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Agriculture. What does it mean to you? When I think about agriculture, I think about the farmer who works hard to provide us with the food we eat, the clothes we wear, and the many other products we use daily. Some of my fondest memories have taken place on the farm. From caring for a newborn calf to stacking hay bales, the farm is where you learn the true meaning of responsibility and how to develop a strong work ethic by working hard for what you have.

Tennessee farmers are part of the 2% of the population that works hard to provide us with many of the commodities we use daily. The state's eastern, middle, and western regions offer different products within the agriculture industry. Tennessee's top entities across the state include soybeans, poultry, corn, beef cattle & calves, hay, cotton, floriculture, forestry, dairy, tobacco, pork & wheat.  

Soybeans are one of the state's most important commodities. Soybeans are raised primarily by row crop farmers and have many different uses. They are in many foods we eat, such as peanut butter, cheeses, mayonnaise & cooking oils. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), one acre of soybeans can produce 83,368 crayons! That sure is a lot!

Poultry is the next top commodity of the state. The term poultry is used to describe domesticated birds. They are most commonly raised for meat and eggs. Chickens that are raised for meat are called broilers. Chickens that are raised for eggs are called layers.

Corn has been a significant food source for many years. Many different types of corn, including field and sweet corn, are grown for different purposes. Field corn is grown for feed for livestock and other animals and used to make fuel. Sweet corn is grown to eat off of the cob. It is harvested before the kernels dry out.

Beef cattle are one of the most common commodities in our state. Beef cattle are raised in every county in Tennessee. They are primarily raised for meat, but they also give us a wide variety of by-products. Some of those by-products include; medicines, tires, cosmetics, vitamins, paint, plastic, soap, candy, chewing gum, shoes & much more. Beef cattle are also a great way to help farmers use land that is not suitable for planting & harvesting crops.

Hay is dried grass that is baled or rolled in the summer & stored to supply feed for livestock during the winter months. Did you know that almost two million acres of land are used for growing hay in Tennessee? The most common types of hay in our state are timothy and orchard grass.

Cotton is a plant grown for the fibers covering the seeds. Farmers generally plant this crop when the soil has reached around 65 degrees in the spring. Cotton takes approximately 150 days before it reaches maturity. Cotton is used for many things other than clothing, such as; animal feed, cooking oils, bandages & even money!

Floriculture or nursery production is the production of flowers and plants. Some plants are grown inside a greenhouse, while others are grown outside in a garden or field. The climate here allows plants to grow well here and when transplanted in the states that are north and south of Tennessee. Nursery and flower production add hundreds of millions of dollars to the Tennessee economy yearly! According to the Tennessee Department of Agriculture (USDA), there are nearly 700 producers bringing in approximately $285 million in cash receipts into our state each year!

Forestry is a major part of agriculture in Tennessee. Forests cover around 14 million acres of land in Tennessee. Approximately 9.9 billion acres are considered hardwood! Forestry contributes to manufacturing paper, furniture, and other wood products sold each year.

Dairy products give us important nutrients that help build bones and healthy bodies. Our state is home to more than 170 dairy farms. Most of these farms are owned and operated by farm families. Farmers use dairy cows for milk production. There are different breeds of dairy cows, including the Holstein, Jersey, Brown Swiss, Milking Shorthorn, Guernsey, Ayrshire & Red Holstein. The Holstein is the largest breed and is well-known for high milk production and less butterfat, while the Jersey is the smaller breed producing more butterfat.

Tobacco is still grown on farms here in Tennessee and contracted with companies to be sold. Over $100 million worth of tobacco is produced in Tennessee during the average year. Two types are grown in Tennessee; burley & dark fired. Both are cured in a barn, but dark fired is cured by using smoke from burning sawdust. This speeds up the process and produces darker leaves. Most of Tennessee's tobacco crops are exported.

Pork production in Tennessee ranks 11th in agricultural commodities with over $73 million in cash receipts, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Nationwide there are approximately 115 million hogs raised every year. A few of the products we get from hogs are hams, bacon, sausage, and pork chops.

Wheat is a plant that is classified as grass. It is grown for its seeds and, when harvested, taken to a mill to be processed into flour. The stalks and leaves from wheat are used for straw. Straw can be used for animal bedding, protect soil from erosion, and more! Approximately one acre of wheat produces enough bread to feed nearly 9,000 people daily!

Tennessee farmers play a major role in the agriculture industry. Without farmers, we would be without a lot of these commodities. Be sure to remember to appreciate the farmer and all the hard work they do daily.