Beef, soybeans, corn. These top commodities are staples of Tennessee agriculture, supporting the state’s economy and providing thousands of jobs. While many consumers may be familiar with these basic aspects, Tennessee is much more than crops and livestock. The vast scope of the state’s agriculture industry, including its innovation and complexity, is extremely impressive.
From inventive and sustainable new businesses, including organic baby food and an entrepreneur making dye from a new crop, to figuring out constructive ways to fight hunger and provide fresh food, to a growing knowledge of agricultural technology and education, the Volunteer State’s industry encompasses a great deal.
Fueling this innovation is a top priority for the Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDA). Through programs and organizations including Pick Tennessee Products, Agricenter International, NextFarm and a full-time staff position at TDA focusing on encouraging and supporting entrepreneurs, Tennessee agriculture has great potential for growth.
At Agricenter International in Memphis, a state-of-the-art greenhouse facility came online in late 2014 with brand new automation, allowing researchers to test more cotton traits and varieties, among other enhancements.
Pick Tennessee Products, a free service of the TDA with the mission to connect consumers to Tennessee products, has grown to include more than 2,200 participants. The program benefits young agricultural entrepreneurs by helping spread the word about their businesses.
NextFarm Agricultural Innovation Accelerator, based in northwest Tennessee, helps startup entrepreneurs focused on agricultural innovation. Experienced mentors coach entrepreneurs in areas of farming, commercialization of technologies, strategic planning and more.
Along with these valuable programs, Tennessee’s colleges and universities continue to expand young minds with impressive agricultural education programs. Degree programs are available across the state at schools including Tennessee Technological University, Tennessee State University, Middle Tennessee State University, Columbia State Community College and the University of Tennessee.
Just as crops and livestock need to be nurtured, these investments in the innovation of agriculture are equally vital to keep Tennessee’s industry thriving.
Bring On The Beef
As the state’s top agricultural commodity, you don’t need to ask, “Where’s the beef?” in Tennessee.
In 2013, Tennessee’s cattle and calves sector generated more than $690 million in cash receipts. At the beginning of January 2014, the state’s inventory was recorded at 1,760,000 head, ranking the Volunteer State 16th in the nation.
Tennessee has more than 43,000 beef producers across the state, but the top cattle counties are Greene, Lincoln, Giles, Bedford and Maury.
Learn more about Tennessee’s important industry at beefup.org.
Tennessee farmers work tirelessly to grow food for consumers across the state and nation. But they don’t stop there. They’re feeding, clothing, sheltering and even fueling the world.
Annually, Tennessee exports more than $1.3 billion in agricultural products, and in 2012, the top five exports included soybeans, cotton, other products (such as grains, wine, beer, coffee and more), tobacco and chicken meat. Soybeans alone brought $357.6 million to the state’s economy.
Tennessee’s top export markets include Mexico, China and Turkey, among others. With the world population expected to increase substantially by 2050, more than just Tennessee consumers will be counting on the state’s industry.
Drive To 55
Set into action by Gov. Bill Haslam, Tennessee community leaders are taking the wheel for better education through the Drive to 55 Alliance.
The goal of Drive to 55 is to equip 55 percent of Tennesseans with a college degree or certificate by 2025. Not only does the initiative strive for higher education, but also to improve economic development, reduce unemployment and improve the quality of life in Tennessee.
The alliance is comprised of private sector partners, leaders and nonprofits working in support of the program. A main focus is to launch the Tennessee Promise scholarship, beginning with the class of 2015, which will provide two years of tuition-free community or technical college to high school graduates in the state.
Learn more about the Drive to 55 initiative at driveto55.org.