Charles Hatcher, Tennessee’s commissioner of agriculture, visited Cumberland County’s Plateau AgResearch and Education Center and addressed farmers and land owners during the University of Tennessee’s Institute of Agriculture Steak and Potatoes Field day event.

“Although income for Tennessee farmers is down and every facet of farming is suffering this year, there are reasons for optimism. Things are definitely going to improve,” Hatcher said.

The annual event offers dozens of presentations on a variety of topics that have an impact on farming. The event focuses on beef production, fruits and vegetables, forestry and land ownership and featured many educational sessions.

Hatcher was this year’s main speaker.

“We have hope in Governor Bill Lee, who has an understanding of farming and can relate to the troubles of rural counties and communities,” Hatcher said.

Hatcher also credited legislators in Tennessee, the Tennessee Farm Bureau and the many University of Tennessee extension and agricultural research collaborations for also offering hope to farmers.

“The collaborations are unprecedented. Better times are coming for agriculture in Tennessee,” Hatcher said.

He said agriculture is “the backbone of the state.”

Hatcher said the department is researching practical methods of farming and hopes to help Tennessee farmers any way the department can.

“We are working every day for that. We will always educate before we regulate, unless it’s a disease, or emergency. In that case we will always act quickly,” Hatcher said.

He also said there are plenty of opportunities in the future in developing hemp.

“It’s like the wild west out there and this is one area that’s going to expand and grow tremendously,” Hatcher said. “We are looking forward to improvements.”

He encouraged farmers and individuals to reach out if they need advice or help in any area of farming.

“The Extension Office is a great asset and these folks work hard to help,” Hatcher said.

Eleven different education topics were divided into three areas for the field day: beef production, fruit and vegetable production, and information for landowners. 

Beef production topics included technological advances, fescue, grass systems and an update on the Asian longhorned tick in Tennessee. 

Fruit and vegetable sessions focused on fruit crops, strawberry production and supporting pollinators. 

Landowner information covered managing white oak trees and fish.

UT’s Plateau Research and Education Center also offered wagon tours of the center including the UT Discovery Gardens.

Attendees dined on steak sandwiches and chips for lunch as Hatcher addressed the group. Fresh, homemade ice cream was offered for dessert.

Hongwei Xin, dean of UT AgResearch, and Neal Schrick, head of the UT Department of animal science, also briefly addressed the crowd.

This year’s event was sponsored by Premier Select Sires, Zoetis

Don Allison Equipment, Plateau Truck and Tractor, The Land Trust for Tennessee, Harris Moran Seed Company, Farm Credit Mid America, Agri King, Inc., Tennessee Farmer’s Co-op, Tennessee Cattlemen’s Association, Tennessee Forestry Association, Mountain Farm International, UT AgCommunications, AT AgResearch, UT Beef and Forage Center, UT Animal Science, UT Soil, Plant & Pest Center, TN Department of Agriculture.

Gary Nelson may be reached at gnelson@crossville-chronicle.com

Crossville Chronicle senior staff writer