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‘A cut above’

Tennessee House of Representatives and Senate members celebrate National Agriculture Day on Capitol Hill
Story and photos by Allison Parker 5/1/2018


Competing for bragging rights in this forestry-based competition outside the Tennessee State Capitol at this year’s Ag Day on the Hill celebration were, from left, Representative Bill Dunn of Knoxville and Representative Jeremy Faison of Cosby, who sawed through the log four seconds faster than their Senate colleagues.
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Tennessee’s agriculture industry was on full display on March 20 as the ag community came together to bring the farm to the Tennessee State Capitol for the 18th Ag Day on the Hill, part of the 45th observance of National Agriculture Day.

This annual event is held each spring to recognize the impact that agriculture plays in the state’s economy and culture. Agriculture is recognized as one of the state’s most important industries, contributing more than $3.3 billion annually to the state’s economy and employing more than 340,000 workers. Tennessee has more than 66,600 farms representing 10.8 million acres.

The Farm and Forest Families of Tennessee, of which Tennessee Farmers Cooperative is a founding member, once again sponsored the popular event. Indoor and outdoor exhibits from agricultural businesses, universities, and agencies made for an impressive presence in the Cordell Hull State Office Building. The live animal and equipment exhibits once again proved popular with attendees and passersby.

Several 4-H and FFA members from across the state, including Eli Dotson of Lincoln County, Anna Powell of Wilson County, and Gavin Page of Williamson County, brought their livestock to the event to help educate the public and lawmakers on their projects.

“I jumped at the chance to bring my steer to the Capitol because I want people to know that beef doesn’t come from grocery store shelves,” explained sixth-grade 4-Her Page. “I’ve gotten the chance to tell a lot of people about what we do to raise our cattle today.”

Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation’s Lee Maddox, who serves as president of the Farm and Forest Families of Tennessee, played host as he welcomed visitors and dignitaries from the state legislature to the event and thanked Governor Bill Haslam and the entire general assembly for their support.

“It is not every day you see livestock gathered right outside the Capitol,” said Maddox. “The agriculture industry is truly a cut above the rest.”

Tennessee Commissioner of Agriculture Jai Templeton also greeted the group and presented a proclamation from the governor recognizing the importance of Ag Day and the contributions of farmers and forestland owners.

Following the reading, two teams of lawmakers competed in a log sawing contest using a two-man crosscut saw. Before the contests began, Tim Phelps, Tennessee Forestry communications and outreach unit leader, shared with the audience information about the crosscut saw. Phelps also informed the group that the Forestry Division of the Department of Agriculture selected the Tennessee state tree, the tulip poplar, for the cutting contest to represent the ever-changing and growing forestry industry. According to Phelps, 52 percent of Tennessee is forestland made up of 120 different tree species, which covers nearly 14 million acres.

The bragging rights for this forestry-based competition went to the House of Representatives team of Bill Dunn of Knoxville and Jeremy Faison of Cosby, who sawed through the log four seconds faster than their Senate colleagues Frank Niceley of Strawberry Plains and Mark Pody of Lebanon.

The real winner, however, was the community as the Farm and Forest Families presented a $1,000 check to Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee in honor of National Agriculture Day. Hundreds of pounds of bagged sweet potatoes were donated to the Society of St. Andrew and its Tennessee Gleaning Network, which works with growers and collects crops with cosmetic issues that would otherwise be discarded and distributes the food to families in need through local food banks, pantries, and soup kitchens.

Representative Andy Holt of Dresden, who serves as vice chairman of the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee and leader of the Ag Day on the Hill planning committee, expressed appreciation for the state’s ag industry.

“There are a lot of things that happen in the legislature that are very polarizing like issues and debates,” said Holt. “One thing most everyone here can agree on is that they love family farms, love agriculture, and love the products they produce. That’s why we are celebrating today on the first day of spring National Agriculture Day.”

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