter. Pre-registration and pre-payment are required five business days prior to the workshops.

Food for Profit will be held January 31 in Lebanon at the Wilson County Ag Center. Register by January 23 for this event at Registration fee of $30 per person. Contact Megan Bruch Leffew with questions at or call 931-486-2777.

Food for Profit will also be held February 12, in Unicoi at the Town of Unicoi Tourist Information Center and will include a tour of the new Mountain Harvest Kitchen. Register online by February 7 at Registration for this event is only $15 per person. Contact Lee Manning at the Mountain Harvest Kitchen with questions at or call 423-330-9650.

The number of participants at each location is limited. Workshops not having an adequate number of registrations by the early registration deadline may be canceled. Sessions will begin at
9 a.m. and end at 4 p.m. local time.

Lunch will be provided. Learn more on the Center for Profitable Agriculture at
This workshop qualifies as one course toward the educational requirements to receive 50 percent Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement Program cost share for ONLY: Fruits and Vegetables and Value-Added producer diversification sectors.

The Center for Profitable Agriculture is a cooperative effort between UT Extension and the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation to help farmers develop value-added enterprises.

The University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture celebrates 50 years of excellence in providing Real. Life. Solutions. through teaching, discovery and service.

Keep your natural tree fresh this Christmas

Natural Christmas tree afficionados love the authenticity such trees provide during the holiday season. Natural trees also provide a unique aroma that can make holiday celebrations feel more homey.
When purchasing natural trees, holiday celebrants, especially those who like to buy their trees in early December, may be concerned about keeping their trees fresh throughout the holiday season. The following tips can help trees last until the final present is unwrapped and the last of the egg nog has been consumed.
· Buy a freshly cut tree. Whenever possible, celebrants should cut their own trees. This ensures that the tree they bring home is fresh, increasing the chances it will remain so throughout the season. If it’s not possible to cut your own tree, the National Fire Protection Association notes that fresh trees should have green needles that do not come off when touched. Trees that appear to be dried out or those that shed needles when touched should be avoided.
· Protect trees on the way home. The Tree Care Industry Association advises consumers to protect their Christmas trees as they transport them home. Wrap the tree in a plastic wrap so it makes it home damage-free. A damaged tree might not make it through the holiday season.

· Cut pre-cut trees before leaving the lot. Pre-cut trees can make it through the holiday season looking their best, but buyers should request that employees cut as much as two inches off the bottom of the tree before leaving the lot. Once trees are cut, sap begins to seal their base, making it hard for them to absorb water. By requesting that between one and two inches be removed from the bottom of the tree at the time of purchase, buyers are ensuring their trees will be able to absorb the water they’ll need to make it through the season when they get home.
· Place the tree in water immediately to prevent the base of the tree from drying out. Freshly cut trees may initially need the water in their tree stands filled in the morning and then again in the evening. As the season progresses, trees likely won’t need their stands filled more than once per day.
· Place the tree away from heat sources. Placing trees away from heat sources, such as radiators, fireplaces, heating vents, and lights, reduces the likelihood that trees will dry out and also reduces the risk of fire.

Businesses earn grants to grow rural Tennessee

NASHVILLE—Members of the media are invited to the announcement of the latest Agriculture Enterprise Fund (AEF) grant recipients at the West Tennessee Farmers Market in Jackson, Tenn. on Dec. 17 at 4 PM.

The AEF is an incentive program that provides assistance to new and expanding..Tennessee agriculture,,.and forestry..businesses, particularly in rural counties. The program first awarded grants in Dec. of 2017 and has since made a total economic impact of more than $25 million throughout the state.

From new companies to those that are established and looking to grow, the businesses receiving grants are located in the following counties: Bedford, Fayette, Humphreys, Macon, Sullivan, and Wilson. Some projects will have significant impact locally, while others will have impact across Tennessee.

Tennessee.Agriculture Commissioner..Jai Templeton and Tennessee Economic and Community Development Deputy Assistant Commissioner Brooxie Carlton will offer comments.

AEF grant recipients will be available for interview. Photos of and contact information for projects and businesses receiving funding will be provided at the announcement.

You can find more information about the Agriculture.Enterprise Fund online at

Staying food safe during the holidays

Holidays bring an abundance of cooking and leftover food. Safe food preparation and storage is an important part of holiday safety.

During the winter months, farming and gardening slows down – but it does not mean we are not still eating the foods we have worked hard for all year long, canned, frozen or are stored for the cold winter months. During the holidays it can become more challenging due to extra food preparation, meal planning, as well as serving and storing foods in higher quantity. Here are a few tips to make food safety a sure thing during the holiday season.

Make sure you are washing your hands, utensils, countertops and cuttings boards with hot, soapy water! Wash hands for 20-seconds. Serve all your prepared food on clean platters, avoid using plates that may have come in contact with raw meat or poultry. Be careful to separate raw and cooked foods so you do not accidentally cross contaminate. Change up your knife if you were cutting raw meat, and then needing to chop vegetables. Cook your meats thoroughly and use a food thermometer to make sure foods are reaching their safe minimal internal temperatures.

When you go to store your prepared foods, think about keeping food at the proper temperatures. Clean out your fridge to have proper space for items needed or work with family and friends to spread food to where it can be properly stored until the event.

If you have leftovers, consider placing them in the freezer to keep the fridge available for immediate needs. Freezing leftovers can be a great way to store food for later consumption. If you need to just keep something hot or cold temporarily – consider using insulated containers. These can help keep heat in (140o or above), or add a few ice packs and keep things at a nice chilly temperature (40o or below). Use a thermometer to be sure your food is being properly stored.

As you serve, keep in mind dishes that include cream pies, creamed vegetables, meat, poultry and seafood or dishes with eggs or dairy do not need to sit at room temperature for longer than two hours. This can cause harmful bacteria to begin to grow.

The USDA recommends using a FoodKeeper app to have a handy go-to guide for safe food storage and preparation. There is also additional information on the USDA website or the FoodSafety website at For additional questions or for more information, feel free to contact your local UT/TSU Extension Agent.

Source: USDA and .