Tennessee Organics

Statistics and State Resources

Tennessee Organic Statistics

According to the USDA 2002 Farm Census (www.ers.usda.gov), Tennessee has 26.38 million acres in total land area, with 44.3% of that land in farm production, and only 4.37 million acres of that in harvestable crop production. According to USDA, there were 85,000 farms in Tennessee in 2004, with only 25% having incomes of more than $10,000. Average farm size was 136 acres.

The state’s largest farms are in western Tennessee, where cotton has historically been the leading crop. Cotton is supplemented, or in some sections supplanted, by corn, soybeans, vegetables, strawberries, grain sorghum (milo), and tobacco. Eastward in the Nashville Basin, livestock dominates, with cattle, hogs, sheep, horses, and poultry being raised there. On some farms, dairying is the chief source of income. Corn, hay, and other crops are grown mainly to feed the livestock, not for cash. However, in the Nashville Basin and on the Highland Rim, tobacco is an important crop. In northwest Tennessee, a Tyson processing plant in Union City has stimulated the growth of poultry production.

The sale of cattle and calves was the leading source of farm income in 1997, generating one-fifth of all sales. Other major sources of income include broilers (young chickens), eggs, dairy products, and hogs. The central part of the Nashville Basin is noted for its horse farms, where the famous Tennessee Walking Horse, which has a distinctively smooth gait, is raised.

There were only 300 acres in certified organic crop production in 2001. This was a significant decrease in organic production in Tennessee from 1997, when USDA reported 1,351 certified organic acres in production. Loss of organic production was attributed to lack of a local certification program when the USDA-NOP was implemented. Two percent of organic production in Tennessee was in mixed vegetables (5 acres); 1 acre was reported to be in herbs and nursery items, and the remaining 98% was in undesignated “Other Cropland.” The majority of the “Other Cropland” is in organic tobacco. (USDA/ERS, 2002. Organic production. www.ers.usda.gov/Data/organic/)

Tennessee Organic Statistics

  1. The Tennessee Department of Agriculture is involved in several programs of importance to organic producers.
    Accredited certifying agent. Tennessee does not operate as a National Organic Program (USDA-NOP) accredited certification agency.

    USDA-NOP Certification Cost Share Program. Tennessee does disburse monies to certified operations in the state to help them become certified. The monies are disbursed at 75% of certification costs, with a maximum of $500 per certificate.
    Contact:
    Dan Strasser
    Tennessee Department of Agriculture
    615-837-5160
    Dan.Strasser@state.tn.us

    Tennessee Farmers’ Markets. A directory of farmers’ markets in Tennessee is located on the Tennessee Department of Agriculture Web page at http://picktnproducts.org/food/farmermkt.html.

    The Tennessee Market News Service provides Tennesseans with information critical to making sound marketing decisions. This service is provided by the Tennessee Department of Agriculture and the United States Department of Agriculture. Trained reporters gather and disseminate complete, accurate, and unbiased agricultural market news. The market news covers current supply, demand, prices, trends, movements, and other information that affects the trade of livestock, grain, and other commodities. For up-to-date information, see http://picktnproducts.org/marketnews/index.html.

    The Tobacco Growers Trust. Tobacco growers can obtain financial and technical assistance to assist in converting from tobacco to the production of alternative crops. Several tobacco producers have used these funds to assist them in converting to organic fruit and vegetable production.
    Contact:
    Tennessee Tobacco Farmers Certifying Board
    P.O. Box 40627
    Ellington Agricultural Center
    Nashville, TN 37204
    http://picktnproducts.org/trust/index.html

  2. The Tennessee Organic Growers Association is a membership association of organic and non-organic producers that sponsors an annual conference.
    Contact:
    Cindy Delvin, President
    P.O. Box 121723
    Nashville, TN 37212
    615-395-4566
    chdelvin@aol.com

  3. Tennessee State University, Cooperative Extension
    3500 John A. Merritt Blvd.
    Nashville, TN 37209
    www.tnstate.edu/cep/

    Pam Rye, Area Small Farm Specialist
    1030 A Cumberland Heights Rd.
    Clarksville, TN 37040
    931-648-5725
    prye@utk.edu

  4. Tennessee State University Extension and Research Farm. The 124-acre TSU Extension and Research Farm is a teaching and learning laboratory with on-farm test plots in agro-forestry, aquaculture, small ruminant management, vegetable and small fruit production, sustainable agricultural, organic production, pesticide storage and handling, post harvest handling, and water quality. Five acres are dedicated to organic crops (fruits and vegetables), and another 30 acres are dedicated to organic small ruminants (goats). A total of 35 acres are dedicated to organic research and demonstration, though not yet certified. Organic certification is in process. Plans are in place to study green manures, plasticulture, and insect control in vegetable growing. Research and emonstrations will focus on vegetables/small fruits and small ruminants (goats).

    The goals of the farm are to provide innovative educational programs and leadership for limited-resource clientele and provide Extension applied-research information on alternative agriculture for small farmers. Farm educational programs include a Small Farm Expo, Small Farmer Recognition, a Forestry Field Day, World Igbo Congress Farm Tour, University of Tennessee/ Tennessee State University State Advisory Farm Tour, and UT/TSU State Advisory Farm Tour. The TSU Research and Extension Demonstration Farm sponsored the 2005 Conference of the Tennessee Organic Growers’ Association (TOGA).

    Farm location: 3101 River Rd., Ashland, TN 37015

    Finis Stribling, Extension Assistant/Farm Superintendent
    615-963-1844
    fstribling@tnstate.edu

    Dr. Roy Bullock, Small Farm Coordinator and IPM
    615-963-5449
    FBullock@tnstate.edu
    www.tnstate.edu/cep/SpecialistPages/4/1091/HTML/PestMgt.htm

    Dr. An Peischal, Extension Assistant Professor, Livestock/ Small Ruminants
    615-963-5539
    615-963-5833 FAX
    apeischel@tnstate.edu
    www.tnstate.edu/cep/goats_and_small_ruminant.htm

    Dr. Richard Winston, Plant and Soil Sciences Specialist
    615-963-5538
    rwinston@tnstate.edu

  5. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency provides information on a Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy, or “Bobwhite Buffers,” that could increase farm incomes. For more information, see www.state.tn.us/twra.

  6. The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) provides information on water quality, solid waste disposal, and disposal of conventional inputs. For information on the priorities and programs at TDEC, which are designed to protect and preserve the natural resources for one of the most biologically diverse states in the nation, go to www.state.tn.us/environment.

  7. Slow Food Nashville is a nonprofit organization that supports a biodiverse, sustainable food supply, local producers, heritage food traditions, and rediscovery of the pleasures of the table.
    Contact:
    Cindy Wall
    615-974-9066
    cindywall@comcast.net
    www.slowfoodusa.org and www.slowfood.com

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